When the outside temperature rises

And the meaning is oh so clear

One thousand and one yellow daffodils

Begin to dance in front of you - oh dear

Are they trying to tell you something ?

You're missing that one final screw

You're simply not in the pink my dear

To be honest you haven't got a clue...

I'm Going Slightly Mad

Jay Paule

NaNoWriMo 2012

Title and lyrics from Queen's 'I'm Going Slightly Mad'

It started out simple. Simple, and easy, and fantastic, like nothing could go wrong. In Aaron's opinion, this was the way it should be.

His grades were almost perfect. His was majoring in something he'd always been passionate about, something he loved, and it showed in his GPA, especially considering how little of his time he spent studying. He didn't need a job, thanks to his parents paying all of his expenses, so he had plenty of free time. He even had a girlfriend, miracle of miracles. She was pretty, and bright, and, well, she could certainly have a little less energy, but that didn't make her any less great.

Everything was perfect, and Aaron wanted it to stay that way. Aaron didn't always get what he wanted, however. Usually he did. He was spoiled and proud of it, after all, but there was the rare occasion when things didn't quite go his way, and he had to throw a fit about it.

For now, however, everything was good. Aaron had to wonder, though: how long would it stay that way?

The bed shifted, stirring him. He clung to sleep, curling up into a ball and pulling the covers closer. Someone giggled happily, far too happily for how early it must be, which meant it could be only one person.

He slowly blinked awake, eyes focusing on the best sight he could think to wake up to: Jenna climbing out of bed, naked, save for one of his shirts. She had to wear it like a dress, as it almost reached her knees, but Jenna looked beautiful no matter what she wore.

He smiled lazily. He had the best girlfriend ever. Even if she did wake him up at six AM every time she stayed over.

"You awake?" she asked as she pulled clothes from her overnight bag.

"Mmhm," he hummed, rolling onto his back and stretching as far as he could. His fingers bumped against the headboard and his toes caught in the sheets before he went limp, sprawling across the bed.

Jenna wandered into the bathroom, not bothering to close the door as she changed into actual clothes and started working on her hair, much to Aaron's delight.

He could get up now. He could drag himself out of bed and get ready for the day with his girlfriend. Or he could sleep for another hour. Hard decision. A decision Jenna made for him as she came back and pulled open the curtains, letting the sun flood the room, casting it in impossibly bright light. The dark blue color scheme of the bedroom provided some relief from the blinding light, but Aaron still felt like his retinas were burning.

Aaron groaned, shoving his head under his pillow. "Why would you do that?"

"It's time to get up," Jenna said, gently prying the pillow from his hands.

Aaron sighed dramatically, but managed to get out of bed and trudge over to the bathroom. Hesitantly, he faced the mirror.

His dark hair was an absolute mess: strands sticking out this way and that, that stupid cowlick shooting up like a flare, and part zig zagged. The loose strands tickled at his cheeks and jaw, and Aaron shook his head to make it stop. Dark circles had formed under his eyes in true college student fashion. He glanced over at Jenna, whose short red hair already looked perfect, and bright blue eyes were clear as day.

What a girl as cute as Jenna was doing with him, Aaron would never know.

His shirt was missing, he realized abruptly. His cognitive faculties took longer to wake up than the rest of him did, so he couldn't quite make the connection between Jenna wearing his shirt and him waking up shirtless. Not after only a few minutes of wakefulness. Instead of dwelling on it, he brushed his teeth, and watched as Jenna spiked up her hair with floral smelling hair gel.

"What's your first class today?" he asked as he ventured back to his room to find acceptable clothes.

"Life drawing, then 3D animation."

"No writing classes today?"

Writing: his major, a passion they shared, and how they met. Aaron, of course, took mostly English classes. Jenna was majoring in animation, but minoring in English, so they shared a few classes. Not as many as Aaron would've liked, but enough for them to spend time together.

She smiled apologetically. "Sorry, not today. I start with creative writing tomorrow, though."

Aaron brightened as he pulled on a tee-shirt. He didn't really care for creative writing, but at least he shared the class with Jenna. He snagged a random button down from his closet and shrugged it on, not bothering to button it.

When he made his way back to the bathroom, Jenna had started working on her makeup, and had plugged the straightening iron in for Aaron. He smiled at that. His girlfriend had familiarized herself with his morning routine. That could only be a good thing.

"For the record," Jenna said, "I find it kind of funny that your hair takes longer to do than mine."

Aaron smirked. "Is that bad?"

"No, just amusing. I always said I'd never date a guy who used more hair products than I did."

"Yet, here you are," Aaron laughed, not without fondness.

"Yeah. Here I am. I just couldn't resist your charms," she deadpanned.

"I'm the most charming guy I've ever met," Aaron said proudly.

"So humble, too."

Aaron scoffed. "Feeling sarcastic this morning, are we?"

She shrugged. "Yours is contagious."

Silence passed between them as they continued their morning routines, until they reconvened in the kitchen for breakfast.

"You doing anything this weekend?" He asked, hugging her from behind.

She giggled, hands dancing affectionately along his arms. "No, I'm free. Why?"

"I'm going upstate to visit my parents, and I was wondering if you'd like to come with me."

Jenna tensed, hands freezing. "To... to meet your parents?"

"Yeah." Aaron furrowed his brow, pulling back from the hug. This was supposed to be a milestone, wasn't it? Meeting each other's parents? They'd been dating for almost six months now, approaching a record for both of them. They were starting to get serious. Was that a bad thing? "Is that okay?"

Jenna turned around, eyeing him suspiciously. "Why do you want me to meet your parents?"

"Because I've told them about you, and they want to meet you," he lied. "And anyway, I think it's just... y'know, time. If you don't want to-"

"I don't think it's time," she interrupted him, frowning. "It's too soon."

"Too soon? Next week is our six month anniversary. We've been seeing each other for almost half a year. Personally, this is the longest and best relationship I've ever been in, and I wouldn't mind getting a little more serious. Just a little."

"No." Jenna shook her head. "I'm sorry. It's just too soon." She grabbed her purse and fished out her car keys. "I've gotta go. I need to get in early."

She fled before Aaron could even say goodbye, leaving him to wonder what exactly he'd done wrong.

Aaron spent the time between Jenna's sudden escape and his first class of the day wandering around his little apartment, mulling over what had happened. He did a patrol of the tiny kitchen, hugging the perimeter, running his hand over the cold, white countertop as he went.

If Aaron were to describe the kitchen in one word, it would be 'minimalistic', or, perhaps, 'industrial'. All pale colors and no embellishments, only the necessities. The only splash of color in the room was the dull blue table against a wall opposite the counter, with two matching chairs.

Aaron pushed the chairs in distractedly. He always tidied up when he was upset, a habit he'd had for as long as he could remember. Cleaning always took his mind off things.
He ventured further into the apartment, hoping to find more things to clean.

In the living room, he'd left a glass on the coffee table, and there were crumbs on the couch beyond it. He frowned at the mess, shifting his attention to that instead of how he'd screwed up as a boyfriend yet again. He scooped up the glass, and held it to the edge of the couch as a crumb receptacle. As he swept the crumbs into the cup, he surveyed the rest of the living room.

The large windows on the far wall never stayed clean for long, but today, they were spotless. The bookshelves that bordered the room were all perfectly organized: hard covers on top, paperbacks on the bottom, and everything sorted alphabetically. Even his desk, bathed in light from the window it sat against, was free from clutter for once.

What about the carpet? If there were crumbs on the couch there must be some in the carpet. Or, perhaps not. Even after looking closely, he couldn't find anything to vacuum up.

He grumbled incomprehensibly to himself as he dumped the glass in the sink. How was he supposed to distract himself without anything to clean? He stalked back around the apartment, noting distastefully that the open floorplan left him without any doors to slam. He glanced at the TV hung on the wall in front of the coffee table. That could distract him, but not for long. He had plenty of books to read, but that itself was a problem. By the time he'd settled on one, it would be time to leave. He'd already packed his laptop away in his favorite blue messenger bag, so he couldn't even troll any online forums.

He officially had nothing to do except sulk about Jenna.

He didn't see her again until the next morning in their shared creative writing class. When he sat down beside her, she apologized, but refused to tell him what went wrong.

"It was just too soon," she said, shrugging.

"Too soon to meet my parents, or to get serious in general?"

"I don't know. Both." She sounded annoyed. Aaron couldn't remember the last time she'd been annoyed with him. Jenna was usually so laid back.

"You aren't mad at me, are you?" He asked cautiously.

"I'm not mad," she promised, but she didn't look happy, either.

He tried to shrug it off, let it go, but he couldn't quite shake the feeling that something had gone irreversibly wrong.

"I just don't know what happened!" he said. "One moment she's perfectly happy, the next she looks like she's on the edge of breaking up with me, and all I did was invite her over here! What did I do? I don't understand." He leaned over, head in his hands.

His mother patted him on the back. "Everybody has a different pace when it comes to relationships," she reasoned. "If hers is a little slower than average, that's her problem. You'll either have to adjust, learn to live with it, or leave."

"I don't want to leave her," he mumbled mulishly.

"Then adjust. Wait."

"But what if she never wants to be serious? I'm not doing this for nothing. This isn't some sort of casual arrangement. We're going steady. The only logical outcome is to someday get serious."

Sonia toyed with her dark ponytail, twisting and twirling it as she thought. "You really want a future with this girl?"

He nodded eagerly. "I love her."

Sonia raised an eyebrow. "You think you've loved every girlfriend you've ever had. Even when you were little, and having a girlfriend just meant holding hands and having play dates, you always said you loved them."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I just think, maybe, you fall in love a little too easily."

"I do not," he grumbled. "I just really like Jenna. She's the best girlfriend I've ever had."

"That's the same thing you said about Stephanie. And Allison. And Jackie." She paused, considering. "And I think you said it about Nadia, too, but I'm not sure."

He sighed. "Yeah, I said it about Nadia. But that's beside the point!"

"What is the point?" Sonia asked, folding her hands in her lap patiently.

"What if Jenna never wants to be serious?"

"Then you either accept it or leave her." She pursed her lips, and a look of sympathy crossed her face. "The way I see it, those are your only options."

He pouted. "What if I don't like either of them?"

She shrugged. "Then I'm afraid you're screwed, sweetie."