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A Second Encounter
It was as if her head had split last night. She woke up to a hard
throbbing and a numb haziness in her head, making it difficult to keep any train of thought besides “Ow” for longer than 10 seconds. The only things she remembered from the night before were the flickering club lights and the deafening music that had brought her onto the dance floor. She remembered the mass of bodies pressed together, both exhilarating and terrifying in their combined presence. It was all a blur.
Eventually Brie got up out of the bed in search of painkillers. As she made her way down the corridor, she was careful to not make any sound. The carpet that covered the floor was an aid, but with every step she feared that a creak of the wood underneath would give her away. She wasn’t ready for her mother’s interrogations about last night: she knew she would already be doing that to herself the rest of the day. Her walk to avoid the creaking floorboards was like a dance, a performance that she had been perfecting most of her life.
Finally she made it to the end of the hallway. A sigh of relief flooded her body. She stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind her with a soft click. There they are, she thought as she found the painkillers sitting on the counter in the bathroom she and her mother shared. She swallowed two red pills with a hand full of tap water. The cold water stung her throat and brought tears to her eyes, a sweet relief she didn’t know she needed. Washing her face in the cold water she caught her reflection in the mirror. A tired, sullen girl stared back. Looking at herself another memory came to her, one she had willed herself to forget. She had met someone at the club.
Brie smiled at the memory of warm lips and soft hands interlocking hers. But this brief moment of tranquility disappeared when she heard the faint creak of wood outside the bathroom door. In a swift motion she locked the door and turned on the shower. She would evade her mother’s confrontation as long as she possibly could.
She began undressing, prying her sweaty smelly clothes off as she waited for the shower water to heat up. She tried to repress the memory she had just recalled, forcing herself to think of anything else. But as she sat on the cold tile floor next to the warming shower, her mind kept circling back. Warm drops fell down her face as she imagined what her mother’s reaction would be if she found out. Her mother was already over protective and critical, and it scared her to think what her mother would think.
After she had finished showering and gotten dressed, she decided to test her luck and make her way downstairs. She opened the bathroom door as soft as possible and quietly walked downstairs into the living room. But her effort to stay unnoticed was pointless, for as she walked into the room she immediately realized she was trapped: her mother was sitting on the sofa with a direct sight line to the door. They made eye contact within seconds. Brie felt her heartbeat quicken and her throat tighten as she struggled to breath.
It reminded her of when she had eaten a peanut butter cookie in first grade just to find out she was highly allergic. She remembered the day vividly, the ambulance, the hospital and the pure terror she felt. But another memory overpowered the negative ones. It was the feeling of her mother’s warm embrace, telling her it was going to be okay. Comforting her child. She wondered when this had all changed and her mother’s love had become criticism.
“Good morning,” her mother said, awakening her out of her thoughts, “I brought your coat to the dry cleaner, it smelled like smoke.”
Brie swallowed hard, “Weird... thanks.” Brie put on a unconvincing smile, but she didn’t want her mom asking even more questions. Her mother didn’t pry, going back to reading the newspaper on her lap. Brie made her way into the kitchen, fixing herself some cereal. The kitchen opened to the living room so Brie and her mother were not more than 10 yards apart, but neither of them said anything. The room felt almost too silent. Brie had placed her bowl of cereal down on the counter when she heard the soft ring of the doorbell.
“I got it mom” Brie said, stepping towards the brown door that led to outside. She looked at her watch, wondering who would come to their house at 10am on a Sunday—probably just someone trying to sell them something they didn’t need. But nonetheless, she unlocked the door and opened it.
There was a young woman standing outside. She was wearing ripped jeans and a lavender hoodie, looking not much older than Brie herself. She looked familiar, but Brie couldn’t place her. Who was this woman?
“Hi” the woman said, pushing her hair behind her ear. “Do you remember me?” she asked smiling, her eyes twinkling with a hint of flirtation.
Then, all at once, recognition flooded Brie’s face. How had she not immediately realized who this was?
She was even prettier in the daylight: dark brown hair that hit right above her collarbone, piercing green eyes and dark sun-kissed skin. She was absolutely beautiful.
Lost for words, both in shock and awe, Brie was panicking. What was she doing here? How had she found her house? Her hands felt hot and clammy, her heart thumping in her ears.
“I didn’t mean to drop by so unannounced, but I didn’t have any way to contact you,” the women said, interrupting Brie’s thoughts.
“Um- Why-How-did-you-um-know-,” Brie stuttered.
“-You forgot your wallet in the club last night, I got your address off of your driver’s license. And, I couldn’t stop thinking about last night.”
Brie could not believe this was happening. She hadn’t thought she would ever see this woman again, let alone at her own home. The two worlds she had worked so hard to keep apart were colliding and she wasn’t ready for it. How could she be so stupid to forget her wallet?
Brie’s heart raced wildly as she tried to come up with a reaction and a solution to this surprising second encounter. But nothing came to her, and she stood there, at the door, completely bewildered. The woman smiled, sympathetic, but obviously confused at her standoffish reaction.
Her mind was still processing when Brie felt a hand on her shoulder. A shiver ran down her spine. This was not happening. Her stomach twisted and turned, the breakfast that she had just eaten threatening to creep back up her throat. She pictured this situation, her sexuality as a giant wave heading towards land, threatening to crash down and destroy everything.
“Who is this?” her mom demanded.
Brie tried to conceal the panic she felt, but when her poker face failed, she turned away from her mother. Her mother would immediately know that something was wrong if she saw her daughter’s panic-stricken face.
“I’m one of Brianna’s friends from school. She, um, forgot her wallet at school yesterday”, the woman lied gesturing to the brown leather wallet in her hand and flashing Brie a reassuring smile. Brie prayed to God in that moment, prayed that her mother would believe this lie and that she wouldn’t find out the truth.
As she analyzed her mother’s face, she was greeted by its usually sternness. While Brie struggled to conceal her emotions, her mother’s were completely unidentifiable to the naked eye.
“That’s so nice of you” Brie’s mother stated friendly, but Brie was unsure if she was truly accepting of the story she was given.
She reached for the wallet, careful not to look at the woman, but rather to keep her eyes trained on the brown leather that passed between their hands. Brie placed it in the back pocket of jeans, realizing that her chance to end this interaction was now.
“Thank you, I’ll-uh-see you at school on Monday”, Brie stuttered while slowly beginning to close the door. This would have to end now. As the door closed, Brie saw the woman’s warm expression melt away into pity and disappointment, driving guilt straight into her heart like a dagger. But finally the door was shut and Brie was able to face her mother again, who’s face expression showed no signs of suspicion.
“Huh, I thought all of your friends called you Brie” her mother observed, walking back to the living room. Brie just shrugged, not knowing what to say.
With her mom gone, the feeling of panic finally subsided, leaving shame and embarrassment in its place. What a coward she must think I am, Brie thought to herself. I can’t even lie for myself. As Brie made her way up the stairs, she pictured the woman again. She couldn’t get her mind off her. She was beautiful and they had definitely had a connection last night. Frowning she shook her head, it would never work out. But still, thinking about her replaced the fear and anxiety she felt with a warm fuzzy feeling, something Brie didn’t mind at all. Not that it even mattered—the woman knew where she lived, but Brie knew nothing about her, not even her name.
The big wave that had seemed able to completely crush and demolish her life, turned out to break softly and washed over her with no harm done.
Before placing it into her school bag, Brie opened the wallet, checking its contents for anything missing. Her eyes caught a folded piece of notebook paper sticking out of the credit card compartment. As she unfolded it carefully, she discovered a string of 10 numbers written in blue ink.
She couldn't help it, a soft smile formed on her lips.