I could sense it first in the pit of my stomach. As the air lost its hot thickness, a cool crispness replaced it, and my mind was filled with the fear. With the cold came indecisiveness, doubt, and long nights left to my mind to make up endless scenarios where he would leave. Autumn was my favorite time of year, but it was only because of the transition. I liked the world like this, a transition period. Each morning kept you checking the weather to see what was to unfold throughout the day. I didn’t like the world as black or white; I like the muddled grey area between them. I was a grey person, chameleon in nature because deciding something definitely made me nervous. I belonged to autumn and spring, to the in-between, and they to me.
Elliot is different. He liked the definitive. He disliked the world as transition; he loved the cold, where his breaths escaped his lips in smoke tendrils. If he was sure about something, you couldn’t shake him. If he was unsure, you couldn’t convince him. Originally, it was one thing that intrigued me about him. I enjoyed the feeling of his certainty. I liked having someone there.
I dialed his number quickly; the numbers too easily imprinted on my mind like initials etched into tree bark. “Hello.” He called.
“Hey...do you want to come over?”
“Yeah, is everything okay?”
I shrugged off my worry, these things were not supposed to be done over the phone. I didn’t wish for him to become distracted whilst driving. “Yeah, I just want to see you...and talk with you.”
“Sure thing, Liv. Give me fifteen minutes.”
“Perfect. See you soon.” I was left with the electronic beeps signaling he’d hung up the call, but all I wanted was just a few minutes more with only his voice. Things were so much easier when I couldn’t see his face, couldn’t get distracted by him-as cliche as that sounds, I’m aware.
Now, like the changing color in the trees, something inside of me is changing as well. If something seems too good to be true, then it most likely is. Senior year means college soon. What would I do with that hurt from a pre-college break up? I need to focus on other things. At least, that’s what I convinced myself while staring out of my bedroom window. The sky was a muddled grey; swollen bellied clouds pushed down with rain. I was watching for his sleek black Impala, as cool and suave as Elliot himself.
The car, which remained too familiar with me even away from it, pulled up to my house. The shiny black paint job was speckled with water droplets, the first few of the oncoming storm. I flipped the hood of my sweatshirt over my midnight colored hair and ducked out of the house. Sliding into the tan leather seats seemed second nature to me, almost like sliding on your favorite pair of shoes.
While part of me was upset, the other part was disgusted. There was a little version of myself screaming, “GET OVER YOURSELF!” I knew I didn’t need a boy to make me happy, I had nearly seventeen years under my belt before Elliot Gray messed me up. Seventeen years dodging insincere advances of immature boys rested under my belt, and I was proud of it. Every time I felt myself deflate, I’d physically roll my eyes. I was not one to get all mixed up over a guy.
Elliot, though, broke down my walls. It was cliche as all hell, but he had. I never thought it would be true until I found myself becoming my own living Nicholas Sparks novel. No, nevermind, those were too cheesy. He lived simply as my best friend, but more. His stupid jokes and incessant need to turn the music up to deafening levels in the car, his lone dimple on his cheek, his obsession with scary movies that almost surpassed mine-though I’d never admit it to him-his beat-up old Converse that matched mine, his unyielding acceptance of all of my issues; these things add up and finally, after years of boys not making the cut, I fell for him.
“Hey, love,” Elliot greeted me with the nickname that he’d taken to calling me directly after finding out that I was obsessed with it. At first it sounded forced, but now it rolled off of his tongue so effortlessly I felt more at home with it than when he called me Olivia. He flashed me his lopsided grin, his imperfect smile was one thing he despised but I adored.
I tried not to smile back, but caved. Despite what was going on in my head, the infectious nature of his smile pulled me in. Mentally I cursed him; curse those hazel eyes, curse those lips, curse those crinkles by his eyes, curse the smile, curse him. “Hey.”
“What, no sarcastic comment? Come on, make fun of me or something.”
I shook my head. “There’s nothing to make fun of, Elliot.”
This was when he visibly changed; his laid back stature stiffened. The lilt in his lips disappeared, and the glint in his hazel eyes dimmed behind his thick rimmed glasses. “Liv...you’re scaring me a bit. Is everything okay?”
“You remember the day you took me to see It? I had already seen it two other times, but I’d told you we’d see it together, so I kept it from you and saw it as if it was my first time?”
His eyebrows furrowed. “Yeah, I remember that. I knew you were lying, but I let you believe that you were shielding my feelings. Where is this going, Liv?”
“I got asked by three different people and I couldn’t say no to any of them, so I just kept going to see the movie.” I shook my head. “And I lied to you like I lied to my friends to keep you guys from feeling hurt or left out, but ultimately when you realized I was lying to you it just caused a bigger hurt...because postponing the truth, or the inevitable, only leads to more hurt.”
His face went slack, and he knew what I was doing. “I wasn’t hurt. It was just in your head.”
“Maybe...or maybe not. All I’m saying is it will hurt ten times less if I do this now, then to wait slowly for life to beat it out of us later when it’s out of our control.”
“Elliot-,” he cut me off.
“I said stop! Jesus, Olivia, do you think I haven’t thought about this before? This is common, what you’re feeling. So many people make the same mistake; oh if I end it now, it won’t hurt as bad. Well, you know what? That’s BULL.” Elliot’s voice rose an octave the more he worked himself up; like a balloon’s rubber stretching thinner as helium is pumped into it.
I rolled my eyes, unable to stop myself. “First of all; don’t yell at me. Second, I disagree. Elliot, we’re seventeen! We don’t even know-,” once again, he cut me off.
“If you even think about spouting the line of ‘we’re too young to feel things’, then you really don’t know me at all.” His voice was coated in venom. Then his eyes softened a bit. “I know you, though. Today you think this is an excellent plan, that tomorrow I’ll see you at school and not be the least bit changed because you were doing the ‘best thing’ for us both.”
My lips pressed in a line stubbornly. “I am.” I griped through gritted teeth.
Elliot laughed. “No, you aren't. Olivia, you’re an idiot if you think that shutting out people who care is the best thing for yourself. You can’t just forget about present good feelings to shut off bad ones.”
“I’m glad you think that way, Elliot. I’m just a big idiot, then, because I think it’ll spare us both something avoidable. We were idiots to start something that’s going to end in a few months.”
“I don’t start things with the knowledge that it’s going to end. I’m not putting us on a timer like you are. So pardon me for thinking we could’ve given us a fair chance.”
“And then what, huh? Break up over the phone while we’re both away at different schools because we can’t seem to be in the same place at the same time, after we’ve already gotten more involved in this than right now? That’s not me, Elliot.”
“I guess not.”
The pocket in my stomach containing my anger deflated, and with it I sunk a little too. “Elliot…” My hand reached out to do something, natural instincts pushing me to console him. He dodged my fingers, though, causing a recoil of pain of my own.
“Do you want to know the first time I fell for your idiotic self?” I opened my mouth to protest, but shut it. I owed him this much. “We were in this car...driving to some college performance of Heathers: The Musical. I’d never even listened to the full soundtrack, you forced me to watch the 80s movie, but I still drove the hour-drive to take you because seeing the smile it put on your face when you found the flyer online made the gas money worth it. You played the entire soundtrack on our way down, and sang every word. During one of the songs, I looked over because you had been dramatically reenacting the whole scene and when you looked back...I saw the flash of insecurity in your eyes but then I visibly saw the words ‘screw it’ appear on your face and you sang the whole song to me using a French fry as your microphone.”
“How did you know it by that?” My voice came out barely above a whisper.
He chuckled to himself, at the memory. “Because I saw the other side to you...and I knew I wanted to find the rest. Before then you were shy and sweet and funny and beautiful. Then, you were quirky and confident and annoying and frustrating.”
I rolled my eyes, trying to ignore the fact that they’d become swollen with tears. “I’m not annoying.” Elliot looked over at me with eyes so soft I wanted to look away. “Why did you tell me that story, Elliot?”
He looked away first. “I know what this is, what you’re trying to do right now. It’s the flash of insecurity. You think I’m going to cause you some big bad hurt if we stay together but honestly; that’s bull. Olivia, people do this all of the time, you’re not some genius who has cracked the code. You can’t go around opting to feel nothing just for the sake of not feeling the bad with the good. What a wasteful way to live.”
“I don’t want to get hurt.”
Elliot looked at me with sincerity. “Olivia...I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Aren’t you scared at all?” I asked.
He chuckled softly, nodding. “Of course, everyone always gets scared, but that shouldn’t stop you from ever letting yourself have a good thing.”
“You can’t promise we’ll never hurt each other, Elliot.”
Elliot pursed his lips, and looked up at me. “You’re right. We might do just that...but right now it’s good with us, Liv. Why ruin that?”
So when he reached over, hesitation clear in his fingertips, I allowed him to lace his fingers through mine. I’d lost. The part of me obsessed with ruining good things before they turned sour organically was pushed to the back of my mind. Looking into Elliot’s hazel eyes, I couldn’t fathom how I’d listened to that voice in the first place.