4. May I?
By the time I got home the next day I had twenty seven emails, all of them from my mother except one, from Cole, instructing me to go straight to bed.
Of course I had something to do, and that was apologize to Turtle.
When Turtle opened the door he stared blankly at me. I didn't think I'd ever seen him without some sort of bold expression on his face. He looked a little tired, like he hadn't gotten enough sleep, and his curls had become a mess of tangles. "Hi…" I started lamely.
Without a word he simply turned around and walked back inside his apartment; I quickly followed behind. "Turtle…"
Turtle's apartment was much like mine, only his bedroom was slightly larger, and his bathroom a little smaller. Turtle was also a collector of junk. Anything that caught his interest he'd bring it here to his own little corner of the universe. But what he really loved to collect were albums. He had thousands, all sitting on specially made steal shelves built into the wall. I even personally helped him put them in alphabetical order, which I was sure were not out of order thanks to him never putting things back in place.
"Turtle…" I sighed and almost tripped over a cedar chest filled with pictures. "I'm so sorry, I know you were only trying to help."
"Forget it." He said and sat down on his ratty old plaid couch and continued to polish away at his sax.
I sat down next to him, tucking my legs under myself. "Seriously, I was upset and I shouldn't have told you to go."
He looked over at me with those cool eyes. "It's okay, really."
"It's not though." The hurt expression he was holding back made me feel even worse. "I couldn't ask for a better friend."
He frowned, which puzzled me. But then he masked it with a smile and stoked my cheek absently. "You okay?"
"Do you forgive me? Because I was prepared to beg."
"There's nothing to forgive. I'm the one who is sorry. I pushed you to come out with me. I knew you weren't up for it but I just missed hanging out with you."
I rested my head on his shoulder, feeling him relax under me. "I want to hang out with you. I miss it so much. I'm sorry I've… I'm just sorry."
He placed his hand on the top of my head briefly, as if saying I'm glad you're okay. "We'll make time."
I nodded and lifted my head, smiling. "Yes, I promise."
"And you've got to eat more." He said hurriedly, hoping I wouldn't get mad. "I liked you better when you jiggled a little."
I let out a half laugh and playfully punched him in the arm. "I never jiggled."
"Oh that must have been in my dreams."
"Ha ha," I rolled my eyes and say back against the couch. "What happened to Devin?"
"He went home, came by yesterday to ask how you were doing."
"That was nice of him."
"Well, he's a nice guy."
I considered him and his interesting sense of humor. "Yeah…"
After a couple moments of silence between us, Turtle took my hand and squeezed it. "How are you feeling?"
I smiled again. "Good, really good. Two straight days of sleeping have been wonderful."
"Good, you needed it."
I was feeling better, extremely better. My muscles were relaxed; my head didn't feel all fuzzy and heavy. I was alert and coherent. "You know, I have nothing to do today. We could order some Chinese, rent some movies…"
He chuckled. "I can't."
"There's this band, they've been looking for a sax player."
"Oh!" My expression changed immediately and a grin flashed. "You think you'll be famous?"
He shrugged. "That's the plan."
I stood and ruffled his hair. "Well don't forget about me when you are."
Feeling better now that Turtle wasn't angry with me, I ventured back upstairs to my apartment. Bella jumped around my feet as I came inside, yapping away as usual, her funny hair bobbing to the side. I picked her up and cuddled her warm body against my chest. For a ten year old dog she was just as ugly as the day I got her. After giving her some attention I placed her on the ground and moved into the kitchen to make her some sort of meaty snack, but at that moment the doorbell rang. Thinking it was Turtle who decided he did want to hang, out I skipped to the door and slid it open.
No Turtle, instead a tall woman stood in front of me. Her eyes were shaded in expensive looking sunglasses making it hard for me to recognize where'd I'd seen her before. "Hi," I said, wondering who she was. "Can I help you?"
She hesitated a moment, wringing her hands nervously. I couldn't quite tell how old she was: fifty, maybe a little older. She wore a plain black coat with large shiny buttons and very uncomfortable shiny boots. I knew I'd seen her somewhere before...
"I…" She started, looking behind me into the apartment. "I was wondering… if Cole still lived here."
I narrowed my eyes slightly. "No, he hasn't lived here for a long time."
"Oh…" She swallowed. "Alright."
"What's your name?" I asked. "I'll let him know-"
"No, it's okay." When she backed up I moved forward. I knew her from somewhere, I just did. She was so familiar. As she hurried down the crooked steps it came to me, like a big flash in my head I remembered everything I'd ever heard about her.
"Lydia?" I called, moving to the railing and looking down.
She stopped and looked back up at me, but before I could get something else out she continued down the steps and right out the building.
My heart started beating loudly in my chest. Lydia, I hadn't heard about her in a decade. Cole never talked about his estranged mother, so naturally I forgot about her. The last time she'd been around she'd been sick and Cole had selflessly donated his kidney to her. She hadn't deserved Cole, even when we were younger and he'd mentioned her during his visits to me at the hospital. From what I knew she was a selfish woman, who would never get over herself. Cole seemed to be indifferent; she was no longer in his life, meaning he didn't have to deal with her, meaning everyone was happier.
But now? What was she doing? Why did she just pop up randomly after ten years. Perhaps she needed another kidney.
I ran inside and grabbed the phone, thinking about calling Cole but suddenly my stomach tightened at the thought. Would telling Cole a good idea? He hated her, and knowing she was around might not be the thing he needed at the moment. He was already stressed out about me, why should I make him worry about his mother coming back?
Did he have a right to know? Probably. Did he want to know? Probably not.
Grabbing my coat I decided I had to tell someone, not Cole, but someone.
"She just asked if he still lived there?" Joss asked me as we sat around her kitchen island. "That's all?"
I nodded as I sipped my hot coco. It tasted wonderful. "Yeah it was so weird. She was nervous and fidgety, I really couldn't imagine Lydia being that way."
The timer on the oven beeped annoyingly making me jump. Joss simply rose and took the cookies she'd been making out of the oven. The smell filled my head and made me sigh. "Well it sounds like she needs something from him, as usual." Even though Joss's back was too me I could tell she was rolling her eyes. Joss had been around since her and Cole had been teenagers, and Lydia forced them together in the hopes that'd they'd marry. She saw it as an easy way to get more money and Joss's parents saw it as a way to get rid of her daughter for a few months a year.
"I haven't told him yet."
"You should do it soon."
I really didn't want to. "You think?"
"He should be prepared," She closed the oven with her hip and set the delicious cookies on the stovetop. "No doubt that she'll find him."
At that moment the front door opened and the sound of children wafted down the hall and into the kitchen.
"Mel!" Aaden screamed and rushed forward. "What are you doing here? Aren't you sick?"
Joss frowned. "That's no way to greet your favourite person."
His face scrunched up hilariously. "She's not my favourite person, she's a girl." The word girl dripped with disgust.
"Lily is a girl." Joss shot her son a sideways glance as he pulled off his hat to reveal his messy hair. Just her name had Aaden sighing and his eyes glazing over.
"But…" He said dreamily, thinking of Cole's only daughter. "She's… amazing."
I had to press my lips together to keep from grinning. Joss simply smiled. "Go upstairs and wash your hands, I know they're filthy."
He snapped out of his trance and looked up at his mother, then down at his grimy hands. "Can we have pizza for dinner?"
"We had pizza last night."
"So go wash your hands and we'll talk about it." He raced upstairs, still in his coat and boots, which Joss only shook her head at.
"You think Cole knows about Aaden and Lily."
I recalled the situation with Cole and Lily the other day, and how annoyed he'd been at her proclamation of love. "He knows."
Her eyes widened with surprise. "And?"
Just then Jack came in with little Sophie scurrying in front of him. Joss dropped what she was doing and knelt down to pick up her little girl who wrapped her arms around her mother's neck and kissed enthusiastically. Jack went around the other side and kissed her other cheek then ran his hand lovingly down her hair. "Hey you,"
"Hey back," She said and let Sophie down with a smile on her face.
"Mel, how are you feeling?" Jack asked, and took his own hat off revealing hair a lot like his son's.
"A lot better."
"Good, you had us worried." His intensely blue eyes remained focused on my face, causing me to blush.
"I'm fine, thank you." I smiled slightly, hoping he'd believe me. For a moment he studied my face, but then smiled back.
"Great, you staying for dinner?"
I shook my head, "No, I've got something to do, thanks though."
"Well you're welcome anytime." He said, scooping Sophie up in his arms. She giggled and squirmed as he walked out of the kitchen with her.
The second he was gone, Joss asked again, "And?"
"And what? Oh, well, he's Cole."
Joss rolled her large brown eyes. "He's going to have to get used to it." If I didn't know any better I would have dismissed the small smile on Joss's face, but I knew she was secretly proud of her son for getting under only the most stubborn of men.
I chuckled, "Yeah, you're right. He is. I'm going to take your advice and let him know about his mom." Rising from the chair, I was about to leave when Aaden came bolting down the stairs and skidding into the kitchen.
"Please," Joss huffed. "Stop with all the running."
"Walking is a waste of time." He rolled his eyes and held up an envelope. "Give this to Lily."
"Please." She hissed.
"Please!" Aaden shouted waving the envelope in my face. "Please."
It was an old telephone bill envelope with the company's name on the corner. Aaden had tapped the ripped opening and stuck some of his sister's flower and star stickers all over it. And where Joss and Jack's name had been he'd crossed it out and written Lily Mercer in red marker.
My heart swelled in my chest. Was this a love letter to little Lily? I wanted to open it and read his eleven-year-old words but that would be wrong. Gingerly, I slipped it into my purse. "It's safe with me."
A lopsided smile appeared on his lips, and right then I could see him when he grew up, wickedly handsome and as sweet as his father. "Thanks." The second he opened his mouth and I caught a glimpse of his crooked teeth, still growing inside his head, he was eleven again, and madly in love.
And without another word he zoomed out of the room.
Cole and Charlie's house looked perfect in the evening light. Simple, and well lived in.
The lights from inside shone through the slats in the blinds, and I could just make out Lily in the living room.
Walking up the front porch I found a lot of Lily's things. Her bike, her scooter, her roller blades. I wondered if she cared that anyone could steal them. Probably not, Lily was the kind of girl who was too caught up with the thoughts in her head.
The door was usually open and welcoming, and this time was no different. I walked in and kicked off my boots, calling out, "Hello?"
I could hear shouting coming from upstairs causing me to roll my eyes, typical. As I turned into the living room, I found Lily slumped on the couch. She looked over at me and sat up, "Thank God," She jumped up and came over to me. "They've been going at it for almost an hour."
"What are they arguing about?"
She sighed and tipped her head to the side. "Well, Mom wanted Daddy to vacuum the stairs, but Daddy was in the middle of drawing and said he'd do it when he was finished. But Mommy wanted it done now, so she did it herself, which upset Daddy because he said he'd do it, and now they're fighting." She took a deep breath. "Mommy is really mad, I think she might start throwing things."
Remembering the envelope in my purse I took it out and handed it to Lily. "From your boyfriend."
Her eyes sparked, flashing brilliant green. Her smile grew so wide I imagined it must hurt her face. "From Aaden?"
I nodded. They way she held it in her hands I could tell she wasn't expecting a letter. With a strange sound of glee she raced away and up the stairs to read it in private.
Two minutes later I heard thumping coming down the stairs and Charlie stormed into the living room. "Oh Mel," Her face was flushed from shouting and her hair was a little frazzled.
Seconds later Cold came in behind her, still mad. "Damn it, Charlie, what is wrong with you?! Oh Mel."
"Look Cole, let's just drop this for now-"
"What?" I could tell he was frustrated. "You've got to tell me what I did wrong."
"I just asked you to vacuum the stairs, that's all I wanted you to do!"
"I was going to do it, Charlie!"
"You always say that! I just wanted you to do one thing, so I could start dinner without having to do it afterwards. God Cole, I have to do everything. I just want you to put down the fucking pencil long enough to help me!"
She moved to leave the room, but he grabbed her arm. "Charlie, stop. I hate it when you walk-"
It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. I held my breath, and watched Cole's face. It was frozen, no emotion, just a blank stare. He blinked slowly at her, still holding her arm. She tried to pull it back but he held on. "Cole, I've got to make supper." She sucked back her tears and tugged her arm again.
"I took three tests, all positive." When he didn't say anything she rambled on. "But you know, those things could be wrong, I've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow. I guess you… should come."
He continued to stare at her, making Charlie and I extremely uncomfortable. I figured I should leave and give them some privacy, but I couldn't move.
"Charlie…" He mumbled, too shocked to say anything else.
"Come on Cole, I've got to make supper."
Slowly, and carefully he placed his hand on her cheek. "Jesus Charlie." When he wrapped his arms around her and folded himself against her smaller body. Charlie stood there a moment, her arms lying lifelessly at her side, then she returned the hug, circling her arms tightly around his neck and lifting herself onto the tips of her toes.
"Thank you." He whispered against her light hair.
I smiled a little to myself and quietly left. They needed privacy and right now was not the time to bring in his insane mother. It'd have to wait a couple of days.
I just hoped Lydia could hold off until then.
By the time I got home it was getting dark, and I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to lounge around in front of the TV eating junk food. I hadn't done that in so long.
But as I approached my door I noticed something sitting on the floor. It was another box of herbal tea.
My face broke out into the largest smile, but I quickly put it away. He was just being neighborly. Attached to the top was a note, "Feel better". The smile came back.
Instead of going inside I decided to thank Devin. I felt this weird sort of pressure in my stomach as I climbed the stairs; perhaps I was just hungry.
On his landing, I could hear the piano. Slow, but powerful. Tonight it didn't seem to bother me so much.
I knocked on the door wondering if he could hear me over his playing, but when I heard the piano stop I realized he could. He opened the door a few moments later, standing tall and waiting for me to speak. For some reason I couldn't, so he tilted his head and asked, "Hello?"
"Hi." I squeaked back stupidly.
He tilted his head down towards me so I could see my reflection in his sunglasses. "Hello." He said again, more smoothly.
"Thanks for the tea."
"A lot better."
"I was worried."
I pressed my lips tightly together holding back something, I didn't know what. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, you want to come in?"
He moved out of the way so I could enter. I stopped at the threshold and looked around as if I'd never been there. Everything was perfectly neat, except for one thing; the piano, it was covered in pages, some littered the ground.
"Sit down." He said gesturing to a couch. "Pizza?"
"Pizza." I mumbled.
"I ordered one a couple hours ago, would you like some?"
"Yeah, cold please. I like cold pizza."
He chuckled a little. "Sure."
When he disappeared I moved towards the piano to take a look at what he was working on. At first I thought the pages were blank, but I realized they were covered in Braille, obviously. I picked up a page, feeling how much thicker it was than regular paper. Running my fingers over the bumps I was amazed he could read this; it looked impossible. Sitting on the stool was an old fashioned recorder. I lifted it and pressed the play button. Music streamed out of it louder than I expected. I fumbled for a moment before pressing stop and placing it down.
Devin came in a moment later with two plates of pizza. "That's the only way I can remember what I write." He said placing the plates on the coffee table and sitting down.
I went over to the couch and sat down next to him. "You're very good."
He hummed slightly. "That's what they tell me."
"How long have you been playing?"
"Since I was four."
I understood that, I'd been dancing for that long. There were a few pauses in between from when I was sick, but I picked it up again. "You must love it very much."
"I'm blind, there's only a handful of things I could love. Thankfully music was one of them."
"What else do you love?"
He paused to consider it a moment. "Food," He said. "I love food." Taking a bite out of his pizza I smiled.
"Hey," I said after a pause. "I'm sorry I've been so awkward the last coupe of days."
"It's alright, most people are." His fingers ran through his light brown hair, and that's when I realized he had lovely hands. Something Cole would have noticed with his artistic eye.
"Doesn't that get annoying?"
"No, it's fascinating really. They either become cautious of me, like you did, or they're fascinated. A kid asked me if I could see sonar like a bat."
"I don't know why I freaked out. It just caught me off guard since I assumed you could see, and then you couldn't."
He chuckled again.
"How long have you been blind?"
"My entire life."
"Oh…" I paused. "Sorry."
A toothy grin flashed across his face. "Why?"
"Well…" I had nothing.
"Can't miss something you never had." He took another bite of pizza making me realize I hadn't eaten mine. Biting in I listened, "Are you sorry you can't fly?"
I was staring at him, I didn't mean to, but he was so interesting. Thankfully he couldn't see me looking otherwise I'd be embarrassed. "So I'm guessing your eyeballs aren't really mutilated."
He laughed this time, making my skin tingle a little. "No, they're not."
"Then why do you wear sunglasses?"
He stopped laughing and ran his fingers through his hair for a second time. "People don't really like my eyes."
I found myself focusing hard on his glasses, hoping to be able to see through the reflective surface. "Why?" I asked, shifting slightly towards him.
"I can't focus on anything obviously, so they just sort of stare at nothing." He had also turned a little toward me, sitting us very close to each other. "Used to scare the kids at school with it."
My fingers twitched, I wanted to reach up and pull them off, seeing his entire face for the first time. It was strange, looking at someone and not knowing what color their eyes are, or their shape. But then I realized he had no idea what I looked like, and that must be even stranger.
"What's it like?" I asked.
He smiled playfully. "It's dark."
I smiled too, feeling more comfortable. "I'm scared of the dark."
"There's nothing wrong with the dark, just what you think is in it."
I paused a moment, chewing on my words. "What's in the dark for you?"
"My thoughts, music, smells…"
"Smells?" I chucked.
"Sure, it's amazing how people don't use their nose to its fullest potential."
I raised my eyebrow. "Oh really."
"Yeah, did you know you still smell like a hospital?" My smile faded away, and he must have picked up on my mood change because his also disappeared. "You okay?"
"You haven't asked why I was in the hospital."
"Turtle told me you collapsed because of exhaustion."
Whenever I had to go to the hospital everyone around me would fester with nervousness, waiting for the worst news. It was comforting that Devin was the acting the opposite.
"Yeah, been working too hard."
There was a long drawn out pause, but then Devin asked, "May I hold your hand?"
It wasn't something I was expecting. "Hold my hand?" Was this junior high?
"Yeah, it's an easy way of finding out what someone looks like without having to grope their face. So, may I?"
I'd never gotten a request like that. "Sure," I said placing my hand into his palm.
For a moment, he held it, feeling the weight. My hand was so minuscule in comparison to his long fingers. Once he was satisfied he closed his hand around mine, sliding it up to the wrist.
"Skinny, huh?" He asked rubbing his thumb over the bones in my wrist. I almost pulled back from embarrassment. Then slowly with his other hand he turned my palm up and stroked each one of my fingers. The sensations made me close my hand into a fist. He didn't say anything, just continued to feel his way up past my wrist to my forearm. The little hairs rose against his touch.
I felt breathless, and a little silly for actually liking it, but it wasn't everyday that someone actually touched me with this sort of fascination.
His hand was traveling up my arm, further and further until he skimmed my shoulder. "Definitely skinny, you must be a good dancer."
I laughed a little.
His hands continued to move, across my collarbone, up my neck; they were so warm, almost hot. I tried to not gasp when they trailed along my jaw line. "May I?" He asked quietly, as if trying not to scare me.
My head moved slowly from side to side. He understood and pressed his thumb against my cheek.
I didn't understand how this was happened. This man, this very strange and interesting man was holding my face, just holding it. I felt his thumb slide to the corner of my lips, and right when things were getting interesting the phone rang.
We broke apart instantly, fumbling for stability. Then Devin stood, and went over to the phone. "Yes?" He asked mildly annoyed.
When he recognized the voice on the other side of the phone he relaxed. "Yeah I'm fine." He mumbled. "No… Sure…"
I stood and brushed at my pants even though there was nothing on it. Slowly, feeling weird again, I edged around the coffee table. "I've got to go." I said moving towards the door.
He moved his head in my direction. "Oh… alright."
"I'll see you later." Stupidly I waved.
"Yeah, later." He said and got back to his conversation with whoever was on the phone.
Back downstairs I collapsed onto the yellow couch. What was that? My mind couldn't understand why I liked that. It's not like guys didn't touch me. Melody has been touched plenty of times by men. Just not like that…
That was new, and pretty damn interesting.
I know I know, It's been forever. If you're still interested in this story at all I give you a round of applause because I would be so gone by now.
I hate taking this long to update, but I've been busy with work and cottages and boyfriends. Well one boyfriend, not plural. Anyway, I'm really hoping to finish Broken Telephone really soon, so keeping my fingers crossed.
And that's all I have to say for now.
Hope you enjoyed,