The first time he calls me, I'm making BLTs for dinner. The bacon is frying in the pan and splashing hot grease all over me, and I'm screaming at Mara to come out here and help me with this crap. I hate frying bacon, and it's more of an OCD thing than just the fact that there's boiling grease splashing on my arms. When I first put it in the pan, it's nice and orderly, little criss-crosses of meat with the white fat slowly becoming translucent. As it heats up, it twists and warps and you have to turn it and mess with it, and by then it's in a huge tangled mess, and by the end one side of it will be perfect but the other side of a few pieces will be practically raw because I'm just not that good with a spatula and couldn't get it to turn over.
As I'm pondering the pathetic annoyance of this, the phone rings with a deafening buzz. Mara must've changed the ringer—I know Mom won't appreciate this. It continues, a constantly annoying sound, and Mara totally ignores me as I yell at her to pick up the fricking phone! At last, I'm forced to drop the spatula and, clutching a towel to my stinging arms, run to the phone.
"Hello?" In this mood, my tone of voice has turned a simple greeting into a hostile insult.
"Is Lora there?" He doesn't sound intimidated. I know it's Seth, and I wish it was a telemarketer so at least I could scare the crap out them.
"Speaking," I sigh. "Seth?"
"How'd you know it was me?" He's joking, but I don't take the bait.
"I'm kind of busy right now." I try to soften my voice, and end up sounding strangled.
"Are you okay?" He sounds deeply concerned, which causes butterflies in my stomach. My ears are ringing—is it possible to feel vibes over the phone?
"Yeah, I'm fine…sorry. I was just making supper, and there's bacon on the stove," I ramble. I want to stay and talk, I really do, but I definitely don't want to burn supper. Mom's in a bad enough mood as it is; you can tell that by the fact that I'm cooking supper at all. "I can't really talk right now."
"Oh…" He sounds disappointed, and this makes me smile a little. He cares!
A small voice in my head whispers, Would he have called if he didn't?
"Well…I was wondering if you might want to meet me somewhere later," he says. He sounds almost nervous, which surprises me—I thought he'd be used to asking girls out, with his reputation.
"Um…like where?" I sound like an idiot; I'm still grumpy but at the same time the little annoying person in my head is jumping up and down with pompoms, screaming "Omigod, we've got a date!"
"I…don't know." He gives a nervous laugh. "I was hoping you might have some ideas. Not my house though," he adds quickly. I don't question this; I feel the exact same way.
"Um…" Wow, I sound intelligent. What is there in our town? No movie theatre, a diner, two bars which are obviously out of the question, several little stores that barely make any money, a pizza place…a secluded lookout point, a gazebo in the park. I'm glad it's winter. Then I remember I can't meet him anywhere, because I can't drive, and I don't want him to have to pick me up because I don't want him to know that. Why I don't want him to know is a mystery even to me.
"I…actually…I don't think I'll be able to tonight," I admit. It's not that I'm busy, it's that I'm not capable of being near him without over-thinking everything.
"Oh…" He doesn't ask for an excuse and I don't give him one. "Well, maybe another time then." He doesn't sound hurt, and I'm glad—I'll be depressed enough sitting in my room tonight without knowing I disappointed him.
"Yeah…maybe." We say goodbye and I hang up first and head back to the kitchen.
The bacon, of course, is burned to a crisp.
I hold the phone in my hand for a long time before I dial your number. It rings four times before you answer breathlessly, "Hello?"
"Hi…it's me," I say. In the background, there's a guy talking. His voice is low and gravelly and I can't quite catch what he's saying. Before you reply, I hear you giggling, and when you speak to me you're still breathless. "Hey Lora…listen…this isn't really a good time…" Your voice trails off, and I get your meaning quite clearly. "Sorry," I mutter, and hang up without saying goodbye.
I get into bed and curl up on my side under the covers, trying to ignore the dull force of my stomachache. I won't cry…I shove my thumbs against my eyelids hard and tell myself I am numb. I don't want to think about you being with a guy, happy and having fun, while I'm here in my room on a Friday night, unable to deal with the fact that you have a closeness with someone else you haven't shared with me.
Not that I want to have sex with you; that's not what I mean at all. It's just that we knew every part of each other's soul and I never thought I could have that with anyone else…but I guess you don't feel the same way. I stare at the phone for a while, willing it to ring. I imagine you sending your guy home and calling me back, knowing that a friend in need is more important than anything. You apologize and I tell you what's going on and you know just what advice to give me.
I lay there for a while, just dozing—not really sleeping but not totally awake either. At last I regain some semblance of consciousness and sit up. It's 7:45. I should wash my face and stuff if I'm going to sleep…but I can't make myself move. I stare at myself in the mirror across the room. My hair is dirty and my eyes are puffy from sleep. I should take a shower and call Seth back. I should do the dishes and send Mara to her room to do homework.
I should go back to sleep. So I do.
On Monday morning, I force myself to take a shower, blow-dry my hair, and put on the cleanest clothes I can find. I also sort the laundry, intending to wash some clothes after school. I've even done my homework, and this has been the second-worst weekend of my life (the worst, of course, being when you moved). I have not talked to anyone except my family since I called you Friday night. Today, I do not listen to music on the bus. I stare out the window and think about what homeroom might be like today. I consider skipping it, just so I don't have to see him. I both want it and dread it, the moment when I see whether or not he smiles at me.
I don't need to wait until homeroom, because he's standing in front of my locker, waiting for me. "Lora," he says. He doesn't smile, and neither do I, but the look in his eyes is kind. "Half the time you're friendly and the other half you just seem like you want me to go away. Is there something I should know?"
He's a very articulate guy, really. More articulate even than I am, I realize. I want to tell him that I'm scared of feeling anything for him, but I just shrug. "No…I'm sorry I couldn't meet you anywhere on Friday." The extra words are a peace offering—I would've preferred to give a simple "No."
He smiles. "Are you going to the game tonight?"
I wasn't planning on it, but I know he wants me to say yes, so I nod. "Are you?"
One corner of his mouth twitches into an even bigger smile. "I am now."
Because I have no particular interest in basketball, I buy a plate of nachos and sit in the hall. I peeked into the gym, but didn't see you among the fans there. You don't seem like the basketball-loving type, either, and I wonder why you wanted to hang out here. There's a pen lying on the floor a few feet away. I grab it and, rolling up my pant leg a few inches, begin to sketch a phoenix on my ankle—a bird rising from flames. It's an image I've always liked.
"Mind if I have one of these?" I jump, and look up to see him standing in front of me, pointing at the nachos with his foot. "Uh…sure," I say, tugging my pant leg down and feeling inexplicably guilty for doing so.
You sit down close (but not too close) to me and take a chip covered in cheese. "Don't let me stop you from your drawing," he says, motioning toward my ankle. I practice smiling, but he isn't looking at me. "I'm not much of an artist," I say apologetically, rolling up my pant leg to show him. Now that someone else is looking at it, the bird looks deformed instead of graceful. I sigh in disappointment and embarrassment.
"May I add something?" he asks, taking the pen from my fingers. I nod and he leans close to my ankle. I try not to twitch or giggle as he makes just a few lines. "Now look," he says with a smile. I lean over and look at the phoenix—and I gasp.
I can't even tell where he put the lines he made, but the phoenix is suddenly transformed: it looks beautiful and graceful, worthy of the myth behind it. "See," he says, smiling wider. "You had a good start—you just needed an outsider's opinion." He taps the phoenix lightly, and his touch on my leg gives me goose bumps. If he notices, he doesn't say anything.
We don't talk for awhile as he finishes my plate of nachos. I don't mind, though; I wasn't hungry anymore. Suddenly word-vomit spills out of my mouth. "Why did you say we had a connection?"
"Why did you agree?" he counters.
"Because…I don't know!" I sputter. "Because…you're the second person I've felt anything for in six years!" More word-vomit, though he doesn't seem to find my statement as weird as I do.
"And…is that a good thing?" he asks.
"I don't know; maybe not. No, it's not good, because I have no social skills," I reason.
He looks completely serious as he says, "But if you were surrounded by a group of friends all the time, you probably never would've met me. So it's a good thing." A grin cracks through his serious demeanor.
"Conceited much?" I snort.
"Only a little, I promise."
I let him drive me home from the game. It's not exactly late—only about 9:30—but it's the latest I've stayed out in awhile, and I'm enjoying it.
If he tries to kiss me, I will run away and never talk to him again, I lie to myself as we pull into my long driveway. It's been a fun night—not that we watched the game. (I think our team lost—what else is new?) We talked and talked and ended up joining a few people Seth knows from his web-design class. I mostly kept quiet during that part; it was very odd to be part of a group.
When he pulls the car up in front of my house, I mumble, "Thanks for the ride—I had fun." Very, very smooth of me. But he doesn't seem to mind.
As I'm getting out of the car, he takes my hand and, for some reason, turns it palm up. He raises it toward his mouth, and by the time his lips brush the pale skin and throbbing vein at the base of my wrist, I can barely breathe. He smiles. "See you at school tomorrow." I'm floating in my skin, and somehow I manage a smile back that hopefully doesn't look too crazy. I'm sure I don't sound quite sane—is this what drugs are like?—as I reply, "See you..."
Two days ago, the first thing I would've done when I got back from any type of social activity would be to get online and tell you all about it. Tonight, though, I brush my teeth and get into bed, full of emotion and wondering what tomorrow will bring.
A/N: So it ends…or begins, depending on which way you look at it. This is a different subject than I usually write about, so it was mostly experimentation on my part. I hope you enjoyed "Angry Music." The rest of the story is up to your imagination.