The all too familiar big brick house appeared at my view, as I pulled up at the Bromley's residence. I glazed my eyes over the usual clean-cut green lawn, and the row of colorful roses bordering around it. I got out of the car, my mom's car, and made my way up at walkway and rang the bell.
I heard loud footsteps thundering down the staircase nearing the door until it opened, and I was greeted by the hugest smile in the world.
"Maddie!" it screamed and the girl leaped to give me a big hug.
"Hello to you too, Taylor!" I shouted back and returned the squeeze.
When we broke apart, I looked at her appearance. Taylor Bromley looked the same, but I noticed her new haircut was shorter. She was just in pajama bottoms and a plain t-shirt with a happy smile on it. The smiley alone made me smile, and I was just glad to see her again after a while. I really needed to take a break from my homebound days. Though she called first to meet up at her house, seeing her would always keep my mind off of things. Not that my life was being complicated at the moment, I just wanted to talk to her cheery and optimistic self again.
Taylor also lived at the next town over, which is why I had to use the car to get here. Even if I had argued otherwise, Mom would just either get me to drive the car or stay in the house. Taylor was one of my closer friends. I'd met her during freshman year in high school, and we had stayed together until she had to move away in sophomore year, but we still remained in contact since then.
"Well, you're still bee-yootiful as always!" said Taylor rolling her eyes in effect.
"So do you, silly!" I laughed. "I love the short hair by the way. It fits you."
"Thanks," she replied. "Hey, c'mon in, I'm bakin cookies!"
I followed her inside and immediately smelled the sweet aroma of chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen. This was one of the reasons why I loved visiting her place. There was always something sugary baking in the oven.
Another reason was that interior of her house was so colorful. There was always an accent wall in each room. The living room walls were all brick white, while one wall was left brick red. The furniture was also homey and artistic; gigantic frames of abstract artwork hung everywhere, and bright sculptures and vases decorated the tables. Taylor was an artist, more specifically a painter, and not only did she turn her house into one of her masterpieces, it was almost like walking through a museum upon entering her room which was filled with her own artwork.
Now, I know it's kind of strange how an insular and conservative person like me could be friends with someone as creative and avant-garde as Taylor. We usually got that kind of effect from people, but we never minded. The point is that we got along really well together, and that we were both unique individuals.
"Where's daddy dearest?" I asked from the living room, checking out her easel with a half-finished painted canvas on it.
"Out to Singapore once again!" shouted Taylor from the kitchen.
Taylor's father was always gone. Her parents were divorced; her mother living a settled life with her new husband in California. Her father worked in a busy company which always caused him to travel places around the world for business trips, and came home for about a week and leaves again the next. So Taylor basically lived alone for now, having a part time job at an art studio near the campus.
I heard a loud crashing noise, and whirled around in alarm then remembered that this was Taylor. Taylor, the klutz. This was normal.
"I'm okay!" she yelled and laughed at herself.
I sighed and rolled my eyes before turning back at the painting. For some reason, it seemed different. I couldn't exactly place what was wrong in the picture, but I knew, because of my personality to be able to sense these things, that this painting was different from the usual.
"Hey, Tay?" I called her, my eyes still glued on the canvas.
There was another loud bang then her quick footsteps came up from behind me. "Yeah?" she asked breathlessly.
"When did you start painting this?"
"Uhh, like, since last Friday, why?"
I furrowed my brows and my lips formed into an eloquent grin before looking over at her and asking, "Have you met someone since then?"
The instant blush that crept to her cheeks was unmistakable. My eyes widened and I let out a gasp for her.
She looked down hiding her red face then looked up with a disbelieving expression. "But how did you know, Maddie?" She whined and laughed.
"C'mon, Taylor. This painting says it all," I looked back at it. "I've seen all of your other artwork, and the only time it ever looks like this is when you've met someone really special."
Taylor's usual paintings were always bold, confident. This one in particular, looked true. It looked genuine, and in a way it looked sheepish and tender. I wasn't saying that any of her other paintings didn't look as real and honest; it was just this one that particularly stood out from the rest.
The painting was simply a picture of a lake and a bench. It was the classic kind of scene you'd take from a camera; only, it was the artist's job to make it into their own original and felt piece. Taylor hadn't put as much color as usual, only coloring the blue lake and the brown bench. Everything else was in black and white. I know it wasn't completely finished yet; I still didn't know if she was going to paint over the rest. The image also looked like it was thoughtful. It doesn't make any sense, but it was just what one would call beautiful simplicity. And I knew Taylor wasn't one to paint this kind of thing. She was an abstract and conceptual kind of being.
I heard her sigh. "Ah, well, you've caught me. I did meet someone. It was on Thursday, last week."
"Oh yeah?" I urged on interestedly.
"Yeah." She went over to the couch and flopped down with a dreamy look. I sat down beside her and smiled.
"It was during my shift at the art studio," she continued without a beat. "I was in the middle of finishing up Dans la pice circulaire when I heard someone come in. I looked up, annoyed of course, for interrupting my painter's moment, but then I saw that the guy was actually cute, and set down all my painting equipment and headed over the front desk."
I nodded indicating that I was listening. Dans la pice circulaire was one of her paintings which meant 'In the circular room' in French. I laughed a little when she mentioned "painter's moment". She hated it when people interrupted her while painting saying that it would always break her muse.
"So anyways, I put on my flirt attitude, and we talked, and he was saying how he'd just wanted to stop by and check out some paintings for his new apartment near the college campus. So I showed him some of my best pieces of course and he asked who the artist was and I said it was me, and he looked all surprised and everything," she went on blushing even more.
"And we talked about stuff like who our favorite painter was and our favorite era of art and stuff like that until he just had to ask me out right then and there," she giggled remembering the moment, and I smiled with her.
"Aw, Taylor!" I squealed. "Thats great! So when was the date?"
"The next day, Friday. We'd just decided to come to a little quaint coffee house near the studio and mull over some more topics over there. It was great. I really like him," she said.
"Awhh," I cooed and we both laughed. I really was happy for her. She'd met a pretty promising and great guy by the sound of it, and all I wanted was for her to meet someone that completed her, as corny as it sounds.
"So," she began and looked at me reluctantly as if hesitant to say something.
I responded with a questioning expression and cocked my head slightly. Then it snapped in my mind. Of course she would want to ask that. It was only natural and polite to ask your friend if they had met someone special recently. The only problem was, it was me who was the friend. It was me that kept her from asking the question.
It was always different with me. I've never been in a relationship before. Nothing stopped me, really, only my mother. Since I was just a child, she filled my growing adolescent brain with facts and fiction about the male gender itself. I was to be forever living in fear and paranoia about any boy or man that started getting too close in friendship due to the tales and myths my mom whispered in my ear every night. Unlike any average mother who would gladly narrate fairytales, my mother told otherwise to never trust any man for my life. I didn't want to believe it, of course I didn't. Even at such a young age, my thoughts struggled to rebel against her lies, refusing to give in to my mom's desires for my own future.
I knew not all men were like that. I knew not all boys were cruel and will only deceive you at worst. The first time I had ever visited the library in the park was at age seven. I had stumbled in there by accident, still filled with the same curiosity and vigor as today. There I had met Mrs. Callaghan and I have to say that she was the first lady to ever introduce me to wonderful world of literature. She gave me the classic fairy tales first, not being able to believe that I knew nothing of Cinderella's or Snow White's story. It was what started my weekly routine to the library, checking out books and stories my mother never told me.
I wanted a prince too, it wasn't fair. I wanted to be a normal teenager who's able to go on dates and bring over some guy friends to her house. I didn't have that chance. And Taylor was the only person who knew this about me. She understood and made sure to soften at this topic.
"Um. You know...no one really. Except if you count old man, Philip," I replied, deciding to let humor break the awkwardness.
She laughed as I predicted. Philip was my neighbor, and when Taylor and I used to hang out in the yard, she would always joke around about Philip's having a crush on me.
Silence followed the moment of laughter. Then something seemed to click in her mind when she suddenly sprang up with a gasp. "Oh my God," she sprinted towards the kitchen while crying out, "The cookies!"
I heard her open the oven and curse at herself. I stood up and followed her to the kitchen then stopped and attempted the opposite way when the odor of something burnt drifted to my nostrils. It was best to leave Taylor alone when something she made has failed. As I was just making my way to the piano keyboard, the doorbell rang.
"Oh, hey Maddie, can you get that please?" Taylor said as she continued swearing at the burnt substance.
"Uh huh," I shouted back at her, and went to do as directed.
Cautiously and curiously, wondering who would visit her, I opened the door and my eyebrows furrowed at the person behind it.
He was a tall man, around my age but maybe a little older. He turned around just as the door opened and he gave me a friendly smile. He had dark brown hair that wisped around due to the wind, and dark eyes to match. He was a handsome man, indeed, and his gleaming smile added to it.
"Hi," I greeted and returned the kindly smile.
"Hi. Um, I'm just wondering if a Taylor Bromley resides in this place?" he asked.
My eyebrows rose as I figured out just who this person was. "Oh, well, yes she does." My smile grew bigger knowingly and I invited him in.
The door shut behind us and Taylor yelled out, "Who was it?"
"Just someone you might know," I replied, my voice toned with significance and tease.
Taylor scurried out of the kitchen, in her black pajama bottoms and a paint stained t-shirt, her hair trussed in a messy bun; with an expression of confusion at first, but as her eyes landed on the guest beside me, she had a quick look of horror at her own appearance, but swiftly beamed at him in surprise.
"Sebastian!" she greeted in disbelief and astonishment, cocking her head to the side and grinned flirtatiously.
"Taylor, hey. I was just around the area, and decided to stop by your place, if you dont mind."
"Oh! Oh, no, I don't mind," she giggled. "So, whats up?"
"I'm doing great, and I've already gotten tons of compliments on your painting."
"You've hung it up?"
"Of course. A work of art like that deserves to be."
"Haha. Well, thanks."
"No, thank you."
They smiled at each other.
I watched their chemistry with admiration, an amusing grin playing on my lips.
"So, I was thinking maybe we could hang out today, back at the coffeehouse. I heard they're having a jazz night later on," said Sebastian, pretending to act nonchalant at the invitation to go out on a date, when we all knew it was all he cared about at the moment.
"Oh really? Well..." she pretended to ponder for a moment as if she had a whole busy schedule ahead of her, when we all knew her answer. "Yeah, sure, I guess," she finished acting indifferent.
Taylor's gaze finally landed back on me and she snapped back from her blissful conversation, and gestured toward me. Oh, I forgot to introduce you guys.
I was almost disappointed that the Sebastian and Taylor scene was over. They were like something from a movie, and I wondered how I came into the panorama; as if I found it awkward that I should be a part of their story.
"Maddie, this is Sebastian Gregory, I met him at the art studio the other day," as she said this, she eyed me because I already knew, and turned to Sebastian. "And Seb, this is Madelyn Locklear, she's been a close friend of mine since high school."
"Hey," he held out a hand.
"Hello," I greeted back and shook his hand.
He looked thoughtful for a moment before saying, "Hey, why don't you come along with us at the coffeehouse?"
I widened my eyes at the invitation unsure of my reply.
"Oh, that would be cool! Yeah, come along with us, Madelyn?" Taylor agreed.
"Okay, then," I said. Hey, I had nothing else to do later on anyway.
"Cool, it's settled," Sebastian turned back to Taylor. "So I'll pick you ladies up later around seven?"
"Yep," Taylor answered.
He gave us a nod, and made his way out the door. When it clasped shut, Taylor still had a look of delight on her face.
"That was him," she stated simply, not really to me but to herself also.
"So I've guessed."
When Sebastian picked us up at exactly seven o'clock, Taylor and I were ready and set to go. Earlier, we'd eaten about 1 third of the cookies that weren't burnt, and lounged around while ordering movies on the television. We talked and did more of catching up with each other's lives; me, still thinking that her life is always more interesting than mine. She'd be having an art show soon next week, and of course expected me there. I would go obviously unless something came up, which was unlikely.
By the time the clock chimed six, Taylor instantly bounded off to her room, took a shower, dressed up, and applied on make-up. I could do nothing but to stay and wait in my own clothes, which were just a plain blue woolen sweater and dark jeans, while Taylor prettied herself up for her possible future partner.
Sebastian came at his promised time, and honked his car horn from the driveway. Taylor and I got in his black Mercedes and we drove off to the near college town. We arrived to a downtown area which was packed with college kids and young adults walking around in and out of shops and diners. The place looked pretty busy for a Thursday night. We parked at a curb in front of the coffeehouse which had a colorful sign outside the door that read "Jazz Night! Stop by the evening, have a cup of coffee, and listen to relaxing music."
The coffeehouse was cozy, and had the warm aroma of coffee beans. There was a small stage and a little lounge with couches and tables. Sebastian and Taylor headed for the bar, and I reluctantly followed, feeling like an unwanted third wheel.
"I'll have a plain black coffee, please," Sebastian told the barista.
"And a chai latte for me," Taylor said.
They all turned to me for my order and I squinted at the menu on the wall and asked for a caramel latte. The barista nodded and went off to prepare our drinks.
"So Madelyn, you don't have to sit here at the bar with us. You can sit over at the couches if you like once the band comes out," Taylor told me.
She didn't mean to sound rude and as if I wasn't wanted, and there was no need to think that.
"Um, okay," I replied agreeing to the idea.
When our drinks came, the lights at the lounge near the stage dimmed and everyone turned to the performers. A young looking girl around her twenties stood in the spotlight greeting everyone a good evening and introducing the jazz band behind her. She was pretty with bright curly red hair and mesmerizing jade eyes; the guys in the cafe clearly couldn't take their eyes off her.
She started singing a sweet slow song, her voice instantly captivating everyone's attention. I turned to my right and saw Sebastian and Taylor deep in conversation, and I decided to slip away to a table nearer the stage taking my latte with me.
"Like waiting in the dark
When you want to be outside
Like trying to erase the mark
That the others left behind."
I listened to the soft melody and soothing instruments while I sipped my coffee and scanned my eyes around the cafe. I knew nobody in here with the exception of my two companions, which wasn't unusual. I rarely came to visit this part of town, only visiting to see Taylor.
Then, it was just at this one mere second, any one mere second that can possibly change the fate of anyone's life, just another second, a second that didn't stop, but it seemed to when it came. I choked on my drink suddenly, and hastily coughing when I swallowed and it went down the wrong pipe. I set down my mug and looked back up, disbelief crossing my expression at the sight I just might have seen.
But it was still there. More specifically, he was still there. I squinted since he stood in the dark corner of the coffeehouse, but I was pretty sure it was him. And to my observation, it looked like he was staring back at me. His eyebrows were furrowed as if contemplating something serious in his head, but the rest of his face was unreadable. When he finally seemed to realize that I had spotted him staring at me, he gave a sudden turn of his head at the stage then back. I watched his movements: he looked down, sighed, and then made his way over to me.
I felt my heart start beating faster as his steps grew closer. My grip on my coffee mug tightened with my growing anxiety, and my expression was still disbelieving but surprised. He finally arrived at my table, and I was still gawking at him awkwardly, so I softened my air swiftly to relax the tension.
"We meet again," he bluntly stated and gave me a half grin.
"And so we do," I answered.
And so there was the life changing moment, though I was not yet aware of it then.