Authors: Marion Studer
The same feelings tighten my throat like back then and a plain recognition spears my heart.
I'm in love.
I'm in love with Chloe for so many years. I just didn't recognize it back then for what it was. Everything I ever did, everything I ever wished for, was for Chloe. Maybe my heart always knew and that's what brought me back to this town.
I feel her shiver as my heart races. I'm pretty sure she can feel it thumping desperately against her cheek.
I still don't know if she has a boyfriend, but I'm determent to make her mine. I press a soft long kiss on her head, wishing for her to feel my desperation.
She glances up at me and takes the chalkboard into her hands, presses her lips together and diverts her eyes to the black surface.
, she writes and smiles weakly, embarrassed.
“Don't be,” I choke out.
I have these attacks
.…… I place my hand over hers, stopping her, “You don't have to explain. I remember.”
Her eyes are big and amazed, and my eyes drift down to her lips, lightly open and so inviting, I have to pray my gaze away, before I grab her and push her back into a second anxiety attack with my growing attraction.
“You okay?” I ask and she nods her head. I pull my arm from behind Chloe and get up, Rufus eyes watching us, his eyes skip from me to Chloe, and not sure of what just went on. He probably picked up on the situation and is silently observing our moves.
“It's late, Chloe. Go to bed, we can talk some other time. I'm really glad to have you as neighbour again.” I wink at her and turn to leave, when I hear a knock on the chalkboard. I glance back and see her mouthing - thank you. I bend down and kiss her softly on her forehead, whispering, “Anytime, Chloe.”
Still sitting outside in the dark I clump my arms around myself. I feel the loss of Tucker's body heat and wish he would have stayed longer. I understand he wants our friendship and I maybe could do that, but I don't know if I can give him back my heart.
Because that's what he had way back then. My innocent heart and my whole soul.
But I lost so much more when Tucker left. I'm mature enough to understand that it wasn't his decision or wish to move away, but he never tried to contact me and I felt so betrayed, so alone. My heart broke in a million little pieces. Never before, not once did any torture I had to endure felt as painful as being left alone, abandoned from my only friend I had.
The death of my step dad didn't bring the long anticipated freedom I hoped for, as it took also my only friend.
I still see his dark eyes boring into mine as they drove away that awful day, leaving me standing on the curb, pleading quietly, “Please stay Tucker. Don't leave me. I love you.”
And that was the last time I spoke.
People thought the sudden death of my step dad ignited the SAD - social anxiety disorder. They didn't know better and didn't really care. Teachers send me to two different therapists, but I never engaged much in their sessions and my mother didn't care enough in her alcohol seduced world. After a few hopeless weeks of therapy I was left alone and everyone accepted my SAD.
Why talk? There wasn't anyone listening anyway. Half the time my mum was drunk or occupied with a boyfriend, and at school I was just a speck in the system.
There was only my aunt Hilda, who felt some sort of obligation to look after me once in a while, when she found out that the drinking of her sister got so bad, that she neglected me for days. She even went so far to take me to the sign language class at the city hall, where we both learned to sign and had some understanding for each other. I loved these hours and soon found my passion to learn even more about muteness and decided that was what I wanted to do for my profession. To help kids. To help kids to understand and being understood.
Last year I met Rob Carlson, a single father of one of my kids at the school and I went out on a few dates after lots of persuasion from his side. He knew the sign language and the dates haven’t been too bad, but I was just not into it or him and I didn't agree to another date and soon he gave up too.
I wasn't into dating and I thought I probably will never be one to build a family of my own. I'm too scared to be stuck in a marriage and have to deal with problems and rage like my mother. I'm not against kids. I truly love kids, specially the once I teach every day at my school, but what good will I be in teaching my own child of love and trust. And then there is the problem with me unable to talk to my own child. Or should I say my body's inability to talk. I don't know if my vocal cords still would work if I tried.
Getting up from the bench I challenge myself why I would even think about trying to talk again. For Tucker? Certainly not! Even if he makes my heart race and spin with only a whisper of my name and his scent sending goosebumps all over my skin. I know he eventually would leave me again and bring my world to tumble down again.
The recognition of my feelings for Tucker ended in the anxiety attack today. It has shown me again that I'm still in love with this guy, but never will be able to tell him for fear of repeating the past. I will never survive my heart to be broken a second time and have to guard it. But then, he’s only looking for friendship. He said so himself didn't he? I'm not sure how much I'm capable or willing to give of me to him again.
I’m standing in the dark, leaning against the railing. My face turned up to the sky like hoping for an answer from above, then my eyes drop to the window sitting in the dark.
Was he already in deep sleep or was he like me thinking about the past? Thinking of me? How much was left of the boy I knew way back then, or the hero protecting me from loneliness? I have so many questions, but do I really want to know them all? If I go looking for the friend I once had, wouldn't I end up with the same disappointment?
I turn to go inside, the ache inside of me even greater then before.
Put into place
I'm in the dark staring at the shadow of the girl standing not far from me. Nothing compares to the high of being near her.
I watch her until she turns and vanish into the darkness of the house. I hold on to both sides of the window frame, my fingers clawing the wood constraining myself to rush over to her and to take her slender little body into my arms. I can't believe how intense my body and mind reacts to her. Sleep wont come easy and I know my dreams will all be only of Chloe.
Early as always I start work where I left the day before waiting for a sign of Chloe. Even Rufus makes his rounds close to her cottage, sniffing out any corner as if he was waiting - like me.
When I notice I'm running low on some material, I go and get my keys, letting Rufus spring onto the tailgate and slip behind the steering wheel. The drive to town takes me through a heavily wooded stretch of road, where I spot a lonely bicycle driver utterly familiar in shape. I pass and stop on the side of the road, waiting for Chloe to approach. She stops at my driver side and looks up at me with a questioning glare.
“Are you on your way to town?” even to me the question seems dumb and she only gives a short nod.
“Why didn’t you tell me, I can take you there.”
She shakes her head and points to her bicycle. I open the door and careful slide out, “do you need to do some shopping? Then you are better off driving with me. I need some stuff as well and we can load everything into the truck.” With that said I hold on to the bike, in mind to lift it up onto the tailgate, but Chloe is holding on to the handlebar like her life depends on it.
“Don't be ridicules Chloe. I only want to make this easier for you.”
Stubborn she holds onto the bike, her face once again hidden by a mane of hair. I duck my head a little, trying to see her face. “I wish you wouldn't hide your eyes from me all the time,” I growl. When she feels my hand at her temple, she freezes. Hesitant at first like asking for permission to touch her, I tuck her hair behind her ear, feeling her warm skin. “Because Chloe,” I say matter of fact, “you have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen and I like to look at them... always have.”
A fierce blush is creeping up her cheeks and those gorgeous blue eyes lift slowly up and her hand finely let go of the handlebar. As she steps aside I lift the vehicle onto the truck and getting a quick lick from happy Rufus. I steer Chloe to the passenger side, open the door for her and wait until she is seated. Behind the steering wheel I pull into gear and drive on.
Chloe's expression is hidden behind her hair again. I reach over and gently brush the soft blond veil of hair behind her shoulder. Like a child she refuses to acknowledge me. I see a vein pulsating rapidly underneath the thin layer of skin on the base of her neck and my own pulse starts to quicken.
“You know Chloe we are friends. I like to think we never stopped being friends and I hope you see it the same way. I'm here for you and if you need something I’ll gladly help you. Like now, you don't have to fetch all your stuff back home on your bike; it is much easier to load it onto my truck.”
Her head veers towards me, her glare scrutinizing me, she reaches into her purse, takes out a little sketch pad and writes
. Are we still friends?
I take a quick peek to read and slam onto the breaks. Turning around I lean over very close, take both her hands into mine and try to master a steady voice when I tell her, “I never stopped being your friend, Chloe. Not for one minute, even when I was not near you.” Then I place a light kiss on each single finger, and swallow a lump building in my throat, “write down where you need to do your shopping. I will pick you up later and then we go for lunch. Are you okay with that, Chloe?” I send her a weary glance and let out a hold in breath as she writes her short list.
In town I park my truck and each of us makes the necessary trips. Rufus stays behind guarding the bike.
Suddenly it seems he was smiling all the time. Go figure!
Sometime later I'm back when I see Chloe balancing paint buckets towards me and I rush over to get them for her. She seems exhausted, giving me a thankful smile. Lifting them into the truck I notice there are a few buckets already in the trunk and I turn with a frown only to see Chloe giving my dog a through loving massage, which leaves me wishing it was me feeling her affection while chuckling at myself.
All the items tugged away I lead Chloe to the diner across the street. We take the place on the window to keep an eye on the dog.
Sitting across each other I take both her hands into mine, slowly drawing little circles over their back, savouring the smooth skin while enjoying the newly found feeling to have her close again. There is a slight hesitation in Chloe’s posture but I’m certain that will vanish once she realize that my intentions are serious. A young eager waitress takes our order and when she walks away I give my full attentions back to Chloe. Staring deep into her blue crystals, I find long lost memories and once more my heart expands, filling up with tenderness for this girl.
We eat and we talk, or more likely I'm talking and Chloe writes her questions and answers onto a small notepad.
“Will you teach me some of the sign language?”
A smile worms up her face and I get some very impressing things to learn.
Some time into our lunch two men walk in, one of I know from working at the mill, Mike McAllister. A big guy with a dark look and an even darker reputation. His unshaven jaw sticking out in an angle. His eyes are close together and buried underneath big bushy brows, so in contrast to his closely shaven head. Accompanying him is a guy I recognize from elementary school, but can't put a name on him. A few inches smaller and a full head of fair hair they look an unlikely pair. Inwardly growling when they approach our table I notice the one guy's eyes digging into Chloe's and he says, “Hello Chloe, nice to see you again,” almost shyly, uncertain. Chloe nonplussed gives some hand signs and I stare at them when he signs back. A slight jealousy creeping up in me.
McAllister's loud voice interrupts my observation and my head snaps up. “Davis, what in hell are you doing here?” he stares me down and I can feel people's eyes on us. I bring my eyes to Chloe, clamp down my teeth and try to stay calm. The guys eyes move over Chloe, it’s a quick glance really, nondescript, and yet it makes me uncomfortable. Then his head snaps back at me.
“Davis, I told you before, you have no rights of being here. You better pack up your stuff and leave.”
I can see Chloe's eyes going wide and in them a big question mark.
I can't believe this is happening and my brain tries to figure out how to escape this situation without too much damage. I take one of Chloe's trembling hands and ask her without so much as a twitch in my eyes, “are you ready to leave, Chloe?” But before I can lift myself out of the chair, McAllister leans down close to my face, almost spitting into it and hateful biting out, “we don't wont your kind of people here in town Davis, and what the heck are you doing with
? Keep your sorry ass away from her, I'm warning you. Get the fuck out of here or you will be very sorry.” He slams his big meaty hand down onto the table, straightens up and stares for a moment more, then they finely walk to the back of the room.
My eyes stayed on Chloe, throughout the whole agonizing time, seeing all the emotions running through her mind. Her grip on my hand getting to a point it almost hurt. I reach single handed for my wallet, take some money out, place it on the table and still in a tight grip with Chloe walk outside.
Seated in my truck, Chloe exhales deeply, kneading her cramped up hand. The drive home is blanked in a heavy stillness. Sensing her eyes on me a few times I keep mine on the road, I’m reminded once more that I have no right to bring Chloe into this. How could I think I could get away with all of this? I’m so fucking stupid!
Arriving home in total quietness I open the door for her, help her slide down to the ground, take the heavy buckets and bring them to her front door steps. I unload the bike, place it on the side of her cottage, and then step in front of her. She is still glued to the same place I left her standing, her eyes following me, uncertain of the situation.
With my hands buried deep in the front pockets of my jeans I plant myself in front of her and with great pain try to get an apology out, “I'm very sorry Chloe. You shouldn't have to hear this.” She makes some hand signs and I know exactly what she wants to know, but I just can't tell her what really occurred, so I just shrug my shoulders. She lets out a loud huffing sound and stumps her foot, demanding an explanation reminding me of the little girl she was and I feel a pang of conscience. I drop my eyes, to avoid her demanding stare.
“He’s being an idiot, trying to make my life harder. I don't listen to him, but maybe it would be better if you keep away from me. I don't wont you getting into trouble because of me. I'm really sorry. Oh Chloe, I don't wont you ..., “I trail off. Words seem inadequate, but never before when I spoke her name did I infuse it with every molecule of regret I feel since way back then. I turn my brain over how to explain to her, but then I just give up. It probably was better for Chloe to not hear the awful truth.
I turn, take my truck, park in front of my house, and unload all my stuff, let Rufus run free and walk into my house without another glance at Chloe. I know I’m an asshole for doing this to her and I’m hurting her, but it’s for her best.
I have just torn out my own heart and it hurts like shit.