Rain splattered on the windshield. It was hard to believe that just an hour ago, the sun had been shining and the thought of dark clouds far away. Thunder, which rolled across the sky, had been a distant thought. The forecast had called for the chance of such a storm, but with the bright blue sky so open, most had laughed it off. It wasn't the perfect end for their date, but she reckoned worse things could have happened.
She had always been somewhat of an awkward girl. Almost unnaturally thin, no matter how much she packed down in that stomach of hers. She had heard whispers every now and then that she liked to stick her long, bony fingers down her throat after meals. It was surprising, to her, to hear such things. Most people had barely noticed she existed at all. In class she spent most of the time feeling rather invisible. Not the smartest, but far from dumb either. Shy, would be the first word that some could think to describe her--if they wanted to be nice about it.
One of those bony fingers twirled a straight strand of blonde hair as she looked at the boy in the driver's seat. Her smile was wide and full of teeth. Not many would have considered her the prettiest either, but underneath all that socially awkward, toothy, skinny girl, someone had found her to be...beautiful. At least, that's what he had said over the course of their date. Dare she call it a date? No one would have believed her if she had told them! Not that she had many friends to speak of either. Her other hand moved in nervous motions over her bare knee. The silence that had blanketed them was begining to put a cloud of doubt in her mind. It was quickly remedied.
"I had a great time with you today," he said between a smile. Was that a patch of pink in his cheeks? "Really." He said that last part as if to reassure her. Most girls would have taken his words and loved them. Held them. But he knew she wasn't like most girls and probably needed that extra boost of assurance. That he really was interested in her.
From between her lips came a breathy giggle. Here she was, sitting in the car of a cute boy and she had the air of a skittish little girl. She was seventeen, practically a woman. Other girls would have already been used to this, but not her. The pale white skin flushed to a dark shade of crimson. That soft, little voice was shaky.
"T-T-Thanks, Todd. I-I-I had a g-great time...t-t-too." She could still feel the red in her cheeks and wished she could run from the car now. The butterflies in her stomach where doing loops upon loops. Her hear pounded like a sledgehammer against her chest. She couldn't even bring her eyes to meet his as she said it.
She was afraid that if she did look up at him, then the dream would be over. She'd wake up in her bed with the pink sheets and the stuffed unicorns on her shelves and know that it was back to reality. The world of books and poems. The world where girls like Susan were ignored, unless something embarassing happened. Then everyone took notice. The world where she felt safe only in the four walls of her bedroom, surrounded by familiarity. Here, with this cute boy, the world was a swirling of color and sound; a cacophony of chaos.
"Sure is something about the rain, huh?" Todd laughed, hoping she would look up. She didn't. That was alright though, he smiled anyhow. "Maybe next time-."
"There won't be a next time...Todd," she said softly, looking down at her pasty, bird legs. She could feel water forming in her eyes. What a baby. Who cried like this after such a splendid date? "I know. I'm not like the other girls. I'm not pretty or special or...anything. You'll go back to school on Monday and...there will be Eve Conners or some other gorgeous girl, waiting for you and...and that will be it."
The realization that this fantasy was coming to end hurt. How could someone like Todd Ender go for her? She was a walking disaster. Everyone knew it, when they were watching. Susan had no social grace, no beauty, no fire. She was just...Susan. Eternally clumsy and eternally alone. A girl with her heads in the clouds. Mostly gray ones.
And then Todd did something she didn't expect. Instead of uttering some half-baked apology, instead of agreeing with her and letting her out of the car, he put a strong hand under her chin and gently lifted it up. When she was expecting him to say that this was all some sort of joke concocted by his friends to tease her, she saw him smile, those large blue eyes looking into her own plain brown. Those full lips, the closely cropped black hair and, oh, the letterman's jacket.
"Hey, Susan, you're right." Where there had been a flutter, an inkling of hope, was now gone. She tried to move her head away, but he was too strong.
"You're not like the other girls. You're not stuck up, you're not all about make-up and fashion and all that...shit." He chuckled and she felt her blood running again. "You're smart. You're quiet. You're beautiful when you sit under the tree at school. When the wind catches your hair just right and the sun hits those eyes." She was biting her lower lip. "You have a serenity... I dig that."
He dug her? Someone actually... Susan didn't know if she could handle any more praise like that. She didn't know really what to do. No one had ever said such things about her before. Certainly not! Her body had started to shake and she thought for sure she was about to cry. The water still coated her eyes and as she looked at him, she couldn't help but form some sloppy smile. What to say? Her mind, normally swimming with words to fit every situation, was moving too fast.
"I-I-I don't-." The kiss happened and she thought for sure her heart was going to explode from whithin her chest. It was going to punch through her and come flying forth like some alien creature. This feeling was so alien. This was a kiss? The way his large lips came ever so gently over her own thin ones. The feathery smoothness of flesh on flesh. The passing of heat. They were pressed together and seconds crawled by. Flutter. With her eyes closed she saw nothing but red and pink and gold. Hearts and swansongs. Everything cheesey and cliche about love danced into her mind. Her fingers dug into her legs as he pressed up against her.
And just like that it was over. His eyes slowly opened along with her own, though she was unsure if she should yet. Surely her red face was embarrassing and not something to be looked upon. When she opened her eyes though, he was smiling. Her teeth bit into her lower lip and she found herself wanting to withdraw into her shoulder.
"That was perfect. Just like you." He wouldn't stop smiling.
"I-I-I...gotta go." And like that she was Cinderella, the clock had struck and she wanted to much to flee. To think on what had just happened. To make sure this really wasn't some sort of dream and she was already fumbling for the door handle.
Todd kind of frowned, not having wanted to scare her off or have the date end like that. Had he been too forward? Too fast moving? Perhaps, in retrospect, the kiss and the pronouncement of his affections had come on as a little strong. Especially to someone like Susan. But he was ready to prove to her that he meant it. That he was hers. He leaned forward in an attempt to help her with the door, but it was in that moment, with that frightened look hidden in her eyes that she finally grasped it and had it opened.
"Hey, hey Susan!" He called out to her as she started out of the car. The girl hesitated as if turning around would somehow keep her from ever coming back to the real world. Since this just had to be a dream; an illusion. Still, with the rain falling down on her and the cold seeping in, she managed to turn and look at Tood McDreamy.
That large smile found its way onto his face. "Thank you for coming out with me. Thank you for being you."
That pink tongue moved over his lips. "I'll call you later, okay?"
The words that every guy said to every girl that was just a momentary conquest. It never happened. However, the way he said it, the way his voice sounded...Susan couldn't help but feel like he meant it. Like the moment he drove him and got into his house and shed out of his wet clothes and into dry ones, he'd call her. And they would set up another date. And slowly but surely she'd break out of her socially weirdness. She'd blossom thanks to him. She would become the Susan she had always wanted to be.
She could feel her hair matted to her head, the jacket and shirt underneath becoming soaked as well. Looking like a wet and hopeless animal, she smiled. Actually smiled.
"Ummm...okay. Thank you, Todd." She fidgited where she stood. "I'll...I'll talk to you later..." She turned and made a beeline for the door. She heard his car pull out. She turned around to wave him off one last time before she stepped inside.
He was watching her and smiling, one hand coming up to gave a little wave. Then he receded from view. When the door was finally shut behind her, she sank to to the floor and sighed. She wasn't dreaming.
One block away, the little green car that once been the center of her universe for all of five minutes came to a halt at the four-way. He started forward, looked back to see if maybe, just maybe she had come back out. No. He shook his head, but smiled all the same. Just as well, he thought. They'd be talking soon.
He never did see the SUV come barelling into the driver's side. He never even felt it. The last thing he remembered as that he was Susan's first kiss.
Driving away from the wreck of the day
And the light's always red in the rear-view
Desperately close to a coffin of hope
I'd cheat destiny just to be near you
If this is giving up, then I'm giving up
If this is giving up, then I'm giving up, giving up
On love, On love
"Wreck of the Day" (song) written by Anna Nalick. Used without permission, but not intended for profit.