Frightened of this Fragile Heart
I parked his Audi on the driveway where it belonged. It’s Monday afternoon and any Halloween tradition and festivities were about to start in a couple hours. I looked back to admire the newly cleaned car with a full tank of gas. The gesture was for letting me use the car as my own since I couldn’t return it the day before due to his full Sunday outing with Rachel and Sam.
I pictured the sun harmoniously setting down by the ocean; easily seen a block away from the house. Though it had been a bright day, the wind had not been as kind and had not let up the whole time since morning. I stood there on the front veranda, grasping to close my coat, as I rang the doorbell.
“Trick or treat!” I opened my coat as he opened the door, “Do you get it?”
He chuckled, “Of course, I do. Student.”
I leaped inside the doorway to avoid further wind chill and kissed him the way I left him.
“Mm. Thank you.” He softly uttered.
“I thought I’d be Wonder Woman but it’s too clichéd.” I spoke while he removed my outer attire, “Instead, I’m your favourite student!”
“I’m just glad Halloween didn’t fall on a Tuesday.” He bit his lower lip.
“You don’t like it? It’s too slutty.” I started to regret my last minute decision.
“No. It’s the complete opposite of that. You’re beautiful. I just thought it would’ve been hard to teach if you were to wear that in my class.” He had reason, “Besides, I’m just glad that I wore my glasses today to play my part.”
I giggled at him for his lack of costume, “You look the part.”
“Do I?” He didn’t seem convinced, “I am a professor.”
“It’s actually a sexy Hogwarts uniform.” I pointed out the colour pattern on the tie, “Harry Potter?”
“Hm. Does that make me Snape?”
We both laughed. I was surprise he knew at all, “I just wanted the outfit!”
He explained his knowledge on the subject, “Sam made me believe there was a real girl he liked in school. He kept talking about this crush he had and this ‘Ron’ wasn’t the right boy for her. My nephew started talking about likes and dislikes. I hadn’t known until I put the pieces together when he asked me to watch the series with him.”
I laughed while I pictured Ric’s revelation on attempting to have a talk about romance with Sam.
The house was warm as usual and only the fireplaces in the living room and upstairs were on for visibility. Some sunlight was traveling through the window as it became darker into the evening. I asked Ric to take out the pumpkins from the trunk of his car and light it up by the door. I settled the mini chocolate bars in a bowl and placed it on the coffee table. We ordered pizza and channel surfed until we ran into a decent horror flick. The Shining was one movie I have never seen in its entirety. Beginning, middle and end never connected with the way I’ve been able to catch scenes from before. Ric turned on the lights under the cupboards in the kitchen after pouring some beer from the tap.
Some knocks and bell ringing later, we concocted a routine where we would take turns on giving out the goodies. I would’ve personally liked to do it all but Ric wouldn’t give me all the credit and thought it was best for him to say ‘Hi’ to familiar neighbours if the scenario was presented. He also hated the idea that I have never finished his favourite horror film.
Another bell rang as soon as the movie ended. Ric sampled a chocolate bar as he stood up to open the front door. I jumped out of the couch, grabbed the bowl from under his arm and beat him to the greeting.
“Trick or treat!” It was a family of five and the parents were a few feet away from their three children: a triplet. They looked familiar and were dressed as the vending machine aliens from Toy Story.
“You guys are so awesome!” I instinctively grabbed handfuls and put in each open bag. Ric appeared right behind me and smiled at the present visitors.
“Hey, Ric!” The dad showed his presence.
“Hey, James.” Ric finally recognized the couple and introduced me as they moved closer, “James and Kristy – Paula.”
“Nice to meet you.” James studied me while his wife waved in a proper manner.
“Likewise.” My first encounter with friends. I continued to smile.
“And these rascals are the rest of the Merriman’s.” James pointed down to the three happy monsters, “What do you say to Mr. Gardner?”
All three simultaneously said, “Hi, Coach.”
That’s when I was able to put names on the faces.
“How are you?” James personally greeted the coach.
“It’s Halloween; it’s eerily a good night.” Ric joked with genuine observation.
“That’s good. Anyway, we still have two blocks to go. We’ll see you on the weekend.” James left and walked with his wife to the next lot.
“Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Gardner!” All three shouted before leaving.
I smiled at the innocent gesture. It hasn’t crossed my mind until then and it sounded so sweet. The butterflies that had left me earlier in this romance had come back. Just then I noticed Ric had a different reaction from what mine was. He looked more hurt than annoyed.
“Ric, are you OK?” I grew afraid of the sudden situation.
He left my side and walked back in. I wanted to attend to him but more kids started to walk towards the house. I prepared the bowl as they shouted their usual line. My hands quickly clawed each attempt to hand the treats out like an assembly line. I looked back once again only to find him walk out of the door and breezed through the crowd. I couldn’t say a word that wouldn’t create a scene so I held it back along with my tears.
When everyone had moved on, I blew out the candles inside the pumpkins and slowly closed the door. I didn’t want anyone asking where the current owner was and wondering what I was doing in his house. I sat at the living room thinking of what had possibly gone wrong. It dawned on me that his reaction was actually offensive and the post-reaction was even worst. My eyes started to water as my mind repeated back the scenario. Soon enough, I was crying.
I couldn’t leave, especially when I cared more about Ric than myself. I needed to know he was alright. My mind settled and decided to do something. A couple chores were a short distance away as I attended to it. I neatly packed the pizza into one box and put in the fridge, folded the other box, cleaned the dishes, put away the remaining chocolate, and threw away the garbage. All these things were done in constant search of my way around his house. A glass of water was my only relief from constant worry. I buried myself back down on the sofa.
Ric finally arrived as I instantly sat up at the sound of him unlocking the door. He entered and didn’t look at me at all. I noticed his eyes were weary; he had been crying. Not once in my previous relationships had I been in this situation therefore I had no preparation for it. I followed his movement all the way to the stairs while I looked over my shoulder and my back towards him. I waited for a moment and hesitantly stood up and followed him.
I reached the top steps and found him sitting on the bench at the foot of the bed. I cautiously inched forward as I distinguished my place in his presence. Seeing him like that was hurting me. I took my last step and started to play with opposite thumbs. He was looking down as he started to say something.
“Her name was Sarah. She was all the best things in life. Those green eyes were my kryptonite. We met in college and fell in love no later than that. Dated for six years and married for four. She was everything I never hoped for or dreamed of because I didn’t know one could exist until I found her. She was my soul mate.”
Ric had revealed to me his deepest secret and I was confused. I kept quiet.
He continued, “It was Sam’s birthday and I was working late. Rachel had set dinner at the most inconvenient time. My final class didn’t end early as I predicted even if my lecture was shortened. I called Sarah and told her I was going to be late and will catch up as soon as I could. I told her to tell Sam to open our present last. She insisted on picking me up as it would be quicker and I refused. I refused…”
He shook his head as if he was living the moment once again, like he was trying to reverse time. His tears were magnified from the flame and it travelled down his cheeks consistently. I sat down on the chair behind me in disbelief. Soon, I started to cry as I put the pieces together.
He put his head even lower, “Sarah was just heating the car up when Rachel volunteered Danny to drive. She overheard the conversation and thought it’d be safer with that option. Rachel went inside to call and inform me that Danny was on his way instead and Sarah had stayed. Sarah didn’t stay.
“I was waiting by the entrance when I received another phone call. I looked at the icy road while I listened to the voice on the other line – Danny’s father. He was having a hard time to speak as I heard Rachel screaming in the background. My mind defensively tried to block what I was hearing: Danny’s car had swerved out of its lane and veered into an oncoming traffic. Gravity seemed heavier and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe. I felt weak and nauseated. I dropped on the pavement, on my knees and I wanted to yell but nothing came out. I lost all my senses. I lost my Sarah.”
I covered my mouth from crying loud. He refrained from saying another word as he concentrated on breathing. His inhales were laboured and exhales were strenuous like weight was being lifted off his shoulder. He did this for a good while during which I calmed myself down. I looked at him more mended than broken. I then understood his reaction from earlier and I felt guilty. I felt selfish. I wanted to cry more but I knew I needed to do something. I stood up and walked towards him. I kneeled right in front and made eye contact. He tried to look away in embarrassment but I immediately placed my hand gently on his cheek to retrieve it back facing me.
“I’m sorry.” He apologized even in his brokenness.
“No, no, don’t be. I understand.” I was still sobbing.
“You didn’t deserve that.”
“It’s OK. You don’t deserve to be like this.”
He inhaled again, this time it was long then exhaled while uttering, “Thank you.”
I smiled. I knew at that moment he was healing. He needed to let it out and after two years he had finally let go of his frustrations, anger, sadness, and remorse. I kissed him to let him know that I intended to stay. I smiled again though our lips were still pressed on each other. He kissed back. And again.
My heart was suddenly beating fast. The more he kissed me passionately the more I tried to outdo him. I realized we were thinking the same way and I couldn’t keep up. I stood up in the process as he effortlessly ran his hands up and around my thighs and lifted me gently on to his lap. I quickly appreciated my choice of pleated skirt. I held no reservation as there were only three fabrics that were separating our skins from touching; his underwear, his jeans, and my underwear. I looked up as he worked his kisses down my neck. He easily stood up with me in the same position. I was held by one hand during which I heard his pants hit the floor. We were down to two. He placed me down at the comfort of his bed and took off his sweater and shirt as I did to mine; the tie went along with it. He must’ve felt I was cold as he put the sheet half way up his back as he lay on top. His hand caressed my hip then smoothly glided us down to one fabric.
The night could’ve happened differently but I couldn’t picture it ending any other way. And then we were down to none.