Authors: Lila Felix
Three days later, I found myself pacing my room incessantly. I swore the wood floors now bore a worn path where I’d stomped and slid my feet. I only went downstairs to get food and then bring my plate back down to put in the dishwasher. I got three calls and five texts from her, but I chose not to answer them. She tried to make conversation with me the first day after our little joy ride but I wasn’t having it. In fact, I didn’t even look at her. And as much as my mind told me it was for the best, I couldn’t help but feel the hairline break in my heart as I thought about her. Forget Agoraphobia, my official diagnosis, I was seriously beginning to think I was more bipolar than anything.
I went downstairs the next Saturday and saw her mopping. She was an industrious little sap sucker, I’d give her that. She looked up and flashed me one of her smiles. Damn it—I had been really rude to her, purposefully for days and she was still smiling at me.
“What’s your deal?”I said as mean as I could.
“Nothing, I just haven’t seen you around. I called you a couple of times. But I figured you were busy or had school or something.” She propped her chin up on the tip of the mop handle and wanted me to explain why I’d not answered her calls or texts. But it was just so she could use me as her good deed of the day.
“Sorry,” I said with no hint of actual remorse whatsoever. I hated it. I hated pretending to be a mean person just because of my ego. But there was a part of me, still desperately turning the key, jiggling the lock to my heart. And it was a sleazy salesman, trying to sell her to me, pitching her qualities and beauty and slinging facts and figures I was having a hard time ignoring. That she could free me of this. That she could be the needle to pop my ugly bubble.
But I ignored it, slammed my fist against the door inside me, chained and deadbolted it just to make sure it was shut out.
She cleared her head, nodded once, and resumed mopping. I grabbed ham and cheese and other sandwich makings and unloaded my armful on the counter.
“Why don’t we order in pizza or I can go get us something to eat. You’ve been eating cereal and sandwiches for almost a week.”
I didn’t even turn around to address her, “What are you, the food police?”
“No, I just noticed. Sorry, I’ll get out of your way.” She leaned the mop against the wall and walked towards her room. I rolled my eyes, pretending it was what I wanted.
I kept up the half façade/half ego trip for another week. But now instead of pacing, I was letting it shred me from the inside out. I spent Saturday morning gathering my laundry up since I had none clean again. I heard a noise outside and went to the window to see what it was.
Ash was there, unfolding, more like wrestling, with a chair flapping the sides this way and that. She looked like one of those people who worked in the GAP with their perfected t-shirt folding contraptions. She finally got it situated and pulled a mini speaker and her iPod from the pocket of her dress. She ran her thumb across a screen and cocked her hip out, satisfied with her selection. She plugged it in and my ears and the neighborhood became audience to her playlist. I scanned the fence perimeter, more for her than me but found nothing and no one to feed my fear. But when I looked back I took a step back in sync with my swift inhale of breath at the sight before me. She lay on her stomach in a whisper of a black bikini, the dress she had on before long gone. I stepped to the side of the window so my body was hidden, and dared to peek once more. I gripped the windowsill, hoping it would absorb some of my out of control frenetic energy. I felt like I was seventeen again, ready to jump at any girl within spitting distance. But I didn’t want any girl, I wanted her.
She had to be doing it on purpose. She began to sway her hips to the beat of the music just enough to make me groan. Then she reached up and untied the string on her back and the one around her neck and let them fall down to her sides. I hated to admit that my attraction to her was the factor that tipped the scales in her favor. It sounded so shallow but it made me a magnet for her.
I’m such a sleazeball.
I ventured to look again and this time her head was turned towards me. I could see her plump lips mouthing the words to whatever song she belted out below. I thunked my head against the window and relented.
“Screw it, even if she only helps me out of pity, I’ll take it.”
So I waited her out. Because if I went out there, I couldn’t be held responsible for what would happen. My need for her was out of control.
I did all my laundry, all while keeping one eye on the back door, or the window, whichever was closest to her. She finally came in and hesitated by the door. And it made me feel like crap for treating her that way. She didn’t deserve the brunt of my whacked out life.
“Hey,” I approached it hesitantly, “How about pizza and a movie tonight?”
She closed her eyes for a moment and then I could see she’d made a resolve of her own.
“I’m sorry, Breaker, I’d love to, but I have a date.” I heard her words but I staggered, thinking it was her quick wit or her infamous smartassery.
“Oh yeah, with who?” Two could play this game.
“Why do you care Breaker? You’ve been doing a damned fine job of pretending I don’t exist for a week. What, you got a little lonely and saw me coming in like this and thought you’d take a cheap shot? Never mind, it doesn’t matter, I’ve got to get ready.”
She left me there, the nausea scaling the walls of my esophagus and my legs swayed as it sunk in.
I was too late. I was stuck, in the hell of my mind and this house. I’d lost her. I’d
her—before I even had her.
I sat on the couch for longer than I’d thought because before I knew it, I heard her bedroom door open. I scrambled to find the remote and turned the TV on before she came into the room. I heard her fumbling with something in the kitchen but I pretended to nonchalantly flip channels. But I could see her in my peripheral. She wore a red off the shoulder shirt and a pair of jeans that made me concerned for the arteries in her legs and for my own loss of heartbeat. Her hair was down and messy.
I wanted it to be me. I wanted her to be getting dressed for me.
I panicked. I panicked and then I lied. I panicked, I lied and then I had to find a way to either get out of said lie or admit that I lied. Yeah, that wasn’t gonna happen.
So I acted out of desperation. I shamelessly fumbled through the trash, looking for one of those damned cups. I found it and prayed Ozark had been coy enough to put his phone number on my coffee cup—again. And God bless him, he was. And when I called he responded to me eagerly.
At this point, so embarrassed, I was willing to call Stephanie and get her to meet me somewhere and call it a date. Ozark didn’t hesitate to make a date with me.
I got dressed, frustrated and angry. And I put on an outfit sure to get both of their attention. I didn’t want to go on this date. I didn’t have an ounce of attraction to Ozark but I couldn’t just wait around here for Breaker to decide what he wanted. One minute he is in my car, making great strides and turning my insides to goo. And next, he ignores me? I couldn’t live that way. I wouldn’t live that way.
I walked into the kitchen looking for a pair of scissors to cut off a tag from my new jeans. I was louder than I should’ve been, slamming the drawers open, thrashing through the contents, and then knocking them closed with my hip. I saw him on the couch, scrolling through the channels as if he hadn’t spent the last week making my job feel more like indentured servitude.
I checked my phone and it was now a little after seven. I wondered if Ozark had stood me up, that would actually serve me right. But a few seconds later the doorbell rang. I walked through the living room to answer the door. I heard Breaker say, “He’s late. No respect.”
I stopped to glare at him, “You would know.”
I answered the door and Ozark came in while I got my phone and my purse. He didn’t even tell me I looked nice or anything. He just squirmed like he had someplace better to be. Breaker continued to stare at the TV, pressing the controls on the remote aggressively. I ignored him the best I could and Ozark and I left for the movies.
My disdain of the date, the person and the event, began in the car. He had the music up so loud that we couldn’t even talk. He opened my door for me and smiled. He had a great smile, I would give him that. I wondered what Breaker looked like when he full-on smiled—when he wasn’t too busy being a full-on jerk.
We decided on an action movie. He circumvented the snack bar and I stared after it, wondering what offense it had caused him. Plus, I could smell the popcorn—it was calling my name. I thought about breaking away from him and following my stomach’s desire. At this point, I didn’t even think he’d notice. He was bee-lining for the theater; you’d think there was gold in there the way he was running.
We sat in the very back and it disturbed me. He can’t buy a girl popcorn but he assumes I’m a back of the theater kind of chick? I sat next to him, inhaling lungfuls of popcorn infested air, hoping to trick my stomach into thinking it was actually eating. The movie started and as soon as the lights went out he put his arm around my shoulders. The movie hadn’t even started. I wanted to tell him to at least let the dancing Coke and hot dog finish their cabaret before he started getting fresh but I took it as punishment for lying to Breaker.
And he was silent. I liked to talk a lot, everyone knew that. But my ultimate favorite thing to do, especially with a new movie, was make fun of the acting, pick out plot mistakes. It was my thing. So I liked to talk through movies. But other than the arm around my shoulders thing, I seriously considered calling 911 and reporting a death by silence.
“This is a great movie. I love Jason Statham.” I whispered in his direction.
He cut me a look that could only be described as a dictator’s nod, hushing his crowd of followers. I pulled my lips inside my mouth and crushed them between my teeth in an attempt to stay quiet. After a few more minutes, I shrugged out of his arm and got up wordlessly to use the bathroom. I didn’t really
to use the bathroom, I just needed a minute to breathe. I took my time and by the time I got back, the movie was almost over. He had his hand in my chair and when I moved to sit down, he took up residence on my shoulder again. I wished I was with Breaker. Even as a jerk, he still magnetized me. And the one next to me, with the ‘make the girls drool’ blue eyes—he might as well be a speckled trout for all I cared.
Ozark drove me home and even though I didn’t want to, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was nervous. He’ d always talked to me before, when he was at work. That had to be it.
I got out of the car at the driveway and he barely said goodbye. He didn’t even walk me to the door.
I unlocked the front door and walked in, shutting it quietly behind me. I really didn’t want to tip Breaker off that my date was over so quickly.
“You were only gone two and a half hours. Did he have to get home before curfew?”
So much for that theory.