Well, we have just had our first creative writing contest! The winner was Brigit! Here is her amazing story!
Today was frigid, and I was miserable. It was the kind of day where I just couldn’t get warm. In school I sat with my sweatshirt pulled tightly around my head, and I was sorely tempted to put my coat on as well. I shivered as I sat hunched in my desk, but no one else seemed to notice the cold. I was convinced that I was the only person that was suffering. Eventually I tried playing it cool. I did not want to look like “the wimpy guy” and so instead I practiced my swagger, which all the ladies loved.
Finally, however, I figured out the source of the heat, or, in other words, the reason why no one else seemed to be cold.
I was walking down the hallway, back to my classroom, and as always, the hallways were mobbed. No one seemed to care about personal space, because everyone was constantly being jostled. Well, except for me. Not to brag, but I was kinda considered cool. Some of the girls sized up my handsomely ragged jeans and sweatshirt and gave me that “smile” that told me that they weren’t the girls I wanted to spend time with.
I gazed past the stylish but vicious-looking girls, and it was like Heaven was clearing a path for destiny. Suddenly I understood why everyone looked so happy.
Eve. The secret light of my life. I squashed the butterflies in my stomach. I had discovered the hard way that butterflies were not a man’s best friend, especially when it came to girls. Apart from my major crush, Eve had a way of lighting up a room whenever she walked in, and her happy demeanor made everyone else immune to the cold.
I turned around. Eve and I were very good friends, but that didn’t mean I had to make things obvious. Besides, if I went up to her and blew my cover, I risked the entire school finding out. (No, the entire school was not in that particular hall, but it might as well have been what with all the wildfire gossip.)
I started walking. My plan proved to be all in vain. I winced as a joyous scream pierced the air.
I turned back around. Eve was running towards me. I was mesmerized for two everlasting seconds. Eve couldn’t be more plain, but that in itself was beautiful. Her hair was an average brown with absolutely no highlights, and her face had an average amount of pimples, and was an average skin color; not noticeably pale or noticeably tan. There was nothing striking about her eyes, her mouth, or her nose. Her hair was straight, and always looked the same.
One of the reasons I liked her was because of that. Her beauty was subtle, so you had to be able to look past her skin to see it. Once you realized that her beauty wasn’t really on the outside, she became the most beautiful person in the world.
A path cleared as Eve grinned and bolted towards me. I stood frozen in place. Joy radiated from her like the sun. A smile began to grow on my face. I say that a smile was starting on my face and not on my mouth, because it was true. It was not simply the corners of my lips that were curving upwards, but my entire posture. My eyebrows un-knitted themselves, and my shoulders stopped slumping, but instead raised themselves in anticipation.
She was almost in front of me, but something was off. If she kept going that way she would reach the spot beside me….
A rough hand shoved me out of the way. I jumped, and stared at the muscular quarterback who had so rudely displaced me. Eve zipped past me and threw herself into the bulging arms of the handsome guy beside me, until she was completely swallowed in his hairy biceps.
I forced myself to swallow. I was a total idiot. Why would she throw herself at me? That guy was her boyfriend; not me. These feelings that had lingered for the past five years had always been painfully one-sided.
There was one time when I thought that maybe things weren’t as unbalanced as I thought, but it no longer appeared that way.
While I stood face to face with heartbreak for the third time, I allowed myself to be pulled back into the magnetizing memory from three years ago, on that one day where I had begun to hope that maybe, just maybe, Eve liked me in return.
I wrapped my fingers around the scratchy, textured tree branch, hoisted myself upwards, grinning, as I followed Eve up the tree. She might have been slightly lacking in physical beauty, but she had this way of moving that was extremely graceful, and perhaps a little attractive.
I plopped down on the branch across from her, as she looped her hands through the branches so that she wouldn’t fall off.
She was frowning, and the space between her eyebrows was creased.
I had brought her up here with the sole intention of prying her troubles from her.
“So will you tell me what’s wrong?” I asked, after a decently long silence.
She sighed, “You’ll think I’m just being a stupid girl.”
Trying to figure out a way to answer without making anything worse, I said, “Have I ever accused you of being a stupid girl?”
Eve raised an eyebrow, and a slight smile came over her lips as she took great satisfaction at outwitting me, “Yes, plenty of times.”
“Ok, have I ever called you a stupid girl, recently,” I corrected myself.
She looked upwards in thought, “Define recently.”
“Come on, Eve,” I said, bringing her back to the unknown problem at hand.
She sighed, “I don’t know, I just--” she sighed again, “I just feel like no one likes me. None of the girls at school will talk to me, let alone the boys and--”
“I talk to you, and I’m a boy,” I said.
She rolled her eyes, “that’s different.”
I wisely didn’t ask how I was different. “So what’s the point? What is it that’s bothering you?”
She sighed even louder, “I’m never going to get married; I’m going to die an old maid.”
I choked on my laugh.
“Sorry, I have a cold,” I said, a smile telling her that I did not indeed have a cold.
“I told you you would think I’m a stupid girl,” said Eve.
Now it was my turn to sigh, “Did I call you a stupid girl?”
“No, but you laughed!” she cried.
“Look, Eve, I won’t let you die an old maid if it means that much to you,” I said, leaning a tad closer to her.
“You won’t? How so?” she asked.
I shrugged, feeling heat beginning to rise into my face, “How about this. If you’re not married by the time you’re 35, then I will marry you.”
Eve seemed pleased at the prospect of having a fail-safe. She pretended not to, however, and put a thoughtful finger to her chin. “Hm… shall I accept?”
My mouth dried as she wrapped me around her finger.
Little did she know, but I wasn’t just saying this to be nice. It seemed that no other girl could possibly be as wonderful as Eve. However, I knew that I didn’t hold that charm over her, the way she held it over me.
Eve took the finger off of her chin, and looked me sternly in the eye, “I accept.”
Inside I started pumping my fists and jumping up and down. Outwardly, I said, “Great. Now, we’ll just have to get you married by the time you’re 35.”
She grinned, “You’re absolutely right.”
Now all I had to do was sabotage every relationship she might possibly have with any other guy.
I let out a quiet sigh as reality demanded my return. Eve was smiling up at the guy in front of her, and he, in turn, looked a bit uncomfortable. Ever since that fateful day when Eve and I became unofficially engaged, Eve had practically thrown herself at every other guy in her path. It hurt so much to watch, that sometimes I wished my parents would move away. At this point, I was almost old enough to live on my own, and as much as I wanted to do so and be away from Eve, I also couldn’t bear the separation. I didn’t notice a thing when I was with her, but when she wasn’t nearby, it felt like the walls were closing in around me, and like I was about to explode.
“Hi, Will,” said Eve, casually. She gave me a pat on the arm, and then turned back to the football player.
I sighed, and pulled the hood back over my head, the cold leaching right back into my bones.
I laid on my bed and tossed the tennis ball up into the air, and caught it as it came back down. I threw it up, it came down, and I caught it. I repeated this process maybe fifty times.
I was debating the best way to split up Eve and the football guy. I knew his name, but I was doing my best to block it from my memory, as I always did with her temporary boyfriends.
I had a few methods in mind, but I couldn’t help remembering how awesome the other break-ups had been, at least to me.
I knew it was probably very wrong to meddle with her dates, but I hoped that things would sort themselves out once she finally realized I was the one for her.
Four years after that fateful day, I was beginning to wonder if she really was the one for me. My feelings hadn’t changed; in fact, they had grown stronger. However, she seemed even more indifferent to me than she ever had.
Lucky for me, Eve didn’t know that I was the one behind her breakups. She also didn’t know how much energy and effort I put into them. I always tried to stage them so they didn’t reflect badly on her. Once I spread rumors that she liked another guy, but was too loyal and kind to tell her boyfriend, let alone admit it if confronted. Another time all I had to do was tell the creepo that she was Catholic and he ditched her. That guy didn’t deserve to kiss her shoes after she’d been mucking out her horses. (Sorry that was a bit strong. Still, that guy pulled a jealously from me that was so strong I’d no idea it could possibly spring from my body.)
Then there was the sweet guy. He was perfect, I guess the ladies would say. He was handsome, Catholic, gentlemanly, and he already had a car, phone, and a steady job. Even I could see the advantages of that guy. I had an elaborate plan all ready for that guy, when I realized that, while I could justify the means to an end with any of the other guys, I could not do that with this guy. For once I had met my match. This guy was different. He would be able to treat her better than I could, so it would most definitely be wrong to “save” her from this guy.
Then she dumped him. I couldn’t believe it. I walked along with my head in the clouds for a week after. I should have been spending that week scheming how to keep her from getting into another relationship with another guy, because now I had this good-looking football dude to deal with.
I recalled my back-up plan. If I had completely exhausted my pool of ideas, I would consider telling Eve point-blank that I liked her.
Now, that was only for the most desperate of situations, and I did not think I was quite that desperate yet.
Although I was pretty darn close.
17 Years Later
I glanced anxiously at the automatic sliding doors, waiting for them to serve their purpose and slide open.
“What’cha starin’ at?” drawled my friend Davis as he nudged my arm to get my attention.
“Nothing,” I said, turning my attention back away from Davy for one last glance at the doors. I gripped my bowling ball tighter, and rolled it violently at the pins.
“What’s wrong with you, man?” cried Davy, alarmed at my sudden burst of energy.
“Nothing,” I said, frowning.
I turned aside, allowing Davy to take my place in front of the lane.
I heard the doors slide open behind me. I whipped around so quickly I nearly lost my balance.
“Dude, were you waiting for that old lady?” said Davy, following my gaze to the stooped woman who was shuffling through the doors. I wondered briefly if she was here to go bowling.
“No, of course not,” I said. “It’s your turn.”
It also crossed my mind briefly that Davy still talked like a teenager even though he was thirty-three. I hoped that he would grow up soon.
The door opened the again. This time, I felt this tingling in my spine, and I knew it was her by some mysterious sixth sense.
I resisted the urge to whip around, because I did not want to appear desperate.
I pretended to watch as Davy threw back his arm and nearly pulled a muscle trying to fling the ball at the bowling pins, but really I was listening for the tap of Eve’s small heels.
Naturally I listened for a long time because I forgot that she had to switch her usual white summer sandals for the ugly, smelly bowling shoes.
When she finally approached me, I didn’t even notice because I had blankly assumed that she was someone else.
She tapped me on the shoulder, “Hey, Will.”
I turned around, keeping my cool and not rushing to face her. “Hi, Eve.”
“How are you doing?” she asked, looking at the screen above my lane. It took me a second to realize she wasn’t actually talking about me, but my score“Um…” I said, not really sure if I could brag about how awesome I was doing
without actually bragging.
“Wow, you’re doing really well,” she said, grinning.
“Thanks, Eve,” I said, wanting to smack myself for the blush that was rising into my face.
There was a brief pause before Eve said, “You know what tomorrow is.”
I hid a wry smile. Of course I knew what tomorrow was. “Your 35th birthday.”
“Yes,” she said.
“No marriage proposals yet?” I asked.
She frowned, and I could see the pain on her face. She had wanted to get married, to find someone who she could spend the rest of her life with. She had wanted children, lots and lots of children, but she had none. At this point, she would be lucky if she had any.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow?” I asked.
“No, actually,” she said, tucking behind her ear a strand of brown hair that had fallen out of its bun.
“I’ll pick you up at five,” I said, grabbing my bowling ball and preparing to launch it down the lane.
“Where are we going?” asked Eve, smiling slightly.
“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” I said, as I rolled the ball down the alley. I hoped for a strike; that would really make things dramatic, but no, luck was not with me. I felt more than saw Eve wince beside me as the ball thudded into the gutter with a passion, and rolled angrily past all the pins.
“Well,” said Eve, a glint in her eyes knowing that my fail had just taken away any and all of the mystery surrounding my statement, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She slowly and gracefully walked to the other side of the bowling alley where her groups of friends were setting up their lanes.
The next day, at precisely five o’clock, I approached Eve’s front door, my hands purposely relaxed at my side, and my knees purposely not knocking together in anticipation.
There was a full twenty seconds of waiting between the time I knocked and the time she opened the door. I counted.
I greeted her with a “happy birthday” and she smiled in return.
I led her to my car, and we drove towards Philadelphia. There was a bit of traffic, but we filled the time with talk of what we had been doing for the past couple weeks. I had missed her achingly during the short intervals of time in which I didn’t see her, but I didn’t know how to meet up with her without giving myself away. I had sincerely hoped that she wouldn’t have forgotten about my promise, but she didn’t seem to care. I knew that I would have to take a leap of faith, but at this point, I was almost positive that my passion wasn’t reciprocated.
Still, I wanted to enjoy this time with her while I could, since I didn’t think she’d really want to keep seeing me after this. I wasn’t sure why, but I just had a bad feeling about it. However, I could get very nervous at times, so I attributed my tense nerves to that.
“Are we going to see a play?” asked Eve, jumping to her window to watch all the shops, restaurants, and theatre’s pass by.
“I’m not telling,” I said for the millionth time. I caught a glance of her as I responded, and I quickly returned my attention to the road, because I knew that I would be easily distracted by her. She was nothing out of the ordinary; so then why did I think she was so gorgeous? I felt my cheeks redden at the thought that she was gorgeous, but I knew she was, even if I couldn’t pinpoint why.
Finally I parked the car by Penn’s Landing, a strip along the Delaware River. I opened the trunk and pulled out a cooler. I hoped the cooler’s contents were still in edible condition as I hauled the cooler over the lip of the back of the car, the wind rustling and tousling my hair, making me feel like one of those handsome movie stars who was completely on top of every situation. However, I had faced reality years ago and accepted the fact that I was average looking and hardly ever on top of any situation.
I glanced at Eve, who was watching curiously. “So we’re not going to a fancy restaurant or a play.”
I shrugged, “I just thought I’d make you curious by driving you through the city only to stop and have a picnic.”
Eve burst out laughing, “Will, that’s so sweet. I haven’t had a picnic in I don’t know how long.”
I smiled, but wondered how ignorant those other guys were that they didn’t even know how much Eve loved picnics.
We walked a bit down a concrete pathway that followed the edge of the opaque river. We stopped and ate, and the whole time I couldn’t help the acute feeling that I belonged with her, that I wanted her to be by my side for the rest of my life. When I tried to imagine my life continuing the way it was now, I felt this feeling of hopelessness, like my life would drain by with a eerie slowness, as if each second were a grain of sand, and my life was stretching out like a desert before me. I shivered at the thought of the scorching, dreary endlessness, and knew I could not let it happen. I had to do everything I could to get Eve.
Before I knew it, two hours had gone by, but they were probably two of the happiest of my life. I knew that by the time we left I wouldn’t be able to recall a single thing we’d talked about.
Well, except for one thing.
Eve and I had finished eating, and I was gazing over the water, wondering what was going through her head. Eve was absently fingering the skirt of her cotton dress, her legs tucked neatly under her on the bench. For the first time I really noticed what she was wearing. A plain white top fit her flawlessly, and a collage of pink and yellow flowers were scattered over the white skirt. Her straight brown hair was swept up in a perfect, intricate bun. The wind had pulled a few strands free, and I resisted the urge to tuck them behind her ear. It’s too soon, I told myself, but then a darker part of me emerged, and whispered inside my head, or too late.
“Will,” said Eve, still fiddling with the hem of her dress, “thank you for taking me out.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. I took a deep breath. Part of me was whispering that I should give her more time, but another part of me hissed that I had given her plenty of time. Twenty-three years was more than enough. “Eve, I was wondering, if perhaps next week, you’d like to do this again.”
Eve’s eyes looked up at mine, but her head remained lowered. “Will, I’m--I’m not sure.”
“Do you remember that time, when we were thirteen, and I promised you that I would marry you if you weren’t already married by your 35th birthday?” I asked, feeling desperation rise.
“Will, don’t do this,” said Eve, as the blood drained from my face, “We’re not right for each other.”
I squashed every bit of feeling in my body, shoving it as far down as I could until I could afford to dig it up again and deal with it. “I know you never really cared about me, but, well, I care about you.”
“Oh, Will, that’s not what I meant. I do care about you, but, I just don’t think we’re meant to be together,” said Eve.
Feeling years of churning emotions beginning to build into a tornado, I said quietly, “I don’t understand.”
Eve stood, looking almost as panicked as I felt, “Will, I’m really sorry, I just don’t want this.” She grabbed her purse and started walking rapidly away.
“Eve,” I cried quietly. I jumped up after her.
I had loved her for years, there was no doubt about that. I had started to have feelings for her many years ago, but even then I had had years of friendship to add to it. I knew her better than I knew myself. I knew there was another reason why she was pushing me away, but I couldn’t read her mind to figure it out.
I stood cemented to the concrete. I felt the dirty air of the city trickling around my arms and legs. The river smelled of rotten eggs, but strangely I associated the smell with swimming in the ocean, so it didn’t strike me as a bad smell. I could hear the crowd roaring from a nearby concert, but the sound was much more distant than the stadium. Some of the stage crew walked by but I paid them little heed.
I wrenched myself free of whatever it was that held me captive on the concrete, and bolted off after Eve. How would she get home anyway?
She rushed down the side of the parking lot, past my car. She turned left, towards the concert. I grunted in frustration and pushed myself away from my feelings. Where was she going?
I was only a few feet behind her when she plunged into the crowd escaping from the concert.
“Eve!” I yelled. I couldn’t lose her! I had this odd feeling, like if I lost her here, she would be lost to me forever.
“Eve please!” I cried.
The crowd surged, and a small gap opened up, leaving Eve only a few feet away from me.
“Will,” she half-whimpered, half-spoke.
I stepped closer to Eve before the crowd could pour through the gap.
“Did you really mean it? What you said?” I asked. Without thinking I gripped Eve’s hands.
Eve winced and shut her eyes. Without opening them, she said, “Will, I--I don’t know what to think right now. I really just need to sort through everything.”
She opened her eyes, and I immediately began searching through them, trying to find something that would give me hope.
She gazed back tiredly, no, she was beyond tired. There was a mental exhaustion that seemed to be draining every ounce of energy from her body.
“Eve, what’s wrong?” I asked.
She looked up at me, without making any effort to remove her hands from mine. “I can’t do it again, Will, I promised myself I would never do it again because it always hurts so much--”
“What hurts? Who hurt you?!” I cried, feeling all that control I had gained earlier slipping away.
“I hurt myself,” she said. “I went looking for love, and I tried so hard--”
“I won’t hurt you,” I said.
Eve sighed, “That’s what they all say.”
“Eve,” I said, my voice conveying all the pain I felt. I was about to continue, and I realized I didn’t know what to say.
“I know it hurts, that you’ve had so many relationships that didn’t work out, but, Eve…” I trailed off, knowing I would have to tell her.
“What?” she said.
“That was my fault. Eve, once we’d agreed that we would get married if you weren’t married by the time you were 35, I’ve tried to make sure that you didn’t get married. I got in the way because I couldn’t bear to watch you be with any other guy. It, hurt me, it really did, and I was too much of a coward to ask you to out, so I just got in the way of all your other relationships.”
Eve stared at me, and her mouth fell open slightly. Then she frowned, “That was rude.”
I laughed nervously, “Yeah, it was.”
She opened her mouth twice, on the verge of words, but none came out.
The crowd surged around us, but I paid no heed. I gripped Eve’s hands more firmly, ensuring that we weren’t separated. Why we were having this conversation in the middle of a concert crowd I had no idea.
Screams and snaps filled the air, but again I brushed them aside. Concert crowds always got rowdy, especially when in the middle of the city like this.
Then we were alone.
Eve opened her mouth to speak, and emotions flooded through me. What
would she say? Would she condemn me? My stomach jumped up and down in anticipation.
Eve started to speak, but all her words were a blur. I wasn’t even trying to hear what she was saying. I clutched her hands tightly until she cried out, and then I pulled, and spun around, as if I were dancing with her.
Eve cried out in confusion, and then went limp with horror, my hands the only thing connecting us still. There was another snapping sound, louder this time, and the screams of the crowd grew louder. Eve joined in the screaming while my world flipped upside down.
What had Eve said? What had she said to me? Why couldn’t I remember? I wanted to curse my ears for failing me in that one moment of importance.
It suddenly occurred to me how similar the screams were to balloons. Each scream, when on it’s own, attracted attention in the way a balloon did when it was released and floated into the sky. The more balloons, the more attention. The more screams, the more attention.
I shook my head. Why were balloons like screams? Why did I even care?
I grunted and raised my hand in front of my face, my hand a dark shadow against the bright blue sky that was in front of me, for some reason, and not above me. Something akin to a liquid ruby dripped from my fingers and caught the glaring sunlight, spraying white glints of light. The sparkling red drop fell to my lips, and for some reason I expected it to taste like wine. Instead, there was a brief moment of something numbing and oozing before I tried to swallow whatever had fallen in my mouth.
I couldn’t get it down, and instead I coughed, and more of the warm, liquid ruby rose to my mouth. It seemed to be coming from my throat.
Another balloon was released to the sky, and finally Eve caught my attention with a piercing cry.
“Will!” she screamed. I coughed again, and this time she pulled on my shoulder so that I could spit the river of blood out of my mouth.
I pulled in the tiny bit of air, afraid that if I tried to suck in too much I would speed death on it’s way.
I cut Eve off mid-sentence, “I always knew I would take a bullet for you,” I choked, as the pain ebbed through my chest, and spread to my stomach before numbing my legs.
Eve began to sob uncontrollably. She gently fingered the hem of my shirt the way she had fingered her dress.
“Why, Will? You could have just moved out of the way--I never thought terrorists would be a part of my life--I can’t believe this is happening--” she stopped that train of thought and began a new one, “I’m sorry I never saw you, Will, I should have realized earlier--if I had known I would have--and I’m not mad at your for taking away my boyfriends--I never loved them anyway--but--Will!”
I hissed as I tried to remain conscious. I knew that if I could just remain conscious I might be okay.
“Come on, Will, stay with me! You stay right here, on earth! Don’t you go to Heaven, God knows I need you more than He does! And, Will?”
My hands clung to hers, and my eyes glued themselves to her eyes, “Yes?”
“Will--will you marry me?” she said, sobbing.
My thoughts were beginning to stray, and although I perfectly understood the question, the response wouldn’t line up correctly.
“You were right, you were so right, I was just too blind,” said Eve, beginning to sound distant.
My mind was swirling, and it seemed to be getting thickers, like it was changing from Maple syrup to corn syrup. I tried once more to organize my thoughts. I just had to say “yes”; how was that hard? I tried to get the words to rise to my lips, but my thoughts kept coming back all that I had dreamed today would be. I had wanted to be married to her, by today, today, her 35th birthday. But despite all my efforts, blackness claimed me. But before it closed on me completely, I managed to whisper, “Happy birthday.”
Amazing, no? Well, congrats Brigit! Awesome story :D