Her heart thumped in four-three time, pumping terror and exhilaration through her body in steady bursts. That invitation was either the best decision she had ever made or the worst. She prayed he wouldn’t come, that he had developed stronger smarts in the years since they last saw one another. Then, she wouldn’t have to decide whether to follow through with it. Because she knew she would go.
What the Hell had she been thinking?! Paul was exactly the type of guy to go in for this sort of thing. She knew it. And, if she was honest, that’s exactly why she proposed it in the first place. She knew that she had someone and that he did, too. She knew it and she felt bad for it. And yet, she still did it.
So now she sat in the window well of her parents’ house and stared out onto the dark street past the “Sold” sign, waiting for his car to arrive. She wondered if he still drove that mint green Duster. God…how did they manage to fit into that backseat to make out? She was pretty sure that she could not manage that sort of thing these days.
The sign swung back and forth in the night breeze, clanking like some demented church bell. In a week, this wouldn’t be her home anymore. It would not be her parents’ house either. A nice family with two elementary school aged boys was moving in. The Granges? Maybe. Something like that in any case. And that was the problem! It was her parents’ fault, when you got right down to it. If they just held onto their house like her other college friends’ folks did, she would not have had this burst of nostalgia. She wouldn’t have just rang up Paul’s cell phone to see if the number was the same. They would not have reminisced til one in the morning, three days in a row. And certainly she never would have said, “Come over tonight. Let’s just get out of here.”
But they did sell the house. So here she was. Knowing that she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life if those headlights lanced up the street and across the driveway. It was a mistake she kind of wanted to make. Really wanted to make. A mistake still, though. One that would surely ruin her life. And yet…here she was.
In the middle of the night, the house felt the same as it had those few years ago. It creaked the same, it smelled the same. She could sense her history in it. If she let herself, she was back there. Her brother was still at home, not yet married, not yet living in Wisconsin. Her parents were in the ugly pre-therapy stage of their marriage, a time when divorce seemed to be one ill-timed remark or callous gesture away.
She and Paul would wait for the house to go to sleep and drive around town. Or just stay in, making out and awkwardly rubbing on each other on the floor, because the couch made too much noise and her bedroom was far too bold a move. She knew those times were gone, but, tonight, she was reclaiming them. Family, significant others, school, whatever else, be damned! Paul would pull up, she’d be out the door, and then they’d be off. She wondered if they would be able to keep their hands off each long enough to even get to the highway. She hoped not.
It was resolved then, she told herself. This is what she really wanted. It didn’t have to be a mistake. Not everything impetuous was. So she would do it. Without hesitation. Without guilt. Without regret. It would be Paul and Cary part 2 and it would be glorious.
Her heart still thudded, but she felt a sereneness settle in her skin. Her anxiety bled out into the blanket wrapped around her, the pillows beneath her. She leaned her head back, breathed deeply, and closed her eyes, just for a moment. The headlights would flood the room. Or Paul would knock on the window. She wouldn’t miss it.
Her eyes popped up with a jolt. Dawn sunlight was pushing above the houses across the street. The clock on the TV read “5:26.” She felt queasy. Paul wouldn’t have just come and left would he have? She pawed through the blankets pooled around her until her fingers brushed against her cell. Shakily, she pulled it out of the mass of wool and flipped it open. One text.
It read: “I’m sorry. I can’t do this to you. I love you.”
Paul had gotten some sense after all. Which was good, for the best for both of them. She knew Paul would never mention her lapse to another soul, so it was over. Her boyfriend would never know. His girlfriend would not either. They had their time and now it was gone. As it should be. As life goes.
She would have liked to have seen if he had the Duster still though. She would have liked to see if she could make those backseats work for her. She would have loved to see him, look at him as he drive them wherever, pointing to the radio and explaining things about each song as pumped out of the speakers. She would have liked to feel that freedom one more time. She would have…she would have. That was the part that was not gone, that was not over. That was the part that made this hurt so damn bad.
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