Chapter 1| Strong
I look at the view in front of me as I drive. I just arrived at my new home: Montgomery. I’ve always wanted to move here - since I was about sixteen - it was one of my so-called dreams, actually. Finally, it’s a dream come true.
I never had a problem with Florida, I liked to live there to be honest; palm trees, sunny weather, beaches where you can rest, get tanned or read calmly and so on...I just always felt the need of some difference. Even though all my family members still live there and everything, I still needed this. I can find a job anywhere in Montgomery and then visit my family back home.
I know I said my new home, I still consider Tallahassee as my home. So in reality I have two homes...right? Well, we can say my new home - or second home - is Montgomery, because some of my friends moved here a few months ago (that is the other reason why I moved, too).
My new home. I always said that Tallahassee will be the only place that I see as my home. Nothing else. Well, I lived there for my whole life, and I know it sounds weird but I did live there for my whole life..maybe that’s why I need some sort of change. I was stuck in my ordinary life time - I still love Florida though. Also I never thought I would move out of Florida, until I turned sixteen. I always thought about growing up there - which happened - marrying someone, having children and raise them up there, but it’s going to change - maybe. I need to try it out, and then I can decide what I want with my life at last.
I felt that weird feeling in my stomach. The feeling of return, but as I look at the view in front of me all my doubt is pushed aside. Montgomery is beautiful, that’s for sure. I feel a little smile tugging at my lips.
When I arrive at my new apartment, my jaw is on the floor, and don’t get me wrong; it’s not that big, modern and expensive kind of apartment - I can’t even afford that - anyhow it looks really modern for me. And they said it’s not modern at all, then what’s the definition of modern for them? I sure don’t know.
It has a little, but quite nice kitchen in the corner of the room, which is connected to the living and dining room. The living room is really cute and tiny (but enough for me) with a big window which looks absolutely matching to the couch and two armchairs. The dining room is fine, as well, with chairs that look similar to the couch and armchairs, which already won my liking.
While I’m about to check the other rooms, my eyes catch a massive, white door. I open the door and I’m beyond impressed. A balcony. How the hell did I not see this when I stepped foot into this apartment? I shake my head at myself and move to my room; I’m amazed even more: the floor is covered with a fluffy rug that I always liked, some other bedroom relatives and the cute king-sized bed. It looks comfortable, the sheets are purple - my favorite color, by the way - and well made.
Also the bathroom, which is a...bathroom, so I wouldn’t go further with that. It’s really nice, I just don’t know why would I describe a bathroom.
However, as I move back to the living room, I can’t see any televisions. I take that as my task to get a cheap one, later.
After that, I went back to my car and packed all my belongings inside the apartment, which turned out really tricky and hard on my own. With a lot of struggle, I managed to take all my stuff up to my new apartment. When I finished, I dropped myself down on the couch. Though, just as I sit down, I hear a knock on the front door. I groan and stand up lazily.
Behind the door, my best friend stands with a wide smile on her features. I immediately feel my lips curving up into a massive smile, as well. I’m already locked in her arms, before I even know it. I hug her back without thinking. It’s been a while since the last time I saw her and it feels so good to see her again. I was raised next to her, after all.
We release each other a few seconds later.
“You changed so much,” she says as we hold each other’s hands and I smile.
“You don’t look bad yourself, either.” I tease. She rolls her eyes playfully.
“You know what I mean.” I nod and giggle. We fully let go of each other. I make my way to the kitchen and Beth takes a seat on the couch. “Wow, you have a lot of stuff that you have to pack out,” she sighs with a laugh and looks at the boxes that are waiting for me to unpack.
“Don’t even remind me.” I sigh and open the cupboard, finding it empty. Well, of course it’d be empty, I didn’t go shopping or anything, after all. “I’d ask you if you want to drink something, but, um, I have nothing.” I let out a nervous laugh and glare at the floor. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed in front of my friend, whom I known almost all my life. She shrugs simply and I feel at ease. “Anyway, how did you know I live here?” I ask her curiously, changing the topic.
“Oh, Max told me you’ll be living here.”
“Of course - I talked to him this morning telling him where would I live and stuff.” I chuckle.
“Yeah, and you didn’t even involve me in that conversation, in turn, I thought I’m your only best friend,” she puts a sarcastic pout on her face and I stick my tongue out at her.
“And where’s Max at?” I ask her a few moments later, ignoring her childish comment. She shrugs again. “You’re the best person in the whole world when it comes to helping.” I remark sarcastically with a fake scoff. “But really, can you help me pack all this stuff out?” I ask her.
“Of course, you know, I’m not that lazy.”
After we packed all of my belongings away (which took a good three hours or so), I found myself lying across my purple-sheeted bed and it’s just then that I realize it has quite a good scent.
“What are you doing?” I stop sniffling the soft sheets when Beth comes into the room.
“Uhm...I’m sniffling the good-scented sheets?” I say, but when I hear it with my own ears, it sounds rather a question than a statement. She furrows her brows.
“You’re weird,” she remarks with a giggle.
“I never said I wasn’t.” I sit straight up and look at the clock on my nightstand. Six PM. I groan and drop myself back on the bed.
“Anyway, I found a good job for you.” Beth smiles as she ignores my struggle of keeping my eyes open, even though it’s not that late. You can’t blame me...I’m absolutely tired. “You will be working in a coffee shop,” she claps her hands excitedly and I instantly feel my head snapping at her direction, wide awake this time.
“Are you serious?” I send her a glare and her smile fades quickly. “What?” I dumbly ask.
“Jane, what is wrong with you? I know you wanted to get a ‘better’ job, but you just moved here - you have to start with little things before you reach the bigger ones,” she says wisely and I let out a breath of disappointment.
“You’re right, I can’t think like that. I just always see that spark before my eyes of being something big.” I say sadly. “And...that coffee job doesn’t sound so bad.” I slowly admit.
“I know,” she grins. “Still, you should be glad for the little things first.”
Beth shortly left after our exchange of words, and her statement made me think. I couldn’t even sleep that much - even though I was extremely tired.
I know I should be glad for the little things before I would get the bigger achievements first, but I always have that little flash before my eyes that says: you can do it. If you’re capable of doing big things, why not doing it right now? She was right, still. I need to think clearly. And I’m not saying I give up, because I’m not giving up...ever.
The next morning as I wake up, I take a quick shower. The water hot against my sensitive skin, but rather calming. As I step out the bathtub, I stay still in front of the damp mirror. I wipe my right hand across the mirror, revealing my reflection in a blur. A blue towel is wrapped around my body, my dyed brown hair is wet and messy and my face looks natural, hooded with a little smile. I look completely fine. I thought I’d look quite broken for leaving my family, but as I look at my reflection in the mirror I know I was wrong and that this change will make things better.
After looking at myself in the mirror, I get dressed in a simple white top and denim jeans. I put a checkered blouse over the white top and pull on some black shoes. I make my dress complete with some accessories with my favorite necklace that I was given by my dad. I blow dry my hair, brush my teeth, and put my hair up in a little ponytail.
After my morning routine, I head to the kitchen. As I open the fridge, I realize I have no food. Yesterday after me and Beth packed away, I totally forgot that I have no food. I note this as one of my businesses today of buying something to eat.
I sit down on one of the stools, bored. It’s nine o’clock, which means I have three more hours to kill until Max arrives. I could go do some grocery shopping or call my mother. I go with the latter; after I called my mom, I can simply go and find some store.
I grab my phone and dial my mom’s number. We talk for a great pass of an hour and I could also hear my little puppy barking through the speaker.
I haven’t talked to my mother yesterday and that’s the reason why I really wanted to call her today. She said she was worried sick because of me not calling, so I told her I’m sorry. I forgot to call her yesterday, she can’t blame me; I was really exhausted!
I hear my stomach growling and I don’t think twice; I grab my car keys and drive to the nearest store I can find.
I skim the pack of foods with my eyes on the shelves as I push the cart - not even bothering to be careful. I found a quite big store near my apartment. It’s not that crowded, but not even empty either. I’m not complaining though, I’m fine with it. I just need some food, anyway.
I stop walking and pushing the cart when my eyes catches a glimpse of the gummies laid out. I haven’t eaten gummy sweets in a while, and let me tell you I love them. You could say it’s one of my favorite kind of sweets and candies.
Not thinking, I release my grip on the cart and grab six packs of the gummy (one sour, a few Haribos and so on), despite the low amount of money I actually have. As a little girl who just received her treats from her parents, I hug the packs of sweets in my arms, but just when I turn around, I’m knocked to the ground with the treats flying in the air around me. I hiss in slight pain as I land on my bum.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to crush into you, I-you were just sudden at turning around and I bumped i-into you,” the boy stutters as I stand up slowly.
“It’s okay, it was an accident.” I say, while I crouch to pick up the gummies. “Don’t worry.” I add and stand up, putting the packs in the cart. I look at the boy for the first time. A shade of black eyes stare into my dark brown ones. The boy smiles and opens his mouth to speak.
“I see you have an obsession with bear gummies.” I look at the sweets in my cart and chuckle.
“Well, what can I say...”
“I’m Donnie, by the way,” he offers his hand for me to shake it and I take it.
“Jane.” I smile kindly.
“I have never seen you here before,” he admits with confused eyes, but let a smile out on his face, nevertheless.
“I just moved here yesterday.” I explain. He continues to smile.
“Well, Jane, I’d really like to exchange more words with you, but I need to go - I’m sure we’ll see each other again, sometime,” he waves and walks away.
“Yeah, I’m sure.” I say to no one, but myself.
I’m surprised I found my apartment the way back - I thought I’d drive around the whole city on and on until I find my way back. Anyhow, my mind wondered about the boy I met today - Donnie. He spoke very formally, even though he looked really young - younger than me. He was well taught, I guess.
I make breakfast and wait for Max.
The sound of door cracking makes me jump and look up from my phone. My eyes instantly finding their way on Max’s. A wide grin is evident on his handsome face and I’m sure mine’s just the same. I jump up from the couch and run, more like crush, into his arms. His strong arms find their way on my waist, tightly and securely - warming my whole body up. My arms lock behind his neck, putting my head on his shoulder - he isn’t that towering tall, so it’s not a big struggle for me.
“You still don’t know how to knock politely.” I murmur in his neck, laughing lightly. His laugh engulfs the whole apartment, radiating from his body against mine.
“Well, you weren’t here to teach me,” he has a smug grin on his face, when we release from each other.
“Shut up.” I smack his arm lightly, making him chuckle even more.
“You’re still not strong enough,” he teases me. I sit down on the couch, putting my legs on it as well as my bum. I stick my tongue out at him and get on my phone.
“I’m strong - both in the inside and out.” I say not bothering to look into his eyes or at him, at all. I know he’s joking, but I hate when people say I’m ‘not strong.’ It makes me concerned.
“Whatever you say,” he takes a seat next to me.
“Hey, I am strong.” I say, offended, but managing to put a small smile on my face.
“You’re always on your phone,” he states, changing the subject with it.
“And now we’re saying facts about Jane Robinson?” I ask him sarcastically with a grin. He gazes at me with the same grin. A few seconds later both of us release into a fit of laughter. It’s not that my question was funny or something - it’s the stares that we shared.
“I missed you,” he says after our laughs died down. I smile and lean my head against his shoulder, so he can plant a soft kiss on my forehead. I’ve always loved these kind of moments, when we would just cuddle or laugh together, it makes my heart melt. Oh God, how I missed this. What I really love about Max that whatever we do, we understand each other - we don’t need words to express ourselves, silence is enough.
A few minutes later he speaks up. “Huh, I see you don’t have a TV.” I squint my eyes in a laugh.
We then decided we would go get a television for me - I don’t have that money with me right now to fit in a television in full price, but I think I can handle buying one with monthly payment, although I don’t need a fancy TV. I told Max I can wait to get one, but he shut me off by saying ‘I’m addicted to the screen’...I didn’t complain or counter back.
“You know, you have work tomorrow, right?” He asks as he drives. After a long and exhausting arguing about who would drive, Max won, saying he knows this town, instantly clamping my mouth shut.
I look at him from the beautiful view. He focuses on the road. I sigh and nod. “Yeah, I know; Beth told me.”
“You don’t look happy about it,” he raises an eyebrow and glances at me from the road, motioning for me to tell him what’s wrong. I’ve never had this type of feeling that ‘I won’t tell my best friend what’s wrong, even though I want to’. I trust him with all my life, I would never lie to him about anything and I always tell him what’s up, not just letting it eat me alive. I trust him. He trusts me. End of discussion.
I take a deep breath and look out the window to take a glance at the view, getting lost in it again. “I’m just impatient - that’s all. I wasn’t expecting this,” however, I make the conversation small with that.
I can feel his eyes on me for a second.
“Is it not what you expected?” He asks the question carefully. I just nod, making him let out a deep sigh. “Jane, I told you I can talk to this guy-”
“I don’t want that, you know that too.” I say strongly, turning on him.
“I just want to help you,” he puts his hand on my knee, and it’s on fire. I look at his hand and then my attention flickers at him. “I want to see you happy, Janie.” I internally groan at his pet-name for me.
“I know, but I don’t need this kind of help, Max. I want to do this on my own.” I say softly. “And stop calling me that.” I cross my arms.
“I know you love me calling you Janie,” he smirks and I don’t argue with him.
We arrive at the big technology store. It was huge. Glass covers almost the whole building.
We chose an appropriate tv for my new apartment and..for me. I told Max it’d be okay if we chose delivery, but he was quick and strict of refusing my offer. It’s just a 32′ inch television, after all.
We went back to my apartment and watched some movies and even series together. I already have internet connection and stuff like that - I was quick to get it as soon as I had the apartment, which means a few weeks ago - I also happen to have my own movie collection.
A few hours later I wake up in an uncomfortable position. I stretch my neck and arm, which responds with a cracking sound and I hiss in a slight of sudden pain. I don’t even remember falling asleep. I must’ve fallen asleep during one of the movies we watched.
I yawn and look next to me to see a peacefully sleeping Max. A smile takes its place on my lips. I lean forward and press a little peck on his jaw and he mutters something in his sleep that I can’t quite make out.
I look at the screen and see that it hasn’t been turned off as its light flashes in my face. I curse under my breath; it was on all night and I don’t want my bill to be high. I grab the remote from the coffee table, but don’t press the off button as I see what’s going on in the tv. I turn the volume higher, not caring if Max sleeps or not at the moment.
“...We still don’t know what’s this new virus that has been occupied most of the hospitals in the US - we don’t know the name of it and where it must came from,” says the news reporter lady. “Scientists still working on the progress of figuring out the way of the new-found fungus. It is proved that the virus effects the whole body, associated with potential high fever or other relatives of pain.”
The pictures that plays before my eyes are absolutely horrifying. Hospitals on full with ill patients that has been affected by this unknown virus. Some of them already suffering with fever and pain. The fear and pain on their faces is evident as the camera shows around.
I immediately shake Max’s shoulders with a strong grip at the news. He flutters his eyes open and winces in pain.
“What the hell was that for?” Confusion is clearly written all over his face.
“Look!” I say, motioning to the tv. He furrows his eyebrows, face still tired, eyes squinted from the shrill light.
“...We can’t understand this form of virus and where it must have came from - we’re doing the best we can to fasten the process and to figure out what it is, in urgent hope of an immediate cure,” a scientist repeats what the lady reporter said a few moments ago.
“Everyday people come in with their family, crying and begging for us to do something with their loved ones who has been affected by this infection - those people who come in...” The doctor takes a deep breath, fighting the tears that threatens to break out. “They aren’t able to fight it off. It doesn’t take a week - the most was three days, no more,” the doctor’s tone is emotional and upset as the heavy words leave her mouth.
A new picture comes up and I immediately feel like throwing up. “These kind of wounds came up with the sickness, every people who has this virus in their body, also has this wound with them, and we just can’t get a hold of what it is.” I notice that it’s in Montgomery from the detail on the corner of the screen and I can feel myself getting nauseous.
After the news finishes, I look at Max and he just stares at the tv, unaffected.
“Max-” I start but he cuts me off.
“What do you want me to say?” He looks at me with a look that I can’t really read.
“Isn’t that strange?” I ask him, still shocked by the news.
“What? That a new virus got into town?” He asks the rhetorical question. “There’s always a new one, Jane,” he says, while he stands up.
“No, it’s more than that - those people are suffering and it takes a few days, then they die.” I follow behind him. He opens the fridge and gets a bottle of water out - he doesn’t need to even bother to ask for my permission, we know each other well enough to just let one another take a drink. “And those wounds that comes with the illness?” I pause. “It’s not just a normal virus, Max - it’s more than that.”
“I think you’re just overreacting it.” I part my lips in complete surprise at his words.
“Are you kidding me? Max, you saw the news with me, you can’t-” He interrupts me once again.
“But Jane, why can’t you just relax a bit? I know you’re just upset, because you just moved here a few days ago and the news just made you worried - but you can’t think like that. Why are you always thinking of the worst situations that can happen? Just calm down, don’t worry and stop being so negative,” he says, somewhat softly. I sigh, giving in.
Perhaps he’s right.
“Don’t stress yourself,” he adds seriously.
“Okay, okay...I guess you’re right.” I say, letting out an exhausted chuckle. He comes closer and gives me a warm hug and I think it’s just what I needed.
I’m just overreacting this state, perhaps. And Max’s right - I’m always thinking of the worst consequences, before even thinking it through and coming to the best positive out-come I could manage.
I just started living my new life, right? I don’t need to be stressed and frustrated already. Everything should change and turn right from this point on.