I managed to make it home in nineteen minutes, although the cabbie charged me extra for forcing him to speed, and then I sprinted up to the fifth floor of the apartment building.
When I pushed open the door, my mom was seated alone at the counter, shuffling through some important-looking papers.
“I’m home,” I called, although I knew she’d heard me come in.
“Arielle, I have enough stress without having to worry about you too,” she replied, trying her best to sound angry and failing miserably. When it came to defending a client, she could be cold as ice. Her tone itself could probably reverse global warming. When it came to parenting?
“You didn’t have to worry about me,” I snapped. “Griffin is very responsible.”
As soon as the words left my lips, I knew I’d just screwed myself over. My mom set her papers into a neat little pile, and then turned to me with a horrified expression on her face.
“You. Were. With. A. Boy!” It wasn’t really a question, not the way she said it. “Arielle, you know that teenage boys only have one thing on their mind.”
I could feel the wave of anger rising inside of me. She didn’t even know him, and I knew that that was probably the last thing on Griffin’s mind. Well maybe not the last thing, but probably a little further back than it was in mine. “It’s not like that with him,” I growled. It wasn’t as if she could ever understand. She didn’t know what it was like, to be so in pain. Or so in love “I’m just trying to help him.”
I sighed in frustration. I knew there was absolutely no way to explain this to her, not without telling her about my dreams and his dreams and basically everything.
So I lied. “Yes, with school.”
My mother seemed slightly relieved at this, but only a little.
“I’m pretty tired,” I continued. “I’m gonna go to bed early tonight.”
Well, actually, there was absolutely no way I falling asleep tonight, but it was easier to picture Griffin in the darkness of my room, without my mom lecturing me like I was some criminal she could prove guilty and then have locked away for good. My stomach twisted in anxiety every time I thought about the fact that I wouldn’t see Griffin until tomorrow. He was like a drug for me; without him I felt helpless, empty, alone.
I could tell the next day that Griffin was in a mood the instant I walked into Mr. Narson’s room and saw him scowling down at the picture he was sketching. Unsurely, I came and sat beside him, daring to rest a hand on his forearm.
“Is everything alright?” I asked him hesitantly. Griffin only pulled his arm out from underneath my hand, pretending to be immersed in his drawing. My heart sped up slightly, but I tried to remain patient. He would talk to me when he was ready.
Or so I thought. But Griffin continued to ignore me throughout the rest of the day, not even bothering to wait for me at lunch. He was, however, at our usual spot, staring down at a patch of browning grass. I made my way over to the tree, which was rapidly loosing its leaves, and sat down silently beside him.
“Are you going to ignore me forever?” I snapped, peeling the sticker off of the apple I had randomly grabbed. Griffin merely shrugged; my temper got the best of me. “I think I have a right to know why you’re mad at me!” I said indignantly.
Griffin sighed deeply, finally turning to make eye contact, something we rarely did.
“Well, if you must know,” he muttered in an annoyed tone, “I had a dream.”
Inwardly, I sighed in relief. A dream wasn’t that big of a deal. It was only a dream.
“About you,” he added.
And then, just like that, my relief was gone. My hopes and dreams shattered around me like broken glass, tiny shards reflecting fragments of what could have been and would never be now. A dream about me had Griffin all worked up; there was no way he wanted me.
“Oh,” was all I could say. “Oh.”
Griffin slinked back into his silence.
Somewhere in the back of my mind was the very dim hope that he did like me, maybe really liked me. I was afraid to ask, afraid to show how much I wanted- no, needed- him. To like me, love me and hold me. My fingers reached towards his wrist and while he stiffened he didn’t pull away. I caressed his cross tattoo and gazed at the veins in his arms and fingers, the long-healed gashes and cuts. Was this dream a bad thing? Obviously it must be by his sullen attitude.
I couldn’t lose him. I’d die first.
“Griffin, what’s wrong?” I asked softly. He shrugged, and I looked up at him through my thick, black lashes. his eyes were shut, his own dark lashes colliding with the eyeliner I loved on him so. Griffin seemed to be struggling to find the right words- although it was obvious he was trying.
“Arielle,” he said finally, “It is so hard for me to let people in, especially after…” he let his sentence trail off, but I knew just what he meant. After his parent’s death. “Sometimes I just think that I would be better off alone. When I’m alone no one else can get hurt. And I didn’t think I’d ever want to let anyone in again. But, I want to let you in, Arielle. Oh, God, I want to let you in.”
My heart leaped in my chest; I looked up, trying to catch his eye, but this time it was he who avoided my gaze. I took his hand gently in my own, bending my head so that I could kiss him cautiously on the corner of his mouth.
“Then let me in.”
“I’m off to mass,” Cordelia’s voice rang from the bottom of the staircase. “Care to join me?”
She knew the answer. I didn’t understand why she insisted on asking the question. “I think I’ll pass,” was my courteous reply. Cordelia didn’t respond. The door slammed a moment later. I let out a dramatic sigh and settled back into my bed. It was late, I knew- almost nine- but I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything. I couldn’t even draw.
I used to believe that there was a purpose to this life. That maybe there was a reason we were here. I’d even venture to say that the thought of Cordelia’s “God” had crossed my mind. My parents’ death had eliminated any possibility of a merciful lord from my mind. What sort of sick God would have taken them? None that I could think of.
Cordelia was, of course, one of the most faithful people in the city. But in spite of it all, she didn’t push me. Cordelia truly believed that people needed to come to God because they wanted to- or they needed to.One thing was certain: it would take a miracle to change my mind.
Downstairs in the kitchen, I put on a pot of water to boil myself some pasta. I watched the stove intently as the tiny flames licked the bottom of the pot, attempting to tone out the thoughts that were trying to force their way into my mind.
As soon as the water had come to a boil, I went over to the pantry to retrieve the noodles and pour them in, opting for spaghetti noodles. I poured them in, and let a tiny smile come onto my lips. Ah, what the hell?
As they cooked, I pulled out the necessary ingredients for whipping up an Alfredo sauce. I might as well go all out.
It’s the little things that keep us going, I guess.