I open my eyes, feeling really quite peaceful. Brian's gone back home for Thanksgiving vacation, as has every other student, and I'm left to my nice, quiet self for five days. No roommate to bother me, for five days! I could walk around my room naked, and nobody would judge me! Not that I would…I'm just saying that I could. If I wanted to. But I don't. Of course I don't.
I smile, and my happiness brings hunger along with it. I clumsily stand up from my bed, looking at it fondly.
"I'll see you later," I tell it.
Yeah, I talk to inanimate objects. It's not that weird!
Okay, well maybe it is.
God, my excessive happiness is making me crazy. I need food.
Having established my greatest need, I pull on my jacket, arrange my crutches underneath my arms, and head across the campus, whistling the tune to "Campus" by Vampire Weekend. I'm in such a good mood that even the fact that I won't be able to walk normally for two more weeks can't begin to bring me down.
I open the doors to the cafeteria and walk (hobble? jump? limp? I don't know; whatever that form of moving around with crutches is called) in, savoring the quiet.
"Hey, Mrs. Carter!" I call out in greeting as I begin swinging towards the counter.
Mrs. Carter appears behind the counter, a warm smile on her face.
"Go sit down, Jesse; I'll bring your meal to you."
Aw, she's such a sweet little old lady. I make my way to a table and sit down, with Mrs. Carter following behind me. She sets the tray in front of me.
"Thanks," I say, smiling at her.
"Anytime, Jesse. How's that ankle feeling?"
"So-so. The doctor says I get to stop using the crutches in two weeks, but I'll have to miss the end of the soccer season."
There's pity in Mrs. Carter's eyes; she realizes how much soccer means to me.
"At least you'll have basketball to get you through the winter. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."
"Thanks, Mrs. Carter," I say again.
She just smiles and nods, then walks away. Famished, I dig into my meal of turkey and mashed potatoes, "Campus" still stuck in my head:
(Take a bite of turkey) I wake up, my shoulder's cold, I've got to leave you. Before I go, I pull my shirt on, walk out the door, drag my feet along the floor (take a bite of mashed potatoes). I pull my shirt on, walk out the door, drag my feet along the floor (have a swig of water). Then I see you, you're walking 'cross the camp—
Suddenly the doors open to the cafeteria, and Sadie appears. Water is running in rivulets off her jacket, and her feet are clad in colorful rain boots. Clearly it has started raining since the time I came over here. I watch as she walks across the cafeteria to the counter, without the usual bounce in her step. Mrs. Carter says something to her and hands her a tray of food.
Sadie accepts and walks to the other side of the cafeteria, in the opposite direction of me. She plops down in a seat at a small circular table and stares down at her food for a moment before picking up a fork and beginning to push it around her plate.
My good mood dies as I watch her. She's just a lonely girl on Thanksgiving…just like Sarah. They're both probably feeling abandoned, with Sadie by herself and Sarah forced to spend yet another holiday fending for herself against our parents, while I, her big brother, am sitting here having a grand old time and actually have the balls to enjoy being alone.
Well, I can't help both of them relieve the suffering, but I can at least help Sadie. I stand up from my table, fit my crutches under my arms, and make my way towards her. I stop right next to her table, but she doesn't raise her head. Either she wants to ignore me, or she's so depressed that she really didn't hear me.
I clear my throat and ask, "Is this seat taken?"
She looks up at me with an astonished and hopeful expression.
I grin, happier now that she doesn't look as sad.
"The one and only. May I join you?"
"Sure," she says.
I straighten up from my crutches and hop the foot or so to land my butt in the chair opposite Sadie's. As I cast around my mind for something to say, my eyes land on her still untouched food. I raise my eyebrows.
She shrugs, following my gaze and looking down at her tray.
Her blue eyes light upon my empty hands and she asks, "What about you?"
"Oh, I already ate. Yeah, I was actually sitting over there when you came in, but I guess you didn't see me."
We sit in silence for a moment, my eyes on her while her eyes are on her lap. I'm the one to break the silence, thanks to the fact that I'm curious as to why she's not at home with her mom; Mrs. Baker seems like the extremely lovable type of mother.
"So, what are you doing, spending Thanksgiving here?"
"I could ask you the same question."
Uh, yeah, I really don't want to have to explain why I'm not spending the holiday with my shitty parents, especially to Sadie.
"You first," I say.
She sighs, then says, "Well, my mom decided that she would have more fun this holiday if she took off for the Bahamas with a couple of her friends, leaving yours truly alone at school."
She sounds pretty down, so I tell her, "Ah, come on. You're not alone, you have me."
I give her my best "comforting" smile, and it seems to work, because her tone is lighter when she speaks.
"Great. Why are you here?"
She doesn't sound rude, just curious. I give her the first answer that pops into my mind.
"I decided that I'd have more fun running around this place for five days than I would if I went home. Of course, if you're here that makes things ten times more fun."
At least it's the truth. Not the whole truth, but definitely part of it.
"What does that mean?" Sadie asks, adopting that slightly suspicious tone that she always gets if I ever even hint that I have fun being around her.
My God, why can't she believe me when I say that she's fun?
"Nothing," I answer indifferently. "Just that you keep things interesting. Slightly weird, but interesting nonetheless."
"Thanks." Finally she accepts a compliment!
"No problem!" I say brightly. Keeping the conversation going, I ask her, "What would you be doing right now if you were home, anyway?"
She gets a faraway look in her eyes and she bites her lip in thought before saying, "Well, I'd probably be chowing down on some awesome turkey cupcakes. My mom and I spend all afternoon baking and decorating them, than we eat them for dessert, even though we're usually stuffed. You?"
I adopt a light, uncaring tone as I say, "Oh, nothing."
She accepts what I say and she stands up. She still hasn't touched anything on her tray, and apparently she's not planning on eating it. She picks it up, then starts walking towards the trash cans.
"Okay, well I'm done with this delicious food and I'm heading back to my room. See you later," she calls over her shoulder.
She's ditching me to spend the night by herself? I sit in my hard plastic chair, deciding what I want to do a she throws away her trash and leaves the cafeteria. I make up my mind, then jump out of my chair, and shoving my crutches under my armpits. I hurry after her.
It is pouring outside, as hard as it did the day that we kissed. My heart begins to beat faster as I think back on that day, but I chalk it up to the fact that I'm struggling to make my way through the mud and rain to catch up to Sadie before she gets to her dorm.
"Sadie!" I call out as I dimly make out her figure far ahead of me.
She stops and turns around.
"Sadie, wait up!" I shout, just to make sure she stays where she is.
I catch up to her. I stand there, looking down at her as she looks up at me, and I wonder if she's just going to turn me down when I suggest what I'm about to suggest to her.
God, I hope not.
"Can I help you?" she asks, sounding tired and still unhappy.
I take a deep breath, and hoping that she says yes, I say, "Look, I've been alone all day and I haven't talked to anybody. It's Thanksgiving, and nobody deserves to spend a holiday, no matter how important it is, alone. So, why don't you come back to my room?"
Now, I understand how she could see that as me just trying to get her to my room, so it doesn't surprise me when she raises an eyebrow and says, "Do you know how wrong that sounds?"
I roll my eyes, because I'm actually not thinking about that, for once.
"That's not what I meant, and you know it. I just figured that we could watch a movie or something."
"I don't know…"
Why is she having a hard time accepting my companionship when she and I both know that she's feeling lonely? I swear, sometimes girls make no sense…
"I'll let you pick," I offer. "Anything you want to watch."
Apparently that catches her interest, because she slyly says, "Anything?"
I nod, happy that she seems like she's going to say yes.
"Okay, wait right here, and I'll be back."
She jogs toward her dorm, and I stand where I am, only now feeling the rain that is soaking me to my skin.
"I can't exactly move very fast, now can I?"
I swing open the door to my room and let Sadie walk in first. She stops in the doorway, and her mouth falls open in awe.
"Wow, this is your room?" she asks. "This is awesome!"
I don't really think that that question deserves an answer, so I don't say anything. She steps further into the room and immediately spots Brian's stupid devil toy.
"What is this?!" she says, picking it up. "Is this the devil?!"
Wow, she's getting really excited, and I'm finding the expression on her face quite endearing. I nod and prop my crutches up against the wall so I can take my coat off. My shirt is completely soaked, and I want to change it, but I see Sadie's eyes take in my torso before she quickly averts her eyes back down to the toy, a faint blush showing on her cheeks. Nah, maybe I'll keep the shirt on.
I suppress a smile as I explain, "It's my roommate, Brian's. Don't ask me why he has it…I think it was a break-up gift from one of his girlfriends and he thought it was funny, so he kept it. Here, I'll take your coat."
She takes it off and hands it to me, and I ask her, "What movie did you bring?"
She grins wickedly, which is somewhat unsettling. Knowing Sadie, this is going to be good.
She sets the stuffed toy aside and announces dramatically, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."
Okay, I was definitely not expecting that.
"It's Thanksgiving, not Halloween!"
"I know, I know. But you said that I could pick whatever I wanted, and I didn't get the chance to watch this over Halloween, so I want to watch it now. Besides, it could be considered a Thanksgiving movie. You know, because some people like to eat pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and part of the movie takes place in the pumpkin patch."
I can see the connection…just barely.
I smile as I say, "Fine, whatever. You can put it in and sit on my bed, and I'll be right back."
I have something I need to do, and I think it's going to cheer her up considerably. I point to my bed, and Sadie nods, then I leave, grabbing one crutch to support me. I head out of my room and down the hall to the kitchen. It's the only kitchen in our dorm; I guess that the teachers don't expect us to be cooking. It's on the junior floor because the junior guys are the only ones who are interested in using it. The freshmen and sophomores are too insecure to admit they like cooking, and the seniors are just way too lazy to care.
Anyway, my friend Mark is an avid baker, and he made chocolate cupcakes for all of us before he left for vacation. I find them in the fridge and take one. I only need to do a little foraging around the cupboards to find candy corn, shortbread cookies, and icing. After all, we're guys; all we have is junk food. In a matter of minutes, I've created the best turkey cupcake that I can, and I head back to my room. It's difficult to juggle the cupcake and my crutch, but I manage without dropping anything or falling over. I struggle for a moment over opening the door, but I somehow do it, then I'm standing back in my room and Sadie is watching me curiously.
I hide the cupcake behind my back as I prop the crutch against the wall next to the other on and hop across the room and onto the bed beside Sadie.
"What do you have?" she asks.
"Well, I figured that you seemed kind of down, so I wanted to try to make you feel better. A guy I'm friends with likes to bake and he made chocolate cupcakes to celebrate Thanksgiving, so here."
I hold out my hand, and she looks down at the little turkey, surprise etched across her face. She's not saying anything; she obviously doesn't like it. Shit, why'd I even bother?
"I know that it's probably not as good as the ones you and your mom make, but—"
She cuts me off mid-sentence with a kiss.
I had been expecting a "thank you," or a smile, or at most a hug, but I was definitely, definitely not expecting this.