Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 9

23 Nov

What’s the verdict?  Are you still food-drunk after the turkey and stuffing?  Were you up at the crack of dawn for some crazy deals?

Either way, here’s Chapter 9 from my second book, Semester of Thursdays.  Hopefully you’re not too busy with Black Friday sales to enjoy a few quiet minutes of mediocre prose.

Happy reading, writing, and shopping!

-Jenny

New to the story?  Click HERE to start from the beginning!

* * * 

I would forgive Remington for his impoliteness and penchant for walking out if I ever saw him again.  But that wasn’t likely, at least not for a while.  Holden was coming home and we had a romantic weekend planned.  Quality time with my boyfriend was just what I needed to get my mind off Remington.  It was irritating that my subconscious had allowed the obnoxious man’s smile to disturb me all week.

But now my boyfriend was going to be in Frostburg.  My entire world would be aligned after I saw him.  Being together was like re-charging my batteries, sharpening my focus.  With Holden around there would be no room for elusive smiles and conversations with rude, beautiful men.

Holden Brown had always been cute.  Back when he had first come to my high school I had thought him gorgeous, unattainable.  When I saw him now I felt happy, but it was a comfortable happiness, free of the electric shock of adolescent love.  The comfort wasn’t a bad thing; we were just at ease with one another and confident in our solid relationship status.

A number of people had asked me if the distance had been hard on our relationship.  In hindsight, I could honestly say it hadn’t.  It helped that I trusted Holden implicitly and had never considered other women a threat to us.  I actually liked it when other girls ogled him or gushed about how hot he was.  It allowed me see him through their fresh eyes; Holden felt out of reach again yet I knew he would be taking me home at the end of the night.  The rush of winning him over and over was exhilarating.

Sometimes the compulsion to channel someone else’s feelings worried me.  Was that the way it was supposed to be?  What more could we expect after so many years together?

“Hey, Mer.”  Holden’s familiar voice made me feel warm inside, like the gooey center of a truffle.

I ran to him without hesitation and pulled him in for a welcoming hug.  He was a foot taller than me, a football player back in the glory days at Mountain Ridge High School.

When I wrapped my arms around him I felt like a child holding onto an adult.  I released him momentarily so I could tug on his neck.  When we were face to face I gripped his cheeks and pulled his lips to mine.  The familiar pressure was reassuring, soothing.

“I’ve missed you so much.”  Missing him when he was away was normal but these past few weeks seemed infinitely worse.  There had been a solid void left by his absence.

“I can tell.”  He smiled.  “I’ve missed you too,” he added as an unnecessary afterthought.

“Tell me about your week?” I asked.  It had been unusually busy at the salon.  I had ended up staying late to cover for one of the girls whose grandfather had passed away.  As a result, our dialogue had been scripted, brief, and halted by exhaustion.

“What’s there to say?  Training is going well but I’ll be happy to see the end of it.  I can’t wait to get back to Cumberland and stop living out of a suitcase and sleeping in hotels.”

There was no sense in pushing for more information; those two sentences served as the extent of his communication about his job.  Holden hated spending what little time we had together talking about work, fixating on things that were “irrelevant” to our relationship.

“So what’s the plan for our weekend?”

Over the phone we had discussed a myriad of options: a weekend ski trip at the Wisp Resort or a road trip to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to visit his sister and her new husband.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you decide if you want to go to PA or go skiing?”

“Actually, I thought maybe we could just stay around Frostburg.”  He looked at me sideways, judging my reaction.  “I mean, after travelling all this way I kind of want to stay put.”

My face fell slightly.  I had been looking forward to getting away from the monotony.  Instead of voicing my disappointment, I focused on the fact that we were together; the setting was irrelevant.

“Okay.  Do you want to do something in town then?”  I offered, trying my best to be subjective.  As he had said, he had been traveling all day and was justifiably worn out.  When the adrenaline from our reunion wore off I would probably be just shy of incoherent from lack of sleep.

“Maybe,” he hedged.

“We don’t really do anything anymore,” I said quietly, trying not to sound whiney.  It would do no good for us to spend our brief time together arguing.

“What are you talking about?  When I came in for Christmas we went out to eat.”

“We went to wing night at Smiley’s.”

“You love wings.”

“We went with your friends,” I clarified, attempting to keep my voice even.  Wings were great but quality alone-time was even better.

“So?”

“So, what I meant was that we don’t really go on dates anymore, just the two of us.”

“Mer, we’ve gone past the whole “date” thing, haven’t we?”

My initial response caught in my throat.  Of all the things he could have said this was the last response I had expected.

“I don’t want to be past the whole date thing,” I said in a strained whisper.

My parents still went on dates for goodness sake.  If the passion and enthusiasm was going to die this early in our relationship then what was the point?

For the first time in my existence I could see the vague attraction of Lena’s way of life.  The exhilaration of never knowing who it was you were supposed to end up with, heart palpitations on a first date, nerves over whether or not he would kiss you.  Did you want him to?  Did he want to?  Even bad dates would be a sorely needed break from the repetitiveness of going nowhere and doing nothing.

“Are you still with me, Mer?”

“Yeah, sorry.”  This issue wasn’t worth a fight.  Holden wasn’t listening to what he had said or aware of the way it had sounded.

“If it bothers you that much maybe we could grab something to eat and see a movie.”

My mood brightened.  “Do you want to go to the new sushi place across from the mall?”

“That sounds great, honey.”

“Five o’clock?”  My mind was going a thousand thoughts per second.  What movies were coming out?  What would I wear?   Would Lena let me raid her closet?  Did I want to raid her closet?

“Sure thing.”

“I usually pick Lena up from class at four-thirty.  I should be able to swing by your place at a quarter till five.”

“Perfect.”

I dropped Holden where he was staying then rushed home to start the lengthy beautification process.

What I looked like typically didn’t matter to me; I had no one to impress.  If it weren’t for Lena, I would have gone out on Thursdays in yoga pants and various sweatshirts.  But tonight felt different.  I texted Lena for permission to enter the realm of her closet.  She agreed enthusiastically and suggested her new red dress for the occasion, even though there really was no “occasion.”

The deep v and bold color of the suggested garment were daunting, but I was alone so I dared myself to try on the expensive dress.  The material couldn’t stick to my non-existent curves as it would have on my more voluptuous friend, so the outfit had an entirely different effect on me.  I was thin but not in an athletic way; I had been blessed with skinny genes and a boyish figure.  Still, the dress didn’t look half bad.

“Oh, I love it!” Lena gushed from her doorway, startling me.  “It makes your boobs look fantastic.  And to think, before today I wasn’t sure they existed.”  She grabbed me beneath my armpits and pushed my chest toward my neck.

“Stop it!”  Her hands dropped to her sides.  “My boobs, Lena?  Come on!  You’re being outrageous.”

“I’m honest.”

“And I’m going to change.”  Boobs, indeed.  I was practically flat-chested.

“No, you’re not.  I love it.”

Of course she would love it; impractical was her middle name.  It didn’t matter if there was a foot of snow on the ground or that I needed to wade through drifts to get inside the restaurant.

“You should wear it with your black boots so your legs don’t freeze.”

“We are just going to the mall for food and then to a movie,” I explained.  We would be spending the better part of our date in the dark.  Revealing red dresses were for romantic getaways and staff Christmas parties, not The Country Club Mall.

“So, what?  You look stunning.  What are you going to do with your hair though?  It looks kind of dead.”

“Nothing.”  And I wasn’t going to leave the house in the dress.

“You should curl it!  Oh! And let me do your makeup.”

“Am I going on this date or are you?”  At present she was more excited than I was.  “Don’t you have class or something?”

“I can skip.  We’re reviewing for some test next week anyway.  I just have to stop by and drop off my study guide.”

As with every other time Lena had some extravagant plan in her mind, she became a force to be reckoned with.  I curled my hair—as suggested—while Lena worked diligently on my face.  The brown strands were healthy since I wasn’t an avid dyer—a fact that went against my occupation’s creed.  All too often, hairdressers got bored and experimented together; I never allowed myself to get bored within one-hundred feet of the salon.

When Lena finished the skin around my face felt tight and heavy with the creams, paints, and polishes she had applied.  But I had to admit that the overall effect was pretty good.  Holden was going to freak when he saw me!

“Oh, Mer!  You look perfect!  I’ll grab my coat and you can take me to Tawes Hall then we can see if Holden approves.”

I didn’t miss the tricycle scenario she had concocted.  “I’m not sure if I can go out in public like this.  Someone’s going to go snow-blind with all my paleness exposed.”  I tugged the shoulders of the garment so the neck lifted a comfortable inch.  My immodest friend pulled it back down.

“I don’t know,” I hedged, genuinely unsure.

“Perfect.  Let’s go.”

The drive was over in ten minutes, too short a time for me to compose myself.  A mirror wasn’t needed to tell me that embarrassment had colored my skin to match the dress.  The nerves were a surprise; I had believed myself past all of the giddiness and uncertainty.

I held fast to the splintered railing as I climbed the ice-crusted cement blocks that served as steps.  When I reached the door I knocked once, but there was no answer.  Muffled laughter seeped beneath the uneven doorframe.

“Holden?  Are you ready yet?”  I shouted, announcing myself to the empty hallway.  One never knew what she was in for when entering a fraternity house.

The laughter continued, louder now and punctuated by bursts of profanity.

“Holden?” I repeated.

“Hey, Mer! We’re in here!”

Holden was sitting on the ripped-up couch in a pair of sweaty gym shorts and a tattered FSU football t-shirt that should have been thrown out years ago. Two of his former frat brothers, Joel and Grant—both of whom were on the ten-year plan at Frostburg—sat beside him.  The trio’s casual state made me feel even more overdressed and idiotic for listening to Lena’s fashion advice.  I was grateful for the trench-like coat that I wore to cover my ridiculous choice of attire.

“Hey, Joel.  Hey, Grant,” I greeted as cordially as possible.  My effort was wasted; the boys didn’t even offer me more than a slight bob of their ball-capped heads in greeting.  “Holden, can I talk to you?”

“Just a second.  I’m almost finished this level.”

I waited for him to put down his controller long enough to notice that I was miles beyond livid.  Ten minutes later Lena came in from the car to see what had delayed our departure.

I stood in the corner of the living room with my arms crossed, still waiting for someone to acknowledge me.

“Hey, Mer.”  She took one look at my face, saw murder in my eyes, and raced to my side.  “What’s wrong?”

My gaze locked on my boyfriend, mentally communicating my fury.  Her eyes followed mine and she hissed through her teeth, recognizing the situation instantly.

“What’s up?” Holden asked, finally looking at me but still holding tightly to his plastic controller as though his life depended on the strength of his grip.

It had taken me three arduous hours to get ready.  I had even plundered Lena’s intimidating closet in order to look my absolute best for him.  He stared at me with a blank expression, searching his mind to figure out why I was all dolled up and subjecting him to the death stare.

“I thought we had made plans for tonight.”  I made no effort to keep my voice low.

Joel and Grant exchanged panicked glances and escaped to the safety of the kitchen.  Lena silently supported me like a bodyguard packing heat.

Holden winced and smacked his palm against his head.  “God, babe, I’m so sorry.  Joel, Grant, and I went to play some ball and when we got back we sat down to play this new game they got for Christmas, and then….”  The explanation died on his lips.

“That’s fine.”  We wouldn’t make the movie but dinner was still feasible.  As if to emphasize the direction of my thoughts, my stomach moaned.  “Go shower and let me know when you’re ready to go.”

“Ummm…”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“The rest of the guys are coming over in an hour to watch the game,” he admitted sheepishly.

We hadn’t seen each other in almost a month and he wanted to spend the night with his friends?

“You’re more than welcome to come, Mer,” Holden added.

The laughter from the other room stopped with his invitation.  Something in his tone made me think, “More than welcome,” really meant, “I guess you can come if you want to ruin the fun for everyone with a penis.”

“That’s not exactly what I meant when I said I wanted to go on a date,” I explained slowly, as if speaking to a child with a hearing impairment.  I was in a dress for this man!  And not just any dress—Lena’s dress!

Holden’s “brothers” were great in their own right.  I had known the majority of his pledge class since our first semester at college.  Most of the Omega Epsilon brothers were funny and entertaining but hardly the company I wanted tonight.  How was I supposed to rekindle a flame with beer, pizza, and a basketball game?

“I know its not, but I promised them.  Besides, this is their last semester so I have to make the most of it.”

“I know.”  But why did that ultimately mean I was the one who had to be taken for granted?  Why did this option leave me planless for the second week in a row and in a dress on a Thursday night?

“I mean, when they graduate who knows where they’ll end up?”

First, Lena had already used up my patience for this feeble excuse.  Second, we both knew exactly where his friends would end up after they finally got their diplomas (the tentative date was scheduled for this May, but I would believe that when I saw hard evidence).  Joel would be twenty minutes away, working at the ballistics facility where he had interned for the past four years.  Grant would be working on his master’s at West Virginia University in Morgantown, exactly one hour away.

But I didn’t point out the obvious and ruin the weekend with a fight over this; according to the bigger picture this single incident was trivial.  We had tomorrow and Saturday to do something together.

“I know.” I relented too easily to be deemed anything but a pushover.

“You and me, we’re the constant, the sure thing.”  The happy realization that he considered me permanent in his life was far eclipsed by the fact that he was ditching me again.

“Okay.”

“Go out and have fun tonight.  I’m sure Lena would love your company.”

“Of course I would,” she said sharply, cutting him off.  He didn’t bother to look at her.  “A sane person would give anything to spend as much time as possible with this beautiful girl.”

“I’ll talk to you later, okay, Mer?” he dismissed, already looking back at the TV set.

“Okay.”  I let my one-worded replies die with my hasty exit.  The poster-ridden walls felt like they were collapsing in on us.  There was no point in arguing with him, I reminded myself.  He had made plans with his friends.  My voice would go hoarse before he would even consider changing his schedule back to the original plans we had made beforehand.

Thankfully, Lena didn’t make any comments as I drove home.  Listening to her brash opinions wasn’t what I needed.  She muttered some harsh words under her breath, but I wasn’t paying attention.  I was too impaired to drive, preoccupied as I was; when we made it home I couldn’t even remember the route I had taken.

* * *

Swing by next week for Chapter 10!

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2 Responses to “Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 9”

  1. charlottecarrendar November 23, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    That was wonderful. I can’t wait for chapter 10. Cheers ❤

    • movingforeword November 23, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Thank you! The next chapter is only a week away 🙂

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