The tiny pitter-patter of the rain and the boisterous thunder seemed to be the only thing keeping me from loosing myself in Nick’s warm amber eyes. His face was close enough to mine that I could smell the sweet mint gum on his breath. Though my mind was racing a million thoughts per second I couldn’t understand what Nick had just said. It was like my ears had temporally been turned off, but my mind hadn’t. Nick slowly moved his hand down my face to gently caress my chin. Despite the cold weather and lack of heat in the car Nick’s hands are warm and calloused from all the years of working on his Uncle’s farm.
“You’re wrong.” He whispers again biting his lip.
“I don’t understand.” I say scooting to the furthest corner of my seat crossing my arms.
“Just stop…. Harper.” He says harshly, pulling away from me. The sudden change in his personality has startled me.
I’m growing more impatient with every drop of rain that splashes against the windows. I don’t know why I try so hard to break through the walls he has put up over the years. I suppose I feel obligated as his best friend to try and help him. Even though I won’t admit it to anyone part of me wants the old Nick back. I want the Nick who was outgoing, and loving; not the cold, unfeeling Nick that’s sitting across from me. I can’t say that I understand what he’s going through, because if it had been my little brother that had died in the car accident I don’t know how I would function everyday knowing he’s gone.
“Nick.” I whisper trying to comfort him.
“Damn it Harper quit making this harder than it is for me alright! You don’t think I want to tell you! Hell I thought a smart girl like you would have figured it out by now.” He says angrily digging through his wet jacket pocket throwing clumps of dollar bills on the floor along with a pack of gum and some old movie ticket stubs. I sit rigid in my seat, I’ve never seen this side of Nick before and it frightens me. Up until this point I never recognized the dark bags under his crazed eyes, the muscles and veins in his neck are so pronounce that I wonder what’s wrong with him.
Whatever he’s looking for he finds it and shoves it into my hand. It’s a small, old, black, dripping wet pocket book with a corner ripped off. I slowly try to peel the cover away from the pages, but Nick’s hand comes down on top of mine. “Don’t open it yet.” He says reaching up with his free hand to tuck another strand of hair behind my ear, but mid way through stops as if he thinks that it would be a bad move.
“Okay.” I whisper putting the pocket book in my bag. “Where are we going?” I ask as he starts the car.
While he whips Scott’s car out of the parking lot he replies “I thought we could go to my place for awhile.”
The idea seemed as good as any to me, I hadn’t seen Nick’s mom since the funeral and it looked like the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon. The streets that were usually full of life were now quiet and deserted. Shops on the main street were closed down for the day, shoppers and owners alike fled from downtown to seek shelter elsewhere. And any unfortunate person to get caught in this storm would be impossible to see through the steel like sheets of rain. The car ride only took us fifteen minutes but it might as well be an eternity, because neither one of us said another word. I was just going over everything in my head that I had thought I had known about Nick. But these sudden outbursts of frustration and break downs of tears have had a severe case of whiplash on my heart.
“You ready to go in?” Nick asks when he kills the lights of the car.
“Yea.” I say grabbing my pile of wet clothes and bag. When I get out of the car I’m surprised at how cold the wind is against my bare skin. Even though my tank-drop is dry by now I still shiver, I forget about Nick and run for the front door, and the light that floods out into the yard from the window is a warm welcoming.
Ms. Hall looks over the top of her glasses when I bound in through the door. “Well hey Harper, I haven’t seen you for a long time.” She says.
“Nice to see you too, Ms. Hall” I say trying not to drip everywhere.
“Ugh… you’re soaking wet! Let me see if Maci has a pair of clothes you can borrow.” She says as she runs off down the hall.
I’m left standing there all alone; Nick’s house still looks the same as it did nineteen years ago when we were kids. The spiral staircase catches my attention as soon as I walk in, “we had some good times sliding down the banister.” I think to myself. The grandfather clock signals the top of the hour by chiming; the sound bounces off the wood floors echoing up the two levels of the house. The sweet smell of baked apple pies still floats in the air after all these years, but it’s mixed with dust something I never smelt before in this house. The walls are bare not a single picture hangs is on display for everyone to see, unusual for this family since a sense of pride in family had been the basic building blocks to which Ms. Hall had built her family on.
When I was a little kid I would come over here every Sunday, Mr. Hall and his buddies would be watching football on the flat screen in the living room, Mrs. Hall would be busy baking everything from cookies to a three tier cake, and us kids would be tiring ourselves out by chasing the dog from my end of the house to another. Those were the days before everything changed, before Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall got a divorce, before Maci went off to college, before the car accident that killed Nick’s little brother.
“Harper, you okay?” Nick asks wrapping his arms around me.
I jump a little wriggling out of his arms “Where did you go?” I ask
He laughs “I was admiring Scott’s new car. Did I scare you?” He asks hanging his drenched jacket on one of the hooks.
“No, you didn’t scare me.” I say smugly.
“Uh sure… you want a drink?” he asks heading for the kitchen
“Yea you have Dr. Pepper?” I ask standing alone in the entry way again.
“Yep, I’ll grab one.” He yells from inside the fridge.
Ms. Hall comes back down the hall with an arm full of Maci’s old clothes.
“You and Maci seem to be the same size, so I think these will fit. Take whatever you want. ” She says pushing the clothes into my arms then walking back to her chair.
“Thanks Ms. Hall.” I say picking out a worn Nike T-shirt and a pair of grey sweatpants. After I drip dry on the welcome mat in the entry way I tiptoe across the living room through the kitchen and make my way down the hall to the bathroom. I take my time in the bathroom, assessing each piece of my ruined outfit as I peel everything off. When I have my new clothes on I try and fix my messy hair as best as I can, but give up and throw it up into a ponytail. When I’m done in the bathroom I pick up my wet clothes and put them into a garbage bag and head back to the kitchen. The hall way is just like the rest of the house cold and bare. All but one door remains open I can feel the waves up heartbreak wash over me as I reach out for the door knob.
I hesitate for a moment “Grant’s room.” I say before opening the door. I take a breath and slowly open the door, my heart beats so fast I can hear it pounding in my ears. Time stands still in his room, dust collects in the corners of the wall, his bed is still unmade, and his army of robots still stands at attention in front of his toy chest. The poster of his most idolized baseball player, Johan Santana, is beginning to peel away from the wall I walk over and smooth it out with my hand carefully. It seems just like yesterday Grant was taken from us, it’s not right and it’s not fair, yet life goes on and here I stand in his room alone. I’ve never been the emotional type, but I let a few tears fall down my face when I see the picture of him, Nick and myself at the zoo.
“Harper what are you doing in here?” Nick says
It scares me half to death and I drop the picture breaking the glass “Nick, I was just….” I mumble wiping away the tears of my sleeve before turning around. “Nick I’m sorry… I just wanted to see.” I say carefully picking up the picture frame.
“It’s done, just leave it. He says standing against the door frame.
“There’s a Dr. Pepper on the counter for you.” He says pointing his thumb over his shoulder.
I understand what that means I know that I have crossed so invisible line. He stands still as I brush past him to get into the hallway. I watch as he stands on the edge of his brother’s room looking around, I can see it in the way he drops his shoulders when he gazes around for the last time before closing the door.