The Garden House

“I’m at least willing to try,” she stared lazily up at the ceiling. It was more comfortable to lie on the floor than try sitting up. “If you think it’d fuck me over, just remember, I’m already fucked.”

“And you think it won’t matter if it goes south?” He watched her absently tap her fingers on the floor.

“Well, maybe. I believe in destiny.”

“And our differences?” He swirled the ice in his plastic cup. The napkin around it tore in half, spent by the condensation.

“Will be worked out.” She responded, still studying the rafters of the domed ceiling. “Or you could at least let us talk about them so I’d know if they’re irreconcilable.”

It wasn’t a very nice room to have such an extravagant roof, she thought to herself. His silence brought her to turn her head in his direction. Her perspective of him was odd from the floor as he leaned casually against the window sill, slumped over his cup, watching her.

“Look, telling you I’m willing to try and sort things out ain’t sayin’ I think you’re my perfect dream man. Hell, I don’t know. But I can’t deny how I feel. I ain’t got a reason to. I’ve lied to myself enough over it anyway. You can think I’m a naive school girl if you want. It’s not the truth. Even so, maybe my opinion of you is just a dream? I still don’t see you look at another woman the way you look at me. Riddle me that?”

He kept watching her, his expression more unreadable than ever.

“Look,” she grunted and rolled up into a sitting position. “If you don’t wanna, I’ll leave it alone.” She swirled herself around to face him in a languid crouch. “I don’t give a damn for chasing someone who don’t give a damn about me. There’s just something that tells me you do, and I’m bloody tired of you lookin’ at me like that if you don’t.”

He cracked a little smile and leaned forward to stand. “You’re ridiculous. You know that?”

“Is that any kind of an answer?” She flung her head backward and brushed her hair from her face. “I know that much. I’m lying about on the floor like a dufus cause I’ve been sick as hell since I saw you last. Like I can even afford to give a fuck anymore. Of course I’m ridiculous.”

His smile grew, as if the more she said, the more some part of him was warmed. But it still wasn’t enough to bring him to speak.

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” She flopped back to the floor and waved her arms in the air. “Wait around all you want. It’s not like you’ve got any competition. But I ain’t promisin’ to wait around. I hate that you won’t even take the damn lead.”

At that he burst into laughter. Soft laughter, but laughter all the same. “You think I believe you’d let me?”

“Oh, fuck you already!” She threw up her hands again, but she shook with laughter in spite of it. “You haven’t got over that yet? I’m too tired to be mad at you. It was just a bloody dance I don’t even know how to do!”

“Hey, you’re still ridiculous.” He’d walked over to her by now and stood, looking down with the same teasing smile.

“Thanks.” She gave a wry chuckle, but his smile warmed her in spite of his stoicism.

A drop of condensation dripped onto her face from the cup. “Woops,” he shrugged.

Her face wrinkled as she pushed the water off. She stared back at him, letting out a long sigh. “Nobody fuck’s with me like you do, and you’ve never even kissed me. And you can just stand there and laugh. Yeah, I’m not cryin’. You see that. I’m chill as ever for some reason. But don’t be fooled. I’m sprawled out here ’cause I’m spent. Don’t have any more fucks to give, but it don’t change nothin’.”

“You cuss more than I expected,” his smile lessened a little and he looked a bit concerned. Maybe he was finally worried about how she felt.

“You’re not frowning about the cussing though. There are plenty of things I can tell by my intuition. You’re elusive enough to drive one insane, you know?”

He couldn’t resist a smile again. She was too blunt for him, but he didn’t really mind.

“I think you might just delight in torturing me. But it’s more likely that you’re merely entertained by how strange I’m acting at present.” Her eyes followed him as he walked around the room, pensively staring past the cup that was only ice now and studying the floor boards. “It’s not every day you see me so out of it. In fact it’s the only time you ever have.”

His eyes came away from the grain of the hardwood and back to her. “You think about it that much?”

“Why wouldn’t I? Do I have any thing else to do?” She had to turn her head to see him. “But that’s not the point and you know it. The question is why don’t you think you’re worth it?”

“Is that what is keeping me?”

“You might be afraid I couldn’t handle it. A just fear, but it’s something to be considered in every relationship, not only ours.” She raddled on, as if it were all some factual lecture, not even letting on to how much it meant to her by some tone of desperation in her voice. He had to know by now, and she’d rather just be blunt about it. “But it’s equally valid that you consider yourself too something or other: jaded, dark, troubled. I don’t know. Everybody has a fear that they wouldn’t be accepted.”

“And this fear is enough to keep me silent?”

“Well, plenty of people are held back by a fear, and while you exude confidence, even you are afraid of something. It might not be that that keeps you. But you are fragile, something I wish I could help. But that’s up to you letting me in.”

What was he looking for in her answers? She wasn’t sure, but she didn’t mind the talking and always enjoyed the listening. He might not say anything, but she knew him well enough to know that he got it.

“And what would that mean to you, if I let you in?”

“What sort of question is that?” She rolled over onto her side and shifted to get a better view of him.

His tailored pants and white button down gave him a beautiful silhouette against the windows that drained in afternoon sun. He was staring outside at the dull garden, his back turned. Standing flower beds full of dead bushes, never having been what they had dreamed of being. Were the owners too tired, out of money, ideas? Would it ever become what it was meant to be, and this garden house with its eclectic form be something beautiful? She followed the curve of his shirt, from its pleat at his shoulders to the sag in his lower back. Dress shirts were always a beauty to her. And he always stood with his own artful slant, his dress pants cutting their own lines in the growing shadows. But he wasn’t even remotely aware of all that. What was he thinking?

“Really though, you’d ask me to show my hand when you don’t intend to show yours?”

He turned his head back without turning ’round. “I don’t?”

She sat up now, curious to know what he was thinking, curious to know what he’d say, and tired of her own voice.

“I really…” her voice was quieter now, almost afraid of its own sound. “Maybe it’s not obvious. Okay it really probably isn’t…” She looked down at her hands, her legs folded up in Indian style, her skirt waddled about them.

“What?” he still stared at the rotten flower bed. The sun glared on the concrete walk outside. His silhouette almost black now.

She knew he was looking away so she’d have the guts to speak up.

“I don’t like taking the lead. I don’t like being blunt and all. But I just don’t know how to react to the words you say with your eyes, but never with your lips.” She fought not to trail off into complete silence. “I can’t deny that I have a habit of forgetting what it’s like when you’re not around and thinking it was all some made up dream of mine. It’s not like it could be real, right?” A bit of skin peeled off her lip as she scrambled to find the words or the courage. “I just don’t know why when I look at you it all fades away. I always tell myself it’s nothing but a magical night that will live in my memory, but I can never see you without walking away a new person. I see you and in your arms I am more alive than I ever was before. And I walk away and the whole world has changed. You fill me with a hope I’ve never known before.”

She wanted to look up at him, but her eyes wouldn’t move from her hands. His form motionless in the edges of her vision. “So, yeah, if it went south… well, it would really suck, I guess. But what I said about destiny… I know it’s no accident that I know you. I know if nothing else, this has all happened for a reason. Now please. I’ve said enough. Take the damn lead already. I’m tired of talking.”

His figure turned and she let her eyes rise to meet his. It was too dark now to see his face, but she knew. He was smiling.

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