Can I Get Your Number?
After taking the bus for three years you'd think I'd have had my fill, but every morning I walk the half mile trek to the bus stop in rain, sunshine, snow, or even volcanic eruptions, and every day load on the bus at 8:05 in the morning.
People weren't allowed to sit with me. There had been numerous incidents where a woman had tried to "pick me up" using small talk, and each time she failed miserably. I have recently discovered that men usually don't try to occupy the seats around me, but rather near the busty blonde woman that gets on at the bus stop near the apartment complexes on 4479 Thompson Avenue. I didn't stalk this woman, but simply listened in on her conversations that she shares with all of us on the bus. After all, if she spoke so loudly it must have been for everyone to hear, not just the other person on the phone.
There has only been once incident where I did not enjoy my time on the bus. Back when I was a senior in high school, I had slept with the quarterback's girlfriend. He loaded the bus and angrily and had tried to attack me, but for what reason? After all, if she didn't want to be with me all she had to say was "no," which if I recall correctly, out of all the words that fell from her lips, "no" was not included; therefore it was not my fault, but rather it was hers. Or better yet, maybe it was his for sending her into my open arms.
Once I told him that he was attacking the wrong person in this situation, he only began to grow angrier. He told me I had forced her and that I had conned her into cheating on him, but I don't consider it to be cheating if she had liked me more anyway. Even an incident such as this would not ruin my love for the bus.
The view on the bus was always the same, with the exception of a new building suddenly popping up somewhere or maybe an occasional car accident. I'm not sure where I should go today. I could go to the park, I could go to the mall, I could go get lunch, I could go to work…or was I fired? So, scratch that. There are so many choices to choose from, but my stomach always makes the final decision. Unfortunately, that still leaves so many dining choices. There's The Squisito, The Maisonette , Cafe De La Monte, The Matinee', but I assume I may as well go to The Maisonette since it is right off of North Wolfe Street, which is only four minutes and twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty seconds away from here.
On days like this I exit the bus, travel to my destination, come back and sit on the bench until my bus returns, but today was different. Today she was here.
I felt my eyes immediately fixate on her as my mouth began to go dry and a riot of warmth and tingling sparks dance as they brought my nerves to a full, joyous life. I felt my fingers tautly flex around the steel bar next to me. Never have I felt something so abruptly and yet so strong. It was strangely wonderful.
She sat there, long brunette hair, half pulled back into a loose bow, fluttering around in the air along with the ruffles on her soft purple dress. The sun was trying its best to bring attention to the faint highlights of blonde mingling with the thousands of brown hairs. Her skin was like soft white frost covering the ground. Pale, mile-long legs led to thin brown sandals embroidered with purple gems around the tops. As if she could feel my eyes flowing over her, she pulled her leathery-brown coat around her, attempting to obscure what little she could from sight. But she couldn't hide from me.
I swear I ran through those bus doors as if heaven were waiting for me outside. I was breathing heavily when I stopped in front of her. Her head shot up at me. I knew I was hooked once I saw them.
A glorious combination of cobalt, sapphire, and azure melded and mixed to make up those bright blue eyes staring back at me. Those mesmerizing eyes almost kept me from noting the dimples riding high on her checks. Her lips were rounded in a small 'o' shape, barely letting me see the immaculately white teeth she had. Only one word could come to mind when trying to describe them: pearls. She was, she is, visually stunning.
In front of her I was, and the only words that came to mind seemed to be, "Can I get your number?" As if stunned by the question, the 'o' shape widened and a simple "no" fell from her lips.
As if I fell limp under the pressure of those blue, seawater eyes, and that one searing word, I threw myself into the remaining space left on the bench next to her. Cautiously, her eyes went back to her book. I couldn't leave. It was as if the bottoms of my shoes had been glued to the ground. The only movement it seemed I could make was sliding closer to her, as if a magnetic force had been created within us, pulling us together. Except, she wasn't going anywhere, and I was the only force being pulled. It was almost as if she was the sun and I was an unsuspecting asteroid caught in her orbit.
I just couldn't let her slip from me, even if I didn't have a grip to begin with. Words were scrambling around my brain, threatening to fall from my tongue at any moment.
"You remind me of that Viola Sororia." I spewed out as if I was being rushed.
"Pardon?" She looked up at me with those big blue eyes that were almost hidden beneath the long black eyelashes she bore.
"Your dress. It looks like those Viola Sororia," I said, pointed to the small patch of flowers across from where we sat.
She smirked and let out a small laugh, "Is one of your hobbies reading up on flora?"
As if sensing the tension that began to fill the air around us, she tore a small piece of paper out from her book and quickly scribbled down ten numbers before she threw it back at me and rushed down the street and around the corner. Too stunned to chase after her, I simply stared at the small, rigid piece of paper between my thumb and index finger. I must have read over the numbers for forty-five minutes till I finally made it to The Maisonette and realized I was no longer hungry.
I wasn't even through the door before I pulled out my phone and punched in the numbers on the paper. Once I threw myself down on the bed and waited for her to pick up the realization hit me like a truck. This girl, or should I say young woman, that I suddenly found myself smitten with was somewhat of a mystery, not leaving the slightest clue. Not even her name.
Before I could dive deeper into my thoughts a soft "hello" broke through my thoughts. Rushing to gather my thoughts, I answered almost urgently with my own "hello."
We talked for what seemed like hours. I was hooked. I was tangled into a harsh netting that I couldn't get loose from and I didn't want to know what would happen if I did. About two hours into the night-long conversation, I remembered to ask her for her name.
And unlike any other, Vivienne Hale had me wrapped around her angelic finger.
For the next couple of weeks we continued to talk on the phone almost, if not every, night, and a little after two weeks I could write a book about her. Her favorite color was yellow because it reminded her of the sun and its radiance. Her favorite thing to do on the weekends was to volunteer at the Clifton Avenue Medical Unit and sing the children to sleep. Her favorite food was approximately two-inch thick pancakes with fresh blueberries on top and roasted poppy seeds filling the insides. She had told me how she liked to wear soft coats because they reminded her of when her mother would hold her tightly and rock her back to sleep after frightening nightmares when she was a child.
It took a week or so before she became acquainted enough to call me on her own accord and would kept the conversation going herself. She would always tell me stories of her older brother and how they would sneak out after dark on Fridays nights. She told me how she used to work at the Animal Clinic, but had to leave after becoming allergic to dogs. She told me how she used to play the flute in her school's band and how she finally made first chair in the top band her junior year. As simplistic as our conversations where, she never had to put much thought into her words to become engraved into my mind.
It was four weeks after we first met when she accepted my previous offer, to have lunch at The Maisonette downtown. For her, and only for her, I would drive my own car there rather than the city bus, to make the timing easier for her. She came adorned in a dark navy blue dress that hung limp on her body adorned with a brown leather jacket and leggings with boots as if to keep her snow-white skin away from sight and the freezing temperatures outside, but more specifically, to lock every inch of skin away from my creeping eyes.
The conversation started slow, but once she noticed blueberry pancakes on the menu her eyes lit up and a conversation was sparked. Once her food came she ate with the delight of a young child. I watched silently from behind my cup of coffee and couldn't help the small smile that took over my face.
Three cups of coffee and six blueberry pancakes later, she glanced over to the door, and as if for a second, fear flashed through her eyes. She quickly threw a menu up to hide her face from the world's view. Trying not to add gasoline to the fire, I kept my eyes focused her and never turned to take a look at the doors. She asked if we could leave at that moment and, being the gentlemanly type that I am, I nodded. As I followed behind her through the doors, I scanned the room for any hint of what caused her sudden change in attitude. Around us there were only a few loners, an elderly couple and a group of doctors, presumably from the local hospital and a waitress or two. Not finding anything worth stopping for, I followed her out the doors.
Taking her home, I stopped on Ashland Avenue, following the directions she scribbled down for me. I found myself in a part of town that was obviously for those who know of 'the better side of life.' My eyes were met with skyscrapers and luxury apartment buildings. Meeting my eyes back with hers, she left me nothing more than a smile before she hurriedly retreated from my car.
Three days passed before she called again. It was short and simple, only to ask if I was free on Tuesday, which, unsurprisingly, I was.
When Tuesday finally came along we met up at the movie theater downtown she looked worn out. She had dark purple bags under her eyes complete with dried-out eyes and a frail body. Taking in her fragile body, I felt a hole growing in my stomach. I was worried. The stone man was worried. Just what was this woman doing to me?
All she asked for was a small popcorn, but I assumed she wanted more, so I quickly managed to spend almost a hundred dollars on two boxes of rainbow colored candies, a large popcorn, two pretzels, cheesy nachos, sour gummy worms and two large soft drinks, and even if she didn't want it all, I would happily finish it before the last trailer was shown.
Once in her seat she sank down and hid herself behind her usual jacket. I noticed her stealing glances at the treats, so, as not to scare the fawn away, slid the treats closer to her reach, which she reluctantly snatched away from me.
Consistently, we began seeing each other at least once each week and would talk on the phone for hours leading into the night, with the exception of the nights she would volunteer at the hospital. As her shifts grew more frequent, I became annoyed with the precious time that was being sucked away from me.
It had been about six months since we first met on that simple little bench at the bus stop. I never asked her, but the flowers, diamond necklace and extravagant dinner let her know I was not only seeking a friendship. Her response was nothing short of "ditto."
One night she came over to my apartment to have what she claimed was "much needed alone time." Before she arrived, I drove over to the local supermarket and picked up a movie she had complained about not being able to see, some sweets to soothe her obnoxious sweet tooth, and chicken breast with a small side pasta to prepare for dinner. After all, I was a gentleman. Right as I was flipping the chicken over, I heard her softly knock on the door. I smiled to myself and let the beauty inside.
She threw herself onto the couch, shining with her childish glow that so perfectly suited her. Finishing dinner, I popped the movie into the DVD player and gave her some sweets to keep her quiet. She kept to herself until I finished the dinner, which she claimed to be better than the food we had wasted our money on at restaurants. It wasn't much longer till she was half asleep and curled up on my chest.
I didn't wake until nine the next morning, after the feeling of Vivienne's bare skin pressed up against mine under the sheets. Mine. That word had an entirely new meaning to me. Something, someone that was mine and only mine. I watched her as she glued herself to my side for warmth. Her eyelashes gently tickled my arm as she squeezed it up against her rounded cheeks.
It took what felt like hours to peel her body away from mine. Following me to the kitchen, she threw herself down on the couch in the living room, just like she had the night before. Our breakfast was late and should have been considered a lunch more than a breakfast, but nevertheless, it was simple, and good enough for the two of us anyway.
Two months later, we were doing better than ever. She didn't seem to be as frail as she had been before. The color of her skin was no longer sickly, and I was able to see her almost three times a week. She was vibrant. She was mine.
We were at dinner when she told me that she would now be volunteering almost five times a week. It wasn't long before I barely saw her at all. She would disappear and reappear like magic. It grew to the point where I gave her a key to my apartment so she could let herself in after night shifts, and I always left her dinner out. She would get home at the oddest of hours and crawl into bed next to me. Many nights she would get up sick with a headache or nausea and then fall asleep alone in the bathtub. I could not manage to wrap my head around her sudden distance from me, let alone her sudden illness. I stayed up long hours into the night to try to comprehend it all. I began to worry she was pregnant, but she quickly shot me down. I eventually turned to WebMD, but was still left without an answer.
As if adding wood to the flame, I finally decided to prosecute her behavior. She answered me with a glass plate thrown to the wall behind me, inches away from my head. Cautiously, I asked where she had been on one of her free days and I received a smack to the thigh. I asked if she had been eating, and I received a glare.
Things continued to grow worse until one day she left. As if an angel decided to leave and go back to heaven, she picked up her bags and left. Without a word, without a trace, not a note, not a hint. She simply left. I left voicemails asking for her location, to return my call or even just to let me hear her voice. It wasn't long before she disconnected her phone altogether. I was left confused and lost; I wanted answers to all of my questions. I wanted to see her rolled up in my sheets again, or attempting to cook and filling the room up with smoke. I wanted to see her curled up on my couch, or rolled up in my blanket. She used to be mine, and yet I had nothing to show for it.
It was three weeks before I decided to get onto the bus again, and it was two more weeks before I was able to get off at the stop by the bench where she once was. I eventually challenged my slothfulness and applied for a job that I somehow managed to bag. I woke up every morning, put on a white button-down shirt with a red tie, black pants, and black leather shoes. I grasped the handle of my brown leather briefcase and took the lonely walk to the bus stop every morning, with the exception of Sundays.
I walked into the office and sat behind my cubicle and denied people insurance payments every day. Yes, this was now my life: the post-Vivienne Hale life.
The clock read four in the afternoon when my last appointment of the day was scheduled. I decided to take the appointments later in the day to keep my mind off of what used to be waiting for me when I got home. A young man walked in, no older than thirty, no younger than twenty-five, with slicked back brown hair, pale snow-white skin, dark blue eyes, a perfectly shaped nose and a harsh jaw line. He was dressed almost identical to me, with the exception of a blue tie.
He looked serious and unwilling to take no for an answer. He sat down in front of me and looked me directly in the eyes. He told me of his younger sister who was diagnosed with melanoma a year earlier and that she was undergoing treatments at local cancer center. I was able to give them a small sum of insurance money and simply told him to call back soon for another consultation. I watched as he signed his name on the paper.
He signed as Donovan Hale.
I asked him for his sister's name and he simply said Vivienne. Knowing I could get myself into trouble, I quickly clamped down on my curiosity. It wasn't even ten minutes later that I found myself digging around in files
Vivienne Marie Hale. Diagnosed with cancer at age twenty, sent to Clifton Avenue Medical Unit in 2011, recently moved to Hillford Regional Cancer Treatment Center in Georgia.
I should have known: leaving The Bostonian after the doctors walked in. The obnoxious times she would get home from her "hospital shifts," when she would get sick throughout the night. I should have known sooner than this. I should have known her.
It was three months before I was able to afford the airfare to fly to Atlanta from Baltimore, taking a little piece out of my paycheck every two weeks to make up for the extra money I might need.
Almost obsessively, I called every number she had registered in her file. Not one connected me to her. I was lost. I didn't know where to find her let alone where to start. I couldn't understand why she would leave in the first place. Had I done something? Was she upset that I wasn't supportive? That I couldn't figure out her illness on my own?
Once I had finally saved up all the money I booked a flight to Atlanta, and found myself headed for the Hillford Regional Cancer Treatment Center. Signaling a taxi, I found myself at the cancer center. When I walked in and asked for her room number they told me she wouldn't be at the center today, but lived in an apartment complex which they were unauthorized to tell me the name of. I thanked them, even though they offered little to no help, and then left.
Feeling hungry, I started my walk down the road to find somewhere to eat. Gazing around the streets, I wondered what my next move should be, that was until I saw her.
There she was, in all her beauty, sitting on the bench reading a book. Her once long brown hair, now barely above her shoulders, was decorated with a small red bow. You could see those pale legs lying out from her red pencil skirt that was accompanied with a plain white button up. Everything was the same, and yet it was all so different.
I can only assume she felt me coming, as those seawater blue eyes shot up to meet mine, just as breathtaking as they had ever been. And then I understood it all with the one look that flashed across her face and rested deep in her eyes: regret. She had never wanted to leave. She had never wanted me to be alone if I had fallen in love so she left when she thought it wouldn't hurt me - but she realized she couldn't help herself.
She couldn't help but send Donovan in to see me. She couldn't help but leave all her information right under my nose. She couldn't help but hide out where she knew I would go. She couldn't help but be found because Vivienne Hale was a genius. A brilliant genius in love. I stepped out in front of her and wiped the tears that began falling from her face with my thumb. Almost numbly she placed her hand over mine, and not knowing what else to say I whispered softly to her. "Can I get your number?" I asked.
She did nothing more than smile.