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When I'm Gone; Chapter 9
Chapter 9-August 8, 2001 (Michael)
Her stormy grey eyes flickered and I sucked in a breath. Smiling, she ran a hand through my shaggy black hair. Wherever her fingers touched my skin, a trail a fire was left behind.
“Michael,” she whispered, her lips against my hair. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. I sighed and I could feel her breath next to my ear. Turning to her, I could see her eyes brightened with excitement.
“Cl-” I started, but she pressed a finger against my lips.
“Sh,” she murmured, mocking me. My lips slipped up into a crooked grin and I reached out to grap her wrist. She tried to yank it free, but I held on tightly. Panic flooded her eyes and the corners of her mouth dipped down.
“Sh,” I repeated and pulled her to me.
“Let go,” she mouthed and closed her eyes. I watched her expression turn to grief and she struggled to get free. I relased my grip and watched her fall backwards. A tear ran down her face and she glanced at me.
“Sorry,” I said, but she was already running away into the darkness. “Claire, wait!”
“Claire!” I shouted and flicked my eyes open. I looked around wildly and noticed I was on the floor of my bedroom. My sheets were tangled around my legs and I could feel the sweat pouring down my face. As I unwrapped the sheets, Claire’s cynical smile entered my mind.
Groaning, I eased onto my feet and padded into the kitchen. I glanced at the clock; it was only five o’clock at night. I opened my fridge and tried to find something to eat. All I had was a bottle of water, a tomato, and a bag of bagels.
“Ugh.” I wrinkled my nose in disgust and shut the door. I wasn’t feeling like eating a bagel for dinner. I sat down in a chair at my table and held my head in my hands.
“Please?” A soft voice came from the other side of the wall. My head snapped up and I pressed my ear to the wall. I remembered that the walls were thin enough to hear through them. I had a loud neighbor a few weeks ago.
“Teenagers,” I muttered to myself, but kept my face pressed up to the wall.
“No,” another deeper, yet teasing voice answered.
“Just the chorus?” the girl, I now recognized as Claire, pleaded. The boy, her brother I was guessing, laughed.
“Fine,” he surrendured and I heard Claire muffle a yelp. It was silent for a moment, but it was long enough for me to hear the beat of a rap song.
“And when I’m gone, just carry on. Don’t mourn; rejoice, everytime you hear the sound of my voice. Just know that everytime I’m looking down on you, smilin’ and I didn’t feel a thing.”
“So, baby, don’t feel my pain. Just smile back,” I found myself singing along. Smiling, I stood up and stretched my arms behind my head. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it in my pocket as I walked out of the door.
Once out of my apartment, the beat got louder and more pronounced. I bounced in step to the rythym as I made my way to the next apartment over. I knocked on the door, my knuckles pounding against the wood to be heard.
“Alex! Turn that down,” Claire yelled from inside. Instantly the sound disappeared and the silence was almost deafening. The door opened in front of me and Claire’s eyes widened in surprise. Then, they hardened and I could see fire burning dimly in the dark grey.
“Hey,” I said and smiled easily.
“What do you want?” she snapped and placed a hand on her hip. Her brother, Alex, walked up behind her and leaned against the wall. He studied me for a few seconds; checking out my torn jeans, faded tee, and vans. Finally, his eyes met mine and he nodded.
“I wanted to see if you two would go to dinner with me tonight,” I invited.
“No,” she answered immediately. Behind her, Alex frowned and cast his stare down to his feet. Suddenly, he looked back up.
“We would love to,” he stated and took a few steps closer. Claire turned towards him, a look of anger on her face.
“But,” she stuttered. Alex shot her a look and she backed down.
“Where to?” he asked me. I laughed, a hint of a smirk on my lips.
“Surprise,” I said and gestured for them to go first. With forced anger, Claire grabbed her purse and pushed by me. Alex shrugged and closed the door behind him.
It was quiet as we took the elevator down to the first floor. Claire stood in the corner, not waning to speak to either of us and Alex tried to comfort her even though she didn’t want it. I stood awkwardly to the side, not wanting to interfere.
Once we reached the lobby, I led them outside noticing Joy in her little office.
“Good luck,” she mouthed and pointed at Claire. I rolled my eyes, but smiled.
“Thanks,” I said and opened the door. “Bye Joy.”
“Bye Mikey!” she shouted as the door closed behind us. I whistled for a cab, while Claire and Alex waited behind me. A young woman passed by in front of me, her eyes shining as she looked me up and down. I nodded at her and she smiled. A cab pulled up and I opened the door. The woman walked away quickly after stuffing a paper in my back pocket.
“I saw that,” Claire muttered as she eased into the cab. I threw on an innocent look as I slid in behind her.
“What in the world are you talking about?” I grinned and settled into the sticky seat. I told the driver the directions and he set off.
“That girl who stuck her number in your pocket,” she fumed nad crossed her arms over her chest.
“I don’t know who you are talking about.” I replied defensively. Alex reached out and I felt his fingers close around the piece of paper and pulled it from my pocket. “Wait.”
“Her name is Rachael Adams,” he announced after unfolding the paper. Claire watched me with a curious look on her face.
“It has her number on it, doesn’t it?” she asked Alex.
“Yes, it does,” he said and grinned at me. “Nice going, bro.”
“Um, thanks. I guess,” I shrugged and slapped my hand against his. I could already feel the blood pooling in my cheeks.
“Told you,” Claire shot out, glaring at me. When I turned her way, she quickly looked out the window.
The rest of the ride consisted of Claire watching the city pass by. Alex admired the phone number scribbled on the piece of paper the girl had given me. I was the one trying not to make it obvious that I was watching Claire’s every move. I think Alex caught on at the last minute though. He kept giving me sly looks when I glanced at him.
“Waffle House?” Claire sneered as the cab slowed down in front of the yellow building. I glanced at her and saw that her mouth was hitched up in a smirk.
“I was hungry for some waffles,” I admitted. Alex smiled and nodded his agreement. “Don’t you like waffles for breakfast?”
“I’ve never been to Waffle House before,” she sighed. Alex and I stared at her, our eyes wide with shock. She made a face at us. “What?”
“You’ve never been to Waffle House before?” Alex repeated. She nodded.
“I’ve never had a craving for waffles. I do pancakes,” she told us as we hopped out of the taxi. I paid the driver and turned back to her.
“Of course you haven’t had a craving for waffles,” I said as if was obvious. Claire watched me as I continued. “You haven’t had these waffles before.”
Claire had nothing to say after that. We walked into the restaurant and I was greeted by a few of the workers.
“Popular, aren’t we?” Claire uttered as we sat down in a booth by the window.
“Just a little,” I teased and handed her a menu. Alex slid in beside her and glanced at me. I shot a wierd face back and he just laughed.
“What can I get you guys today?” A skinny girl with bright blue hair walked over to our table. She looked at me and smiled. “How are you today, Michael?”
“Good, Sarah. And you?” I replied. She laughed and Claire looked over her menu at us.
“Waiting to catch a break,” she exclaimed and patted my shoulder. “The usual?”
“Sure,” I replied and looked at Alex.
“What about you two?”
“I want two waffles and a tea,” Alex stated. Claire noticed that it was her turn and coughed.
“I guess, I will take two chocolate chip waffles with a glass of water,” she muttered and pushed the menu back to me. I took it graciously and put it with mine. I set them to the side and smiled to myself.
“What are you so happy about?” Alex laughed and shot a glance at Claire and then one at me. I rolled my eyes.
“Just thinking about the face Claire is going to make after tasting these waffles,” I confessed. At the sound of her name, Claire glared at me.
“It’s just a waffle,” she waved my comment off with a flick of her hand, “not the second coming.”
Sarah came back with our food and I laughed at Claire’s expression as the two gigantic waffles were placed in front of her. I watched her swallow loudly.
“Scared Claire?” I mocked and took a bite of my own waffle that was doused in strawberry sryup. Her eyes shot daggers at me as she poured maple syrup over her own waffles.
“Not one bit,” she said and cut her first bite.
I watched silently as she put it in her mouth. Alex turned to watch too and a smile lit up his face. I muffled my laughter as a bright light lit up her eyes and she glanced down at her waffle, which was oozing melted chocolate and syrup. She swallowed and I grinned in triumph.
“So?” I took another bite of mine and she was jolted back to reality. She glanced at me.
“So what?” she shot back defensively.
“You liked it.”
“It was okay,” she mumbled.
“What was that?”
“I said-” she started.
“I can’t hear you,” I taunted. She shot me a look and I silenced.
“It was great,” she finally said. I let out a shout of triumph and she went back to eating her waffle.
“It’s not the second coming, but it’s close enough,” I said and watched Alex dig into his own plate.
“Sure is,” she agreed, looking down at her plate, her cheeks turning red.
Laughing, I tried to finish my dinner, but a thought was nagging me in the back of my mind. The fact that I was getting through to her.