When you are a competent old man who lives alone, you can eat what you want for breakfast. This morning I had noodles, or rather noodle soup, a favorite of mine for colder weather. Broth with... [+]
“Just say it, Lillian! We can all go home and be done with this if you say it!” Her voice echoed in my ears, chocolate hair and matching eyes almost as threatening as the words she wanted me to say. I knew exactly what they were.
“Say what? I have no idea what you're talking about! Just leave me alone!” My voice shook, but I would rather live through a million years before I said it than five minutes after.
“What's the big deal here? It's all I hear from you, and now that someone else is around you clam up?” She knows that's not a random someone in the room. She knows what might happen if I say it in front of him. She wants this. She wants the words to come spilling out, for the sentences to slap my face until it turns a warm pinkish red.
“I don't know what you're talking about!” I shouted at her, but my voice is as muted as hers is loud. Time dragged by slowly, but I was still afraid to count the seconds.
“You okay?” A third voice comes in, breaking me out of the spell and snapping back to attention. It had been five seconds. That was way too long. Oh, no.
“Yes, fine! Definitely. Just, you know...” He didn't know. Obviously.
“So... what was it you wanted to tell me?” He looked at me with a confused smile. Oh dear lord, that smile.
“Oh! Right, I was going to tell you, uhhh...” I shifted from foot to filter awkwardly, and the tall girl is suddenly back.
“Say it, for the love of all that is still right in this world! This is getting ridiculous.”
“I...” The first word is there. It warms my face like the autumn sun.
“Come on, Lily!”
I chase away the girl. She has no right to be taller than me and still have my face. But she's right. And I hate it.
“What?” There he was again, with that sunny smile that melted my heart like butter and the fluffy hair I really wanted to ruffle. And the voice that made me so scared to say it. Too late now.
“I like you. K- kinda a lot.” And with that my face is an embarrassing shade of red, the rest of the room is quiet and my eyes are turned down to my feet, trying to avoid his face.
The other me smiled inside my head, trying gently to talk me into telling him everything else. How my brain moved at a thousand miles a second but it all stopped when he was nearby. How I made conversation with my friend next to me in class to avoid staring at him. How I felt warm inside every time he smiled or every time he texted me. How perfect he was and how much I wanted to just tell him everything I could think of because I want to share everything in my mind with him. Actually, no. I didn't want him knowing the extent of how I felt. No way. I brushed the other me away, who was small and weak from my lack of desire to tell him any of this.
It had been three seconds. The reality of what I had said hit me, and I did what any reasonable person would do. I cleared my throat, stood up a bit straighter, and looked up even though I still refused to meet his eyes.
“See you Monday.” I was way quieter than I wanted to be, but he heard. So I did what I figured made sense. I bolted out of the room, phone in my pocket, leaving my bag sitting under my desk and my sweater lying on the chair. There was another half hour left in the class period, but I didn't care about missing class at that point.
I had no idea where to go once I was out of the room, but I went to where I felt was the safest place. The library. The door was ajar, so I looked in. There was a class in there. Uh-oh. I backed away from the door and ran into the bathroom by default.
My phone buzzed, so I checked it and found a long string of texts from my friend.
Wtf was that.
Don't just run omg
Get back here
Holy cow tho
I didn't think u would do it
But also why
U left all ur stuff here
How u gonna get it?
Answer me lillian omfg
I think he's gonna go look for u
Doesn't he have ur number?
But u actually did it damn
Gurl stop ignoring me
Ik u have ur phone
Holy hell he left the room i think he's gonna check the library
U been warned
I didn't respond. There were also messages from other people. Word traveled fast at school. Everything was either a congratulation, a holy cow, or some comment on what a bad decision that was. It had been a long time since I had done anything as noteworthy as this. I stuffed my phone back into my pocket with a sigh.
The warm California sun hit my face the second I left the bathroom. I found a bench outside and just sat there, trying to wrap my head around what I had just done. At least it was a nice day. But the other me didn't like this.
“Lillian, you idiot! You finally say it and then what do you do? You run away? Come on! Do something instead of sitting in the sun feeling sorry for yourself until you get skin cancer or whatever! Ugh.” Then she disappeared, replaced by a way worse Lillian. This one was shorter than me, with eye bags that were almost enough to distract from the redness of the rest of her eyes. Her hair was tangled and she looked more sad and scared than mad.
“Why would you do that? You just... dropped that on him and ran without giving him time to think! And in front of so many people too! That's a horrible thing to do to a person! And he's a really nice guy, so he probably feels like he owes you an answer, and you said see you Monday which is basically a deadline and that's a lot of pressure to put on someone especially because you didn't stay to talk it out or anything and you kept doing that and agh! Lily, why?” She sounded frantic, guilty, scared. And she was so scared of hurting him...
I got up to go back to class. Face the music and all that. I was halfway up the stairs back to the second floor, where the room I had left was, when I saw him. We stood there, facing one another more than a little awkwardly. But for some reason, maybe because of the other versions of myself in my head, or maybe the sunlight that made me feel a bit more alive, or maybe just because he came to look for me, I didn't run again. I spoke.
“Sorry about that. It wasn't very cool of me to drop that on you and run. But you're here, so... can I safely assume you have an answer?”
He scratched the back of his neck, smiling a little bit- still enough to drive me crazy- and he said, “Yeah. I do.”
He looked awkward. This was a no, wasn't it? At least I said it, I thought. At least it's not sitting in the back of my head while I try and ignore the other me screaming in my ear to just tell him. He looked right at me, and...
“Are you doing anything this weekend?”
The other versions of me started having a very loud party. Except for the one who was trying to turn down the music by yelling, “It's just a crush, you guys!”
Nobody ever listens to that one. I smiled, shook my head, and enjoyed the party for the rest of that day. Because I said it.