CHAPTER 13: Happy Ending

Spike managed to flag down a car before noon. Thankfully, the snowing had ceased by that time. The driver, a curly-haired man in his thirties who called himself Stan, was generous enough to give us a ride back to our apartment. I had to call a tow truck after to lug my car out of all that snow.

If Spike was half as exhausted as I was, he made no complaints. Or said much at all. He mutely entered our apartment, I seconded his footsteps.

Orwell occupied the kitchen table, munching on toast and spooning oatmeal even though it was more appropriate if he ate lunch. I could tell that he had slept-in and only recently woke up due to his uncombed hair, or that he still wore a thermal shirt and plaid sweatpants. Just as well, school was closed over the Thanksgiving holiday. It promoted laziness.

"Where have you two been?" he questioned me with suspicion. I could hardly blame him. "I thought you went to a Thanksgiving dinner, not a Twilight movie camp-out. Whoa, you look like Frankenstein." That commented was intended for Spike and me. I could imagine how a couple of dark undereye circles would look from another perspective.

"My car broke down," I said. "We were stuck in the freezing car all night and we slept fitfully. Give us a break, Orly."

"I'm taking a shower," Spike said succinctly before excusing himself.

That's when Orwell pounced on me like a leopard about to catch his prize. "Vinny, tell me what's going on with you and Spike."

I plopped down on an empty chair alongside him, stealing a taste of his oatmeal. "What's there to know?" He handed me a "cut-the-crap" glare.

"I'm older than you. I know perfectly well that 'something' always occurs when a guy as fine as Spike and a gal as simpleminded as you get trapped into a small environment for a long bout."

"Simpleminded?" I objected. "I believe my mind capable of thinking for itself, Orly!"

"No, you're naive, gullible, stupid. Call it what you will."

"Honestly, nothing happened. Spike was a gentleman. You're his best friend, shouldn't you trust him?"

"Not with the way you two ogle each other. I can sense some—let's put it delicately—sexual tension there," Orwell said, full of smugness. My cheeks became tomatoes. This was not a conversation that was happening...I thought.

He resumed, "Hell, if I could have stayed at Carey's place after dinner last night, I would have never returned. You and Spike, however, I wasn't expecting that in a million years. Have you fallen for him? Or did he fall for you?"

"For the last time, Orwell, you can speculate all you like, but nothing happened." I stood up and planned a retreat to my room. Orwell called behind me, "Fine, be that way. If you won't tell me, I have no choice but to talk to Spike!"

I slammed the door into his meddlesome face.


Five days later, Spike cleared out of my room for good. He packed for two days, putting items of manageable sizes into boxes. When he was ready, he loaded the entire cartons into his car, and drove off with Snowflake. He did say goodbye and shook my hand like a stranger.

Orwell volunteered to send over anything left behind. For a while, he even helped Spike settle in and clean the new abode. They spent a lot of time together that week. I resisted volunteering, too. I felt that time spent apart would diminish our forbidden friendship and leave a good memory while it lasted. I wanted to leave it at that—a good memory of would-have-been.

I slowly moved my belongings back to the vacant room, starting with clothes, or books, or dolls. Mr. Turtles. Once most of my stuff was back in place, it felt weird. Not the same. Traces of Spike Abel kept bringing him back to me. The scent of his aftershave, his cologne. There were times when I opted to sleep on the couch again just to avoid thinking about him.

"You're lifeless these days," Ali said to me during Economics. "What's wrong?"

I shook my head, not feeling like discussing my personal crisis.

"I'm going to visit Charles after class," I announced to her. surprising myself. That was unplanned. Ali's eyes rounded. Her brows curved upwards.

"Why the sudden trip?" she whispered. "I thought you have Story Time later."

"I'll call in sick. I want to see Charles."

With class over, I carried out my plan. I didn't care if I had to drive for an hour or a day. I had a dire desire to see him. Maybe I hoped he would bring me peace and calm the violent waters inside me.

It had been several months since I last entered Charles's apartment, since I began culminating at my university, actually. When I bid farewell to our town, he chose to attend a local junior college. School had never been his priority in life. He wanted to rent the closest, most luxurious apartment he could and move out of his parents' house.

As I stood before the unchanged one-story house, accepting the identical landscape, I realized everything had changed. I was not the same person four months ago. I came to Charles without giving him a notice. That was unlike anything I've ever done. Yet, it wasn't important somehow.

Going through with my plan, I found courage to knock on Charles's door. When it provided no answer, I decided to play sleuth and snoop around for an unlocked window. Soon, I received access to the inside. The house stood still and empty, void of life, without love despite the busy modern electronics all around the walls. He might have gone to class, I reasoned.

I wondered how Charles would feel about me trespassing, then decided it didn't matter. I wandered off into his bedroom. The bed was made, his laundry folded. His desk was littered with invoices from online transactions. Models and figurines filled almost all his shelves.

I took the liberty of sitting on his wooden-framed bed, but detected a feminine fragrance, a mixture of cinnamon and vanilla, that distracted me. Perfume or lotion, it seemed. This brought me around to his closet. Most of it was filled with Charles's shirts or suits. On the floor, a drawer held dozens of shoes, Chucks, sneakers, and slip-on dress shoes. However, I noticed a blue strappy dress hidden all the way at the back of the closet. Charles never mentioned its existence before.

The bathroom entailed more evidence that a lady lived with him. Flat-irons, nail polishes, lipsticks, and lacy bras strewn the room. I picked up matching towels, each inscribed with his initials, CG, or hers, DL, and put them down with a sigh.

Amazingly, I felt no shock. I didn't rage or turn green with envy. I felt fine. The only bona fide emotion was sadness. And disappointment. Sad that Charles and I would end. Disappointed that Spike was right all along.

I rummaged for a yellow sticky-pad and pen in his desk drawer. After scribbling a message, I stuck it to his computer monitor and reread it:

Charles, we're over. I deserve better than your scattered attention and tolerance. I don't expect to see or hear from you again. Hope you're happy with your new choice --VB

Satisfied that the note carried all I want conveyed, I exited through the front door of his apartment, leaving it wide open and unlocked.

Three weeks later...

This diary is almost at its end.

I never heard back from Charles after my surprise visit, which was a relief, I suppose. It was my first breakup with my first boyfriend and it had been painless and effortless. Almost too painless. I still thought about him sometimes, whether he felt humiliated by my note, or embarrassed that he was caught cheating. Either way, my heart never ached for him.

It did, however, longed for Spike and our undefined friendship. It had been nearly a month since I last made contact with him. Orwell never mentioned him when I was around, perhaps for my sake.

I decided I would go seek him out. So before I made a trip to visit him, I stopped by Jean's coffee shop and ordered his favorite cappuccino.

I knocked on a very different set of door this time around. And my heart was about to burst out of its cavity not knowing what to expect. I hadn't experienced such intense level of nervousness since I had to take my Calculus exam back in high school. That was altogether a nerve-wracking sensation that left me dizzy and nauseous.

I didn't have to snoop this time or even wait long. Spike opened the door and several subtle emotions scrolled through his face.

I was exhilarated to see him. He looked gorgeous in a black, cotton shirt, and loose white pants that puddled at his bare feet. Behind him, Snowflake trotted over, as if to greet me, as well. She swung her bushy tail in rapid sweeps.

"Are you done hiding from me, Mr. Abel?" I grinned at him, feeling almost sheepish.

"What are you doing here, Venice?" he asked, not unkindly.

"Other than bringing you some coffee," he accepted the cup I handed to him, "I broke up with Charles. You were absolutely on point about him."

Spike gave a slow nod. "Well, good for you."

"Mind if I come in?"

He stepped aside and waited for me to get in before shutting the door.

"I came to ask you, Spike, not to avoid me anymore. I don't think I can accept that decision."

His intense gaze blinked toward my direction. It felt like a million years had passed before he spoke.

"All right, if that's what you like."

I smiled. Feeling bolder, I continued, "Then, if possible, I would like for us to hang out more often."

He smirked without showing his teeth, except it revealed those adorable dimples. "Are you asking me out on a date, Venice Bayton?"

"No, actually, I'm not. I mean hang out. I don't want you to feel like you're my rebound. I'm not ready for that, yet."

"Okay, I can agree to that too, if that's what you like."

"Then my last request," I said.

"You're pushing your luck." He beamed at me.

"I want you to kiss me."