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Maturity Is My New Middle Name
I’m having second thoughts. No, scratch that I’m having third or possibly even fourth thoughts. I twist the rubber ring round and round my middle finger, leaving red chafe marks on my otherwise colourless skin. I wish I’d had time to go get a nice suntan because now my skin is just…what’s the word? Ah, yes. Pasty.
I pull the ring off and rub my raw skin gently. Is that a blister I feel developing between my index and middle finger? Blisters aren’t attractive! I quickly slip my rubber ring back on my finger to cover up the ugly bulge and suddenly notice how childish it is. Who wears bright pink rubber rings with their names scratched into them? Only kids.
I stuff the childish thing, along with my blistered hand, in the pocket of my navy duffel jacket. I’ve gotten rid of two problems; I’m a genius! But what if he wants to shake my hand? Just stick out your left hand, my brain tells me sensibly. But what if he wants to shake my right hand because he’s left-handed and then he doesn’t like me because I’m awkward and clumsy? Just shut up, my brain mutters. So I try to silence my infuriating, constant worrying. It’s a big problem of mine; I’m trying to fix it, but it’s tricky trying to explain to yourself to stop being yourself. He won’t like a worrier, I remind myself. That shuts me up for about five seconds.
I stare down at my painted blue toenails that mock me with their cracks and patches of missing paint. Why didn’t I think to apply another coat? Or at the very least wear my tennis shoes instead of flip-flops! No, no, I eliminated the tennis shoes as an option due to the extreme scruffiness of them. You will have to do, I tell my toes and I believe they wiggled back in reply.
I find myself tapping my fingers on the armrest of the ratty, green chair. Stop being so impatient! My hand tightens into a fist and a determined glare sneaks into my eyes. Then I have one of those out-of-body experiences and see myself through his eyes; an uptight, angry (and probably insane) teenage girl who can’t act mature and adult-like for even a second. My face relaxes into what I hope is an easy, laidback smile and leave my palm open, hanging loosely at my side. Nobody likes angry teenagers; they’re stereotypical and whiny. Too many hormones racing around, my mother always says. But I won’t be your stereotypical, archetypal teenager. I just won’t.
If I could, I’d be the smartest, most talented girl you’ve ever met. I know I never will be, but I’ll try my very hardest. I pop a piece of gum into my mouth, finding the rhythmic chewing therapeutic. A solid thirty seconds later I realize the potential embarrassment this chewing gum could cause. I stick the chewing gum underneath the seat like a real teenager, no one will ever know. Except maybe that old woman in the corner giving me the evil eye. Six years ago, she probably would’ve given me a lolly and thought I was adorable. Now I’m a rude, possibly violent adolescent, but apparently the evil eye is enough to scare me off. I chuckle to myself and then give the woman the finger.
Ah, that was satisfying. Her eyes pop out of her head and she glares at me some more before abruptly turning away with her nose in the air. Okay, so maybe living up to the stereotypes is a little bit fun. Sometimes. But I can stop whenever and I will for him. Definitely. Maturity is my new middle name. (I never liked Mary much.) I pull out my incredibly ancient Nokia phone and re-read the last text he sent me.
Stuck in traffic jam, will be there soon. – J
I love how he signs all of his texts with J; I should start doing that. He sent that text fifteen minutes ago, but I’ve been here much longer. I thought coming early would give me time to relax and prepare, but instead I’ve sat here for nearly an hour fretting. Fretting is such a lovely word. I’m such a fretter. Can you say that? Fretter? I’m going to look it up when I get home, because if it were a word it would be the definition of me. I won’t mention this to him though; he would think me senseless. Which I probably am, but he doesn’t need to know that.
I order a second coffee. My mother never lets me drink coffee. It’s quite disgusting, but I look so mature with the ceramic mug cupped in my small hands. I curl my legs underneath me and imagine myself five years from now. Oh, the possibilities are limitless. Sipping my bitter drink, I already feel much older. Maybe I could be a surgeon? Oh, but ick! Blood! Perhaps I could become a famous actress? The idea brings butterflies to my already queasy stomach. For a fleeting second I think maybe I can be an author, but words are a jumbled mush of chaotic lines to me. My very thoughts don’t even make sense.
I’m choking on nerves now. Any second he’s going to walk through that door and I’m going to die suffocating on my anxieties. Typical. The clock sounds way too loud and the chatter of people becomes a low buzz in my ears. The door opens and the wind brushes my hair back from eyes. I stare holes into my coffee cup; I can’t be caught watching the door. Act busy. It might not even be him, I tell myself. But what if it is? I clumsily pull out my Nokia and watch in dismay as it goes tumbling from my outstretched fingers. A loud crack and I curse quietly as I see the screen break. I glance up and realize he’s not here. Yet. All of my ‘act busy’ was for nothing. Idiot, I mutter to myself.
My phone bleeps and my heart stops. A text message. Cautiously, I pick up the smashed phone and can just barely make out his text.
I lift my head, just as the door opens once again. Dark curls are my first view. He hasn’t seen me. I count down in my head as I watch his head slowly survey the café.
3… Don’t forget to breathe, Ellie!
2… Put a smile on that face of yours!
1… This is it.
Our eyes meet. His are a cobalt blue and he’s smiling at me as if I’m the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. I want to scream at him to look in a mirror because he looks like something out a movie. And my heart is beating a thousand miles an hour.
One step forward. Two. Closer and closer…
I fall off my chair.