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The beating of your nervous heart pulsates to your ears and you remind yourself to stay calm. You pick the mobile from your pocket and double check the address you've been given. You can hear the thumping of bass from inside the door. Your already nervous heart quickens, this is the right place. It has to be.
After you put your mobile back, you breathe in and prepare yourself. You're mentally checking things off your list: your best blue plaid shirt, cake, good smelling breath.
You knock hard, still feeling the perspiration in your fist.
As you grip the string that wraps around the box, you hear the music abruptly stop. You can almost feel someone on the other side. When the door swings open, your mouth does the same but words have seemingly eluded you.
"Yes?" It's an unfamiliar voice coming from a woman you've never seen before. She's watching you stand awkwardly in front of her and you honestly think that you should never be allowed outside of your own apartment anymore.
The woman is beyond anything Emma has seen in her entire life.
You can't figure out what to feel first.
"Oh…uh...D-do you live here?" It stupidly tumbles out of your mouth before you let your brain catch up.
The woman, whom you note to be a little taller than you, stares down at you with hauntingly blue eyes. Like the color of the sky just before the sun starts setting was pulled from the heavens and packed into the size of a small coin.
"Oh, shit." Shit.
"Can I help you with anything?"
She's smiling at you and she's gorgeous.
"You're the one that lives here?" you ask, your hand holding your mobile up to her face, the address plastered on your screen. She leans back before grabbing your shaking hand. She reads the screen and turns back to you.
"Yeah, that's my address."
It takes you a while say anything else. Your brain catches up just in time to realize what's been made of you. You finally let out a small bitter laugh. "Oh. No! I mean, no, it's okay. I'm so sorry for bothering you. I should be going now." You're no fighter, so your survival relies solely on flight; you try to move as far away from this place as possible.
"It's no problem-hey, are you all right?" she asks, catching your arm just as you're about to turn around and go home and never, ever leave. Ever.
Her hand is warm on your skin. You look down at it before looking back at her. She slowly lets go of you, seemingly embarrassed.
"Me? Oh, uh...yes. Yeah, I'm fine. I just got the address wrong. I thought someone else lived here, but she doesn't so I should be going now."
"There's no rush. Are you sure you're all right?"
You're nodding maniacally and it doesn't even feel convincing but there are tears that are threatening to escape the corners of your eyes if you don't get going soon.
"Yes, yes! Of course. Totally fine."
You can't even believe yourself. Somewhere in the back of your mind, even as everything slowly unfolds like a treacherous car accident in front of your eyes, you cross off the possibility of being an actress. There's no way this woman will ever find you believable.
"In any case, I'm sorry I wasn't who you were looking for."
You fight off a shiver that runs down your spine as she places her hand back on your forearm and softly squeezes it. Before you can react, she lets go and brings her arm behind her back. Her eyes are so clear with concern and it's not helping get rid of your panic. Why should this stranger feel concerned for you? Does she know you've been stood up? That you've been rejected the worst possible way you can imagine?
You feel scrutinized under her gaze, keenly aware that your palms feel even sweatier than two minutes ago. You're at an intersection of conflicting and confusing feelings, you've lost any ability to articulate them.
She's still looking at you and it feels like she's looking through you, like there's only you to be looked at. It's highly disconcerting. You think the only viable option is to go home and cut all of your losses; you seem to have plenty at the moment.
"What's in the box?" she asks, her head gesturing down. She leans casually by her doorframe and waits for your answer like the two of you are having a friendly conversation instead of a highly emotional encounter. You don't think you have time for small talk, but you can't seem to leave this woman's vicinity. Despite the slew of emotions that are wreaking havoc in your ribcage, you stay.
"What kind of cake is it?"
She nods again.
"Is it any good?"
"Yes." You can physically feel the normal percentage of your inability to form coherent sentences shoot through the roof. You try to bite your tongue just to remind yourself it's still there.
She nods a third time and you're so tempted to raise your hand and stop her face from moving any more.
Instead, "You can have it, if you want it."
She waves her hand dismissively. "It wouldn't feel right to eat it without you. Besides, wouldn't you want to give it to your friend when you do get her correct address?"
She's smiling at you and she's gorgeous. It's the first time you notice the dimple on her right cheek. It only makes her even more beautiful. It secretly aggravates you that someone so pretty is witnessing you fall apart. You question the probability of having a heart attack at this current moment, but statistics is against you. You're just having a severely unfortunate situation because this is you; your life sometimes just sucks.
"She doesn't deserve it for standing me up."
You slap your mouth close with your free hand, the words fly out before you can even process that you've said any of it loud. This night undoubtedly becomes the worst night you have ever had. If you could, you'd just melt into a giant embarrassing puddle in front of this woman and just seep through the floorboards down to the ceiling below all the way to the very dirt the building stands on. It's an idea that sounds exponentially more appealing at every passing second.
Even though that sounds like a more satisfying idea, you instead push the box towards her, trying to avoid her eyes. And you run away. Your flight senses finally kick in. You hear her voice behind you, but you're just trying to reach the stairwell.
You can't figure out what to feel first. So you focus on keeping any tears from dropping until after you've left this stupid building; on the adrenaline in your system as you take the stairs from the fourth floor two at a time and disregarding your heavy breaths as they ricochet against the walls. You just want to get out of there, save yourself any more embarrassment.
You rush through the last couple of meters from the stairs to the door, taking in a lungful of fresh air. You're breathing hard and looking around the empty streets. You have to remind yourself how to get home, the city streets of your hometown feeling foreign.
You decide to walk away, in whatever direction, just to get away from this forsaken place. You barely make a dent in the distance when you hear someone yell your name.
You stop dead in your tracks. It suddenly floods into your consciousness that the box you just left had more than cake in it. Shit. Shit. Shit.
You hear her voice again.
You look up to the open window. It's the same woman you've just abandoned. You're ready to run, you want to salvage the rest of your already crumbling dignity, but your legs suddenly freeze onto the snow. You have no choice but to suffer through more.
This is the kill shot, you can feel it.
"Emma, your friend is an idiot! It's her loss for standing you up." Her words echo into the cold air and you doubt your own ears. But you take the first opportunity of a getaway when you feel your legs again. So you hasten to cross the street and you try not to look back.
But you do.
"Come back any time! You know where I live!"
Her last words echo in your ears all the way home and well into your restless night.
The beating of your nervous heart pulsates to your ears and you remind yourself to stay calm. You don't bother looking at your mobile for the address. You can't get this place wrong even if you tried. You breathe in and prepare yourself. You're mentally checking things off your list: your second best blue plaid shirt, cake, good smelling breath.
It's been a month since your great downfall, and this stranger has haunted your every waking moment ever since. You notice more blue eyes around you than you've ever wanted. But every time you do, you always think they're the wrong shade. You've taken to standing on the rooftop and gaze at the sky, just before the sun actually sets.
You didn't realize it until your best friend, Luzi, brought it up.
"Aren't you going to stay for the actual sunset?"
"You start watching the sky just before the sun sets but never when it does."
"No I don't."
You were lying and she knew it. But she didn't say anything, just looked at you. You walked away because you didn't need her figuring out something about you before you did.
It was the same for when anyone ever said your name. It felt different to your ears, like it didn't belong to you. You responded to it, but you imagined a sound unlike any of those around you. Except for one.
"Emma? Emma. Emma. Emma!"
"Yeah, Emma, what?"
"That's your name. What's going on with you?"
"Nothing, nothing. Emma, right. That's my name."
It was also the same for every other time you saw any kind of cake around. You started to avoid bakeries. It was the worst thing about this whole situation because you loved going to Mrs. Hoffman's bakery and had to sacrifice that just to keep some sanity.
"Hey, I can't pick up Timo's birthday cake later today, so can you do it? Plus, Mrs. Hoffman hasn't seen you in weeks."
"What? Why can't Hotte do it?"
"…uh, because Hotte is in Las Vegas."
"I can't do it, I'm busy, very busy."
"No you're not. I don't know what's gotten into you lately, but you should figure it out. You're making an old woman sad because you haven't visited her."
You try and forget any of it ever happened, but you can't. You over-think everything and mull it over into exhaustion. And you're so tired, you just want to sleep. You want to just put everything to rest so maybe, just maybe, your life can stop sucking so much-at least for a time.
So you're back in front of the same door; a dreadful déjà vu takes over your body. How this became the choice of action is beyond your understanding, but you're so desperate for peace of mind, you'll do just about anything.
You knock hard and you hear someone's muffled reply. You steel yourself, taking a step back. Get in, get out, get away. That's the plan.
When the door swings open, you recite your rehearsed apology, just trying to get this over with as quickly and as painless as possible.
"Emma! I didn't think you'd come back. It's good to see you!" "I'm sorry for acting the way I did a couple of weeks ago."
There is a giant smile on her face, amusement in her eyes, and you're quickly losing all the words you spent preparing on the way over. "Wait, what?"
"I said it's good to see you."
"Are you crazy?"
She's laughing and you have no choice but to believe she's insane. She has to be.
"No, I'm not. I just didn't think you'd come back. But I'm glad you did."
Her hand is on your forearm again and you can feel your vocal chords swim down your throat and into your stomach. You wonder if it's having a great time playing with the butterflies.
You stare at her, unsure of what to do next. This isn't part of the list of anticipated reactions you wrote out. You did not see this coming.
You can't figure out what to feel first.
She tilts her head and waits for you to say anything, but you remain completely mute. She smiles, you're sure out of courtesy, and squeezes your arm again. Your focus shifts back and forth between her and her hand on your arm. She slowly tries to pull back but your free hand holds her in place.
You offer a shaky smile. You're insane. That has to be it. But she can't be any saner than you, if she's letting you keep her hand on your arm, sandwiched by your own hand.
"What's in the box?"
She nods again.
"Is it any good?"
She nods for a third time. You have no choice but to wait for her reaction. But you still want to hold her head steady.
"Are you sure you have the right address this time?"
There's a certain look about her that you can't quite peg. She looks like she's expecting a specific response, and you don't want to get it wrong. Your inclination to verbally respond is typically high, but you know that your words also have a typical nature of getting you in trouble. So you nod once, twice, three times, for good measure.
"You can have it, you know, if you, uh, want it."
"It wouldn't feel right if I eat it without you. Would you like to join me for some cake?"
You think to yourself how, if anybody walked up the stairs at this exact moment in time, they will see you and this other woman, whose name you still don't actually know, stand like fools at her door. But you can't worry about them, not when you're anxiously waiting what can possibly happen next.
"Jenny," she says turning her left hand over so she's touching yours, holding yours. You're keenly aware that you've been sporting sweaty palms since you got to her building.
She's looking at you, hand in hand, patiently waiting. And you find that she's been patiently waiting for you the entire time. So you shake yourself back to the real world. "Emma. I'm Emma."
She squeezes your hand and you squeeze back losing all desire to let go. "I know."
You release each other and she takes a step back, ushers you in. You take one foot in front of the other to cross the threshold. You can't figure out what to feel first, so you opt to let the awkward and the surreal mesh together in a strange mix. It seems fitting, somehow.
You look up and offer her a genuine smile.
"I hope you like this cake."
She's smiling back at you and she's gorgeous.
"Don't worry, it's my favorite."