Around 6:30 A.M., a young woman wakes up from her sound sleep to start her day. She is a lovely person; dirty-blonde hair falls just past her shoulders in
Every morning, around 6:30 a.m., a young woman wakes up from her sound sleep and starts her day. She is a lovely person; dirty-blonde hair falls just past her shoulders in graceful waves and her eyes are a deep hazel. When her alarm sounds, she does not hesitate to turn it off and roll out of bed. She begins her morning with a brisk shower followed by a simple breakfast consisting of a bagel with strawberry cream cheese and the Funnies printed in her local paper. After she finishes her food and gets dressed, she checks off yesterday’s date on the calendar. Her birthday is coming up in a couple of months. Today is February second and on April thirteenth, she will be twenty-four.
This woman is very precise for someone her age. She likes to leave her house at about the same point every morning to arrive at her internship on time. For the past three years, she has majored in creative writing and journalism at Penn State College of Communications and is interning at a publishing company nearby. As she pulls away from her house, she plugs her phone into the adapter and plays her favourite songs. Each morning, she dances and sings in the car all the way to the internship. She feels as if it really starts her morning off right and puts her in a good mood.
Today, when she is stopped at a stoplight that seems to take decades to change, while she is dancing to a pop song on the radio, the man in the car beside her noticed and began to laugh. As she whipped her head back to belt out a note, they locked eyes. Embarrassed, she stops singing, turns her radio down, and sat upright in her seat, like a responsible woman. The man became puzzled, then quickly realized what he had done. To make her feel better, he blared the music in his car and began to dance like a madman. The girl, assaulted by the uproar, panned over to see him causing a raucous in the next lane. As he paused to catch his breath, he noticed she was looking at him, smiling and giggling. He quickly took off his left glove and wrote in the condensation on his window, “Name?”. She was hesitant, but he seemed nice enough. She leaned over to her passenger window and wrote, “Rose, you?”. The man replied, “Theodore”.
This ritual went on for a couple of weeks. The two would meet at the stoplight every so often and sing whatever happened to be on the radio to each other. They hadn’t rolled down their windows to talk yet, but Rose didn’t mind this, it added a certain romanticism to the whole thing.
“Weather sucks, huh?” Theodore spelt out.
“Not bad,” Rose responded, “I love rain.”
Each time they were at the stoplight together, Rose noticed something different about Theodore. He usually sported neat black hair and scruff grew over his strong jaw; his eyes were a deep emerald colour. How old was he, anyways? Rose never thought to ask. However, he looked about the same age as her, maybe a year or two younger. When they went their separate directions after the light turned green, Rose found herself thinking about Theodore the entire way to her internship. He then crossed her mind again on the way home, then again while she did her busy work, and again before she fell asleep. Rose couldn’t help but wonder what he does with the rest of his day. She wanted to know him. She wanted more than a name and a face she can match to the 2012 Nissan Pathfinder next to her at the Bradley Avenue/Johnville Parkway intersection.
After another week or so of their usual interactions, Rose decided it was time to take
charge. This morning, she would ask Theodore to go on a date with her. ‘It’s the twenty-first century, right? Girls ask guys on dates all the time,’ she thought to herself. Rose pulled up to the stoplight and, a few seconds later, saw a very familiar pair of headlights in her rearview mirror. She began to straighten out her blouse and checked her teeth for any misplaced lipstick. Theodore pulled up beside her, knocked on his window, and waved hi. Rose looked over, smiled, and waved back. She noticed that his music was quite soft today, but he didn’t look upset or angry, just his usual happy self.
“You okay?” Rose inquired.
“Yeah,” Theodore’s response was timely, but he ultimately seemed distracted.
“Good!” Rose wrote with hesitant excitement. She added, “you look nice!”
“Thanks!” Another quick response from her friend across the lane. He turned his attention to the radio, switching through a few of the stations before making his final decision. It was quiet for a few moments before Rose stretched over to her passenger window and wrote, “Date?” in the fog. Theodore struggled to read it, but soon realized what was written and responded, “Yeah! Isn’t she pretty?”. Rose bent forward a tad and saw a petite woman sitting next to Theodore. She had thick, long, dark brown hair, and beautiful dark eyes, all bundled up in an olive-green coat. A bright yellow scarf decorated her neck. She was singing with him today. Rose replied to his question, writing, “Beautiful” on the window. “Paige,” Theodore wrote. The light abruptly turned green and Rose watched Theodore wave goodbye as he went straight onto Johnville Parkway. ‘Paige’ Rose thought. ‘Breakfast with Paige’. She peered up to see a green arrow pointing her onward and turned left onto Bradley Avenue.
More mornings came and Rose noticed the inconsistent appearance of Theodore. Some days he would be there, right next to her, and other times he would disappear completely. She wasn’t as excited to see Theodore drive up behind her anymore and she made it unintentionally noticeable. For any of the mornings he was there, Theodore would wear an ignorant grin and wave to his friend across the way. Rose would merely glance over, throw up a hand level to her head, then turn around to face the red light, not even humoring him with a smirk. Theodore grew concerned; every new day that he tried to engage Rose in their shenanigans, she became more distant until she stopped reacting altogether.
Theodore began to panic, ‘What’s happening to her? Did I do something?’. He placed his head on the steering wheel and tapped it there, softly, for a few beats. Rose saw this, picked up her phone and, without a second thought, began to play sullen piano music. Theodore heard the noise rise from the speakers and looked over to see the car gently vibrate with each dark tone, as Rose sat in the middle of it all, letting the melodies saturate her skin. Not a tear fell from her eyes, but Theodore could have sworn the whole car was flooded. He could feel his heart turn to lead and sink down to his feet. Rose continued to sit, untouched, in the beautiful woe wrapping itself around her body. Theodore knew he had to do something; he knew she was in pain. He began to roll down his window, and as the glass introduced the cold air to his gentle face, Rose sped off down Bradley Avenue. Theodore stared after her and saw, beaming at him, an unchanged red arrow.
The next morning, Rose’s car was absent at the intersection; Theodore was stopped there alone. He even let the light change from red to green and back to red, allotting himself time to wait for her arrival. As the light turned green once again, he bowed his head slightly in defeat and pulled off. Just as Theodore passed the stoplights overhead, he saw a very familiar car drive up behind him and cautiously turn left. ‘She’s never late,’ he worried. ‘I can’t stand this, I need to know what’s wrong, I need to know what’s eating her.’
For the rest of the week, whether he saw Rose or not, Theodore could not seem to rid his mind of her. Rose was there in every thought, in every blink, in every breath. At this point, Theodore had known the beautiful woman for a little over a month and was deeply troubled by her new disposition, but couldn’t quite place why. Theodore knew he recognized Rose as a close friend, but surely, she would have someone in her life to help through whatever tough time she may be enduring. He thought about doing nothing at all, about waiting around for her to magically perk up one day, but her new found attitude lingered in his thoughts and he longed for the old Rose to come back. He decided to phone his older brother Gregory and ask to borrow his car. If he was going to find out what was wrong, he couldn’t use something Rose was sure to recognize. After much convincing and pure begging, Gregory gave in and agreed to trade vehicles with his younger brother.
The night before his grand plan, Theodore drove to Gregory’s house and switched key-sets with him. Gregory was still slightly unhappy with giving up his baby, but Theodore assured him that it would be returned just as he left it. With a grimace, Gregory relinquished the keys and Theodore thanked him before running out of the house, clicking the top button and unlocking the navy-blue Hyundai Elantra sitting, polished, in the driveway. Theodore sat down, adjusted everything to his needs, and noticed a pale-yellow sticky note on the steering wheel. The darkness made it nearly impossible to read, so Theodore discarded it on the passenger’s seat and decided to read it in the morning. ‘It can wait,’ he thought. ‘I need to figure out how I’m going to do this.’
With his genius plan in mind, Theodore woke bright and early the next morning and calmly got ready to put everything in motion. He threw on his favourite pair of dark wash, boot cut jeans, a maroon tee-shirt, black Vans, and headed outside to Gregory’s car. Theodore opened the driver’s door, sat down, buckled his seatbelt, started the car, and took a deep breath. ‘This is the most spontaneous, and perhaps stupid, thing I’ve done since I broke that pool table at Logan Frey’s party three semesters ago’. He shuddered at the thought and turned his head to the right, eyeing the forgotten note from the night before. It was face down and slightly crumpled on the passenger seat. Deciding to humor his brother, Theodore picked up the note, which read, ‘If you care about her, come out and say it to her face’. The words hit him like a train; he does care about her. Theodore cares about Rose more than he wanted to admit and he didn’t realize it until the morning of the piano music, when the thought ‘am I doing this?’ came across his mind but he shoved it back down because it’s asinine to think that he could be on the brink of practically loving someone without having any contact, without having even spoken to one another. Yet he felt it there, in his chest. He felt it when she wouldn’t look at him and he felt it more when she did look, when he saw the melancholy expression she wore. And he felt it the worst of all when she sped away from him, right through the red light, as if she were dying to get away. He felt broken, confused, guilty, lost. Theodore pulled out of the driveway, determined to find Rose and tell her that he was sorry even if he didn’t know what to be sorry for.
The drive to their normal intersection felt longer than it had before. As Theodore was staring at the back of Rose’s vehicle stopped just in front of him, he tuned in to a soft sound quaking out of her car. It was the upbeat ditty that she was playing all that time ago when they first met. Theodore took it all in, every single note, and let it fill him with the courage to face the girl who he had hurt; the girl he knows only by name and face, not voice or height or fashion sense or education. But that didn’t matter to him, because to Theodore she was every pair of headlights on the highway and every song on the radio and how can you run from that? You can’t, you can only face it. The sign in front of him burst to life with green and Rose pulled away. For a moment, Theodore sat there, too apprehensive to follow. ‘It’s now or never’. He stepped on the accelerator and pursued Rose’s car.
Theodore drove all thirty-five minutes to a small publishing company and parked a few spaces away from the vehicle he was following. He watched as Rose casually unbuckled her seatbelt, opened her door, and exited the car. Before she could reach the entrance to the building, Theodore leapt out and shouted, “Rose!”
It felt like Theodore had just seen her for the first time. Her hair held a textured wave and was a rich dirty-blonde and rested maybe an inch or two below her shoulders. She was short, no more than 5’4”, and was dressed smartly. Rose paired together women’s business pants in navy with a starch white blouse and shiny yellow heels. A grey pea coat rested, undone, over all of it and she carried a black briefcase in her left hand. When she turned around to meet his gaze, her eyes revealed themselves to be the brightest hazel colour he had ever seen. “Rose, can you—um—stay out here, and talk to me?”
She had never been in a greater disbelief. Rose saw Theodore standing a few feet away next to a small car that was very foreign to her. He stood at what appeared to be 5’10” and wore a very simple jean and tee-shirt combination, but the colours complemented his intense, mossy eyes exquisitely. His right sneaker was sprinkled in mud from the puddle he had stepped into seconds ago while hurrying to exit his car. The black hair crowning his head was as put together and tidy as it always had been. Rose simply could not believe what she was seeing.
“Theodore?” Her voiced rested in the high register and wavered with confusion and shock.
“Rose, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I followed you here this morning. I’m sorry if something happened between us. I’m sorry if it was something I did and I’m still sorry if I didn’t do anything at all. I can’t stand it when you won’t wave to me or smile or write on the window or sing or dance. I hate thinking that you showed up late more than once to avoid me and I know this is a lot but please, stay out here, we don’t have to go anywhere, and just talk to me!” The words all clambered out of his mouth at once and Theodore found himself speaking to Rose for the first time completely unfiltered and unapologetically so. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Rose gathered her thoughts and brushed invisible debris from the front of her person. She started towards Theodore, walking past him and to the other side of his car. Rose opened the passenger’s door and sat inside, closing it behind her. Theodore looked at her, perplexed, as he reached to open his own door.
They sat together and the air started to stiffen between them. Rose positioned herself so she was facing Theodore all the way and he returned the action. “Theodore, I regret acting the way I’ve been for the period that I have,” her voice cut through him like a reaper through wheat and he cherished every slice. “It was extremely immature of me. I apologize for making you worry.”
“Rose, please, tell me what’s going on,” the words and phrasing came more naturally to him now.
“All that time ago, when I asked about your date, Paige, I wasn’t asking about—I was asking you on a date. To be honest, I didn’t even notice that she was next to you that morning. I haven’t been feeling like myself since.”
The memories of that morning rushed back to Theodore. He finally had a date with his best friend and she agreed to have breakfast with him to see where it led them. They were technically an item for a week before they both decided that it was weird and strained their friendship too much.
“Paige and I? No, no, Rose, Paige and I aren’t even—”
“It’s fine, Theodore. It was a ridiculous notion anyhow. Don’t worry about it. I’m fine and you’re fine and our friendship is fine.”
“Rose, please, listen to—”
“I’m sorry Theodore but I have to go.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow morni—”
“Rose! Stop!” Theodore became loud and Rose was taken aback by the assertiveness in his tone. “Rose, I want to take you on a date. Please, let me take you out to breakfast. Paige and I aren’t an item, we never will be, and we never should have been. I don’t think you comprehend how insane it drove me to see you the way I did. I don’t want you to ever feel like that again. I want to know more about you. I want to know your last name and your favourite colour. I want to know what movies make you cry and what books make you laugh. I want to know if you’re a dog or cat person or neither, that’s cool too. But I want to know these things and I need you to give me that chance.”
Rose sat astounded in her seat, dust lightly flying in the air between her and Theodore. Once more, silence filled every inch of the space around them. There was a slight tension and, yet, there was a weight lifted simultaneously. Theodore looked at Rose as she pulled a small planner out of her briefcase. She looked at it quickly, flipped through the pages a couple of times, then returned it to its home.
“Waters,” she stated bluntly. “Rose Waters. There’s an IHOP around the corner that should be open.”
Theodore couldn’t help but stare at her while she buckled her seatbelt. “And, well, I guess it’s only fair if you return the favor.”
He stuttered at first, “K-Kavanagh. Theodore Kavanagh.”
As the car started and Theodore buckled his seatbelt, Rose chimed, “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Kavanagh,” and shined a bright smile towards him.
“Please,” he returned, “the pleasure is mine, Ms. Waters.”
Around 6:30 A.M., a young woman wakes up from her sound sleep to start her day. She is a lovely person; dirty-blonde hair falls just past her shoulders in