Chapter Nine: Sometimes the Sun
"Tonight I watched the lights go out in your house,
Wondering how I could get so deep,
And you could still get sleep.
In vain I blame my trembling on the cold air,
But I can't hide that I've relied on you,
Like yellow does on blue."
I know where I should be. I should be in Professor Peterson's Microbiology class, finishing up an essay on the life span of a single-celled organism. I should be in my dorm room, stuffing my face, messing around with my roommate and relaxing from a long week of finals. I should be in the campus' library, starting my recommended reading for the up and coming semester. I should be doing all of the things that a normal college freshman should be doing.
But I never was very normal, so why start now?
Instead of being in one of those places, I am crutched down in the last aisle of a grocery store, reading the backs of novels. Granted, the grocery store is not my favorite place to look for a good read, but I'm desperate. I haven't read a book (recreationally) in weeks. And in no offense to my family, I am nearly dying of boredom. After a while, even football games get boring. As I was saying, I am putting immense pressure on my ankles and knees in this position, searching for a book to take home. The only book that catches my eye is big and a bit expensive, but interesting none the less. I already own two Dean Kootz books, and sadly, I found myself disinterested after the fourth chapter. Hopefully I can break the streak. I placed the book in my basket next to the odd assortment of items and stood up. Before I could fish my phone out of my bag to check the time, I was interrupted by a voice coming from a tall figure in front of me.
"If I received a nickel for every time I saw someone as beautiful as you, I'd have five cents."
Before I knew it, I was smiling. Not because I was happy or even flattered by this guy's attention. For one thing, it was probably the funniest pick up line I'd ever heard. And secondly, I wasn't very used to being hit on in such a comical manner. Such a thing was so rare in college that I usually didn't prepare myself. I had to give it to this guy; he did catch me off guard.
"Too bad you don't have any common sense." I retorted with the first thing that entered my mind. Not to shabby, I told myself. I attempted to walk away from this guy, but I was struck with an odd sense of nostalgia, and in turn, I found myself taking an extra moment to stare at him. He obviously took this as something more. Before he could spit out another cheesy line, I spoke. "Do I know you?"
He began to squirm now. Running a hand through his dark black hair, he replied. "I-I don't think so…maybe. I'm not sure…" he said, stumbling over his words.
The nervous smile set it off. Laughing at myself (and somewhat at him), I let my shoulders fall and eased the disapproving look from my face. Tilting my head in a way that resembled a mother chastising her son, I rested my hands on my hips and went on. "Sidney Taylor Gilfaldi, what are you doing trying to pick up girls in the grocery store?"
Now he really got nervous. Maybe I should have told him who I was before revealing that I knew who he was.
"H-How do you know my name?" he asked, backing away.
"I've only known you since preschool, doi." I said, adding my old phrase in as a hint.
"Helga?" he asked, approaching me again, his words tainted with disbelief. When I simply beamed in response, he addressed me again. "Helga Pataki, no way!" he said excitedly, grabbing me up in a slightly awkward hug and gaining the attentions of several other shoppers.
"In the flesh." I said once he released me.
"Boy howdy, you look different." he said, more than likely referring to my hair. He, on the other hand, had grown, even since graduation. He was already taller than me long before we graduated, but he still seemed to have grown since.
"What about you? You're practically a giant." I said, still smiling. He was the first classmate of mine that I'd seen since coming home. I hadn't expected to see very many of my old classmates. "So, what are you doing here? Other than looking for a date." I joked.
"Hey, I don't have to look for dates." he said, avoiding my gaze. I knew it was you the entire time."
"Of course you did." I said, leaving the aisle and heading towards the front of the store to check out.
"And what are you doing here? I heard you left home for college."
"I came back for break." I said. "What about you? What are you up to?"
"I'm going to school at home these days. And, with the help of my new kicks, wining and dining." he bragged, motioning down to his flawless white tennis shoes.
"Aww, you got rid of your beetle boots." I said, in mock sympathy. He'd been wearing the same kind of boots since I knew him, and I can't say that I've ever seen him wearing anything else.
"Yeah, I figured it was time to move on. Speaking of new shoes." he began, motion downwards to my feet. "You might want to look into some yourself. Yours are a bit outdated, Helga."
Frowning, I took another look at my light brown boots. Olga had bough them for me, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I pretty much hated them. They were the kind that people wore with everything from dressy skirts to pants tucked into the wide leg of the boot, to pajamas. I did not like them, but considering they were a gift from my sister, and she just so happened to be at home when I was, I figured I'd pacify her and pretend like I loved them. My ensemble consisted of a blue hooded sweatshirt that read "Vassar" in white letters across the front, blue jeans and the boots I so loathed. Very chic.
"Hey, Olga bought them for me." I said. "Actually, she'd the whole reason I'm here at all." I said, walking to the express line at the front of the store. Loading my items on the conveyer belt, I turned back to Sid.
"Your sister sent you to the store to et a jar of peanut butter, mustard, butter, a loaf of pumpernickel bread and a book?" he asked, not convinced.
"She's having a baby, and she's got all these weird cravings. For now it's grilled peanut butter and mustard sandwiches on pumpernickel." I said. He wrinkled his face in response. "Don't ask."
"Oh I won't." he said, putting his things on the black conveyer belt behind mine. "So how are you and Arnold doing?" he asked, nonchalantly. I must have looked at him questioningly, because he continued and began explaining himself. "Well, the two of you did get your pictures in the newspaper."
"Had I known the photographer was there, I probably wouldn't have kissed him." I said, laughing. I did not know until the next morning that the private moment that Arnold and I had at graduation was documented for two different local newspapers, each in love with the thought of having two students kissing on the front page of their circulars. Since I hadn't really spoken to anyone after graduation, I wasn't sure how many people knew about Arnold and I.
"We're fine. He's at University of Kentucky now." I said. I was somewhat disappointed that I had not heard from him yet. He told me that he'd also be leaving school early (but still after finals) to spend the whole of his winter break in Hillwood, but was vague about when. I did want to spend time with my family, but I also wanted to see Arnold. I shook myself from my melancholy thoughts and paid the cashier for my food, and accepted the change. I wanted to say goodbye to Sid, so I waited until he paid, and walked with him out into the frigid air of the night.
"Do you need me to walk you to your car?" he asked, turning to me.
"Nah, I walked. I'll be fine."
"Okay, tell Arnold I said 'hey'". He said, smiling and walking tin the opposite direction of the way I was headed. There were not many people walking around as I expected, the air was cold, and I was glad that under my sweatshirt, I wore two sweaters and camisole.
The streetlights shone yellow on the pavement and cast long shadows in front of me when I passed them. There were icy patches on the sidewalks where rainwater and puddles froze over during the night. I tried to take in everything from my surroundings, so much so, that I nearly missed my own street. The city held an atmosphere that college did not. In college, everyone was so wrapped up in their sorority or their credits or their lives that no one really cared about anyone else. Despite being a city, Hillwood was profoundly personal. If a tree was cut down, everyone knew where and why. If someone had a baby, everyone new when they were born and who they were named after. It was that kind of place. And as much as I yearned to get out, I missed it. I missed home.
Coming up my street, I noticed the patch of snow outside of my neighbor's house. The snowfall was minimal this year, so far at least, and the most any one had was hardly enough to make a decent snowman. Resting the brown paper bag on the sidewalk, I bend down and scooped up as much snow as I could gather, and formed a hard, somewhat dirty snowball. Clutching the packed snow, I tossed it in the air a few times, before advancing on to my own house. I was cold, and it was getting late, but I wasn't ready to go inside just yet. The cold night air filled my lungs, and I could not get enough of it. Disregarding the groceries momentarily, I crouched on the sidewalk in front of my house, and began counting backwards.
"Three, two one!" I called to no one in particular, an began sprinting around my street, looping around until I got back to my house. My hair blew from my face, like a dark curtain following me. By the time I was directly across the street from where my lope began, I could feel the warm tears free themselves from my eyes, and run down my cheeks. Once back at my house, I nearly collapsed on the small lawn, but settled with carrying the bag to my front steps.
Looking around the lawn and sidewalk, I could not find the brown paper bag that contained the only remedy for Olga's hunger pangs. I knew she'd be upset that I let her food get stolen because I felt the insatiable need to run as fast as I could for no reason. The store, by this time was closed, and even if it was not, I had no intention of walking all the way back there and back home. My eyes suddenly darted to my front steps, where the streetlights cast a dark shadow over the door, but not dark enough to hide the person sitting there, or my bag of food.
"Looking for something?" it said, standing and slowly advancing towards me.
"I could ask you the same thing." I said, slyly.
"Care to explain?" it asked, pointing towards the end of the street, obviously referring to the impromptu run I'd just taken.
"Care to explain?" I repeated, motioning towards the front steps.
"I missed you." Arnold said, stepping fully into the glow of the streetlight. He'd changed as well, though not as drastically as I thought he would. He hair was cut shorter, and combed from his face. He stood in front of me, dressed lighter than I, a clean dress shirt under a sweatshirt and blue jeans, yet still looking well put together, as usual.
"I missed you too." I admitted, still upset that he hadn't told me when he was coming back home, but happy that he surprised me. "Sorry I didn't tell you." I said, biting my lip, letting my dark hair fall over my face. "I wanted it to be surprise."
"Well, mission accomplished." he said, laughing and pulling me into a tight hug. I buried my face into his broad shoulder and smiled, glad that he was not upset. After arriving at college, my hair had already begun to grow out in it's natural color: a light auburn brown. My father's hair was the same color before he went grey and I found not reason to fight it by dying my hair. My hair grew back softer and darker than it probably would have otherwise, and was easier to manage. Falling to my shoulders, my hair was the only thing about me that seemed to have changed. Pulling back, Arnold stared at me in the eyes and spoke. You look really nice, Helga."
"Thanks." I said, taking his hand in mind and walking him to the door. "Did you miss Hillwood at all?" I asked. I was curious if the change in scenery made him dislike the city. I was but an hour away, but he was several states away from the place where he'd grown up.
"Yeah. I missed the little things." He said simply. Arnold's presence was so comforting, and I was taken aback when he abruptly stopped in front of my house.
"What's wrong?" I asked, wrinkling my brow in concern.
"There is something…' he began, his voice fading out as he met my eyes. "There's something I really missed." he said, quietly.
Before I could ask what it was, he turned to me, and brought his hand to the side of my face, drawing my head towards him and my lips towards his. Gently he pressed his lips to mine, approaching the kiss as one would a butterfly. His attention shifted from my top lip to my bottom, and the kiss became for fervent, on both of our parts. After what felt like days, we parted, with him leaving meek kissed on the corners of my mouth and face.
"I missed that too." I said, smiling and escorting him into my parents house. The evening was off to a good start.
Aww. And that's the end. Not sure how I feel about that last line. It may or may not change. Depending on my mood. I wrote this whole chapter in one night. Yay for me.
I'm kind of sad it's over, I have to say that this is my best work yet. The only story, I think, that started off strong and stayed that way. And yes, people, I wrote another kiss. They're getting easier as I go. Another "yay" for me.
Nothing else to say, really. Hope the ride was as fun for you guys as it was for me.