I was out of bed before the morning light hit the skies. I was feeling jittery all over and I just wanted to get out of the house before Claire and Kylie woke up. Both of them would be super excited, as it was my birthday and they will try and get me in a super excited mood, not realizing that I didn't want to celebrate my birthday. But I didn't have the heart to tell them that and watch them get disappointed. Kylie has been planning my surprise party for one month and she had pretty much invited my entire address book. I haven't spoken to half the people in there for ages. I just hoped that they didn't bother to show but like Kylie always says, nobody says no to a good party and free alcohol. How would I know that? I don't party or drink alcohol and I wasn't starting today either.
I moved around the apartment quietly so as not to make any noise. I'd dressed in my 'cat burglar' outfit as Kylie liked to call it. It was a pair of black jean shorts with a black tank top and black zip up hoodie on top. I'd braided my hair in a messy side braid and was wearing my black boots. I grabbed my keys from the coffee table and picked up my messenger bag. Tip toeing to the door, I opened it a smidge and slid outside. Closing and locking the door behind me I walked to the elevator and pressed the down button. It was 5:30 in the morning and there were five elevators but it still took ten minutes for one to arrive. I got in quickly and pressed the ground floor button. Walking out of the apartment building, I pulled up my hood and made my way to the nearest subway station. I just didn't feel like driving and I wasn't awake enough to pay attention to much of anything around me.
The subway was full of morning commuters and I made sure to keep close to the doors. I took out the book I was currently reading from my bag and lost myself in it. The train stopped at the stations and people got out and got on but it didn't faze me. It was going to take approximately 40 minutes to get to my destination. At one point the train stopped for 15 minutes due to technical problems and I felt like pulling my hair out. I rarely took the subway because I wasn't fond of being around people. I preferred to hide because when I was around people I read them; like the guy who was sitting across from where I was standing. Every time the train started moving from the station, he tapped his left foot three times. Obviously, he had OCD. The girl beside him, who was pretending to read a book, would look up at the passengers every few seconds and when she caught someone's eye, she would look away guiltily. From the messy hair, clothes and make-up, I could tell she had a one night stand she was regretting and she thought that the people around her could tell. The middle-aged guy beside her was agitated and he kept looking at his watch and tapping his foot impatiently. Either he had a job interview, or he was late for a job interview or late for a meeting that would set his career down the right path. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a girl a little older than me. She was staring off into space mindlessly twirling her engagement ring on her. She was clearly having second thoughts.
When the train jerked into motion, I put my attention back on my book. When I was three stops away from my destination, I closed the book and put it back in my bag. The train finally came to my stop and I stepped out with my heart full of melancholy. I had come this far because I wanted to get out of the house. But I wasn't sure if I could go where I really wanted to go. I don't even know why I wanted to go there. I didn't want to go anywhere that reminded me of my family. Still, my feet moved of their accord and I stepped out of the subway station, turning left and walking to the end of the block. I waited for the light to turn green and when it did I started walking again. It was like my legs had a mind of their own. I hadn't been to the place in five years but I still remembered where it was and how to get there without having a conscious thought about it. So I stood in front of Gloria's diner and took in the exterior. It hadn't changed since the last time I was here when I was 12. My father used to bring the six of us here every Sunday. But after my youngest brother was born there was only so much room in the car with the car seat and one of us had to stay behind; five guesses as to who that one person was. Unwanted tears brimmed in my eyes and I took a deep shaky breath. I wasn't going to cry today; not over the family that could never be mine.
I stalked across the parking lot with purpose and grabbed the door handle just as another hand was about to grab it. Our hands brushed and a shock went through my spine. I looked up and my eyes connected with brilliant jewel green eyes. I let go of the handle, bringing my hand down to my side. Honestly, the first thing that popped into my head was that the universe hated me. But then I thought that if it did, Noah Brown would so not be here right now. I mean he was... I can't think of a word to describe him but wow.
"Hello," I said but my choice came out choked. I cleared my throat and tried again.
"Good morning," Noah said with a huge smile. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. It was like he knew what I was thinking about him. But I suppose he did. I bet he had girls coming on to him all the time. He just had that kind of a face...and body; at least that's what I imagine from the outline of his frame under the sweatshirt. God, what was wrong with me? I was creeping myself out.
"Are you planning on going inside?" Noah asked. I blushed scarlet at the thought that I was just standing there staring at him. I straightened my spine.
"Yes," I said. I reached for the door handle but Noah grabbed it and held the door open for me. I gave him a small gracious smile and walked into the diner and was immediately bombarded with the smell of fresh coffee and pancakes. It smelled like Sunday mornings at my grandmother's house.
Noah pointed towards an empty booth in the back and I walked to it. Halfway there I turned around to see that Noah was coming after me.
"Are we having breakfast together?" I asked. Noah blinked at me and ran his hand through his already messy brown hair.
"Well, I figure you're alone and I'm alone, so we can be alone together," Noah said.
"That's an oxymoron," I said. Noah frowned at me but I didn't say anything else on the matter and walked over to the booth and took a seat. Actually I was kinda glad that he was here. Now that I think about it, I really don't want to be one of those people who spend their birthdays alone. Obviously I was going to go home to Claire, Kylie and Grandma.
"So, what brings you out here on this fine Sunday morning?" Noah asked.
"Breakfast," I said, looking around the diner. There weren't a lot of people there, given that it was seven in the morning. There was construction going on a block from here so there were a few construction workers sitting at the counter. And two booths down from where Noah and I were sitting, there was a guy—maybe a teenager—with his head bent down over a small notebook. I crossed my arms on the Formica table and leaned forward. Noah did the same thing.
"You never told me how you knew who I was," I said.
"That's because you ran away," Noah replied. I looked into his green eyes for a second and then looked away. Looking into his eyes bothered me. It was like he could see directly into my soul and he knew that I was barely keeping it together. It wasn't fair.
"So why don't you tell me now?" I asked. Noah sighed and leaned back. He looked out the window, deep in thought and I stared at his profile. I imagine that everything about him was relaxed. He was a laid back person and didn't care about the worries of the world, which definitely had its benefits. Noah turned to look at me and I thought he was finally going to tell me.
"What made you think I was lying to you?" Noah asked. Well, so much for telling me the truth. I sat back against the booth.
"I don't think you're lying to me. I know you're lying to me," I said. I could see it in his eyes. Noah opened his mouth to say something but got interrupted by the waitress.
"What can I get you guys?" She asked. I looked up at her and my eyes caught her askew name tag. Irene. Sometimes, I had no control over my super observant skills. I picked up the stench of cigarette, the wrinkled and stained outfit and the tired, dull eyes.
"Blueberry pancakes with decaf coffee," I said.
"I'll have the same but regular coffee," Noah said.
"Alright, anything else?" Irene asked, writing in her pad. Noah and I shook our heads.
"Okay, your order will be up soon," Irene said and walked away to take the Notebook Guy's order. I looked at Noah and he was looking at me with a measured gaze.
"I read your book. The first one," Noah said and shrugged. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from saying anything. I was letting it go. Unless he was stalking me, I really didn't care how he knew me.
"You don't seem satisfied with that answer."
I blinked at him.
"It's the half-truth at best. You said that my grandmother was talking about me. I believe that because my grandmother talks about me. But it doesn't explain how you knew that she was talking about me, unless she pointed me out, which she couldn't have because I was hiding behind people the whole time. But most importantly, you're good at lying but you're not that good. I can tell that you're lying," I said and shrugged, like he had. I looked around the diner and noticed that there were more people there. I saw a family of seven sitting at a corner table and I immediately looked away.
"You can tell that I am lying? My mother can't even do that," Noah said. Before I could reply to that, Irene came over with our coffees. She placed a big, round orange cup in front of Noah and me.
"Is this decaf?" I asked.
"If that's what you ordered," Irene said. I smiled and thanked her and she walked away. I turned to look at Noah.
"Generally, mothers don't want to know that their children are lying to them so they are more prone to believing a lie. You really have no reason to tell me the truth," I said. Noah ground his jaw and took a deep breath. This is why I never had long conversations with people. I always said something that was uncomfortable. From the look in Noah's eyes, he was not only angry but hurt. I understood the first emotion. I didn't understand the latter.
Noah pushed aside his coffee cup and put his arms on the table, leaning forward. He looked at me with green eyes burning with sincerity.
"Temperance, I am going to tell you the truth. At this time, I can't tell you how I know what I know, but one day I will tell you. But I don't want to give you any reason to think that I am not going to tell you the truth. Okay?" Noah asked. I stared into his eyes. Something was wrong with the universe. I could feel it. Something was upsetting the nature of things because this moment shouldn't have happened. The emotions I read in Noah's eyes shouldn't have been there and it scared me that they were. Noah was looking at me expectantly.
"Okay," I whispered. Noah gave me a breathtaking half smile and sat back. He picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip. I just stared at him. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide and pretend that I had never met him. But I couldn't. My mind was telling me to get up and walk away because whatever Noah was feeling was true and I couldn't feel it. But something had me stuck to my spot in front of him.
"I'm sorry, that's not decaf."
Startled out of my thoughts, I looked up at Irene.
"Your coffee, it's not decaf," Irene said. She exchanged my orange cup with a bright blue one and left. My world was just turned upside down; the coffee was the last thing I was worried about.
"How did you know that wasn't decaf?" Noah asked. I gave him a small smile.
"I have a superpower," I said. Noah chuckled and I raised my eyebrows.
"Seriously?" Noah asked. I sighed and looked around the diner.
"Look at that family and tell me what you see," I said, nodding towards the family of seven I had seen earlier. Noah turned around and observed the family. The five kids were crowded around their parents, who were sitting together watching their kids affectionately.
"It's a happy family of seven. The parents love each other and their kids. They're a normal family," Noah said, turning around to look at me. I took a sip of my coffee.
"From what you see on the outside; people have layers. What you see is the outer layer, the one that everyone else sees because that's what we, as people, want everyone else to see. But there's always something underneath. That family is happy, yes but they're not normal. The mother has had three affairs from what I can tell," I said. Noah stared at me shock.
"What? That's ridiculous," Noah said, turning around to look at the family again. He was right, from his vantage point all he saw was that the couple was in love. He turned around to look at me.
"How can you tell?"
"The kids; three of them aren't his. And the way he's kissing his wife, he's a: unaware of the affairs, b: he's choosing to ignore them, or c: they wanted a big family and he couldn't have any more kids so she was artificially inseminated three different times. But with the last scenario, I would find that once they find 'the one', they would stick to it. It would also indicate that you were right and they really are in love but it's unlikely," I said. Noah stared me.
Irene brought over our breakfast and I asked her if she could also bring me blueberry syrup for my pancakes. When she brought it over, I poured it over my pancakes and handed it to Noah. I cut of a slice of my pancakes and put it in my mouth. I almost moaned with delight. God, this was delicious.
"Have you always been like this?" Noah asked. I shrugged. As far as I could remember, I have always picked at the little things. I've always been observant to the point that it seemed like a disease to me. And it's not like I had any words of consolation from my parents. I wasn't told that I was special or whatever.
"How much do you know about me exactly? I mean, what do you know about me?" I asked. Noah was about to put his fork in his mouth but stopped when I asked him the question and put it down.
"Everything," he said simply. I stared at him. How could he know everything? It wasn't possible. Even if he read my first book, there was nothing in there to indicate that it was about my life. My grandmother would know better than to discuss that part of my life with strangers. Unless… of course.
"You're the one who bought my old house. You…did you read my journals?" I asked in a whisper. My heart was slamming against my ribs. This was not how I was expecting my birthday to go. I mean, if Noah had read my journals, he knows things no one else does. I don't like that. I don't like how vulnerable that makes me feel. It's not right. I pushed my plate away from me. I'd lost my appetite.
"Tempie, listen to me. I didn't…it's just that…I'm sorry," Noah said. I knew he wasn't lying which made this all the more worse. He felt something more than curiosity towards me; something I was afraid of reciprocating. I grabbed my bag.
"I'm sorry, I have to go," I said. I got out of the booth and started walking to the door.
"Temperance," Noah called out after me. I ignored him and walked out of the diner and breathed in the hot summer air. I just wanted to go home to my family and lose myself in their celebration of my birthday. I started running towards the main street, where I hailed a cab.
By the time I pulled out my wallet and paid for the breakfast, Temperance was gone. Damn it! What did this mean? If she had just let me explain I would have been able to make her stay. I had to make her understand that if I hadn't read her journals we would never have met. I didn't think I would have been capable of the feelings I have for her now. I ran my hands through my hair and wondered what I should do next. Where do I go from here?
I walked towards my car. I know what I need to do now. I have to find Temperance. Getting in the car, I started it and pulled out of the parking lot, driving towards my mother's house. Surely she would be able to tell me where to go from here. I knew I was going to screw it up eventually. I just didn't think it would happen this quickly. I met her yesterday and after today, I didn't think Temperance would ever talk to me. The problem was that I had no idea what she was thinking. When she'd left, she didn't seem angry so much as scared.
It took me 20 minutes to get to my mother's house. When I finally got there, I parked the car and sat there in the silence. Maybe everyone was right. I had gotten too attached too quickly and I didn't realize the consequences before. It was no longer just me, my feelings and my need to find Temperance. All those scenarios of us being friends seemed ridiculous to me now. I closed my eyes and all I could see was Temperance blushing red and the way her violet eyes shined in the sun and then those same beautiful violet eyes looking sad and scared. I did that and on her birthday as well. I opened my eyes and ground my jaw.
I opened the car door and stepped out. Walking up the porch steps, I rang the doorbell and waited for the maid to come and open it. When she did, I asked her where my mother was and she pointed me towards the conservatory.
Mom was sitting at the small round table reading the newspaper when I walked in. One look at me and she knew that something was wrong. It was weird. I wasn't sixteen anymore but just being in this house and being in my mother's presence was extremely comforting. I knew she would be able to offer up advice.
"What's wrong?" Mom asked. I took a seat on the chair across from her.
"I screwed up. Except, I have no idea how it happened or when she knew but it happened," I said.
"Honey, what happened?" Mom asked, her voice laced with concern.
"Temperance, she knows that I read her journals and she freaked out. Not in the sense that she was angry but scared. I didn't realize what it would mean for her when she found out. I was more focused on what I would feel. She didn't give me a chance to explain and now I have no idea what I am going to do," I said. I put my hands on the table and laced my finger together. Mom put her hand on my hands.
"You have to give her time. Her life hasn't been easy; of course she's afraid to let you in. You have all these feelings for her; feelings she might be afraid of. You need to give her time to make sense of it first. Time changes everything," Mom said. I looked into her deep blue eyes. I nodded. If all Temperance needed was time, then I could give her that. Time would change everything.
Even as I reassured myself with that, there was a terrible feeling inside my chest telling me that if it didn't work, I'd done my damage and I had no way of fixing it.
AN: Here it is. I wonder what's going to happened now that she knows he read her journals. Review away.