tagRomanceLauren Adams Ch. 01

Lauren Adams Ch. 01


Let me get one thing out of the way -- I'm not good at storytelling. But, I guess I feel like this story has to be told, and I'm the only one that can tell it, so here it goes. Christina was maybe a half-inch over five feet tall. Well, she probably still is. I always admired her for her, well, unique outlook on life. She had worked all her adolescent life to get her Medical Degree. I don't remember the school, but I'll bet it's pretty prestigious, given the way she tells everyone that gives her a second glance about it. I guess I never cared enough to listen.

As for me, I'm five-eight, and a half, and I tell people I weigh 180 pounds. In truth it's closer to 220, though. I'm not much to look at, though with my hair cut a certain way and my mustache trimmed, I can look quite charming. I had moved in with Christina out of convenience. Simply put, my step-father had pulled his pocket knife out during an argument with my mother. Bless her, Christina gave me solace when no one else could, or would. That was 18 months and one week ago from when my story begins.

Anyway, this day pretty much started like any other -- Christina and I had another argument. I was really getting sick of trying to assert my point of view when all she did in rebuttal was look at me with her head cocked sideways and her hands on her hips. She always had an answer, and it was never the right answer. To make a needlessly long story short, I ended up walking out of the apartment. I made sure to slam the front door extra hard so she could feel it vibrating through the walls.

It was too far to walk to anywhere interesting, and I was wearing flip-flop sandals. As I pondered where to go to clear my head, I found our complex's pool. There wasn't anyone there. Clothed in but shorts and a tee, I opened the gate, marked Santa Fe, removed the aforementioned tee and flip-flops, and waded in. The water was warmer than I've ever remembered, at least in this pool. I'm sure I was an odd sight each time I resurfaced and attempted to peel matted hair away from my eyes. I took my place at one end of the pool, horizontally speaking, exhaled deeply, then sharply took breath and launched myself in the direction of the opposite wall. With one hand in front of me, for fear of knocking my head against the wall, and one hand holding my shorts up, for fear of them slipping off, I kicked powerfully to propel myself. Before my lungs were the least bit strained, I felt the wall and pulled myself back up. With this victory, I grew bolder. I swam to the other edge of the pool, looking directly ahead of me at the wavering waterline that stretched from my end to the nine foot end. I let all my air out again, held there for a second, then sharply inhaled and kicked off.

My eyes were clenched tightly shut. The water moved in swift, irregular ripples over my back. Every muscle in my lower body was pounding. One leg over the other. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. I lowered my kicking to push more water away from me. My pace increased. My heart was smacking viciously against my sternum. My lungs were crying for oxygen. I stretched my arm out farther. I wouldn't be able to hold it together much longer. I let out a huge, desperate breath underwater that bubbled up all around me. A second later, I had had enough. I shot up and jerked my head out of the water with an incredible gasp. My eyes were still clenched. I felt around for the edge of the pool, and felt nothing. Finally my eyes shot open.

I was a good fifteen feet away.

I didn't make it home until after Christina had left for the hospital. I wandered the house, my shorts and hair still damp and stuck to my skin. After I was sure that she was gone, I locked the front door and stripped bare. It's fun being naked. Especially with my skin still wet, and the cool, conditioned air inside the house coating my form, walking through the bedroom to our bathroom as if gliding through misty air.

I turned on the faucet and let the water heater sufficiently work our water into a luxurious, lukewarm state before I put in the bath plug. I gathered up my cheap MP3 player and $10 Sony speaker set and set them on the counter next to the bath. Soon enough, the bath was ready. I settled in and held the on/off button on my MP3 player until I could hear the first synth hums of "If Winter Ends" by Bright Eyes.

"And I give myself three days to feel better..." Conor seemed to be channeling my situation. I guess I get that way whenever I really get into a song, or a band. It happened with Brand New's Deja Entendu at the end of my first serious relationship. I wrote about an album's worth of songs after that relationship failed. Soon after, I was introduced to Maroon 5, and I began to cheer up. And then, with the arrival of The Mars Volta, I began to really enjoy music again, instead of correlating it to life. Because there's really no serious way to tie any of De-Loused to real life. Not by the greatest stretch of the imagination.

Conor's cold vision of a dead relationship was shattered by Taylor Hawkins' huge snare pounds to open No Way Back. I loved that about my playlists. I never took mood too seriously. One song will put me at the verge of tears, and the very next will have me waving my arms and stomping my feet, air drumming, like air guitaring, only more annoying. This list, TEN, meaning my tenth list since I've been in Midland, is especially schizophrenic. The water splashed around my feet as I tried to keep time with Mr. Hawkins. I imagined someone walking in, Christina perhaps, and just staring with a blank expression. But that thought was not enough to kill the joy of the moment.

A little more background about our situation seems fitting at this point in my story. I had met her online through the magic of AOL Chat. I don't remember which room we were in, but we hit it off immediately. She was by far the funniest person in chat that night. She told me then that she was set to begin an internship at Midland Memorial Hospital, and that she had just ended a serious relationship. I told her I was just escaping one myself. She laughed at this. At least, I think she did, because she typed "lol."

When the incident happened, the first thing I did was run. I ran to the nearest convenience store and called Christina from a pay phone. We talked for hours before she had the idea to come collect me and take me home with her. It took some tricky maneuvering, but I was able to sneak everything important that I had out of the house that night and walk it to that same gas station. It was one-fifteen in the morning when I saw her pull up in her little red GMC. Lamesa is about an hour and a half from Midland, but it seemed like five minutes before I was in front of her home on Wadley Street.

It was during those awkward times that I first told her I loved her. She didn't say it back. Not right away, at least. To this day I don't remember her telling me she loved me without me having said it first. I don't even remember the last time I gave her that opportunity. We moved into this apartment so her mother could have the house. She didn't add that everything there reminded her of her ex.

The bath water was soon too cold, so I stepped out with Runaround by Arlo blaring through my tin can speakers. "All she ever gives me is the runaround... Runaround, Christina, runaround." Lyrics modified. I dried in no hurry. The player stayed on while I dressed in fresh shorts, shifting to Rough Landing, Holly by Yellowcard, then to High and Dry by Radiohead. It was dark outside. I switched off the player when the song was over.

Tonight was shaping up to be another huge bore. I take classes at Midland College, sure, but not every night. I'll spare you the intense details of my night, though there weren't many. I snacked through the night on microwave egg rolls and pizza and downloaded more music onto my laptop. It was past 3 in the morning before I finally made the decision to settle in for the night. Most nights I didn't have any impetus for dragging my tired form to bed, but my strong laps in the pool and the still warm sensation of chlorine on my skin bid me slumber.

I woke up on my ear. That is to say, I slept on it wrong. The whole morning I spent wandering around the house tweaking it various ways, trying to alleviate the pain. Christina got home about noon. I didn't bother to check exactly when.

"So late?"

She looked at me with her head cocked sideways. "Long night. Leg injury close to hemorrhage." These days she was quick with responses and quick to finish conversation. I didn't argue with her about the meaning of hemorrhage. Or about the fact that interns, by policy, were not supposed to stay late. I had two more days to feel better.

"My sister's coming over tonight," she added. "You don't mind?"

Yes I do. "No, of course not." I ignored the fact that it was more of a statement than a question. Instead I focused on my plans for getting through the evening.

I should clarify. It's not that Sam is a bad person. It's just that I can't stand her. Every time she comes over, her and Christina talk and laugh for hours about the most inane drivel you could possibly imagine, and they never try to invite me into their fun. Maybe it's just jealousy, but it used to be me sitting across from Christina, making stupid jokes about stupider subjects, laughing the night away. Add to that the fact that Sam doesn't intimately know the words "personal" and "hygiene". Or how to put them together.

Within the half-hour I was alone again. Christina was off to bed to catch some sleep before Sam's arrival. There was typically no disturbing her during her midday nap, as it was the only sleep she got. So there went any possibility of reconciling our argument from yesterday. I rifled through the day's newspaper for anything interesting. Car sales, classifieds, comics I've already seen, and the movie times. Pulse had just been released to theaters. That'd be a good way to kill an afternoon. At least, I hoped. I would be back at college the day after tomorrow, so the boredom would only last for two days anyway.

For only having been an intern a year and a half, Christina sure has a fancy car. A three-year old Lexus LS430. Certainly nothing like her trade-in, the little red GMC. Still, it was too sterile to be anything I would consider driving. If she had asked me to guess what kind of car I could see her driving when I first met her, I would say something along the lines of a Chrysler Crossfire convertible. But maybe that's my Daimler-Chrysler bias talking. The theater was just a couple of blocks north anyway, so I decided I would hoof it. I slipped into another tee shirt, dragged a comb across my head, and laced up my sneakers. My player was still lying on the table, so I grabbed it and matched it with a pair of headphones. I shut the front door quietly behind me. Slipping the headphones onto my ears, I was on my way.

SEVEN is the playlist for extended walks around town. It keeps me energized. It was also the first playlist since I got to Midland that I put together without any songs from Christina. She wouldn't approve of The Shins and Death Cab for Cutie, anyway. She always was more of a country girl, and there were few rock artists she liked. I nearly got through my entire eighty-minute long playlist before I arrived in front of Hollywood Theaters.

It was 1:42 pm when I bought my ticket for the 2:30 showing. I bought myself a small soda and tried to kill time by slowly walking to my theater. The theater was already half filled with people. Maybe they were all as bored as me. I sat down with my drink and was consumed by the hum and drone of the sixty or so people around me. They all seemed to be saying the same thing, in the same tone, at slightly altered intervals so as to make it seem like a dull echo. It wasn't long before I grew annoyed of this. I got up out of my seat and smacked directly into a young girl trying to scoot past me.

"Oh shit, are you alright? I'm so sorry..." The words came out of my mouth on instinct. I found her hand and helped her up from the floor. The first thing that came up was a beautiful light brown head of straight hair. The next thing I saw were two golden brown eyes, infused with a look I'll never forget, a look of apology though she'd done nothing wrong. My gaze was fixed to those eyes as she righted herself.

When she finally looked up at me, she had the tiniest little smile adorned on her small, round face. Her eyes had lost none of their glow. What finally snapped me back to reality was her first spoken words to me..

"What the hell, man? What do you think you're doing? I was walking there!"

I was frozen. My eyes must have been as wide as they've ever been. I would have spent the whole movie apologizing.

"Nah, I'm just kidding. God damn, you looked like a deer in headlights just now!" She put her hand on my shoulder. I still didn't have anything to say. "Anyone sitting here?" I looked down. She was pointing at the seat to my left.

"No... no. I came alone."

Her smile grew. "Good. I wouldn't want to have to walk past you again." She laughed at this, a gentle stream of laughter that filled the nearby air.

It was another minute or so before I worked up the courage to say anything more. I would come to be very glad that I had.

"So, have you heard anything about this movie?"

She turned to me. "No, but I've seen a preview. It looks okay, I guess. I'm just trying to kill the afternoon."

"Me too. I saw it in the paper." She was still turned towards me. I must have had the dumbest smile.

"Do you mind me asking... what's on your player?" She pointed towards my lap.

"No, sure... you can take a look if you want. Or a listen."

She slipped my headphones on, adjusting them to fit. "Oh my God! I love Imogen Heap!"

I laughed out loud. A little too loud. I wasn't sure if she heard me. The player had been turned off near the end of The Moment I Said It.

"I can't believe you... nobody knows about Imogen," she told me when the song was through. "Garden State?"

It took me a second. "Yeah. That song at the end... best movie moment of the past decade at least." We were talking about the Frou Frou song at the end, a band of which Imogen was a member.

"Garden State is like, my favorite movie of all time. What's yours?"

I hesitated. "True Lies."

She laughed a big laugh. It was refreshing. "What else do you have on here?"

We were still on the topic of Garden State, right? "The Shins. I make playlists of songs I download and I think they've been on every list since I saw Garden State. Death Cab. Coheed. Random shit." Coheed and Cambria is another band that features prominently on my playlists.

She was browsing through SEVEN. "You put a lot of thought into these, huh? I just throw whatever I'd like to hear that day onto my MP3 player." She had it with her. She offered it to me, still smiling.

The first song on there was Delilah from Plain White T's. I would have it stuck in my head the rest of the day.

"To be honest, I heard this movie was pretty awful, actually." I knew where she was going with this and didn't try to interrupt. "Why don't we go hang out upstairs?"

I grinned. "We won't get our money back."

"I don't mind if you don't." I didn't. I let her leave in front of me and held the large theater door open for her. As she slinked past me, I got my first good look at her. Petite figure, and a cute little stomach defined by the thin fabric of her floral one-piece dress. She was only about as tall as my lips. Well, she probably still is. We made our way up the stairs in the front and sat at a clear glass table in front of a huge window. She was even more beautiful in the sunlight. The features of her face simply glowed, from her upturned lips to her small cheeks. I don't know if it was because she noticed me staring blankly, but she began the conversation.

"Well, I know your favorite movie, and your style of music. What else is there to learn about you?"

"My name. I'm Bryan. And you are?" I smiled and offered her my hand, quite mock-formally.

"Lauren. Such a pleasure to meet you, good sir." She was giggling as she shook my hand.

"The pleasure is mine, milady." We laughed at this, her hair tossing about her neck.

Hours went by and we covered all the basic topics -- where she lived (a fancy set of apartments closer to downtown), who she lived with (her mother and her black cat), what I was going to college for (I didn't have a clue, yet), what she was going to college for (she took classes at UTPB for psychology), what she was doing later, what I was doing later. Neither of us would admit to having anything to do later. I certainly wasn't looking forward to going home and seeing Sam on my couch, but I didn't tell Lauren that. I didn't feel like mentioning Christina, either. And there was no one at Lauren's home that she was obligated to. We were free to while away the rest of the daylight. I felt like I knew her so well, I could predict what she would say and how she would react to what I say. Still, there were times when she would absolutely surprise the hell out of me, most times for the better. By the time either of us knew it, Pulse had already gotten out and people were streaming towards the exits.

"So you walk often?" Lauren was getting inquisitive.

"Every chance I get. Why? Did you drive?"

She pointed out the window to the parking lot. "Mine's the silver Crossfire."

My eyes must have shot out of my head. Like when any given cartoon character meets any given token hot babe in said cartoon. "They don't even sell those in Midland, do they?"

She laughed again. I was certainly not getting tired of that. "It was marked down like seven thousand. I couldn't pass it up. Monthly payments are a bitch, though."

"Tell me you got the supercharged V-6?"

"Right! Do I have the words 'First National Bank' plastered across my chest?" We laughed together. I couldn't help but check her chest, just to be sure.

And then, before I could stop myself: "I'd love to have a ride in it some time."

Shit. Why did I have to ruin the conversation by saying something like that? I had to keep face. I couldn't let on that I was absolutely terrified at myself for saying that, for being so forward. Despite my best efforts, I knew she could see right through me, and she was just prolonging the agony before she gave her response. My countenance twitched, almost imperceptibly. Would she just shrug it off and change the subject? I saw her mouth move, barely, a twinge, the faint beginnings of a smile? She reached into her purse.

"So let's go." She'd pulled out her keys.

My excitement was uncontainable. I practically jumped out of my seat and tripped over myself in the process. Lauren was laughing at me the whole way to the parking lot. We finally got to her car. The convertible top was down, and I did my best to climb in all cool and nonchalant with the door still closed. She was still laughing.

"Ready? I have to stop home anyway and check on my kitty." She turned the key and the V-6 came to life with a satisfying purr. She pushed the transmission roughly into first gear and we sped off through the lot and onto Loop 250. She took the turn sharp, almost too sharp to be safe. We nearly hit 70 on that short stretch of road, before she engaged the tremendous ABS system and stopped us just short of the crosswalk. My hair was ruined. The light turned green, and she sped further along the Loop, swerving to pass a school bus before she slammed us to a stop just short of the next intersection. She didn't wait for the light, though, and we turned right onto Garfield, past Midland College. We screamed through Garfield and Wadley just before the light went red, still hovering at about 55. She might have told me where we were going, but I couldn't hear anything beyond the rush of air. We kept going down Garfield until we hit the hospital. A sharp right, at about 30, in front of the emergency room and we went back north on Andrews Highway. The lights were all green from there to the entrance of Villa Chateau apartments. She took it easy, relatively speaking, through the complex and to her front door, where she eased the Chrysler into its covered spot.

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