Open Your Window, Romeo
I looked up and typically, a deluge of water fell on my face, drenching me from head to toe. I looked back down at him, his face now wearing a look of surprise that soon scrunched up as he started laughing. Torrents of water now pasted my clothes to my skin, making his t-shirt almost see-through. I stalked past him, navigating in my heels on the slippery side-walk even more difficult now in the rain.
"Ruth," he called after me, jogging in front of me and blocking my way. I stopped, ceasing to struggle with my tears and letting them come out and mingle with the rain on my face. Mark's expression of amusement vanished instantly and he started to reach out to me.
"What?" I snapped angrily and he blanched, withdrawing his hand. When he remained silent, I pushed past him again, but again he stopped me, this time by grabbing my forearm and turning me gently towards him.
"What do you want, Mark?" I snarled at him, jerking my arm away from him. His expression turned pleading.
"I want to talk Ruth," he said desperately. "I want you to not walk out on me, please. Just give me a second to explain."
"What's there to explain?" I retorted sharply. "You choose her, I get it. I don't need any lengthy explanation with that…"
"Ruth, quit it," he said just as cuttingly, glaring at me. "You're being ridiculous. You know that it's not like that, so stop making it out like that."
"Oh give me a break Mark!" I yelled at him, my tolerance now breaking. I knew I probably looked like a demon with my mascara running down my face and my hair plastered to my skin. "Every fucking camp I have to watch you two work together; do you think I'm blind? Do you think that I don't see when you pull out a chair for her to sit down, or when she loses a napkin you give her yours, or when you go off with her just because she says she needs some extra practice? I'm not stupid Mark…"
"Okay then what?" he snapped at me, looking furious. "Do you think I'm cheating on you, then? Do you Ruth?" The silence stretched as he continued to glare at me, clearly challenging me to say it. But I refused to rise to the bait.
"All I know is," I said quietly, looking away from him, "you said yes to her. You said yes when you should've said no."
"It's just a stupid concert Ruth!" he yelled in frustration. "A dumb concert and I couldn't abandon her. She didn't have any accompanist for her final concert, what was I supposed to do? Come on Ruth," he said softer, reaching out to me again. "Be reasonable. Please come back home and let's just forget this crap."
I ignored the little voice that reasoned with me in that same tone. Pushed it away like I was pushing him. "No. This time I've had enough," I choked out and power-marched from him. He caught up with me easily and tried to pull me around to face him again. But this time I kicked off my heels and ran. He couldn't keep up.
There's a reason I'm the track star at school.
I cowered under my blanket, glaring at the phone laying a few feet away from the bed on the floor. A few seconds later it started buzzing again, ringing that stupid ring tone that Mark had set for me so many days ago. I pulled the blanket over my head again, the tears leaking out before I could stop them. Even my ring tone was a reminder of him.
He'd already called a hundred times since yesterday. He would not give up. I knew that deep down, I was really glad that he hadn't. But no matter how much my heart felt like it was being melted and reshaped in abnormal shapes, or how much I missed his voice, I did not pick up. My pride had been bruised enough times.
I would not.
The phone subsided into silence after a minute. I sighed, knowing that he would call again a half hour later. I lay under the blanket, staring blankly into the dark contours of the covers and trying to figure how to stop the stupid aching in my chest.
A few minutes, I heard my room's door open softly. I peeked over the blanket and saw my big sister smiling sadly at me. I pulled the covers over my head again, snuggling into the bed and ignoring her as she came and sat down on the bed. "Ruthie," she sighed. "I don't care if you yell at me again, but I think you're being a really stubborn mule." I stayed silent, recalling the two hours I had yelled at her for trying to reprimand me for breaking up with Mark yesterday.
"Ruthie," Melanie urged again, and I came out of my shell of blankets to glare at her.
"Mel," I stated flatly. "Please get out." If it had been anyone else, I would've yelled at them to get the fuck out of my room, but Melanie was nine years older than me. She was also fixed on the idea of civility even if you were mad.
Melanie was my eldest sister. I wished my other big sister was with me. I loved Mel, but she didn't understand me like Ruby did. She didn't know me like Ruby did. But Ruby was in Chicago with her boyfriend, miles and miles away from Woodrow Palms, where Melanie and her husband lived and where I was. My brother Connor and I had come to stay with Melanie and Derrick for our summer holidays.
"No," Mel surprised me by saying firmly. "You're going to listen to me. You're being an utter idiot Ruthie. I don't even know what you're making such a big deal about. So he's accompanying some girl in her final exam. You should be proud of him, not rage at him like this." Curse Connor. He must have filled Mel in on everything. He was going to die when I got to him.
I sighed, rubbing my cheeks free of tears. Melanie's expression softened and she brought out a box of Kleenex and started to wipe my face clean like I was a little kid. I stopped her after a second. "It's not just some girl Mel," I explained morosely. "It's Katarina, my rival. No not even my rival, my freaking enemy. That's who he's helping."
"Katarina?" Mel frowned, "isn't that the girl who drenched you in orange juice in sixth grade?"
"Yes," I said sullenly, scowling at that memory.
"Oh Ruthie," she laughed. "That girl? She's got nothing on you. How could you even think that he would cheat with her?"
I felt a bit better but stuck stubbornly to my anger. "Whatever," I said, "Mark knew. He knew what she was, how mean she is to me, and he still said yes when she asked him to be her accompanist. They're probably cozied up in his house right now, studying Bach and Beethoven."
"If they were working now, why would Mark be calling you every half hour?" Melanie asked. I turned away from her and she sighed.
"You're being so dumb Ruthie," she repeated. "You're giving up that boy because of something like this. You're making a huge mistake."
"Why are you on his side?" I suddenly said bitterly. "You're my sister, not his."
"I am on your side Ruthie," she said. "You just can't see it." She left me alone in my room.
I went back to cowering under my blanket, as my phone started ringing again.
"I personally think you're being an utter idiot," Seamus said to me in his 'wise' tone. His British inflection came out in the last two words. I glanced at him, irritated, before going back to adjusting my camera. Seamus and I were standing on the tallest building in Woodrow – only sixteen stories, how typical – on the side looking over to the Palm Trees Gardens (a palm park in the center of Woodrow). All around us was what looked like a city: this was East Palms for you. I was doing my assignment for a photography lesson I signed up for in a moment of inspiration. No doubt the worst decision I'd ever taken.
"No, breaking up with Mark is the worst decision you've ever taken," Seamus cut into my thoughts. I lowered my camera again, this time turning around to face him fully and glaring at him. He didn't seem bothered.
"I think I got the message, seeing as how everyone from you to my sister to the freaking coffee shop lady is telling me that," I said sarcastically. Seamus sniggered, no doubt recalling the incident that had taken place a few hours ago. He and I had been in a coffee shop near the Palms high school and the woman at the counter had given me a weird glare slash pitying look when I told her my name to write on my hot chocolate cup. "You made a horrible decision dear," she'd told me, as she handed me my cup. I had just stared at her mystified, not knowing what the heck she was talking about until I remembered that Mark had told me that he was a frequent customer to this shop.
We had walked out with me blushing tomato red and Seamus sniggering just like he was now. "However," I continued, ignoring Seamus' renewed laughter. "This is still my decision."
"Not contesting that," he replied. "Just saying that it's utterly, no bloody, stupid. That boy was fit."
"Yes, that's exactly why I went for him in the first place because he's so good-looking," I said cattily, putting the camera back to my eye. I adjusted the lens a bit to focus on the palm trees. I clicked and the picture slipped out. I flipped it over and frowned; the picture had come out blurry.
"Why did you go for him, then?" Seamus interrupted my scrutiny. I shrugged in reply. "I don't know. Probably because guitarists are so hot." I smirked.
"Ruthie, be real. You hate guitarists. Why did you go for him?" I looked at him; he was serious. I frowned, turning back to the photo.
"Why are you asking me this?" I asked quietly. "I mean, I broke up with him. I don't regret it Seamus. No," I turned on him fiercely when he opened his mouth to protest. "I really don't. I might be being a snobby little git, but right now I don't care. He knew how much that girl ticked me off, and he still went on and said he'd help her. It's his fault, not mine." I turned away from Seamus and checked my camera before swerving around to take another picture.
"You'll regret it," Seamus said confidently. "And the reason why I'm asking you this is that I want you to realize it before it's too late. Trust me on this Ruthie," he said urgently as I swung around, clicking furiously at the graffiti on the roof. My sister Ruby would definitely approve of the talent around here. No doubt her friend Piper had a hand in it. Seamus glanced at the camera in my hand before jerking me around to face him. "I know how hard it is to find a good-looking, talented, and nice guy in this town. Heck, it's probably that difficult all around the world."
"You?" I asked skeptically. "How could you find it troublesome to find a guy? Any gay within a fifty-yard radius of you drops dead at the sight of you." And I knew that he knew that I had a point. Seamus was a Brit true at heart, but American in lifestyle. He was also stunningly handsome, with chocolate locks and high defining cheek bones that made his face stand out in sharp relief. His eyes had guys and girls swooning with distress and appreciation: dark brown and brooding in that enigmatic I'm-such-a-bad-boy way. And the fact that he wasn't blatantly gay made it easier for girls to fall accidentally in love with him. Seamus also had a knack for dressing good-looking and simple at the same time, making his attractiveness even more pronounced.
He laughed now at my patent disbelief. "I didn't say it's troublesome to find a guy. I said it's troublesome to find a good guy. Someone who's attractive both inside and outside. After spending years in a beach town known for its good-looking citizens – well, among us gossipers anyways," he added, smirking at my even more pronounced look of doubt, "and going to a music camp where the world's greatest young talents in music go, I think I'm experienced enough to say that confidently."
"Has anybody ever told you that you talk way too much?" I told him, flicking my finger at him and adjusting my camera again.
"Has anybody ever told you that you always avoid the subject?" he prodded in turn. "Come on Ruth, spill honey. Why are you actually mad?"
Damn. I thought I would get away longer than this. Seamus was a relentless little bugger. "Do I really have to do this?" I whined making him grin.
"Yes. Come on. Suck it up Ruthie," he poked me, and I flinched away from him. I sighed.
"Fine," I said. "I admit it. It's not the concert thing that's bothering me – although it's a huge part of it," I said sharply, looking at him with a scowl. "But I think Mark spends too much time with Katarina. So much that she might end up enticing him away from me."
Seamus shook his head at me and laughed. "God, I totally knew it. I knew that there was something else. Bloody hell, Ruthie," he grinned. "You are a fucking idiot. Why on earth would you think he would leave you for a prissy little snob like Katarina?"
"Because she's prettier than me," I said quietly, speaking the words that made me so sure that my heart would splinter. "And because they have history. They have something with each other and Mark might just decide that that something is much better than the something that he has with me." I looked down at my camera and my limp hands, struggling to force back the tears that were threatening to spill over my cheeks.
Seamus' finger tipped my face up by chin so that I had to look directly at me. He was smiling, but this time it was not in condescension or exasperation. He looked at me with an understanding that warmed my heart and that made me thank God for letting me meet such an amazing friend.
"Mark is not an idiot Ruthie," he said gently. "And only an idiot would choose Katarina and her snooty manners over you. Trust me on this."
I had millions of arguments to that but I bit them all back, because even though I would contest his words, they were the only thing that was keeping me from feeling that raw pain in my chest again.
I nodded obediently.
Mark and I met at the annual summer camp that we both attended. I'd attended that camp since I was nine and Mark came when he was thirteen and I was in my fourth summer at camp. But we did not meet then. He was a guitarist, and I was a violinist; it was an unsaid rule that these two groups did not mix much (or at all).
Yes, I saw him. His best friend Colin was one of my fierce rivals, in music only though, and through our many furious debates about music and the equality of men and women – Colin was also a male chauvinist pig, a fact that I delighted in reminding him every time we met – I would see Mark from the corner of my eyes. But we did not meet then.
We met two summers back, in my seventh summer at camp. I had been on my way to the kitchen cabin to beg a snack from one of the cooks, who was fond of me, and I had suddenly heard soft music wafting towards me from the lake – the kitchen was beside the lake – so I decided to investigate. And I found him, sitting on the bank and strumming his guitar as if he didn't have a care in the world. I knew I should have probably moved away, but there was something about him that made me stay where I was hidden behind a tree.
I wasted at least fifteen minutes watching him until deciding that I really should leave, but as I stepped back on to the dirt path, ironically I stepped on a twig and alerted him of my presence. Before I could turn heel and scurry off, he'd called out sharply, "Who's there?" forcing me to sheepishly come out of my hiding place.
"Sorry," I had apologized immediately, "I wasn't spying, honest to God. I was just passing by and I heard you playing so… eh."
He'd frowned at me in this cute should-I-trust-this-girl-who-clearly-looks-and-sounds-like-psycho way and I suddenly thought, "Oh my god, this guy is so adorable." And then blushed. And that's when he smiled at me and said, "I know you. You're Ruth."
My answer? "Urm…"
"You fight with Colin a lot." He grinned and I had to stop myself from swooning there and then. I had never noticed before then that guys with golden hair don't actually look gay. They, actually, look pretty hot. "And you always win."
"Ha," I had said nervously, not able to get the image of him taking his shirt off out of my mind. "Umm, yea. That kinda, um, it's my talent."
He laughed and I blushed scarlet. "I'm Mark," he said, while I struggled to keep my composure because now mind-Mark was flexing his muscles. Oh damn. It so didn't help that I knew what he looked like under the shirt since we all go swimming together at camp.
"Um, hi, I'm Ruth," I had managed to squeak out and then blushed even redder as I remembered that he already knew who I was. "Ahaha," I added quickly, trying to save myself, "Haha you, um, already knew that. Um…" Yup. Didn't work.
"Yea, I do," he had smirked and inner-me swooned and fainted. "Colin's my best friend."
"What?" I had near yelled. I hadn't known then, since my relationship with him was literally peripheral. "Um," I had said in a more moderate voice. "What? Really?"
"Oh yeah," he'd laughed. "But don't be deceived, he actually likes you a lot."
"What? Really?" Even more surprising. Well, actually, I didn't hate Colin either. He was pretty awesome in some ways. Not more than me of course, but pretty awesome.
"Mmhmm," he smiled. "He says you're one of the only girls that he would definitely tap and not forget to call the next day. In a good way," he added hastily as my face twisted.
"Well, he's not that a big jackass," I had said conversationally, "in a good way."
He had laughed and we had become friends.
We hung out with his friends and my friends, and the unsaid rule was definitely broken into teenie tiny pieces that no one bothered to pick up. At the end of camp, when we parted ways I'd cried (breaking my own radical-feminist rules) and told him to keep contact with me. And that he did, going so far as to send me things by snail mail.
It was the next summer when Mark had started avoiding me and I, frustrated with his no-response attitude, had gone to Colin for my answers. And when Colin told me that Mark was acting that way because he liked me more than a friend, my answer was "No way in freakin' hell". Fortunately my pessimism did not win out and I confronted him and bagged myself a boyfriend.
And that's how it went for two blissful years.
We were standing in front of a pristine white house in southern East Palms. Katarina Bentley's home.
"I don't know what you think you're going to achieve with this," I repeated my earlier words, my tone hollow this time. There was a reason behind my epic blow out at Mark. Katarina Bentley had made my life a living hell. She'd lived through preschool and middle-school in Oakridges and went to the same school as me; she'd gone to the same music camp as me; and then for high school when I was thanking god that she was finally moving away, I find out that she'd moved into my boyfriend's hometown. Brilliant.
Fate had a twisted sense of humor.
Seamus now tugged me along the equally pristine front path to the pristine house above. "What we're going to achieve," he said pointedly as he pulled me, "is realization that you are an utter idiot. I know you won't believe it if I just tell you simply, so I'm just going to have to showyou."
I had no idea how we got from doing my photography assignment to proving my decision to break up with Mark wrong. I only knew that I really,really didn't want to go to Katarina's house.
"Seamus," I said desperately. "Don't you think you're over-reacting a little bit? Okay, I get it; maybe I'm being a bit stubborn. But is this really necessary?"
"I know why you're scared Ruthie," he said, tugging me onto the doorstep and ringing the door bell. I squashed the urge to run away and run fast as Seamus' hand around my wrist tightened. "You think that Mark might be here. Well I'm going to prove you wrong."
It was like he'd synchronized it; the door opened just as he said the last word. A pretty, young blonde girl stood in the doorway, cocking her head at us. "Hey," Seamus said politely, "is Katarina home?"
"Kat?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at us and scrutinizing us with a fierce intensity. "Why? What do you want with her?"
"We're…" Seamus glanced at me and hesitated, "camp-mates of hers. May we come in?"
The girl's eyes narrowed even further. "Camp-mates? This is so not a good time…" It looked like she was going to shut the door in our faces when a familiar voice called out sharply, "Nancy! Didn't I tell you to stop opening the door? I'm supposed to do that. Who is it?"
The little girl, or Nancy it turns out, scowled – and believe it or not, looked insanely pretty doing it – and turned back into the house with a flounce. And then Katarina came to the door.
I don't think either of us expected Seamus' reaction at Katarina's red eyes. I know that I was too shocked and bewildered to react at all, but when Seamus yelped and ran over to hug the life out of who was supposed to be my arch-enemy of life, I did not even know who was more surprised, her or me.
"What. The hell!" Katarina pushed Seamus towards me and Seamus smirked. I turned my eyes on him, clearly giving him the 'what the eff are you doing, you traitor?' He just smiled and winked, 'chill Ruthie, this is all part of my master plan.'
I promised myself I would never trust this son of a gun again.
"Good. Now that the both of you are not about to scream at the sight of each other," Seamus announced officiously, "I think, Katarina, you should tell us to come in. Or you could come out," he added on afterthought, "and shut the door behind you."
My eyes met Katarina's and I could tell we were both experiencing a 'what the hell' moment. I wanted to tell her that that was often the case when Seamus was involved. But then I remembered that I hated her and she was the cause of my epic blow out. Then again, that did not explain her clearly red eyes.
"Seamus Fergerson, what are you doing on my front lawn?" she demanded angrily. I rolled my eyes. So typically Katarina. It was like I didn't exist.
"Hey Kat," I called out, her eyes swiveling towards me with a renewed intensity. I smiled. "How does it feel like, being a home wrecker?"
Her eyes widened and her lips curled into a snarl and I'm pretty sure that she was about to sock me in the gut – well, bring it on home wrecker! – but Seamus, as usual, had to stop the fun. "Okay, look here," he interrupted by stepping in front of me and directing Katarina's gaze back to him. "We're not here for a cat fight that could pretty much mentally scar your younger sister, Katarina. We're here to make clear on that deal you have with me." I glanced over at Seamus in incredulity when Katarina's face paled at his words.
"Deal?" I prodded Seamus in the back. "What deal?"
Katarina looked from Seamus to me and then back to him again. I noticed for the third time that she looked like she had been sobbing her heart out. She sighed and slumped down to sit on the front step and wrapped her arms around her head. "Fine," her voice came out muffled and subdued. "I get it."
Seamus nodded. "Goodie."
"Okay, what the hell is going on here?" I finally snapped. "When did you start talking to her?" I asked Seamus accusingly. "Seriously, has the world gone mad or is it just turning against me?"
"Quit the drama Ruth," Katarina sighed, glaring balefully from a crack between her arms. "I'm trying to tell you something."
"I don't think I want to hear it, home wrecker," I spat out. Oh god. When did I turn into such a bitch?
"I'm not a home wrecker!" she shrieked and Seamus and I flinched. "You know, as far as I'm concerned, I'm so glad you and Mark broke up because he could do a lot better than you. But as for the fact that you apparently think that he was cheating on you with me, well you can stuff that notion up your ass because it's not true. So stop calling me a home wrecker!"
I looked at her skeptically. "Right. Because I would believe you with no questions asked."
"Fine, ask the questions," she snapped. "But god, you've got to quit your whining. God knows the guy is in fucking love with you because," she hiccupped a sound that sounded like a strangled monkey but which I took to be a choked sob, "he told me that he wouldn't be able to accompany in my finalist exam right after you broke up with him."
Did you ever stand in a scene where there was total silence, like in one of those eerie old movies about The West and you're in the desert and a weird breeze whistles through the air…? Basically that was the situation after Katarina's little declaration.
My reaction was probably that emoticon with an O then a full stop and then an O again. Seamus' was probably the colon sign and then the number three. Katarina's was clearly the hyphen, underscore, hyphen emoticon.
Suffice to say, it was an awkward silence, and I did not blame it when Katarina twitched after five seconds and barked out, "What? Talk, dammit!"
"He won't accompany you?" was what I said, in a rather disbelieving tone. I know, I know! I was behaving so cynically and unlike myself! I was acting like Ruby, in fact, like she was channeling her inner snarky spirit through me.
"Are you freaking me Ruthie?" Seamus screeched at me this time. "Enough is enough! You have proof now. Mark Holberg is not a cheater and he is in love with you. So stop being such a bloody idiot, and get that little tidbit into your thick head."
It was probably Seamus' super pissed off face that convinced me because I have rarely seen this guy this riled up. He was Mr Laid Back Number One. And he looked like he was about to run me over and then stab me with a rusted knife.
"Shit," I whispered, crouching down on the ground and wrapping my arms around my head, similar to Katarina's posture. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, what have I done?"
"Finally," Seamus snorted and I glared at him. Katarina snorted too but when I looked over at her, she was wiping her face with her sleeve. I saw her red eyes again and my stomach swooped with guilt. So I sighed and walked over to her. She glared up at me.
"You must be so happy," she muttered angrily.
I shrugged. "Not really. Not yet. But I'm not a selfish person. I can get you an accompanist for your final concert."
Katarina rolled her eyes and stood up so she was facing me. "Mark's not going to Ruth, not after this fiasco," she said. "I don't think Seamusoryou could convince him."
"Seamus?" I looked over at him in puzzlement. He averted his gaze immediately and it clicked in my brain. "You were going to ask Mark to accompany her?"
"Well," he said, dragging out the word a little. "I thought that maybe you wouldn't mind after you see that there's no chance Mark would look twice at Katarina when you're in his life."
I threw him a black look. "I'm going to get you for this later. But no," I turned back to Katarina and continued, "I actually meant Seamus to accompany you. He's a pianist-genius; he'll do perfectly for your violin pieces."
"But…" said Katarina, talking over Seamus' squawks of protest, "Isn't he your accompanist? You have an exam, same as I do."
I shrugged. "I'll figure something out."
We exchanged a steely look before Katarina nodded and stood up. "You might be a loser, Ruth Montgomery, but I hear you keep good on your promises. So, it's a deal." Then she went in and shut the door.
There was a moment of silence as I dropped into contemplation and Seamus stared at the closed door. Then he turned to be with a baleful look and said, "Well now that I've helped you see light and you've coerced me into helping a bat-shit crazy girl, what are you going to do?"
I stayed quiet for only another second. "I'm going to get my boyfriend back." I stated decisively.
Author's note: Hey everyone! I'm back, after what seems AGES. I've been working on a couple of projects and I've finally organised my ideas properly. This is, as you can see, a contest entry, but it's also a oneshot for those of you who loved the nine-year-old bundle of happiness in Many or More Unfinished (I am sorry about not finishing that btw, terribly terribly sorry). In the meantime, read and enjoy. The last bit is already done but I just want to keep this in suspense... also it's kind of a weird finish, but I hope you'll love it!
Leave a review to tell me what you think!