I wasn’t at all surprised when I gave the cab-driver the directions that would take me to Cordelia’s townhouse. I rode along in silence, trying not to think too hard about what exactly I planned on doing once I actually got there.
The drive went surprisingly fast- although I’d found that whenever I was dreading something, it came much faster- and in no time at all, I’d been dropped off in front of the stately manor.
I made my way up the steps to the door, squinting in the sunlight reflecting off of the little piles of snow gathered on the sidewalk. Once I reached the top step, I raised a hand and knocked gently, hoping that it would be heard throughout the oversized house.
I stood there a moment and before my eyes the door opened with methodic slowness. Griffin. I saw him and then I felt him. His arms encircled me and held me close. His mouth found mine and it was gentle, sweet and everything I had missed and longed for in one moment.
He pulled away, a quirky smile on his lips. My eyes blinked, surprise and pleasure still coursing through me.
“Why, hello, Arielle,” He said calmly, as if picking me up and kissing me after everything we’d been through was perfectly normal.
A small smile crept over my lips. “Hi,” I breathed.
Griffin crossed his arms casually, leaning into the doorframe. “So, uh, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“To be honest, I’m not really sure,” I admitted. Griffin laughed lightly, taking my hand and leading me inside.
It was incredibly warm in the house, perhaps because it seemed Griffin and Cordelia had lit every candle in sight. Or maybe it was just the feel of having Griffin’s arm around me once again.
“I must say, Arielle, this is rather unexpected,” Griffin murmured as he led me into a room we’d never been in before- a relatively small room compared to the rest of the house. Once he’d sat me down on the loveseat, he proceeded to light the fireplace directly across from it.
I shrugged my shoulders. “It was one-hundred percent impulse,” I confessed.
Griffin dropped the match he’d just lit into the fireplace, turning to face me once again. “I’m so glad you did,” he said sincerely. “I’ve been miserable the past few days.”
“He has,” came a second voice from the doorway. I didn’t have to look to know that Cordelia was standing behind us. I became suddenly self-conscious, wondering how long she been there, watching. She looked pointedly at Griffin. “I told him it was up to him to make it right.”
Instantly, I jumped to Griffin’s defense. “He apologized this morning- not that he did anything wrong to begin with.”
Cordelia lips curled into an ironic little smirk. I did all in my power to ignore it.
“Was there something you needed, Cordelia?” Griffin asked in a slightly annoyed tone. Her bright green eyes darted from me to him.
“A cup of tea, if you wouldn’t mind, Dear,” she said, her voice suddenly dripping with sweetness. Griffin glanced at me quickly.
“Not at all,” he replied. “I’ll bring it up in a few minutes.”
I didn’t want to think anymore. My head hurt too much. All I had done in the past few days was think. I didn’t know if this was all going t blow over as swiftly as it had come or if this would come up in the future, and for the moment I didn’t care. Griffin and I seemed to have left the nightmare of the past week behind us. I was going to let it be. And if it came around later to stab me in the back, I would deal with it when the time came.
I trailed behind Griffin into the kitchen, listening as he muttered incoherently.
“She means well, Griffin,” I told him, assuming his irritation was because of Cordelia.
He looked at me skeptically over his shoulder.
“She loves you,” I insisted.
“She loves to be a pain in my ass.”
I sighed. There was a part of me that wanted to ask about the past few days, about what had gone wrong, what I had done. But there was a larger part that thought that ignoring it and acting as if it had never happened would be better.
“Arielle-”Griffin spun around to face me, his emerald eyes burning right through me into that vacant place where I thought that maybe a soul should have been.
“I want you to know that this past week has had nothing to do with you. It’s been all me. I don’t want to lose you; I don’t think I could make it through that. But I just… we can’t… I’m sorry.”
My eyes glossed over as I stared up at him. That was it? I must say, I’d expected more.
“I understand,” I replied honestly, because I did. Sort of.
“Arielle, I just, I have to find… something…and I just-”
Griffin never got to finish, because at that moment, my cell rang. Griffin smirked as I rolled my eyes and pulled it out of my pocket. It was- of course- my mother.
“Hello?” I answered in a melodious voice. I even batted my eyelashes, solely for Griffin’s amusement.
“Arielle, can you believe this?” She shouted at me from the other line. It was impossible to tell if she was upset of excited. “They upped the seminar to this weekend!”
It was definitely excitement. I could practically picture her jumping for joy over her precious seminar.
“That’s great, Mom,” I replied, although I still hadn’t completely figured out why she had found it so important to call me this instant.
“Oh, Arielle, that’s not all,” she said, as though I should have known that there was more news coming. She paused, no doubt for dramatic effect. At times like these I was reminded why I went out of my way to avoid the other students in my grade.
“The head of the law firm wants to open up another office on the Upper East Side, and he wants me to be the top lawyer!”
The really surprising part was, I really was excited for her. I really did share her happiness. This was what she’d been working for since we’d moved to New York, after all. To be in charge of her own firm. It was a massive accomplishment.
“I’m so happy for you,” I said truthfully. “That’s great.”
I caught sight of Griffin smiling as he dropped a tea bag into Cordelia’s steaming cup of water, obviously listening into my conversation- and hearing the genuine tone of my voice.
“Where are you?” My mom asked all of a sudden, unable to go five minutes without fulfilling her parental duties.
“I’m over at Griffin’s,” I told her.
“Is everything okay between you two?” She asked. And the thing was, I could tell that she really cared.
This was quite the milestone we’d reached in our relationship.
“Yeah, Mom,” I said, quieter, glancing at Griffin again. “We’re great.”
I could almost hear my mom’s smile. “Okay, Honey. Not too late.”
I hung up, and slowly returned the phone to my pocket. Griffin had left to take Cordelia her tea, so I lowered myself into one of the ebony dining chairs while I waited.
My mind used the silence to process everything that had just gone down. Griffin and I were back to normal. My mom had just gotten the promotion of a lifetime. And now she was leaving for the week on a Chicago-bound plane for her ultra-important seminar, leaving me home alone with Mark.
And somewhere in my mind, two and two clicked, and I came up with four.
Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. And I had already made up my mind that I would not be spending the weekend alone.
Really, it just couldn’t have been more perfect. Griffin and I needed to make up for all the time we’d lost over the past few days.
I turned and headed up the spiral staircase as quickly and quietly as I could, never saying a word to Griffin, finally skidding to a stop in front of Cordelia’s room. Hesitantly, I raised a hand and knocked.
“Yes, Arielle?” Cordelia’s voice was surprisingly loud, even through he’d closed door. I opened it slowly, peering around the wood, double-checking that it was okay I came in.
I’d never been nervous around Cordelia, save the first meeting, but with the question I was about to ask her stuck in my throat and both her and Griffin’s eyes studying me curiously, I found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable.
“Um…” I began, unsure of how to word this delicately. The last thing Griffin needed right now was his grandmother harassing him about a possible sex life. Not that we had one. Or, the way the future looked, ever would.
“How many guest rooms do you guys have?” I finally blurted.
Cordelia’s emerald eyes filled with understanding; she smiled a tiny grin and folded her hands in her lap. “Do I honestly need to tell you that you’re welcome here any time?” She said in a falsely offended tone. “As long as your parents are okay with it.”
Well, I knew for a fact that my mother would have a heart attack if she ever even saw Griffin and I kiss, let alone sleep in the same house, whether or not we were in the same room. But she was going to be at her seminar, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
However, I couldn’t let Cordelia know this, so I just nodded and smiled convincingly. “On Friday, then? Griffin can make me pasta again.”
I looked at him as I said this, and watched him look down, embarrassed. But there was no denying the smile on his lips.
Well. This should certainly prove to be an interesting weekend.
Arielle headed home after that, and I left my grandmother’s room in a sort of resolute silence.
My own room seemed abundantly empty to me, darker than usual without Arielle to ward off the shadows.
For what I thought may have been the first time since I’d come to New York in September, I strode across the room in three long strides and threw open the massive burgundy curtains. The streams of light that instantly burst forth protruded the darkness, pushing the shadows back into the farthest reaches of the expansive room.
Down below, New York City was alive. People were wandering the streets, some with determination, some aimlessly. This city held hundreds of thousands of people. Every one of them had their very own story. Their very own past- and future. Maybe some of them were still coming to terms with that, like me. Maybe some of them would never be able to accept what they had done, for certainly everyone had that black spot in their history, that one thing they would do differently if given the chance. Some of them were just trying to make it through the day. But they were all here, all alive.
Just like me.
The gnawing, burning feel of need was coursing through my veins. I wanted it all for myself. I wanted to capture the magic of this godforsaken city and hold it in the palm of my hand, to never let it go. I wanted to pull it apart and reach its core. I wanted it all to belong to me, and more than anything I wanted to be a part of it.
In one swift motion I had spun around away from the window. Then I was crossing the room yet again, over to my drawing desk, grabbing it roughly and dragging it across the room. Only when it was directly against the window did I release it.
Retracing my steps to retrieve the paper and charcoal pencils I had knocked over, as well as the three-legged stool, I went to sit down.
I didn’t think, I didn’t plan, I didn’t even really look. It wasn’t necessary. The lines practically dew themselves. People, streets, everything. It was as though it had been within me forever, waiting to break free, this depiction of life.
It took me two hours to complete it. After, I turned it over without even looking, and I stared out into the city below. The sun was lolling lazily, cradled by the trees of central park. She was trying desperately not to slip away into the darkness. But she would give up some time. everyone, even the great sun herself, had to endure the shadows sometimes.
“The city really is beautiful.”
I turned to look over my shoulder, only to see Cordelia standing in the doorway. A faint smile, or maybe the ghost of a smile, was upon her lips.
I nodded a little, turning back to the window. The night was doing all in its power to push the sun away below the horizon.
“It’s so alive,” I murmured. “There are so many people down there, just living.”
Cordelia nodded as well, looking around the room absently.
“The room looks a lot bigger when it’s so bright in here. There is so much possibility,” she mused.
“I don’t know why I opened the shades,” I admitted. “I guess I just wanted to do something to get rid of the shadows for a bit.”
This time there was no denying her smile. “Sometimes getting rid of the shadows is as easy as choosing to let in the light.”