Chapter 21: Liam
Sometimes you wonder how in the world you get to the point in your life that you’re living at that moment. Like, how did I get past my parents abandoning me? How did I get use to Jimmy’s shit? How did I meet Libby the way I did?
How did we end up in this friggin’ situation, with her in my lap in the back of the cab?
After listening to Here Comes The Sun on the vinyl, Libby and I took turns serenating each other with the songs. And then the perfect song came on when it was my turn: I Saw Her Standing There. It was like the song was written based on our past.
"Oh she was just seventeen,” I sang, smiling at her with a capped Sharpie in my hand as a microphone. ”If you know what I mean. And the way she looked was way beyond campare.” When I looked at her and took her hand in mine, her cheeks turned a deep scarlet, and I reached our held hands up as she twirled. ”When I saw her standing there.”
She sang the second verse to me, and I laughed at how ridiculous how similar this song is to our lives. If only we were able to tell at least one of the Beatles about this, but the reality of it is a long shot.
When Bentley came back, Libby and I were slow dancing again, swaying so subtly one would’ve just thought we were only standing there hugging. Her head was lying on my chest, with my head resting on top of hers, kind of like we were lying down in a way. He must’ve been watching us for some time, because when he cleared his throat with a coy smile on his lips, he was already standing behind the main counter in the middle of the store.
“I assume y’all were having fun while I was gone,” he said with a smirk on his face. Libby just laughed, backing away from me, but holding my hand in hers.
“You’re such a mind-reader,” she joked, making Bentley cackle.
When my day was over and Bentley locked up the store behind us, Libby was still holding my hand. I squeezed it, and she looked up at me with a grin. “What?” she asked, swaying our arms back and forth between us. We must’ve looked like a happy couple. I smiled at the thought, surprised by my reaction towards it.
“Just thinking...” I replied, constructing a plan based on my previous thought.
She hesitated, as if cautious about what in the world I was thinking. “About what?”
Looking down at her, I say cautiously, “I think...” I took a breather. “...we should have a real date.”
After just a milisecond of her not speaking, nor reacting to my words made my heart drop to my stomach. But when that second is up, she rolled her lips inside her mouth, looked up at me with her glittering brown eyes, and did the exceptional: Nods.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
Not even processing what he’s saying, I muttered, “Shut up and just help me.” After not hearing a word from him, I looked over my shoulder and saw him leaning against my door frame with his arms crossed over his torso. Glaring at me. “Please.”
This brought a wry smile to his face. “Fine.” Shuffling his way into my room, he mumbled while he glanced around my room, “Weird as friggin’ hell in here.” Cocking an eyebrow at him, he explained. “Dude, there’s CDs all over the place, and I have a freaking iPod speaker downstairs. What is up with you, man?”
Shrugging, I return to digging through my closet and throwing possibilities onto my bed.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, partner. What do you think you’re doing?”
Stopping my trance, I glance behind my shoulder and answered, “Finding something to wear?”
“For Libby?” he asked, seeming surprised. I nodded slowly, and he almost cackled. “Why? She’s so laidback, man, don’t even worry about it.”
“We’re going to Olive Garden.”
“Shit. Um...” He furrowed his eyebrows and thought for a deep moment. “Move,” he said finally, waving me off to the side of my closet as he weaved his way through the very few shirts I owned. Shaking his head, he groaned, “Come on.”
Cocking my head, I curiously followed Jimmy out of my room and to across the hall - to Mom and Dad’s old bedroom that Jimmy now occupied. All of their things - even their banking stuff - was stuffed inside Jere’s closet. A place where Jere wasn’t allowed to go.
Now, it’s redecorated with Jimmy’s things - plaid comforter on the full mattress (that he never used), posters of his favorite bands pinned on the walls, twenty diverse products for his hair on top of his - my parent’s - dresser.... Yeah. Jimmy.
It seemed as if every time I walked into the room, my heart dropped at the memory of me saying goodbye to them the last day I saw them. Jimmy clapped his hands together, then rubbing them mischeivously. The hell was he up to?
Walking to his closet, I sat on his bed and watched him precariously digging through his clothes. Unlike me, he had at least a dozen of each type of shirt - long sleeve, short sleeve, tank, flannel.... He was weaving through his flannels when he finally pulled out “the one.” He threw it at me, hanger-and-all, and said, “Here you go, Prince Charming. Now I recommend you iron it so you don’t look like a fool compared to her.”
I physically and mentally crumpled. “I’ll look like a fool compared to her no matter what,” I muttered, and he just nodded, walking out of his room and leaving me behind. Groaning in frustration, I picked the shirt up and judged it for what it really was: Preppy. Though, everything about Jimmy was preppy, so why should I’ve been so surprised?
At least it wasn’t a Vineyard Vines t-shirt.
Smirking at the thought, I unhook the hanger from the wrinkled, white, short sleeved, collared t-shirt he had handed me and followed him out of the room. I walked to the other side of the house next to Jere’s room and opened the coat closet, finding the iron-board missing. Crap.
“I’ve got it, dumb-ass,” Jim yelled from downstairs, and I sighed gratefully.
“Thanks,” I called quietly down the stairs as I closed the closet door, cautious as to not wake Jere up. Stepping down the stairs, I heard Jimmy singing right by the television, singing along with the movie that was playing. Dirty Dancing.
“I’m guessing you’ve seen this movie before?” I asked, even though the answer was quite clear.
He glanced at me with a raised brow. ”Oh baby,” he sang, serenating me. ”Oh sweet baby. You’re the one." I laughed, and he chuckled. Clearing his throat, he gestured to the pull-out iron board and the heated iron. “Here you go.”
I nodded at him in a silently thanks, and after lying the shirt flat down on the board, I picked up the iron by the handle and paused for a few seconds.
“Do you even know how to iron a shirt?” Jimmy called from the kitchen, his voice stringed with amusement.
Rolling my eyes, I called back, “You’re asking the guy who’s been living by himself for five years.”
There was silence in the air, the only sound coming from the TV. Finally, he said, “Oh yeah. Kinda forgot about that.” His footsteps sounded from the floorboards when he entered the living room, then his couch springing underneath his weight (despite him being quite fit) as he sat down. “Holy shit, man, she’s here!”
My eyes widened. “Shitshitshitshitshit,” I mumbled, my words tumbling over the other as I hurriedly turned off the iron and grabbed the shirt off the board. I ran over to the couch and looked out the window above it. And he was right: There was Libby, walking around the apartments, only a few blocks away from our front door. “Shitshitshitshitshit.”
“God dammit, Liam, just take your shirt off and change already!” he shouted at me, as if he were an officer in the army.
But I did as he said, quickly taking off my simple blue t-shirt and sliding on the white, button-up one Jimmy had given me. I fumbled with the buttons, and Jim groaned and slapped my hands away, forcing me to let him do it himself. “Always have to do friggin’ everything around here,” he muttered under his breath, but I ignored him.
When he was halfway done, there was a knock on the door.
“Uh,” he said, glancing at the door, the buttons, then at me. “I’ll get it - you button.”
He ran to the door as if he were running a race, unlocking the door and opening it just a crack. “Libby!” I heard him say, his voice light and fluffy - as if everything was going as planned.
But it wasn’t.
She’s friggin’ early.
They talked. And talked. And, finally, I was finished. I walked up and tapped Jim on the shoulder, and he looked to the side, looked me up and down, rose his eyebrows, and then stepped back from the door. It was now wide open, and I could see Libby plain-as-day now.
She was wearing khaki shorts and a ruffled white tank-top with white sandals to match, instead of her usual raggedy-anne converse. She smiled at me and said slyly, “We match.”
Looking down as if I were trying to remember what I was wearing in the first place, I smiled too and chuckled at the coincidence. “Yeah, we are.”
Trying to contain a smile, she said, “Except mine isn’t wrinkled.” I couldn’t help it - I laughed. She looked at me oddly, like I was on crack or something. “What?”
I shook my head, saying, “nothing,” and then moving on with the subject. “Are you ready?” She looked down and checked herself out, looked up and checked me out (to my utmost pleasure), and then nodded with a grin that made my stomach warm.
I smiled at her, patted my pants to check that my keys were in my pockets, and called a goodbye to Jimmy. “Oh yeah, see ya later lovebirds!” he sang, and Libby and I just looked at each other and laughed. Closing the door behind us, I followed her down the steps and made our way down the sidewalk to the main road.
“There’s not a lot of taxi cabs on your street,” she commented, looking at the quiet street in front of the apartment complex.
I shrug. “Yeah, it use to be a lot more busy... but then it got a little ghetto.”
She huffed. “That’s kind of sucky.”
“Sucky?” I mocked, and she shoved me off the sidewalk playfully.
I’ve never been to an Olive Garden.
When I told Libby this, she stared at me for a few seconds, then smiled. “Well,” she said, “we’re going to make your first experience a great one.”
“So we’re going to get lots of breadsticks?” I asked hopefully.
She laughed. “Honey, that’s going to be our dinner - to hell with the menu they handed us!”
I laughed with her, and when the waitor came to our table - that was uncannily way too attractive for my liking (especially with Libby here, sitting across from me in the booth) - we looked at him, trying to contain our smiles. “Breadsticks, please,” I requested, both of us handing him our menus.
He looked at us curiously, and then fixed his gaze on Libby. “And to drink?”
“Um,” she said, tapping her fingers on the table. “How about a strawberry lemonade.”
He nodded, and then turned to me. “And you, sir?”
“Uh, I’ll have the same.” He notched a brow, and I looked at him with a smile. “Thank you, misieur.”
When he left, Libby cracked up. “‘Miseur?’”
I shrugged, and dug out the lighter that was in my pocket. And for the first time in a long time, I realized the obvious: I haven’t had the need to smoke ever since Libby came into my life - it was as if she was the nicotine patch on my arm. I told her this as I lit the candle that sat on the table between us.
She cocked her head. “That’s kind of sweet,” she said, but her facial expression said otherwise.
“What?” I asked, concerned.
“Well,” she said, reaching for the salt that sat next to the burning candle. She talked while she poured some of it into her hand. “It’s just that... are you sure it’s not something else? It’s kind of unrealistic that-”
“Holy shit,” I interrupt, my voice low. I keep myself from yelping, and slowly looked beneath the table... something had brushed up against my foot.
But my cheeks and neck flushed when I saw that it was only Libby’s foot grazing mine affectionately. I’m such an idiot. She slowly slid it away from mine when I stopped her, using my foot to tap hers reassuringly. I looked at her with a small, guilty smile, and she smiled back. “Sorry,” she whispered, but I just shook my head.
“You have no right to apologize, but I do. I overreacted just a bit.”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “A bit?” I pursed my lips, embarrassed, and she laughed. “It’s okay, Liam! You know I’ll still keep you - no matter how you react to playing footsie.”
This made me laugh, and, of course, the waiter came back with a basket of warm bread-sticks. “Yes!” I yelped, and even the server laughed.
“Enjoy!” he said, setting the basket beside the melting candle. “I’ll go fetch your drinks.”
I nodded, because my mouth was too full to talk. When he walked away, Libby stuffed one in her mouth, too - whole. “You’re a mad woman!” I laughed, my mouth full with melting bread.
She shrugged, covering her mouth as she giggled. “Well,” she flipped her hair, feigning obnoxiousness, “y’know that’s me.”
Taking another breadstick, I bit off the end, and offered the other end. She took it into her posession and ate the entire thing. “Thanks,” she said with her mouth full.
I shrugged, taking the last one out of the basket. “We’re gonna need more.” She nodded in agreement, and just in time, a waiter walked past us. “Misieur!” I called after him, raising my hand for him to see me. The man saw me, and I realized that he was not our waiter too late. But I asked him for more anyways.
He replied with a “yes sir” and then left us behind. “So,” I said, and she looked up from her lap, her expression perplexed. “You okay?” She cleared her through and nodded, plastering a smile that didn’t meet her eyes. “I don’t believe you.”
She sighed, defeated... too easily. Something must be wrong. “Yeah, it’s just...” She put her phone on the table and rested her head in her hands, her elbows placed on the table. “My parents.”
For some reason, I never once thought of her having parents. I don’t know why, but I just never have. “Oh yeah. How are they?”
She shook her head at me, a sarcastic smile growing. “Great. Just my dad threatening me to come back. Y’know, the ushe.”
This stops me. “What?” My voice sounds angry, but only because I am. It always scared me when I got mad - I always felt out of control with my actions. Like my brain was detached from my heart.
She frowned, nodding. “I know.”
“I-” she paused. She met my eyes with hers, and said, “It’s so stupid. I just said I met this guy - you - and what I did and why, and that....”
I tilt my head to the side, no longer angry, but concerned. “That what?” I asked gently. It felt like she was breaking right in front of me, and I felt so helpless.
She said her reply ever-so lightly - so cautiously - that I thought I misheard her. “That I think I’m falling for him.”
My heart drops to my stomach, it burning in breadstick-acid. Falling for him - falling for me.Without thinking, I reply, reaching for her hand. “Me too.” She looked up at me, her eyes watering. She smiled, a small laugh bubbling out of her. “So tell your dad to suck it. Okay?”
She nodded. “Okay.”
And now we’re here. Now. In this moment, her in my lap in the back of a taxi cab.
Kissing. And, for once, everything seems so right.
Her phone buzzes, still audible even when its sound was muffled by the pocket it’s inside of, and she shakes her head. I reach for her face, resting my hand on her cheek and rubbing my thumb back and forth. “It’s okay,” I whisper, and she nods.
“It’s okay,” she repeats. Turning to the empty spot she once occupied, and slouching in my lap, she rests her head on my chest and plays with the buttons on my shirt. A small grin places on my face at the memory of me hurriedly getting ready while she walked up the front steps to my door, only hours before now.