Headlights

"Nothing lasts forever." It started with a tube of bright red lipstick and ended in the rain.

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9. Midnight

Just take me home.

Sitting at her window seat brought back a sense of déjà vu, but she couldn’t determine which event resonated with her the most: the wait that brought them together or the wait that tore them apart. She was ready with her new purse in hand and her coat already draped across her shoulders. Teagan had helped her pick the outfit, so she looked put together with her bright red lipstick and little white dress.

She hoped so.

She saw a dark shape pull into her driveway, exactly on time. Clutching everything in her arms, she tried her best not to wonder, as she always did, but her mind won out, like usual. Why didn’t he turn on his headlights? Why was he so timely now? Why did she care? As she stumbled to her front door in her high heels, he knocked on the door.

Slowly, she opened it. He absolutely took her breath away under the light of her porch door. God, he was going to kill her in that sports jacket with no tie, crumpled hair and all. Hesitantly, she stepped out and accepted his arm, walking with him to the car, where he opened the passenger door for her.

She looked around and leaned back as he closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side. Why was his car so clean now? There were no promotion fliers in sight, and she could see the floor where she placed her feet. She wasn’t even aware that he had ever listened to her jokingly complain about the papers.

Something inside her whispered, “He still cares…” She took a breath. Maybe he did. But she couldn’t go down the road of heartbreak anymore, and he—he took life as a game that he always won, whether it was in love or in war.

When he got into the driver’s seat, starting up the engine, she tried her best to keep her eyes away. But he turned to her, eyes illuminated by the light of the city in the distance, and said, “It’s not in the city.”

“Mmh?”

“The theater. It’s a little place in the suburbs that opens every few months for big events. That’s why the tickets were so expensive.”

“What’s the event?” She resisted the urge to lick her lips. She had already redone her lipstick three times as she was waiting, and she couldn’t remind him about her forgotten purse or else she would come home with him and lose the battle.

“New Year’s Eve’s in a couple of days, after all.” He paused. Then, almost sadly, his eyes appraised her face. “Do you have any plans?”

They were supposed to spend New Year’s together. If he made any more references, she wouldn’t be able to stop the drinking spree she had gone off on these past few days.

“No. I’m busy.” When his eyes turned back to the road, she desperately wanted to add, No! I’m going to be busy drinking over you on New Year’s because I can’t fucking get a new start! But she held it in.

He didn’t say anything for the rest of the ride. But as she stared out the window, the grafittied walls of the buildings outside New York City fading in and out of the lighting of the street lamps, she felt his eyes on her, a burning presence that she couldn’t acknowledge. And she kept on staring, staring until light and dark began to blur together and there was only Calvin with her in the world.

He parked smoothly. For a New Yorker with a car, he was damn good at driving, and she tried to block out all the memories of the time she had challenged him to take her to work through the morning traffic one day when she was ten minutes late. God, he was good. He knew exactly where he was going, exactly what he was to do, exactly what he needed to tell her.

She wished she knew exactly what she was going to do about all these feelings about him.

This time, he didn’t insist on being chivalrous. She opened the passenger door herself, walking out as gracefully as she could. Her heels were already killing her and her legs were wobbling. As her ankles gave out, she grabbed onto the rearview mirror, shaking as she felt him run to her and hold her up gingerly by the waist. Déjà vu hit again.

As they stood together, pressed against the car like a pair of horny teenagers, she looked up and met his eyes squarely. She could stay like this forever. He moved slowly, but she didn’t stop him when he kissed her gently, letting go of her waist, instead holding her chin and head. They stayed there, and she almost forgot reality.

But then he stepped away so abruptly that she stumbled again. This time, he wasn’t there to catch her. Her chest stung as she grabbed onto the car again, watching as he walked off to the entrance of the theater, whose board proudly proclaimed “Showing of Rebel without a Cause Tonight”. She shivered, and then hurried to follow him inside.

He offered her his arm once they were standing in line at the admissions booth. He stared ahead, refusing to look at her as she fiddled with the clasps on her purse. She tried to convince herself that she was looking for her lipstick, her favorite occupation, but she knew the truth – she didn’t want to look at him again without seeing those eyes.

It was surprisingly crowded in the hall, although it was the midnight showing of an older movie. She supposed it was because it was James Dean – no, she couldn’t go down that road. Not after so many references his family had made during that family gathering.

“Would you like any snacks?” he asked. She started, clutching his arm even more vehemently. She hadn’t heard his voice in so long. It only reminded her of their car ride to the cabin when he started humming…

He looked at her more expectantly when she didn’t respond immediately. “Hailey?”

Don’t say my name, she thought. I’ll only want you to say more. And that wouldn’t end well for either of us.

She forced herself to clear her throat. “Do they offer white wine?”

He nodded. She tried not to be too obsessed with his jawline. “They’ll serve alcoholic drinks at the tables before the movie starts.”

They weren’t even at a normal theater, were they? They were at one of the formal theaters that reminded her of the television shows. So that was why they both had dressed up slightly, and that was why she didn’t see any teenagers in the crowd. And if she had bothered to pay attention instead of stumbling like an idiot, the parking lot was filled with expensive cars that looked foreign, flashing and shining like the owners themselves in their evening dresses.

“Where did you find this place?”

He swallowed. “It was before… Christmas Eve, and I thought it was funny how my parents mentioned James Dean so often with you. I thought maybe we could watch together on the big screen.”

God, how would she respond to that? She licked her lips nervously and opened her mouth to say something, anything, but the person in the booth called them up. She held her breath as Calvin turned in their tickets. She hadn’t thought of all the minefields that they could set off together by spending one last date with him, especially in a little place like this.

They followed the usher into the theater itself, where there were little tables for two with candles a stand holding cards with numbers in the middle. Calvin reached into a vase, evidently for the public, and produced a red rose with eyes so intense that she lost her breath for a second. “For you,” he said, his voice low, as the usher stopped to check the number of their table.

She accepted the flower. “Thank you,” she murmured.

He said nothing as they continued weaving through the tables, and she was suddenly reminded of the night when she saw him at Teagan’s French restaurant. She licked her lips again. How was she going to survive this?

They seated themselves at their table, which was number 26, and the usher left them. She had been dreading the silence with him. She kept her eyes on the table, fingers twirling the flower idly. “Calvin…”

“Don’t.” He was watching her evenly when she looked up. “I don’t think you realize that it hurt me, too.”

There was no one to save her now. “I don’t know what to say,” she said, flustered.

“What am I supposed to say to you?” His eyes fixed her in place.

The only thing she could do was to set the rose down on the table between them like a shield. Then she took out her tube of lipstick and her hand mirror. She felt his eyes on her as she re-applied the lipstick and closed the tube, stuffing them both back in her purse. “I don’t know,” she whispered.

There was more silence.

“How’s your mother?” She took the flower back in her hands and continued twirling in her fingers.

“She’s okay.” His voice was flat.

“Is she?” She sneaked a glance at him then, and in the light of the candles, he looked so brooding then, just like the main character of the movie they were to see, that she had to look back down at her flower to keep herself from doing something stupid. He isn’t yours anymore.

“I don’t know what to do.”

“But Paula…”

“Nothing’s happened yet.” His voice faded as he seemed to realize what he had said. Her heart broke as she watched his face crumble. Well, if my heart could break any more after Christmas Eve... she thought.

“She’s strong,” she said after clearing her throat.

“I know that.”

Youll pull through.”

“Will I?” His eyes paralyzed her. No, he couldn’t be implying things like that with that dark voice…

“You—you—” she stuttered.

He turned his head away from her. “It’s not a big deal.”

Then, to her relief, a waiter came with a menu. “Good evening, sir, madam. Would you like any refreshments?”

It seemed like she couldn’t ask for white wine fast enough.

The movie seemed to go by in a flash when all she could focus on was his presence. She did gather, though, that his parents were wrong. James Dean’s character was nothing like Calvin – after all, he was a teenager who had an entire life ahead of him. Calvin had his life established and he was so, so much darker after all the troubles she and Paula had given him. At least James Dean had a girlfriend at the end of his ordeal…

It seemed to her that Calvin himself realized it too, because by the end of the movie, he had withdrawn from her even more. Even as he escorted her out of the theater, nodding to the patrons as he did so, it felt like the warmth of his body beside hers was just a hallucination that she wanted too badly. All she wanted to do now was cry, like she had for the past few days.

God, she was so weak.

Neither of them said anything as they got into the car. He started the engine, only throwing a glance in her direction when he wanted to check whether there were other cars going in the same direction. She bit her lip, holding onto her purse too tightly.

When it seemed like an infinity had passed, he finally said, “Where are we headed?”

“Home.” Take me home where the windows look out to New York City instead of the woods. Take me home where I won’t be predisposed to drink more alcohol to drown away the feeling of missing you. Take me home.

He nodded.

The car proceeded through the darkness. She noticed that he didn’t turn on the headlights while they were driving through the highway. Why? Did he trust his own recklessness the way she did? Or did it have some obscure meaning to him, like the woods and the trees did?

But as they drove along the winding road leading to her house, he finally turned on the headlights, calming her thoughts for a little bit. She couldn’t overthink this. Of course he wasn’t going to drive in the stark darkness past midnight. What was going on in her head?

They pulled up in her driveway. He turned off the engine. But she still paused before she got out because there was something in his eyes that made her want to wait. “Is this goodbye?” she murmured hesitantly.

“No.” He paused, sucking in a breath. “I’ll never forget your pretty brown eyes, you know,” he whispered.

.

Calvin, noooo.... I love you more than Hailey does, 'kay?

Anyway, this is it for Calvin. Next chapter (and last chapter), we'll see more of Hailey and some other people we met in the beginning...

Love you all for all your support, and thank you so very much!

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