Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Walk Home"

This entry is PROOF that I can write something other than thrillers and horror stories! Enjoy this frosty romance for Christmas.

Title: "The Walk Home"
Aaron M. Smith- written Dec. 2009

“I could not believe that guy today, could you?” Lisa asked.

“I know, what was his problem? Every time I brought him the drink, he was like, ‘I said NO foam!’ and I was like, ‘Dude, that’s the milk on top- it’s supposed to look like that.’” I said. She laughed, a beautiful sound, like the first bird chirping after a long winter.

The street was glassy, a sheet of black ice that reflected the orange streetlights in blurry patterns. There wasn’t a lot of traffic- this part of the city was quiet, peaceful, and this time of night most folks were already in bed.

“It’s really nice of you to walk me home like this,” she said quietly. I turned to reply and had to force myself to not stare into her eyes, so dark brown they were almost totally black.

“Naw, no problem. It’s not like it’s very far.” And it wasn’t as if I hadn’t wanted to walk her home since the day we first met, that year and a half ago at the coffee shop. It wasn’t as if I’d taken that crappy job just so I could get to know her better. “I mean, it’s too dark and cold to walk home by yourself.”

“No, I appreciate it,” she said, and glanced briefly up at me before looking back down at her boots. I waited for her to elaborate, but she didn’t.

Tonight is the night, I swore to myself. I’m going to tell her how I feel tonight, after I drop her off at the door. I looked over at her, hoping she’d look back at me, but she didn’t.

“So what do you want for Christmas?” She asked abruptly. I nearly blurted “you”, but caught myself at the last moment. After a second, I said, “Oh, I don’t know. A better paying job?”

There was that laugh again, and I listened carefully to it, taking in every tone.

“Come on, you could get a better job, couldn’t you? Didn’t you go to college?”

“Yeah, for Theater Performance. Not exactly in demand.”

She smiled, and this time she actually did look at me. I took advantage of the situation.

“So what do you want for Christmas?” She sighed and looked away, up into the clear, dark sky. I watched her breath cloud in front of her perfect lips as she exhaled.

“I don’t want to say. I shouldn’t say.”

“Why not?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Because I shouldn’t want it. I should be happy without it.”

“What?” I asked quietly.

She exhaled again, and after a moment, said, “A ring.”

My chilled fingers suddenly felt warm compared to my heart. I bowed my head into the collar of my jacket to hide my humiliated blush. “Oh?” I managed to say.

“Yeah. And I’m sorry I keep coming to you about my problems with Todd, I mean, you don’t want to hear about them,” she sighed. More quietly, she added, “But it’s been three years. I mean, is it asking too much? To expect something?”

“No, it’s not,” I said, just a little too quickly, but she didn’t notice my eagerness.

“That’s what I think, and that’s what my sister and my mom thinks,” she said, and I could hear the defeat in her voice. Her pain was so evident that my frozen heart shattered for her.

“I don’t want to interfere,” I lied, “but you’ve got to do what’s best for you, in the long run. If you’re happy, then maybe it is enough. But if you’re not,” and I could tell that she wasn’t, “Maybe you ought to look at it again.”

She was quiet for a moment, then said, “I guess I’m scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“Of what it’ll be like if things change.”

“Sometimes change is good.”

“Shut up, you order the same nonfat-decaf-latte every single morning.” She slapped my on the arm with one gloved hand. I thrilled at the touch. She smiled at me, the dimples her cheeks standing out, her eyes shining behind her black framed glasses. She brushed one copper-brown lock of hair out of her eyes.

I smiled back, and said, “I’m serious, come on. Ten years from now, how are you going to feel when you look back on all this?” She smiled, and she said something, but it was lost on me as a realization hit me like a sack of coffee beans. I wasn’t talking to her. I was talking to myself.
I looked up, and suddenly we were at the steps of her apartment building. I’d been so caught up talking to her that I’d completely lost track of where we were. Now we were at her stoop, and I was out of time to prepare myself. It was no problem, I could just wait until tomorrow night, then we could—

No, a voice inside me swore. Conner, it’s been more than a year. Time to nut up or shut up.
She stepped up on her stoop. She was on the first step when she turned around.

“Thanks again for walking me back, Conner,” she said, and that enchanting smile lingered on her lips again. I opened my mouth to speak.

And, as if on cue, there he was. I knew the tall blonde guy stepping out of the apartment- she’d brought Todd to the coffee shop before. He must have been waiting inside the door for Lisa.
My heart sunk, settling somewhere near my pelvis. My first instinct was to say something, anything, to indicate that I didn’t want any trouble.

“Hey babe, where ya been?” He said in a monotone voice. His lips barely parted as he spoke. Lisa turned over her shoulder and looked at him, her face unreadable. Then she turned back to me, gave me the faintest of smiles, then began to turn back to Todd and the door.

And suddenly I realized that I did want trouble.

“Lisa, I love you.” I said in the most calm and even voice I could muster. She turned back around, her eyes serious, calculating. Todd looked like I’d just said something in Mandarin. When neither said anything for a second, I continued. It couldn’t possibly get any worse. “I think you’re beautiful. Your voice is like music, your laugh is like a song. You’re the only good thing about that god-awful coffee shop. I’ve never been able to say it before, but I love you.”
Todd finally seemed to understand the words that were coming out of my mouth, because his brow began to knit. I plowed on before he could interrupt.

“I can’t keep you off my mind. Even if you don’t feel the same way, and even if you never talk to me again, I can’t keep hiding it anymore.”

Todd stepped in front of her and attempted to corral her into the building. She dodged his arm, her eyes locked onto mine. Her face was unreadable, but something shined in her eyes, something rich that I’d never seen before. After another moment the smile that I’d just seen flickered on her face, just for a second, as Todd finally managed to wrangle her into the apartment door. He said something to me, but I didn’t hear it.

It was a full minute before I convinced myself to move off of her stoop. Finally, I turned and headed back down the street toward my own apartment, sure I would sleep better that night than I had in a year and a half.

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