The Right Time
“There’s nothing to spill.” I try to sound convincing as I walk past them to main front door.
“You forget how well we know you Amber. He’s hot, isn’t he?” Jasmine asks with a giggle.
“Sure is.” Alex answers for me. I may as well tell them, they won’t let it go otherwise.
“He asked me out. I said no. No big deal. Can we drop it now please?”
“What? Why did you say no?” Alex asks, concern showing on her face.
“Because… because I don’t know how to act around guys now. They make me nervous and… and someone is bound to tell him what happened and then he won’t want to go on any more dates with me any way so I may as well stop anything before the inevitable happens.”
“Is that what you really think Amber? That he won’t want to date you just because of… of what happened. Honey if he doesn’t then that’s his loss, but what if he genuinely likes you? Are you going to stay single forever?” Jasmine puts her arm around my shoulders and guides me into the house and up to her room.
“Not forever, but just for right now. I’m still sorting stuff out. He did say he doesn’t give up easily and would most likely ask me out again.” I’m starting to doubt my own reasons for saying no. They don’t sound reasonable anymore.
“Good for him. It seems he knows a good thing when he sees it.” Alex says stealing another cookie as we reach the stairs.
“These cookies are so good. But there’s so many, I’ll give you half, I’m going to eat most of them anyway. What did they cost?” Jasmine comments as she chooses her next one.
“Um, well actually, Ryan didn’t let me pay for them. He just gave them me.” Squeals ring from both of them simultaneously and I burst out laughing.
Maybe coming here tonight wasn’t such a bad thing. I’ve missed just hanging out with my friends, laughing and joking. Talking boys and makeup. Maybe it really is time I put everything behind me; memories included and just move on with my life. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for so long but just haven’t been able to. I never wanted to be a victim, but isn’t that what most people say? I mean in reality who would want to be a victim. No one would.
I survived everything, yet on the inside I’ve still acted like I didn’t, sometimes I’ve felt like I was still there. But I’m not and it’s time to finally start being the real me. From this night I’m not going back. I’m taking charge of my life, like I should have done six months ago.
I’m a survivor. It’s time to start acting like one.
The next week passes quickly, but things have changed. Not outwardly, but inwardly. To everyone else nothing has changed, I used to put on a good show. But inside it’s like a switch has flicked; something this week has just settled in my soul and my mind is lighter. Even my nightmares have lessened; not gone completely but I’ve had three nights where I slept through. No nightmare, no dreams, nothing, just sleep. Blissful, peaceful sleep. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up after a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
School has been great; I’ve been participating in class more and actually having conversations with people. It’s nice to learn new names; a few people thought I was new and had started late but I guess I should accept that with the way that I hid myself away. I’ve spoken to Jasmine and Alex almost every day, it’s amazing what a difference a week makes.
I have however been avoiding one place and one person. The coffee shop, and Ryan. It’s not that I don’t want to see him, in fact it’s the opposite. I actually do want to see him. I think I’d like him to ask me out again, but I just hope he meant what he said and doesn’t give up easily.
Saturday rolls around quickly and I bend down tying the laces on my running shoes tightly. I glance out the window and can see the rain starting to fall but I don’t let it put me off. I’ve wanted to run all week and haven’t had chance so I won’t let the rain stop me now. Stepping outside I push my earphones in my ears and turn my music up. I let the song tempo guide my running speed and start, one foot in front of the other. Breathing in and out. It feels different to usual. I’m not running to clear my head, I’m just running because I want to run. A smile fills my face and I wave to the person running on the opposite side of the road.
Freedom; I haven’t felt this much freedom in so long. I get to the point in my run where I have two choices of direction, into town or into the woods. I stand still for a while deciding which way to go. It’s usually not even an option. I go into town, but today is different. I feel it calling me; pulling me into its depths; but I don’t feel afraid. I feel awake, alive.
I push forward past the trees, staying to the paths that’s been worn down by others walking and running here. I take in the trees, the leaves, the smells. I feel my feet start to feel wet in my trainers and mix of rain and the damp sodden earth.
I come to a stop and lean on a nearby tree trunk to catch my breath and take a look at my watch. I’m usually home by now, I must have lost track of time running in here and suddenly the feeling of panic sets in. I feel foolish for having come this far into the woods without even realising it. I yank out my earphones to make more use of my senses. Listening for anything that I should be aware of.
But there’s nothing. Just the rain on the tree tops, the wind through the branches and the birds singing their morning tunes. My panic subsides and a laugh leaves me.
“Get a grip Amber.” I quietly say to myself. I push my buds back into my ears and run back the way I came. Following the track, taking me back home.
I walk through town later on that day with a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I passed a test. One that only I knew about and I was the examiner. In celebration I decide to do a little shopping. It was time to buy some new clothes, I was growing tired of wearing the same old things. Bags in hand I push open the glass door of the coffee shop and hear the familiar jingle of the bell above the door. For a Saturday afternoon its quite empty, although the rain has probably kept most people inside their own homes today.
Ryan looks up from his usual position behind the counter and smiles a genuine smile that reaches his eyes.
“I was beginning to think you had left town without saying goodbye.” His cheerful banter putting me immediately at ease.
“Oh there’s no way I could leave town without buying one last cookie.” I smile back to him.
“So you’re just avoiding me then?” He asks as he turns to the coffee machine to start preparing a drink.
“Not avoiding. Not entirely anyway.” I say while looking into the glass cabinet to choose which cookie I want.
He places the coffee cup on a tray and reaches into the cabinet pulling out my favourite cookie and places it on a plate next to the cup.
“So, avoiding a little?” He asks, while coming to stand in front of me, pushing the tray towards me, indicating that’s its mine. I’m a little stunned that he has prepared for me exactly what I want without me even having to ask for it.
“Maybe. The girls really loved the cookies by the way. They said to say thanks.” He just nods his head and smiles.
“And what do you say about them?” He asks while holding my gaze.
“They are some of the best I’ve tasted. You’ll have to tell me your supplier.” He stands back in shock.
“Supplier? Oh no they are baked fresh in store every day.” Now its my turn to stand back but with genuine shock.
“Well then you’ll have to introduce me to the baker. Maybe they could teach me the recipe.”
“Maybe… So what brings you here after so long away?” He picks up my tray and carries it to a nearby table. I follow along behind him, grasping my cup as I sit down. Thinking about my answer. He has bought me here, the coffee is good but its not the only coffee store in town. Not that I’m going to let him know that though.
“The cookies of course… Maybe the coffee.” I laugh as I reply and he chuckles along with me.
“So what have you been up to? What is it that you actually do? Apart from what your favourite drink and snack is I don’t actually know that much about you.”
“I’ve been doing this and that.” He raises his eyebrows and leans forward on his elbows.
“This and that? That’s very vague.” I just shrug my shoulders and break of a part of the cookie. I can feel my confidence growing. I like the feeling it gives me. I realise I like talking with Ryan.
“What if I asked you out again? How vague would your answer be?” I feel the blush rise in my cheeks.
“Well you would need to ask me out to find out.” I lift my eyes to him feeling emboldened by our flirting. Amazed at my ability to act like a normal person again. The bell above the door chimes and he looks away to see how many customers have just walked in from the rain. Smiling he stands from his chair.
“Hold that thought. Enjoy your coffee. Don’t go anywhere.” His commanding yet playful tone makes me laugh as he walks to greet the customers. Pulling out my phone still smiling to myself I work out in my head the message I’m about to send the girls. I hit send and within seconds my phone starts ringing and I chuckle to myself.
“When, where? How did that happen? I’m so proud of you. Told you he liked you.” Alex’s excited voice screams into my ear without even saying hello.
“Calm down will you. He’s going to hear; and he’s not actually asked me yet.” I smile at the thought of my best friend. Knowing she will be smiling from ear to ear right about now.
“Yeah but lets face it. It’s a done deal. I mean you’re gorgeous and he was clearly interested. Did you even pay for your coffee today?” I watch Ryan interact with the customers. He is such a natural with people, friendly; and despite Alex’s confidence that he will ask me out, maybe he was just being friendly to me too. Being good at his job. He catches me watching him and winks at me with a small smile.
“Amber… You there?”
“Sorry I got distracted. No, I didn’t pay for my coffee, I didn’t even need to ask for what I wanted. He just knew.” The thought brings another blush to my cheeks.
“That is so cute. You are planning on saying yes aren’t you? And maybe you should pay for your coffee next time, you don’t want him getting fired because of you.” She laughs, but I can tell she’s happy for me. This week has been the first time in so long that I’ve been remotely interested in anything but my own self-pity.
“I gotta go he’s coming back. See you later.”