I went home Friday evening. My mom, dad and Arthur came to get me.
My room seemed strange. It was foreign. I stood in the doorway, holding on to the frame for support. Slowly I entered the room, sitting down on the bed. It was almost 7 in the evening, and despite having slept on and off all day, I was tired. My mom poked her head inside.
“I’m going to order pizzas. What do you want on top?” she asked me, smiling. She was happy that I was back home, though I felt strange about it, unable to say why.
“Pepperoni,” I told her, smiling back at her weakly.
When she left, I lay down on the bed.
Thomas had stayed for over an hour. For just a short while, I had almost forgotten that we were in a hospital, while he was feeding me bites of chocolate cake. We talked and we laughed. When we finished the cake, I scooted to the side of the bed and he sat beside me. I cuddled up to him and he held me. He leaned his head against the top of mine. He smelled sweet and homely. Something honey-like. A summer breeze with a dash of honey. A twist of oak tree. I loved it.
I loved him. But I didn’t tell him.
I woke up too early the next morning. I knew by the tone of darkness outside, by the silence of the house. I didn’t bother to look at the clock.
I couldn’t fall asleep again. I cuddled up with my duvet anyway.
Thomas had promised me to come and get me after breakfast. I needed to do something. He said he had plans, but wouldn’t tell me about them, except that I should wear something a little nice. I was looking forward to spending more time with him - I always was. He brought out something in me that I hadn’t known existed. I wasn’t able to say what. He made me smile and laugh so much. I felt happy just being near him. He made me see the good things clearer. I felt like a girl. A teenage girl. And that was okay.
I put a hand on my chest. Feeling for my heartbeat. It felt steady, even. I had no trouble breathing. Everything seemed normal. It seemed weird, now, that I had been in the hospital.
The darkness used to scare me, back when I was smaller. I thought that if I stayed in the darkness for too long, then it would swallow me up. I had heard about that in a story once. Now, I’m afraid of what’s hiding in the dark. What is lurking, keeping an eye on me. Sometimes I wish for night vision so I could see what was hiding. But most times I don’t want to see it, afraid of what it might be, what it might look like.
When at last my clock told me that it was 20 past 7 I figured that it was okay for me to get up. I got out of bed slowly, per orders from my nurses so that I wouldn’t faint, grabbed a pair of jeans from my closet, a black tank-top, a very colourful loose t-shirt and a white scarf that matched the white colour in the t-shirt very well. I went to take a shower.
I tugged at my curls. They were messy and unruly. I had dressed after the shower and were now fighting against nature to make my curls look decent. After 15 minutes of struggle I just gave up, put the brush aside and went downstairs to eat breakfast.
Arthur was sitting with a bowl of cereal on the couch in the living room. I joined him. He was watching some reality show on TV. I didn’t know which one, and since they showed it at 8 in the morning, it was probably not that popular. We ate in silence.
“When is Thomas picking you up?” he asked me when we were both finished eating.
“At 9.” I said.
He looked at me. “You’re gonna put makeup on, right?” he said, smiling crookedly at me. I hit him on the arm.
“Or course I am.”
“Good, because you look pale. Sick.” He said. I rolled my eyes.
“Well, I’m tired. But yes, I’m going to put makeup on all right.”
He was silent for a while, looking at the screen. Then he talked, without moving his eyes away. “I’m sorry about the other morning. I shouldn’t have thought that of you. Or Thomas. He’s a great guy. I’m happy for you.” Then he did turn his head. He smiled weakly at me. “I was just being stupid.”
“You were being a teenager. You are a teenager, and it’s okay, Art. I understand. I would feel the same if the situation had been reversed.” I let my hand rest on his shoulder. “But if you really think I should wear some makeup, I better get back upstairs and put it on.” I said, smiling at him. I got up from the sofa and got both of our bowls and put them in the dishwasher in the kitchen. Upstairs I put on foundation, a tiny bit of eye shadow to make myself look a little less sick, and mascara.
I went back into my room and grabbed my shoulder-bag. It was made from black leather in a very pretty, feminine way. I put my wallet and my phone in it, and took a look at myself in the mirror. My curls were drying slowly, framing my face. The struggle hadn’t been completely without success. I turned around myself slowly, keeping my eyes on my reflection. Approving, I went down the stairs just as the doorbell rang.
I opened the door. Thomas smiled at me. He stepped inside and dragged me into a hug. I was squished against his winter jacket, but I smiled nonetheless. When he let go of me, I Sat down on the floor and pulled my shoes on.
“Are you going to tell me now where we’re going?” I asked him, looking at him with a crooked smile.
“Nope. You’ll just have to wait and see.” He said, smiling back at me.
Arthur walked in just then. He and Thomas greeted with salutes, which I found extremely weird. I stood back up when I had gotten my boots on and put on my jacket.
“You ready?” Thomas asked me. I nodded.
“Bye, Art. See you later.” I said, waving at him. He waved back and Thomas and I went outside, closing the door after us. Outside, he draped his arm across my shoulder, pulling me close to his side.
“How are you feeling?” he asked me. I shrugged.
“I’m fine, actually. A little tired, that’s all. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be okay.” I told him. He smiled down at me. When we got to his car, he opened the door for me and I sat down. He closed the door and walked around to the driver’s door and sat down inside.
He turned in his seat and looked at me, smiling a little. It looked almost sad, his smile. I looked at him, confused.
“What is it?” I asked him.
Instead of answering, he leaned in and kissed me gently on the lips. Confused, I kissed back. He pulled back and started the engine. He didn’t start driving, though. He turned to look at me, his eyes tenderly.
“I was just marvelling in how lucky I am.” He said. I felt warmth spread across my cheeks as the car started moving. He reached over and put a hand on my thigh, searching for my hand. I put my hand on top of his and braided our fingers together as he turned out on the main road.
The car stopped in front of the city’s museum. Thomas turned in his seat and looked at me.
“I’m not sure whether or not you are actually interested in visual art, but as you are a very cultivated young woman, I thought that this would be a pretty good thing to try.” He said, smiling at me. I smiled back.
“I haven’t been very interested in it previously, but I might end up being. Let’s give it a shot.” I said. We got out of the car and he draped his arm over my shoulders as we walked towards the entrance.
Inside, the walls where white, paintings hanging on them. The rooms were big, with many meters to the glass ceiling, which was covered by a thin layer of snow. We walked around the exhibition, hand in hand, talking in low voices about the pieces we came upon. One of them was a woman sitting in a meadow, a big city in the horizon. She was all curled up and hid her face behind her hands. Thomas stopped in front of it and squinted his eyes at it.
“That woman looks like you. Doesn’t she?” he asked me. I walked closer to it, dragging him with me. It was true; she did look quite a bit like me. She had thick, brown curls, slightly more auburn than mine, a slight build and pale skin.
I backed away from the painting. It gave me goose bumps. I didn’t want to be close to it. I did not know why I reacted like that to a simple painting, but I didn’t like it. I felt a sudden panic in my chest. I tried to drag Thomas away from it.
“Wait a minute, I want to look at this a little more,” he said, the dragging I did very much ineffective. His eyes searched the painting. I just looked at him. Tried not to focus on that painting.
After a few seconds, he turned back to me and walked on.
After the museum, he drove on, still not telling me the plans. It was almost lunch-time, and I felt hungry. To my luck, the next time he stopped the engine, it was on the parking lot of a restaurant. But this wasn’t any restaurant. This was one of the best restaurants in town. Expensive and fine.
Thomas looked at me with a smirk. “You up for some good food?” he asked me. My mouth fell open.
“Are you serious? This restaurant is extremely expensive!” I exclaimed. He just smiled at me.
“I know. But my parents have a rather OK income, and they said that this was their treat to us. So you better enjoy it, otherwise my mother will be quite disappointed.” He said. He went out of the car and went to the other side of the car to open my door. I stepped out.
“You should have told me to wear something nicer, though.” I said, looking down at my jeans. I felt his hand under my chin. He turned my face back up so that he could look me in the eye.
“Hey. Eliza. You’re beautiful. And I would think that you were beautiful if you were wearing sweatpants and an oversized hoodie.” He told me, his voice low. I felt something tickling in my belly. “You’re beautiful.” He repeated. I felt heat in my cheeks again. He leaned in and kissed my nose lightly. I closed my eyes and before he could move away, I put my hand behind his neck, keeping him in place. I felt his lips jerk into a smile against my nose. Then I lifted my face so that my lips pressed against his, and his arms wrapped around me, holding me to him.
Then I felt something cold landing on my cheeks, and we broke the kiss, but didn’t pull away. It had started snowing again. I looked at Thomas. He met my eyes and smiled at me
I would never grow tired of looking at him. His eyes were so, so, blue. They shone brightly at me. His cheeks were slightly red with cold. And his smile had me melting despite the low temperatures.
I pressed my lips against his again. Then we pulled away from each other, he draped his arm over my shoulder, and we walked into the restaurant.
A lady met us just inside the door.
“Hello welcome to The Rosemary Boarder. How can I help you?” she said. She wore heavy makeup.
“I ordered a table for two. My name is Thomas Martin.” Thomas said. She shuffled through the papers on the little counter in the hall.
“Yes, I have a table for a Mr. Martin right here. If you would be so kind as to follow me.” She said, her voice so sweet it almost sounded mocking. She grabbed two menu cards from underneath the counter and walked into the restaurant.
Inside, the walls were dark, rich wood. The ceiling was painted black, and from it hang big chandeliers, the light reflecting in the small diamonds that hung from them. The tables had a good distance between them, allowing the guests to talk without others listening in. The tables matched the walls, the chairs covered in black leather. On the walls hung paintings, in the windows stood plants, disturbingly green against the frost-covered glass.
The woman took us to a table in the far end of the restaurant, beside a big fireplace, ornamented with iron threads forming ranks of flowers and leafs. It was quite beautiful.
Thomas held out the chair for me. The woman had put the menu cards in the table and disappeared. I sat down and let him push me towards the table. I pulled my jacket off, hanging it on the back of the chair. Thomas sat down across from me. On the table were 3 candles, lit with a golden-red flame. The flame was reflected in Thomas’s eyes, making them shine with a golden glow. I smiled at him.
“This is so nice. Thank you.” I said, reaching my hand across the table. He grabbed it with his own and squeezed it.
“I’m glad you like it. Now let’s figure out what to have. I’m hungry.” He said, smiling at me. We let go of each other and picked up a menu card each. I looked down it. Almost all the names of the dishes were written in French, but I didn’t know a word of French. Thomas looked as uncomfortable as I felt. He looked at me.
“How are we going to tell what we want? I’m not able to pronounce any of these words?” he said. I laughed.
“Let’s take it one step at a time. She’s too, you know. We can talk English to her.” I said. I looked down the row of dishes. In the end, I decided on a soup in the end, with pork and different sorts of greens. Thomas decided on a steak, telling me that it was the best type of food a man could get. I had to suppress my laughter at that, because when he said it he blew up his chest like a rooster and looked like he was the man of men.
The table was right beside a window. While waiting for our food, we looked out the window at the streets outside. Snow was falling slowly from the covered sky, making the town look idyllic and quite beautiful. When I turned my head to look at Thomas, he was smiling ever so slightly, like he was thinking of something secret. He turned to look at me, and the smile stayed on his face. He reached across the table and wrapped his hand over mine. I smiled back at him, but not a big, broad smile. I knew what he was thinking. He felt that this was a very important moment. I had the same feeling. Like this was something I should do everything in my power to keep with me. I had a bad feeling in my stomach, like something inevitable was going to happen very soon.
I was getting really damn nervous about those test results. As if on cue, my heart skipped a beat just then, and for a fraction of a second, I felt breathless.
Thomas squeezed my hand gently, bringing me back to reality. The woman stood beside the table.
“One soup,” she said, and I took the bowl from her. It looked pretty good. It was steaming hot. She placed a small basket of bread beside the bowl. Thomas’ steak was covered in a red-brown sauce. Beside it were a few potatoes and a salad that I really couldn’t name. We had already gotten out sodas by then, so we plunged into the food.
The soup really was great. I burned my tongue on it, but I didn’t really mind. Thomas seemed extremely happy about his steak, as well.
After a while where we had been eating in silence, Thomas straightened up and looked at me.
“Can I ask you something?” he said. I looked at him, confused.
“Or course. What is it?”
“I’ve been wondering…” he said, resting his elbows in the table, folding his hands by his chin. “What do you actually remember of that night? Do you remember everything, or has some things gone away, or?” he asked me, not looking at me anymore.
I was silent a little while.
“I think I remember everything. It feels normal up until I started having trouble breathing. From there and until I woke up again, there’s a few holes. I’m not sure how long it went on before I passed out, though,” I said, looking down. I had been right. He had had that ominous feeling as well. I could sense it in the way he talked and did not look at me.
“Do you want to know what happened?” he asked me. His voice sounded fragile. I nodded slowly. He looked at me, his eyes not giving away anything. It was like he put on some sort of mask, hiding away as best as he could.
“When you started fighting for air, you grew pale. You were shaking violently. I thought you were having a heart attack or something, and I panicked. I yelled for Arthur and had him call the hospital. While he did, I was shaking almost as badly as you were. I held you until the ambulance came and forced me to let go of you. I drove Arthur to the hospital and we waited there together until your parents came along. At that point, the doctors were not sure if you would live.” He said. His voice had grown stern, hard. He really was trying to keep something from me. Whether it was a feeling he was suppressing or something that he did not want to tell me, I couldn’t say.
I looked down into my soup. I didn’t really know what to say. It bothered me that he was trying to keep something from me, but I couldn’t really blame him. We had only known each other for 2 weeks, despite however long it might feel.
“I have never been so scared in all my life, Ellie,” he said, interrupting my train of thought. I looked up and met his eyes. They were not as guarded any longer, more soft. “Never. I want you to know that. I want you to know that I care for you. I care so much,” he grabbed my hands, which were lying on the table with both of his. “Please don’t doubt that.”
I looked him straight in the eyes and nodded. But secretly I noted that if something really was wrong with me, I wouldn’t let him be hurt by it.
The rest of the meal went by more lightly. Having said what he wanted to, Thomas eased up and went back to being the happy self I liked so much. We smiled, we laughed and were just being teenagers. When we had finished eating, he insisted that we had dessert, and so he ordered to plates of ice cream for us. It was absolutely delicious. The ice cream was fresh and so cold that my teeth started hurting.
After we left the restaurant, Thomas drove on. When he stopped again, we were back at the park where we had had our first kiss. I felt heat in my cheeks at the memory, and looking at him, I could see that he also felt happy, if not a little embarrassed. We linked out hands together and walked through the park. There were a few people there today, but due to the cold and still falling snow, most people stayed inside.
We didn’t. The snow creaked under our feet and my hair and scarf were covered in small, white snowflakes. The people around us were mostly hurrying past, having somewhere else to be. We were the only ones who were walking slowly, enjoying the view and the lack of car noise.
There was an old swing set in the middle of the park. Thomas brushed the snow from the swings and we sat down on two swings, hanging beside each other. I pushed the swing back and forth with my feet, swinging gently in the cold wind. The snow was everywhere. The ground and trees where completely covered in white snow. We were almost at the end of January, so it would probably disappear soon. I felt a little sad at the thought that something so beautiful was going to just melt away. But that was just how the world was. Beauty was often fragile and weak and would disappear when something turned against it.
“Are you nervous about Monday?” Thomas asked me. I shrugged.
“Of course. But whatever they are going to tell me will be something that I will have to live with. So there’s no point in worrying too much. My parents and Arthur will do plenty of that.” I told him, smiling a little. “I’ll try to see it from the positive side.”
He smiled back at me. “That sounds good. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that you’re not 40-something. You sound much older than you are.”
“That’s what happens when you read too much. You gain more knowledge, live multiple lives, and your perspective broadens. Not to mention all the happiness and sadness you feel. It helps you grow up.” I said. He nodded.
“Yeah. But you still sound old,” he said, smirking at me. He pushed his swing towards me, bumping us together.
“Hey!” I exclaimed, bumping him back, laughing. His tongue snuck out between his lips in a boyish smile. Then he flew from his swing, grabbed me by the waist and threw my on the snow. He laughed as I quickly climbed to my feet, the snow already running down my neck and down my spine.
“Oh, so you think that’s funny?” I said threathingly, but unable to hide the smile that forced it’s way to my lips. I jumped on him, catching him off balance, and we both ended up on the ground, my arms wrapped around his neck, limps and bodies entangled, the snow flying about us. He laughed loudly. I managed to free my arm from underneath him and somehow ended up straddling his stomach as he lay on his back in the snow. His dark hair stood in stark contrast to the white powder underneath him which also had found its way into that dark hair and dark eyelashes. His eyes gleamed with joy, icy blue. I held him down with my hands on his shoulders.
“I think it was a bad idea to start a snow-fight with me. Remember, I have a younger brother who plays soccer, but I somehow always manage to win when snow is involved.” I said, grinning down at him. He wrapped his hands around my hips.
“Oh, really?” he said, then turned his entire body in one quick motion, switching out positions so I was laying on the freezing ground, and he was on his hands and knees above me. He had grabbed my hands while turning around, and where now holding them down in the snow, making sure that I couldn’t move away.
“I think he let you win.” He said, smiling at me. Then he bent down and kissed me. His lips were warm, wet from the snow, and incredibly soft. I felt myself push my face towards his, encouraging the kiss and he followed suit. He let go of my hands, and I wrapped them around his neck. He grabbed me by the waist and backed away, sitting down in the snow and dragging me with him. I sat in between his legs, dragging his lips to mine, his arms holding me tight to his body. Despite the cold, I felt like I was on fire. He had his hand on the back of my head, his fingers entangled in my hair, keeping me close. His lips were insistent, pushing against mine. I had one hand on the back of his shoulder, one on his neck. I felt light as a feather but at the same time bound to earth like the mountain. My heart was pounding against my rib cage, and I had to pull away. My breathing had become heavy. I leaned my forehead against his, trying to draw oxygen into my lungs. His hand was warm against my scalp. His fingers caressed me gently.
And so we sat for I don’t know how long. When we started growing cold, we got up slowly. Thomas kept his arm around my shoulder, still keeping me close to him.
“So, do you have any more plans?” I asked him when we were in the car. We were both soaked from the melting snow, and I was shaking violently from the cold. He looked at me.
“Not really. But if you want to, we can go to my house and watch a movie. If you promise you won’t pass out again, of course.” He said, smirking lightly at me. I laughed.
“I will do my best. I would like that.” I told him. He smiled at me and started the engine.
Thomas’ mother was at home when we got there.
“Hello. Didn’t know the two of you were coming back here.” She said, smiling at us. We met her in the living room, where she sat in an armchair, reading.
“It wasn’t planned, but we wanted to watch a movie.” Thomas told her.
“You should probably change first,” she said, looking us up and down. “You’re completely soaked.”
“Sure, mother. I will find some dry clothing for both of us.” Thomas said, and bowed. I covered my mouth with my hand, covering my smile. Thomas turned back to me and grabbed my hand, leading me out of the living room and up the stairs to his room.
In his closet, he found a pair of black sports shorts that lead all the way to me knees and a blue hoodie that was also far too big for me, but the best he could find. He handed it over and followed me to the bathroom so I could change.
When he left me, I stripped out of my wet clothing. I was soaked all the way through. I did keep my bra on when I pulled the hoodie on. It smelled like him, like summer. I jumped into the shorts, folded my wet clothes and brought them with me back to Thomas’ room. He was sitting on the bed, himself dressed in loose sweatpants and a t-shirt, showing off the quite impressive muscles of his upper arms. He was shuffling through a bunch of DVD’s. He looked up when I entered. I dropped the wet clothing on the floor beside the door and went to sit beside him. He showed me the movies he was sitting with.
“Sorry it’s not much of an assortment.” He said, smiling at me. “Which one would you rather see?”
I pointed at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and he went to the TV to put it on. Meanwhile, I grabbed pillows and put them up against the wall so that we would have something to lean against. I moved up and leaned back against them, tugging myself in under his quilt. When he got the movie running, he joined me. He put his arm around my shoulders and I snuggled up against him.