Note: NaNoWriMo is where writers work on a 50,000 word novel during the month of November without editing their work, including checking for spelling or punctuation. Therefore, my story The Swan & the Crow for NaNoWriMo is nowhere close to perfect. Please keep this in mind when reading this chapter and the rest of the chapters that will be following it. But I am open to hearing opinions on what I have written so far and am open to any feedback given. To read Chapter 4, click here. This chapter of The Swan & the Crow is the last Chapter I have written for NaNoWriMo and it has yet to be completed.
Total word count for NaNoWriMo: 27,021
As the months quickly came and went, I kept thinking about the day Max and I finally got a chance to talk. We had been passing quick glances between each other back and forth in the Rockwell High School hallway for weeks when I decided I had enough.
I was going to make the first move. That is right—that is what I decided. I was going to talk to him because I could not stand to wait another minute. I could not wait another minute. Doing so would have led me to insanity, made me go mad.
So I did what any sane girl would do—I found a way of running into him so that we would have no choice but to talk.
And what better place than the cafeteria? Food is the heart of all men’s stomachs. I figured with Max, it would not be any different.
It was the perfect place for many reasons. Everyone at school would be there so it would not seem strange to want to go and talk to him. I would have his undivided attention because he would have no choice but to sit down and hear me out.
And because I knew he would listen. After what he said at the party, the way he acted, I knew that if I were to get him alone to talk, he would listen to whatever I say. I knew this as surely as I knew the color of my hair and the name of Rockwell High School.
Because he listened and opened up to me in ways I never expected from someone. Especially from someone I had just met. I knew that when he immediately opened up to me about helping his friend through suicide and saving him whenever he needed someone to be there for him.
He was definitely a listener. So I knew he would want to talk and that he would listen to what I had to say. I just had to find the perfect opportunity to talk to him. Whenever he least expected it and from someone who would be willing to get me near him.
I knew him and Matt were friends whenever we were at the party. Not only because Matt told me himself, but because I have seen the two of them converse together in the hallways. The two of them are friends so I knew Matt would definitely help me.
I just had to find a way of meeting with Max. A way that would work, that Matt would be completely clueless as to what was going on. Not that I wanted to keep him completely clueless about the situation, but because I did not want anyone to know just yet my feelings with regards to Max.
I like Max. A lot. I know that much for certain. And I do not know why exactly. I do not know if it was because of how willing he was to express his feelings, to open himself up to a complete stranger without giving a care to the world as to what I might possibly say to him. Or if it is all of the above.
Or if he somehow made a very good impression on me. Or maybe, it is because I could see how much he cares for people that I admit I want someone for me like that too. But at this point, I have no idea.
What I do know is that I like him. That he makes me feel emotions I have never before had for anyone. Because of the way my dad treats my mother, I have always kept guys at a respectable distance. Part of that is fear that I will one day end up in the same situation as Mom and will not be able to get out of it like the struggle we are having with it now.
Part of it is because I am scared. Scared to let anyone get close enough to me to be able to see into my world and all of the troubles I deal with. I have a hard enough time already with making friends and do not want to have a guy in my life who can not deal or help with all of the issues I already face now. Becca and Allison are proof of that. They are the only friends I currently have who know about all of the troubles I deal with at home and know exactly what to do in order to help me take my mind off of it.
And I do not want a guy who can not deal with any of that.
I am honestly surprised with all of this. Surprised by how I met Max, how things have gotten to the point where all I want to do is talk and spend time with him. I never thought I would ever—ever—meet someone—a guy—who I would want to spend time with. Besides Jason, I have not really had a whole lot of other guys in my life, even as friends.
Now, months later, I am doing something I never thought I would ever get to experience in my lifetime. I am going on my first date.
In case you are wondering, Max and I did start off as friends. We talked, conversed and spent a lot of our free time together. We go to know each other completely in ways I never interacted with other human beings.
For six full months, we did this. I learned about Max, what food he likes to eat, what he likes to do in his spare time, and everything and anything. And Max learned about me too. I told him as much as I could about myself without getting too deep and personal (at least, not yet) so that he could get a sense of me as a person.
But, over time, we discovered that us being friends was not going to completely work for us. Not because we were not willing to try but because our feelings for each other were so strong. Every moment we spent together was precious and neither one of us enjoyed pretending that there was not a growing connection between us bubbling to the surface.
So in the end, we said screw that. After six months, we became a couple officially. And ever since, I could not be happier. I could not wish for a more perfect opportunity for romance to fall onto my lap.
He asked me out in a way that would make most girls swoon. We were hanging out at Rockwell High School, eating lunch at our normal table, hanging out with Allison and Becca. At this point in our friendship, Max had met Allison and Becca and got along really well with them.
Both Allison and Becca knew exactly what was going on between us and why we had decided to start off friends.
While Allison was for the idea of us warming up to each other before going to first base, Becca thought we should be daredevils and to just go for it. She told me to live in the present and to not let any opportunity that comes my way go wasted. That if I liked him I might as well go for it instead of trying to make the whole situation different before becoming an item. She said it was the best way to do things because becoming friends with someone you want to date first never works out. Instead, it usually works against the person and the two people interested in being together never end up dating because they can never get past the fear that the other person does not feel the same way.
But I honestly think Becca said all of that because of what happened between her and Matt. Her and Matt were together, but it only lasted two months. Matt ended things because he did not think their relationship would work, called Becca too overwhelming to deal with and just was not into her as he thought he was. So Becca was cynical about the way Max and I were going about things and thought it would hurt me in the long run.
When Matt asked me out, he was completely honest about his feelings. He told me he had wanted to ask me out since the day I told him we should be friends first, but that he did not want to rock the boat. He was willing to try to be friends first to see if things would work out between us later. And to make sure he still was feeling the same way as the months went by and we got to know each other.
But he said he thought six months was enough for his heart to tell him that he was open to pushing things further. He then confessed to me how much he likes me and that he could not wait any longer. He said he understood if I was not ready to be in a relationship with him just yet, but that he could not wait any longer to tell me how he was feeling. He said he understood if I wanted to wait a little longer but that he wanted to try and go on a date with me first so that we could see how things would work out.
When Max told me that he wanted to go on a date with me, my heart fluttered in my chest like a fragile bird. I found my thoughts becoming hazy and unfocused as I tried to clear my head and make the right decision. I knew that I wanted to go on a date with him. Yet, I was not sure if that is something we should really be doing at the moment.
Then, I changed my mind. Fuck this waiting, I thought to myself as I looked into Max’s beautiful eyes.
I told him I was interested in taking things further and asked what he wanted to do. He looked at me and said that he was thinking we could go out for dinner and then go dancing. It was after all how we met to begin with so of course I liked the idea of us going out for dinner together and dancing. So I told him that sounded like a wonderful idea.
His eyes shone at me like fireworks and he beamed the most perfect smile I had ever seen. I could see in his eyes how elevated he was at the idea of us going on a date together.
But for me, it was still a shock.
I can not believe it, I thought to myself. I am going on a date. On a date. On my first date. With a boy. No, no, with a man.I can not believe this is happening. I can not believe I am going on a date. I never thought something like this would ever happen. Especially to me. I never thought I would meet someone… special. Especially with everything that is going on at home.
My home life is shit, I thought. Yet, I have met Max. He is such a great guy. He knows how to make me laugh, make me smile, and forget all of my problems going on at home. He is everything I want, everything I need in my life right now. I do not know what I would do without him in my life right now.
Ever since Max and I met, everything in my life changed. For the better too. I no longer went out to parties with friends. Instead, we spent our time hanging out with Max, doing other things. Each day with Max was a whole new adventure, one I did not mind being a part of.
Both Allison and Becca enjoyed spending time with him too. While both of them knew he was someone I like, I could tell they enjoyed being around him just as much as I did. Max became an integral part of my life in ways I did not expect. He became someone else I could rely on, another friend I could talk to about every facet in my life. I opened up to him more than I ever did with Becca and Allison. I became my real, true self around him and just let everything go.
I told him everything. About the issues I am currently dealing with at home, everything. And he listened. Just like I knew he would. He listened to everything I said as if it was the most important piece of information he had to hear. As if his own life and well-being were on the line if he did not listen. As if what I said was something he needed to know in order to understand me as a person.
And he understood. He understood everything. Why I acted the way I did, why I went to parties to begin with, everything. And he was there for me. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, to vent, he was present. He let me take out my anger and frustrations out on him as if it was the most important task he was given. And he told me what I needed to hear. That everything would be okay, that I would be fine, and that he thought I was the most wonderful person he had ever met.
For the past couple months, he has been one of my closest friends. But I am saying friends loosely because of how deeply I care about him as more than a friend.
So whenever he finally asked me out, asked me on a date, I was more than thrilled. I was exhilarated. I was excited and could not wait to see what would happen.
It would be great. This I absolutely know for certain.
It is the night of my date with Max. Classes at Rockwell High School came and went as quickly as normal. As in, the day passed by slowly like a calm wave in a storm. I was ready to get out so I could return home and get prepared for the date, but classes just would not pass quickly enough. I went from one class to the next, my inner soul cheering me on to stay positive that I would make it through the class. But the day just was not going by quickly enough.
Come on, I thought to myself, Please let me get to my next class. I am so ready to be done today with classes, just let this be over so I can go home. Come on, please!
So when my last class finally ended and I was allowed to go home, I was exuberant.
I quickly went down the steps to the entrance of Rockwell High School and walked home, walking about a mile or two until I reached the entrance to my front porch, taking my keys out of my backpack so I could unlock the door and get into the house.
But things were not good at home. As I walked into the house and was just about to put my stuff down by the door, I heard a lot of yelling and screaming coming from my parent’s bedroom.
Every time Mom and Dad get into an argument, it is always in their bedroom. Why even I do not know. I heard the yelling and screaming and immediately went into their room to find out what was going on.
But I was already too late. I came in right when my Dad stopped yelling at my Mom and started slapping her in the face. I then watched in horror as my Dad grabbed Mom by the hair and started slamming her against the wall.
Before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed the vase off the bedroom table and slammed it against my father’s head, knocking him unconscious.
As the vase shattered in two, Dad fell on the floor, the glass from the vase shattering next to him.
Meanwhile, Mom was crumpled on the floor, sobbing and rocking back and forth. She was holding herself together as if her life depended on it as her tears streamed down her face. As she lay on the floor next to Dad’s crumpled form, I went in the bathroom to wet a washcloth. I then went to the kitchen to grab a pack of ice from the fridge and wrapped the washcloth around it so I could use it to clean up Mom’s face.
Once back in the bedroom, I went over to Mom’s crumpled form. I left Dad where he was, knowing he was knocked out cold and that he would completely forget what happened here tonight like he always does.
Even though Dad treated Mom like crap and she never left, Dad has never once hit me. I know there have been times where he has wanted to hit me, but he has never done so, ever. Even after incidents like this happened. He usually just yelled at me but would continue on his way as if everything were alright.
As Mom cried and tears streamed down her face, I held the iced washcloth to her face, gently patting it against the bruises left on her beautiful face. I was gentle, knowing that the slightest pressure to her face made Mom flinch. I spoke to her calmly, letting her know everything would be okay, holding her against me to offer her some comfort as I tried so hard not to break down myself.
Being strong all the time is hard. There are moments where Dad hurts Mom that I find myself wanting to break down and fall apart myself. But seeing Mom so vulnerable, so hurt, allows me the opportunity to hold myself together for her sake. To not cry when tears deserve to be shed, to not be upset and angry when I have the right to be so. To be strong while Mom feels weak, to not cry out when I feel like I need to. So while I feel as if my world around me is crumbling, I hold on to my strength, to being strong. Because while things are difficult for us right now, I know that we will be all right.
As Mom continues sobbing, I quickly clean up the mess I made with the vase, throwing the shattered glass away in the bathroom trashcan. I then hug Mom against me tightly one more time before I finally talk.
“I think I am going to go now,” I say to Mom. “I think tonight I am going to stay with Allison until this cools over with Dad. I know he will not remember exactly what happened, but I do not want to risk him waking up and finding out I was the one who hurt him. I know he will not be hurting you again tonight because I believe he will be out like this for the rest of the night, but if he does wake up, please let him know I am sorry. I just can not stay here another minute longer and I have things to get ready for tonight.”
“I am going on a date Mom,” I say, finally unloading to my Mom about Max at probably one of possibly the worst times to tell your Mom you are seeing a boy. “I was going to mention it whenever I returned home from school today to both you and Dad so that you would know I am going to be out late tonight. But with the way Dad is now, that is completely out of the question. But yeah, I have a date tonight. I will be going over to Allison’s house to get ready and then Max, that is his name, the guy I have been telling you so much about.”
During these incidents with my father, I tell Mom all sorts of things as I am taking care of her. Sometimes I forget what all I have told her about what has been going on in my life but I feel as if these moments are the only time I can be open and honest with Mom about everything that is going on in my life that does not involve what is going on at home.
My Mom, after listening to what I said, nodded her head in understanding. She did not say a word, just communicated with me via silent language.
My Mom is shy and does not talk all too much. Especially after violent drunken episodes with Dad. Today was no exception. But she was a hell of a listener. Whenever these incidents happened, which was quite often, I would tell her everything that happened at school. Even the bad and ugly stuff too. Usually, she did not say a word, like she was doing now, but would silently take in whatever I was saying. It was as if she needed me to speak, to tell her everything going on in my life in the hope that one day her own life would be just as normal as mine.
And she would not respond. Not say one word. Just take in what all I was saying. But I could tell. I could tell she was listening. The look in her eyes whenever we would have one of these talks indicated that for me. Her eyes would either be shining with a new glow or she would be quietly absorbing what I was saying and nod her head in acknowledgment. Either way, we communicated with each other silently. It was easier and whenever incidents happened, there was no guarantee that Dad would be nearby to hear what was being said.
Not to say that I would not mind father hearing our conversations. Under better circumstances, I would wish nothing more than for him to be a part of the conversations.
And I have tried. Tried to include him, that is. I have done this before with both of them only to be shut down, for Dad not to care about what I am saying. As if he has something better to do with his time then listen to what his daughter is saying. And in those times when Dad was around for the conversations, Mom typically acted like she was on his side so as to not cause another incident. The only way I knew she was not in agreeance with him was through our silent telepathy. So even though she would act like she agreed with Dad, I could tell that she did not.
But I find that I need these conversations with Mom. Not because I am trying to be selfish or anything, but so as to get both of us, Mom included, through this ordeal. I want us to try and make light of our situation so that we can make it through it so that we can make it to when things get better. It also allows both of us to take our minds off of what is currently going on in our lives and to try to not wallow in hatred towards Dad.
Because while he is my father, there are moments where I do hate Dad. A lot. I hate what he has done to us, his family. How he has treated us and continues to treat us as if we are pieces of meat that he can just abuse whenever he pleases. As if the only time we are important and exist in his life is when we are useful to him. Because the only time he seems to ever notice me is with the possibility of being able to get him more booze for him or to do something, anything that will be useful for him.
And yes, I will admit that he can sometimes be a wonderful father. Whenever he manages to stay sober, Dad is not the same person he is whenever he drinks. In fact, he is the complete opposite. He is a doting, unselfish father who cares about me.
And that is part of the problem. It is because of how he acts sober that Mom and I are still with him. He goes through periods where he refuses to drink, telling us that he wants to quit and get help. But whenever he goes through these periods, he always manages to find his way back to the bottle. Whether he is off the drink for one month or two, he always goes back to it at some point.
And I do not understand it. I do not understand how he is able to manage to stay sober for so long of a time before he decides to drink again and be the person he is whenever he drinks.
It is heart breaking. Absolutely heart breaking. To see father be strong for a short period of time only to grab onto alcohol as a source of relief. To see alcohol as the only source of protection he has against the obstacles life has decided to throw at him.
And to get our hopes up. To let us believe that things with him will get better, that we just need to give him time.
But anyway, I will not be staying at home tonight before my date with Max. I refuse to. Not because I not only do not want to be here whenever Dad wakes up, but because I know it will make it even more difficult for me to commit going on this date.
Not because I do not want to go on a date with Max or anything. That is not the problem. I just want to be, to pretend, that I live a somewhat normal life. That I can do things like this like normal teenage girls and the world will not fall all around me.
And I know that Mom will be okay. Dad is knocked out stone cold and will be for some time tonight. And even if he does manage to wake up, after these incidents, Dad always manages to go to bed and forget what happened by morning. As if he knows what he did was wrong, he also apologizes to Mom about the whole thing and behaves for a little while afterwards.
He sometimes even manages to stay sober for a couple days.
But since I have my date with Max tonight, I am not staying here.
“Well,” I say after I have completely cleaned Mom’s face, making sure all of the cuts and bruises are fine. “I am going to head to Allison’s place in a minute. But let me get you comfortable in bed first so that you can get some sleep. Or at least try to.”
I let out a smile for Mom to let her know I am doing okay and then help her get off the floor.
As my Mom wobbles as she walks towards their bed, me supporting her with my arms, she gets into bed silently without saying a word. She pulls the covers over her body, trying to get comfortable and I adjust her pillows to make sure her head is comfortable and supported. I turn off the lamp light by the bed on the desk and the room is surrounded by darkness.
As Mom adjusts to the dark, I quietly give her a quick kiss on her forehead being careful of not touching any of her bruises.
“Goodnight Mom,” I whisper quietly as she settles into bed and begins to drift off to sleep. “I will see you tomorrow and let you know how my date with Max goes. I promise I will not be out too late with him and that I will be on my best behavior. Love you.”
I quietly tuck her into bed and make sure she is sound asleep before going upstairs to my room.
Once in my room, I let out a sigh of relief.
Well, I think to myself. Now that that is done and Dad and Mom are okay, I guess it is time to pack my stuff. Should probably let Max know what is going on and let him know that he will be picking me up from Allison’s place. Should also let Allison know that she needs to come get me.
As I get my stuff for the night packed, I text both Allison and Max to let them know what is going on at home.
I try not to think too much about what happened because I am trying not to feel too excited about the date with Max tonight.
Well, I think to myself. While today has started off rough, I am glad that is done and over with. Now I can go out and enjoy my date with Max, not having to worry about my Dad or anything else crazy going on today. It will just be me and Max—and a little bit of time with Allison before we get going. I can not wait to be on this date, finally!
Once all of my stuff is packed, I go downstairs, checked on my sleeping mother one last time, and head outside, waiting for Allison to pull up to my house.
When Allison finally gets to my house, the daylight in the sky is slowly starting to fade, turning into black. She pulls up beside me in her bright red punch buggy, nervously adjusting her mirrors as I get into the car.
“I am sorry,” she says, breathless. “So sorry I am late. Jason and I were doing stuff so I completely lost track of the time. But anyway, time to get to my place so we can get you ready for this date.”
“If you do not mind,” she continues, “Becca texted me. She said she wants to help me get you ready too. So she is also going to be staying at my house tonight too. So yay! We are going to have a slumber party, minus the fact that you are going to be going on a date and not spending a whole lot of time with us. But that is okay. We both have already made our own plans without you.”
“Not to say that we are ditching you completely, or anything. But since you are going to be out, Becca and I figured we could spend time together watching movies. Figured you would not mind anyway, considering your hot and steamy date tonight with Max and all.”
A mysterious, gloating twinkle appears in her eyes almost as if Allison had set this date up herself.
She is happy that I am finally going on a date. Since we have been friends, Allison always wondered why I myself was not in a relationship with anyone. Or why, for that matter, I never seemed interested in anyone, even boys. And even though she knew about my crappy home life, she still thought I should live each moment as if it were my last, maybe even go so far as to be with a boy once a night.
And even though that is something Becca herself admitted to doing before she met Matt, I myself just could not do it. I refused to. Not only because I did not want to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation that could cause more harm than good, but also because I just did not meet any boys at Rockwell High School that I was really interested in.
Even at the frequent amount of parties I went to in my spare time, there was not one boy I had met that I was interested in. Not one. Not even any of the guys Allison and Becca knew that they were very insistent on setting me up with. Nobody seemed to catch my eye or seemed interesting enough to invite into my circle of friends.
It was not until that fateful night at Jason’s party that I finally met someone I was even remotely interested in.
And even I do not know why I am attracted to him. I do not know why I am so attracted to him, I just know I am. He catches my eye in ways other guys have never caught my attention before.
His voice, his mannerisms, everything about him—attracts me to him. He is everything in a guy I see myself liking, falling for. He is the type of guy who knows how to attract people to him, make them laugh, make them feel things in a certain way. I can not describe it any better than that, as lame as that sounds.
I do not know—I just feel drawn to him in ways I have never felt drawn to anyone. He is both calm and mysterious, all at once.
From the moments we have spent together so far, I have felt myself falling deeper for him.
And here is where I would love to tell you why.
Days after Max and I had initially talked in Rockwell High School’s cafeteria, we began eating lunch together. It was almost as if we had been waiting for this moment our whole lives, as if this moment had been planned right from the start.
But it was not planned. Not at all. Max just decided to sit at our table and we started talking back and forth with each other as if we were the best of friends.
“Hello there,” I said to Max as he took his place beside me in the cafeteria. “I see you have come to join my party. Welcome, I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Here with me,” continued in my ridiculous banter, “Is Allison, Becca, Jason and last but not least, Matt.”
I pointed to each person as if he did not already know them, did not already meet them sometime before. Of course, I knew that was not the case. He had met them before, the night of the party to be exact.
The reason I know to begin with is because Allison and Becca told me themselves. After I had talked to him in the cafeteria about us being friends before we take things any further. So of course I knew me pretending like they did not already know him was a whole big charade. But I played my role anyway, pretending to be a gracious host to the boy I just recently met.
“Hello Max,” everyone greeted him, beaming smiles plastered on their faces as if they were waiting for this moment where I would bring a boy to our table. They all even went so far as to shake his hand, continuing to smile as he acknowledged their handshakes with a nod of his head.
But Max was generous about the whole thing too. He also acted as if this were his first time meeting everyone and appeared shy and nervous, as if this whole event were a bigger production than it needed to be.
“Hi everyone,” he greeted everyone cheerfully, a beaming smile plastered on his face. “Nice to meet you all. I hope I am allowed to sit here with you all.”
“If you do not know already, Steph and I were talking yesterday,” he continues saying. “We had met at your party Jason that we went to a little while ago. And we hit it off. Really well. At least, I think we hit it off well. Do not really know what Steph thinks of the whole thing, but—yeah.”
“Anyway, Steph and I talked yesterday. And we are thinking, we want to see more of each other. Because while we both like each other, a lot, we want to get to know each other a little bit better. Before we become more than… friends.”
“So, starting this week,” he finishes saying. “Steph and I are going to be spending more time with each other. And I was wondering, would it be okay if I sat and ate lunch with you guys too? I know you are Steph’s friends and all, but I feel like it would give all of us time together to get to know each other too. You are after all Steph’s friends and it would make it even easier to spend time with Steph during the next upcoming months.”
I waited quietly as Max set out to say what he was going to say, waiting to see what my friends thought of the whole thing. As they were taking in what Max said, I could see a lot of beaming smiles and friendly gestures on their faces.
They each nodded their head in understanding, acknowledging what Max said before Becca opened up her big mouth to respond.
“I think,” Becca said, turning to Allison first before continuing. “That is a wonderful idea. Yeah, I love it! Definitely, you can sit with us. Whenever you want, anytime you feel like it. You are more than welcome to be at this table with us. Especially since you are coming here to be with Steph. Well, hang out with her, at least.”
I can tell both Allison and Becca want to say more than give their approval of the whole situation, such as making fun of us for wanting to take things slow, but choose not to. Instead, they decide to give their approval and say nothing, knowing very well that whenever Max is not within earshot I am sure I will be hearing more from them about what they really think about the whole thing.
And Jason and Matt basically tell Max the same thing. Say they too, are okay with him sitting to eat with us.
“Anytime, friend,” I hear Matt saying. “We never really eat together usually but I am down with you coming to join us at this table, whenever I do decide to eat here. We are a friendly bunch. I promise we will not bite you, though I do not know for sure about Becca. She is a pretty feisty one, I can tell you that much.”
All of us let out a little chuckle, except for Becca who glares at Matt. I stop laughing once I realize that I completely forgot that her and Matt are currently on thin ice with each other right now. That they are not currently on good terms with each other, though both of them try their best to act normal, like everything is okay between them.
Of course, you can feel the tension between the two of them. And it is pretty easy to spot too. For one, they are both sitting as far away from each other as this small table allows them to. And avoiding each other’s eye contact as if they have the plague that they do not want to get.
You can also hear the pain in Becca’s voice too whenever Matt is mentioned or whenever he opens his mouth. The constant gibes each of them are giving to each other during conversation is also another classic giveaway.
Seeing the way the two of them are constantly hurting each other brings me pain. Because when they were together, even for a short period of time, they were wonderful. Happy even. But this—hurts to watch. Hurts to see. Just seeing how much they hate each other after their breakup pains me, makes me worry that the two of them will ever be alright with each other one day.
Geeze, I think to myself as the conversation at the lunch table continues without me. I hope this is not what I will have to expect if Max and I become more then friends. After everything, that is. I hope we will not be the same way Becca and Matt currently are with each other, that we will still get along, despite everything that has happened between us. That we will be okay, cool with each other.
Because I know breakups are hard and everything. But still, I do not know if I could be like they are. If I could deal with talking to Max in that way, in that tone of voice no matter how much hurt he caused me. I do not know if I could do it.
But I guess that is something I will have to deal with whenever it happens. Cross that bridge whenever I get to it. I also probably should not be talking as if Max and I are not going to end up together one day. Not exactly a good way to start our relationship.
As I am struggling deeply in my thoughts, I see Max looking over at me contemplatively.
“Hey, are you okay?” Max asks me as I continue struggling in my thoughts, a hint of concern deeply set in his eyes.
“Yeah, sorry,” I find myself mumbling. “I was distracted for a moment. But yeah, I am doing okay. Just thinking about things I probably should not be thinking about, that’s all. But I am okay, I can promise you that.”
Max nodded his head in understanding as if his own thoughts were on the same path as my own.
“Sometimes,” he said. “You can not help but think of the negative things, the things that can go wrong. In any relationship, whether it is the relationships you have built with your friends, new relationships that are just starting to grow, or old relationships that have been left behind that you are working on to improve. Sometimes you can not help but think of what all can go wrong, such as what could happen, will the relationship cause more harm than good, things like that.”
“But the thing is,” he continues, “You can think all of those things all you want, and do nothing but think negatively about how things will work out. But if you do not do anything, if you do not at least try and do something, you can not make those relationships work. You can not improve those relationships or make something out of them that can last and by doing so, the relationship in general will not work because you have not put your time and effort into it.”
“If any of that makes any sense, that is,” he ends, looking at me to see what I think of everything he just told me.
“No,” I say. “I get it. I get exactly what you mean.” I smile at him, letting him know that I am here, that even though we have just met, just gotten started, I have no intention of ending things right now.
He smiled back at me as if he got the message loud and clear and continued our conversation.
“So,” he asked me. “What did you think of everything I said? Of letting everyone know why I was going to be joining you guys at this table? Did I do okay? Was there anything I completely forgot to mention?”
“No,” I said. “I think you got everything. You were pretty straightforward and honest and everyone understands why you are here. If anything, I think they are happy. For me, for you. For having another person included in our group. For us, meeting someone new, for taking a leap of faith in this crazy life we live in.”
“Yeah, I think they are pretty happy about this,” I continued. “I know I am going to be getting an earful from Allison and Becca later on about all of this, but right now, they seem content with talking to each other. And yes, if I were you, I would work on talking to everyone else too as well as me. Because while your intentions to hang with us are me, I think you need to get to know everyone else as well so as to get a better feel of what you are getting yourself into with me.”
I say all of this with a smile on my face, a glimmer of a chuckle appearing in my eyes. Max tries to hide the smile currently appearing on his face too, but does not do a good job of covering it before it shows up.
Instead, we both find ourselves laughing for no apparent reason at all. As we continue laughing, everyone at the table turns to stare at both of us, curious and wondering looks on their faces. Wondering why we are laughing, what is so funny and what happened.
“What is so funny over there?” Becca demands from both of us, being the first person to ask what is going on.
Max and I immediately turn to each other and stop laughing, the laughter finally leaving our now expressionless faces.
“Oh, nothing,” Max says in order to stand up for me before Becca can make some sort of smart aleck remark. “An inside joke, that is all. Nothing you need to worry yourself about.”
Max turns to me, a snicker quickly appearing on his face before it is wiped away without a trace.
Becca lets out a huff in response, her attempt at being the voice of the group turning into a failure. Everyone else silently looks in our direction, still confused about what happened but deciding on not really saying anything else about it.
We continue chatting, talking as if it never happened.
Then the next thing we knew, the bell rang and it was time to go back to class.
“Well,” I say as Max and I gather my things, awkwardly standing in the hall way, waiting until one of us says goodbye until the next time. “This was really nice, Max. Thank you for coming to sit with me today. It felt good, having you there as company. Well, I will see you next time then. Does tomorrow, same time, same place work for you?”
“Yeah, I had a great time with you too,” Max said in agreeance. “It was nice to sit with you and just talk. Was a great distraction from normal everyday life. Thank you for letting me sit with you and your friends. I really enjoyed it. And yes, definitely down for seeing you tomorrow.”
“Well,” he continues to say as if he is hesitant to say this, to leave. “I will be seeing you tomorrow then. Bye Steph. Hope the rest of your day is wonderful.”
He looks at me with his beautifully startling blue eyes clear like the sky with hope and a look I can not quite fathom. I want to say the look is part admiration, maybe something else mixed within, but I am not completely sure. Looking at me as if I am the most important person in the world is the only other thing I can really guess, but I am not completely sure if that is the way he is looking at me or if it is just my imagination.
Either way, the look startles me, makes my heart race and my head spin in the most wonderful way. I find my face turning fifty shades of red as I try my best not to look directly at him as he walks away to go to his next class.
But as I turn to look in his direction, I swear he turns to look directly in my eyes. When he does, he beams a small smile at me, then gives me a wink before entering the doorway to his next class. My class is in the opposite direction so I find myself shyly shuffling down the hallway to my next class, still trying to calm down my still beating heart.
There are so many moments I can recall spending with Max when I realized how deeply I was falling for him. But most of those moments involved eating in the cafeteria with my friends Becca, Allison, Jason and Matt.
Just seeing Max, the way he was around my friends, the way he was with me, treating me as if I were the most important person in the world, set in stone the events that eventually led up to this first date.
During the time we spent together, I found out so much about him.
I found out that his biggest fear is snakes. I do not know why exactly, but he is traumatically frightened of them.
I also found out that he is literally the funniest guy I have ever met on the planet. Only in that he loves making puns and silly, stupid jokes that somehow still manage to make me laugh to tears. And I do not know why they are so funny. I do not know if it is because of the way he manages to say such things while looking so serious that you would never know that he is actually trying to pull your leg.
But while he is one of the funniest guys I have ever met, he is also the sweetest guy I have met too. When things were really rough with Mom and Dad, I found myself being able to open up and confide in him everything that was going on. Even the most horrible of things that I found I could not even tell Becca and Allison. He was there and allowed me to openly express how I felt about everything all without blinking an eye and oozed sympathy and understanding that I was never able to find in anyone else.
Sure, Becca and Allison were there for me and understood what I was going through (to a certain extent, at least), but Max took it to a whole new level. He understood me in ways nobody else did and was able to calm me down whenever tears were shed. Just by being there, Max brought with him calm to my already chaotic life.
He was able to understand what I was going to say before it was said, allowing me to openly express my anger, sadness and pain over everything my Dad has done to ruin my family.
He was the shoulder to cry on, the man I needed whenever tensions were high at home and emotions were purely raw and strong.
And the best part was that he understood. He understood completely what I was going through. Though his own experiences that have shaped him into the human being that he is are completely different from mine, he understands exactly what I am going through. He understands that what I am going through is rough, deadly and dangerous. That it could possibly harm, maybe even destroy, parts of my life. That it could destroy any chances I have left of having a perfectly normal future. And he has been helpful in guiding me into seeking help, into finding ways of handling the situation without causing a larger impact in my family that could potentially hurt us. Of helping me find ways of doing things that could protect Mom while also pleasing Dad.
He understands to the point that if I ever need help, he is more than willing to help me with whatever trouble Dad causes. In helping me protect Mom from Dad while keeping me safe too. In being supportive with whatever decisions and actions I make with regards to how I handle situations with Dad. Even if at times my decisions are not the most orthodox.
And he is not hesitant. Hesitant at telling me things like it is. At being honest with me, telling me exactly what all I need to hear whenever I truly need it. At handling me at my worst while continuing to love me at my best.
During the upcoming months we spent getting to know each other, Max truly became one of the most important men in my life. I do not know how this happened exactly, but it did. And I could tell, just from a quick glance in his eyes, that I was just as important to him as he was to me.
I trusted him and in return, he opened up and trusted me. He told me all of the important things about his life, such as what his family was like, how everything that happened with his friend Michele truly affected him—everything. Even the deep, the dark and the evil thoughts that sometimes plagued his mind in moments of loneliness and despair.
I quickly learned in the months leading up to this point so much about him. Both about his deepest hopes and his deepest fears, all at once. And while at times, I became terrified the more and more I learned about him, I was also in awe at how quickly everything fell into place. At how quickly we opened to each other, became more than just acquaintances.
Because we were not just friends to each other. In the months following our first meeting, we became more to each other than just that. We were the best of friends, the allies of one and the same cause.
We understood each other in a moment of months when it takes others years, maybe even a lifetime, to understand the people surrounding them. Especially those they hold closest to them.
These are some of the reasons, and many others I still have a hard time remembering, that I began falling in love with Max.
When I arrived at Allison’s house, it was very close to becoming pitch black outside. As she quickly drove out of my neighborhood and into hers, she was continuously apologizing to me about her tardiness, as if I did not already expect her to be late. Because let us face it—Allison is not the most punctual when it comes to time. Especially when it comes to being on time for something like a date with a really attractive guy.
“Steph,” she kept saying over and over again. “I am really, really, really, sorry. For getting to your place late. I am really, really sorry, friend. I hope you can forgive me.”
But while she was saying this, once more, I found myself laughing instead. Not because I found the whole situation to be hilarious. But because I honestly knew this was going to happen. Allison is never on time for anything. Ever. Not even when it comes to spending time with Jason, she is often late too. She is punctually late to every function she plans on attending, no matter how important the function is to her, no matter how many times she says she plans on being there early.
Being late is a part of Allison’s character. And while at times it causes me more problems, it is also something I find myself laughing at over and over again. Not because it is funny but because of seeing the excuses she uses to try and explain her tardiness. Because there is always some sort of excuse with her, whether it is Jason distracting her, her being so busy that she lost track of the time, or something else that she considers plausible but that I myself always see as an invalid reason for being late.
I know a lot of it is because of how long I have known Allison. I have known her since middle school and am completely used to it by now. But there are some times where her lateness can be a royal pain in the butt. And while today was one of those moments, I found myself amused by the whole thing because I just did not care. Her being late to pick me up was not stopping me from seeing and spending time with Max.
Because Max and I had planned this ahead of time. Knowing that Allison was going to be getting me ready for the date, we had already planned for the possibility of me getting to where I needed to be later than planned and so we scheduled our date time for later at night than most people are willing to go out.
But that was okay with both of us because we were not going anywhere tomorrow anyway. Tomorrow is Saturday anyway so neither one of us have to worry about being late to school or staying out so late that we do not get an adequate amount of sleep. And even if we did have school tomorrow, I was planning on skipping anyway so that I could spend more time with Max.
Because while I have stopped partying since I have met Max, I have decided to take my adventures to new heights. But I did things with Max that I would not normally do on my own.
Like the one time whenever we went skydiving into a lake so that we could then go kayaking on the lake.
And while I could go on and on about all of the adventures Max and I have been on since we have met, I want to get going and get ready for our first date.
As we arrived at Allison’s house, Becca greeted us on the front porch. She had gotten here a couple minutes before both Allison and I and was just waiting patiently for us to get here to get the party started.
“Well, well, well,” Becca said with a purr. “If it is not Allison and Steph. Took the two of you long enough. I almost did not think the both of you were going to show up and that I was going to just have to bust into the house without you. I am guessing you got here late though because of Allison and Jason, am I right?”
Becca gave Allison a quick wink, as if she knew what Allison and Jason were really up to. Though, it was pretty obvious to me too what they were busy doing, though I did not want to say it myself.
But Becca was daring. She decided to bring it up anyway, despite that we were supposed to be on a tight schedule and getting me ready for my date tonight.
“Oh, how daring of you,” Becca said. “To be banging at a time like this when we are supposed to be getting Steph ready for her first date. Her first date, with a boy, nonetheless. Something of which I was not expecting to be happening anytime soon. I am still surprised, shocked, that this is finally happening.”
“We are finally helping Steph, our little girl, get ready for her first date,” Becca said with a sniff, tearing up in the eyes, still sounded surprised by what is going on. “I feel as if she is finally growing up. Becoming the woman she was always meant to be. And with a really nice guy too, which is always a plus.”
“But anyway,” she continued saying, aiming her conversation more at Allison than me. “Less time for talking and getting emotional about this. We can save that for whenever Steph talks to us after the date with Max. Right now, we need to get her upstairs to your room so that she can be ready for the date. Get her all dolled up and beautiful so that Max can look at her in awe and be amazed at the girl he has caught for himself.”
“Not to say you are not beautiful already,” Becca said to me as they both steered me in the direction of Allison’s room. “Of course you are already. Just need to get you more properly dressed for this date. None of the clothes you have with you are going to do. I will be letting you borrow one of my outfits for this occasion because we want you to look perfect for this date.”
“And,” Becca continued. “The dress I want you to wear for this date I was planning on giving to you anyway. Mostly because it no longer fits on me but also because I think you will like it and that it will look really good on you. But I will let you be the judge of that once you put it on.”
Once in Allison’s room, Becca pulls out a dress she had somehow managed to hide in her bulky purse.
It was quite a beautiful dress. Purple, my absolute favorite color, as if Becca somehow knew exactly what I was thinking.
But it is interesting because I have never seen Becca wear this dress. Ever. This purple dress was made out of a light shear fabric and a dark shade of purple that I found absolutely endearing to my hour glass figure. Something I was more than happy to wear, especially for a special occasion like this.
As I continued inspecting the dress, looking at it with a fresh wave of awe on my face, I saw Allison turn to look at Becca.
She too was just as surprised as me at what dress Becca pulled out of her purse.
“Becca,” I heard her say as I continued giving the dress a good look. “I do not recall you wearing this dress before. Ever. How come I did not know that you had this, that either of us knew you had this? When exactly have you ever worn this dress? Because I certainly do not remember you wearing this.”
“That is because,” Becca said defensively. “I have never worn this dress around you two. Nether of you knew I had this dress because I only wear it on special occasions. It is normally stocked away at the back of my closet where neither of your greedy hands can get on it. But I have had it for a while now. Years actually. And the reason neither of you knew about it was because I did not wear it very often. Like I said, only on special occasions, whenever I felt the need to put it on, which has not been quite often. The last time I wore it was on my first date with Matt.”
Becca started tearing up, as if mentioning the dress in this way brought up all sorts of memories of her short time with Matt.
“But anyway, I thought Steph should keep it,” Becca continued. “I do not want it anymore because of the memories I have with Matt, which has ruined any chances of me wanting to wear it anymore. But I figured it would be in more capable hands with Steph because I do not see her having the same bad luck with Max that I had with Matt. So it is yours now Steph. That is, if you still want it after I have told you why I am letting you have it.”
“No, I am absolutely fine with wearing this,” I said to Becca, still studying the dress with awe. “It is the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. If anything, I am honored that you are giving this wonderful dress to me. And for my first date, nonetheless. Thank you, Becca. You really are a good friend.”
Becca beamed at me as I took the dress off the hanger, changing into it so that we could get me ready for my date with Max. Both Becca and Allison helping me fit into it, adjusting it to my body in all of the right places so that it would fit on me like a glove.
Once the dress was completely covering my full body, I turned to inspect myself in it in the mirror.
Oh wow, I thought to myself. Wow. This dress looks better on me than it does on the hanger. How is that even possible? How is it possible to find something as beautiful as this that looks just as beautiful on me as it does by itself? This must be some sort of witchcraft, some sort of weird magic that can not be explained.
Not that I am going to complain, I continue thinking. No, not at all. I am absolutely fine with this. Wow, this is just—perfect. The perfect dress, exactly what I was looking for. Exactly what I need for my date with Max.
Wow, I feel breathless, I continue thinking as both Becca and Allison start preparing me for my date with Max, gathering all of the makeup essentials to get me ready. I just can not believe this is finally happening. I am finally going on a date. For real this time. Please, please, please—let everything turn out how I want it to. Let everything be okay. Let this date go well so that I can see Max again. I just want everything to turn out okay. To work out the way it is supposed to, the way it is meant to.
As I find myself thinking these thoughts, getting all tangled up with overthinking everything like I typically tend to do, Becca and Allison continue getting me ready for the date, putting a splash of purple colored makeup on my face so that my eyes and dress are in synch with each other. As they are getting me ready, Allison begins working on my hair, letting Becca finish up my makeup.
Allison starts brushing my hair, gently pulling the tangled roots out as if my hair were a fragile fairy with its wings being cut off. She then gets out her curling iron, working on making my hair a gentle mess of curls, unlike what my hair typically tends out to be. She parts the curls around my face in a gentle wave like pattern so that my hair flows smoothly down the center of my back. She does not overdo it, but makes it curly enough that my hair looks both curly and straight all at once.
Even my bangs that are currently covering my forehead, have a nice curl to their sides that part over my forehead like a curtain.
Their transformation of my beauty takes roughly half an hour before it is complete. And when they are both done, Allison and Becca breathe out a sigh of relief before allowing me to look at my own reflection.
When I look in the mirror, I find my breath taken away. I feel as if I am looking at a complete stranger for the first time. Because the girl in the mirror can not be me. There is no way that I am the exact girl looking at this reflection. There is no possible way we are both one and the same person. It is impossible. She is too pretty to be me. Too beautiful, too different. Does not look like me at all.
Everything is perfect about this girl. She is everything I am not, everything I wish I were. But yet, when all is said and done, she is me.
Words can not describe the way I feel whenever I see that reflection looking back at me. Even now, after the fact, I am still in shock that I was ever able to look so beautiful.
And the dress. It fit perfectly on me. It hugged my body tightly, hugging my figure and shaping it into perfection.
Allison and Becca were just as surprised as I was feeling. Once they were done, they both looked at me, their jaws hitting the floor.
Then, they both let out excited squeals.
“Oh, my, gosh!” Becca exclaimed, jumping up and down while holding Allison’s hand in her grasp. “Steph, is that you? Is that really you? Wow, I can not believe it! Steph… you look so beautiful.”
“Wow,” Allison said, seeming almost completely speechless in her shock. “Steph, look at you. You look so beautiful.”
“I feel like I am about to tear up,” Becca said, tears appearing in the corners of her tiny eyes. “I just can not believe it. Wow, you really look so stunning, Steph.”
“Wow,” Allison said. “We did a really good job, did we not, Becca? I was not expecting Steph to look like this—to look so beautiful. And for her first date, nonetheless.”
I beamed a smile once I looked at my reflection once more, happy at my fortune. I not only was going on a date with such a wonderful guy, but I was doing so in a beautiful dress and looking the most beautiful I have ever felt.
He is going to be so stunned, I thought to myself as I looked at my reflection in the mirror, twirling around in the dress as if I have no care in the world. Because I know I sure as heck was. I still am actually. This is really surprising. Just was not expecting to look this way, to feel this way.
But anyway, my thoughts continued. I guess now it is time for this date. Just take a couple deep breaths, and smile. Everything is going to be okay. You are going to be okay. Just wait. This will be the best date you will ever go on.
As I continue smiling and looking at my reflection, I continue getting excited about my date with Max. So excited that I can not stop smiling.
But then, it hits me. I am finally going on my first date. It is here.
The only question is: will everything work out in the end?
Only time will tell. And nothing tells time better than the present.
Every time I look back on the moments Max and I spent together, I can not help but smile. They were some of the best times I had during my years of youth.
Our first date was no exception. Even now, many years later, our first date feels like it happened only yesterday. If only I could go back to it now, I would.
It happened on a clear and beautiful night.
After preparing me for my first date, Allison drove me to the restaurant Max and I had agreed to eating dinner at.
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