Edd: Well, seems like you've had quite the agitated life Marie.
Marie: I guess, I just can't ignore my feelings.
Edd: It is not a bad thing dear, if I may call you that, but… why me?
Marie: 'Cause you are my one true love.
Edd: Be serious. You have not seen or been with me for years… what if I'm a different person?
Marie: If you were, you wouldn't get like…this.
Marie straddled Edd as they sat on her couch. The sun was setting, the gorgeous aura that enveloped Marie as Edd watched her over him was breath-taking. An angel, an illusion, and as Edd absorbed her image a small voice in the back of his head whispered, in a too familiar voice, "Hey Dork.".
Edd smiled up at Marie, she looked stunning and…provocative, for any guy. Her right shoulder was bare as both her bra and shirt slipped, her gaze lustful as she bit her lower hip, staring at him. He could feel her legs wrapping around his waist, pulling him close… and her flushed cheeks, which usually meant one thing. Edd chuckled, his rational mind always too dominant.
Edd: C-Calm down... I will not be convinced by means of the flesh.
Marie: Ever so proper. I love that.
Edd: Marie… if you wish to prove to me that this is real, you have to do it the right way… not… temptation.
Marie: Oh, so you ARE tempted.
Edd: You are putting words in my mouth.
Marie: Maybe I can put something else.
Edd: Must you resort to puns?
Marie sighed and quickly straightened up, pulling her straps up and slowly getting off Edd- filling her glass with wine almost to the rim. She was upset, she had never believed a man would ever be able to deny such an open invitation to… sex… and yet, Edd could. As Marie gulped the wine down, her frustration changed to intrigue, desire and anger… she wanted him.
Edd: Marie, I am sorry, don't be upset.
Marie: I'm not.
Marie lay her glass on the table as she looked at Edd in the eyes and grinned. She stretched her legs over his, she felt comfortable, like they fit.
Edd: I still have to give you your present.
Marie lifted her gaze in awe, she wasn't expecting him to be this prepared. Then again, she felt foolish for such an honest reaction. Her Edd would always be prepared.
Marie: I thought you were my present.
Edd: I think someone like you deserves something better than just me.
Marie felt her heart skip a beat as she heard those words. That self-pity and low self-esteem, despite acting so confident… she disliked it. Especially since she saw him as nothing less than perfect. She clenched her jaw and looked away as she answered him in a stern voice.
Edd looked at Marie with a more alert mindset. He had known Marie for years and despite their long talk which had run into nearly 6:00 pm (judging by the solar position), she was still the same girl he had once shared so much with… maybe more grown up and cultured- a citizen of the world. Still, when she got upset or mad, she was difficult to deal with. But…if she was the same…
Edd: "Don't" what?
Marie: Talk like that… as if you are…
Edd giggled and started rubbing and massaging her legs, they were long and curvaceous, slim and athletic, yet not muscular. Edd smiled as he felt his hands find their way, as if he knew what to do… as if he knew her body.
Edd: I know… I still have that bad habit.
Marie moaned a little, moving a bit closer to him.
Marie: I find it unfair that you want me to try again.
Edd: To meet someone you don't have to try. If you must try…then…it's not a real and genuine relationship. Only when you stop trying, stop searching will you find your real path…your real dreams. They just…happen.
As Edd said this, he remembered he had wanted to share some news with someone, but between Kevin, Marie, and all the events in between he had forgotten…or, been carried away.
Edd: By the way, I must…
As Edd lifted his gaze, he saw a very fragile Marie breathing heavily, looking at him… as if his touch was electricity running through her body. He laughed shyly and covered his mouth…almost in a girly fashion. Marie quickly reacted and hit him with her open hand repetitively on his shoulder.
Marie: You are mean! You are so fucking mean!
The two of them quarreled playfully for a bit before a sudden ring and the sound of a cell vibrating stopped them. Edd was once again over Marie, between her legs and their hands were together over Marie's head, their breathing, heavy.
Edd bent over and laid a tender kiss on her cheek as he whispered in her ear.
Edd: Sorry, I must get that.
Edd moved swiftly, but with grace as he lifted his weight off Marie to pick up his phone.
Edd: Hello, this is E… Oh, Hi!
As Edd got off the couch and moved away, Marie breathed deeply, regaining her composure. She watched him walk away and lower his voice, as if he didn't want her to hear. Another girl? Her present? Something or someone else? A mixture of feelings flooded Marie as her mind tore itself between the options, yet she tried to remain cool. Today was her birthday and Edd had promised he'd stay with her.
As Marie got up from the couch and stretched, Edd hung up. Though her back was facing him, he could appreciate how well they years had treated her and how spectacular she had turned out: an athletic body, slim waist to accentuate her hips, athletic arms and shoulders with her muscles toned and noticeable as she stretched her arms, a nice slim neck, and a strong back, her hair always perfect and short.
Marie: Who was it?
Edd quickly snapped back as he mustered an answer.
Edd: OH, ah, well, i-it was nothing… but you should get dressed.
Marie: Hmm, doesn't sound like nothing.
Edd: It's… a surprise… I th-think we should go now.
Marie didn't look at Edd as she made her way up the stairs, giving him one last look at the top. He looked nervous, just like back in prom. Marie laughed and looked away as a tear escaped her, she walked into her room.
Back in the living room, Edd breathed in heavily. He hoped tonight everything went right. He smiled as he remembered how much he used to share and spend his time with Marie. It felt so long ago… like a different life time. A slow hollow sensation filled him. He loved her… but… something was missing. As Edd tried grasping his thoughts, finding what was it that he couldn't find, he heard steps. He turned and couldn't prevent his jaw from dropping and his eyes widening and Marie walked down with a gorgeous white-collar short-sleeved shirt with a white bow on her chest, a navy blue silky skirt which dropped knee-high, blue sandals and a petite navy blue matte colored steel purse. Her make-up was simple eyeliner and creme lipstick… it was all she needed.
Marie: That good?
Edd: I…um, Y-, Uh, Am…
Marie laughed, a genuine laugh. She covered her face as her flushed cheeks got hot. Edd giggled too as he regained his composure.
Edd: Sorry, you look… breathtaking.
Marie: I could see that.
Edd giggled and walked up to her, offering his arm so she could grab on to.
Marie: Where are we going?
Edd: To celebrate your birthday.
Marie smiled as they left her loft and wondered if this was all too perfect to be true.
Their walk was pleasant. Marie lived so close from World Avenue, which allowed Edd to insist they walk to their destination instead of taking her bike… and the fact that Marie wore a skirt (best argument, actually). They joked, they laughed, they shared a bit more of their lives since the last time they saw each other. It was as if time had gone back and they were the same misunderstood teenagers from High School. Yet, something gnawed inside Edd, a feeling of incompleteness, as if the pieces didn't quite fit. As they shared jokes and laughs he felt guiltier for not being able to share this feeling of love Marie expressed to him so openly.
Marie: Ok now, what's your biggest guilty habit?
Edd: What do you mean?
Marie: You know, a bad habit you have that you actually can't stop from doing.
Edd: I would like an example, tell me yours.
Marie: Well… I kinda kiss people to thank them or if they are like family to me.
Edd: But that's an euro habit. Some European countries have that mannerism as part of their culture.
Marie: Tell that to most people around here.
Edd giggled girlishly.
Edd: I guess not many know that. Makes quite understandable your concern of judged and looked at.
Marie: Shut up!
They both laughed a bit, Marie clinging Edd's arm a bit more tightly in an intent to punish him.
Marie: A'right, which is yours?!
Edd: Well… I guess it would have to be my inquisitor mannerism.
Marie: English, honey.
Edd giggled and passed a finger through Marie's hair, revealing her always concealed left eye.
Edd: I always ask too many questions.
Marie: Yeah… you do.
Marie cupped Edd's hand, nuzzling it for a bit. It was thin and boney, smooth and soft… it was something hard to forget. Most men usually have rough skin caused from hard work or exercise or something that makes them tough. Most girls even like men with strong or big hands. Yet, Marie felt the touch of Edd's small, delicate and soft hands to be the best.
Edd's voice was almost a whisper, but Marie reacted to it with a jolt.
Edd: Are you tired?
Marie: NO, no, no…let's go on.
Edd smiled and they walked up the avenue for a while. They had stopped for a while, and Edd had thought Marie had dozed off a bit as her faced turned peaceful and relaxed when she grabbed his hand. He liked that she loved his company… and he loathed he couldn't commit to more… for some reason that still escaped him.
Marie: Where are we going?
Edd: You'll see…it's closer than…
As Edd looked up ahead to point at the restaurant "La Famiglia", he noticed 2 figures whose silhouettes he knew too well.
Marie: What is it?
Edd: Are those…?
Marie lifted her gaze to see straight ahead and felt an involuntary jolt from her body as she identified both figures who stood straight ahead. Edd walked straight forward and Marie almost felt as if she was being dragged by him. She really didn't like Kevin and she never thought she'd get to see the first stranger she …met in the city. Thankfully, they stopped a few feet from them, allowing Marie to breathe and not get swept by her wave of emotions and prepare mentally. She was oblivious to the situation Edd was seeing, and made something in him cringe. Lyon was hugging Kevin, one arm around his waist and the other on his neck… Edd felt a knot in his throat.
Lyon was the one to act. He noticed Marie and Edd a few feet away, illuminated by the yellow light from the light ropes that had been hung a while ago…Lyon had to admit, they looked like a couple. He raised his arm and waved at the pair, friendly, invitational and open. He could only hope Kevin could control himself at the sight of them.
Edd and Marie both took a deep breath and gave a step toward the guys together, simultaneously and coordinated. They immediately looked at each other and giggled.
Lyon: Well, well, look who's spying on us Kev!
Kevin: Hey Dork, what you doing with her? You a couple now?
Lyon shifted to face Kevin and looked at him with a stern face. Over the past hour he had managed not only to hear him out, but to also lift him from his slump. He had heard him mumble about his emotions in the last weeks and about how he disliked Marie (apparently an old acquaintance of Edd) and how he had a huge fear… one Lyon had no idea how to help with. It had been a long talk, and he was thankful his roommate and beloved friend had trusted him with so much. Yet, as they were about to leave, Edd and this girl had just showed up… the worst thing that could happen at that moment.
Marie: And so what if we are?
Lyon sighed, he knew his efforts would be useless. Tension between them was palpable and almost suffocating.
Edd: It's Marie's birthday.
Edd's voice was more of a squeak, barely audible and said very quickly. As the three turned to look at him, they saw his eyes were wide, his skin pale and his hands were fidgeting. On cue the three of them reacted.
All: You ok?
The three of them looked at each other, and Lyon mustered a laugh as Kevin managed to breathe in and Marie grabbed Edd's hands, steadying them. The tension had vanished for the moment.
Kevin: I guess I should say a happy birthday.
Marie: I don't need it from you!
Lyon: Then on behalf of US, let me say happy birthday gorgeous.
Edd giggled as he breathed in, and got some color back, his heart still aching.
Marie: Ok, player… what's your name?
Lyon: Call me Lyon.
Edd and Kevin: It is short for Lionel.
They both exchanged glances and immediately diverted them. Kevin looked up at the moon, tucking his hands in his jacket as Edd lowered his gaze, shyly.
Lyon: Yeah yeah, but I'm not a fan of it. And yours is? I didn't get it last time we met.
Kevin and Edd: You two know each other?!
Kevin and Edd looked at each other once more and they shyly giggled to themselves as they looked away. Marie, however, blushed crimson and dropped her gaze at Lyon's question, but answered.
Marie: Marie Kanker.
Lyon: Lovely name, my last name is Vellante you know.
Kevin: You never say your last name, idiot...
Lyon: Exceptions are made, besides… it's her birthday.
At the last, Lyon hit Kevin softly on the ribs with his elbow, a scold for his earlier actions.
Kevin: Yeah… I guess… happy birthday, Marie.
Marie: Hmph, whatever.
Kevin: And, how did you two meet?
Marie dropped her gaze as her face blushed in shame, Lyon was the one to answer.
Lyon: Well, I do meet many people Kev, today was a great example.
Kevin: It was nothing…
Lyon: Wow, I won't invite you next time then.
Kevin punched Lyon on the shoulder and they all laughed a bit as Marie saw Lyon wink at her. She felt relieved and surprised. If the first impression wasn't good enough, the second was quite the surprise… but why was he with Kevin? They were contrary in personalities, and she never understood what it was that people liked about Kevin. In all the years they went to the same school Kevin was the jock, the bully, the meat-head, the rich boy, the one to pick and torture the Eds (especially hers). She never understood why, and things didn't seem to change here... or had they?
Lyon: Well, I guess we'll be leaving now.
Edd: Where are you going?
Marie felt her heart clench at those words… she had hoped Edd would be only hers tonight, on her birthday… seems like he didn't feel the same way.
Kevin turned his back.
Kevin: Wouldn't like to interrupt your date.
Edd felt a stab as Kevin gave a step away from them, down the avenue where they had come from. Why was Kevin with Lyon? Where they always so close? Was it… too close? Edd felt a knot grow in his throat, preventing him to answer back at a Kevin getting further and further away with each step. He had to control himself… he had never lost his composure so much around another person… at least a male. Edd breathed in and sighed trying to swallow down the knot in his throat, mustering a smile and wave to his 2… friends as they walked away. Yet, Edd felt transfixed as he watched the magnificent silhouette of both boys walking down the illuminated avenue and giving them an astral aura.
Lyon: Enjoy yourselves, love birds!
Those were the last words heard as both boys walked side by side down the avenue, the strings of light rope illuminating the way and making them also seem closer than what they appeared.
Edd snapped back and looked at Marie once more… regret ripping him apart. He was being a lousy planner for her birthday.
Edd: I'm sorry, we're late… forgive me.
Marie: Hey, it's ok.
Edd sighed and felt a warm hand caress his cheek.
Edd: Well, at least we arrived at our destination.
Marie looked behind her at "La Famiglia", the restaurant she had just presented Edd yesterday. Ruzzo stood on the doorway, she laughed.
Marie: You guys are incredible!
Edd: It was nothing, it seemed appropriate for the occasion…they seem like your family. Birthdays should be spent with those closest to you.
Marie felt tears fill her eyes, but she blinked them away as she grabbed Edd's hand and pulled him toward the restaurant. She was anxious to see what he had planned.
The night skipped away briskly as Ruzzo and the staff had closed shop early to leave the place just for the two of them. The shop was a magical piece of space and time as one literally felt in Italy with all the smells, the ambience, the laughter, the familiar and joyful staff and their strong accents.
As Edd had expected, the name "La Famiglia" was not just an allusion to the type of ambiance created in the shop but also to the fact that the whole staff was related to Ruzzo in some way: cousins, second cousins, nephews, nieces, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters. Although not everyone worked at the same time and all the time nor in the same place. To Edd's surprise "La Famiglia" was doing very well in the current economy with their very genuine Italian food and shop. Ruzzo had actually studied cuisine and most of the family worked and/or studied in some field of gastronomy. The long talks as everyone mingled and celebrated and drank wine immersed Edd into the family that had seemingly adopted Marie as their own. Edd couldn't help but steal a few glances at Marie as she laughed and beamed with joy as she spoke both English and Italian between the girls and some of the guys… she felt at home.
Edd learned that night how "La Famiglia" was actually expanding to other cities, even considering New York. He learned they had a vineyard outside of this City in a warehouse and how the roof of this building was actually a green roof garden with most of their ingredients. He learned the eldest of the family administered the now almost franchise and that the youth studied both locally and abroad, but always returned in festivities and summer to help and spend time with family. To them, family was everything. It was part of who they were and Edd felt captivated as how this behavior and way of thinking actually created individuals without fear to reach for their dreams. Even if they fell, family would be there to catch them.
Yet, his biggest surprise was how Marie let herself loose around these people. She danced with most of the guys. They were tall, athletic or muscular, Italian, charming… quite the contrary from him… and yet, he felt no fear, no jealousy. Though he wondered why, he never had time to ponder on it as Marie or some other girl would come to scoop him up to try and make him dance. He was always clumsy and no number of years of yoga would change the fact he did not know how to dance. He moved quirky and rigidly as he tried to match the pace of the other guys and the girls tried to teach him how to move and use his hips. Some guys even grabbed him and tried to make him mimic them. He found himself laughing and grabbing on to the girls for the most part, always grabbing his beanie and readjusting it with every sudden movement. It was a party.
Soon, the time came to wrap up the night, and Ruzzo came out from behind with a gorgeous and huge Tiramisu (an Italian dessert) with candles. They all stood around Marie, who sat in a chair, and sang to her "Happy Birthday" both in Italian and English. Yet, as they said the last phrase, no blow from Marie came. As the silence settled, Marie sat rigid on her chair with her hair covering both her eyes. Edd knew what was going on, and moved to her side, placing a hand on her left shoulder as Ruzzo placed his on her right.
Marie: I'm s-so-sorry-y.
Ruzzo: Iz ok, carissima.
Edd: Hey, it was a great night.
Marie: Too much! I don't want it to end!
Ruzzo hugged Marie from behind, as she wept. Edd immediately understood her. So many years travelling alone, fighting alone, moving through life alone. Her sisters had been all she had, and she had left them after graduation. She never had a motherly and fatherly figure in her life either… not really. Yet, to Edd's surprise and admiration, everyone quickly moved to join on the hug, hugging either Marie or Ruzzo and making Edd do the same. Edd smiled, and he knelt to grab Marie's hands, making her look at him through her teary eyes and smeared eyeliner- he found it adorable.
Marie looked at him and then at everyone who smiled back at her, she felt so small. She looked back at Edd, words crashing against each other in her throat as she didn't know what to say to him first. She wanted to thank him, to hate him, to love him… to share more with him. A soft tender kiss on her forehead- all too familiar- cleared her mind. She stared back at Edd who cupped her face between his small and soft hands.
Edd: You will never be alone, Marie.
Impulsively, Marie grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him towards her, kissing him firmly on the lips. It was a fast kiss, and Edd could barely react, but he felt relieved. As Marie let go, she smirked at him, cleaning his lips a bit from her lipstick.
Marie: Thank you.
Marie turned to the dessert, which was now melting in its glass container, and gave a single blow to put out all the candles. Every one clapped and cheered, and Marie simply closed her eyes. She felt a slight weight on her shoulder and opened her eyes to see Edd hugging her from behind, supporting her…giving her strength. As Marie looked at everyone around her cheer and drink and renew the celebration, she thought of her wish once again.
"I wish I'll have a family just like this one."
The two boys walked side by side in complete silence as they entered campus ground once again. Their walk down World Avenue had been absolutely silent, allowing Lyon to appreciate the different rhythms and beats mix into a single musical ambiance, characteristic of World Avenue. He smiled, music had been his vice and life for so long. He couldn't remember when he passed a day without thinking, hearing or searching for music. Yet, his dreams lay elsewhere, not the artistic type nor the gastronomical- despite his passion for both. He rarely shared personal information with others and his inner circle of friendships consisted of a handful of individuals… most of which weren't in campus. But, he had Kevin and he hoped Edd could join such select group soon for he liked the guy.
His riches were a product of his own character: challenging, motivated, determined, stubborn, passionate, innovative and knowledge-hungry. He was a foreigner, coming from a modest family who worked hard to send him to college. This, was something he never forgot… and hoped to one day repay. His foodie persona emerged after he succeed in manifesting one of his dreams: his own company. Kevin knew about it, yet was always uninterested in it, and Lyon actually preferred it that way. He had founded his baby with a second partner he had met in a night out on World Avenue. It was a company to help emerging shops or companies to survive, thrive and grow by providing the resources they needed (non-monetary). He loved his company, and it had generated him the current lifestyle he had. But, he still didn't find it…. enough. His eternal flaw, personally recognized. Always wanting more… happiness eluding him, slipping between his fingers like sand when it came in grasp. He wanted love.
As Lyon looked at Kevin, he wondered what was it in his past or in his mind that made him so… toxic and rough on the edges at moments, yet so fun and comical in others. Lyon had learned that our own individual pasts haunt us and affect our personas. But, he had also learned to harness that past for future decisions… not to let it control you. Kevin, was drowning in the sea of his past... struggling for air when it caught up to him. An eternal fight which was destroying his mind.
Lyon: What shall we do now?
Kevin didn't answer. He walked with his head down all the way to campus, hands tucked into his jacket and his face was stiff and unemotional like carved from stone. Lyon was merely following him, probably to prevent him from doing something stupid.
Lyon: Earth to Kevin! Either we call it a night (it's nearly 11:00pm) or (since it's a Sunday, weekend) the night is young and we go do something.
No answer. They had already crossed the parking lot and the Campus caffè where Edd worked. Lyon sighed at the lack of a response but managed to catch out of the corner of his eye when Kevin shifted direction.
Lyon: Hey! Wrong way dude, dorms are this way!
No answer, but Kevin had quickened his pace. Lyon watched him walk away for a moment as he tried to figure out where his friend and roommate was headed- it wasn't hard to catch his train of thought.
Kevin entered the Dome like a robot: locker rooms, changed clothes, grabbed a basketball from the ball basket, signed his name on the list for used materials and opened the doors to the court with his spare keys (earned from the teacher for his exemplary behavior and effort). Lyon was an athlete like his roommate but he honed his body with martial arts for personal defense and mere relaxation when he wasn't training with the football team. Kevin had seen him meditate and train various times before, usually just waiting for them to hang or out of curiosity.
He had never seen Kevin in his uniform- despite knowing he was part of the College team. Kevin looked like a jock… and hot. His toned arm, strong legs and ripped body (though not beefy or bulky) shined on the lit court. His movements were graceful and his dominion over the ball was almost like the extension of his own body. Lyon felt as if watching an artist pour his emotions into a blank canvas. He found it simply breath-taking and beautiful. Raw emotions, raw technique, everything simply being abandoned, absorbed by what the creator of the masterpiece felt… Kevin was trying to communicate.
Lyon took his jacket off and walked into the court. Kevin was dribbling at half court, back turned towards Lyon. He was preparing to walk into a 3 point shot, Lyon began to sprint. As Kevin stopped millimeters from the line and jumped to take the shot Lyon jumped in front of him, blocking his shot with a fierce and loud spike at the ball as it left Kevin's hand. The two boys faced each other with challenging glares, no words spoken.
Their bodies were sweating, Lyon had taken his shirt off, turning their match into a skins vs shirts. They had played for hours possibly, but the adrenaline had kept them going until now. Grunts, fouls, frustration, cheers, triumphant shouts and a couple laughs had filled the air as they played… neither talked, neither said a word. Kevin shifted his body to the right and Lyon followed his movement only to be fooled as Kevin shifted his weight and turned his body full 360 degrees around Lyon and raced toward the basket. Lyon just stood immobilized and gave a shout of frustration as the net made its characteristic sound when a ball went neatly through it.
Kevin gasped for air as he had his hands on his knees. He had his eyes closed, a wide grin across his face... it had been a great match. A loud clapping startled him upright. Lyon, a few feet from him simply clapped at him as he too gasped for air. The two boys laughed as Lyon walked towards the ball to pick it up. It wasn't to continue the game, they both knew just by looking at each other that they were at their physical limit. Yet, Kevin walked towards Lyon once again. His mind had cleared as they played, he had poured all his emotions, he had let everything go, he had abandoned himself into the game. He wanted to thank Lyon. As Kevin walked toward Lyon he felt an uneasy feeling inside of himself. He usually played alone in this court, facing his own inner demons; Lyon changed that, he had willingly accepted becoming the target for Kevin's emotions and his body showed it. Bruise marks, a couple scratches, some blood on the right side of his lip. He had taken a beating… just for him… to help him. Kevin felt grateful, he didn't feel alone, but he couldn't find what to say. As he got closer to Lyon he felt a pure emotional urge he couldn't stop, nor understand.
As Lyon picked the ball up and turned around, he was faced with a silent and still heavy breathing Kevin still walking towards him, cutting the distance between them with each stride.
Lyon: Great… game… Kev…
The sound of the ball hitting the floor resonated across the court. Kevin had grabbed Lyon behind the neck and pulled him into a fierce kiss. Lyon was baffled, long enough to let a couple of seconds pass before he could muster a clear response. His fist drove straight into Kevin's left cheek, sending him straight to the floor. He was shocked, and Kevin looked back at him with an already swelling cheek and equally shocked face.
Lyon: I'm sorry. So…
But before he could apologize again Kevin burst into a crazy laughter which slowly degraded into tears and crying with his head between his legs. Lyon moved towards him, putting a hand on his shoulder, trying to figure out how to console his roommate as he blurted out again and again when he could breathe.
"What's wrong with me?!"