No. 17: Promising (Part I)
Date: Spring 2003
The bright Florida sun warmed her entire body. Certainly, later she would regret the deep red burns that would terrorize her skin for a week. That was what Aloe was for, and nothing was going to interrupt the contentment she was feeling. It had been months since she had even been close to this euphoric state. It was wonderful. This vacation had been just what she needed to escape her current personal turmoil.
Reflecting off the sand, the yellow warmth reminded her of another place. The walls of her bedroom replicated the feeling of sunshine. Perhaps that’s why she found it so comforting here. Her bedroom was her haven. A light pink comforter combined with the walls kept her centered in her realm. All she desired to be happy was a quiet spot to be alone, a strong family, and emotional stability. Now, only her room fit that category.
Of all the rooms she’d lived in, this one was her favorite. She’d seen what her new room in Washington D.C. would look like the previous weekend. It was nice, but not cozy. It was fashionably perfect, but it could never be home. Omaha was. The outside world held little appeal to Aurelia Bradley. Now, thanks to her father, Mr.-Attorney-General-himself, she was being thrust into it.
The beach no longer felt safe. She wanted her room.
The first bell rang, calling school to order. Aurelia pulled herself out of her slumber and looked around her class. Fortunately she wasn’t the only person in her condition. The first day back from a break was always horrible. Besides, having extreme jet lag, Aurelia had been in an argument with Mom that morning. Like usual, the root had been her father who had returned to Washington without seeing her come home.
Mom walked into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. Aurelia looked up from her bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and managed a little smile, despite her exhaustion. Sitting down next to her at the table, her mom smiled brightly.
“Morning, Relia,” Mom sang. “Time for you to tell me all about your trip. And I want details. Good ones.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at Mom’s tactics. Straight forward, no false pretenses, and entirely too perky considering the early hour. Adjusting to the brightness of Mom’s voice, Aurelia began to recount all of the events of her school trip.
“You know,” Aurelia finished, “the thing is, they kept us so busy, and I was having such a good time, I just don’t feel like I really missed anyone.”
She looked so appalled by this thought that Mom tried but failed to hide her amusement, and out came her bubbly giggle, causing Aurelia to frown. Realizing her mistake, she cleared her throat and quickly spoke, “I know what you mean. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from everything and everyone you’re use to.”
Still exhausted and growing irritated, Aurelia’s forehead creased again as she replied, “Yeah, it was nice to get away. What’s weird, though, is how I got away from someone who is always gone, anyways.”
She’d said it, and very harshly too. Mom flinched by the tone even before the words registered. “I suppose you’re implying that you’re still upset with your father.”
“Wow, you’re quick, Mom.”
Flinching again, Mom stood up and grabbed her mug. “I’ve had just about enough of this from you, Aurelia Katherine. Why can’t you be happy for your father’s accomplishments?”
“How can you support his uprooting all of us, and right before Tony and I are seniors?” Aurelia screamed, tears burning her eyes.
Mom took a deep breath and said she had to go to a meeting with one of her student’s parents. She left the room without so much as a glance at Aurelia.
That had been it. Short, simple, but still painful and complicated. Aurelia was miserable. While Miss Wallace took attendance, Aurelia once again rested her head on the hard desk, hoping to spend a few more minutes wallowing in self-pity. That wasn’t in the plans of her table partner and best friend, Corey, however, who had slid into his seat seconds before the bell rang. He placed one arm across the back of her chair and with the other hand, began tapping her arms.
“Hey, Lia,” he spoke in a low, deep voice. “Shall I count the ways and days I missed you? Or would you like to get the Cliff Notes?”
Half-heartedly, Aurelia groaned, “Not now.”
“Oooh, someone sounds cranky. Looks like we could use some cheering up.”
Opening one of her eyes to look at his tall, dark haired frame, she once again pleaded, “Not now!”
“I’ll take that as a crying scream for help. How did I miss thee? Let me count the ways,” and Corey counted aloud. The teacher began the lesson, quite oblivious to the scene being made in the back of the room, and still he continued to count. It wasn’t until he reached twenty-seven that Aurelia finally caved and told him all about the argument with Mom, the problems with her father, and her fear of leaving. His dark blue eyes stared into hers, never wavering, and his hand gently stroked her back.
Neither learned anything relevant to American History that day. It was always difficult for her to anymore now that she was sitting next to Corey. He was a major distraction, in more than one way. Why she’d gone and fallen for her best friend, she’d never know. She’d done it anyway, and despite all of her own best convictions. It wasn’t like he was just some guy who walked into her life off the street. Since before Kindergarten, he’d been a constant in her life. He didn’t feel the same about her. He couldn’t possibly. He was attractive, and brilliant, and everyone knew who he was. She was a mousy, dorky “braniac,” as her little sister Onnie liked to point out. It would never work out. Then again, Aurelia didn’t believe high school romances could last, but friendships would. One broken heart would always heal better than two.
If she wanted Corey in her life forever, she knew she’d better keep her feelings to herself. Even if by some small chance, he returned her feelings, she’d be leaving soon, and she would break his heart as well as her own.
After school, Aurelia drove home and checked her e-mail. While she had been out of town, her older brother Cameron had sent her a message.
Hey squirt. I hope you had a great time in Florida. I’m so proud of you for earning your way there, and everything. Listen, I’ll be flying home for Spring Break, so I hope you’ll save some time to hang out with you big loser brother. Send my love to everyone. Go ahead and have some too. Love, Cam.
He had gone away to college at Boston University this past year. Before he’d left, he’d always looked out for her when she and Tony would get into a spat. He even stopped her from fighting with her parents. If he had been there, she wouldn’t have yelled at her mom that morning.
The library was slow. No one had come to check out a book in over an hour. For being a Saturday morning, it was rather to only have four people sitting at the nearly empty tables. Aurelia had already read her entire YM magazine and half of a book, her goal for the whole day. One good thing about working at the library was she had more time to read. Almost too much time.
By around ten thirty, the library opens at eight, Aurelia picked up the phone and dialed home. She was hoping for Mom, things hadn’t quite healed over as they should, and plus she needed her help.
“Hello.” It was Tony. Aurelia groaned inwardly. She’d forgotten that Mom had planned to do some research for her next book at the college today, and so the only one who could help her out would be him. Knowing it would be difficult to persuade him to do her bidding, Aurelia’s spirits plummeted.
“Hey Tony,” she faked enthusiasm. “Could you do me a huge favor?”
Squeezing her eyes shut and taking a deep breath, she quickly spoke, “Could you bring me my homework to the library? We’re really dead and I’m so bored. Please.”
Her jaw dropped. Aurelia had never known her brother to simply help her out like that. Especially since he would have soccer practice later in the afternoon. She thanked him and hung up the phone. Now came the hardest part. Waiting. The clock was the only sound echoing on the walls. The smell of books filled the air. More waiting. Tapping her fingers on the counter and leaning on the other elbow, the tapping blended with the ticking. A door creaked. Still, she waited.
At noon, she knew he wasn’t coming. Worried, she had called home to see if he had left, but he answered the phone.
“Sorry, slipped my mind.”
That was the end of their conversation. She was going to kill Tony. Fortunately her shift was over at two, so she only had to deal with the unbearable boredom for a couple hours more. She found a prom magazine under a pile of newspapers and began to leaf through it. After studying many of the pictures, she found the dress she wanted. A pale blue, empire cut that would compliment her eyes so perfectly. She knew where she could find it too. So now she had the dress, but who would she take? Only one person came to mind.
“Hey, Lia.” She looked up into an easily recognizable pair of blue eyes. “Ready to go on break? I talked to your supervisor.” He nodded over towards an elderly lady he sat smiling at the customer help desk. He held up a bag from a fast food place and continued, “I brought food.”
They sat outside on a bench. It was a beautiful, sunny day, not quite regular of March. Aurelia hadn’t yet gotten over her surprise of seeing him. It wasn’t abnormal for him to come see her at work, but normally Corey would have said something about it before. They had divvied up the French fries, and Aurelia had a mouthful of a grilled chicken sandwich when he asked her.
“Want to go to Prom with me?”
She almost choked. Her dream had just been fulfilled. Could he possibly feel the same about her?
“Just as friends you know.”
There went that wish. She would love more than anything to go to Prom with Corey. Then again, Corey was popular enough that he could ask anyone. Why her?
“My mom and I were talking about who I should take to prom. You were the only person who showed up on both of our lists.”
Scary. This was weird. How did he know what she was thinking? Could he be--?
“No, I’m not psychic,” he spoke quickly. “You’re just very easy to read, and I know you very well.”
She stared blankly at him.
“I repeat my question. Will you please go to Prom with me? Chew your food by all means before answering,” Corey said making a hand gesture towards her mouth.
Chewing thoughtfully, Aurelia considered her proposition. She did need a date to prom, and badly as it was only a few weeks away. Of all the people she’d like to go with, he was the most coveted. If she went with him, she would be guaranteed a good time. Taking another bite of her sandwich she saw the other perspective. He wanted to go with her just as friends, the wrong reason in her book. Wrong for her, at least. Did it really matter to her what the reasons were? She looked at him and made her decision.
“Okay,” Aurelia drawled out. “Sounds like fun.”
Corey laughed out loud and gave her a bear hug. This was not the reaction she had been expecting. Actually, she hadn’t known what to be looking for, but she liked this response just fine. After his brief display, Corey went back to eating his hamburger and Aurelia ate her chicken sandwich. They would discuss details later, but right now she was too busy savoring her lunch and his company.
Check back tomorrow for the (not so) shocking conclusion of Promising and to read my analysis, or at least an explanation of the story.
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