November 25th

It was finally Friday. I walked through the door of my apartment and triumphantly tossed my bag onto the couch. I hadn't seen Oliver for over a week, and I hoped that the streak would continue for much, much longer.

I plopped down next to my bag with my computer on my lap, and stretched my arms out, basking in the warmth of the room. A smile appeared on my face as I thought of all the glorious things I could do this weekend. I needed a new pair of jeans, so I'd long decided that I'd go around to a few consignment shops on Saturday.

I groaned as I admitted that I should be trying to find a new job, too. The last restaurant I'd waited tables at had laid me off a month back, because I had been the last hired. I liked not having to worry about working, but that just wasn't the way the world went 'round.

Suddenly, someone began to knock at my door. I raised an eyebrow and set my laptop on the cushion next to me, then got up and unlatched the chain. It swung open to reveal Rob.

He smiled down at me, "Hey, El. Surprise!"

I gave a delighted yell and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, making him laugh and have to hold on to keep steady.

I leaned away to search his face, "What are you doing here? How long have you been in town?"

He grinned, "I'm here to surprise you, of course. Why do you think I wanted your address?"

I smiled so hard that my face hurt, then pulled him into a hug again, "I can't believe you're here! Come in, come in!"

Holding the door for him, I let him through first, then followed. He looked around the small apartment, "Nice digs."
I grimaced, "I'm sorry it's such a mess. I would have cleaned, had I known you were coming."

Shaking his head, he turned back to me, "I really don't mind at all, Ellie." He looked over at the kitchen, "I was thinking we might go out for dinner?"

I shifted my weight to one foot, "Um, can I cook? I'm trying to conserve cash."

"Oh, that'd be great." He grinned at me as I walked over the the refrigerator.

"Is spaghetti alright?"

"Spaghetti's awesome."

I opened the cupboard beneath the sink and took out a large pot, filled it with water, and set it on the stove. Glancing over my shoulder, I realized Rob was standing there awkwardly, "You can sit down in here or on the couch, if you'd like. There's also a balcony through that door."

He twisted his head around to the door and pointed to it, "This one?"

"Yeah, that one."

Once he got to the door, he couldn't figure out how to open it. I smothered a laugh, "Turn the lock clockwise. No, turn-- ...Yeah." He twisted the knob and it opened, then he walked through.

It seemed that he forgot how cold it was outside compared to inside, as he left the door wide open. The chilly air rushed in and I hurriedly dumped dry uncooked noodles into the water, then dashed across the room to where he was.

I stepped out onto the balcony with him, and, after making sure it was unlocked, shut the door behind me. The late afternoon sky was blue with high level clouds streaking across it. I leaned against the rail next to him, "It's a little cold out here."

His hands were on my arms, then, the way you usually see people trying to warm someone else up. I laughed a little and looked back at him, "I'm so glad you're here."

"Well, I'm glad you're glad." A bright smile was planted on his face.

I was staring up at him, he was staring down at me, I began to let my eyes close... And an ambulance came screaming down the street beneath us. He stepped away from me to hang over the railing, watching it rush past.

"It looks so tiny from way up here!" He gleefully called to me.

I stood there, confused and let down, and crossed my arms to both keep warm and console myself, "This is only the sixth storey, Rob."

"It's still high."

I rolled my eyes, "I think you're the one that's high." And I opened the door and headed back into the apartment, shutting it behind me.

"El--" He began, but it closed before he could finish.

I stalked back into the kitchen and checked the noodles. They were softening a bit, but they weren't done yet. Throwing myself into the chair at the table, I covered my face with my hands. What the hell had I been expecting? That'd he'd kiss me passionately and we'd ride off into the sunset? No, it wasn't going to happen like that. Or, rather, it just wasn't going to happen.

Before I knew it, a good portion of time had passed and it was time to take the noodles from the pot. I was dumping them into my strainer when Rob suddenly began pounding on the door.

I was bewildered, "Geez, hang on a sec, won't you?!" I put the strainer on the counter and tossed the pot holders in a drawer, then jogged over to open the door, "What's your problem?"

He stared at the handle, "...It was unlocked?"

I threw a hand skyward, "Yes, it was unlocked!"

"Oh... Well, you seemed angry so I figured you had locked me out."

Stepping aside, I let him back into the room, "Aaand you didn't think to knock – or open – the door right away?"

He smiled sheepishly, "I decided to wait out there until either I got cold or you felt bad. Apparently, I got cold first."

I shook my head, "I wasn't mad at you. I wouldn't have locked you out."

"Okay. Sorry."

"For what?"

"Uh, nothing..."

I stared at him for a moment longer, then turned to the strainer full of noodles, "Well, the noodles are ready. I have to heat the sauce now." There was a can of spaghetti sauce in the cupboard, which I grabbed, and then I searched for the can opener.

Rob cleared his throat and I looked over to see that it was in his hand, "It was on the counter."

I grinned at him and moved to take it from him, "Thanks."

He held it from my reach, "No, I'll help. Let me open it."

"Oh... Okay, thanks again." I handed him the can and stepped back as he opened it.

This man standing in my kitchen helping me cook our dinner was the same man I always imagined spending a life with. Torture, that's what this was. Teasing me with dreams that would never come true. At one point in time, I'd thought of us walking down the streets of this very city, hand in hand. It would never happen.

I blinked, and realized he was holding the can in front of my face, "Oh, hey, welcome back to planet Earth!"

A sarcastic grin graced my face as I took the can from him and poured its contents into a pan on the stove. When I turned around, he was leaning against the wall opposite, arms crossed, staring at me. I froze, "What?"

He sighed, "El, what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, Rob."

"Yes, something is."

"Nothing!" I walked into the main room and sat down on the couch, then picked up my forgotten laptop and opened the internet.

Rob took this as his cue to come and sit right next to me, "Gee, I wonder why I don't believe you."

"Rob, drop it. Seriously."

"Fine." He leaned back into the cushions and stared at the ceiling.

A few minutes passed and I left to go stir the sauce. It was hot enough, so I put noodles into the two bowls and poured the sauce over them, "Rob, it's ready."

He strolled into the kitchen and took one from my hand, "Muchas gracias." Upon turning and realizing that I only had one chair at the table, he looked back at me, "Uh, are we eating in the other room?"

I nodded and handed him a fork, and we went to sit on the couch.

After dinner, we talked for a very long time. He thankfully had stopped asking me what my issue was, and we caught up on each other's lives. I was just getting to feel okay with life once more when he looked over my shoulder at the clock, "Wow, is it really that late? I gotta get back soon."

I turned around to see what time it was, and realized that it was nearly 10:00, "Oh." I faced him again, "Are you staying in a hotel?"

He nodded and stood up to get his jacket, "Yeah. I caught the subway here."

I got to my feet too, "We should hang out again tomorrow. I know a great coffee place near the station?"

He grinned, "Oh, definitely. Let's meet at the station at... Uh, what time's good for you?"

"Any time."

"How about at 11:00?"

I smiled, "That sounds great. Dufferin at 11:00, okay."

We walked to the door together and I opened it for him, "See you tomorrow."

He leaned down to hug me, and quickly kissed my cheek, "Yep, I'll see you tomorrow, El." Then he waved, and walked down the hallway to the elevator.

I stood at the door for a few minutes, holding a hand to my cheek. That was not fair. I didn't think he'd realized how much it had meant for me. To him, he was just pecking the best friend on the cheek, nothing more.

I trudged back into my apartment and shut the door behind me. The spaghetti bowls were still on the floor where we'd set them, so I took them into the kitchen and washed them, putting them in the rack to dry. I also rinsed out the sauce pan and pot, and put them in the cupboard.

So Rob was here. Or rather, had been here. He was at the station by now, maybe even on the subway. It was quite unexpected, though definitely not unwanted. I suddenly wondered if he'd told anyone he was heading up here, so I grabbed my phone and dialled Abby.

"Hey, El! What's up?"

I bit my lip before continuing, "Rob just showed up at my apartment."

"...What?! Just now?"

I took this as a sign that he had not, in fact, told everyone, "No, not just now, more like late this afternoon, and he just left... So you didn't know he was coming?"

She stuttered a bit, and it seemed like the news may have been a little shocking to her, "I had no idea! Wow, Ellie, that's so exciting!" She paused, "...You don't sound as excited as I am."

Sighing, I let myself drop onto my bed, "Well, we almost kissed."

She was silent for a few seconds, "Almost?"

"Yeah. Then an ambulance went by and he got all excited."

Laughter exploded from the speaker and I held it away from my ear, "He what?! Oh my God, you're in love with a little kid with ADD! That's kinda pathetic, he's nineteen." Her laughs subsided and she got serious again, "But, that does suck. About the almost-kiss and all. What'd you do?"

"I... Was a bit sarcastic, and then I left to make spaghetti. And he thought I locked him out, because we'd been on the balcony." The ceiling had marks on it that I wasn't sure I'd ever noticed before, "He kept asking what was wrong, later. I think he was pretending it hadn't happened."

"Oh..."

"Yeah, I know."

Neither of us spoke for a moment, before she sighed, creating that staticy noise, "How long is he in Toronto for?"

"He flies back on Sunday."

"So are you two hanging out until then?"

"Yeah. We're meeting for coffee tomorrow. I'm gonna show him around the few blocks I call home. I'll probably let him see the college, too."

"That place with the really neat bright coloured poles holding up the building, right?"

"Yeah, that's where I go, and it's called the Ontario College of Art and Design, Abby. Did you forget?"

"Only momentarily."

I grinned, "Right."

"You know, I think he's just unsure of his feelings for you. Or just hasn't realized them yet."

Somehow, I felt that she was wrong, and the possibility of ever being more than friends with Rob was fading fast, "I dunno... Maybe it just wasn't supposed to happen."

"You sound like your mother."

"...Shit, I do. But really, maybe it's time to let go."

I could hear her sit down in a huff, "You're upset. You're not thinking correctly. Don't give up on him."

"Abby, it's been years. I'm holding a flame that's slowly dying, and it's bound to go out sometime."

"Ellie! Listen to yourself!"

"I am. I think it's time I stopped this madness. It started with a schoolgirl crush and it's grown and gotten out of hand."

She was quiet, then, but not for too long, "I think you should go to sleep. You sound tired, and you'll feel better in the morning."

"Maybe... Thanks for listening. I might call you again this weekend. Night."

"Goodnight, El."

I waited until she hung up before doing the same. After putting the phone on my bedside table, the tears started, and wouldn't stop. I turned out the light and crawled under the covers without even changing clothes or washing my face. I felt pitiful. This wasn't like me at all. Eventually, I cried myself to sleep.