"What do you do when all of a sudden you stop feeling close to the person you are used to feeling close to?"
Chapter 5 – Ropeway
The first rays of sunlight fought their way through the blinds, illuminating the half-dark of the bedroom. Countless birds, which had been awake for hours, were twittering and whistling in the trees, in front of the extravagant apartment complex. It could have been the perfect morning, if the annoying peeping sound of Greg's mobile hadn't disturbed the two lovers in their slumber. Half asleep the boy shifted his weight to the edge of the bed to reach for his phone. After listening to the much too noisy voice of his best friend, he finally managed to find his voice.
"Sorry Tom, I don't have time." He stated after taking a look at the clock. "My classes are starting in a bit and I need to get ready." His voice sounded husky, and he started searching for a bottle of water that was usually standing next to the bed. The sound of the cool liquid being gulped down his sore throat broke the static of the line before Tom sighed.
"Could you hand the phone over to Melissa then, please?" The voice on the other end pleaded.
"Why do you think I'm with her?" A fake sound of innocence accompanied the counter question.
"Because unfortunately I am your best friend, and I know you too well plus you aren't on your way to university yet, therefore, 'get ready' usually means 'get dressed'."
"Okay, you got me." Greg said with a kinky grin before he handed the phone over to the girl that was covered under the white satin blanket, while the chestnut hair was scattering over the pillow. "Hon, Tom wants a word with you." The boy said with a serious voice.
"What is it?" The brown eyes suddenly shot wide open.
"He's worried that Laila likes you more than him."
"What?" Her jaw dropped in panic, and in less than a second she had brought herself into an upright position.
"Easy, darling. I'm joking. Since when do you get tricked so easily." Greg couldn't suppress a chuckle when he saw his girlfriend being so confused over one of his jokes.
"Oh my, it's early in the morning. I wasn't fully awake." Melissa replied much calmer while she smiled the rest of her nervousness away. Maybe it has something to do with hormones. I've read they are basically to blame for everything. I should probably get a doctor's appointment to see if everything's okay with me. I feel a bit out of it lately…
"Well, you were pretty much awake a few hours ago…" The naughty grin of her boyfriend left no doubts to what he was referring, but right now she had no idea how to cope with it. The comment about Laila was still occupying her head. "I remember your face quite well as…" When Greg went on, she finally brought her attention back to him, still not knowing what to say.
Luckily Tom cut off the topic and saved her from bothering with finding an appropriate response. "I'm still on the phone you know. Could you please cut it out?!" The voice of the spiky-haired friend was more than annoyed by now.
"Sorry, pal." Greg apologized before finally handing the phone over to Melissa.
"Good morning Tom."
"Good morning Melissa. When are your classes starting today?"
"I don't have classes today. English only starts next week."
"Great! Would you mind taking Laila to the mechanic? She keeps saying she can do it on her own, but I don't want her to have to look for the shop all by herself. After all, she's still new in the city. I would do it myself but I have a Kendo tournament today." Without even thinking the answer came out of Melissa's mouth.
"Sure. Where should I pick her up?"
"I'll send you a text with her address in a bit. Thanks a bunch." Tom bowed at the other end of the line in relief, although no one could see the gesture.
"No problem." By the last syllable her voice suddenly became slightly high-pitched, and she shot a death-glare at her much too eager boyfriend.
"Bye. And tell Greg to stop doing such stuff when I'm talking to you." It sounded as if it was useless to say, but still Melissa felt a bit embarrassed.
"My my, you really know him too well. Bye." She said apologetically before she shifted her attention back at Greg, who was still sliding his hand up her ribcage. "You heard your friend sweetheart."
"Since when do I listen to Tom?"
"Maybe you should start. After all, he managed to catch quite a beauty." Laying her hand on the Greg's made him stop his movement for a while. Melissa used the chance to wrap one of the blankets around her body.
"Not yet." He said while bringing some space between them to have a better look at the brown-eyed girl's face.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Melissa didn't exactly know why, but somehow she was curious about the situation between their friend Tom and Laila. To be honest, she didn't really have a clue if they were already a couple.
"Tom told me that he wasn't brave enough to take the first step by now." Greg explained with a hint of scorn.
"But they're already dating for some weeks aren't they?"
"Yes, I know. He's such an idiot. I might talk some sense into him. But for now, I would rather occupy myself with you a little longer." The naughty grin came back as he fumbled his hand under the blanket again.
"Sorry, I've got to get ready to pick Laila up." Not knowing why she would cut off Greg so abruptly, Melissa just brushed off his hand and rose up with the blanket tightly wrapped around her body.
"You two are getting along quite well, aren't you?" The boy said, sounding a bit disappointed.
"Yeah, she's nice." Not wanting to give the comment any more thought than necessary, she kept her answer plain as she turned around to walk off to the bathroom.
"To me, she seems more like a rather… well, boring individual."
"Boring?" Hearing the comment, the British-girl suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.
"She barely says anything or shows any emotions. I'm starting to doubt that she has any." Melissa certainly was at a loss for words right now. She didn't exactly know why, but the words of Greg pissed her off. Not really wanting to start a fight over a thing she couldn't explain, she took the only choice and left.
"What are you doing?" came the questioning voice instantly.
"I'm getting dressed." She tried to conceal her anger, but over the years, Greg had learned to read her from time to time.
"Are you mad?"
"No, I just think that you're being superficial."
"You're really not a morning person." He sighed and let himself fall on his back again.
"It's not about that."
"Then what is it about?"
The chestnut-girl only shot a death-glare towards the clueless boy but kept quiet.
"Look…" Greg started, trying to explain himself. "I'm just feeling sorry for Tom. He's really trying."
"Maybe she needs a bit more time. We don't know anything about her at all." The brown eyes settled down a bit, already feeling sorry for insulting Greg.
"Alright, I got it. You really like her. You always had a thing for lost little girls. That's why you were such a good student-council president back then. I'm sorry for being rude. I'm sure she's a nice girl. Maybe you can talk to her and encourage her to give it a go with Tom." The words had quite the impact on her. She could feel her stomach crumbling and she instinctively covered it with her left arm.
"Err… yes. I'll try." She muttered before she turned around quickly.
"Good, then it's settled. I'll talk to Tom and you'll talk to Laila. I'm sure it'll be a piece of cake for the two of us to hook them up." His tone was jubilant as he jumped up before placing a kiss on her cheek. "I love you." He whispered into the brown-eyed beauty's ear before he went into the bathroom, leaving a speechless British-girl behind.
While driving down the main road, Melissa paid close attention to the instructions Tom had sent her. Laila's apartment was in an area of the town where Melissa had never been before. When she turned into the street that was written down as the destination, she was sure that either she had gotten lost or that Tom must have given her the wrong directions.
She slowed down her pace and looked around with irritated eyes. It was nothing like she had imaged it. She thought of an apartment complex or at least something that would fit the needs of an average college student, but nothing that would have matched her expectations was here. It looked nothing like the city, more like a suburb. There were no apartments at all, only houses.
Houses… like family houses… Don't tell me she's still living with her parents. Or maybe she already has a family. No way…
Melissa parked the car in the driveway of the house that carried the supposed right number. Not really sure, if she should get out to ring the doorbell, the girl took a moment to once more take in her surroundings. She could see children playing down the street while two older women were chit-chatting in the front yard of the neighbor house, sending curious glances towards her. Not wanting to draw any more attention by lingering in the car in front of the light blue painted house, she finally got over her doubts and suspicions and got over to the front door. She tried to take a look inside through one of the windows, but the blinds were blocking her view and keeping her from satisfying her curiosity. The ring of the doorbell was immediately followed by loud barking clearly coming from inside.
A dog… She has a dog? Or maybe her family… I really don't know anything at all. That girl is a complete mystery to me…
The door opened right after the barking became silent.
"Hello, Laila." She said before the beauty of the emerald eyed girl floored her once again.
"Hi." came the slightly unfriendly response.
Melissa coughed as she was feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Tom asked me to drive you to the shop." She explained, trying to look cheerful instead of irritated.
"I know. I told him I didn't need a babysitter."
"Oh, but you sure would look cute in a babygrow." What the… why am I stating such nonsense… Already mentally scolding herself, Laila snapped back at her even more annoyed, but also with a light blush on her cheeks.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Sorry, I had too few hours of sleep." Trying to explain herself, Melissa couldn't help but look bashfully at the ground.
"Busy night, huh…"
Now, what's that supposed to mean?! Not really knowing how to respond to the ambivalent comment, Melissa decided not to go into it.
"Well, since I am already here maybe you might reconsider if you want take the offer?" She said without faking her voice this time. She directly looked back into the angry green orbs but this time she held the gaze without faltering. After a few seconds, the girl gave in.
"Fine. Wait a second." Laila finally said before going back inside. The door remained half open, and Melissa could hear the black-haired girl talking to someone, but after she understood the words 'be a good boy and watch the house' she was sure that she was talking to the dog. She tried to peek inside the house a little, but the only thing she could see was a white hallway without any photos or decoration. A moment later Laila was back and closed the door, gesturing her to get over to the car.
The drive was mostly silent. Melissa had no idea how to start a useful conversation. The raven-haired girl seemed to be more grumpy than usual, and it was obvious that she was not up for small talk. And so, she turned the radio louder than necessary in the hopes of lightening the atmosphere a little. When they arrived at the shop, Laila got wordlessly out of the car, leaving Melissa behind like a cab driver. I better stay in the car until she comes back. She doesn't look like she's up for company today.
Focusing on the door of the bike shop, she was a bit startled when it suddenly was swung open with a loud bang. An even more pissed Laila stormed outside of it making her way towards the car. The emerald-eyed girl let out two angry huffs after she got back into the car.
"What's wrong?" Melissa asked out of reflex.
"They haven't fixed it by now."
"But didn't they say it wasn't that bad."
"Yeah, but they made a checkup and it needs a new filter. They didn't have that type and ordered one. It won't arrive until this afternoon. So my bike won't be ready before 6 pm."
"Yes…" The face of her opposite sent off a mixture of anger and helplessness.
"And you're making such a grumpy face only because of these few hours?" Melissa couldn't help but chuckle as she watched the biker-girl pouting like a toddler over something so trivial.
"It's not funny." came the low but still cute response.
"I'm sorry, but you look absolutely adorable when you pout like that."
The raven-haired girl was blushing in all shades of red, but the whole situation did make the mood much lighter than before.
"Do you have classes today, Laila?"
"No, English only…"
"… starts next week. I know." Melissa said, completing the sentence with a smile and added:
"So, how about we kill some time together until your bike is ready? I am free."
"Not really…" It was more of a mumble and so Melissa wasn't quite sure if she had understood the words right. But even if she had heard the girl right, it still didn't make sense to her.
"Sorry?" She said, in the hope of having the other girl repeat her answer, but she wasn't lucky this time.
"Nothing." was the answer Laila finally gave away before turning away, and staring outside the window.
"Do you already have plans with Tom?" Melissa originally had no intention of bringing him up, but she didn't want the conversation to die away again. "We could invite him too if you want." I should really go back to my old self, and start thinking before talking.
"No." came the one-syllabic and cold answer. The awkward moment that followed afterwards seemed to be endless until Laila finally broke the silence again. "I mean no, he has a tournament."
"Ah, right. He mentioned something like that on the phone." Melissa said, waving the misunderstanding off. "Do you have anything in mind that you always wanted to do but never had the chance to?"
The deep green eyes were practically screaming 'a lot' right into her face, and even more into her heart, but the voice of the raven-haired girl only answered with: "Nothing in particular." And just when Melissa was trying to think of something that would be interesting for the girl in the passenger seat, Laila spoke again. "Is there anything you always wanted to do?"
"Yes." The British-girl answered without giving it a second thought as she was too lost in the oceans of the magnificent emerald in front of her. She somehow felt so drawn to it as if those eyes were magnets.
"What is it?" Laila asked, breaking the silence anew.
"A lot of things, but for now… how about 'The Ropeway'?" She didn't know why suddenly this idea popped up in her head, but she didn't mind either. It wasn't a lie. She always wanted to go there for a cable car ride.
"Yes, there's a cable car over the Rasburn River it's called 'The Ropeway'. It's in the suburbs, but I've heard it is high enough to see the skyline of the city. I've always wanted to do this, but Greg isn't good with heights."
"Okay. Then Ropeway it is. Under one condition." Laila seemed much more at ease now, and Melissa was so happy about it that she was willing to fulfill any condition.
"And that is?" She asked full of curiosity, but without a hint of doubt.
"Let's not try to kill time for it ticks away anyway."
Melissa didn't know what to reply as the lonesome look on the girl's face suddenly was back again, and so she only nodded before she started the engine.
After the girls had arrived safely by the Ropeway they bought a two-way ticket, and they entered one of the little red-painted baskets.
"I've always thought these things were bigger. How are four people supposed to fit in here?" The brown-eyed beauty noted as she sat down opposite to Laila.
"I've hardly seen more than two people entering one since we arrived."
"You're right." She looked around, and, for the first time, she realized that the raven-haired girl was absolutely right.
"Maybe, it's one of those couple things." Laila said more to herself than to Melissa, but still the British-girl felt as if she should explain herself.
"Yeah." She said, unable to repress a nervous giggle. "I guess. Sorry, for dragging you in."
"No need to apologize. I should be apologizing for my rough behavior earlier."
"It's okay. We all have bad days."
As the girls were almost halfway there, a strange screeching could be heard. It got louder within a second and suddenly all the baskets stopped.
"What happened?" Melissa said to no one in particular and was immediately answered with a loudspeaker announcement:
'We're experiencing technical difficulties at the moment. Please stay calm. We'll fix the problem as soon as possible.'
"Looks like our lucky day." Melissa said with a reassuring smile towards Laila.
"How do you do that?"
"Be so cheerful all the time." Somehow the features of the raven-haired girl's face had become sad again, and Melissa couldn't help but think it had something to do with her being overly cheerful around the silent girl.
"I don't know. It has become somehow natural I guess. After being student-council for so long and listening to the problems of teenagers, you learn to hide your emotions in order to cheer people up. But to be honest, I don't mind being stuck here with you."
"I see." Laila said and turned her gaze towards the horizon. "You don't have to do that around me. Don't be an actor. Just be yourself. You're much more beautiful that way." The words sent a shiver down Melissa's spine. The rapid beating of her heart made it hard to concentrate on finding an appropriate way to go on.
"And you? You aren't as cold and one-syllabic as you act either." She said hoping to not scare the girl away.
"What makes you think that?"
"Your eyes… Burning eyes that seem to tear up the world. They are full of emotions."
A light smile crossed the raven-haired girl's lips, and although Melissa didn't know what it meant she was happy about it. Not wanting to let the conversation die away, she added:
"Was that your dog this morning?"
"Yes. Lex has been my best friend for the last years. I'm sorry that he barked at you. He's not good with strangers."
"Just like his owner." Melissa chuckled.
"I guess you're right." Laila said almost apologetically. "Most people are simply unlikeable. I've barely met anyone who isn't a complete idiot."
"The college must be lovely for you then since it's full of them."
"I have to say the students I've met so far are not particularly on my list of favorite people… but you are." While voicing the last words, Laila had caught the gaze of Melissa again. They were staring into each other's eyes for quite some time until suddenly the text message tone of Melissa's mobile broke the magic of that moment. Laila shifted her gaze back to the sky while Melissa searched for her phone.
'I've talked to Tom. Plan is set in motion. He will ask Laila out for dinner tomorrow, and then he'll go with the classic first-kiss-in-front-of-the-door-kiss. Now, it's your turn. I'm counting on you. Love you. Greg'
"I guess we're sharing another sunset together." Laila said after Melissa had put the disturbance back in her pocket. "Thank you for bringing me here, and for showing me two beautiful sunsets in such a short time. I had almost forgotten the warmth of it." And just when the brown-eyed beauty wanted to reply something to this, Laila's phone went off. The girl looked on the display and then back to her.
Of course, he's probably going to ask her out for tomorrow. "Go ahead." Melissa said, trying not to give away that she already knew what it was about. The conversation didn't last long, and Melissa only paid attention to the important parts.
"Okay, if you insist. I'll pick you up at eight then. Bye." Laila said before flipping the phone shut.
"Date?" The chestnut-haired girl asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
"Seems so." The tone wasn't excited at all, and Melissa still had no idea what to make of the relationship of those two.
"Can I ask you something?" She said, not really knowing where she was aiming.
"Don't worry. I am not planning to hurt Tom or anything."
"Do you like him?" The other girl took quite a while to answer the question. But when she started talking her eyes lost a bit of their loneliness for a second.
"He is an idiot. But actually, a very nice and caring idiot." A smile followed the words, and somehow it seemed as if Laila did really care about that clumsy guy. Melissa knew she should be happy, but somehow she just felt a strange emptiness in her guts.
"So, are you in love with him?" Her voice was sounding dull, and she already hated herself for the question, but before her opposite could answer, the screeching suddenly came back even louder than before, and in the next moment, the baskets started moving again. The right moment was left behind halfway on the ropeway along with their solitary moment of bliss and containment. Laila didn't bother to answer, and Melissa didn't find the courage to bring up the topic again, and so they sat down silently for the rest of the ride, watching as the sun hid behind the earth in a vortex of burning red.