"All little girls haveto grow up"
"I just didn't think you wanted that stuff", he said.
She waited quietly for a couple of seconds, but he didn't seem to have anything more to say. He simply sat there, a blank expression on his face. She wondered if he was actively trying not to convey any emotions, or if he just didn't have any to convey.
He was usually pretty expressive, and she read his emotions easily.
Frustrated when things didn't go his way, or thoughtful as he picked at the strings of his guitar trying to play her some half-remembered strand of a melody he had heard on the radio. Horny, when they were lying on the couch in his room and his crooked half-smile almost distracted her from whatever his hand was doing under her t-shirt.
She thought she had wanted to travel the world, win a Nobel price, be a hippie, paint a picture so beautiful it would make someone cry. She had imagined parties, multiple boyfriends, a male platonic best friend, smoking marijuana when the fancy took her and living in a loft decorated with Christmas lights even if it wasn't Christmas.
"I didn't think so either, but I guess I do", she answered, and the embarrassing truth of it left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Chapter 1: Romantics, apron strings and bus rides
Her name was Ginny, and she liked summers.
Summers in plural, not one summer in particular. When she was little her family had gotten a dog named Ronnet, and she used to take him running on the beach in summer. They would run along the ever moving line where the gentle waves met the sandy ground, and their footprints were washed away behind them. Ronnet had grown old and died years ago, back when Ginny was still a kid living with her family in a big white house by the sea. Still, the love of summers had lived on in her.
It wasn't particularly original or indie, but it was there nonetheless.
Ginny was now 23 years old and living in the city, in a reasonably nice part of town on a street called Ottery street. She visited the old house by the beach from time to time, but ever since her parents had gotten divorced she hadn't felt quite at home there. It wasn't a problem though, as her mom often came to the city to visit.
Molly, Ginny's mother, was the kind of person everyone got along with. She had always been curvy, and since becoming a mother in her early twenties her body had taken on a comfortable, huggable mom-look. She was the sort of mom you could easily picture at home, a couple of kids hanging on her proverbial apron strings and a batch of breakfast muffins in the oven. But she was also a very sociable and active lady, and when her kids had grown old enough that the older ones could look after the youngest, she had thrown herself into all sorts of community activities.
At the present she sang in the "Beach Beauties" amateur choir twice a week, took outdoor yoga lessons and had joined a book club. Ginny loved her mom to death, but secretly though of her as hopelessly outdated and conformist. The divorce had changed that a little bit, but she still pictured an apron every time she thought of her mother.
Whenever Molly came to the apartment on Ottery street, she would gush about how green it was. That was the greatest compliment she could possible give to a place in the city.
"It's so nice and green here Ginny, you've really been lucky with this place!"
People always said that when describing Ottery street – It was green. It wasn't that it had many gardens – it wasn't that kind of area. But there were a lot of dark green painted houses, in addition to the dark brown brick ones. That made the whole street sort of wood-colored, and made people stepping into it feel like they were entering a deep forest. Not a creepy, dark forest like the ones you read about in children's books, but a nice, deep and calm sort of forest where you could walk and walk and not even hear your own footsteps because they were muffled by the pine needles which covered the ground beneath your feet. Much as Ginny liked to think of herself as an urban city girl, this was part of the reason why the apartment on Ottery street was her first and only home in the city.
But the street wasn't really a forest.
It was a street, and it had people and dogs and cafes and cigarette butts on the ground. In the summer the asphalt would get so warm you couldn't have gone barefoot even if you had wanted to, even if you had been a kid with a dog and it had been a beach instead of a street.
Ginny didn't mind.
She had grown up and moved to the city, and didn't need waves in order to wash away the road behind her.
The day this story begins, Ginny had gotten up reasonably early and was heading out the door at ten past nine in the morning. She had her beige trench coat on because of the early hour, but in reality she could probably had done without. It was June, and the weather was just warm enough to let you leave the house in only a sweater. She wore a plaid skirt with her white pearl cardigan, an ensemble which made her feel part grandma, part sexy Mad Men extra and overall too warm.
As a rule, Ginny tried not to identify herself solely by what she did.
When she met new people or watched tv or movies, it always rattled her that people started any self-presentation by talking about their job. Hi, I'm Anna and I'm a publicist. I'm Jonathan and I work at the Mayors' office. I'm a kindergarten teacher, I'm a stay-at-home mom, I work at the Hard Rock café just down the street from here.
This aversion to identifying herself with her job might have come from her romantic inclination. It frequently made her think things like if only people had more fresh flowers in their homes they would be happier, or that walking around your house naked meant you were a free spirit.
Or it might just be because she was a temp in a nondescript office job which she wasn't planning on staying in for longer than she had to. It had been almost a year, but Ginny wasn't one to keep too close a track on time and history. It tended to tell you things about your life you would rather not know.
The bus arrived on schedule, and Ginny ambled inside.
As she was standing in the midsection of the bus looking for an available seat, she caught the eye of one of the passengers. He was a dark haired man with glasses, probably somewhere in his twenties and wearing a dark blue cardigan over a white shirt.
Ginny had always had a soft spot for men in cardigans – she imagined they liked to have wild sex on the kitchen counter before pouring themselves a glass of red wine and reading Emily Brontë. She smiled at the man, but he had already looked away.
Maybe she would text Dean tonight.
Ginny didn't have a boyfriend, but she had man who occasionally substituted as one. He was tall with dirty blonde hair, never shaved the stubble on his chin and wore faded jeans and t-shirts with meaningless prints. He was an enigma to Ginny in some ways, but also so very, very familiar. His name was Dean.
She had seen that some of his mail was addressed to a Dean P. Thomas, but she had never asked the letter P. He would come over to her place sometimes, and sometimes she would go to his.
Dean Thomas wanted to be a musician and a journalist. He studied English at the local university, and lived with a couple of friends in a cheap, slightly unsafe and therefore quite trendy part of town. He spent his days at school or lounging at home with his guitar, not-so-secretly hoping to be discovered as the next Jimi Hendrix or possibly win a Pulitzer Prize.
Ginny liked him, but always felt a little uncomfortable at his place. He had two roommates, and even though they seemed like nice guys she always felt vaguely stupid around them.
There is something wholly unnatural about seeing someone regularly and knowing nothing about them – being in their home and seeing them slouch on the couch with their socks off and their gym clothes on, but barely knowing their names. Besides, she sometimes felt that there was something other than niceness in their smiles, though she did not know what. Sometimes, if she met one of them in the dingy hallway on her way to the bathroom, they would exchange some phrases. How are you, sorry about the wet floor I just got out of the shower, no problem I'll just throw down a towel. But it was obvious that there was no point in getting to know each other. After all, who knew if she would ever come back.
That was perhaps the best way to describe how Ginny felt about herself and this man, Dean P-something. Who knew when she might break it all off, when she might stop coming over or calling him?
After all, they were both very clear that they were not boyfriend and girlfriend and so had no obligations to each other. Both of them occasionally slept with other people. Every time she left his apartment could be the last, and that was what she liked about her Dean. If she wanted, she could stop seeing him any time – not that they were seeing each other.
If she had taken the time to think back, she could have told you that it had been nearly two years since she first met Dean. One of the roommates had left since then, and another friend had moved in. Dean had started playing in a band, but quit after six months. Ginny had stayed on. After all, it wasn't as if she had anywhere she needed to be.
Ginny spent the rest of the bus ride looking at the dark haired man.
His hair was sort of ruffled. She didn't dare stare right at him, so she got a book from her bag and sneaked peeks at him over the top of the page when she thought he wasn't looking. He met her eyes once or twice anyway.
The third time he smiled at her. It was a nice smile, all white teeth and a dancing glimmer in his eyes. That glimmer made her stomach drop. She drank it in hungrily, bathing in it, sure that when either of them got off the bus she would never see him again. Later, she would look back at this moment and revel.
It was amazing how wrong you could be.