"Here, this'll make you feel better." She hands me a warm bowl of... soup? I think it's soup.
"Why are you doing this? Last I checked, you and I didn't exactly end up on the best of term" I ask, suspicious of her.
"So? That doesn't change the fact that you got hit by a car, again." Her startling hazelnut eyes pierced mine like how they used to, but that was a lifetime ago.
"And…?" I gesture with my hand in a 'please do explain' motion. Promising myself that I wouldn't make the same mistake again. Internally beating out any rising hope that would betray me.
"I've taken care of you before when you got the flu, piece of cake. Right?" She rolls her eyes out of mirth. The corner of her lip slightly tug upward.
"And we haven't talked to each other in nearly 8 months, what changed?"
She takes her phone out and begins scrolling absent-mindedly," times change, and so do people, now eat the rest of your soup or else." I was genuinely confused now. I stay quiet and eat my soup. Cream of mushroom and chicken, she still remembers my favorite
I didn't know what to say, this was the closest we'd been in 8 months. Sitting at the foot of my bed. I wonder how she convinced my brother to let her into my room. Mostly I'd be avoiding her after the breakup. It didn't help that we had the same classes or that we were in band together. We were only together for a short time, but it was the most meaningful relationship I've been in. Of course, I had just recently moved out from my parents' house and I was feeling quite lonely. It shattered my heart when she broke up with me but, like how dad says, 'keep your head up and keep going'. We had stopped talking, stopped hanging in the same groups, pretty much we kept interactions with each other way below minimal. We had pretended that the other didn't exist. Even after getting hit by a car the first time, she didn't really say anything to me. Not that it mattered.
"You know, you don't have to be my nurse, it's not like I can't do anything." I softly say, a part of me wanted her gone, the other half screamed and wanted her to stay for a little bit longer. It felt like highschool again; without the screaming teenagers and pubescent hormones in the air.
"And what?" She retorts, "So you can go get yourself almost killed again? You're a magnet for getting into near-death situations, so no." I huff and cross my arms like a child. "You're such a brat sometimes," she giggles. She checks her phone, "it's almost 8, I gotta run but I'll see you tomorrow, 'kay?". She picks up her bag and leaves my room. I'm once again left alone in my room deep in thought.
"You actually came back," I say once she sets her stuff down at the foot of my bed. She takes out a package from her bag and puts it on my nightstand. She is wearing a cashmere blouse and denim short-shorts. Her hair is pulled up into a bun but there are a few strands of hair that frame her face.
"I did tell you that I'll see you tomorrow, last night, didn't I?" Emphasizing on the "didn't I?" I shrug, not saying anything at all. I really didn't know what to talk about at all, that was smooth, I think to myself. " So last night, my sister and her fiance were talking about kids," wait what? In all of my experience, when a girl brings up kids, does she want a family? We'd only just started talking again and she brought up kids?
" And how did that turn out?" Carefully, I tell myself.
" I didn't hear much -cuz I don't look for the tea like that-" she giggles "but anyways, they agreed that they're not ready for kids yet, but they might adopt sometime in the next few years, so I might become an aunt!"
"That's nice" I'm reminded of my cousins and their kids. I haven't thought about them in awhile. I hope they're okay.
"How about you?" She asks, " How did you sleep last night, how's your head doing?"
I purse my lips and shrug again. "Not too bad. My head isn't pounding too much and all that jazz," Why am I lying to her? I could barely sleep last night. My mantra was usually no thoughts, head empty but to see her last night in my room was what kept me up! Getting the chance to see her again, us talking in what I at least hope, a friendly manner, I was at a crossroads in my mind. What happened that pushed her to come see me? We had broken up, I got high and drunk, sent a bunch of embarrassing text messages, the whole nine yards. We hadn't spoken to each other ever since. Even after my accident, we still didn't talk. So what happened?
"What are you thinking about?" She breaks me out of my reverie. I shake my head and shrug. Why am I shrugging a lot?
"Nothing much" I don't break into detail.
"You have that look on your face, you know?" She tells me, " so what's on your mind?"
I lower my eyes because I don't want to look into hers. "Why are you here?" I ask, "We haven't talked at all for almost a year, even after I got hit by a car the first time, we still didn't talk, so what happened? What brings you here now?"
She lays her hand on the top of mine. "I made a mistake". I hate to admit it but I miss her touch. That simple human contact sent a spark of shivers up through my spine. "High school was a really rocky place, you know?" I nod in understanding. "And it was stupid of me to break up over text, I'm sorry about that."
I don't know if I can ever forgive her for anything. In the back of my head is arguing to forgive her. You guys are adults now, move on and get over it. Yet I can't bring myself to, my other half reminds me, you loved her so much that you forgot to hate yourself.
I shrug, "I understand," I tell her. I don't forgive her, yet. There's a tiny bit of sadistic pleasure within that I get from seeing her slightly uncomfortable. But at the same time, I know some of the fault lies with me. I shouldn't put all the blame on her, but I want to. "We both had a lot of things going on for us."
"I know that, but that doesn't excuse what I did though" She says, edging closer to me. "I was afraid of how you would react if I broke up in person." She starts rambling, "I know that said that we could be friends, but I didn't want any contact because of how broken-hearted you looked."
"I wasn't brok-"
"I could easily tell that you were." She continues. "You did a great job hiding it from everyone else, but I could see it in the way you acted afterwards." She was right. I may have hidden it well enough, but everything felt like a facade. I could act normal as if nothing had changed but it felt as if there was a gaping hole blown into me as if I had taken a gun shot straight into my chest.
"That still doesn't explain why you're back here with me," I retort, "for four months I have been trying to get over you and see you as nothing more than a thorn to pull out of my side." I could feel all the resentment beginning to rise up like acid. "Then when I got hit by a car and lost my memories of you, I was so happy- well not necessarily happy but I didn't have our history weighing me down. Next thing I hear is that you're resentful of me from a mutual friend of ours for some fucking reason, even though I just died and came back to life. Then, you remember that basketball game? That's when everything about you came crashing back to me and by fucking god that shit hurt like hell, cause you know why?" I told myself to stop and reel it in back, but I could still feel all the anger, hurt, and resentment I had buried all those months ago erupting like a volcano. "Because it felt like it was happening all over again, all those months of progress and work all of that fucking gone in an instant because of you," god that felt good.
"I'm so. So. So sorry for everything." She whispers. Her eyes looking at the floor as if she weren't crying.
"You don't get to be sorry, you could've at least had some courage to break it with me in person, but nooooo, you had to do it over text, coward"
She gets up from my bed, and starts to pack up her stuff. "I'm sorry, I really am." She slings her purse over her shoulder and pauses at the doorway,"I wish I could take it all back, you know?"
I can hear her going down the stairs and the door opens and closes. There's thumps going up the stairs and someone slowly opens the 's Trevor, "I take it everything went well?" He asks. Too angry to respond, I just shake my head. Crossing my arms like a spoiled child, thankfully he gets the message and closes the door.
God, when did romance become so complicated? As a younger teen I could just find someone with mutual liking and we could get together, if it didn't work then it didn't work; take it or leave it. But with her why was it so fucking complicated? At first I chalked it up to good ol' hormonal pining, but this 'hormonal pining' lasted way more than a few weeks so what the hell. But at the same time, it felt as if there was a heavy weight that had finally been lifted after going at her. I may have not necessarily gotten closure, but goddamn that felt good.
Did I make a mistake? Should I call and apologize? What the hell do I apologize about? Hey, I'm sorry for coming at you like a youtube comment thread. Yeah, that would go over well. Yet I knew that I had been kind of unfair to her and not given her a chance to explain herself. I grab my phone and open my contacts, she had given me her number the night before. I find myself staring at it, would she answer if I called? Or had I burned that bridge? Fuck it, I press dial. The phone rings for a few seconds and she picks up.
"Hello?" I can hear her say.
"Hey it's me, I just wanna say I'm sorry about that," we may have been talking over the phone but I still feel a burning sensation in my face.
"No, don't be." Her voice sounds clipped, she's still upset. Of course she is, I was rude and I borderline yelled at her. "You're right, I shouldn't have been acting the way I had."
"I mean-you're right in that area, but I wanna say sorry also" Stop rambling Josh, I tell myself. "I was borderline shouting at you and I shouldn't have been like that."
She sniffles, "No-no it's fine,look, I-um, gotta go okay?"
"Wait! Wait!,"what am I doing? that should've been the end of that. "Can I make it up to you, please?" I'm almost begging.
"Sure," she sounds almost cheerful again, "and how are you gonna do that?"
"Well, I'm feeling quite better than I did two days ago, so you wanna get cup of coffee later today at 5?" Coffee? This isn't a coffee shop fanfic."My treat."
"Well, I can't say no to free coffee," she says. I feel as if she's smiling now, "so yeah, I'll take your offer on coffee, Starbucks?
"Alright, well I will see you later then," she hangs up, and I put my phone down. Good job you fucktard, you're on a slope now, have a round of applause while you're at it too. I shake my head to clear up my thoughts. I check the time, it's 2:42pm. Well at least I still have time to wallow and regret what I just did. For the first time in two days I get out of bed. Oh shit, as I feel all the blood rush into my head. This is where the fun begins, why did I have to have to get hit by a car again?
The coffee shop is bustling with activity as I get a table for two. You can still back out and ditch her, I tell myself.
And do what? Be a pussy and cry about it? You two are just going as friends. Well, at least that's what I hope it was. But I made a commitment, so it was my responsibility to stick to it. A coffee is slid in front of me and I look to my side, it's a former classmate.
"Hey stranger, come here often?" There's a tad of sarcasm and I scoff.
"Hahaha, very funny," as I take the coffee from him, "but I'm here on a da- I mean meeting with someone, knock it off man." I take a sip, "thanks for the coffee though."
"Yeah well, you're welcome and hopefully it goes well with whatever you're doing here." He leaves and goes off to bother some other person.
I continue to sip my free coffee as I watch the door. A few minutes pass, my shoulders tense with anxiety. The door opens, wow. She. Looks. Stunning. She was dressed differently from earlier today. She had switched from short-denim capris to jeans and a strawberry cardigan over a white tank-top. Her hair was tied up into a messy bun but it gave off the effect of a parisian artist in college. Thankfully I wasn't gaping at her like a fish out of water.
"Hey," as she pulls out a chair from her side of the table. She glances at my mug, "so where's mine?" she jokes.
I take a sip, "alright, so what do you want?" I get up from my chair and pull out my wallet. She gets up and comes with me to the counter. The barista looks between the two of us, and a tiny hint of a smirk tugs at the corner of her lips.
"Yeah, can I get-um, a grande caramel latte?" I pay for her drink, wait at the counter, pick it up and we go back to our table. Except our table is now taken by a pair of old men talking about golf or their lawn. Oof. We look at each other.
"Wanna go somewhere else?" I ask her. The two geezers still in an intense debate over whether the composition of grass affects their swing.
"Sure, where at?"
"Your choice, I was thinking maybe the curb or some other table that isn't taken".
"How about my car? I can take you home since I'm guessing that you walked here." I was taken aback by that offer. Last time I was in that car was the night before we broke up.
"Uh, sure I guess," I shrug. We walk out to the parking lot to her beat-up toyota. We sit in silence on the top of the hood of her car drinking our coffees. "It's a nice sunset out there don't you think?" You're really gonna go with that topic.
"It sure is, I gotta admit I never noticed how well the colors blended in together, I think,"
"What about that weather last night? Not too bad I'd say," what the hell are you, some suburban middle-aged dad?
"So…" She trails off. "So there's a lot I need to talk to you about," I feel a chill crawl up my spine. I'm pretty sure everyone gets a minor panic attack when they hear 'I need to talk to you' or some variation of that accursed phrase.
"Well-" I down the last of my coffee, "what do you need to talk about?" I stare ahead at nothing, steeling myself for whatever she has to say.
She takes a deep breath, "well um, I don't know how to say this-actually I do, but I don't know if I can say it," I try to shut down my emotions but a pool of anxiety begins to form in my stomach.
"It can't be too bad now can it," I chuckle.
"I want us to get back together," she blurts out. A bit of leftover coffee falls down the wrong pipe and I'm hunching over, coughing.
"I'm sorry, what?" I need to hear that again. Surely mine ears doth deceive me?
"I said that I wanted us to get back together," she said, but this time with conviction in her voice. I blink once. Twice. Well shit, I guess you got what you wanted huh, "that's kinda why I was visiting you in the first place."
"Oh um, well I had my suspicions about that but I didn't wanna make assumptions, you know?" Shit, shit, shit.
"Hear me out first, please and what I'm about to say, please don't get mad." I truly look into her eyes for the first time. They're still the same deep warm shade of hazelnut. God, how could I have let her go in the first place? "When we first got together, I didn't think you were gonna be as committed as you were going to be, I know I promised that we had the rest of the school year to figure things out, no rush and all that, but I just wanted to have sex and leave it at that, it's mostly the reason why I invited you over to my house the night before, you know,
And when you came over but didn't do anything with me, I thought you were kinda being a prude, so that's why I left. I wanted to act like we never happened so I ignored all your texts and calls. Then when you got hit by that car, I tried to visit you then, but you were too out of it to recognize me. I wanted to stay and sit by you, but your brother came by and told me to leave. Then you came back to school, but I heard from several people that you had some kind of amnesia and you didn't recognize me. I wanted so badly to come and talk to you, but it hurt to look at you and see you not recognize me. I was mad, so I moved on, or at least I thought I did. Then, you ended up getting hit by a car again thankfully it wasn't too bad, and the first thing that came on my mind was to see you, and here we are I guess,"
The whole time she's speaking I'm chewing the insides of my cheeks. "So what made you come back?" I ask, " You told me everything I already know, except it's from your perspective."
She shrugs and purses her lips. "Honestly, I'm not sure, I don't understand why I said yes to having coffee with you, I don't know what's right or wrong anymore at this point." Ha, you and me both, she pulls out a piece of paper from her pocket and hands it to me. It's a letter I gave her all those months ago, it's all wrinkled up and the writing is faded. But I can feel the indentation of each word I wrote. "I found this while I was cleaning my room a while back, I thought I threw it away but when I read it, you wrote 'I promise to do right by you and I will always be there for you no matter what', did you really mean that?"
I stare at the piece of paper in my hands, so this is it huh, I'd forgotten that I wrote this. I wrote some cheesy romantic stuff in it, the words had mostly faded out but I could still read what I wrote:
God, I don't know how to describe it, but you are the tempest to my sea. You came into my life like how lightning strikes the earth, quickly but forever leaving a mark for all to see. My heart aches to see you and I hope that one day, I will see your face every morning as I wake up- I cringe at my writing, that was borderline obsessive and creepy of me- and I promise you, that I will do right by you and be there no matter what the cost. I hope you feel the same way- I stop reading. I don't know what I was thinking writing this. I sounded like a lovesick 7th grader the night before a middle school dance desperate to get a date. There's more that I wrote but I had to stop reading, looking at any old piece of writing always kinda made me want to vomit.
"Look-" I begin to say.
"Did you really mean what you wrote, Josh?" She ask. I pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh.
"Look, when I wrote this, I was high off my chain," I say, "but I did mean everything I wrote, well at least I did meant it at the time," the sun slowly sets behind the horizon, and I pause for a moment before speaking again, "I don't know if I still have feelings for you, or if I want us to get back together, plus what guarantee can you prove to me that you actually want to get back together and stay together for more than at least, two weeks-besides this letter?" I pointedly ask her. Truthfully, I did want us to get back together, but I was tired of this; the heartbreaks, the emotional baggage, feeling like I gave more than what I got.
"I can't," she lets out a defeated sigh and her shoulders slump.
"To be honest with you, I actually want us to get back together but-" I stare at the horizon, it's dusk now, "I don't know if that's a good idea right now, I mean, like at least, can we just be friends for now? Like actual friends?" I ask, "you know, not like we just ignore each other but remain nice and all that, but you know- like we talk to each other or check up on the other when things aren't okay, you know, those kinds of things in general."
"Yeah, that sounds nice," she smiles sadly. I awkwardly pat her shoulder, well it's not like you royally screwed things up this time. I check the time on my watch, it's almost 7pm. "Do you want to go home now?" It's nightfall, the moon faintly shines a crescent shape.
"Sure, yes please" we get off the hood of her car and throw our empty cups away. "You okay?" I ask her, as we get into her car.
"Yeah, I'm good," she says, she sounds slightly cheerful now,yet it felt forced. We drive in silence, thankfully it's a short ride, and we pull up to my house. We get out and walk up to the porch.
"So," I say.
"So what?" She asks. Silence fills the air, save for the chirping of crickets in the shrubs.
"So this is goodbye for now, I guess?" I say. Hey, it could've been worse.
"I guess so, but I'll see you tomorrow after work?" Please.
"Sure I can cook something up when you come by, what time do you get off?"
"Around 5-ish, and I look forward to your cooking," we awkwardly stand there for a bit.
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then," come on, get inside now. Ugh, why do I feel like I just got off from a homecoming dance?
"Yeah, I'll see you then," I don't know why, but I lean forward to give her a hug. She hugs me back, and we're standing there embracing each other. A second passes by, another second goes by. She rests her head on my shoulders, and mine is on top of hers. Okay, you can let her go now, but I don't. She lifts her head and we look into each other's eyes. The overhead fluorescents highlight her eyes. I can feel myself getting lost in them, no Josh. NO! I scream at myself, but I lose this battle. She's thinking the same thing as her hand leaves my back and cradles the back of my head and tilts her head to the side. Time slows down but yet goes so fast. As one hand lowers to hold her back, and the other hand goes to the back of her neck, and I tilt my head to the other side. I close my eyes, and we melt into each other's lips. Oh god, what have I done. I can feel my heart beating loudly in my ears, but it feels like nothing in comparison to kissing her again. It only lasts a moment, but that moment feels like eternity. I'm weightless, I'm on fire, I'm drowning for air, yet we're still melting into each other, our kiss deepens and reality disappears. I feel something I haven't allowed myself to feel in a long time: Hope. We finally pull out from our kiss, gasping for air. My head clears up, I need to let go but I still don't. She's still holding on, and rests her head on my chest again.
"I've waited so long for this," I murmur to myself.
"Me too," she whispers. We're still holding onto each other, not wanting to let go, not wanting to lose each other. Finally we let go, gingerly as if this is a dream no one wants to wake up from. "I should get going, I need to get home before my sister calls,"
"Yeah, you should," I say. She walks to her car and I watch her pull out from the driveway. I unlock the door and head inside.
The lights are off, everyone else is in their rooms sleeping or minding their own business. It's quiet but my mind is screaming, I feel a torrent of emotions coursing through as I get undressed and ready for bed. WHAT THE HELL! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU! GOD DAMMIT JOSH! NO NO NO NO NO NO AAAAAAHHHHHHH! I check my phone for any notifications as I get into bed. I have a message from her 'thanks for the coffee, I had fun today ;), We still on for tomorrow?' (9:36pm) Sent about half an hour ago. Well we're we? Where did this leave us? I had so many questions to think about, too many to answer. My thumbs were dancing as I tried thinking of a reply to send. 'Sure!' no, that sounded too enthusiastic. 'Of course!' no, that sounded too formal for my liking. Ugh, what to say? After nine minutes, I sent my response, 'yeah, I'll see you tomorrow then' (9:42pm). I put my headphones on, and listen to variations of the voice of lego Yoda's death scream until I fall asleep.
Cold, that was how he always felt in the November weather. The howl of the oncoming winter wind was almost deafening. He lit the cigar that gave off a sweet musky scent of strawberries and tobacco. Inhale, the rush of nicotine to his brain was a welcomed sensation. Tonight was the big premiere of the concert in front of everyone. He tightens his jacket and scarf around himself and continues to walk towards the venue. Passing by a church, wait, why does it feel familiar somehow? He tries to look around but his body continues to walk past by it. Odd, there was a sensation of danger in the air but where was the danger coming from? Deciding to ignore it, he continued to walk on. Checking the time on his watch, it's almost up. The night air nips and bites as he passes by a church. He crosses the street, only to realize his mistake too late. The car screeches, attempting to brake but it's useless. Rooted to the ground not from fear, but from failing to register that the car was about to hit him. They collide into one another. Weightless, the sensation of gravity goes missing as he is knocked into the air and bounces off onto the concrete. Once, then twice, he goes limp, oddly the absence of pain concerns him, as he becomes unconscious, the world around him slowly blacking out into a mix of reds. Then darkness, an infinitesimal abyss, so cold, so empty, it comforted him. Liberated him even, free from the mess of life.
I come up gasping for air, my bed sheets stained with the stench of sweat. Good lord, I haven't dreamt about my accident in a while. Why did it happen again? I put it out of mind and check the time, it's 4:33am. The glare from my phone blinds me and I quickly lower the brightness through squinted eyes. I'm still covered in a thin layer of sweat despite the air conditioner blowing 50 degrees. My heart beats fast as if I just ran a marathon and my head is too awake now for me to try and fall back asleep. With being unable to sleep, I might as well head to the kitchen.
My feet slap against the cool tiles of the kitchen floor when I get a drink of water. The low hum of the fridge fills the silence when I look at what to cook. Hmm, damn all I have are pizza rolls and a single pint of ice cream. Making a mental list of groceries to buy, I'm reminded that I should buy some ingredients for later tonight. What to cook though? Running through a list of recipes I know how to cook, the only thing that comes to mind is curry. Damn, does she even like curry? It was either that or some half-assed baked chicken recipe from a church gathering that used mainly salt and pepper- which was already bland as it was, but to add raisins? That was rubbing salt on the wound. Ha, pun intended. Curry sounded better, but she did say to surprise her. So it wasn't like I could ask.
Going to the living room, sitting on the couch, I stare at my phone looking at some other recipes. A few minutes later, my brother comes out and stares at me. "Hey I'm gonna go to the store and buy shredded cheese, wanna come?"
I shrug, "eh sure, lemme go get cleaned up first," as I stand up, he grabs my phone and looks through it.
"Ooh, I'd recommend filet mignon, who's coming?" He asks. I grab my phone out of his hands before he can see more.
"No one in particular," shoving my phone into my pocket.
"Dude, don't tell me your ex is coming for dinner," he groans.
"Nah dude chill, she'll come around 5ish or so, you guys will be out so yeah,"
"Oh yeah that reminds me, so what went down last night?" He asks. "You went out without telling anyone, all you did was send a text saying 'going out, be back soon'".
"That is true," I say.
"Yes it is, so where did you go last night?" I don't say anything and look at an interesting spot on the floor. "Dude, please don't tell me you went on a date with her, goddamnit Josh."
"Okay, it wasn't a date, just a friendly- and emphasis on the friendly- hangout," I get defensive. Yeah and that kiss last night was totally a friendly thing to do wasn't it? "Besides, all we did was go get coffee and went home after that". Technically, that was true, from a certain point of view.
"Dude, you went to go coffee together?" he deadpans, "I've heard enough, that was a date." He playfully smacks my shoulder, what is it really a date though? It's not like we went out to have fun together, we'd just talked. That was the extent of it. Nevermind that was a lie; we did kiss though, which only confused me more."-disappointed in you, Josh."
Oh shit, I must've zoned out because I automatically say "sorry dad, I'll do better next time," Trevor looks at me and shakes his head.
"Dude, you are simping for her again. I thought we had this discussion already."
I sigh, "I'm not simping, I just have a lot on mind right now."
"Like what?" He has a shit eating grin on his face, "whatcha got on your mind if you're not simping?"
"Hmm let's see, oh yeah for starters, I need to email my boss about work, uh-I need to go grocery shopping, oh and also, I need to call someone about some stuff." Trevor looks at me, as if deciding whether I was lying or not, or maybe to bodyslam onto the sofa.
"Okay dude whatever you say, anyways come on, I'm craving some shredded cheese." He goes back to his room to look for his keys. Leaving me to ponder on my situation. I go get ready and meet up with him at the doorway.
Thank god for 24/7 grocery stores. It's only 7am so there's barely anyone around. We go our separate ways so he can go get as much cheese as he wants without judgement from me, and for me to buy whatever ingredients I need for my dinner plans with Nashawna. I've decided to cook something simple instead. No need to use up all that effort and money for some extravagant delicacy. After buying all the necessary ingredients, I check for Trevor in the dairy aisle. Dear god, he has 5 family sized bags of cheddar cheese and 2 jugs of milk. "I will laugh at you when you end up going to the bathroom." I say.
"Being lactose intolerant isn't going to stop me," he states as if his digestive tract won't be punishing him.
"Yeah, but the plumbing company will" I say, "they're tired of you blocking up the pipes with your bullshit, and I say that both as a metaphor and literally."
"Nothing will ever stand in the way of my love for dairy, accept that." I shrug and shake my head in acceptance. We head to self checkout, head home, and my last glimpse of Trevor includes him opening a gallon-sized milk jug and drinking straight from the container. Heading to my room, I jump onto my bed and pull out my phone. No notifications. It's 10 in the morning and I actually don't have a lot to do at the moment. I snuggle into my blankets and promptly fall asleep.
"Wow this is really good! How'd you make this?" Nashawna exclaims after tasting the steak. For tonight I had cooked prime rib cuts and stir-fry veggies.
"Eh, it wasn't too hard, I just tenderized and seasoned the meat. After that I put on a light coating of olive oil and basted it in butter," I tell her. It wasn't too complicated, but I had to be careful since at one point the mixture of oil and butter splattered out of the pan and almost onto my arms. Luckily I was able to clean up and fix myself before she came. We eat in silence for a bit. Everyone else in the apartment was gone for the night. Trevor and his fiance had gone out on a date so thankfully it was just the two of us. Strangely, each cut I put into my mouth tastes bland.
"I gotta say Josh, this is one of the best meals I've had in awhile," she takes a gulp of water. "Thanks for making dinner tonight again by the way,"
"Um, you're welcome." I feel a warmth coming up the back of my neck. "So uh, I think we should have a talk about what happened last night," I lean forward onto the table, with my elbows on it. Why do I feel like a dad whenever I do this? "I know we agreed to be friends for now,but-"
"I'm sorry about that," she cuts through, "I'm sorry if that made you uncomfortable and I won't do that again,"
"No no no, you're fine, I'm the one who started it." I remark, " I think that because it was me who said that we should just be friends for now, so it's my responsibility to say sorry."
"Well, apology accepted then, I guess?" She says sheepishly. Inwardly groaning, why is it I always get myself into these awkward situations? Honestly, I wanted to kiss her again but at the same time I told myself be happy that you're friends with her now, don't mess it up and don't rush anything for fucks sake.
"Thank you very much," I say, "now that's been addressed, do you want anything else to drink?" I get up from the chair and open the fridge. "We got water, some soda, and sparkling apple cider-if you're into that."
"Ooh yes please to the apple cider," she gets up too, "hey, where are the glasses at?" Looking at me.
"First cupboard on the right of the sink," I say as I get a corkscrew for the bottle. I turn back to the table, Nashawna has two wine glasses set on its surface. "What's with the wine glasses?"
"Well, since we've been eating fancy all night, might as well keep up with the theme you know?"
"Uh, sure I guess" with a dumb-founded expression on my face. 'POP' the cork goes flying off. A fine mist begins to waft as I pour cider into each glass, first hers and then mine. "Well-uh, do you wanna propose a toast? You know, to um, stay fancy?"
She raises her eyebrow, "I thought you'd never ask," she clears her throat, "um in the name of um- happiness and success I guess? May we both-uh, be better today than we were yesterday?" We both laugh,clink to each other's glass, and take a swig, "god what was I thinking?"
"I don't know, you tell me" I say back to her, giggling. I begin to pick up our dishes and wash them. "But if I must say, that was a splendid toast m'lady" I say in a pretentious British accent. We break out laughing at ourselves. See? This is how we're supposed to be, just two friends laughing at ourselves and enjoying dinner, made by yours truly.
"Why thank you good sir," she replies in an equally ridiculous accent. We burst out laughing again. I'm washing the dishes now, but my laughing makes me lose control of the sink hose, and I spray myself in the face.
"Oh my god! Hahaha!" she laughs at my drenched shirt, so I spray the hose at her. Now our clothes are drenched with dishwater. Now I'm the one laughing instead. She pokes me in my sides, thankfully, I've let go of the hose so we don't get wet, but I am tempted to spray her again. I poke her back and she yelps from the ticklish sensation. We get into a poking war, but forget that we're on tiled flooring covered in soapy water so we slip, and we fall on top of each other. We find ourselves laughing at each other and ourselves again. Among tangled limbs, we headbutt each other accidently as we try to get up.
"Ow! Oh sorry, my bad," I say. My head throbbing with pain from the impact. I place a hand on my forehead as we both get up.
"Here, lemme see," she places her hand on my head and rotates me, "I don't see a bruise so I think you'll be fine."
"Oof, thanks," I tell her. "We should get ourselves dried out, don't ya think?" I get a kitchen towel and begin to wipe down the counters.
"Yeah, we should, do you have any spare towels by any chance?" She asks. We head to the living room, I can take care of the rest of the kitchen tomorrow morning.
"Sure, I can go grab you one," I head up to the linen closet and grab two for the both of us and I head down back to the living room. Nashawna is sitting on the couch, taking off her earrings and wristbands, and sets them on the coffee table.
"Thanks Josh," she takes one from my hand and we dry ourselves the best we can. Our clothes are less damp now but we still leave wet marks on the couch. "Here ya go," she throws her towel at my head.
"Hhmmp!" A muffled sound escapes my mouth as I take a face full of towel straight on and I am temporarily blinded. Aloe vera, her towel smells of strawberries. Ripping off the towel from my face, I see her making herself comfortable and holding onto the tv remote.
"I wanna watch something, what are you in the mood for?" as she turns it on and puts on Netflix. I shrug.
"I don't know, Avatar the last Airbender, I guess?" I say nonchalantly, I could care less about what we watched, I just genuinely enjoyed being in her company again, as a friend, I remind myself.
"Wow, you wanna watch that?" She cocks her eyebrow.
"Hey, I'll have you know that show was a defining moment for our generation," I say.
"Whatever, I'm just teasing you," she rolls her eyes, but she's smiling though. She puts it on. We're sitting on opposite sides of the couch as my attention drifts away from the TV. 'Water, earth, fire, air…' my eyes slowly begin to get heavier with each passing minute.
"Hmghn," I wake up, stifling a yawn. My neck aches from sleeping in such a weird position. Eh, just pop your neck later, my eyes are still closed, still wanting to go back to sleep. There's a comfortable weight next to me, warm, ahhh that's nice. I snuggle deeper into it. I catch a whiff of…strawberry conditioner? Hold on, opening my eyes, it's a blur of tangled hair that I'm breathing into. Oh, I attempt to slowly untangle myself from Nashawna, but-assuming she's still asleep- refuses to budge
"Mmmm, just a few more minutes" she murmurs. I give up. There's not much room to move around considering we're on a couch. Oh shit, when did Trevor and his fiance get back? I can only assume they got back sometime last night. Shit, what time is it anyways? I try to focus but with Nashawna right next to me and her distractingly comfortable warmth, it's kinda hard to focus. My eyes get heavy again, though I'm using every ounce of willpower-which to say, is not much- to keep awake but I'm getting drowsy again. She nestles deeper into my side, and the scent of strawberry conditioner becomes the last thing I remember before falling asleep.
"So... how did it go?" I pause midway with my sandwich hanging in the air. Putting it down I look at Trevor.
"You shouldn't ask people questions right as they're about to take a bite from their food." I say. "It ruins the experience of the whole thing."
He shrugs and takes a bite from his sandwich. "The experience of what? It's just ham and cheese."
Pretending to look affronted I tell him, "just ham and cheese? Good lord it's no wonder God cursed you with being unable to consume dairy."
He laughs, responding with "that's between me and God." We continue to eat in silence. "You didn't answer my question dude, so how did dinner with your girlfriend go?"
I gulp down the last of my sandwich and turn to him. "She's not my girlfriend," or is she? Are we something more than 'just friends'? "Besides, to answer your question, it went along quite well, we had dinner and watched a movie which then became a sleepover but nothing happened. That was it. That's all that ever happened."
Trevor has a blank expression on his face as he continues to eat his sandwich. "Okay, if that's all that happened," he gets up from his seat at the counter and goes to the sink. "Can you give me your plate, it's my turn to do dishes, and SOMEONE, left a huge mess in the kitchen last night, I wonder who could it be?"
"Geez, I wouldn't know I always clean up after myself like the responsible adult I am," I raise my hands in a placating manner. "Besides, it feels as if I'm being framed just because I was home last night."
"Oh ho? When did you become a lawyer, and also I never said it was you, so what do you have to say for yourself?" He smirks as he begins to wash the dishes, still looking at me.
"I don't have time to play games with you," I shake my head and head up to my room. I look at my phone. I have a new message.
Thanks for last night! (2:38pm)
Had a lot of fun, sorry about leaving like that tho, didn't wanna wake u up :) (2:39pm)
It's almost 3pm now, so I send a quick message :
Yeah! You're welcome! And no worries
Hit the little paper plane icon , and I put my phone down. Sighing I think to myself, goddamnit, why is life so confusing? I pull out my laptop and check my emails. Just a bunch of 'get well soon!'s and oh look! A job offering? I open the email, huh.
Hello Joshua Cascadia!
We are excited to offer you an introductory position as an intern at our law offices! As recruiting manager I have the opportunity to look at potential candidates and their skillset along with what they can offer the company. You and nine others have been selected and given the opportunity to accept our internships as part of our community outreach program! What does it mean to accept our internship? You will have access to exclusive benefits such as health and dental after working for more than 400 hours! You will gain experience to navigate the professional workplace. Should you decide to stay with us, you will be given the opportunity to a career as a legal advocate and a pathway to a four year education in law!
Please reply as soon as possible so we can schedule an interview and further determine your eligibility!
Hhm, interesting. I actually got selected. I remember when I first applied, god that was a long time ago. So much had happened in the course of a single year...
We head to the counseling office. "So you're actually gonna sign up for the internship?" Nashawna asks. I look at her and shrug.
"Yeah I guess, if I don't get accepted then it's whatever," I say nonchalantly. It was announced this morning that a local firm had offered jobs to graduating seniors so there was a lot of us filling up the office and lining up in the hallways. "Besides, we have a whole year ahead of us, who knows what could happen? The possibilities are endless!" I tell her. She grabs my hands and cups them in hers.
"Babe, you being so positive is cute, don't ever stop," she giggles, and my heart flutters. I still couldn't believe that Nashawna actually liked me and wanted to go out with me. She was the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I was just some dude who didn't really do much outside of class besides band, she played clarinet and I played saxophone. She had cornered me one night in the band room after a football game a few weeks ago. We chatted for a little bit then she had given me her number and then we went our separate ways that night. I had gotten home but I was still blushing from what had just happened and was in shock from the fact that Nashawna had just straight up given me her number. I was on a high that only serotonin could give me. "Babe, whatcha thinking about?" She asks me.
I shake my head, "nothing much, I still can't believe you actually like me though," I say. She laughs. " It's like being in a dream you know?"
Nashawna cups my face, "if this is a dream, then I don't want you to wake up," she kisses me. She playfully pulls away, but I grab her and our kiss deepens. She tastes of forbidden promises and sweet secrets.
"Hey buddy, you guys are holding up the line!" the senior behind us says.
I shake my head out of reverie. So much had happened in over eight months. It was hard to believe how fast time went by. It was like that one song, what was it called again? I don't remember what it was called, but one of the lyrics went "once the years start coming they don't stop coming". I read the email again. Huh, so I actually have a chance to go to college. Even though the school year had ended, I had no inkling of what to do after getting my diploma. I was more than content with my current job which was working at Starbucks. As long as I was making enough money to support myself, then I was satisfied.
But I could hear my dad's voice, "aim higher, never settle for less than what you're capable of." Did I really want this internship though? I couldn't picture myself as a lawyer but neither could I picture myself working for the same place for ten years straight. As much as I liked making coffee for a living, it wasn't a good job to work in the long run. I sigh as I type out my reply.
Thank you for the honor to be given the chance of interning under your company. In regards to scheduling an interview, I will be free for the foreseeable future as I am recuperating from an injury.
I click 'send' and spin around in my chair. Strangely I didn't feel elated about this, there were too many unknowns in my future and I just wanted to lay down in my bed and sleep. Thinking about my future or the future of humanity in general made me tired. If I did get the internship, what was the next step after? College? Becoming a lawyer? Coffee artist/social media influencer?
I crawl under the sheets and pull out my phone and scroll through my feed. There's really not much to look at, so turn to my side and close my eyes. A minute passes, another minute passes by, fuck, I couldn't sleep. Ah, what to do, what to do. I really didn't have that much to do. Perhaps go on a run? Clean the house? I could do all that but it wouldn't leave me with a sense of accomplishment. Or maybe I was just being lazy. I then heard a buzzing come from my nightstand, someone was calling me. Nash? Deciding to answer, I didn't expect to hear from her today.
"Hello?" My stomach droops, Nashawna sounded as if she had been crying recently.
"Nash?" The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Is she okay?
"Hey Josh, sorry for calling you but uh- look can we meet today?" Checking the time on the wall, wait who am I kidding, you have nothing to do.
"Uh, yeah sure, everything alright?" I ask her.
"Um I guess *sniff* but I'll talk more when I get there." She hangs up.
I put my phone down and gaze blankly at the ceiling. Damn, what had happened? I didn't feel too conflicted about spending time with Nash at the least. I just had to be careful and watch myself around her. I wonder if I should tell her about the internship. I was definitely planning on telling my family first, but did she really need to know? Eh, that's a problem for tomorrow's me. Getting off from my bed I head to my bathroom and start getting ready. It was already half-past 2, and I didn't like to waste time. Going through my usual routine; brushing my teeth and all that, I finish up and get changed. Taking off my shirt, I look into the mirror at my scar on my lower left side.
The surgical marks still slowly fading away. It feels bittersweet, a blemish slowly erasing itself from existence, yet it also felt like memorabilia of my getting hit by a car. No longer were there any angry red marks, just a piece of my skin slowly healing.
Turning away from the mirror I open my closet and fish out a polo shirt and a pair of jeans. After getting changed, I head downstair, where Trevor is, watching the Seahawks go against the Patriots. "I'm heading out for a bit,"
"Okay cool, bring back something cool," he says absent mindedly. Too fixated on watching Tom Brady fuck up a pass. Quietly slipping out through the door, I sit on the patio and close my eyes. Taking in a breath of fresh air and listening to the chirping of birds and crickets in the bush. The sound of a car honking breaks through the ambience. Opening my eyes, I look at the driveway, it's Nashawna.
She waves at me and leans out through her window, "Hey! You comin or what," I get up and walk towards her car. "Yeah gimme a sec I'm comin." Opening the door, I get a whiff of a pungently sweet odor mixed with alcohol. "Is-is that- what is that smell?" As I get in and buckle myself. Taking a full look at Nashawna, I notice the slight redness in her eyes. "Have you been smoking?" I ask. Look, I had nothing against marijuana, I've smoked before. Usually whenever I got high I would get sleepy and that was the end of it, but alcohol was a big no-no for me. All of my inhibitions lowered and I would bawl my eyes out over the smallest thing.
"No?" She says quietly. Her voice sounds slightly cracked, a telltale sign that something big and bad must've happened
"Alrighty then, but I can tell something is wrong, it's okay you can tell me or do you wanna just vibe here or at the lake."
"Look, can we go to your room, please?" She asks. I sigh and unbuckle myself.
" Um, sure, are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?" Getting out, I walk to her side of the car and open the door for her. She stumbles as she gets out even as I hold steadily on to her. Grabbing onto me, I get another whiff of alcohol.
"Thanks Josh, you're a good person-you know that?" She mumbles quietly. She leans onto me as we walk up through the door. I say nothing back. Me? A good person? I mean while I wasn't racist or a stereotypical Republican, I still had the sins of my past haunt me. I've done a lot of things that I regret doing. I open the door again-Trevor still engross in the Patriots losing-
and I guide Nashawna upstairs to my room. Closing the door, I turn to face her as she plops onto my bed.
"First of all before you start talking, I'm not happy that you drove here intoxicated but I'm glad that you're safe." I sit down on my computer chair and face her. She lets out a humorless laugh.
"At least you care more about me than my dad," she grabs one of my pillows and hugs onto it tightly. "He got released from prison last week," she sniffs. Ah her dad, I remember what she told me about him, how he got arrested for abusing her mom, and almost tried to murder his own family. "Mom knew, but decided not to tell me or my sister, I had to find out from my aunt." I say nothing. I would let her finish telling her story. Nashawna begins to cry, "I called my mom, and we got into an argument. We said stuff, yelled at each other, and then I called you," she smiles but it doesn't reach her eyes.
"Well, so um- how are you holding up?" I ask gingerly. I'm no therapist but the next best thing I could do was to listen.
"Ha, I'm doing just peachy as you can see," gesturing towards herself. "I spent a lot of years trying to move on, but fucking- I can't-" Nashawna starts to hyperventilate and cry. Moving from my spot I sit beside her and awkwardly hold her as she starts bawling onto my shoulder.
"There, there," I say in a soothing tone. Obviously she's in no shape to drive back home safely. There's a knock on the door, Trevor opens the door and sees us.
"Hey I heard-oh, um nevermind I'll leave you two alone," and he closes the door. Nashawna's bawling softens to tears and whimpers, and she rests her head on my lap. We stay there in silence, save for the occasional sniff.
"Sorry for ruining your shirt," she mumbles underneath her tears. I pat her back in a consoling manner.
"Hey it's okay," reassuring her, "take the time you need, I'm here for you," I softly say. This…this was not how I imagined my day would go. When she called about wanting to see me, I thought it was about some petty drama but this... was way out of my paygrade.
"Is it-would you be okay with me staying here for a bit?" She turns her head towards me. Her eyes convey desperation and need.
"Yes of course," I say immediately. We continue to stay there in silence, basking in each other's warmth. "Nash."
"Yes?" Our eyes lock, she gets up until we're sitting across from each other.
"There's something I want to say, and I don't know if you still feel the same way," I say sheepishly, subconsciously rubbing the back of my head. She nods in understanding, "Look um... So I uh- I know this isn't the best timing but um- " god why was this so hard to say? "I think that you and I are um… nevermind," I look away in embarrasment.
"Hey," Nashawna says softly, "what is it?" She reaches out and places her hand on my knee.
"It's nothing important," I mumble. "So how long do you think you'll be here? Not that I don't want you to leave-" I start to ramble "-but I wanna make sure that you'll be comfortable and that it's nice and pleasant while you're here and-" dude shut up before you make it more awkward than it already is "- so uh, yeah."
Nash lets out a quiet laugh, "thanks Josh, I don't know how long I'll be away from family, but I'm gonna need some time to cool off," she sighs, deflating at the thought of it. "But I have some stuff in the car I can get later." She yawns. "God I'm so fucking tired right now." Rubbing her temples, "can I sleep in your bed, please?"
"Yeah sure, I'll go if you need some space" I rise from the bed but Nashawna grabs my wrist.
"Stay with me...please," she pleads, "I…I don't want to be alone right now" I remove her wrist and nod, I settle back down on the bed with her. Putting a blanket around us, we lay down with my arms wrapped around her. "Thank you Josh" she mumbles, slowly drifting off to sleep. Well…this is nice my arm had fallen asleep but at least I was here with Nashawna. Still wide awake, I had a lot to think about.
The interview for the internship, Nashawna's dad, my job, bills, wow, God really didn't plan on giving me a break for the year. It was kinda hard to concentrate with her nestling herself right next to me. The familiar scent of her hair wafted into my nostrils, and I was a bit tempted to bury my head into her hair. Her warmth, the feeling of holding her in my arms, and that's when it hit me. I still love her.
I have loved her from the day we met. I love every inch of her, with every fiber of my being. From the way she smiled, her witty remarks and comebacks, how down to earth she is, the way she puckers her face whenever she is concentrated on something big. To the way she carried a strength I couldn't even begin to fathom. If I was ever knocked back in time to redo my life, to fix my mistakes; I wouldn't take the opportunity. Every choice I made, every mistake, every regret, has led me to where I am today. I would choose her again in a heartbeat.