I had never felt so old in my life.
Well, actually, that was a lie. I had felt really old once, and that was when I slid down the slide at the playground that had been my favorite when I was little. At the age of five, the slide had seemed like this huge monstrosity. After about a gap of five years, from when I turned eight to when I turned thirteen, I went down the slide again, expecting the huge thing that took forever to slide down. But it only took me approximately two seconds, and it seemed ten times smaller than it originally had. At that moment, I realized that my early childhood was gone, and that a whole phase of my life had passed away; that I was no longer little anymore: I really was a teenager.
However, this was a different species under the genus of feeling old.
It was a lazy summer afternoon. After calling up almost all my friends and determining that absolutely no one was available to do anything, I'd hopped into my car and driven down to the bookstore. Books were my thing. I enjoyed reading as much as the average teen enjoyed watching television. I could get lost between the pages of a book, losing myself in reality and immersing myself in the characters' perils. In a book, I could forget my problems.
Once in the bookstore, I headed straight for the teen section. I was a sucker for romance of any type, cheesy or not, clichéd or not. So sue me. Even at seventeen, the summer before my senior year, I found myself prowling the teen section, hunting for a good read. I'd read all the fluffy romance books that I owned about a hundred times each and was looking for something new and refreshing. Even The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, which was seriously one of the best books I'd ever read, became tiresome after the tenth time.
I had just pulled a book off of the shelf to read its summary when another, younger girl came and stood right next to me. She looked to be no older than eleven or twelve, and, because, at five feet eight inches, I was taller than most girls, this girl was about a foot and a half shorter than me. That was what really made me feel old. And pathetic. I was just a seventeen-year-old loser who imbibed books, teen romances, specifically, like regular meals to make up for her own lame lack of activity in that department.
So you caught me. My love life was zero to none. Oh, I'd had a boyfriend here and there, but none of them were that special. Out of the total four, twenty-five percent had only been with me to get in my pants; twenty-five percent had been obsessed to the point of stalking me, leaving me creepy little love poems everywhere I went and threatening to commit suicide if I broke up with him; another twenty-five percent had gone out with me simply to make his ex-girlfriend jealous; and the last twenty-five percent had dumped me out of the blue, after we dated for two months (I didn't find out until later that he'd cheated on me with one of the more popular girls in school). As you can tell, I'd utterly fail at being a siren.
What? Don't you know Greek mythology? Well actually, I didn't. I just happened to learn what sirens were when we studied Odyssey in freshman Lit. class. Basically, sirens were these women that sang and allured men to their death. And Odysseus, being the idiot that he was, decided to listen to them. It's a mighty good thing his crew tied him to the ship. They were the only sensible people there. Odyssey seriously had some women's rights issue, too. The majority of the bad creatures in that stupid epic were female, and, while Penelope remained faithful at home, telling all the rude suitors that they could screw themselves, Odysseus was off screwing every woman under the sun. Even some witch named Circe who turned some of his men into pigs. I'll bet Poseidon was a woman's activist. That would explain why he freaking hated Odysseus' guts. Well, in addition to the fact that Odysseus poked the eye out of Poseidon's son. But that's a different story.
I'll bet she read Odyssey, I thought bitterly as the twelve-year-old plucked a book off the shelf and eagerly read the back cover, seemingly oblivious to the five-foot-eight giant standing next to her. I looked down at the book she had chosen and realized, with a pang of stupidity, that I'd read and enjoyed the book only a year prior. Perhaps this young girl was just extremely precocious, I thought hopefully. She then reached over and snatched a book that I had read at approximately her own age, which made me feel slightly better, but not really. When I was twelve, I'd mainly been obsessed with the Judy Blume books, which, I know, was kind of sad for a twelve-year-old, but was nevertheless true.
Then again, I guess you couldn't expect much better from a loser seventeen-year-old who was, on a beautiful summer afternoon with no school in sight, holed up in a bookstore hunting for the latest teen romances. It wasn't that I didn't have friends; I had a very good one, in fact. It was just that, like I said earlier, everyone was doing something.
The twelve-year-old sighed, bringing me back down to reality. I glanced down at the four books in my hands and decided they would suffice. I really just needed to get away from this twelve-year-old. So I began my trek to the front of the store, already planning the rest of my day. After I purchased the books, I intended on camping out at the bookstore's coffee shop and, while sipping a most delicious frappuccino, reading one of the books I had bought. When I started to attract suspicious glares from the cashiers, I would drive home, lounge out on my back porch, and continue to read.
Bookworm? I think so.
I slowed down as I neared the classics sections. I'd always wanted to read the classics. As Mark Twain once quipped, "'Classic.' A book which people praise but don't read." My hand reached out to grab Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a book I'd been dying to read but never had the chance to, when an interruption stopped me from doing so.
A short blonde girl, approximately my age, with her hair pulled up into a high bun crossed right in front of my path. She was talking obnoxiously on her cell phone, unmindful to everything. A same-aged boy followed closely behind her, anxiously glancing around the bookstore. Like most people, I automatically assumed they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Some date, I mused, though I really could not be one to talk. But still. Hanging out in a bookstore while my rather rude girlfriend gabbed incessantly into her cell phone did not sound like fun, even if I couldn't judge things from a guy's point of view.
"I'm in the freaking bookstore," the blonde girl said into her cell phone, rolling her eyes. "Ugh. I know. The people here are so stuffy." She glanced around with a frown, obviously not caring that everyone could hear her.
"I'm just here to get my summer reading books," she went on, scowling at the selection of the classics that the book store offered. "I'm supposed to read some dumb book called Wuthering Heights and . . . fuck, I can't remember the name of the last one. Pomp and Circumstance? No, that's the graduation song. Pomp and Perusal? What the hell, Liz? No, it definitely had two 'p's. And an 'and.' Oh!" she exclaimed when her boyfriend held out a book in front of her face entitled Pride and Prejudice. She forgot the name of Pride and Prejudice? Wasn't that a sin or something? I mean, every girl loved Pride and Prejudice. It was practically a law or something.
She snatched the book from her boyfriend's hand without so much of a thank-you and stomped off importantly down another aisle of the bookstore. I scowled in indignation in the direction she went. People like that should be forbidden from entering bookstores—people who did not appreciate books like those in a bookstore did.
"No, it's the one with Keira Knightly in it. Yeah. With the shitty ending." Goodness. I could still hear the girl chattering away. Did she honestly have no respect for the readers around her?
Whatever. She was nothing to me.
I spun around, fully intending to make my way to the front of the book store, when I crashed smack dab into a fake, cardboard shelf type thing holding many of the classics. Smooth move, self. Both the bookshelf and I toppled over as numerous books slid off the other end and I landed face down, sprawled awkwardly on top of the shelf. Stupid thing. The cardboard had gotten crushed under my weight anyway.
Nevertheless, this was kind of embarrassing. Okay, a lot embarrassing. I didn't really want to have to look at anyone, so I just continued to lie there on the ground, face planted down, so no one could see who I was. It's not like anyone had noticed me anyway. I didn't hear voices gathering around me, so I assumed that my position was relatively unknown. Even so. In case someone had seen me, I planned to stay in this position possibly until the bookstore closed. That sounded like a good idea.
Maybe if I concentrated hard enough, I would blend into the carpet like a chameleon. I transferred all my energy into pretending I was the same color of the environment.
My efforts proved futile when I heard the blonde girl's voice nearing me. I could tell when she noticed me because she squealed.
"Oh my GOD, Liz, you will never believe what just happened!" she shrieked. "This girl totally knocked over one of the shelves, and now she's just laying there! Oh, shit, you think? I dunno. Fuck, what if she is dead?" The girl's voice became more whiny and hysterical now. "Shiiiit, I think she is! She's not moving! Is she even breathing?!"
"She's not dead," a male voice, which I presumed belonged to the blonde girl's boyfriend, said impatiently.
"Shut up, Wes," the girl snapped back irritably. Wow, if these two were boyfriend and girlfriend, their future was not looking too bright. "I think she really fucking is. Look. She's not moving."
"Dumb shit," Wes muttered under his breath, hopefully because he actually respected the environment he was in. Or at least had the decency not to cuss as loudly as his girlfriend. "Look, Drea, her back is moving; she's breathing," he pointed out.
I could practically hear Drea rolling her eyes. "Whatever, Wes. God, that's such a tiny thing to notice. No, not you, Liz, jeez. Why would I call you Wes?"
The name struck a chord somewhere in my brain, and I couldn't help but emit a dreamy sigh. I'd always liked the name Wes, even if it was usually just a nickname for Wesley.
"So maybe she's not dead," Drea went on. "What if she's in a coma? Aren't those just as bad? Shit! SOMEBODY—"
I heard a loud slapping type of noise, followed by Wes hissing, "Shut the fuck up, Drea!"
A long silence followed, until Drea finally burst, "God, Wes! You don't have to shut me up by fucking putting your hand over my mouth. Yeah, I know, Liz. You're so lucky. And anyway, Wes; aren't you a lifeguard? Shouldn't you go and, like, guard her life or something?"
"Lifeguards work at pools."
Wow. This relationship seriously was doomed.
"Well, don't they teach you anything about what to do if you're at the bookstore and you see some random girl lying on the floor in a coma about to die? I totally agree, Liz. I mean, seriously."
It only occurred to me right then that I was still sprawled out on the floor. Obviously, I knew that I was—that was kind of hard to forget—but somewhere along the way, I'd stopped caring and just listened amusedly to the conversation by my head. Suddenly, I felt a cool hand press against my bare shoulder, since I was only wearing a tank-top, and I jolted into an upright position. Wes's eyebrows shot up as he leaned back in a crouch, taking his hand off my shoulder. I glanced over at Drea, who, still on her cell phone, was watching me with a shocked expression.
Up close, I got a good look at Wes, who was, I couldn't deny, rather attractive. He had light brown hair that hung down just the right length, just below his earlobes and angled down to the nape of his neck. His eyes were this warm, hazel color that looked like the type one might call "dreamy," and that seemed to gaze down into the depths of my own light blue ones. His face was somewhat skinny and rectangular, with high cheekbones, but really, it suited him.
Only then did I realize that I should have some plausible excuse for laying there on the floor, completely conscious, allowing them to think I was near death or something similar.
"Um. Ow. My head," I stammered, weakly rubbing a spot on the back of my dark blonde head. I guess the embarrassment was getting to me: I was usually a great liar.
Wes rolled his eyes. "Orlando Bloom is a better actor than you."
Behind him, Drea gasped. "Orlando Bloom is fine. He just insulted him, Liz. . . . No, Wes insulted Orlando Bloom. I know! He's totally gorgeous."
"I'd hope he is. Otherwise that'd make me a guy. Since actor implies guy," I snapped without really thinking. As soon as I realized what I was talking about, though, I felt more like an idiot than I already did.
"Okay then," Wes chuckled. "Orlando Blooms acts better than you."
"How do you know that's not just how I express pain?" I queried somewhat indignantly, trying to compensate for my poor acting before.
"Because first of all, you were holding the back of you head, and you fell flat on your face."
"I was trying to make my headache go away," I explained with a scowl, even though I was completely making this up as I went along.
"Most people hold either their forehead or their temples when they have a headache," Wes commented, obviously amused. Well, at least he wasn't pissed that I allowed him and Drea to think I was on my deathbed. Or, at least, allowed Drea to think I was on my deathbed. The entire time, Wes seemed to be convinced that I was perfectly okay. Physically, at least. Because if you spotted a girl just lying their on the floor of the bookstore who wasn't experiencing physical pain, she probably had some mental issues.
Am I suggesting that I'm somewhat mental, you ask? Maybe . . .
"Yeah, well, who said I'm most people?" I shot back at Wes. He looked kind of impressed that I would say something like that.
All of a sudden, Drea appeared next to Wes, her eyes rounded and her cell phone still pressed up against the left side of her face.
"Are you okay?!" she cried, seemingly concerned, and I nodded in response. "Yeah, I'm telling you, Liz! She just, like, popped up! I know!" Then her eyes narrowed. "Good question, actually. So," she addressed me, "why were you just sitting there letting me think you were dead if you were totally okay the whole time?"
I flushed. "I . . . um . . . well . . ."
"You were too embarrassed?" Wes offered, watching me expectantly. Meekly, I nodded.
"Well, shit, I think I'd be more embarrassed if I just did what you did. I mean, if that happened to me, I'd just get up right away and walk around pretending I hadn't done anything. Why'd you just lay there then?"
My cheeks turned scarlet again. Drea didn't seem like the type of girl whom you'd tell that you were trying to blend in with the floor. Wes didn't help me out with this one. In fact, he looked just as curious as Drea did, forcing me to come up with an answer on my own.
"Um, I was too embarrassed?" I replied, phrasing it like a question that needed Drea's permission. Ugh, I hated when I up-talked.
Drea just shrugged. "Whatever. What'd you just say, Liz? Oh, I know. I hate that." She stood up. "C'mon, Wes. The chick's okay, and I still have to find my other summer reading book. Do you remember who wrote it? Eh . . . Eh . . . Eh-something Brontid?"
"Emily Bronte?" I suggested. The only reason I was able to figure out that this was the person Drea was talking about was because earlier, she mentioned that Wuthering Heights was her other summer reading book. And I happened to know that Emily Bronte wrote it.
"Yeah." Drea gave me a look. "Thanks. C'mon, Wes. I have to get home. Jake's picking me up at six."
Whoa. Wait. Was Drea telling her boyfriend that another guy was picking her up at six? Unless some deranged parents had named their daughter "Jake," telling your boyfriend that you were going out with another guy did not seem like a good idea. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't think a boyfriend would want to know when his girlfriend was cheating on him.
I guess I was glaring disgustedly at Drea because she suddenly looked offended and defensively asked me, "What? God, you're looking at me like I bitch-slapped you or something!"
Wes started sniggering.
"Oh. Um. I dunno. I guess I just think it's weird that you're telling your boyfriend that you're going out with another guy. But I mean hey, if he doesn't care—" I was cut off when both Drea and Wes burst into uproarious laughter.
"You think he's my boyfriend?" she cried, laughing so hard tears welled up in her eyes. But of course, she didn't cry because that could screw up her makeup. "Did you hear that, Liz? That chick thought Wes was my boyfriend!"
Well. At least they didn't have a crappy relationship.
"I'm not her boyfriend," Wes explained, stating the obvious. Obvious by their reactions, I mean. "I'm her brother. Twin brother, actually."
Oh. My. Gosh. I was an idiot. I was a freaking idiotic moron who never deserved to go out in public again. My face turned twenty different shades of red as I stood there, wishing that I'd decided to pretend I was dead after all instead of standing up when Wes put his hand on my shoulder. How do you mistake a brother and sister? Twins, nonetheless? Sure, fraternal twins could look completely different from each other, but still. How had I not seen any resemblance? Because now that I knew they were related, I saw similarities in their eye color, the shapes of their faces, and their noses. I assumed they might even have the same hair color, except Drea's was clearly dyed platinum blonde, so I wouldn't know.
"Oh. Well. I'm just gonna go crawl into a hole now," I mumbled, keeping my eyes turned downward.
Wes just shrugged. "We really don't look that much alike so I guess I can see where you're coming from."
Yeah. Well. I still felt dumb. After listening to their conversation, where they'd been nothing but mean to one another, it should have been screaming me in the face that they were not, in fact, dating. Ordinarily, I would have noticed something like that. But I guess that embarrassing myself took a toll on my observational skills just like it did on my lying skills.
"Wes!" Drea snapped. "Come on! I need to find my book now!"
"She can't navigate bookstores herself," Wes explained to me. "She doesn't come to them often enough."
He stood up, and I stood up next to him. You know how when you stand up after you've been sitting for a long time you get really dizzy? That's what happened to me then. The world started spinning and everything looked black. I started staggering around trying to keep my balance, when Wes suddenly grabbed me and held me in place.
"You okay?" he wanted to know, but his voice sounded somewhat distant.
"I'm fine," I replied woozily. The black finally started to dissipate, and I regained some of my balance. "You can let go of me now." So he did and, without really thinking about it, I took a step away from him.
Now that we were both standing, I realized how tall he was, which was a huge turn on for me. Being five-eight, anybody taller than me I immediately liked, regardless of their personality. It's just that I had a tendency to befriend short people, and I liked not being the tallest one for once.
"Well. Bye then," he said, not without awkwardness.
"Bye," I answered in the same tone of voice.
He and Drea sauntered away, Drea chatting in her cell phone the entire time.
"God, Liz, no wonder I hate bookstores," she was saying. "They're so damn confusing! Wes, stop! Anyway, what do you think I should wear tonight? Yeah, that one does give me good cleavage, but the pink halter . . ."
I just stopped listening as her voice drifted farther and farther away. Glancing down at the pile of books on the floor, I blushed. I furtively glanced around the store and, once coming to the conclusion that no one had seen me or saw me now, snatched my books off of the floor.
With a sigh, I made my way to the front of the bookstore to pay for my books. I had half expected to see Wes and Drea waiting in line there too, since they'd been nearly finished with their book search, but they weren't there. Actually, I saw them waiting in the line at the bookstore's café/coffee shop. And then, once I'd paid for my books and gotten into the line at the café, I spied them in line to pay for their books. For some reason, I felt a little wave of disappointment, but I quickly banished it from my thoughts. What reason did I have to feel disappointed? I'd only listened to their conversation for about five minutes, and then talked to them for about two.
So I bought my caramel frappuccino and sat down at a small table, pulling a book out of my bag and opening it to the first page. Most other teenagers would feel strange in a position like mine—all alone in a bookstore's café reading. However, I did not. Sure, I felt extremely out of place the first time I'd done this after I'd gotten my license. After all, you don't usually see teens all by their lonesome in a bookstore. Once I'd done it a few times, though, I both got used to it and realized that no one really cared. Most everyone in a bookstore liked to read.
By the time I got to the fourth chapter, I had already begun to receive suspicious looks. I hadn't even been there that long—I still hadn't finished my frappuccino—but whatever. So I stood up, gathered all my belongings, and headed out the door.
I disclaim The Truth About Forever (which a really amazing book that I highly recommend), Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Odyssey,and frappuccinos (I believe that the term was actually coined by Starbucks, so yeah. I own neither. Unfortunately). Oh yeah, and I mean no harm to Orlando Bloom.
After one month, two weeks, and one day of waiting, I've finally posted my newest story (this, obviously). If you're an old reader, that is. If you're a new one, then welcome aboard, and thank you for reading :)!
To compensate for my bad, non-replying author-ness in the other things I've written, I'll be replying to all review through the handy little "Reply" thinger that now accompanies all signed reviews. So if you're an anonymous reviewer and you want a reply, leave your email address.
I've already got the next four chapters completely written, so chapter two should be coming out in about a week. So keep your eyes peeled:)
And if you're reading, I'd really appreciate it if you reviewed. Thanks :)