A/N: I know this update has taken forever but I have to admit I did lose some motivation when it came to this story. I re-read it again the other day and decided that it was about time I started it up again. I've actually planned out where I'm going to take this story which I haven't done with any of my other stories yet and I'm pretty confident I can make it work.
This chapter is a lot longer than what my readers are used to but this will be what I'm trying to produce from now on as I would like to get this published one day and five line chapters just won't cut it. I probably will go back and extend the previous chapters once I've finished the story. This was 8 pages on Word Processor so it's a lot of information and I hope you guys like this new style. I've also been thinking of maybe writing some chapters in Toby's point of view but that won't come til a lot later. So it's nearly summer and I should have a lot more time to write since all my exams are over. Please review and it will give me more motivation to update quicker. visit my other penname on fictionpress - cynicaliam
Touchwood - Chapter Five : Serengetis are more romantic than you'd think.
Toby and I collapsed in a laughing mass once we got to the cab that was waiting on the curb. The driver gave us the look that he had seen hundreds of teens get in his car in the same state already and sighing deeply, he grabbed hold of Toby's luggage slinging it into the trunk. Flicking glances at each other and trying not to laugh at his open haughtiness, we moved towards the door of the bright yellow cab.
"Ladies first," Toby held the door open dramatically bowing down in front of me and blushing at his gentlemanly charms I stepped into the seat and shuffled along until he could sit down next to me. The smell emenating in the cab was one of pine air freshener but the stains on the upholstery were hard to miss, causing me to drum my fingers over my knees that were peeking out from under my shorts in a formation of threes.
Feeling Toby's weight settle into the seat I kept my eyes focused on the back of the driver's head rest as we started to pull away from the airport. The awkward air that had floated around us in the airport had returned and I just wasn't too sure what to say. Luckily for me, due to Toby's ADD he never ran out of things to say.
"So, the house might be completely a mess when we get there. I haven't even seen it yet, how bad is that? Linda was just like totally greedy about all this. Not that I'm complaining I mean to get to live right near you now and that's so worth all the upheaval and the tr---"
Chuckling slightly I placed my hand on top of Toby's and turned to face him, his hands had been dancing up and down as he talked painting pictures to illustrate his words. I ignored the warmth that rushed through me when our hands made contact, putting it down to the basic physics of kinetic energy, and grinned unabashedly at him.
The rumbling of the taxi over the rubbly roads that surrounded the airport created the soundtrack to our journey. Grateful of any distraction from the strange stirrings that had begun in my stomach, I took on Toby's role of blabbering.
"How was the flight? It can't have been that long but did they give you a film to watch?" I looked into Toby's eyes noticing the blue colour. It dazzled me to see flecks of grey were dancing into his eyes near the iris, creating a spectrum of colour. "And your bag seemed quite small for someone that's moving here, I mean one suitcase, that's not really--"
It was Toby's turn to quieten me now, using the same tactic of placing his hands on top of mine, although mine hadn't been waving dangerously around the small cab. He threw his head back and allowed the chuckle that sent a glow to my face to trickle out of him.
"Polly, it's only me. Why are we both acting so stupidly nervous?" The question caused the driver to turn around for a moment, before seemingly remembering his job turning his attention back to the road. "The flight was fine. They showed a film but I'd seen it before so I spent the entire time irritating the business man that was seated next to me." I laughed at that, imagining a suited man thousands of miles in the air turning slowly redder with anger at Toby. "It's nice to finally hear that for real" His words came out as a whisper but I heard them all clearly.
I glanced away, overwhelmed by the things I thought I could read in his eyes, but had flickered away before I could truly decipher them. I caught a glimpse of a road sign just as we passed it.
"Toby," I rolled the name around my mouth, luxuriating in the ability to finally be able to say it to him when he was so close to me. "We're nearly there. Your new home."
His features took on a slight anxious appearance about them and it was then I realised he hadn't let go of my hands, still cradling them in his own.
The house wasn't overly large but still sufficiently sized for the two Californians that would be inhabiting it for the foreseeable future. It had a red brick façade, like most of the homes here, yet managed to look modern at the same time. There was a pool in the backyard that was set to a backdrop of a view that seemed to stretch for the whole of Vermont that was probably a bit of a downgrade compared to California. Not that you'd suspect that from the excited energy that emanated from the slender woman that was carrying boxes inside the house as Toby and I emerged from the taxi, and after paying the driver, turned to look upon the home.
"Toby!" a shriek shattered the atmosphere as said woman noticed us standing there. She dropped the box she was holding, surely shattering the contents in the process, but abandoned it nonetheless and came over to where we stood.
Soon a flurry of arms surrounded me, accompanied by various squeaks and squeals as Toby's mother inspected me and, judging by the smile that seemed stitched to her face, approved instantly. I was caught so unaware that I had begun chanting to three under my breathe, hoping she wouldn't notice and become offended. Now she enveloped Toby in the hug that I had been swallowed up by only moments before.
"Hi, I'm Madison and you must be Polly, or I've just accosted a completely innocent bystander." Another grin raced across her lips, revealing all of her white teeth and causing me to laugh slightly.
"Yeah, I'm Polly. It's nice to meet you." I said, genuinely meaning it. Her hair was a collision of hundreds of hairclips pulling it back, with tendrils escaping to spite her, painting an auburn colour that the sun seemed to ignite. That was the best way to describe the first impression I had of Madison. A fiery ball of energy. She nodded as if to say ditto then turned away from us for a moment, allowing Toby to look down and smile at me disarmingly with amusement written across his features.
"Would you like some help?" I called to her, as she returned to the box she had dropped upon our arrival, muttering to herself as she inspected the broken insides.
"Oh, no, no thanks, dear" The motherly phrase seemed alien crossing her lips and I'm sure I noted a smirk on Toby's face at her flash of normalcy. "Tobe, the movers already put your stuff in your room, so take Polly up there and start unpacking please."
She shot him a look that silenced his grumbling instantly and he headed through the door. She then glanced at me with a mist of fondness clouding her eyes.
"You know, you're all he talks about" her words called to me as I followed Toby, who had been deaf to her revelation and I felt the back of my neck turn slowly red as I blushed.
This house was my idea of heaven. Despite the boxes that lay around everywhere, all the walls and floors were immaculately clean and even the boxes that should have wreaked havoc on my senses were stacked neatly in piles, labelled by their contents. It was a brand new building, built only a few months earlier and it was about as germ free as any house was ever going to be. The walls were all painted a neutral colour and I sighed deeply, letting the freshness permeate into me.
Then I remembered the path I had been following, glancing at the boy who was staring at me with an expression I couldn't quite read, watching me from the staircase as I circled around the hallway, basking in the cleanliness.
"Um sorry," I muttered to my feet, shuffling towards him. His laugh echoed across the walls as I trailed after him, climbing the staircase together.
The second level was roomy and had a breezy feel to it. I noticed that all the windows were open with explained that effect but something about the house had left me infinitely calm, or perhaps it was the presence of someone else a voice from the back of my head spoke out. I pushed it away, scolding myself for even having those thoughts.
"I guess this is it," Toby's voice pulled my out of my thoughts and I looked into the room that we now stood in the door frame of. Even with all the boxes scattered around it still seemed large with a double bed pushed against the wall, as if hiding behind the maze of boxes. I felt a thump on the floor next to me and staring down I saw Toby on his hands and knees. I laughed at how ridiculous he looked until he reached up and yanked me down with him.
"Well, here we are in the Serengeti of Kaman-ville, a dangerous land." Kaman was Toby's surname. " filled with box-monsters" it was then that I noticed all the boxes had had angry faces drawn onto them in black pen. Toby wore a tiny smile, cheekily shrugging his shoulders to explain the doodles. I laughed and shifted forwards on my hands and knees, guided by Toby through the obstacles of snarling cardboard.
My skin grazed against the carpet and my mind began to think about what was hiding beneath the seemingly clinical surface.
Toby was a few feet away now, still commentating on his 'dangerous' journey but his words were like gibberish to me as I clench my fists until they turned white. Somewhere along the trip I had closed my eyes against the faced that glared down at me, mocking me as I panicked. I muttered a few choice words under my breathe, again and again, which seemed to be a new compulsion since I had gotten here. The skin that was in contact with the carpet began to tingle as if something unknown was crawling across my skin. Squirming I pushed myself up to standing position and shaking with my eyes still tight shut, I went to reach for the lightswitch.
But then warm arms encircled me, washing away all thoughts of the germs that would surely infect me, leaving me with only thoughts of the sensations jolting through my body as the arms held me close. His voice whispered into my ear, soothing me and drawing me closer to becoming attached to him, which is something I promised never to do with a guy.
I tweaked open my eyelids a tiny amount, just so I could decipher Toby's worried face in front of mine. He looked so good right now, wait, what was I saying? That was my best friend, the one I had only just met, the guy who knew all about my obsessive compulsive yet still treated me like a human being. The guy who was so gently stroking my cheek and still had his arms resting around my waist. The stirring was back in my stomach and I fruitlessly attempted to force the feelings down, out of mind. When did we move this close together?
"You alright?" Flustered, I broke our eye contact and shifted out of his grasp. Stepping past him I nodded to answer his question and moved around the wall of boxes to find the bed. I fell onto it, feeling my weight push down into the soft mattress and let my mind wonder across what had actually just happened.
Toby cleared his throat from behind the blockade of boxes then walked around the corner until he was standing in front of me. I hadn't realised how tall he was until now then I had to turn my neck up to look at him. I had pulled my legs up under me so I was seated in a cross legged configuration on the bed but he seemed hesitant to fill the gap between us. Tossing a towel in his direction and pulling two hair grips from my hair, tossing those at him as well I smiled in what I hoped was a charming way. He stared at the contents in his hands, unsure of what I was asking him to do.
I exhaled and slid off the bed, stepping towards him I saw a sense of confusion shroud his features. Smiling to myself, I picked the towel and grips from his hands and gently sliding him out of my way by jutting my hip against his, I placed the towel over two boxes so that it shielded the space in the middle then using the grips like weights held it in place. Spinning on my heel I gestured at my creation of a curtain.
"Voila!" He still wore a confused expression. "I'm OCD Toby, I prefer smaller spaces I'm not going to rape you." I raised my eyebrow at him as the warmth flooded back into his smile.
"oh, it wouldn't be rape," he winked at me as my jaw dropped then burst into guffaws at my sheer shock. I smacked his arm for winding me up then sat back down on his bed, looking up at him as he settled down from his sudden laughter outburst.
"all these boxes, you might as well show me your life in California," I saw a slight shift in his posture as if he were uncomfortable but it was gone in an instant and he nodded, turning on the spot, searching for a specific box it seemed.
"I've got just the thing." he muttered almost more to himself than to me, shifting boxes, dismantling and re-building the fortress that had blocked us in together. It was only a few moments but I couldn't resist watching his body move, as he bent his shirt skirted up revealing a tanned back and my eyes danced across the revealed skin planting thoughts I should not be having. He glanced over his shoulder at me and I'm sure I flashed a bright red colour at the chance he might have caught me looking at him.
He held a box in his hand, adorned with a particular vicious looking face on the side and he imitated the expression baring his teeth at me in what could only be described as a very cute effort to be scary.
"How mature," I deadpanned, blinded by the thoughts of calling Toby cute, echoing in my head. I cracked a tiny smile as his face declined from my sarcasm and he returned it with a warmth in his eyes that made him who he was.
"Right, let's get started." He ripped away the tape from the lid of the box and flung it carelessly to the side. I stared at it for moments before I leaped up and pummelled it into the bin, warranting a strange glance from the blue eyed wonder who had been transformed into a five year old at the sight of his old belongings.
Gently lifting out a decorated scrap book, there was a glint of sadness about him which was almost outweighed by the glow that he always seemed to have floating around him. I reached over his shoulder and fingered the front cover that was filled, no doubt, with decorations that someone had put a lot of thought into. There was a dried daisy, the flower Toby used to pick in elementary school when he was always sent out for bad behaviour before his ADD was diagnosed, a photograph of a group of kids that couldn't be older than 12 with arms slung around each other smiles beaming out of the 2-D image, there was a badge saying 'Class of 05' obviously from his middle school graduation and amongst other things a ticket stub from a concert of one of Toby's favourite bands. I knew the significance of most of the things on the cover from having conversed with Toby about pretty much every subject under the sun but some of them were still a mystery to me. Like the chain that had an arrow pendant on it, or the photograph of the sunset with a girl in the foreground, avoiding looking at the camera, glancing down instead. An ache that this girl could be one of Toby's girlfriends seeped into my limbs but I forced myself to brush it away and act like a normal human being. Except I wasn't a normal human being I was a teenage girl with hormones surging through me.
Blinking at Toby who was staring up at me, closer than I remembered him being a moment earlier, I realised he was saying something to me.
"Sorry, brain freeze. What did you say?" Toby smiled pityingly and repeated his question about whether I wanted a drink before we began wandering down memory lane.
I nodded and he brushed off imaginary lint from his clothes, before running downstairs to the clatter of glasses that soon rose up the stairs to me. I picked up the book and pushed away the duvet so I could cuddle under it on the bed. Flicking through the pages I saw the whole of Toby's life in California flutter in front of me. Memories I hadn't been there for called out to me reminding me of anecdotes I had heard then I paused on one page.
There was that photo again, of the girl in front of the sunset, but others littered the page as well not only of her but some with Toby in them as well or some just of Toby. Half were polaroids and half digital images that were printing off, together they formed the story of a summer from what I could tell. They both looked so happy, beaming in nearly all of the photos apart from the odd few where they looked at each other unaware of the camera and the one photo that was a Polaroid and showed Toby alone in his room surrounded by boxes with angry faces drawn on, the same boxes that now surrounded me. In girlish writing which I ran my fingers along, tracing the words that I presumed the girl in the photographs had written, the words read "Don't forget me. I miss you already."
I had the urge to rip out the pages, but I didn't know why. These must explain the sad aura that Toby had stumbled into when he had been looking for the book and the summer last year when Toby and I had barely spoken. When he finally sent me an email in September, apologising for his actions but never explaining his absense, things went back to how they always were but I never realised Toby had a… a girlfriend.
"Polly…." the way he said my name made my heart wrench at the fact he had lied to me. I glanced up, wondering how long he had been standing there and avoiding the blue eyes that searched out mine. He held two glasses of juice in his hands, tropical my favourite flavour, but he seemed to have forgotten them momentarily staring at the pages that were lain out in front of me. "Why are you under the duvet, it's spring and it's boiling outside?" he cocked his head to the side in a way that made me remember I couldn't hold a grudge against him. I smiled with a sadness betraying me in my eyes but since I wouldn't look at him fully anyway that didn't matter.
"I was cold.." I mumbled my stupid excuse avoiding the fact that I had crawled under the duvet knowing Toby had slept under them as well and it had stupidly calmed me down until I had seen.. I glanced down at the pages again and shut the book as Toby had his back turned to me, settling down the drinks on a box that would apparently be acting as a table.
"Okay, you wanna do this?" he questioned, sitting in the bed next to me and reaching for the book. He'd already started flicking through the pages, a smile dancing absently across his mouth.
"Erm, mind if we don't. Just I'm sort of tired from the drive to the airport and reminiscing will surely send me to sleep, no offence." I plowed through an excuse and I noticed the sadness skip across his countenance before he replaced it with an understanding expression.
"sure, we can do it another time," I cursed inside my head, hoping I'd never have to see him talk about the girl from those photos. "Wanna go explore instead?"
I nodded frantically, happy to grab onto another tangent other than what I had seen. Standing, after gulping down the tropical juice, I collected my hair grips letting the towel fall into a graceless pile on the floor and moved into the rest of the room. Hesitating when I felt Toby reach out for my hand I accepted it letting him direct me out of the house, ignoring the tingles that were chasing through my body.
I couldn't have feelings for him. Especially now I knew he had a girlfriend.
I smiled up at the boy that had travelled across the country to be standing here next to me, the girl that no one at school would even give a second chance, and thanked my lucky stars that I had found him. Even if I could never truly have him.