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Midnight In September
Midnight in September
It was another one of their midnight meet-ups. It was a clear September night, and the luminescent moon shone high above the trees. Leila and Isaiah sat quietly on the dingy picnic table at the peak of the grassy hill, and watched the cars whiz through the streets below. Isaiah, in his Chicago Bulls hat and white t-shirt, sat in silence as he traced the black hearts and “I Love You’s” drawn on the table.
Although this was not the first time, they still could not escape the awkward stares and the questions about college, relationships, and careers that they shot at each other. In an attempt to put an end to these routine questions, Leila asked, “Did you miss me while I was away at school?”
“Of course not. Why would I miss someone who’s forgotten about me?” Isaiah asked as he tied his straw wrapper in knots.
Leila muttered, “I didn’t forget about you, Isaiah. I—“
“You moved on, that’s all,” Isaiah interrupted.
“I was busy,” she said as she looked at her palms.
“Right. Busy going back and forth to college parties.” He paused. “It’s amazing how you never found the time to call me or anything, Leila.”
“I thought about you, though—if that means anything,” Leila said gently.
“Me too,” he said quietly.
Isaiah smiled. “From the time I woke up, ‘til the time I went to sleep.” Isaiah was famous for using those cheesy lines on girls he liked.
“Ooh, please,” Leila said as she rolled her eyes.
“Nah, but think about it. I go to bed pretty late—you know that—so that’s a lot of thinking.” He laughed.
On the first day of sophomore year, Leila saw a clean-cut boy walk into her biology class several minutes late. He wore a black v-neck with cargo shorts, and his black and red sneakers looked brand-new. Every couple of seconds, he’d lift up his hat and rub his head, revealing his soft, curly brown hair. Mrs. Jones, an unforgiving biology teacher, scolded him about entering her class without a late pass. She was a person who lived by the phrase, “first impressions are lasting impressions”, and from the moment he threw his book bag on the floor and slouched into his seat, she hated him. While Mrs. Jones was taking attendance, Leila discovered what she was looking for—his name: Isaiah.
“Remember biology in sophomore year when you’d always try to push your way past those other girls to get to me?”
Leila scratched the back of her neck. “Yes, I do,” she said laughing. “Where are you going with this?”
He continued, “And how you’d get pissed when that girl…wait, what was her name?” He began to stroke his chin the way he did when he was deep in thought. Leila always made fun of him when he did that, saying he looked like her grandfather. “Ooh! Yeah, I remember now. Nicole—that was her name. You got pissed every time she said a word to me.”
“I knew you wanted it,” he said arrogantly.
“Whatever, Isaiah,” Leila said through her laughter.
He leaned back and stretched out his long, muscular arms. “I mean, really! How could you resist something like this?” he said grinning, showing perfect white teeth.
As much as Leila hated to admit it, Isaiah was right. He was athletic, and when they hugged, he was tall enough so that her head lay perfectly on his strong chest. Although Isaiah was sometimes shy, he had a certain charm about him that oozed nothing but confidence. His piercing, hazel eyes seemed to look into the person he spoke to, making it nearly impossible for them to break away from his gaze. His laughter was contagious and he had a smile that rarely faded, even while he was talking. As they became friends, Leila peeled away the layers to Isaiah’s magnetic personality, making him hard for her to pass up.
“Remember in high school, how you’d always talk about moving to LA after we graduate, and becoming famous, and doing whatever else was on your list?” Isaiah asked.
“Yeah,” Leila said as she bit on the straw in her soda.
He lowered his eyebrows. “What happened?”
“That was two years ago, Isaiah,” she said as she shifted her weight back and forth on the hard, wooden bench.
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
“A lot of things happen in two years, you know. Life gets in the way sometimes,” Leila said.
“You’re right.” Isaiah leaned back and stretched before asking, “Well, what’s been going on with you?”
Leila mumbled, “Not much.”
“That’s a pretty horrible answer, don’t you think?”
Leila shrugged, “I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
“I want you to tell me that you’ve reached all of those goals that you talked about in high school. And you know, like, walking on Rodeo Drive with ten bags in your hand and going home to chill at your house on the beach,” Isaiah said smiling. “All that stuff.”
Leila cleared her throat. “I changed my mind,” she said.
“Why? Did UCLA become too much for little Miss North Carolina?” Isaiah asked, referencing the pageant Leila won a couple of years ago.
“No,” she said giggling. “I’m back in town ‘cause of my mom—she got sick.”
“What do you mean she got sick?” Isaiah leaned in towards her.
“Her MS was killing her. And she couldn’t walk.”
A concerned look came across his face.
“It’s cool, though. I just have to take time off from school to take care of her, until she recovers,” she said reassuringly. “And then, I can go back to LA.”
Isaiah had only gotten the chance to meet Leila’s mother once. Not only was it on their first date, but it was also the first time Leila ever told her mother about a boy she liked. It was a hot Saturday in April, and after much planning, they decided to go skating after a movie. Leila was never a great skater, but she was up for the challenge, especially to impress the boy she liked. After waiting an extra thirty-minutes for Isaiah’s arrival, Leila’s mother became very skeptical of him; she believed there were no excuses for lateness.
“Remember our first date?” Leila asked.
Isaiah licked his lips. “Of course I do. It was our very first date,” he said laughing.
“Right, and guess who fell the most?”
He pointed at Leila and said, “You!”
“Don’t play, Isaiah,” Leila said laughing. “It was definitely you.”
“Nah, I don’t know about all that.” He paused. “But, what I do know is that your mom basically hated me.”
Leila sighed and said, “You’re right.”
Leila’s overbearing mother hated the fact that Isaiah wasn’t an over-achiever, like she was. “Leila, what about your future?” her mother would ask. “Do you think that boy’s arrogance will be enough to support you? You’re better than that!” Even worse, Leila’s mother couldn’t stand Isaiah’s laidback and carefree attitude. It was the simple things that she hated, like how he sometimes forgot to shake her hand or didn’t always call her “Ma’am”. However, what her mother failed to realize was that beneath Isaiah’s occasional arrogance was a sweetheart that wanted nothing but to impress her.
“So,” Isaiah hesitated before continuing, “that’s why you broke up with me. Because of her?”
Leila began tracing the grooves on the picnic table with her finger. “I mean, yeah. She annoyed the hell out of me. I figured that if I let you go, she would forget you and shut-up.”
“But, hey, the past is the past,” Leila added.
“You’re right,” he said as he sipped his soda.
“And honestly, her opinion about you doesn’t even matter to me anymore.”
“Oh, really?” Isaiah raised his eyebrow.
“Yeah. I just…”
“You just what?”
“I just wanna start over. I miss you, Isaiah.” Leila stared into his hazel eyes.
“You got tired of those LA boys, huh?” He asked playfully.
Leila shrugged. “I never gave myself a chance to like them,” she admitted.
“That’s good to know,” he said smiling. Their conversation fell silent, and all that was heard was the paper-like autumn leaves shaking in the nighttime air.
“You know, Leila…I’ve always wanted an LA girl,” Isaiah said, as a crooked smile appeared on his face.
She laughed. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Isaiah yawned, and then , added, “Let’s make it like it was in high school.”
“How about skating?” he said as he took his hat off and rubbed his head.
“And a movie afterwards?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Isaiah said smiling.
They talked the hours away, and before they knew it, it was already 3am. The traffic below slowed and a cool breeze replaced the slight humidity that was previously in the air. They simultaneously got up and eased their way down the grassy hill, leaving their empty sodas on the dingy picnic table.