(Note: It’s Friday. The weekend is here. Paul Writes has hit the 1000 total likes milestone, so in celebration of that I will be posting two chapters of “Orchard House.” Here’s the first. I’ll post the other here shortly. Thanks for all the likes!)
Part 15: Parking Lot Interlude
Outside, the night had cooled down a little, but you could still feel the humidity of the day lingering, much like our own demons hung out of sight yet close enough to make us feel uncomfortable. We walked to the car, her hand clutching on to my arm, just as much for comfort as for guidance, for it was dark in the small parking lot. I opened the passenger side door and she got in. I closed the door behind her and went around to my side. I got in and rolled down the window to try and air out the car.
“You know, that is the first time in ages anyone opened and closed the car door for me,” Summer said, glancing over at me.
I smiled at her. “Well, it is our first date. After playing the wrong song I guess I better try and dazzle you in other ways.”
“It wasn’t the wrong song. Just kind of took me back and made me have too much to think.”
I grinned at her analogy and put the key in the ignition.
“Matthew, can I ask you something?”
I took my hand off the key. “Yeah, I guess so.”
She was looking at me with a solemn expression. “Have you ever felt a connection with someone you haven’t been in love with?”
“What do you mean?”
She turned in her seat so her back was to her door. “I mean, have you ever felt something special with someone you weren’t romantically involved with?”
“I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“Liar. Why do you ask?”
She looked away for a moment and seemed to be deciding what to say. “Well, I feel something special with you . When we’re together I feel great. I feel like I could do anything. I’ve had male friends before, and I’ve had lovers, but I don’t know…you make me feel special, like there’s something between us.”
“But you don’t know what it is,” I added.
Now it was my turn to look away and decide what to say. I opted for the truth. “I feel the same way. I’ve never felt this kind of connection, but I like it.”
“I do, too.” She lay her head over on my shoulder. I wasn’t used to such closeness, but I didn’t say anything . The truth was I liked this. It was comforting. Maybe she found comfort with her head resting on my shoulder. I know I felt it just having her do so, but I wasn’t sure how to say it out loud. As always, she seemed to know what I was thinking. “Does this bother you?” she asked.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
Sometimes I didn’t like her perception. “Yes I am. Aren’t you?”
“Always,” she replied, and wrapped her arm around my own and began to cry into my shoulder. A streetlight shone down on the car, and for a moment I felt we were actors on a stage fumbling with our lines. If so, I had forgotten mine, so we sat there in a silence that was only broken by her muffled sniffles against my shoulder.
“I had a nice time tonight,” I confessed.
“Me too.” She lifted her head from my shoulder and looked right into my face. “Do you like me, Matthew?”
I almost laughed. “Well, of course I like you. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“No, I mean..do you like me..you know..a lot?”
I felt a huge lump in my throat. It was like I was escorting my first date to her front door and not knowing what to say. “Yes, I like you a lot.”
She leaned closer to me. Her chin was nearly resting on my shoulder, her face just inches away from my own. “I want that dance,” she breathed.
I swallowed, trying to rid myself of the lump. “I want…” I began, only to be interrupted by a knock on the car window. She jumped, letting out a little yelp, and I have to admit I was startled, too. A figure stood beside my open window. It was the waiter kid.
“Hey, I don’t mean to be whatever, but you forgot to sign for the tip.”
In his hand he held our bill. I had given him the credit card and he had run the ticket, but I hadn’t signed it. In our desire to get out of there, we had just left. “Oh sorry.” I looked over at Summer, and silently mouthed, ‘one dollar.’ She gave me a stern, ‘you better not’ look, and I filled out the bill with his tip and signed it. “Here you go,“ I said. “Sorry about that, really.”
He grinned, as if to tell me he would have forgotten too with the company I had this evening. The waiter walked away and I turned back to Summer. Our moment had been broken. In a way, I was glad I didn’t have a chance to complete my sentence. I was afraid of what I wanted to say. And to be honest, she seemed relieved too.
“I still expect the dance,” she said, as she put on her seat belt, letting me know that whatever had passed between us would have to wait until both of us were daring and fearless again.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.