- 1992 -
"We'll be back by ten...no, eleven. Eleven, right hun?"
Mom looked up at dad. He smiled and glanced down at his watch. "Make it eleven-thirty," he teased. He winked at me, his blue eyes dancing. "I promise I'll bring her home safe Miss Bridges."
I rolled my eyes. "I don't care, you know."
"But--" mom started to argue, but dad put a large hand on her shoulder and gave me a still amused, but more dad-like look.
"If you go for anywhere, write a note and lock-up. Don't be out later than ten. No wild parties," he instructed.
He laughed. "We're going now."
I followed them to the door. Mom looked more like my older sister than my mom, her little black dress flowing flirtaciously around her well-toned legs. Her perfume smelled a lot like roses and the little black sequined clutch she held in her hands sparkled underneath the front hall lights. Dad straightned his tie and guided her out, his hand dropping intimately to the small of her back.
"Have fun," I said, feeling very mature and responsible as I wrapped my hand around the door. Mom looked back at me, her brow furrowed, but dad made her keep walking. "Thanks, baby girl!"
I watched as he opened the car door with a flourish. My mom practically floated inside, smiling up at him adoringly as he closed the door. Their eyes locked through the glass and I felt like I was invading an extremely private moment. I closed the door, flipped the lock, then leaned back against the cool wood.
The house loomed before me like a bright, creaking giant. I glanced down at my lime green nail polish, contrasting crazily with my bright purple flip-flops. I was alone.
In the old house, I would have had my two best friends over and we would have spent the night looking through magazines, gourging ourselves with junk food, and doing all the other frivalous things that girls our age do. My heart ached just thinking about everything I had left behind. Here I was nobody. I had made a few connections during the last three weeks of school but I knew as well as anybody that I was the new girl, someone who had jumped into the fold at the most inconvienent time ever.
I slowly pulled myself away from the door. I padded through the living room, our old couch the only inviting feature of the room. The third stair from the bottom creaked as I made my way upstairs. The second from the top did the same.
My room was littered with clothes. I kicked aside a pile of sweat pants that I hadn't bothered to take down to the wash, and sat down on the floor beside my bed. After looking around foolishly, I reached my hand under the bedskirt and yanked out a small, tattered shoebox. I sat cross-legged on the floor and spread out the contents.
Anyone who saw me probably would have laughed at how secretive I was being over the contents of the box, but to me, the little pictures I laid out so carefully meant the world to me. They had been carefully clipped in those aforementioned magazine sessions with my friends. They were my life goals, the style of wedding dress I wanted when I got married, the floor layout of the first house I had to have after the wedding, and the design of the nursery I wanted to paint when I had my first child. This was my future, wrapped up in a Converse shoebox that I'd had since the seventh grade.
I was studying the floor layout of the house, mentally inventoring all the ways the new house here wasn't anything like what my dream house was, when the noise of a tree branch scrapping against the windowpane caught my attention. I looked up and almost screamed.
There he was, perched in the branches a little like Peter Pan. His green t-shirt looked appropriately summer-grunged and his blue basketball shorts had a million little loose threads. The backwards Kentucky basketball hat and large filthy sneakers completed the ensemble. Realizing he had my attention, he waved foolishly.
"What are you doing here?" I asked a minute later as I yanked open the window.
"I got off work and was going to go play basketball but it looks like it might actually rain so..." he shrugged as if I could fill in the blank.
"Well, I remembered where you lived since I dropped you off that one day last week before school was over. I figured I'd--"
"Climb the tree and start peeking into windows?" My voice sounded more accusatory than I had intended. Brian's eyes grew wide, the innocence in them real.
"What? No! I mean, I just wanted to...I guess I should have rang the doorbell instead," he finished lamely.
I immediately felt bad for trying to make him feel like a pervert. I glanced behind me. My stash! "Listen," I said, blushing at the thought of him looking at the pictures and rolling his eyes at my stupidity. "Why don't you go around and I'll let you in the front door?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sure I'm sure," I said, smiling to cover up my squirminess. "My parents aren't home and it'll be nice to have some company. Just be careful."
"Careful?" I gasped as he swung practically monkeylike from the branch to the trunk. "That's my middle name."
Unsure how to answer, I closed the window and watched him shimmy to the ground. I quickly stuffed the pictures and trinkets back into the shoebox and shoved it under the bed. Less than a second later, the doorbell rang. With my flip-flops making the loudest clacking sound ever, I dashed down to let him in.
"Howdy," he said as I flung the door open, out of breath from my sprint.
"Hi," I replied. I stepped back to let him in.
"Nice house," he said.
"I hate it," I said without thinking. He looked surprised.
I didn't answer right away. I looked around slowly. Yes, it was big. Yes, it was spotless. Yes, it smelled like cinnamon apples. But...
"It's just not home," I said, feeling stupid.
He gave me a long look that made me want to start fidgeting. Brian was an endless ball of energy, so when he slowed down, as he had done a couple times during school, and actually looked serious, it did something to me that I couldn't put my finger on.
"If I just moved away from my home," he twanged. "I'd feel the same way."
A ball of butterflies that I didn't even realize were flying through my stomach settled. I smiled. "Exactly."
The funny feeling began to build again. He leaned towards me and my breath caught. Was he...
"S'mores!" he suddenly said, his voice a little too loud for an inside voice. He pulled back and I blinked in confusion.
"S'mores?" I repeated. I looked out the window. It wasn't raining, but I remembered something I had heard earlier that morning. "We're under a fire ban."
He shrugged and grinned. "No problem. Do you have a stove?"
My confusion intensified. "Yes?"
"Haven't you ever made stove s'mores?"
I shook my head. He clapped his hands and then rubbed them together vigorously.
"Well, Jilly Bean," he had never called me that before. It left me feeling...squirmy again. "Let me show you what you've been missing."
We headed into the kitchen. Brian stood for a moment, rocking on the balls of his feet.
"Got marshmallows? Chocolate? Graham crackers?"
It took some hunting around the cupboards, but I unearthed a six month old box of graham crackers, some refrigerator mini
Hershey bars, and some large marshmallows that felt a little stiff, but nothing that some heat wouldn't fix. I laid
"Do you have one of those turkey forks?"
This was more easily found, stuffed into a large cannister of stove utensils. Once again, I handed it to him, feeling a
little like a nurse assisting a surgeon.
"No, here," he said. He handed it back to me. Next thing I knew, he was standing behind me, his hands on my elbows. I felt
a little dizzy as his hands traveled down to my own. Considering I had left an ex-boyfriend behind in Michigan, I wasn't
totally ignorant to all the signals I was absorbing, but all the same...
Did Brian Littrell really come over to hit on me?