I stared at the door with pure loathing, trying to decide if it would burst into flames if I glared at it enough, and then my family could move back home. This was not home. I walked up the wooden steps to the porch, and opened the cranberry red door into the house. Don’t get me wrong it was a nice house, it just wasn’t our house. I grabbed a box from the hallway, after I had slipped my shoes off, and held it firmly against my hip with one arm. I headed towards the stars hoping to evade any conversation with my mother.
As I placed my foot on the first carpeted step I heard from behind me, “Georgia, do you always have to sulk through the house?”
I wished I could mutter something under my breath, but she was sure to hear it.
So I decided I might as well say it out loud, to say nothing would be a mistake, and I was running out of options, “Well, did we really have to move here? I wasn’t sulking, how did you know I was sulking? I haven’t even been home more than five minutes.”
With that I started climbing the stairs, as I reached the top one I heard a whisper of a voice from beneath me, “I just wish that you wouldn’t hate this so much. We were only trying to make the right decision.”
I turned around to reply, but she had already glided into the next room. I walked down the hallway and shoved my bedroom door open. After I was into the room I kicked the door shut behind me. Half-sharpened pencils rolled around on the wooden desk amongst the loose sheafs of lined paper filled with words. Stacks of books sat quietly in precarious piles in various corners waiting to be read or re-read. This, at least, reminded me of home.
I glanced around the lunch table at all of the familiar faces, wondering what my day was missing. I stabbed a few noodles with my plastic fork and analyzed the rest of my school lunch. I was trying to figure out what was floating in my cheese sauce when on of my buddies nudged me in the side with his elbow. I looked up to see everyone at the table staring at me and realized that I had missed the question.
“Zane, what are you doing this weekend?” one of the guys asked.
I thought for about it a minute and replied, “Not much, probably.”
One of the jocks sitting at the table behind us, snickered and leaned over saying, “Wow, do you even have a life Zane?”
I ignored him, finished my watered down skim milk, picked up my tray and walked away. I angrily shoved my palm into the bar on the door and strode into the hallway. I trudged to my locker, spinning the combination lock with a confidence gained from days of practice, and grabbed a few of my books. I slammed the door closed, and ambled to my classroom waiting for the bell to ring wondering when my life would change, or if it ever would.
I had walked through the park and found only one bench. As far as benches go, it was a pretty ordinary one. It had a wrought iron frame that still stood straight, and a wooden seat that was worn from weather and use. But, even in its simplicity, it puzzled me. I had walked through the entire park expecting to see half a dozen benches like this one, but I hadn’t. I had found only this singular bench. This bench was not even by any of the entrances to the park, or in its center. This lone bench was only to be found in the deep, untraveled, recesses of the park. So I did what I had been wanting to do; I sat down on one side of the bench.
I had walked into the park so I could find someplace quiet to sit down. I had one of those to-go-cups from the coffee shop down the road in one hand, and the other was jammed deep into the pocket of my blue jeans. I wasn’t in a hurry, unlike most of the people around me. Most of them had their shoulders hunched inside their coats against the December cold, and were walking briskly to their various destinations. I started on my way to the one bench in the park that seldom few people knew about. I didn’t notice the girl at first. She appeared to be around my age, and had a small bag hanging from her shoulder. She had long auburn red hair that curled gently at her back. She wasn’t in a hurry either, but even from a distance I could see the somewhat puzzled look that was on her face. I dismissed her quickly as just another passerby, and continued on my way.
From my seat on the bench I surveyed my surroundings. A multitude of trees, all varying in height and girth, with snow clinging to their limbs surrounded the bench. Some were thin and curling into themselves, while others were thick and billowing. The trees all stood leafless, and like twiggy, naked ghosts of their summer’s selves. I leaned to the side, the cold of the iron armrest briefly burning into my skin through all my layers of clothing, and unzipped my bag and pulled a tattered spiral notebook out. The once green front cover was now entirely covered in small jagged pieces of script. Snatches of thoughts from here and there were written in unending sentences across the cover. I gingerly opened the cover and started leafing through the time softened paper pages. My head jerked up with an alarming rapidity as I heard footsteps on the paved walkway coming down the path towards me. I waited, tense and ready to leave, when a boy emerged from behind the trees. I relaxed a little, but I continued to warily watch him to see what he was going to do; my breath floated in front of my face in a little white cloud. He came to a halt a few feet from the edge of the bench.
I turned onto the small hidden path towards the bench, and wasn’t really look at anything in particular. I was glancing up at the tops of the trees, and when I brought my chin back down I saw the bench. Except, it wasn’t just the bench that was sitting there. Sitting on the bench was a girl, but I had seen this girl before. I was sure I had. I flashed back to my memories of the day, and I found her. She was the same girl that I had seen earlier in the park; the one that had had the puzzled expression on her face. She looked quite different now, she wasn’t puzzled, but I couldn’t quite name her current expression. She was peering at me from under her bangs as though she wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I myself wasn’t sure what I was going to do yet. Do I sit down on the bench next to her, or do I turn around and walk away? My mind was still in turmoil when she started to say something.
I could tell that he wasn’t sure of himself. I could glean at least that much from his expression. Past that, I couldn’t figure anything out other than his physical appearance. He was tall in height, thin, but more lean than skinny, medium length light brown hair, and his eyes, by my best guess, were green. I figured that I might as well try and say something before he decided to leave.
So before I could lose my nerve, I said, “Hi, do you want to sit down?”
It came out more quietly than I had wanted it to, but it was out there none the less. I glanced up at him again just as he started to speak.
I responded before I really thought about it, “Sure, I suppose, if you’re not waiting for someone else.”
A smirk briefly crossed her lips and she replied a little bit louder than the time before, “No I’m not waiting for anyone else. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to wait for someone other than my family members.”
I realized then, how much that told me about her. In a way she was like me. Sure, we had friends at school, but not the kind that really ever went anywhere with you. I thought back to the other day in school and wondered if this was the person that I had been waiting to meet. Not the type where it was like love at first sight, but the one where you knew something in your life was about to change.
“So, what are you doing here? Goodness, that sounded a lot nicer in my head. What I meant was, I haven’t seen you here before, are you new?” I said.
I glanced sideways to gauge her expression, and I thought I saw her grimace. Just as quickly as it had appeared on her face though, it was gone.
She replied, “Yeah, I’m new here. Does it show?”
She kind of chuckled at the end of her sentence and glanced over at me to see if I would laugh at her or with her. I laughed with her, sensing that her and I had a lot in common.
“No, but with a town this size people are bound to notice a new face,” I told her. Only then did I notice the ragged notebook sitting in her lap, “What are you writing,” I asked.
She waited a moment or two and replied, “Not much, just this and that. So what’s your name city boy?”
I chuckled at her wording and answered her question, “Zane, how about you?”
All of a sudden she was quiet. From my seat beside her on the bench I could see her staring straight ahead.
After what seemed like forever, she whispered, “Georgia.”
And just like that it was as if something within her had woken up to what was happening. She threw her disreputable notebook into the small bag sitting next to her feet on the pavement and was standing so quickly I thought her head would spin. She raced down the narrow path, walking so quickly that she was almost running. Just before she turned the corner, she glanced back and me, and then she was gone.
I hadn’t realized that the conversation was going to go that way when I told him he could sit down. I hadn’t wanted it to get personal, and there I was asking him his name, and telling him mine. I had wanted to avoid investing myself in this town that I didn’t like. As far as I was concerned if I didn’t become personally invested in the town then I wouldn’t feel bad when we left. Not if we left, but when we left. I came to realize this in very few moments. I carefully threw my notebook into my bag, that is as carefully as you could ever throw something. I stood up and all but ran back down the path. Before the bench was completely out of view, I turned around and took one last glance at Zane before he disappeared from sight.
She was gone. Just like that she was gone without another word. I didn’t know how I was going to find her back. Would I ever find her back again? Even though I had just met her, I could already find myself missing her, and the conversations we could have had. How was I going to go to school on Monday, and pretend that I hadn’t ever met Georgia.
Several days still hadn’t erased Zane from my memory. I had been hoping that he would slowly fade away from my thoughts as the hours passed, but that was not the case. The opposite would have been much more true. Every hour that passed between meeting him on that bench and leaving had only increased how much I thought about him. I started to regret my decision, but I didn’t have any clue on how I would ever find him back. I had been fooling myself when I thought that I could glide through this town without becoming emotionally attached. I came to think that this was my home, and I didn’t really want to leave at all. I scribbled my thoughts furiously onto paper with a quick and short efficiency, wishing that my scribbled words would become reality. I could feel the wheels turning in my mind as I thought of ways to try and find Zane.
I threw my locker door closed and came face to face with the girl that I hadn’t thought I would ever see again. At the same moment that my locker door clicked closed her eyes came up from watching the floor and surprise crossed her features. She came to a stop a few feet from my locker, and both of us stuttered for something to say. Finally, she just smiled a small smile. I returned the smile, and in that moment I knew that the past few days had been forgotten. We were past the forgetting, and we weren’t going to let each other go again. I wasn’t going to question why she was here, and it didn’t really matter.
After a while I spoke up, “So, what class do you have first?”
Still smiling she said simply, “English.”
I jerked my head to the side and replied, “Same, care to join me?”
She smiled and slipped her arm through mine. Holding her books in one hand with her bag slung over her shoulder and her arm locked with mine we walked, still smiling, through the door into English class and into a new day.