A/N: Here goes, hope you enjoy this final? revision and please, please review. If you have any stories you'd like me to review in return, let me know (PM). thanks
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The characters and events portrayed in this story are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The Winding Spiralcase
Droplets of rain trailed down the window panes like the tears of a crying child. It had been raining off and on for several days and I was beginning to wonder whether or not I'd see sunshine again. Nevertheless, I kept working. I'm sure I was a sight to behold… covered from head to toe in a rainbow of paint. But I had a deadline to meet and quite a lot of work to complete before time ran out. The showing at Sheldon's gallery six months ago went better than I could have hoped and was determined to make history repeat itself.
Thunder clapped loud enough to make me jump before the lights went out. "Okay, fine," I muttered to myself and opened the drapes wider across the large windows along the wall of the studio. At least the power was out during daylight hours this time. Last night's outage was the reason for today's headache -painting by candlelight really strains the eyes.
I went back to work. My hands creating the colorful images on the canvas before me. I loved my work; it was my entire sense of being. I had given my life to painting for several years and finally, started to eek out a modest living from it now. I grinned to myself thinking of this. Then, my stomach grumbled. Wow, it was almost five o'clock in the evening. No wonder I was so hungry, having only had some coffee earlier in the morning. While enthralled in my work, I found it all too easy to forget to eat. I walked to the work counter to start cleaning some brushes along with myself, hoping to look at least half way presentable to go out into public.
I pulled my hair up into a twisted knot on the back of my head and wrapped a silk scarf around it sloppily. Applied a touch of lip gloss to give me some "life," then grabbed my long tan raincoat and paisley umbrella to shield me from the rain. Ready. Grabbing my tattered backpack -one could say this was my version of a purse- before strolling out the door, it slams shut behind me, causing me to jump as I had at the thunder-clap earlier.
The streets were busy in the height of rush hour. I turned the corner after passing the first block toward Bailey's Café, my usual haunt. I entered the café, greeted the regulars and sat at my favorite table in the corner. Bailey's café had been in the neighborhood for decades and I had been a regular patron since moving into the studio three years earlier. Three years earlier. It seemed like a lifetime ago…
Three Years Earlier:
"Ana, are you almost done packing?" my mom peeked into my bedroom and smiled at me.
"Yes, I think so," I smiled back.
I finally finished packing the last few things left in my bedroom into the two suitcases I was going to take with me on the bus ride from Macon to Savannah. Everything else I had planned to take with me to college had already been sent in boxes a few days earlier.
A sigh escaped me as I scanned my bedroom one last time before trying to go to sleep. Tomorrow would be the start of a new chapter in my life and I was nervous to say the least. I had been reluctant to leave Macon and had really wanted to stay and attend college there. My mother, however, insisted I go to Savannah where I could receive a degree in art from a college noted for its art program.
"Ana, I think you'll really enjoy school in Savannah," my mom added as she closed my bedroom door.
"I hope so," I whispered to myself, not feeling as sure about this as she. Even as a small child, my mom maintained that I had real talent when it came to drawing and painting. I wasn't as confident. Yes, I loved to draw and paint and had won several art awards in high school, but never really thought I was good enough to actually try to make a career of it. My mother, on the other hand, wanted me to chase the dream. Even if it did seem to be her dream more than my own.
Don't get me wrong. I loved art and loved to create art. I just didn't see my talent being so outstanding that I could earn a living from it. Luckily, I had also excelled in my other subjects in school and really figured a degree in business, or something to do with computers would be more practical. But my practicality in choosing a college and a major went down the drain when I received a scholarship in art from the college in Savannah. Yes, I had applied for the scholarship, but never intended to actually receive it!
My mom was going to help me with my living expenses and whatever else the scholarship didn't cover which, incidentally, was quite a lot. I knew I could have actually saved money had I chosen a different college in say, Atlanta or even the university in Athens, but my mom was the constant dreamer of big dreams when it came to me.
See, my mom had dropped out of the college in Macon to marry my dad and less than a year later, I was born. They struggled and scraped by to make ends meet and then tragically, my dad died in a car accident when I was just a few years old. I really didn't have any specific memories of him, aside from having photos of him around the house.
Somehow, my mom landed a job working for a real estate broker and she earned a decent living. My grandmother and Aunt Vera lived a few blocks away in the house my mom and aunt had grown up in. Aunt Vera never married and had always lived with my grandmother. I do remember my mom mentioning something about Aunt Vera getting her heart broken by a guy who had left her for another girl. But really, that's about all I knew of the story. Mom just always claimed that was why Aunt Vera was so bitter when it came to men and dating.
Not surprisingly, being raised by a bunch of women without any men around, I had a fairly jaded opinion when it came to the opposite sex. I didn't trust boys as far as I could throw them. Throughout high school I tried to stay under the boys' radar. This didn't always work very well, but I tried. I wasn't a cheerleader, or editor of the yearbook, but I was pretty, I suppose. I studied, was on the honor roll, but was more or less an introvert. Sure, I dated a few guys, but none of the relationships lasted for more than a couple of months, in the end I was always left with a broken heart.
After the guy I dated during my Senior year of high school moved to Colorado, I basically gave up on having any sort of social life. My mom had been supportive as always and this time she encouraged me to focus on choosing a college and start planning for my future instead of dwelling on the past.
When she mentioned the college in Savannah the first time, I completely shut her down. I didn't want to leave home. My mom had given most of her adult life raising me and taking care of me. I suppose I felt I owed it to her to stay in Macon and stay close to her. But she insisted I leave the city at least for college.
"You can always come back," she would say to me. Savannah was only a few hours' drive away and we used to go there on mini vacations when I was growing up. I loved going to the beaches on Tybee Island and walking through the downtown and visiting the shops, art galleries and museums. Savannah did have some draw for me. When we finally visited the college that spring, I conceded and agreed to attend school there.
Figuring my heart was no longer worth worrying about, I started planning my future.
"Are you nervous?" My mom asked me as she drove me to the bus station to see me off to Savannah the following morning.
"A little, I suppose," I sighed. We were silent the rest of the drive until I got out of the car and promised to call her once I was settled into the apartment we had found when I had gone to register for classes the month before.
I was excited to finally have my own place. It was in an old house that was converted to apartments many years earlier and it was very quiet when the landlord showed us the place. My mom had been extremely busy with her job because her boss had taken ill a couple of weeks earlier. She was running the firm in her absence and couldn't take time off to drive me to Savannah. I knew my mom felt horribly guilty about this, but I was slightly relieved to be going alone. I was ready slip out from under my mom's influence after all the pressure she had put on me to go to Savannah, along with my aunt and grandmother's occasional interference.
After kissing and hugging my mom goodbye I climbed onto the bus. Once on the road, my thoughts wandered again to my life and I convinced myself I was going to make another fresh start. Since I hadn't really slept very well the night before, I fell asleep after about half an hour into the bus ride.
I woke about an hour before reaching my final destination and gave myself a mental pep talk. I was going to go with the flow and be very leery of any guy that showed the slightest interest in me. Recalling the stories about some of the girls from my high school who had either been older or fellow classmates that had older sisters telling about guys in college. College guys were "users" was the term I had always heard and I was not going to become one of the "used" again.
By the time the bus arrived at the station in Savannah, I had built my confidence up enough that even a category five hurricane was not going to knock me down. I got a taxi once I secured my luggage and headed for my new home.
"Here we are," the cab driver announced as he pulled to a stop in front of the house that had obviously been converted into apartments long ago. I grabbed my suitcases from the taxi driver and moseyed up the walk toward the door. The sun was shining and it felt warm on my skin as I grabbed the slip of paper from my pocket to remind myself the apartment number.
"2B, upstairs," I whispered to myself though nobody was around, then made my way in and up the old wooden staircase to the door with my new address painted on it. I grabbed a key from a yellow envelope to let myself in and was instantly pleased at my new choice of residence. The old house apartment would be perfect. It had large windows, old, worn wood floors, and ancient fixtures that were double the size of new ones. The furniture looked old, but well-kept and I was thankful for finding such a great deal. Maybe coming here to college wouldn't be so bad after all. I carried my luggage to the only bedroom and sat on the big iron bed in the middle of the room. The bedroom also had a set of the large windows, but since it was the second floor, it was a dormer with the ceiling angles matching the roof slope outside. I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes with a faint grin across my face.
My mind wandered as I unpacked one of my suitcases and explored my new home. Memories of the past couple of years still filled my head. It was funny how I had finally become so ready to leave my hometown and get a fresh start, but now I was missing the place already?! I didn't really have any close friends the last year of high school spending the last months of my senior year in a haze of solitude.
Growing up in a fairly large city that was close to another large city, Atlanta, I had made a lot of acquaintances, but never ended up getting close to anyone in particular. I had been like a feather, floating from one scene to another, never quite finding a niche to fit into. I again thought of how growing up without a male figure and the independent women who raised me made me this way as well, add in how insecure I had become when it came to boys. I always seemed to like the guys that didn't show any interest in me, or if they did, it wasn't real.
Amazingly, the boxes arrived just as I had finished unpacking one of my suitcases. I opened the door as the UPS man pulled the boxes in his cart up the stairs to my doorway then signed for my delivery and started pushing the boxes through the door to my living room.
Coincidentally, the door across the hall from mine opened. I glanced over to see probably the cutest guy I had ever seen in person walking out. I gave him a friendly, but not overly enthusiastic smile. He gave me a slightly sideways grin, said hello, and locked his door behind him. I quickly pushed the last box through my door as he turned to possibly say something, maybe offer to help me with the boxes? He stood there for a split second as if wanting to speak, but I walked into my apartment slowly closing the door behind me. I heard his footsteps as he made his way down the stairs out of the apartment house.
My back still against the door, I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to burn the image of his perfect face from my mind. Wow, that was a handsome guy! His dark hair was messy, but it looked really good on him. He had the greenest eyes I think I had ever seen. And even though it was early August, he was sort of pale. He was thin, however extremely well-toned. I could see myself developing my first "college crush." Sighing deeply, told myself that I did not come to Savannah to have my heart broken twice in the same year. I was going to study, graduate and turn my back on the possibility of falling in love. So what if I ended up like Aunt Vera. Maybe I could get more of my life goals accomplished that way anyhow! But, WOW, he was amazingly cute! Then sadly, my track record with love entered my thoughts, and besides, a guy like that would be way beyond my reach. I was merely a little freshman with no friends and very boring.
Too tired to unpack, I went to the sofa and flipped on the ancient television that came with the apartment, falling asleep not watching anything in particular. I awoke well after midnight and could hear noise coming from across the hall. There was music blaring, people laughing and talking. Great, so much for a quiet apartment for studying! I sat up from the sofa and stretched dragging my feet to the bedroom, then took a hot shower and went to bed with a pillow covering my ears to drown out the noise from my neighbors.
The next morning, I woke to a nice and quiet calm. The only food I had packed was a bag of coffee my cousin had given me. I brewed a small pot and sat on the sofa staring at the several boxes that still needed unpacking. I called my mom to let her know I had arrived safely making a point not to mention the loud tenants across the hall. After the long conversation with her ended, I heard footsteps outside again. This was when I realized there was no peep-hole in my door and made a mental note to ask the landlord to have one installed if possible.
I unpacked half of the second suitcase and left the boxes for another time. I dressed and decided to go out and do some exploring having never been to Savannah alone before. I walked around downtown and visited a few shops that surely would become some of my favorites. After grabbing a bite to eat at a diner, I made my way home.
After again convincing myself I was too tired from my day of exploring to unpack anything else for the day. I fetched a book I had started a few days earlier and finished it by the time I was ready to go to bed that evening. Another day in Savannah was wasted, but had nothing better to do. I figured once classes started in less than a week, I would meet people then. Now, I had no idea where to go and nobody to go anywhere with.
The next morning, I went downstairs to check my mail and was standing in the main doorway flipping through mostly junk mail when footsteps started coming down the stairs. I kept my eyes on my mail and stepped to the side to allow whomever was coming to get past me.
"Hey," I heard him say as he passed by.
"Hey" I responded in kind without looking up, assuming it was the same guy I had seen when my boxes arrived. Looking up after I was sure he had walked out the door. I noticed the guy making his way down the sidewalk was blonde, the one I met the day before had really dark hair. Only seeing him from behind, I had no idea what he looked like. I shrugged and walked back up to my apartment. Just as I was unlocking the door, the door behind me opened.
"Um, Hi… I just wanted to say hello. My name is Pete. I live across from you," he pointed to the door across the hall from mine. It was the same guy from when my boxes had arrived and he was even better looking than I had remembered.
"Oh," I said, "nice to meet you. I'm Ana," and smiled at him. It was obvious he was uncomfortable as we locked eyes. I too was very uncomfortable. Why did my now confirmed neighbor have to look so good?! We stood there in awkward silence for what felt like hours.
"Well, I was just leaving, so I guess I'll see you around," he smiled at me in a way I hadn't been smiled at in a very long time or possibly ever. I wanted to say something, but words had escaped me. I just stood there like an idiot looking at him. He let out what sounded like a slight chuckle as he turned for the stairs. I opened my door and quickly went inside. Again, leaning against the back of my door to catch my breath. What was wrong with me? I had seen nice looking guys before, but something was different about this one. I could find no flaws in him. After a minute of pondering his looks I deduced he was likely an asshole. Probably a total "user." Or, though he gave no impression of it, maybe gay? I remember hearing Aunt Vera talk about how so many of the gorgeous models I used to love to look at in magazines were homosexuals. But hey, what did she know anyway? I quickly put the thought out of my mind. He surely had a girlfriend though, and I was below his league anyway.
After tossing most of my mail in the trash, I started looking through the college papers from class registration. I was going to need my schedule when I finally made it to the bookstore and the map of the campus so I could find my classes on the first day.