Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR by SUMMER DAY (Step Into Tomorrow: chapter twenty-two)

Chapter Twenty-two
Step Into Tomorrow    
    I wound up hovering near the returns shoot all by myself.
    It was quiet inside, of course. I was reminded me of that ancient scene in Doctor Zhivago when Lara and Yuri meet again in the library after being apart for so long. It’s such a great classic, romantic movie. But where was my yummy Yuri in real life ?
    I’d left Ethan standing in the street. How could I have come to the local library expecting to find him?
    I didn’t. I’d come here to hide.
    What had come over me? Running away from true love maybe?
    Here I was, in Sunrise library, acting like a total nerd, acting like… Rafe Martin.
    And there he was, sitting in the corner. When he looked up and saw me I noticed even Rafe Martin looked down again quickly. He pretended he didn’t know me.  
     I was shunned in my own neighborhood. I stood by the wall, seriously, and for the first time since I was six, I walked into the stacks and cried.
    “Honey?” I stopped sniffing, wiped my eyes and turned around. He put his hand on my shoulder.
    It was Rafe, through all my unintended meanness, the object of my derision had reached out to me.   
     “What’s up?”
     “I was just…” I picked up a copy of How to Forge the Right Teen Path and Follow Your Teenage Bliss.
    “Looking for this?” He asked.
     “Kind of...”
    I wiped my eyes again. I didn’t think I’d been noticeably shedding tears until Rafe handed me a tissue.
    “I told Hilary the ‘misunderstanding’ about the dance, well, it was all my fault…” I sniffed.
    “Oh, it’s okay. I just texted her. We’re going to the movies on the weekend. She explained everything – how she was sorry and how she’d regretted not hanging out with me earlier… She said she thought she’d liked someone else but that was just for a moment.”
    “So she…” I realized Hilary had changed her mind, ignored my advice and made the first move. Maybe she’d just pretended to want Ethan to annoy me. Actually, it was the second move because Rafe had approached her in the first instance, but whatever. It served me right.
    “That’s great,” I said. “That’s so great that you guys are getting together… maybe.”
    Rafe smiled.
    “Honestly, I used to intensely dislike you Honey Woodhouse. But, if it hadn’t been for you, I don’t think Hilary and I would have overcome our obstacles in the first place. I wanted to take her to the dance but I never thought about her beyond the point of that. You made me think long and hard about why I was disappointed that she rejected me. I even went away for the weekend to forget her. I liked her heaps more than I even realized. Don’t blame yourself, Honey. You may be out of fashion now, but tomorrow it will all be different, you’ll see.”
    Who’d have thought Rafe would have turned into the emotive voice of sunshine? Nothing was as I expected. Still, it was nice of him to try.
    “I gotta go,” I said. Everyone else’s teen worlds were coming together just as mine was falling apart; but I could never begrudge Rafe and Hilary their happiness.
    “Are you sure you’re okay now?” he asked.
    “I’m going to be,” I said.
     Then, like magic, as I walked into the sunshine (just like one of my favorite literary characters of all time - Ponyboy Curtis - from The Outsiders) and walked into tomorrow, a certain boy was there to meet me.
   “What’s up?” Ethan asked indifferently. “C’mon, you’re acting really weird. Let’s go home.”
    I wondered if Ethan would come over to go swimming at my place, as usual, the next morning. Maybe he’d even act as if nothing had happened between us. And let’s face it, nothing had. Perhaps him liking me was just all in my over-active imagination. My little romance was over before it had even begun. I did what any smart heroine from a true romance does… I took to languishing once again, on my antique, chaise lounge (the one Phoebe gifted me years ago). It was re-covered only recently in pink velvet-like material. I pulled my mohair blanket over me and read.
    I was obsessing over another great SE Hinton novel Phoebe had recommended to me – That Was Then This is Now, effectively still sulking in my room. It suddenly occurred to me that drowning my sorrows over lost romance and yet another hot marshmallow-laden chocolate was perhaps not the way to mend fences. Isolation would not help me get over being rejected by my besties, my friends, my social networks but mostly the boy next door.
   I shrugged.
   It was so obvious Ethan was just using me for my facilities. He loved my swimming pool, my game boy, my flat screen, even my tennis court. I was so spoiled, why wouldn’t he? Still, there was no sense in being a huffy little princess about it. Nobody likes a girl who can’t put on a happy face. Then it occurred to me that Ethan had all of those facilities next door. We were a pair of spoiled teens and yet I couldn’t get it together emotionally. Suddenly I was filled with more self-doubt. It must have been because my parents had over protected me. They had a distant marriage and my mom is an obsessive vacationer, but at least they tried. No, it wasn’t about them. It was all about me; too much about me. I got up and added extra hours to my roster the following week to help out at the animal shelter.
    Now, others have been taken care of, so what about me? Just then, the doorbell rang. It was Ethan.  Maria let him in.
    I snapped shut my lap top.
    I found my most fabulous swimsuit and some gloss. I grabbed the large, floppy hat that totally made me look like a glamorous movie star from the sixties and added sunglasses. Who said just because I don’t have social form any more, I shouldn’t be fabulous anyway?
   I swan dived into the pool. Who cared if I felt more like a duck? After a few minutes there was another splash in the water.
   Ethan swam up to me as I bobbed my head up.
   “I’ll race you underwater,” he said.
   Ethan let me win. As he surfaced, I spoke:
   “I suppose you’ve heard all about my social pariah-ism. How even the Princesses might be voting me out of my own club for being a mean, conniving matchmaker.”
   “I don’t think you’re mean – maybe a matchmaker.”    
   “My good matches are only by default, even you said so.”
   “I kind of lied.”
   The waterfall chugged in the background of our conversation.
   “Well, color me in. You must’ve saved the best match for last.”
   “Which one are you talking about? Ariel’s? Gigi’s?”
   If it’s possible to blush red in water, I did.
   “Race you to the waterfall…   winner gets… dinner,” he said, to deflect his embarrassing comment no doubt.
    I took off. This time, I thought about what he’d said underwater. I thought about every memory I had of him and they were all good – mostly. When they weren’t, it was just because Ethan was the only one of my peers who cared enough (or dared enough - maybe) to tell me the truth. This time, I considered letting him win but thought better of it.
    Then the strangest thing happened during the race, for the first time. We were level until mid-way, then Ethan forged ahead, beating me, just by a few seconds, to the far side. Our hands reached out almost simultaneously, but his fingers touched the wall faster.
   We were both puffed when the race ended. In our underwater world, I looked over through the haziness. While I held my breath, Ethan reached through the blue and kissed me.
   “You must have known,” he said when we surfaced, “that there has never been anyone in the history of Sunrise quite like you, Honey Woodhouse.”
    “And you should know, Ethan Knightly, that I used to be afraid of water, until we met.”
    We stood in the shallow end of the pool; under the waterfall, kissing. Ethan was taller but we matched perfectly. It was an awesome first kiss that led to a spectacular second one.  
    I have no idea what Phoebe or Dad or the dogs thought of our mushy display of emotion. I have no idea what my friends might say in future because they’re not talking to me - yet. Wednesday’s trying to mediate but so far, they’ve voted Hilary as the next head of the Princesses. I guess you reap what you sow.
     As Ethan and I lay side by side on our sun lounges, sunglasses on, cool factor in hand, I checked the temptation to connect the charger to my cell phone to see if any of my ‘friends’ had decided to start texting me again. As Sunrise got busy for the afternoon and all the unmade couples and match made couples and friendships fought for, lost and won, sorted themselves out, alone and together, Ethan and I finally made sense.
     Somehow, we were right.
     Or maybe we were just right now… 
    “Honey,” Ethan asked, “If we go to different colleges…”
    “As I’m sure we could,” I added… “after all, it’s probably more likely I will get accepted into Harvard than you…”
    “As I said, if we do… do you think you might want to marry me even if we don’t see each other much for the next few years?”
    “Well, you never know, Ethan,” I said as I looked up from my novel. “You’ll have to think about that when you decide to propose to me in a few years.”
     He smiled again.

    “Stranger things have happened,” I added as Ethan Knightly splashed me with some water. I smiled in return. It’s wild how a match happens like that, like ours, just when we least expected it; with no planning at all. I think one day, I’ll be able to tell our grandchildren all about how we met when we were neighbors and how we really didn’t like each other much at first… then we became friends and then… well, I think you know the rest. But I’ll let Phoebe tell you anyway.