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My birthday is this Friday. I will be 24 finally, catching up to the rest of my friends. I hate having a December birthday. Everyone is in a frenzy over the holidays and how much to spend on Christmas presents and what to make for dinner and should they invite Aunt Bea this year and invariably my birthday becomes a side note for most people. Not everyone. My mother has always made a point to treat my birthday as something special. And I don't have it near Christmas, like my cousins do. But still… It couldn't be in May? June?
Sunflowers dotted the field and the grass rose high in the air, swaying dangerously to and fro. I made my way through the noisy grass, careful not to step in any red anthills that would crop up suddenly. I had a mission of sorts today. The river beckoned and though I was tossing aside important work to be here, I didn't care. The river called, with its soothing tones and cool touch. I needed to hide away today, of all days, and anyone who knew me would understand. I reached the banks and stuck my toes in and sighed softly.
The night sky darkened slowly with spots of inky blackness appearing one after the other. The stars appeared, one, two, three. Their light intensified as the night carried on. Their coldness seeped into my bones, as did the wind's sighs. I wrapped my arms around my middle, huddling inside the pitiful excuse for a jacket. Nothing seemed right tonight. Muddled thoughts raced around in my head and then stopped, causing me to worry about where they went. I waited for an answer to come. A clear and concise reason. But it never did. But it was a dreamer's hopeless folly.
The hot light shone in her eyes and she tried to turn away from it. But she found that she couldn't move her body. Her hands and feet were bound and the harder she tried, the tighter the binds remained. She couldn't remember how she ended up on this cold floor, with no apparent chance of escape. Her head ached and she felt the sticky drip of blood down her forehead. A prickly feeling started down near her fingers and continued up her arm, slowly, towards her elbow. She looked down and bit back a scream. The spider moved again.
Twenty-four. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Twenty-four carat rings at Tiffany's. Christmas Eve falls on the twenty-fourth every year. It's an odd number, so to speak. There are no big celebrations for it. There are no cards written specifically for its arrival or parties given in its honor. It sits there, as a passage between the tentative adult years of your early twenties and the definitive age of 25 and beyond. It's filler in life. There's not much more to it. I turned 24 today. I don't feel any different and, honestly, I really can't wait for twenty-five.
Cecelia arrived at the airport two hours late. The car that was supposed to be waiting for her had left twenty minutes before her arrival. The driver had another job to go to and he wasn't inclined to wait any longer. Cecelia found a vacant plastic chair, near an old newsagent, and sat down. She had two pieces of luggage with her and a five-year-old purse that held on by the barest of threads. This trip had been a last minute decision, fueled by her falling out with Dillon. But the pressing feeling inside her also played an important role.
Detached. That was the best word to describe how she felt at the moment. Cecelia looked down at her hands that were currently clutched together, as if in supplication to the God she had stopped praying to a long time ago, and sighed quietly. The feeling of listlessness, of desperation, pulsed inside of her. She felt these stirrings quite clearly and you would expect that she would be bursting with feeling and words and explanations. But she didn't. She was looking in from the outside and saw everything that was going on. But she felt no inclination to act now.
The airport smelled of burnt coffee, cinnamon buns, wrinkled clothes and sweaty lovers. These were some of the things that Cecelia had missed about traveling. The inconvenience and waiting and rude travelers did nothing to enhance her trips. It was all the about the small things. The plethora of magazines at the various newsagents. The Cadbury chocolate bars at the train stations. The hurrying passengers as they run to reach the gates in enough time. The knowledge that though she didn't love to fly that the airplane would enable her to reach a new destination. Or an old favorite again.
Dillon waited by the phone, twisting his fingers together until red streaks popped up on his skin. He had called two hours ago. He knew that she checked her voicemail every hour. Thus he didn't understand why she hadn't called him back by now. The phone call to her apartment earlier had been a bust. Ditto on the call to her friend Patricia, her parents and the newspaper office. Where the hell is she, Dillon thought. They had a fight. So what. They would make up like they always did. Apologies were in order. Then she would forgive him again.
Crinkling the candy wrapper in her hand, Cecelia felt the remaining chocolate oozing out between her fingers. It was a heady feeling. It shouldn't have been. She stood up and walked over to the nearest trashcan and threw away the wrapper. The stickiness on her hands bothered her and she quickly gathered up her bags and headed for the restroom. After finishing washing away the stains on her hands, Cecelia shuffled back to her seat. She checked her watch and decided that she'd better call someone. Turning on her phone, she saw the blinking voicemail indicator. And then she panicked.
He fucking called. She knew what his message would say before she even played it. "I'm so sorry baby". "You're it for me baby". "I'm changing, really, baby". "Please forgive me". "I love you so much". "Don't leave me". But Cecelia had done just that. She didn't go crying back to her parents, (though she could have) or end up at Patricia's place, crying and bitching and ultimately making vodka cocktails to calm herself down. No, she had booked a ticket, (thank God for last minute cancellations), got on a plane, and flew to London. It was the only way.
There were whispers and slightly raised voices coming from behind my parents' bedroom door. My sister had gone in there to tell them something important. Something I was beginning to suspect myself. She had made her decision. Her husband was informed the night before that she wanted a divorce. Three days after their second wedding anniversary. She had been unhappy for a long time and I knew that. I just didn't know what to say or do now. My sister has always jumped into the fire, feet first. I hope she knows what she's doing this time. Because I don't.
The only problem Cecelia foresaw was that the person who was supposed to pick her up had never shown up. Two hours had passed and she was still sitting on the hardest, most uncomfortable plastic chair ever manufactured. She had stowed her phone away and closed her eyes to think. She needed to reach Dominic if she had any chance for some sort of shelter tonight. Cecelia was afraid to turn on her phone though because of Dillon. Shaking her head in exasperation, she grabbed her phone and angrily pushed the power button. And almost dropped it when it rang.
"Are you alright love?" the accented voice worriedly asked. Cecelia had breathlessly answered the phone with a warbly "Hello?" after deftly recovering the device from its freefall to the ground and so wasn't surprised to hear the note of worry in Dominic's voice. "I'm fine Dom. I had just turned on my cell and was surprised by your phone call. I'm okay, honestly". Cecelia could hear Dominic sighing heavily through the receiver, as if wondering to believe what she said or not. "It's fine Cece. I'm just glad I was able to reach you. Are you still at the airport?"
Cecelia weighed her options quickly and made her decision. "Yes I am, and weren't you supposed to pick me up by now? Are we falling down on the job, Dom, or what? I thought you were the man with the plan, the guy who always knows how to get things done in a quick and precise manner. Because based on your performance today, I'd have to say that your reputation is completely overrated." She finished with a note of laughter in her voice and actually felt warm at long last. Dom grumbled and moaned but he quickly responded in kind.
"Ah my dear, dear, deluded, American friend. You are under the mistaken impression that you know better than I do and that I don't have everything under control. And I was actually feeling badly because the driver I had sent left too early and thus you are stranded at the airport. But you know what, that feeling is slowly fading away and I'm wondering if I should even pick you up at all. You know where I live and I think it would do you a wonder of good to find your way here. I think…" Cecelia promptly hung up.
The phone rang almost instantly. Cecelia answered and very smoothly said, "yes?" "I can't believe you did that, Cece. Honestly." Cecelia could hear the laughter in Dom's voice and smiled to herself. "So, you'll come pick me up now. I know you have my information right there." Dominic muttered a few words Cecelia couldn't make out and then said, "About a half hour. Goodbye little minx." Cecelia hung up and leaned her head back against the chair. It was going to be okay now. Dominic would make sure of that. He was the only person who truly understood Cecelia's heart.
Dominic walked through Heathrow at a fast clip; his shoulders hunched forward and hands deep inside his coat pockets. He couldn't believe she was here. The last time they had seen each other had been a year ago. She had met Dillon and it was going to be different this time. The changes in her life would stick and finally happiness would be around the corner. Dom sighed as he thought of all the times Cece thought that a new man would bring that wonderful feeling of completion into her life. It never did. Her heart always ended up broken.
He reached the area where Cecelia was sitting. Dominic was glad she hadn't walked too far away from the gate. He noticed the way she seemed to curl in on herself by tucking her legs up underneath of her and wrapping her arms around her middle. Her eyes were closed, as if in sleep, and she didn't hear his approach. Dom took the opportunity to search her face, noting the dark bags underneath her eyes and the downward turn of her mouth. He ignored the pang in his chest as he sat down next to her. "Cece, love, I'm here".
Cecelia opened her eyes slowly, taking her time to savor Dominic's calming voice. He came. After all her blundering and stupidity and insulting phone calls, he had come to pick her up. She turned her head to finally look at him. His dark hair was sticking on end and those dark blue eyes of his had an intense, wearied look in them. She stifled a chuckle that was rising in her throat though when she saw his scarf. It was wrapped around his neck at least four times and it was a horrid mish-mash of colors. It was completely Dominic.
Dom saw the tears starting to form in Cecelia's tired green eyes and immediately reached for her hands. They were so tightly clasped together in her lap that he was afraid that she was cutting off her circulation. "I'm so sorry, Dom. The last time I spoke to you I was such a bitch and now I'm here, begging for your help. I can't imagine what you must think of me. I'm surprised myself that I'm even here, but I wasn't thinking. I bought my ticket, got on the plane and now I'm here, talking to you. So, what now?"
Cecelia finished her little speech and was doing an admirable job of holding back her tears. But then Dominic grabbed her shoulders and wrapped his arms around her and she lost it. Huge, gulping sobs spilled from her throat and she dug her fingernails into Dom's shirt in a vain attempt to stop. It didn't work. Dom ran his hands up and down her back and made soothing noises into her hair, in an attempt to calm her. After a few minutes, the sobs slipped into quiet tears and Cecelia could breathe again. She timed her breaths by Dom's heartbeat.
Pulling back from the sweaty and emotional embrace, Dominic studied the woman in his arms. Her normally perfect hair was falling out of her ponytail and cascading around her face. The light green eyes that usually sparkled with mischief and intelligence were muted and round with spent tears. It looked as if every worry and ounce of pain was on her shoulders and she couldn't handle it anymore. "Cece, look at me" Cecelia looked up at Dom's request and attempted a smile upon seeing the look on his face. "There is nothing I wouldn't do for you, Cece". "I know".
"Do you? Do you really understand what you did for me all those years ago, Cece? You saved my life. I'm indebted to you and I don't mind at all. Please believe me when I say I wouldn't be anywhere else at the moment. So, please dry those tears, stop feeling guilty and stand up. We need to get to the car so we can get home in time for Louisa's famous tuna casserole dinner. I know how much you love that". Cecelia wanted to say something scathing. Dom knew how much she hated that dratted casserole. She smiled instead.
This Christmas has been insane for my family. Basically the entire month of December has been a little crazy for all of us. As my mother put it recently, it's been one long month of "doctor's appointments, doctor's appointments and even more doctor's appointments". We've all been under a little stress, financially and emotionally. It's been hard to get into the holiday spirit. I've wanted to but it's been almost impossible. I don't care to get involved in decorating or celebrating when my sister is getting a divorce, my dad is recovering from surgery and we're all a little batty.
There was girl who lived in a high tower with a vast vista of landscape outside her window. She spent her days writing in her little brown book, sewing various clothes badly and contemplating when she might be able to leave the tower. She had been in the high tower for ten years now and it was starting to wear a bit thin. An old woman would come by twice a day to leave some food and take care of any other necessities. She would grunt in the girl's direction, but other than that the girl never had any conversations.
I feel like I'm on the edge of a precipice. The wind is blowing and I'm barely able to stand up. I have goose bumps, up and down my arms and along my neck. The prickly feeling on and inside my skin won't go away. Usually, it's muted. Tucked away in a safe place, where I don't dare to go. But it inevitably comes back. It skitters and creeps and slithers. I always feel on edge, never able to escape it. Clenching my fingers, closing my eyes, breathing in and out…these things never work for me. The wind blows on.
That's why when the prince happened along, the girl wasn't as careful as she should have been. He was the first person to really talk to her and truly notice her. The prince had heard of the mystical tower in the east and had decided to take on the quest. He wasn't expecting a beautiful girl to be living inside the tower with no available doors or windows, save the one the girl looked out of every morning. The prince was determined to have her, no matter what. And so the girl didn't complain when he rode off with her.
My old friend from high school contacted me yesterday. I may have burst into tears when I saw her post in my LJ. I immediately emailed her and we've been emailing each other now for the past day or so. I haven't spoken to her in three years and it doesn't even matter. I feel so comfortable talking to her and it's so much fun finding out what she's been up to the past few years. She got married, which is a little scary, but she's happy and that's what's important. I'm happy that I can talk to her again.
The girl arrived at the prince's castle a bit disheveled and annoyed. The prince had spoken maybe two words to her during the entire trip and she didn't appreciate it. He hurriedly helped her off of his horse and directed her into the main hall. "You can meet with my sisters and they will help you prepare over the next few days for our wedding. I have some things I must take care of first. I'll be by later to see you, darling." With that, the prince stalked off and left the girl alone and confused in the drafty hall.
My mother has been rushing around and desperately trying to help me with my New Year's Eve party. Suggesting recipes, buying food, cleaning off tables, are all things my mother has done to help me make this party a success. I think it's something for her to do that allows her to take her mind off of what's been going on in our family the past month. I don't blame her. I just know what's going to happen tonight. This whole thing was last minute and my track record sucks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
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