Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chrysalis

“Chocolate cake meeting chocolate frosting –”
August 2010

      Nikki and I had Anatomy at 9:00.

“Once again, no one good looking is in this class. How is that possible? There are about 1,000 guys at this school and not one in here is worth waking up at nine a.m. for,” Nikki whispered.

“Did you ever think maybe…oh, I don’t know, getting up for an education is worth it?”

“Ew. No.” Nikki has always been man-crazy. Since freshman year, she has had well over 10 boyfriends.

“Maybe this is a sign that you should take a break and be single for a while,” I suggested.

“Yeah, right. How about we find you a boyfriend this year,” she asked mischievously.

I began with an over exaggerated head nod. “ABSOLUTELY…not gonna happen.”

“Oh, come on, Kate. You’ve never had a real boyfriend. Surely someone catches your eye?”

“You know I need to focus on school so that I can keep my scholarship.” She turned her eyes back to the door to watch for her next unsuspecting, handsome victim. I couldn’t extinguish the jealous flame flickering within. Born from the upper crust, Nikki had never gone without. Never understood the true meaning of struggling. That’s why she didn’t have to work, like me, everyday to pay for her education, rent, bills, etc... She drove a brand new BMW her dad bought her, just because. The designer tags hung from the sleeves in her closet, and her bank account was bottomless. Of course, I never told her how envious of her I was, and she had the most giving soul. She always tried to buy me trendy boots and purses, but I would never be able to give her anything as extravagant, so I always declined. I wished I had her family, her life, her confidence with guys.

As for looks, she had me beat. Her polished, scarlet locks extended down her back, and thick lashes framed her wide, jade eyes. I’m pretty sure she had never had a zit in her entire life, and why should she? She had nothing to stress over and plenty of time on her hands to be a health freak. You know, “Miss-45-minutes-seven-days-a-week-six-small-meals-a-day.” Whatever Nikki, I thought as she continued the rundown of each guy who walked through the rich, dark wood double doors.

“Oh, oo, oh! Look at him! He’s hot. A little short, but I could wear my new flats on our first date,” she winked.

“Nikki! That’s that guy John you dated last year for two weeks.”

“Oh, so it is. Well, a different year, a different person. Maybe I’ll give him another shot.”

I leaned into her ear. “Did you forget about the fungus thing?” 

“No, I didn’t forget. I’ve never jumped out of a bed faster in my entire life!”

We both held back our gag reflexes and started laughing so hard the other students turned around in their seats and stared at us. Always the two trouble makers. Everywhere we went people would stare at us, usually because they were gawking at Nikki, but other times, we would be kicked out for being so noisy.

“Well surely the fungus is gone by now, you think.” She never took her eyes off of him.

“No, Nik.” I shook my head as another giggle rumbled up my throat.    

“What?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all.”

The door opened then for the last time, and two more people walked into the classroom. The first was Dr. Goormly, our anatomy professor. The second was another student who was obviously late coming in after the professor. The two exchanged looks, and I could tell from Goormly’s grouchy gaze he was not going to forget this student’s tardiness.

Goormly was the professor everyone warned you not to take, but your advisor always seemed to talk you into taking. Throwing out the… “You’re a very studious student.” “I believe you will be just fine.” “You will see that Goormly is not as difficult as everyone says he is.” Advisors will say just about anything to get you enrolled as fast as they can, but they’re not the ones who have to look at Goormly at 9:00 in the morning for five dreadful months either. Who wants to look at a man who has obviously never looked in a mirror before? His healthy mid-section was hidden behind a stretched orange, plaid pant and a green, long-sleeved button up shirt so tight, gray chest hair snuck out from between the pearl snaps. His socks were green, as well, but only so bold with his black sandals. He wore outdated glasses, too tight for his face, and what hair he had left, he gelled into a comb over. If the wardrobe were not bad enough, his face would say it all. It reminded me of the top of an orange where the peel is squished together to the center point. Goormly’s face looked as if all of his features were sucked into his nose. Staring at his disturbing appearance made it easy to tear my eyes away to the student climbing the stairs.

This guy looked about the same age as me with thick, dark, brown hair that came down slightly past his ears and swooped his forehead underneath his white ball cap. His khaki shorts frayed at the edges, and he wore a maroon, University of Oklahoma, t-shirt with the words “BOOMER SOONER” written across the front. One hand was hidden in his pant pocket, and the other was holding onto the strap of his book bag. Above all of this, I noticed his smile. It was the nervous smile any normal person would wear when walking into a stadium-seated classroom full of about 50 college students who are looking at you and thinking, I’m glad I’m not you. He was searching for a seat, and Goormly asked the students to raise their hands if there was a seat open next to them. Immediately, girls started to adjust in their seats and move their book bags out of the empty ones beside them. Nikki piped up, and at that moment, I think I had never wanted to punch her more in my life.

“There’s an empty seat here behind me,” she said as she glanced over to me with that same mischievous look as before.

My chest felt heavy, and my stomach back flipped. Anxiety set in, and I began to fidget. Why is my body reacting this way? I felt the pellets of sweat at my hair line, and I wanted to run out of the class. He hiked up the steps, and the girls in the aisle seats all primped their hair and batted their eyes as he passed each one. Get a grip. You’re only one second away from acting just like those girls. Stay focused. Keep breathing and DO NOT look as he passes. The urge was too unbearable. As I glanced up, he passed the row in front of ours, and I lost myself. His blue eyes pulled me into his soul forever. I stopped breathing.

Nikki nudged me. “Oh my gosh! Did you see how he was looking at you? Hello? Hey!”

I heard her trying to get my attention, but she sounded far away. I was lost in a trance with my eyes in the same spot where those life-altering, blue eyes first met mine.

“Hello! Are you in there?” Nikki stressed.

I jumped as I heard his books hit the desk behind my left ear. Goormly’s drone broke through.

“Your syllabus is being passed around. We will not waste a class session to go over it. You are in college now. You should know how to read, but I will tell you that as for how my other classes go…if you sit in front, you will make an ‘A,’ rows five through 10, you will get a ‘B,” 10 through 15 a ‘C,’ and well, you know the rest. I will be able to tell on Wednesday what grade you really want.”

I looked at Nikki frightened, and saw my reflection in her facial expression. This class would be difficult, and I was already sure it would be the burden of my semester. Within 10 minutes my hand was cramping from note taking. I finally put my pen down and decided to buy a cheap recorder from Radio Shack after work. Better than risking carpal tunnel. My phone began to vibrate in my pocket. I pulled it out and tried to conceal it behind my purse.

                                                                                                               Nik

                                                                           ok so really! i know u saw him.

                                                                               u were still drooling after he

                                                                                       already sat down. Lol

I turned my head and shook it at her. She shook her head up and down at me. I hit reply.

                                                                                                             Kate

                                                                         yes i saw him. maybe i did drool

                                                                            a bit, but it was just a moment

                                                                            of crazyiness. lets just drop it.

                                                                                                               Nik

                                                                            oh stop being like that. maybe

                                                                                        ill slip him ur number

                                                                                                             Kate

                                                                                no! nik if u do that i will run

                                                                             you over with my car while ur

                                                                              on ur date w/fungus boy & ill

                                                                                             steal ur fab flats!

                                                                                                               Nik

                                                                              stop being silly. im not really

                                                                                     going out w/fungus boy

Sliding my phone into the front pocket of my purse, I stuck my tongue out at Nikki. She snorted. A gorgeous chuckle resonated from the seat behind Nikki, and chills crawled up my neck. He was laughing, which meant he probably saw us being silly and me sticking my tongue out at Nikki, or he saw the texts. Damn it! I’m usually pretty precise in every move I make. Why am I acting like this? In pure justification mode, I decided there was no way he was looking at me. He must have been looking at Nikki and saw me drooling and couldn’t stop watching me be weird and obsessed. That’s it. It makes much more sense that way. Now that the world feels normal again, I can go back to being my studious self. I retrieved my planner from my backpack and scanned the calendar to see my work schedule.

*** 

My job had become a place to escape to over the last three years, an escape from the notes, quizzes, tests, and labs. I’ll never forget my first day at Rialto. I applied for the job, because I was a huge movie buff. Coming from a home filled with physical and verbal abuse and watching a mother overdose from prescription drugs created ample reasons to escape in the world of film. Even for just a few hours, I could forget about life outside of those drapery-lined, theater walls and lose myself in someone else’s story. Coming from weekends and summers working at a movie theater back in Tulsa, I had plenty of experience being elbow deep in buttered popcorn and having paper cuts from tearing tickets.

I had been looking for a job for two weeks and was about to give up. I stopped in the downtown corner cafe, The Sandwich Shoppe, to grab an orange pop to cool off from walking the blazing hot sidewalks in dress clothes and high heels. Since it was August, the outfit was a joke. Even the good-looking guy in The Sandwich Shoppe could not stop gawking at me. He spilled the drink twice trying not to laugh, but I was determined to find a job no matter what anyone thought. I walked past a few more window displays until I stopped under an awning to kick off my heels. When I saw the sign on the sidewalk, ‘Happy Hour Drinks – .50 12 oz, .75 24 oz, 1.00 44 oz.,’ I grumbled at the two dollar 16-ounce orange pop in my hand. Just as I slipped the uncomfortable shoes back on my blistered feet, a hammer fell from the roof and crashed onto the sidewalk. A loud, high-pitched voice yelled from the rooftop. “SHIT! Seriously! I’m not a contractor. I am an award winning actor and a hell of a dancer. Why am I up here sweating my ass off?!” I slowly walked out from under the awning, afraid another tool might fall, and squinted to block out the sunlight from my eyes. Standing on the roof, throwing a tantrum, was a tall, skinny guy with blonde punk hair. His tight jeans complimented his white, v-neck tee. His work polo with the Rialto logo was hanging from his pants. He caught me staring and rested his hands on his hips and said, “Well, hello there.”

I squinted, “Death by falling hammer. Not my first choice, but definitely ranks on the freak accident list.” The guy laughed and this unexpected moment immediately brightened my day.

“I’m glad I didn’t hit you with that hammer.” He pointed his finger in my direction. “Because I think we’re going to be best friends.” I laughed at his confidence, and he welcomed me inside.

Heavy, glass doors isolated the cinematic time warp from the rural downtown square. The smell of buttered popcorn, nacho cheese, and chocolate mixed together in an inviting aroma lead customers up the ramp in to the concession stand. A red, wire basket held free, movie posters off to the side, and a claw machine filled with 10 dollar bills wrapped around stuffed animals sung arcade music while children spent their quarters. The walls were dressed with standee cutouts dating back through the 80s, including Edward Scissorhands and Ghostbusters. Towards the back, a hallway lead to a rental section, where new releases, video games, and an even smaller room full of video cassette tapes could be found. A sale shelf of previously viewed DVDs caught my eye, and I was sifting through those when the back door opened. Roof guy wafted his hand in front of his face to create a breeze.  

“It feels good to be down from there and in here with the air conditioning. So what are you doing walking around on the hottest day of August in high heels?”

“Sadly enough, I’m looking for a job, and I was just resting under your awning to cool off.”

“Girl, if a job is all you need, then consider it done. I cannot stand half the people my dad hires to work here, but I think you and I will get along just peachy.”

“That’s it? I have a job.”

“If I put in a good word for you, you’re in.”

“Wow, thanks! I’ve been looking for two weeks.”

“Yeah. The businesses around here hold out for the locals. It’s kind of slim pickings come fall for college students. Just fill this out,” he said as he walked into the office and grabbed the file labeled APPS.

“Thanks! What’s your name?”

“Oh sorry.” He dusted his hands off onto his pant legs and said, “I’m Andrew Caylor, but you can call me Andy.”

“Kate Bradford.”

“Well Kate, fill this out, while I top off your pop.”

“That would be great! Orange soda, if you have it.”

Andy nodded approvingly at my choice and walked towards the soda dispenser. I knew he was right. We were going to be best friends. I finished filling out the application and tapped my feet to the beat vibrating from the walls of the action movie playing in the adjacent room.

I wonder where those heels are.

Goormly shut off the overhead projector and flipped the lights back on. My daydream had obviously lasted long enough that class was over, and Nikki was packing her notebooks into her bag. I jumped up, grabbed my bag and was trying to stuff my book and binder in it while I walked through the chairs towards the aisle. Suddenly, my leg caught on a seat that was not put up. I lost my balance, and my unzipped bag was on the floor, its’ contents spread out while pens and pencils traveled down the steps like a waterfall. Weirder than that, I never hit the floor. Two hands caught me, and Nikki’s face told me it could only be him.

I stopped breathing, and I must have made some unearthly noise when I did because he started laughing and leaned down in my ear. “Are you alright?” My brain had officially gone on strike, and I couldn’t form a single word, so I shook my head. He helped me get on my feet and raced down the steps. Figures. I probably smelt bad or wheezed or something. I’m officially a loser. I mean, no one has actually ever run from me before. As I kneeled down to grab my bag and started repacking, my confidence was shot. Repelling men should go on my next resume under special skills. I reached for my binder. It wasn’t so much his hands as his delicious smell that set me off guard. Chocolate cake meeting chocolate frosting – delectable, absolutely enticing.  His smirk forced me to blush and giggle. Idiot.  

“I think I caught all of your pens and pencils before they rolled under Dr. Goormly’s desk.” Confusion set it, but looking down to his outstretched hand, I found my pencils and pens.

All I could spit out was, “Thanks.” I figured he would have dropped the utensils and left, but he didn’t. He helped me pick up everything and followed me down the stairs. When we were outside the classroom, he stepped in front of me like he was trying to keep my attention. Like he didn’t already have my heart and my stomach, which was full of butterflies at the moment.

“I’m Jake Maxon.”

“Kate.”

I walked around him and past a few more classroom doors before I realized he was walking next to me. His stare was in my peripheral vision, and I built up the courage to break the awkward silence.

“Hey, thanks so much for helping me out back there. That’s why I hate sitting so far in the aisle. It ups your chance of getting bruised trying to get out.”

“Yeah, me too.” He spoke without taking his eyes off of me.

“I’m probably going to move down to the front.”

“Yeah, me too,” he repeated.

“I really need to do well in this class.”

“Yeah, me too,” he said once more.

“You’re repeating yourself.” I couldn’t look in his eyes. I felt like I was going to throw up, and I think almost falling down the stairs would be enough embarrassment for today. He laughed then with the nervous smile he had when he came in the class.

“Sorry. Hey, um do you want to go eat lunch with me?”

“It’s 10:00.”

“Oh. Well how about breakfast?” he asked persistently. At this point, I was perplexed. Why in the hell would this guy want to be around me any longer than he had to?  

“I can’t. I have to get to work by 11:00, and I still need to go back to my apartment to change clothes.”

“You work down at Rialto, right?”

Okay, hot, creepy guy. How the hell do you know where I work? “Yes. How did you know that?”

“Oh, well I’ve seen you there when I’ve gone to rent and buy movies. The Caylors keep my roommate’s and my rom-com collection stocked.”

“Rom-com?”

“Romantic comedies. Uh…it’s a weird guy thing. But I can tell from the look on your face, I’ve creeped you out. I promise I’m not a stalker.”

“No, you haven’t creeped me out. Just an interesting genre choice. Plus, I feel bad, because I don’t remember you coming in.”

“It’s no big deal. I haven’t been in for a long time. I just transferred back from OU.” We were outside walking towards the parking lot, and I was going to be late for work, but I didn’t want to stop talking.

“OU to Northwestern? How does that happen?”

“It’s a long story,” he abruptly answered. Curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to press forward, but the tone of his voice said it was not appropriate. As I stood there trying to create a new topic to break another awkward silence, his lips kept me entertained, drawing me in to another daydream. Or fantasy. The tip of his tongue peeked out between the plump rims, and his breath caught, pulling me from the unreality. Embarrassment blushed my face, as his all-knowing smile heated my skin and ignited my arousal. I have to get out of here!        

“Well, I guess I will see you in class on Wednesday?” I walked backwards to my car, digging clumsily in my purse for my keys. 

“Definitely, or maybe sooner,” he said with an incredible confidence as he brushed past my car and walked further on to the parking lot.

I couldn’t help but watch him as he walked to his car, curiously wondering what he meant by seeing me sooner than Wednesday. Khaki shorts have never hugged an ass so right before. Nikki’s ringtone broke my trance.  
© 2013 by Ashton Ghaemi

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