Letting In and Something New
I didn’t see Axel for another week. Tracy occupied all of my Sunday and Monday to Friday were spent back and forth between school and homework. We did text quiet a lot starting with my apology for not visiting him on Sunday and him telling me that Emilia was back and that her grandmother was fine.
Now, as I wait for the final bell to ring so that I could go home and waste the weekend away, my mind wanders off to the same boy again, who had occupied most of my idle thoughts for the last week.
I have known Axel for a month, barely and the way he opened up to me last week was something that I couldn’t have done. Maybe because he’s used to the pain that comes with the memory while I’m still struggling between believing the reality or shrugging it off as a slow passing nightmare. The way he looked at me when he spoke about his parents, the way his eyes held vulnerability while reliving those painful memories again with me, it felt as if he trusted me to take his pain away.
I sigh and chuckle bitterly as that thought passes by. How can I take away someone else’s pain when I can’t even learn to accept mine? But the trust he showed in me by confiding in me about his life story makes me feel as if he wants me to know that I can trust him too. But can I really?
My mind goes back to a few years ago, just months after the cruise excursion when I met Sean for the second time ever. How he had confided in me about his emotions concerning his mother’s death and his feeling on losing both the real parents. He had allowed me to see his vulnerable side too and I had learned to trust him. Look where that got me.
I shake my head, dismissing my thoughts. Axel is not Sean, not even in looks. Sean and I had hit it off almost instantly while Axel still was Mr. Scowls until recently when we started getting along well, never mind the fact that it was in Emilia’s presence. Last week was the first time we ever hung out alone after the New Year’s night but it all felt too normal for us, as if that’s all we’ve been doing since we met.
Sometimes, I think my weird friendship with Axel is moving too fast. One day he’s Mr. Scowls, ignoring me as if I’m an infested rat and the next day, he’s back to the Axel I happen to catch glimpse of every now and then. But we’re at a good stage of friendship considering the fact that we’ve only known each other for month. Not to forget that I feel different when I’m around him, as if I can be the old Leah I used to be.
With others, I have to play the perfect role of hurt and broken yet strong enough to stand girl but with Axel, I don’t have to play any roles. I don’t have to pretend to be happy with him. I don’t have to think about my pain around him. I just have to be me. Around him, it all comes naturally, the smiles, the fluttery feeling in my heart, the possibility of things being better, everything.
So when the bell rings, I decide to stop by the cafe. I would have gone tomorrow but I realize that I want to see him, drink the coffee he makes and admire his latte art skills.
Tracy and I walk out towards the parking lot together while she is on her toes, gushing about the party that’s happening tonight. “So what are you gonna wear tonight? I’m thinking about shorts and crop top that I bought last week I went to visit Dad.
I shake my head, the idea of another high school party seeming like a scene from the scariest horror movie. “No, I’m not going.”
Tracy frowns and slows on her steps. “What? But why, Lee? We’ll have fun.” She pouts.
“Yeah right. You’ll have fun sucking off Kevin’s face while I’ll be stuck in a really uncomfortable situation with all these people. And I thing I’ve had enough of seeing the golden couple being mushy.”
She blushes at the first part of my sentence. “I will not be sucking Kevin’s face!” She doesn’t realize that she has been way too loud and blushes even harder when onlookers give her nasty looks making me snicker.
“Sure.” I drawl. “But I’m not coming. I have plans anyway.”
She narrows her eyes at me. “What are your plans? And what’s going on with you and that coffee boy, Emilia’s brother?”
My eyes widen at the insinuation. “What? Nothing, nothing is going on with me and Axel.”
Tracy huffs, clearly not believing me. “Right. Because you keep texting someone who you have nothing going on with all the time and not to forget your routine visits to the cafe.”
I roll my eyes. “Emilia works there too, you know?”
“Uh-huh. But what about Axel?”
“Axel and I are...... friends?” Saying it aloud makes me frown. Are we? Friends? I mean, the weird thing that we have going on, can it be defined as friendship? Is friendship really that strange?
“Friends? Is it the new code word for ‘we might be something soon’ because you sure sounded unsure.”
“Forget it, Trace.” My jaw clenched at the possibility. Even if there was a chance of us being something, I couldn’t, still pathetically being stuck over a stupidly gorgeous blonde boy. As if my thoughts had summoned him, he came walking out of the main doors to school, hand in hand with Ronnie, smiling and so in love. The clench in chest at the sight confirmed that I was still nowhere near moving on.
“I’ll pick you up around seven, yeah babe?” I heard his voice ask her.
She smiled, tucking a lose strand of her hair behind her ear and nodded. “Yeah, I’ll see you then.” She then pecked his lips and turned away, moving towards her new best friend’s car.
I had been noticing that she started wearing her hair lose since the start of this year and even grown them up to her waist. She had always hated having her hair lose or long, something about not being able to tame them. But it’s only now that I can put a reason behind that change. Sean had always loved my long hair and had insisted I wear it lose. He himself wore his hair till his chin, not minding at all when the blonde tresses fell over his eyes.
"I love your hair long, baby. You should wear it lose more. Such beautiful hair shouldn’t be tied down." He used to say.
I haven’t let my hair lose since my eighteenth birthday except for the new year’s party.
Ignoring everyone and everything around me, I started my trek towards the cafe. It was some twenty minutes away by car and another twenty on four but I guess the 3:00 pm breeze and a walk around the city would do me and my thoughts good.
I entered the cafe almost an hour later, thanks to me getting distracted by the most recent graffiti art just a few streets away from my school. It was a beautiful mural of a girl, her golden hair dancing with the wind and her arms spread beside her. She was standing on the edge of the cliff Axel and I went to on New Year’s Eve and her face wasn’t visible as her back faced the audience.
The social media said it was painted just last night and since I have never been interested in painting and such form of arts, I brushed it off. But once my eyes landed on the graffiti on the wall of a now abandoned and supposedly haunted building, I just couldn’t take my eyes off.
“Freedom.” Was the shape the clouds in the painting written in beautiful calligraphy.
Something about the mural spoke to me. Maybe the idea of the painting - “freedom” - or the content look in the girl’s one eye that faced sideways towards the spectators because of that freedom. Being free is what made me click a picture of the graffiti before I carried on towards the cafe.
Axel was nowhere to be seen when I stepped in and as usual, only a group of four girls that occupied the table closest to the barista counter and Emilia were present. The latter grinned and waved at me when she saw me. “Leah, it’s been so long.”
“Not that long, just two weeks.” I joked. “What’s up with them?” I asked, pointing towards the girl group who were looking around the cafe as if searching for something, or rather, someone.
Emilia rolled her eyes. “Their order consists of my brother who isn’t on the menu. They can wait however long they want, he isn’t leaving the kitchen.”
I chuckled at that. “Poor he.”
Her eyes twinkled with amusement as she stared at me.
“What?” I asked, getting self conscious.
She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you what me. Axel told me about your little date last week. So romantic.” She said with a dreamy sigh.
My eyes bulged out. “What?! A date? He said that we were on a date?”
She rolled her eyes. “No, but what do you call it when a girl and a boy spend time together,, drinking coffee and talking about their lives? Sounds like a date to me. And that too, in an isolated cafe with no one to disturb.”
“Except a phone call.” I muttered under my breath before rolling my eyes. “Emmy, it wasn’t a date. You have to first ask the other person on a date and then plan it. We were just catching up, like friends.”
Emilia scoffed. “Yeah right. Friends my ass, - ”
Axel’s head popped from the small open window in the kitchen. “Language.” He met my eyes and then disappeared back without a word.
Emilia ignored him and continued, ” - he told you about his family which he never, and I mean never talks about. It was a blind, unplanned, destined to be date.” She said stubbornly.
I sighed. “Emmy -” I started but was again cut off by Axel.
“Hey.” He said, strolling out of the kitchen and giving a really cute, and dare I say, handsome smile.
“Hey.” I said shyly, remembering the last time we were together. I could hear the gasps of those young girl’s behind me but it didn’t matter at that moment. Without another word, Axel got on working on my coffee while Emilia kept giving me amused glances and even made a failed attempt at winking causing me to stifle a laugh.
“There you go.” He said, turning around and passing me my cup minutes later.
I smiled and pulled the cup towards me, eager to see today’s art. Instead of his usual complex coffee drawings, there was a simple “Coffee?” written with white powder and highlighted with dark chocolate ones.
I frowned and looked up at him. “What?”
He didn’t meet my eyes and just shrugged. “Emmy here is too persistent to believe that our ‘hanging out’ was actually a date and kind of ate my ear off when she learned that I didn’t ask you out on a date. It was ‘ungentlemanly.’ So I’m asking you now.”
I chuckled, amused at his sudden shyness. “So you’re asking me out after the date?”
“Just correcting my mistakes.” He shrugged, cleaning the already clean counter.
“You’re asking me out for coffee with coffee?”
He wore an irritated look on his face that melted away when our eyes connected. “Pretty much, yeah.” He must have realized how stupid it was for he muttered a curse under his breath.
I rolled my lips in my mouth to prevent myself from laughing. Emilia groaned from the background and hit Axel’s head from the back. “Stupid. Couldn’t you have just asked a simple “Will you go out with me?”
“Ow, stop being violent with me.” He whined.
“Stop being a baby.” Little Holden rolled her eyes. I couldn’t control it anymore and burst out laughing, both their eyes snapping to me. Emilia rolled her eyes again and turned to Axel, crossing arms and tapping her foot patiently.
He turned to look at me and sighed, shaking his head and muttering something under his breath. When my laughter slowly died down, he met my eyes. “Leah?”
“Yeah?” I said, letting the last fits of my chuckle die down.
He cleared his throat, throwing Emilia a quick glance. Then almost uncertainly, he said, “Will you go on a date with me?”
I froze and my mouth opened and clothes like a fish. “Wh-what?” I choked out.
Axel winced and shook his head, “No-”
Emilia, who was smiling as if her teeth was gonna fall jumped in, cutting him off. “He asked you on a date!”
I let out a nervous laugh. “I -I’m not sure. You can’t force him to do that.”
Axel frowned and looked at me. Shaking his head, he walked from behind the counter and came to stand beside me, turning my body to face his. “Leah, will you go on a date with me?” He asked a little more certainly but I could still hear hesitancy in his voice.
“Uh, Axel, you don’t -”
“I want to. The question is, do you? Will you?”
I gulped and took a step back. Axel was staring at me directly in the yes and I could only ever give a swift glance over at Emilia who was smiling wide but was curious for my answer as she leaned over the counter. I still don’t know what came over me when I nodded in agreement. “I will.”
“Yes!” Emilia jumped and then looked at us and grinned. “Great, then go, drive away into the sunset or something. Go before those girls come to steal you, Axel.”
“Now?” Axel asked, gaping.
Emilia gave him a bored look. “Yes, now.”
He shook his head at his sister’s immaturity and turned to me, giving me that cute smile again. “I think you should call your parents and tell them you’ll be late.”
It took me a while to understand what he meant and by then, I was already seated in Axel’s truck and he was driving away.