Ok, so Lightning Never Strikes Twice was never supposed to have a second chapter or a sequel. It was meant to be one of those quick one shot stories, but for those of you who write, you know how persistent plot bunnies can be when ignored. They actually start screaming at you, and bouncing… the bouncing is the annoying part.
I would recommend reading Lightning Never Strikes Twice first, but it isn't absolutely necessary… or maybe it is. Oh well, if you don't understand this, go back and read it.
Disclaimer: The usual, I don't claim to own anything you may recognize so do not sue me.
He hated summers for several reasons; despite the fact that most people greatly enjoyed them. He was different like that. The first reason being, summers reminded him of happier times; times when he wasn't standing in the middle of an empty home, with the blaring stereo as the only sound besides his own breathing. The second reason was that school was out. As a student, he would have been thrilled at the prospect of two months without classes, but as a teacher, he found it rather disappointing. Without class he had nothing to do, no one to talk to; even if the conversations would have been mundane excuses as to why the homework was not present. And the third reason related to his having nothing to do. It meant it was time for him to clean, which was exactly what he was doing, although in the back of his mind, he was pleading for the phone to ring or someone to knock on the door.
Kneeling down in a pile of debris, he gazed about his half cleaned office. One side was finished. Boxes and bookshelves stood neatly organized. A condition they would have for at most a week or two if he was lucky, and careful. Organization had never been his strong point. He stood up slowly, balancing himself against the smooth top of his desk, before wincing when he realized he'd placed his hand in something sticky; most likely an old drink had been spilled there.
Grimacing, he found a few pieces of scrap paper and cleaning off his hand, before placing the scraps over the offending area, making a mental note to clean it later, or else forget about it completely. He took a quick inventory of the objects covering his desk: several half finished lesson plans, a few scrap papers with doodles on them, several empty coffee cups and soda cans, a gold name plate baring the lettering Dr. Oliver, two photographs of six teenagers in plain silver frames, a telephone, and a pile of old coffee receipts. He really drank too much of that stuff, but he didn't care. He needed it to wake up. If not, his whole life would look like his office.
He sighed and reached for one of the empty trash bags he'd brought with him into the war zone. He proceeded to sweep his hand across the desk with the purpose of getting rid of all the trash. His fingers brushed against the old coffee receipts, about to send them to their fate of becoming members of the population at the local landfill. Only the sound of his CD player skipping saved them from their destiny, causing him to curse his luck and drop the garbage bag, racing over to the system before it scratched his CD.
After pressing a specific button, the machine responded by sliding the CD tray towards him, presenting one shiny, skinny disc which reflected a multitude of colors as the lights in the office bounced off it. He took the disk carefully from its tray and held it up to examine it for scratches. A few lines covered the surface, but a quick rub with the edge of his old green t-shirt proved that they were just dust. Satisfied, he placed the disk back in the player and pressed the bottom to recall the tray once more before pressing a second, smaller key to play the music recorded on the disk. He waited a few moments while the disk registered and the player randomized his track list. Music resumed its blaring from the speakers, but he didn't go back to cleaning just yet. Instead he waited, making sure the CD didn't skip again his eyes focusing on the photographs on his desk.
Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you baby
And I don't want to miss a thing
Although unsure why, he quickly hit the skip button, and moved back to the desk where he began to move more trash into the bag, the coffee receipts forgotten for the moment. Once they'd been saved for last however, there was no other choice but to knock them into the now nearly full bag. He picked up a few and skimmed them, vaguely remembering the day most of them were collected. Bored, his eyes barely touched the words on them. However, his finger nimbly met a material unlike the shiny, glossy register print outs that most of the receipts happened to be printed on. The change in texture made him glance down at the crumpled paper in his hand. A slightly grease smeared heart adorned a corner of the sheet. He quickly unfolded the scrap, gazing in shock at the writing. He couldn't understand how he'd almost thrown it away, but the fact that he'd completely forgotten it even existed overshadowed his feelings. Confusion sank in as he read the scrawled hand writing and the ten digits that graced the paper. He sank carefully into his desk chair, wondering what was wrong with him. Why he hadn't called her? It had been nearly six months and yet he hadn't even thought about that night at the airport.
Sure he'd been busy in New York with Kira and Trent. Sure he'd had school to attend to when he returned. Sure he'd had to help Haley with her wedding plans, and the visit from Conner and Ethan during their spring break. Sure he'd been busy calling all of his other friends, but he still could have found a moment. He could have called. He'd said he would. Now he would. His hands moved towards the telephone.
But what if she was angry with him? What if she'd waited for days, weeks, maybe even months for him to call and he never did? It wasn't as if he'd given her his number. What if she thought he'd ignored her on purpose? What if he did? He withdrew his hand and stared at the writing again, rubbing his temples with the pointer and thumb of the hand not clutching the scrap for dear life. After all, it was probably one of his most important possessions and he'd almost tossed it out.
He pushed himself out of his chair and began pacing back and forth, debating what to do. Should he call her? Should he just forget about? Surely if she cared, she would have mentioned it to one of the others. She would have told them about the meeting. But he cared didn't he? And yet he hadn't told them? Was it that he really hadn't cared enough; or maybe he just didn't want to start something again, friendship or otherwise? Maybe he was afraid?
The man who faced monsters and demons and aliens and all sorts of horrors was afraid of her. He realized it then. Just the thought of picking up the phone terrified him. But it also terrified him to throw out the scrap. She'd know he had, somehow. And then all hell would break loose.
But he shouldn't be afraid. There was nothing to be afraid of. He'd sat with her. He'd had coffee and talked to her. They'd parted with smiles and a phone number begging to be used. And then he decided. It would be used. His hand reached for the receiver. It picked the cool device up and flipped it over. Carefully, examining the scrap to make sure he did it correctly, he entered a one followed by the ten scrawled digits and raised the receiver to his ear.
The phone rang once and his heart beat faster. It rang twice and he was tempted to hang it up. It rang a third time and he began to sweat. It rang a fourth time and his breath caught in his throat as her voice answered on the other end.
"Hello?" The question startled him. It was the hello given to a stranger, not a friend waiting on the other side. It was the hello that proceeded "sorry, you have the wrong number".
"Hi," he replied.
"Tommy?" Try as she might, she couldn't conceal the excitement in her voice. He smiled. She wasn't angry. She was pleased. His nerves started to settle down.
"I told you I'd call," he answered.
"It took you long enough," she replied, laughter evident in her voice. She twirled around, unknown to him, as she placed a bowl of food down for her cat. She wore a larger smile then she had in weeks. This was easier. Talking to him on the phone where she couldn't see his face, his hurt, or his nerves; where he couldn't see her fear, her own pain, or her silent apologies.
She wandered into her living room and plopped down into a big cushiony arm chair, picking up a photograph of six teenagers, identical to the one he clutched in his own hand as he reclined back in his office chair.
"Sorry about that. I misplaced your number."
"That doesn't surprise me. You never could stay organized."
"Yeah, well, some things don't change," he laughed, laying the frame on his knee and running his finger across one of the small female figures in the photo.
"I don't think I'd want them too. Is your whole house a mess?" she asked, giggling and wrinkling her nose a bit. In his mind, he could have sworn he saw it. He could see everything.
"Well, I'm supposed to be cleaning it, but someone's phone number interrupted me."
"Mine? Well, that's a completely legitimate excuse," she told him, still staring at the center of the photograph she held.
"Oh really? What if it was Zack's?"
"You wouldn't have stopped cleaning for Zack," she told him assertively.
"What about Billy?"
"No, he wouldn't have been important enough."
"Possibly, but only because she'd hurt you if she knew she wasn't important enough to distract you from the horrors of cleaning."
"How about Jason?"
"Now, Jason could give me a run for my money. But I still argue that only I could make you stop."
"You're probably right, Kim," he laughed, letting her name run off his tongue. He wasn't sure he could have brought himself to say the full thing without letting his emotions show; at least not when she was being so playful. This was much more comfortable than their last conversation.
'What are you listening to? I love this song," her voice cut through his thoughts. He listened to the stereo for a moment. Sure enough the player had gone around and was now back where it had started. Or maybe it was angry at him for skipping the song earlier. He was about to reply when she interrupted him. "Lying close to you feeling your heart beating; And I'm wondering what you're dreaming; Wondering if it's me you're seeing."
He smiled at the sound of her voice and without thinking replied. "Then I kiss your eyes; And thank God were together; I just want to stay with you in this moment forever; Forever and ever."
"Oh my god, you sang!" she laughed. "You never sang before."
"Well, you never gave me a reason to," he told her defensively.
"But you sang."
"Are you going to harp on that fact?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, laughing still. "Why'd you do it?"
"Why'd you sing?"
"I don't know," he answered, frowning slightly. Why had he sung? "Why'd you sing?"
"Because I like the song."
"Well, I like it too," he answered. "It is on my CD, after all."
"Come on, Tommy. Why'd you sing?"
"Because you did."
"Oh…" she replied, quietly. "Why'd you call?"
"Because I promised you I would."
"And because I wanted to."
"Of course I did. I sang because I wanted to, too. You just get me to do the things I already want to, but don't know yet," he told her. She smiled.
The last time the conversation took that turn she'd chickened out. She didn't want to chicken out this time. What she had to say was too important to wait six months or another fourteen years. She took a deep breath as her cat jumped into her lap as if knowing she needed comfort. She began to stroke his coat.
"Me too," he answered.
"Why are you sorry?"
"I'm sorry for letting you get me to do the one thing I never really wanted to." She didn't answer him. Her eyes filled with tears. He took a deep breath of his own. He didn't want her to be upset. That wasn't the reason he called. "Kimberly," he whispered. "It's over. It was a long time ago. You're sorry, and I'm sorry, and we forgive each other. We've both moved on."
"Sure we have," he affirmed. "I mean, you commented on my atrocious singing. It's officially mandatory that we move on."
"It wasn't atrocious," she laughed. He smiled. She wasn't crying anymore.
"Thank you," he told her.
"I didn't say it was very good either."
"Hey!" he laughed, listening to her giggle on the other end. He cast his eyes to the window and then back down to the photograph again.
"So, where exactly is your area code," she asked him. "I didn't recognize it."
"Reefside. A few hours outside Angel Grove."
"I've been there."
"Your cell is based in Angel Grove? I thought you lived in Florida?" he asked her back.
"Sort of?" He asked. His eyes jumped to the window again, when a few rain drops hit the window.
"I've still got a winter home down in Florida, but I moved back to California about three years ago."
"L.A.?" he asked, slightly surprised.
"Yeah; I was headed home."
"Wish I'd known."
"I wish you had too."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"You just did," she answered, as her cat jumped off her lap. She righted herself and stood up, then walked over to the heavily curtained window. She pulled the cloth aside and gazed out. It looked like rain.
"Can I ask you a few more then?"
"Why did you write that letter? Was there really someone else?"
"I thought you said we'd moved on."
"We did. I'm not mad. I just want to know."
"I thought there was. I was wrong."
"Have you been right since?" he asked, sitting up as the sounds of rainfall slowly became louder.
"No. What about you?" she asked tentatively, sticking her hand out of the open window and catching a few droplets of rain on her hand.
"I thought so, once. But no."
"Are you sad?"
"Maybe. Are you?"
"A bit. A little lonely."
"I know the feeling," he told her. The rain was slowly turning into a full fledged storm. He could see lightning playing in the clouds in the distance. How long had they been on the phone. "It's raining."
"Same here," she answered, pulling the window close. She leaned against the wall and wrapped her free arm around herself, closing her eyes as she listened to his breathing. She started to hum slightly, remembering the lyrics they'd shared a few minutes before.
"Don't want to close my eyes; I don't want to fall asleep; Cause I'd miss you baby; And I don't want to miss a thing."
"You really love that song, don't you," he asked her. He pictured her sitting sweetly, listening to the song play over and over again.
"I do," she replied.
"I guess I'm jealous of her."
"The girl in the song?"
"You shouldn't be."
"Because you were right. You're the only one who could have made me stop cleaning. I still miss you," he told her. He couldn't believe what he was saying. He knew they couldn't be friends. But he now realized that the part of him that had made him dial that number didn't want to be friends. It wanted more; if that possibility existed.
"Then, don't close your eyes," she replied, falling into a chair, smiling. "Don't fall asleep."
"I don't plan to," he told her as thunder boomed on both ends of the telephone. "I definitely don't plan to.
Wow… plot bunny likes drama. Anyway, he's satisfied, which is good because I have an environmental biology test tomorrow morning and I haven't started studying yet. This may or may not be the final story in this series. I haven't decided. There won't be any more chapters, but there is the possibility of continuation if the plot bunny demands it. He can be obnoxious.
For those of you who read Requiem for an Era – chapter 29 is like 70 done. I've been working on it, but it's kinda hard to follow up what happened in chapter 28. I promise it'll be done soon.
Ok, so hope you enjoyed, and please review. Your comments make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.