I looked at my alarm clock with its blinking red numbers that told me it was almost time. I had everything. Three cups placed in a triangle filled with a hundred and thirty seven rose petals. Seven lit candles forming a circle around the cups. Rice paper, feather, and ink.
The numbers in the alarm clock changed to 3:45 AM and I began to write in the rice paper. One after another, I enumerated the qualities of my other half, my perfect love.
Blonde. Blue eyes. Tall.
I wrote every little detail, down to his college career, number of siblings, and vehicle preference. I couldn't risk losing him, too. My rushed writing seemed to crawl on the rice paper and some spots of ink had randomly stained here and there –I was terrible at writing with a feather.
Must be from England. Always protects me. Never leaves my side. Always understands me.
A swift breeze came from my open window making the quivering light of the candles shake and my room was pitch black for a second. Only the shining moon outside kept the darkness from engulfing me. My heart beat fast, painfully.
Charming. Loving. Perf–
The alarm clock rang loudly at 3:47 AM and the tip of the feather I was using broke before I could finish the last word on my list. I looked for a pen but couldn't find one, and I was running out of time. Giving up on the pen, I folded the rice paper, tore it in three parts, and burned each one in the flame of the candles aligned with the three cups.
Closing my eyes I began to sing the words I had memorized six months ago:
"Be thou with me,
Oh, Mother Moon;
Join my song
And give me your blessing.
Shine like no other
On the month of love,
And grant the Wish
Of a hurt one."
Then I blew each candle separately, took the three cups of rose petals, and spread them around my dark room. This would do it; this would give me something to cling to.
It was done. Now, I just had to wait.
I glanced over at Rose for the tenth time that day. She was staring at me, again; I looked away, again. This was quite unsettling.
"How long are you gonna keep staring at me?"
"It depends," she said smugly as she tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. "How long is it gonna take you to admit your utter stupidity?"
I growled internally and took a sip out of my pineapple juice. Really, I think my only stupidity was to tell my practical, narrow-minded, math obsessed friend what I had done last night. And now, as we walked around the mall trying to look for something that didn't look like it was destroyed in a hurricane, Rose had decided it was a good time to creep me out with her light blue eyes.
"I just don't get it, Tamee," she sighed, finally looking away from my face. "Why would you even think that would work? A ritual from some book to create your perfect love? You found that stupid book at Barnes and Noble, how's that magical? I'd guessed you smarter than that," Rose stated matter-of-factly. "Have you told Trent?"
My eyes widened. No, I hadn't told Trent; I wouldn't tell Trent. He would only make fun of me, and crush my dreams 'for the sake of realism' just as he had done since the day he moved two houses from mine ten years ago. I shook my head as an answer to Rose's question and heard her sigh heavily.
"I ate ice cream with him and Alice yesterday before I did it, so I didn't get a chance to tell him," I half-lied.
"He's gonna be freakin' mad. You know that, right?"
"C'mon, Rose. Just drop it, would you?"
I was tired of all of this. I had woken up today to the bright sun of the first day of spring break and seen my room covered in the petals from last night, ashes still lay on my desk, and the window had been left open overnight. I had wanted to go back to the inviting darkness of the night almost immediately, where my insecurities didn't seem so overwhelming and what I had done was a lot easier to rationalize.
But it wasn't yesterday anymore. And like all the other times I had wished it were, I was left to deal with the cold present –which currently involved Rose giving me a hard time.
"Fine," she accepted, still sulking. "Just remember that I said so when none of this works."
I rolled my eyes and followed her into Hollister, one of her favorite stores. The dim light and the smell invaded my senses; I coughed a couple of times before I realized Rose was already wandering around and had three things in her hands. I looked around some, touching the fabric before I picked anything, just as Daddy had taught me. But really, when everything was as light as a sheet of paper (and covered just as much), there wasn't a lot I could pick. So I gave up and went out of the store to sit on the couch they had for exhibition.
I fell ungraciously on the patterned couch and buried my head in my hands, messing with my dark hair. I needed Starbucks, staying up late was not my thing.
"You look tired," I heard a smooth voice say.
Was that a British accent? I lifted my gaze and locked it on the guy towering in front of me. Blond, tall, and gorgeous. I had to make an effort to keep my jaw from dropping and making me look like I was mentally impaired –which, at the moment, I was.
"I am, I guess," I mumbled unconsciously.
He smiled charmingly and sat beside me. "I've been seeing you around; I hope you don't mind, but I was feeling bold enough to come ask your name."
Half way through that sentence I managed to stop focusing on his accent and started paying attention to what he was saying. He had been looking at me?
"Tamara," I blurted out. "You?"
"Zachary Stuart Westlock," he smiled dazzlingly again and flipped his blonde hair back.
"Nice to meet you," I said, trying to sound a little smarter than I was feeling.
"I know I may be coming on too strong, but I was wondering if you would like to go out with me."
I blinked a couple of times in confusion, and then a couple more when I realized what he was asking. Could it be–?
"How many siblings do you have?" I asked bluntly instead of answering him.
For a second, I thought he wouldn't answer and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. But he did.
He must only have a brother, older; no sisters.
"An older brother, he studies over seas."
My heart beat hard inside my chest; I didn't know if I was scared or thrilled.
"What's your major?"
His major must be business, marketing, or both.
"Business," he answered willingly.
I bit my tongue to keep the scream I was feeling coming from bursting out of me. It was He.
"I would–," I started, but the projecting sound of Rose's voice interrupted me.
"Geez, there you are, Tamee! I was wondering if you had abandoned me," she smiled.
I smiled back, barely containing my happiness even though she had interrupted me.
"No, I was just sitting out here," I said.
Her pretty blue eyes rummaged around and, for a moment, lay on Zachary; just enough time for her to process and dismiss him.
"Well, are you ready to go now?"
I opened my mouth to answer her but shut it back tightly when I felt a hand, warm and heavy, over my own small one. I looked at Zachary's beautiful green eyes that seemed to be drawing me in.
"At least give me your phone number," he whispered and I felt like melting in an ugly puddle of brown goo.
"Sure," I stuttered as I pulled my cell phone out to show him my number, because I obviously wasn't capable of speaking anymore.
"I'm waiting," Rose said sounding impatient.
"It was lovely to meet you, Tamara," Zachary said as a way of good-bye.
I stood up and went with Rose who had started walking. Looking back, I saw him still smiling at me and I waved before turning away.
"Since when do you pick up random strangers from the mall and give them your phone number?"
I stared smugly at Rose, my nose up in the air. "Since he is the guy that I created," I stated triumphantly.
"Oh, what the hell? You can't possibly think–," she paused, gazing at me. "You do! You think he's the guy? You can't be serious, Tamee."
"Why is it so hard for you to support me on this?" I was getting angrier than I probably should have by now.
"Because it's stupidity and it'll only end up hurting you; meanwhile, you're messing with some creep-o!"
I frowned but didn't reply; I didn't care what Rose thought, she wouldn't understand what it was to need someone to fill a void. Zachary was my perfect guy, the guy I had created, I just knew it. And, ultimately, it was my life to screw up.
The following days went by in a foggy blur. Zach had come into my life just as I had expected and turned it upside down. In nine days we were already in some kind of indefinable relationship –but of course we were, I had created him for this purpose, after all–, he had met my Mom for a total of five minutes, and had been introduced to Trent and Rose, who was currently on non-talking terms with me.
He was always there, always beside me, always present. Always.
He was the perfect guy. Respectful, understanding, sweet. He was protective of me like I was the only star in his sky. He had no flaws and he was mine.
I stumbled around the kitchen, distractedly stepping on everything that hadn't been picked up, trying to make my way to the fridge. Today hadn't been a good day. I woke up with a headache, fell off my bed, had an argument with Rose over the phone (again), and had to shoo off some random dude who had been here with mom last night; then I had gone back to sleep to see if that made my day start again. But it didn't, I still had a headache. When I finally got to the fridge, a bright pink post-it note caught my attention.
Won't make it 4 dinner tonight.
Taking it off the refrigerator door, I crumbled it into a ball and tossed it in the trashcan –it wasn't like I hadn't read that same note over and over for a year. I opened the fridge and grabbed the milk carton right when my cell phone started to vibrate in the back pocket of my jeans.
I smiled. It was Zach texting me for the twelfth time that day to tell me that he was thinking of me. I had quickly texted him back and buried my phone in my pants when I heard the doorbell ring. What, nobody was going to let me drink today?
Grumbling, I walked out of the kitchen and down the small hall of my house to the front door. Six feet of perfection greeted me smiling when I opened.
"Hey," Zach said. "I just finished the football practice and decided to pay a visit to my favorite person in the world."
He must be a quarterback.
He kissed my cheek and came in before I invited him. I forced a smile and closed the door. It didn't surprise me anymore that Zach came randomly to visit me; somehow he always managed to be everywhere I was at any time.
At least, he wouldn't leave me alone like Dad did.
"You must be tired then," I commented, leading him to the living room.
"Not really, you know I'm used to physical exercise."
I didn't know, but I didn't say that because I had come to learn that Zach didn't like to talk about himself. I should have been more specific when I wrote that list for the ritual. I threw myself in the red loveseat once we got to the living room and he sat beside me, completely ignoring the other three comfy chairs. Without prelude, he grabbed my jaw delicately and bored into my eyes with his perfect green ones.
"You look so beautiful today," he whispered.
I blushed, even though I didn't believe a word of what he had said. Against my will, it bothered me that he had complimented me; I knew how terrible I looked in my worn out pants and the old white T-shirt from my high school years, he didn't have to lie about it.
"Thanks," I said nonetheless and turned away embarrassed. "Do you want something to eat? Drink?"
Must not argue with me. We must not fight.
"Only if you want something," he winked at me saying what I had heard him say so many other times.
"Fine. I'll go get some milk."
I walked to the kitchen and picked up the carton of milk I had left untouched before. Going to the cabinet, I was standing on my toes and grabbing two glasses when, once again, I felt my phone vibrate.
"Shoot," I squealed when one of the glasses almost fell from my grip.
I put them on the counter next to the milk and checked my inconvenient phone. It was Trent.
What u up 2?
I smiled and texted him back swiftly with one hand while I poured the milk with the other.
w/ Zach :) U?
I was grabbing both glasses to go back to the living room when I saw Zach standing on the doorframe, looking at me. It almost made me drop what I had in my hands –I really had an awful tendency of dropping things.
"Sorry," he apologized. "You were just taking too long to come back and I didn't know where you had gone."
His pretty face was contorted in an expression of real worry and I didn't know what to make out of it. How could I have gone anywhere in the three minutes I was in the kitchen?
"Yeah, sorry. Trent texted me," I said as a way of explanation.
"Oh," he mustered sulking in jealousy. "You talk a lot with him, huh?"
Must be jealous if other guys show an interest in me.
I handed him one of the glasses of milk I was idiotically holding and smiled –Trent and Zach didn't like each other too much, or at all.
"Kinda. I've known him for a long time."
"I see," he said as a response and, surprisingly, he seemed actually angry.
My phone vibrated and I pulled it out for the third time under Zach's gaze.
Doing interesting stuff.
U alone w/ Ken boy?
"What did he say?"
I looked at Zach and smirked, trying to hide my nervousness toward his attitude.
"He says Hi," I half-lied. Trent had mentioned Zach, right? That was like saying Hi, right?
For some reason, I got the impression that Zach was straightening up even though he didn't move at all, but I didn't get to ponder on it much because next thing I knew he was smiling dazzlingly and stepping aside so that I could go through the doorframe he had been blocking.
"In that case, say Hello from me, too, and that I hope he is doing well," Zach said charmingly in his British accent.
Must be the perfect gentleman.
"Will do," I said as I texted Trent back.
I sat on the loveseat again and Zach followed suit. I tried to come up with something to say but my mind went blank instantly; he didn't seem to be so uncomfortable as I was. Actually, he seemed quite content with starting at me longingly. The silence was making me fidgety and only the vibrating of my phone saved me from it.
"He's still texting you? Doesn't he have something better to do?" Zach asked.
I wanted to answer 'Probably not', but the tone he had used kept me from it.
Wanna go 4 ice cream 2day?
I smiled; Trent knew I could hardly say no to that.
"What's he saying?"
"Nothing important," I replied.
"Of course it's important, you're smiling."
"It was some stupid thing."
I gazed at Zach's intense expression but quickly diverted my eyes; he seemed really mad for some reason. I felt his hand grip my arm and winced.
"Why do you not tell me? What are you hiding?" He was almost yelling now.
I shivered and tried to make him release me.
"I'm not hiding anything, I promise," I said but that seemed to anger him even more, if the force of his grip was anything to go by.
"Yes you are! I knew I shouldn't have trusted you. I knew you would do this. I knew it from the very beginning when I saw you with that bastard and the girl at the ice-cream shop!"
"Stop it," I whispered shakily.
And it was only then when I understood what he had said. From that day at the ice-cream shop. The day I had been with Alice and Trent, the day I had performed the ritual, the day before I had met Zach.
I don't think I had ever been as scared in my life as then. What had gone wrong? Why did my perfect guy turn out like this?
Why had my Dad died?
"Why are you looking at me like that, huh?" Zach yelled frantically. As he got closer his face looked like he was going to start crying at any time.
I felt like crying, too, but those green eyes were fixed on me, watching me, waiting for me to crack. I inhaled sharply.
"You're eyes are green," I said in shock.
Blonde. Green eyes. Tall.
"Do you like them?" He smiled, but I wish he hadn't.
He wasn't it. Instinctively, I grabbed my phone with the hand he wasn't gripping and smiled as nicely as I could.
"I'm gonna call Trent and tell him that I can't go study today, 'kay?" my voice sounded fragile but stable enough so that my words were understandable.
Zach grabbed the hand that was holding my phone and brought it to my ear, a maniacal grin in his face.
I pressed the call button twice without looking, knowing that Trent had been the last person I called. It rang three painful times before I heard his deep voice.
"'Sup, Tamee? Bored of Ken already?" I heard him say over the phone.
"Hey Trent. Look, I'm sorry, I won't be able to go study with you today."
I felt Zach release me and laugh as he heard what I said.
"Study for what? Do we have a test after the break?" He paused for a second in which I didn't answer. "Tamee, what the hell is going on?"
I inhaled deeply. "I just can't go to your house, I need to stay here with Zach."
I heard Trent growl like he did years ago whenever I stole a cookie from of him; I hope he understood what I was saying, he had always been so dense.
"What's that loser doing to you?"
I sighed. Zach was looking angry again and motioning for me to hang up. I had one last chance, one last thing I could say.
"Why don't you call Dad at the police station and tell him to go have dinner at your house tonight? I want to be alone with Zach."
And I hung up. Zach smiled at me and patted my head carefully.
"I didn't know your father was a cop," he said, his British accent now sounding a lot more menacing than it ever had.
"He isn't. He just does paperwork for the police," I replied and smiled sweetly.
Zach took my hands in his and caressed them. "Thanks for doing this for me, sweetheart. I knew you were the one that was finally gonna stay by my side."
We stayed in silence for what seem like forever. He was just there, smiling and caressing me, letting me think. I didn't even want to think about what had happened to ones before me. Actually, I didn't want to think at all, just like I didn't want to look at those beautiful green eyes anymore.
"How could I ever leave you?" I asked truthfully.
He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around my small body in a hug that squished all my organs together. I wanted to cry.
I heard a knock on the door but dared not move.
"Are you expecting somebody?" Zach inquired, suddenly sounding like the perfect host.
"Not really. Maybe my mom?"
He nodded and stood up; I tailed him to the front door wishing with all my heart that wasn't Mom. He opened the creaking door and all the air in my lungs left me at the sight of what was there. It was a police officer.
"That's him," I heard a voice I knew so well say and behind the police officer I caught a glimpse of Trent.
Then, a single sound made me feel like all my blood had just rushed out of my face and I was going to faint –it was Zach's calm voice.
"Good afternoon, Sir. May I help you?" he asked as smoothly as the day I had met him. I could only see his back, but I imagined he was smiling at the officer like the model citizen he was portraying.
"Yes, actually. This gentleman here says you two have been making a lot of strange noises, is there anything going on?"
Zach laughed confidently. "Oh, I'm sorry. The T.V. must have been louder than we thought. We were watching a horror movie just now," he stated casually, pointing with his thumb at the living room.
The police officer looked at Zach, at me, and then at the living room, which could be seen from the front door.
"Would you mind coming out here with me for a moment? I would like to ask you some questions," the police officer requested in the tone of someone who was used to saying that and being obeyed.
"What, you're going to arrest me because the T.V. was loud?" Zach's voice cracked and I took one step back, afraid of what he might do.
"Now, there is no need to be defensive. I just need to talk to you for a few minutes, ask you a few questions, and figure out why you lied to a police officer." The man motioned toward the living room. "Unless you youngsters now watch movies with the T.V. off."
Zach turned to look at the T.V., which could be seen from the front door, and then fixed his gaze on me, his eyes wandering everywhere in rage. Next thing I knew he had hit me hard in the stomach sending me against the wall and sprinted toward the living room window. I didn't know if I had screamed; it happened so fast that I couldn't quite process anything –I wasn't so sure I wanted to, anyway.
I heard the sounds of struggling, some cursing, and the police officer dragging a berserk Zach out of the house. I saw the older man pushing the guy I had once thought was perfect into a police car. Trembling, I pushed myself up from my ungraceful position on the floor and sat with my knees bent. I stayed there staring into middle distance until I heard the sound of the door shutting and felt cold hands on my shoulders.
"They left already."
I looked up into Trent's dark blue eyes but didn't say anything. He sat beside me and pushed his black hair back, a gesture he did when he was frustrated.
"You're such an idiot," he stated grumpily.
I tried to smile. Trent could be so tactless sometimes.
"I assume Rose told you what I thought Zach was," I said.
"I assume you found out that he wasn't it."
I sighed and nodded. There was no way out of it, at least I hadn't been there when he first heard what I had done and, surely, laughed hysterically.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled as I felt a tear run down my cheek.
"Yeah, well, whatever." I looked up, shocked that he wasn't banging into my head how stupid I was –or being sympathetic, for that matter. He stood up and offered me his hand. "How about you change from those ugly rags you have on and we go get ice cream." He smirked. "It could even be a date."
Inside, I felt like crumbling down would be appropriate after what had happened; but, really, why make another mess when there was no need for one? I took his hand and he pulled me up.
"No date. I've had enough romance for a while," I said exhausted. "But you could buy me ice cream."
He smirked some more and smacked the back of my head. The jerk.
"You buy your own ice cream, loser."
Offended, I stuck my tongue out and smacked him back.
Who needed perfection anyway?
N/A: Hey guys! So... what did you think? I'm really needing feedback now, so please, PLEASE, if you have an opinion, criticism, or anything else, TELL me :D I need to turn this story in for a creative writing fiction class tomorrow, so if you think it need changes, something doesn't make sense, it seems too rushed, you didn't feel anything when reading it, please let me know.
ALL comments will be highly appreciated.
Thanks so much!
Cookies and Ice Cream,