|Her hand jerked back across the table as he attempted to touch her hand. “I’m sorry.” He said.
“Uh. No. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t expecting…” her words trailed off. She seemed distant to him. As if she were remembering something she wished she hadn’t. Her eyes were dark and her expression grew cold.
“I really have to go. I, uh, just remembered I have to do something.” She snapped. “Sorry” she said back to him as she quickly got up and nearly ran toward the door of the café.
It all happened so fast he didn’t have time to say anything. Not that he would have known what to say to her reaction to his touching her hand anyway.
She ran down the sidewalk with tears streaming down her flushed cheeks. Oh God, were the only words she murmured through the stifled sobs. She met a few strange glances as she turned to run up the crumbling steps to her apartment building. Her uncontrollably shaking hands made it nearly impossible to put the key in the hole. When she finally opened the door, it slammed open with a loud thud against the small, brown side table with the picture of her mother and the glass bowl she put there to catch her keys. Once inside her small, studio apartment she threw herself down on the old, lumpy bed. It may not have been much, but everything she had was hers. She worked and scrimped and saved and never bought anything she hadn’t planned to buy. And even then they were almost always necessities. No luxuries here.
“Why?” she cried. “Why does this always happen? Why did he do that?” She said in a barely audible whisper. “Why do I let him get to me? Even after all these years he still affects me so.” After a moment she says, “Bastard!”
She gets up and walks to the dimly lit bathroom hardly big enough for one person. She turned the old, stained handle and water flowed. She cupped her hands under the water for a moment before bending down and splashing her face with the cool water. After a few more times she stood up and looked in the mirror and said to herself. “Get a grip would ya! Are you gonna be a basket case your entire life? Sheesh!” She turned and grabbed her bath towel hanging over the shower curtain rod and dried her face. “Oh Lord… Jeff!” she exclaimed looking back over her should at her purse. “He must think I am a complete flake.” She quickly went over to the bed where her purse lie and rummaged through and grabbed her phone. Dialing his number she bit her lip.
“Hello? Amber? Is everything okay? I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to move so fast. Please forgive me.” His words came so fast she barely had time to process what he was saying. After a short pause which seemed like an eternity to Jeff she finally wrapped her brain around what he said.
“No. No. Jeff, you have nothing to apologize for. But I do.” She paused a moment. “And I would much rather apologize in person and possibly explain my actions. Would you mind coming to my apartment so we can talk in a more private setting?”
“Uh, sure. When would you like me to come over?”
“How about now?” she replied softly.
Jeff knew something was wrong just from the tentativeness in her voice let alone the way she ran from the café leaving him speechless. Not to mention all the odd looks he got from the other people in the café. “Okay. Now it is. I should be there in a bout 15 minutes.” Jeff turned his car around to head back toward the center of the village. He’d been down this stretch of road hundreds if not thousands of times. He’d grown up 5 miles outside out town and would ride his bike here to play with his best friend Billy who lived above Mr. Miller’s grocery store. Mr. Miller always said, “If we ain’t got it, you don’t need it.” Jeff never thought how funny that sounded as a kid growing up in Reidsville. He always thought that it was true. Mr. Miller always seemed to have everything you could possibly need in his store, but when you’re 12, how much could you possibly need. Mr. Miller even stocked extra licorice for Jeff and Billy because they bought a piece nearly every day. Jeff’s mind came back to the present as he found himself on Amber’s street. Jeff found a parking spot a few doors down from Amber’s apartment and parked his car. Looking in the mirror he took a deep breath, ran his fingers through his hair to attempt to make himself look a little more presentable. As he slowly walked up the steps to her apartment, he was filled with apprehension. He wasn’t sure what he was going to hear from Amber. He was really starting to like her. She’s smart, funny, has a great personality and she was beautiful. Not the kind of beautiful that takes women an hour in the bathroom to get ready beautiful, but the kind of natural beauty that some women seem to possess. The big, brown eyes, the long, long lashes, the slender neck that you want to nibble. Jeff stood at the top of the steps lost in his thoughts when Amber opened the door.
“Are you gonna stand out here all day?”
Jeff came to his senses at the sound of her voice. “Huh? What? Oh. Sorry. I was lost in thought. Are you okay?”
“Come on in. I’ll explain.” She turned and walked inside the building. They walked up the flight of stairs to the second floor where her apartment was. “2B, or not to be.” She said with half a laugh. Jeff just smiled. Once inside she closed the door behind them and turned around with her arms held outstretched and said, “Well, welcome to my humble abode. It’s not much, but it’s mine.”
Jeff took a quick look around. “It’s very nice”
“Would you like a drink? Iced Tea? Water?” she asked hospitably.
“Ah. No. Thank you.” He responded standing uncomfortably, looking around noting that there was no place to sit but her bed. Not even a kitchen table.
“Okay. I owe you an explanation.” Amber said bringing Jeff back to his senses once again.
“You don’t really owe me anything, but I must admit you did give me quite a shock back at the café. I wasn’t sure what I had done. I thought we were getting along wonderfully and I thought you were feeling the same things I am feeling. But it’s okay if you don’t have feelings for me. I’m a big boy, I’ll deal with it. And I won’t stalk you either. If a beautiful girl’s not interested in me I can move on without becoming a crazed assailant.”
“Whoa! Slow down boy.” Amber said laughingly, holding up her hand and taking half a step back. “You sure do talk fast and a lot when you’re worried.”
An embarrassed look came over Jeff’s face as his cheeks flushed red. “Yeah, uh, sorry. I, uh, get a little excited and my mouth runs faster than my brain.” He responded sheepishly.
“Wait! You said beautiful. You think I’m beautiful?” her heart skipped a beat. A cute guy with a decent job who isn’t a whack-job thinks she’s beautiful. As she stood there with her mouth half open. “Wait, wait. We’re getting off track. I really need to talk to you. Get things out in the open. This way you can decide if this is a relationship you really want to pursue and I can get it off my chest. Sit down.”
Jeff stood still for a moment as he pondered the words ‘relationship you really want to pursue’. Apparently she did and there is something wrong with her in which she thinks I’m gonna want to bolt when I find out. Amber pulled him down on the edge of the bed with her. She took a deep breath then exhaled.
“Okay. Here it is. When I was fifteen my stepfather raped me, several times before I got the courage up to tell someone.” Over the next hour Amber described some awfully gruesome details of her stepfather’s abuse. And the way her mother took the news so hard that it destroyed her. Four month’s later Amber’s mother committed suicide. And Amber found herself on her own at seventeen. Amber didn’t learn how to deal with all that she went through. No one was there to help guide her or hold her hand or be a shoulder to cry on. She was one month away from her eighteenth birthday and she knew she’d be taken by child services if she stayed home so Amber ran. Once she turned eighteen she was free of running. She eventually got a job at Miller’s. He was nice enough to let her stay in the store room until she could afford an apartment, which he found for her. It wasn’t much, but it was clean and affordable and most of all hers. When Amber finished there were tears flowing down both of their faces. Neither one of them noticed that they had been tightly holding hands the whole time. Jeff could find no words to say. All he could do was wrap his arms around her and hold her tight.
“You’re the first guy I’ve dated since then. And when you touched my hand all those memories came flooding back like a tidal wave and I just couldn’t handle it. I am so sorry I ran off.” She said through gasps.
“No. Don’t you be sorry. I am the one who is sorry. Listen, I won’t pressure you into anything. If you think you might be ready for a relationship, I’ll be here to go as slow as you need. If not, then I’ll leave and not bother you again, unless you need a friend to lean on.” He smiled, wiping her tears from her face.
Amber smiled back and leaned in and kissed him tenderly. “I think I may be ready.”
Word Count = 1712 (according to Microsoft Word)