The dark sky above on the way to Alex’s house reminds me of home. It rained all the time there, and I loved it. It doesn’t rain so much down here… I remembered recess in kindergarten. There was a little room that had all the playground equipment. The way the system worked was that five kids would have a stick for an entire week and pick out whatever toy he wants to play with on the big playground, where all the other grades joined. It didn’t apply to the area right next to our classroom, though.
One day it poured. The teachers still let us play outside, and I had a stick that week. I asked for sandbox supplies, but they wouldn’t let me have them, because the sand would get all over me. Nonetheless, I went ahead to the big box and used my hands instead. Nothing could’ve stopped me from doing what I wanted. But now, now, I don’t even bother to get what I want. I let other people control, make me their puppet. That only happened since I moved here. It’s time I cut my own strings and let me live on my under my power, not someone else’s. Alex’s decision to go public is fine with me, but I wish I had known.
“We’re gonna have so much fun!” he said a little too energetically. I wonder if he drank something before he came to my house. He pulled me in after unlocking the door and led me to his periwinkle-colored kitchen. He started taking out metal pans and set them on the counters.
“We’re making cupcakes?” His energy is rubbing off me. “Let’s make them!”
Flour goes flying in the air, egg shells are cracked, and the mixer whipped the batter to yellow liquid. Alex carefully poured them into the holes of the pans, and placed it in the oven.
“We have about half an hour, what should we do?” he winked.
“Watch TV.” I said half heartedly. I’m not in the mood to make out. I grabbed the remote and put it on Disney Channel. Nothing romantic about Hannah Montana.
I wondered why he suddenly wants to make cupcakes. There has to be something going on. He’s so lively and vigorous for some reason. He’s not usually like this, so alive. Maybe it’s from this morning, me forgiving him.
He’s stroking my hair as we sit on the couch, with me snuggled up to him. I considered keeping a distance, but I don’t want to alarm him. I’m just so tired that all I want to do is rest my eyes. So here I am being a puppet again, pleasing people without pleasing me.
The timer dinged.
I got up slowly but immediately, -my sleepiness taking over excitement for a bit- breaking free from his grip. He almost frowned, but caught himself. I handed him some oven mitts because I’m so afraid I might burn myself.
The colored icings are on the table; newspaper underneath. I’m close to being myself again, just a slight degree I’m suspicious of whatever his plan is. I’m about to pick up a knife to ice in pink when my phone buzzed more than once, indicating a phone call.
“I’ll be right back,” I told him. The bathroom’s open, so I stay in there.
“Yeah?” I answered to Mikayla.
“You’re alone, right?”
“Um, I’m at Alex’s house. But yeah. Why?”
“Oh, just wondering.” Pause. “Whatcha doing over there?”
“Cupcakes. Sorry you couldn’t be here, I know how much you love them,” I said with a smile.
“Ha, I make them all the time, I think I can last without a batch or two,” Three minute silence.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Yeah! Hey, I gotta go, I think my dad’s home. Bye,” Dead.
That was weird.
“Who was that?” Alex questioned, wiping his hands on a wet towel.
“Mikayla. It was a random call, I guess.” He walked toward me, holding up the cookie sheets holding the cupcakes. “Hey, you finished with-” I looked closer. It read, “Will you go out with me” with a heart beside it.
“Just a second,” I picked up the purple icing, in favor of his favorite color, and spelled out “Yes” and added a heart next to it, using the rest of the cupcakes we had made.
A grin crossed his mouth, and it’s so contagious I found mine did the same. It’s official.
We’re a couple.
I hugged him, icing on my fingers and all, smearing it all over his shirt, but he didn’t care. His lips found mine and I’m so charged on the fact that I finally have a boyfriend. The first of my friends to be with someone. Well, technically, I was with Alex since the end of eighth grade, when we first kissed. But this just makes us certified. Set in stone.
‘“I can’t believe it,” he mumbled. “We really are a couple now.”
“I know,” My face changed from happy to concern. “How am I gonna tell my parents? My mom will freak.”
“No she won’t. You’re in high school now, and that’s when she allows you to date. I’m sure she’ll approve of me,” he assured.
“I’m not worried about that. You don’t have a pierced tongue or tattoos covering every inch of you. We’ll be fine on that part. I’m just afraid she’ll think it’s too soon.”
“She’ll have to accept it. If not, we can be Romeo and Juliet, minus the killing part.” I laughed.
“What about your parents?” I asked.
“Oh, they know you plenty enough. No problem there. Though you should expect a lot of dinner invites,”
“Ha ha,” I considered calling Mikayla to tell her the news but instead I ate a cupcake. Or two. Or five.
What? They’re really good.
After the kitchen was cleaned and the materials put away, we returned to the couch. Alex put in some DVD, but I don’t bother to watch the screen. My eyelids are growing heavy, my limbs the same mass as tree trunks. Staying up until five in the morning and then waking at nine wasn’t a very good idea. Already my brain is shutting down, my eyes barely open.
Alex wrapped a blanket around us, but it seemed to be more like me because I took most of it. I ended up stretched across the couch, my head on his lap. His fingers combed through strands of my hair. I think the movie was pointless to be on, because I think we both weren’t even looking straight ahead. All I can feel is the warmth of the blanket and the soft touch of his hand.
The only thing I can think of through this haze is how this scene reminds me so much of my older brother and his girlfriend. They would do exactly this when they were still living in Milk Springs. Some nights Lauren would come over and watch TV with Andrew in the loft, and I was on the computer. When there was nothing interesting to read, I’d turn around and see how peaceful they looked and envied them. Andrew would do what Alex is doing now, just looking down on his girlfriend with so much love in his eyes. Nothing could break them.
I smiled to myself at the thought of them. Maybe my relationship will be just like theirs. I hope so.
She’s so beautiful, Alex thought, looking at Michelle.
It took three years for her to say yes. Three years of arguments and silences. Three summers of bliss. Three years to finally agree.
And he didn’t care how long it took because she said yes.
Flowering whole, his heart healed because of one simple word. He’s never felt so happy until now. It’s all he’s needed lately, especially since that fight two months ago. He shuddered at the thought. Anyway, he’s so delighted about her answer. Now he can be ensured she won’t be thinking about other people, unless Grayson is still in her mind… He better not be compared to him.
The movie he put in was basically mute to him. Pretty much everything was mute, until he heard the garage door open. Michelle stirred, but didn’t wake. He was worried she’d leave her restful state, but maybe the noise wasn’t loud enough. But it’s always loud. Huh.
In walked his brother Jake and little sister Amber, both holding bags of groceries. Alex raised a finger to his mouth. They nodded. After the food was put away, Amber tiptoed up to her room while Jake indifferently ambled over to Alex and gave a quiet high five. He smiled but his gaze didn’t break from Michelle. She’s too pretty to not look at.
When she woke up quite a few hours later (geez, when did she go to sleep last night?), Alex asked her what she dreamed about.
“My brother.” He was confused. “This reminded me of him and his girlfriend. The whole making cupcakes and sitting on the couch thing. It’s something they would do.”
“Oh. I see,” A grin formed. He bent down to kiss her softly. “Do you know you’re gorgeous?”
She blushed. He bet she doesn’t hear it often.
The clock on the wall read a quarter to four. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” Michelle said yes. She went away to call her mom and tell her she’d be out later.
He didn’t want to see her leave, even if it’s only for a few minutes. He’s head over heels for her.
September fourth, 2010. He’ll never forget this day.
“Hey,” I said into the phone with Mikayla on the other line for the second time that day.
I can hardly believe what I’m about to say. “Alex asked me out,”
“Finally! That’s awesome!” The call before reminded me of something.
“Were you distracting me earlier by talking to me so Alex could write the message?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “But it was for a good cause, right?” I laughed. “So what’s going on now? Are you still at his house?”
“Yes. He invited me to stay for dinner. I hope it’s good, you know I’m a picky eater.”
“Want me to shout it out on the internet?”
“Ha, no. I’m gonna do that on my own. Thanks, though.” I heard Alex calling for me. “I got to go. We should go to Purple Berri later to celebrate,” I suggested.
“Yeah! Have fun!”
I returned to the living room where Alex was standing by the bookshelf with a laptop.
“Now all the lovely people of Facebook know we’re dating,” I fell into his embrace and held on tightly. I’m not sure why I’m feeling so empty yet full. “What’s wrong?” He pushed aside a strand that covered my eyes.
“Nothing, nothing. I’m glad we’re actually together now. I don’t have to worry about much anymore,”
“Me too.” This conversation didn’t carry on further.
We set the table and joked about the fact that we’ve been together for a while and we’re just now making it official on Facebook. People sure will be shocked over that one. It’s not all that usual in this town for a popular guy to go out of his way to be friends with a lesser known girl like me. Normally people dated whoever was in their status range. They’re just stupid. Invisible kids are exactly the same as the elite ones, perhaps even better.
Alex’s mom and step-dad weren’t really surprised when he announced our relationship. Maybe because they’ve known me for so long that they didn’t expect him to find someone new. So dinner made me feel like I was in their family, welcomed freely without a second thought to who I am.
On the walk home -I couldn’t stay there forever, but I wish I could- it was my favorite time of day. The sun was setting, golden grass glittering to the light, short trees shadowed against the houses. This day can’t be any better.
Before we reached my own house, Alex pulled out his phone and took a picture of me. I smiled with teeth, something I don’t like to do when a person is taking my picture. After that he kissed me like last night, which made me melt all over again. I could hardly open the door, the simplest task in the world.
“Goodnight, Michelle,” he murmured.
“Goodnight, Alex.” I stumbled in through the door and waved to him from the window.
I checked in with Mom and went upstairs to the computer. “In a relationship with Alex Tanner” was changed on the sidebar of my profile. Within minutes my friends pressed the “like” button and commented words such as “congratulations!” “FINALLY!!” and “aww!”
Wonderful things like that.
I pulled up Alex’s page and saw that so many people commented on his change. Most were sophomores, saying how cute we are because his profile picture was now us together that he took previously. Some of his freshmen friends also said the same but a few were confused on the fact that they simply didn’t know that he knew me. A few minutes later, I noticed that Whitney “liked” it too. Isn’t she envious of me? That’s odd. I wonder what’s going on. Maybe she genuinely liked it. Maybe not. However, I’m not going to worry about it.
Then I got a private message.