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"If I Needed Someone"
My black hair, cut to frame my face and linger to a little past my shoulders, fell in my face again. I brushed it away and continued to stare up at the ceiling. It was cold today, and I kept shivering. I could’ve curled up under the covers that I was lying on right now, and buried my face in my pillow. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to fall asleep. Not after…
“Allison?” called my dad. I smelled pasta and marinara from downstairs, but for once my stomach started to churn sickeningly instead of growl like a hungry lion.
“Yeah?” I called back.
“Dinner’s almost ready.”
I didn’t get up. I didn’t sprint out of my room and down the stairs to eat. I just laid there, shivering and staring at the ceiling. I made the mistake of closing my eyes, and I was pulled into a memory.
My mother, my bony but beautiful mother, was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to machines that beeped in their monotonic symphony. Her face was gaunt, her emerald eyes glazed, her lips thin pale ribbons. Her black curls had been shaved. Her hands rested over her chest, but they were more like claws than the soothing hands that had held my hand for ten years. Then, in a flash, the memory changed. It was raining, and the priest was speaking about my mother’s dedication to a religion she had never believed in. I wanted to tell him the truth, but I didn’t want to damage his perfect vision of my mother. I leaned against my father, who hadn’t been there the first ten years of my life. My father, to whom I was sent to like some package for a reason my mom only told me half a year later when she was sent to the hospital, diagnosed with leukemia.
I opened my eyes, which were now filling with tears. I drew in a shaky breath, and wiped away the tears with the back of my hand, trying so hard to be strong. I was thirteen years old. Mom had been able to survive for three years after she was hospitalized. But she hadn’t been able to take me back. She had refused to see me until a month before her death. She knew she had only a month left. She told me then that she hadn’t wanted me to see her weak. She told me that priests had prayed for her, but she didn’t believe in their God so she knew it was useless. She told me that she loved me, but that she was never going to be there for me any more. And then, the day before she died, she made me promise to be strong. And I had nodded, I had promised.
Now she’s dead. And I was crying.
A soft knock sounded on my door.
“Come in,” I choked out.
My father came in. He was a middle-aged man now, his pale blonde hair turning faintly white and receding from his forehead. His grey eyes still sparkled, but the light was dimmer. He had laugh lines. Mom had laugh lines, but she hadn’t laughed too much when I last saw her.
I glanced at Dad. I let out a shaky laugh. By the world, what was he wearing? An apron that read, ‘I Heart the Chef’? I must be dreaming.
“Dinner’s ready, Alice,” he said softly. I nodded, looking away from the ridiculous apron and back up to the ceiling.
He sighed, and I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he turned, his head down, and walk out the door, which he closed after him. I felt bad for Dad. He did his best, he really did, to cheer me up. But it was harder to laugh these days.
I curled up on my side and turned on my iHome. For a little while, I listened to Owl City and The Beatles as I tried to make my numb shield break down. Nothing seemed to work until the song “If I Needed Someone” by The Beatles came on.
“If I needed someone to love, you would be the one that I’d be thinking of. If I needed someone…” they sang. And inspiration came.
I sat bolt up right, pulling my cell phone from my bag and dialing a number that had been scrawled on my hand for two weeks. I hadn’t been able to get it off before the funeral, and it was still visible a week later.
I murmured the numbers to myself as I punched them in. Then I pressed the phone to my ear, my breath coming fast and shallow and my heart speeding like a NASCAR.
“Hello?” came a smooth, gentle voice.
“Alex? It’s me, Alice.”
“Alice! How’ve you been?” he exclaimed, his voice so happy that it made the tears come faster down my face.
“Not too good,” I said, trying not to sob.
“Oh,” he said softly. “Your mom. I forgot.”
“It’s okay,” I assured him automatically.
“Want me to come over?” Alex asked timidly. I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see me, and choked out a “yes”.
He hung up, and I tossed the phone gently back onto the bed.
Then I buried my face in my arms and began to cry.
Ten minutes later, a knock sounded on my door. Alex stood in the doorway, looking tall and beautiful and kind. His dark brown hair was a disarray, and I took note as I always did of the random streaks of red and purple that were mixed in with the chocolate brown. His round eyes, the color of the night sky, were gentle as they hugged me with their starry depths. He was wearing my favorite polo shirt, black and white striped, and some simple black pants. He was wearing his high-top Converse, the ones that I had given him for Christmas this year. He had worn them every day since.
I got up off the bed and he came over to me. I threw my arms around him and buried my face in the crook of his neck. He pulled me close to him, rocking side to side gently. I cried some more as he murmured reassuring things in my ear. When I finally pulled myself together, he led me back onto the bed, probably worrying that I wouldn’t be able to stand for much longer. I sat down heavily, and he sat down beside me. I rested my head on his shoulder, and we sat in silence, listening to the music that continued to play from my iHome.
I have known Alex for three years. We met when I moved here to Southern California from Seattle, friendless and completely confused, during a science class. We had been dissecting a squid, and some idiot had thrown some squid-body part at me. Alex had picked the body part out of my hair and had handed it back to the kid, telling the boy not to be a jerk and to get back to his work. Once the kid had been sent to see the principal, Alex stayed by my side to make sure no other idiot let loose a squid-part. He has never left it since.
Alex was the tall, quiet type, and yet he seemed to command respect from everyone at our school, even from the teachers. He lived a couple blocks down, in a perfectly normal house with a perfectly normal family, and his parents had only recently got him a cell phone. He was going to go to the same high school as me next year. He was sweet and gentle, though he had the tendency to blame himself. Alex was Alex.
“Alice?” he asked quietly. I looked up at him. “I’m going to go get something. Will you be okay for a few seconds?”
He didn’t ask it in a sarcastic voice. He asked it sincerely, like he was worried that I would fall apart again if he left.
I nodded, and straightened up to allow him to get up and make his way out the door. I stared at the red walls of my room for a couple minutes, reading some of the posters I had posted there. I had been staring at a poster of one of the Harry Potter movies, the fifth I think, when Alex came back. He was holding a plate heaped with pasta and marinara sauce. He handed it to me with a fork, and watched for a moment as I ate, timidly at first then ravenously. He sat down on the floor beside me, resting his head back against my bed while I devoured my dinner.
When I was done he took the plate from me and took it back to the kitchen. When he came back he sat back down beside me and I curled into his side, feeling full and a little happier. He held me close with his arm around my shoulders, not in the possessive way but in the I’m-here-don’t-worry way.
I inhaled slowly, taking in the smell of coffee and chocolate that was always around Alex. I closed my eyes, smiling a little for the first time in days. By the world, I loved Alex.
I froze. Did I think what I just thought I thought? Holy crud, I think I did.
Alex must’ve sensed my sudden tension, for he pulled away a little to look me in the eyes, looking probably for some sign of tears or anger.
“What’s up?” he asked when he could find nothing. I smiled timidly, thinking fast. What did I say? Did I tell him now? My heart was racing, and it felt like it was reaching out towards him, like it knew that it belonged with him. Woah, did I just think that?
“Um,” I said to fill the silence. I bit my lip.
“Now you’re stressing out,” he noticed. He took my face in his hands, so gently but I could feel the calluses on his fingertips. “Allison, what’s up?”
“I…I think I…” I drifted off, biting my lip for a moment, then taking a deep breath and finishing with a question in my voice, “love you.”
Alex’s face went blank for a moment. Then a smile lit up every detail, and he pulled me into a hard hug.
“Ah, man, Allison,” he sighed in my ear. “Don’t you know that I love you, too?”
I hugged him back, and for the first time in a long while, I closed my eyes and saw my mother smiling. She nodded once, her tall skinny figure glowing with a strange white light, then I opened my eyes and she was gone.
I smiled, and rested my head on Alex’s shoulder.
“Everything’s alright now,” I breathed so softly, I didn’t think he heard me. I kissed him gently on the cheek, and he moved his head slightly so that his lips met mine. When we pulled away, my heart was beating fast and everything inside of me felt like it was on fire. He leaned his forehead against mine, one of his hands stroking my short black hair.
“Everything’s perfect now,” he corrected me. We both smiled, and sat there, basking in our perfection.
“If I needed someone, you’re the one that I’d be thinking of… If I needed someone…”