Chapter 005: Only If For A Night
And I heard your voice as clear as day and you told me I should concentrate. It was all so strange and so surreal that a ghost should be so practical. © Florence + The Machine, Only If For A Night
A/N: Two years have passed in a blur and for a while there I've forgotten about writing. Writing. What about it? Then it struck me. It is my life. I could not do without it. It was hard to continue this but I just can't ignore the impulse clotting my bloodstreams. With that said, I give you chapter five. Oh and forgive me for being so off-season (it's Christmas here) but I wanted to continue where I left off.
To those who reviewed for the previous chapter: Thank you guys! yfit - so sorry for disappointing you with my updating prowess :)) or lack thereof. APrincessThatNeedsNoprince - yes. it is paul. but he's one of the many =)) jediahsokaroxx - thank you! plainlyirnonic - aw thanks! kimmi0490 - my thanks is long overdue but thanks! Tessa - thank you for reviewing! loulabel246 - it is depressing isn't it? :)) but the next ones will be cheerful. i think. SteveAndSienna - thank you for the R & R! Vampirelastingfiore - thank you so much! fiorendita - why is that familiar? ;) here's the fifth XD LexBlueblood - thank you for reviewing :)
Here goes nothing.
Sunlight has broken and it was slowly creeping towards my room, edging from the windows. Bursts of soft pink and orange streaked in the skies; lightly painting the clouds with these colours. Though the scene was in every way beautiful it did not lift my pensive mood. Though beautiful it was it could not cure me from this abhorrent malady.
I sighed. Acceptance was the first step towards dealing with my situation but it doesn't mean that it's easy to be done.
I was at the window seat, my feet dangling surreptitiously and without a care towards the ground. I had been up at about four-thirty and I couldn't go back to sleep. I had already cleaned my room, folded my clothes and piled them back into my closet, and jogged for about an hour. There was not much to do but stare at the rising sun all the while hoping that its rays would cast sunshine back into my life.
Jeez. I am so gloomy this time of the day. I closed my eyes for a moment before swinging my legs off the window seat. I stretched and gazed at my room. The frilly pink four-poster bed was still intact and the furniture was still in their past positions. Some things have been replaced. Some things have remained. It seemed like every new item from my room was a part of a puzzle that was… in essence, me. Or to be specific, my past self. My past two-year self.
It was nice to know that I still liked reading magazines though.
A certain glow came from the corner of my room and I spun instinctively towards it. I caught a blue glimmer before the thing vanished.
I swallowed. What was that?
Dropping of pans from the kitchen startled me and I just scrunched my eyebrows at the thought of the speck of light that was in my room a while ago. Pushing the event at the back of my mind so it can be scrutinized later on, I headed downstairs just to make sure it was something human that made the noise.
My mom was apparently making pancakes.
I almost clapped in glee! Ah. The sweet comfort of pancakes.
"What kind of syrup do we have now Mom?"
"Chocolate ones," she replied while batting the mixture. "What did you expect? Metallic ones? It's only been two years Suze. Don't be so futuristic. They can't have invented crazy things that quickly. They can't even solve the global warming problem; you can't expect them to be interested in trivial things,"
I gaped at her. "Mom are you trying to be funny? I just thought you'd have restocked the strawberry flavoured ones."
She laughed shortly. It was the nervous type. "Sorry dear. We do have strawberry ones. They're in sachets. Just look in the fridge."
I scavenged for the packets of syrup. I got them all out – deliciousness! – and placed them in a platter.
"Mom. Why are you so tense?" I asked her finally. She was so weird.
She stopped with the batting and bit her lip. "Oh honey. I'm… I'm just not used to this. I'm dealing with it right now. I know it's stupid to act like this but – "
"Oh Mom," I quipped as I smile at her in a comforting way. "I'll get better. Soon. We'll get through this together."
"I know. You're a headstrong person Suze." She placed the pan and turned the stove on. "I just don't like it when you doubt yourself."
"No more doubting Mom I promise," I raised my right hand accordingly. "Now how about those pancakes huh?"
She gave me a smile – a small one but a smile nevertheless.
We had breakfast alone. Andy and David had business elsewhere and though it surprised me that they skipped breakfast – considering it was Andy we're talking about here – I felt glad that I can have some alone time with my mother.
"So what are you going to do today?"
I frowned. Did I have to do something? "Can't I just slack off?"
"Young lady you need to be out and about," she said patronisingly. "Have Cee Cee and Adam come with you."
I shoved some pancakes down my throat. "They have jobs Mom. Anyway, I am perfectly able to be 'out and about' on my own."
"Don't you have some place that you need to go to?" my mom asked; her eyebrows going up.
"Not in particular," I replied.
"I think you have an appointment for today Suze."
"Appointment for what? My therapies are done for this week."
"Oh I'm no good at this," my mom said huffily as she set down her fork.
"No good at what?" I asked – intrigued.
"At playing coy," she answered bluntly. "Didn't you promise you'd go to the park with Jesse?"
My face burned at the thought. Partly because I'd almost forgotten about that and partly because… well. Let's just say that Jesse's name has something to do with it.
"Oh yeah," I said shortly before stuffing my mouth with food.
"So do you have something to wear for your date?" Mom inquired.
I almost spit my strawberry-syrup-filled-pancake out. "It's not a date Mom," I chided her. "The guy was just trying to be nice."
I mean I'm betting that he asked only because my Mom asked him to.
"Yes, Jesse's a very nice guy," Mom admonished. "So you have to be nice to him too. Not to mention that you need to look nice when you're with him. Not that you're not beautiful enough sweetheart. You're gorgeous. But you don't wear dresses now and you looked very grown up in them."
Mom pointed at my attire. I was wearing my black denim shorts and a white shirt. I frowned. This was what I usually wear. For date, for walks in the park, for joggings at the beach. But apparently I wear dresses now.
Thanks a lot two-year-older Suze. You're currently giving me a headache.
"I'm calling Ruby and asking her to take you out for a shopping spree."
Before I knew it, she was on the telephone talking to my friend. I just shook my head in amusement and continued eating my breakfast.
"I don't think that could be called a dress. That's a handkerchief," I spit out in disdain while looking at a white "dress" that I think would barely cover my underwear.
Ruby just laughed at me. "I've worn shorter ones. You're such a conservative now."
Yeah she's probably worn shorter ones. Ruby's very confident about herself and there's no reason why she doesn't have to be. She's glamorous even when she's wearing pj's.
What does she mean I'm a conservative now?
"Well you were very open-minded when you met Jesse," she explained.
So what was she saying? That Jesse brought about this change in me? Wow. The guy had that kind of impact on me huh? I'm not surprised.
"Look how about we look for something that would reach my knees?" I was looking for compensation. Because really, I hate wearing dresses as it is.
"Fine. Let's go elsewhere," Ruby complied and steered me out of the store. "How about we go for something vintage?"
Vintage huh? Images of me in poofed-up dresses with embroidered poodles flashed in my mind's eye. I nearly gagged. I don't want to look grandmotherly in front of Jesse. I don't want to look grandmotherly in front of anyone period.
Ruby took one look at me and laughed slightly. "Aw Suze don't worry. Just leave the shopping to me. I've got your back. Your mom said something about a date with Jesse?" She was now smirking.
Fortunately my face cooperated with me this time and no tell-tale blush appeared. "Does Jesse have a habit of running away if he sees something unpleasant?"
"Suze," Ruby rolled her eyes – annoyed with my exaggeration. "The 50s was not unpleasant. You're not unpleasant. The only unpleasant thing about this is if you chicken out."
"Me? Chicken out?" I blurted. "Oh Roo bring it on."
"Are you decent enough?" Ruby called out.
"If by decent, you mean going bare and only in underwear then yes, I'm decent," I called back.
"I'm coming in," Ruby warned.
I shrank towards the other side of the dressing room. What was I talking about? There was no other side of the dressing room. It was too small in there. Ruby appeared shortly carrying about a dozen dresses in her arms. I exaggerate of course. But they look that many.
"Okay. I've got about everything you need. Since it's December, I've picked winter colours but summer ones seem to look good on you too. Just put them on and once you're dressed I need you to sashay out of this cave and I'll evaluate your look."
"Ruby all your talking is making me nervous," I shot at her. I nonetheless took the dresses from her arms and hang them on the steel cord.
I tried on the first one. It was the colour of peach and reminded me of creamy cakes.
"You look nude in it."
I jerked back towards the dressing room feeling grateful that no one was around. Except for the sales clerks that is.
I tried on the dazzling and shimmery blue one.
"You look like you're trying too hard."
Back to the dressing room it is then.
I picked the emerald green one.
"You are going to the park right? You look like you're going to some ball. And that would be very awkward for Jesse considering he's a guy."
I zipped up the purple one with beads on it.
"It looks wrong in you. I mean, when I picked it up I thought – "
"Roo! Are you still my friend? Why do you keep saying mean things?" I huffed.
"'Course I am. I'm criticizing you aren't I? Don't you want to look good later for you date?"
"It's not a date!" I almost whined at her.
Going back to the dressing room, I put the sleeveless red one trimmed with black lacings. I looked at my reflection in the mirror.
"No no no," Ruby shook her head.
"But look at it! I look like the most confident girl when I'm in it!"
"You're buying that of course," Roo said. "But the event is all wrong. Don't put it back in the rack Suze. I said you're buying it."
"But when am I going to wear this?" I was halfway to the dressing room.
"At a bar of course," Ruby said – her eyes twinkling mischief. "Or when you want to seduce Jesse take your pick."
My face burned. "I'm not going to buy this Roo if you keep saying that."
"Okay okay," Roo complied. "Just buy the thing. I'll look for the dress that will fit you."
I trotted to the dressing room feeling completely happy that I was at least buying something. If this doesn't work out, I'd just put on some jeans and be done with it. It's not as if I was going to a date. The guy was just trying to be nice.
"Get your hands off me!"
I stilled. I scanned the room for my friend and saw her with an elderly woman. They were squabbling and sales clerks were breaking up the fight.
"Look grandma! This won't fit you. My friend's got better curves than you!" Ruby was holding something to her chest – guarding some dress from the grandma. Er. I mean, lady.
"Oh Suze!" she cried out when she spotted me. "Give this woman the green dress quick!"
I tentatively approached the woman and handed her the green dress. She snatched it from my hand and glared at Ruby all the while.
"I'm so sorry for that," I told the sales clerks. "My friend just likes her vintage."
Ruby ignored the stares from the other customers. "This is your salvation Suze. Put it on."
"Aw look who's exaggerating now," I quipped at her.
Taking the yellow dress from her, I went back to the dressing room for what felt like the tenth time.
Barely looking at myself, I put the thing on and went outside for 'evaluation'.
Ruby's eyes widened. "I knew it. Soft yellow is your colour. Come on. Get back to the dressing room and we'll buy it. I'm late for my shift."
I looked at the mirror and saw exactly what she meant.
I went home feeling a warm glow radiating inside me. Two dresses! And I actually liked shopping this time. Maybe because it was with Roo.
"I'm back with two dresses Mom," I announced when I went inside the house.
Nora was sitting at the couch (red ones, new ones) and flipping the pages of a Cosmopolitan. "Oh good. You're back."
"Nora! What are you doing here?"
"Your mom asked for me," she started.
"Ugh," I muttered as I sat down next to her. "What did she want?"
"I'm supposed to make sure that you wear a dress and take care of your hair."
"I take care of my hair," I said as I pulled the ends of my hair towards my eyes to examine them. "Does it need trimming?"
"No," she said. "It needs styling."
"Can I take them off now?" I grumbled as I ate the chocolate chips I found somewhere in my closet. Jeez. What if they were expired?
"No. It's not been two hours," Nora said. She was lying on the bed and was sleeping for about half an hour now.
"Why do you get to sleep while I sit rigidly here in this hard chair with curlers in my hair making me look like Medusa?" I complained.
"You can sit on your beanbag," she mumbled sleepily.
I eyed said beanbag. It was in the form of a strawberry and it was hideously pink peppered with dark fuchsia spots. It looked foreign with the rest of my room. It didn't seem like me to just order a strawberry beanbag right?
I guess I changed.
I shivered at the thought.
An hour and a half later, Nora was brushing my hair fondly and I was getting a little sleepy from the hairbrush's strokes.
"There," she said. "Your hair's done. Just put the clips on. You do know how to put them on right?"
"Very funny Nora."
I reached for the diamond studs while Nora flopped back on the bed.
"I'm crashing for the night Suze," she informed me sleepily.
"Yeah alright. I'll be back in a while," I muttered nervously. I stared at the mirror speculatively.
Was that me?
She has long flowing hair and I think she worked hard to achieve this length. And it really suited her. Now the curlers worked their charm and she looked even prettier. But it doesn't feel like me. It felt like her. I didn't know how to be her anymore.
Suddenly, I was stricken by this horrible fear.
I can't do this. Was I pretending to be her? Did I want to be her? Can't I be myself anymore?
I was already down the stairs and the door was open. I bolted for it, trying to escape the closing feeling on my throat. Where I went, I have no idea. My feet carried me automatically to the place she ran to when she was afraid.
Did she even have any fears? Did she ever have second thoughts about herself?
I doubt it.
She was a different Suze.
There I was in the middle of a garden maze trying to sort myself out. I was a mess. Well, not physically at least. I still looked all right if the glances people threw at me were supposed to be flattering. But emotionally, I was a wreck.
I cringed at the couples who walked past me. Hand in hand.
Were we ever that way? Did I hold his hand? Did he hold mine? What was he to me?
I felt weak all of a sudden and I sat down at a bench with ornate iron curling into itself.
I hadn't noticed when a child sat next to me. Until she spoke that is.
"You have such beautiful hair."
I looked at her, startled at the marvel in her voice.
I smiled at her. "Thank you."
Her hair was curly too but it didn't look manufactured to me. Her dark brown eyes were staring at me with such innocence and she was wearing a dress that can compare to the colour of the oceans.
"Your hair is very beautiful too," I told her.
She beamed at me and it was so pure that I felt something glow inside me. "Thanks. My mom had curly ones too."
"Where is she? Is she somewhere here?" I looked side to side, expecting a mother to appear suddenly.
"Yes but I doubt that she'll stay for long," she answered me.
"Why is that? Are you leaving early too?" I asked her.
A frown appeared on her face and her eyebrows creased. It didn't suit her. I liked her when she was smiling. "Do you want me to leave early?" There was fear in her voice.
"No no," I said softly. "Stay. You can wait for your mom here beside me. Or we can go looking for her if you want."
"Oh," she said, her voice reflecting the surprise she was feeling. "No you don't understand. We can't go looking for them anymore."
"We all have to move on. My mom's about to anyway," she looked in front of her.
And there she was. Her mother.
She was bathed in a light that looked familiar. It was familiar because my father was bathed in that light too. When he moved on.
And oh I finally got it. I understood.
"I'm sorry," it slipped from my tongue. Because she was so young. She can't have been past five years old. But then again, that was my age when I lost my father.
"Don't be," her sad eyes never left her mother's form. "I'm relieved. That she'll finally be where she needs to be."
The mother gave us both a smile that was neither sad nor pitying. It was a radiant one. The child beside me gave a smile just like hers. And I knew that she got it from her mother.
And she was gone.
"It was her favourite place," she continued saying as though nothing had happened. "Papa always took her here she said."
I was wondering how she can take it. It made me feel silly especially realized that I had just run away from… my date with Jesse.
My face reddened.
"Who is that?" the child asked.
I looked and there he was.
Set against the meticulously trimmed leaves, he was one heck of a vision. He looked like he just finished running, he was slightly out of breath and his hair was a little bit ruffled. He was wearing a white shirt that opened at the collar and the first few buttons were undone making me… imagine things. He also looked frustrated and angry but when he found me, his eyes softened just a little.
All the emotions I'd seen vanished and he was striding towards me, almost casually as if he planned this all along.
His face was calm and composed as ever while I… I was wincing at the fact that I tried to bail on him. That I bailed on him I mean.
He was standing in front of me now and I stared back steadily. I unconsciously wondered where my boldness was coming from although I was tongue-tied with embarrassment.
I opened my mouth to speak when he leaned in.
He flicked my forehead.
He just flicked at me!
"Ow," I grumbled as I clutched at my forehead. "What was that for?"
"For making me worry," he said. His tone told me that he was not pleased with me.
He was worried! My face burned at my thoughts. I was happy that he was worried. I was happy that he… cared.
"Did you have to make me go through all of that?" he asked as he placed his left hand on the bench while the other rested on the iron-wrought arm of the bench, effectively locking me in place and forcing me to stare back at him and answer his question.
"What exactly did you have to go through?" I asked, my voice for once cooperating with me.
"You have to ask?" he was sarcastic. "I thought something happened to you for God's sake. Your mom was frantic and Nora was beside herself."
Was he trying to make me feel guilty? "I thought we had a date," I answered brazenly.
His eyes widened in surprise. "I – I was supposed to pick you up."
"I got tired of waiting," I lied smoothly. Was the new Suze like this? Did she lie this easily? Frankly, I couldn't care right now. I was busy appreciating Jesse's surprise and the way he smiled – Oh God I want to die. "And the park is beautiful might I add. My compliments to the architect."
Jesse let out a laugh and his hand went straight to his hair, effectively making it messier. That hand gesture did things to me.
"Is he your husband?"
I forgot about the child beside me. My cheeks flushed while Jesse grinned at the kid. He kneeled in front of her and asked, "Do we look good together?"
The girl blushed. Not her too. She nodded almost all at once and smiled shyly at him.
"What – Do I look like I'm married? Do I look that old?" I sputtered.
"Oh Susannah. Always self-conscious as ever," he teased me.
He sat beside the girl and wrapped a long arm around the bench. The movement caused me to flush even more and slightly inch my body forward just to avoid his hand and his fingertips.
He stared at me for a while and continued talking as if we were having a normal conversation. "You look beautiful," he said sincerely.
My heart gave a hard thud and I almost had a heart failure there and then. "I – "
A man approached us and lifted the girl in his arms. "Where have you been? I've been worried sick."
The girl muttered something and waved at us.
I waved back. I looked at Jesse. He never took his eyes off me the whole time. It was unnerving – that a guy could stare so much. To just stare and breathe in the moment. That was what he seemed to be doing. It made me uncomfortable but at the same time the look was so familiar – so achingly familiar – that it tore at me.
I couldn't take it. I couldn't take what this guy could do to me. I bowed my head. Jesse's hand came in sight and he pushed my hair aside.
"I'm sorry I ran away."
It rolled from my tongue before I can stop it.
Jesse's eyes widened again but then he looked as if he was expecting this from the start.
"I – I didn't want to. But I couldn't control my feet. They took me here."
"You always come here," he said softly.
"Why?" I asked.
Jesse's eyes crinkled at the sides and he was smiling that smile again. Oh, that smile. "I prefer not to say the reason why."
Memories of their kisses by the fountain invaded Jesse's mind. He longed for more. But how could there be more when she was so uncertain about things?
"Fine. Be that way. Keep your secrets," I said huffily. I was irritated that he was not telling me.
"It's not my secret Susannah. It's yours. And I wouldn't go far as to call it a secret."
"How do you expect me to remember when you won't tell me things?" I grumbled as I crossed my arms in annoyance.
"You want me to make you remember?" His tone made the little voice inside my head screamed at me to not look at him if I didn't want to crumble away to nothing. But I deftly ignored it and looked at him. I swallowed when I saw the intensity in his eyes. They were full of unfamiliar things that made me want to run away again. But I stayed where I am. I don't think I could blink if I wanted to.
He was leaning in. I placed a hand on his shoulder – my God he felt strong – and just shut my eyes tight. Just shut my eyes tight and anticipated whatever was going to happen.
I felt his lips…
…brush my forehead. My eyes opened – in disappointment? In shock? Probably both – and I felt like a child. Like he was holding something back.
'Yes Jesse?' Her eyes were smiling and they were his sunshine.
He grazed her cheek with the backs of his fingertips. Such a tender moment was usual for the two of them.
'Will you promise to love me as long as you could?' Jesse was grinning.
'You are getting needy Jesse,' she teased him. 'I might have to change my mind about marrying you someday.'
He let out a laugh, one that was free of care and worry. 'A dance milady?'
He took her arms and steered her here and there. They danced like crazy in the middle of the maze garden annoying some people while making other lovesick couples smile in amusement.
He gave her a kiss, one of the many that they've shared.
'Yes. I promise to love you forever,' Susannah said after their "dance".
'That wasn't what I asked you to promise,' Jesse grinned.
'You're crazy,' Susannah grinned back at him.
"This is crazy."
His eyes snapped back to me. He was coming out of a reverie. He was so distracted.
"Nothing. Sorry. Indoor voice," I explained. I winced in embarrassment.
Jesse got up and held out a hand. "Take a walk with me Susannah?" His smile was still in place but something in his eyes was desperate. Like he needed this more than I need.
What I need? A kiss!
Did I just think that?
I took his hand, the cat was playing with my tongue again and I couldn't speak.
"Say Jesse," I finally regained my voice as we passed white statues.
He looked at me curiously.
"What's your favourite colour?"
What? It seemed like a good idea to start a conversation.
"You know Susannah, not once have you asked me about my favourite colour back when you knew me," he was smiling. That was a good sign right? I ploughed on.
"Well maybe she was never much of a slam book girl," I answered wittily.
Jesse frowned. "She?"
Crap. Now Jesse knew that I speak of my past self in the third person.
"I mean – "
I couldn't say the word myself.
"Susannah," he began. "You're just the same person. Stop cutting yourself in half."
My face burned in chagrin.
"We're not expecting anything. Well, anything except that you be yourself."
"What if I change?"
"You're scared of that?" he asked me.
I bit my lip. Was I? Hell yes. "I'm scared Jesse."
Jesse's hand tightened and he pulled me towards him. I welcomed the feeling of being in his arms (although technically we were still walking and I was just leaning on his chest).
"You don't need to be."
His words comforted me immensely and I thanked the stars that he was staying beside me. Until when? I don't know for how long but right now it didn't matter. To be honest, with his hand all warm, I couldn't stop thinking how much affection this guy was giving me. Were we perhaps a couple back then?
My face was once again burning and I looked at the grey skies just so he wouldn't be able to see me.
I was surprised at what I saw. And I smiled.
The first snowflake had landed.
What they didn't know was that their every move was being watched by those blue eyes of his and Suze was sure that she saw an astral glimmer just before they rounded the corner.
And I did cartwheels in your honor; dancing on tiptoes.
A/N: The italicized ones show what Jesse was thinking during their interlude in the maze garden. Except for the last part of course. Chapter five done :3 Your thoughts? Please review :D