Chapter 18: Libby
“I remember the day I met Nate Hudson,” I read, opening the first page of the New York Bestselling Novel that had been Liv’s favorite way back when.
I smile at the memory of her fangirling over it while we were reading our books quietly in her room. Every ten minutes or so, she would disrupt the silence by squealing or making some kind of sound effect. Sometimes she would just repeat one of the sentences over and over again, whispering it like they were words of gold.
I pick up where I left off - the second sentence. Despite my stupid, cliche state-of-mind, I’ve never been into romance novels. Unlike Liv, of course. She had always tried to make me read “Saving the Wallflower,” but I would never give in. Ever.
But I decided while packing for this trip to New York that now would be the time to bring it - to read it. What else would I read in Liv’s honor in Central Park (thing #23 on the bucket list)?
By the third paragraph, my thoughts get the best of me, and my mind wanders to Dad. Is he still upset with me? Was my e-mail comforting to them? Maybe I should call.... Dog-earing the first page, I close the worn-out copy and set the book down to my side. I bend down and reach inside my backpack, feeling through it and pick out my phone throughout the mess.
“I’m sorry, but ‘Cal Earnest’ is not available....” the monotone voicemail lady says.
Sighing, I hang up the phone. I slide my phone back into my bag and, instead, pull out my Kodak. Standing up from my spot on the bench that sits off to the side of a lake, I set Liv’s book standing up against the back of it, the pages fanning out. Powering on my camera, I bend down and snap a shot of the book in the beautiful scenery of Central Park.
I smile, walking back to my spot and looking down at the picture premiering on my camera that I had just taken. Great lighting, and a good angle. And then, something strikes me: I’ve already failed the bucket list.
“Shit.” Grabbing the list out of my back pocket, I unfold it and flip to it’s back. And there it is - plain as day. 49. Take a picture of each of these as you complete them. “Shit,” I repeat, staring at the list in anger.
I didn’t take the picture with Liam. Why didn’t it occur to me earlier? Ugh. What the hell do I do?
And then it occurs to me: I can just remake it. I shake my head at myself; so dramatic. What is this trip doing to me? What kind of emotions are these? There’s not suppose to be any monologue going on in my head - no curiosity in the back of my mind. Just simple life with simple thoughts with simple feelings. None of this poetic shit.
My phone goes off, muffled by the bag it’s inside, and my breath stops in my throat as I pick it out and look down hesitantly. It’s not Dad.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I find a smile spreading across my lips at the sound of his voice, and then fight it when I realize how cliche I’m being again. No, I mentally scold myself. No.
“Hey, not much. Just completed a thing on the list, but that’s it,” I shrug, looking down at the book that’s still standing up on the bench.
“Really? Which one?”
My tummy warms at his curiosity. Crap. “Um, reading a book in Central Park.”
I laugh, and he asks why. “You’re just asking me questions and not getting to the point!”
He laughs too, his chuckle making my cheeks hurt. “My bad. I called to let you know that I’m done at work, so if you can come over for, y’know, ice cream, that’d be great.”
I purse my lips and nod, but then remember he can’t see me. “Yeah,” I hurriedly say, wincing at how eager I sound. Clearing my throat, I say carefully, “I can do that.”
“Great! See you soon?” He sounds almost hopeful. But he can’t be... right?
“Yeah, I’ll see you in twenty.”
He chuckles, and I wonder why, but he hangs up with a “goodbye” and I’m left befuddled. Boys are so confusing.
Looking down at the unfamiliar number flashing on the screen of my phone, I hesitantly open the text and sigh in relief when I see the first two words: It’s Liam. He had said he was going to send me his address, but I didn’t even think about how he would do so. He has a phone?
Climbing into the cab I had called down, I read him the address aloud and he seems to know the place like it’s his home. “Are ya Nottes’ girlfriend?” he asks, his voice gravelly and creepy.
I almost laugh, but my cheeks give me away. “No.”
He looks me dead in the eye through the rearview mirror and shakes his head. “Whatever you say, pixie,” he replies, nodding towards my haircut. I purse my lips. What kind of stranger gives you a nickname? Especially a paying customer!
When he pulls up to a curb and stops, I look out the window and see apartment after tall apartment. Handing the odd driver my money, I strap on my backpack and step out, slamming the door beind me. Once the cab is long gone, I let out a long breath and close my eyes, reminding myself to stay in the here and now and to enjoy life while I have it.... No matter how achingly annoying people can get.
“Daddy!” a small voice shouts above me, and by the time I look up, I see a tiny figure walking away from a balcony.
“Libby,” a familiar voice calls, and I look to my right and see Liam beckoning me on the front steps of his apartment. He smiles at me awkwardly, as if he’s not sure how to greet me considering our past. Walking slowly, I smile back and wave, reminding myself that the only reason I’m going out for ice cream with him is so he can help me cross some things off my lists... Nothing more.
But then, the closer I get to him, the more features of his that I can see. His cerulean blue eyes, the creases at the corners of them when he smiles, his thin lips, his tussled, light brown hair.... Shut. Up. Lib. I reprimand myself.
“So, are you re-” I say, but I’m interrupted by a small body flying past the doorway Liam’s standing in front of, and little arms pushing him to the side with a sly comment coming from him that I can’t hear. Blue eyes that match Liam’s perfectly meet mine, and my breath gets caught in my throat.
I glance at Liam, but he’s frozen too. Noticing my befuddlement, he sighs in defeat. “I was going to tell you earlier,” he starts, but stops when I walk closer and stand in front of the steps.
Ignoring Liam, I concentrate on his smaller twin and hold out my hand towards him. The boy just looks at it. “Hi there,” I say as polite as I can. After looking at it for a second, as if to make sure it isn’t contaminated with some substance, he meets me halfway with his hand, and we shake.
“I’m Jeremiah,” he says, puffing out his chest in pride. Letting my hand go, he sets his hands on his hips and brags, “I’m five.”
This brings a chuckle to both Liam and me, and I nod. “I’m Libby, and I am eighteen,” I reply, setting my hands on my hips mockingly. I look up at Liam, as he is still standing on the top step. “And you are?”
His eyes widen and, after a second of comprehending what exactly is happening, he clears his throat, sets his hands on his shoulders, and says, “I’m Liam, and I am nineteen.” My brows shoot up without me meaning to, and he looks at me funny. “What?”
Correcting my facial expression, my cheeks warm and I sputter, “I, uh, just figured you were older.”
He cocks his head to the side, and stares at me as if I am a Picasso painting that he has to find the meaning in. “Would you rather I had been older?”
A laugh hiccups out of me and my eyes grow wide. “No!” I almost scream, and he laughs at my reaction. “I didn’t mean that at all, I’m just saying that you look older, and-”
“Libby, Libby, Libby! Calm. Down,” he laughs again, taking his little brother’s hand and locking the door behind them.
Turning back to me, Jeremiah laughs, “Yeah, Libby, calm down."
Letting out a large breath in attempt to ”calm down” , I smile and rustle his hair when they’re finally standing on the sidewalk with me. But even then I have to look up to see Liam’s eyes. “So shall we go?” I offer, and the both of them nod simultaneously.
Thankfully, the sidewalk is big enough for three, so I end up walking beside Liam to Ben n’ Jerry’s. After the first few steps we take there, a hand slides into mine, and I look down in surprise. His hand freezes, as if he knows that I’m looking at it, and he slowly starts pulling away when I instinctively stop him by squeezing it reassuringly.
Agh! I think. Why did I do that?
But these thoughts mean nothing two seconds later, our laced fingers warming me from my ears to my toes.
After walking into the shop, I go to release my grip of Liam’s hand when he suddenly mocks my action from before and squeezes it in place. My lips roll into my mouth to suppress a smile, and Jeremiah immediately runs off to the ice cream dome at the front counter.
A woman about my age meets us at the cash register, smiling blindly at Liam, and Liam alone. “Hi there!” she says brightly, looking at both of them and completely ignoring me. “What can I get for you guys?”
Liam clears his throat beside me and looks down, meeting my eyes with his. “What do you want?”
“Um,” I mumble, standing on my tip-toes to see all of the flavors from where I am standing. Finally seeing one that catches my attention and waters my tastebuds, I offer it to the cashier, and she types it into the register without a word.
“What about you two?” she asks, as if my order didn’t even count. My brows squint together and I look at her in amusement. For once, she looks at me and says, quite defensively, “What are you looking at?”
I open my mouth to say a comeback, but just end up coming out with, “Nothing... sorry.” My heart weakens when she gives me a cocky grin and redirects her gaze to Liam, but a hand squeezes mine and it speeds back up. The edges of my lips tilt up and I squeeze back, knowing fully well that I have something that Mossey does not.