Dark Doorways #6
My arm wrapped into his like a pretzel, just as I had imagined so many times. My brown wool fusing into his black. This had become our regular promenade, this short jaunt from our apartment building to campus. The morning compotations at the cupcake shop had metamorphosed into breakfast at my small kitchen table, and through all of this I never realized that it was New Year’s Eve.
“So shall we go out to a restaurant? That little pub you like?” Michael’s smile as he talked to me had a way of distracting me from whatever it was he was saying. I’m pretty sure that I just smiled back.
It started with my question, when I began asking him about dark doorways. He was the one person I could confide in, the one person Mom trusted enough outside of family. But I never received an answer; his kiss was my response. And now, now that I got to be the one on his arm, the issues of dark doorways and little kids pointing at me mattered very little.
“Come on, Será, what are you thinking? You have that far-off look again.”
“I’m just happy. Can’t I be content that we’re, you know, together?”
“Well at least this explains why you hated my previous girlfriends so much.”
“What? Hated? No. Hated is too strong a word. Disapproved maybe.”
“Madison you definitely disliked. Strongly disliked.”
“Because she was twelve, and–”
“And she blew bubbles with her gum as she spoke. She was named after a town in Wisconsin. She wore sweat pants with words across the butt. Plus, you couldn’t have an intelligent conversation with her. Admit it.”
“I’m not sure what the best response in here.” Again, his grin captivated me. I could forgive his Madisons with that sparkle.
“It is usually this dark? Maybe a storm is coming.” Ellen Hall had a particularly bleak shadow cast across it that morning, one that might have concerned me two weeks ago, before this bliss.
“We never decided what we’re doing tonight. We can’t study for prelims all night. Or are you afraid of 2013?”
“Oh, I’m very much a triskadekaphile.”
“Is that a word?”
“It is now.”
“So, Ms. Triskadekaphile, how do you want to bring in the new thirteen?”
“We should do something exciting, right?” Last year was the hard one, I told myself. You got through last year without your mom. Have some fun this year.
A pamphlet materialized out of Michael’s pocket as he held the door open for me. He had always opened doors for me, even the dark ones. I couldn’t quite remember which dark doorways we had entered together; this was the first time I noticed Ellen Hall being one of them.
“Here’s what I have in mind.” The pamphlet, which I found held tickets inside, showed a boat floating lazily through downtown Chicago.
“A mini-cruise. More like a touristy boat tour. But there’s an open bar, and you spend the night, so you don’t have to drive home afterward. What do you say?”
“Was this planned for Madison?”
“No, she was too–”
“Too young to drink. Right.”
“This was for you. Only you.”
There was something in Michael’s eyes, something that I couldn’t quite name. The words were there, the smile was there, but his eyes… Algid. Lifeless. No, that was unfair.
“I’d love to Michael. Let’s study for a few hours then go pack.”
Those hazel eyes that looked at me so platonically just fourteen days ago now glanced away from me toward the bowels of Ellen Hall. It was nothing, surely. My hard soles clanked down the marble floors in perfect rhythm. Like clicks on a typewriter. Why then did Michael’s make no clamor at all? He stared straight ahead, focused, determined. Yes, that’s what it was. He was just very focused on his studies.
Mom trusted him, right? He would never lead me into a dark doorway.
* to be continued…