THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION
It will be serialized over the next several days, and the finale will be marked with the traditional…THE END
At sixteen, Aaron sat cross-legged on his living room floor, bending a paperclip to his will, first into an abstract ‘A,’ then an ’S.’ He had a vague perception of Ronnie’s presence and music playing. It was white noise until one lyric in a song he didn’t recognize conjured a vivid picture of her face, as if she was indeed sitting across from him on the floor, returning eye contact. The words were only meaningful in the brief moment they played. He couldn’t summon the musical poetry that drew her face in front of him, but the vision of her eyes, brazen and blue, looking back into his, retained its intensity thirteen years later.
“You’ve spaced out, man. Where’d you go just now? You sure weren’t here,” his brother had said, noticing Aaron’s checked-out appearance.
“Something in that last song just made me think of…sssomething.”
“Who is she?”
“’Shut up’ is ‘You’re right, Ronnie. It’s a girl.’ C’mon. What am I gonna do, tell her?”
“No. I know you’re not gonna TELL her. But why do you even care?”
“I don’t care. I’m just bored. Sick of being snowed in this house. After this weekend, I’m goin’ back to school.”
“Next semester’s still another week off.”
“They’ll let me back in the dorms on Monday. I’m there Monday night. Tired of this shit. I gotta get back into LIFE. Until then all I got’s your pathetic high school drama, which, if I know you, and I DO, is all in your head anyway.”
“Love getting mocked. Thanks, asshole.”
“Tell me who the girl is.”
“You remember Charlsie Anderson?”
“Shit, Aaron. You need outta the house, too. We haven’t seen that girl since you were in seventh grade.”
“I know. Weird,” Aaron lied. He thought about Charlsie all the time.
“You’re hung up on a girl from seventh grade,” Ronnie charged, correctly assessing his brother’s dishonesty.
“I am not. And I was four when we met Chuck.”
“Right. Not seventh grade…PRESCHOOL. That’s a lot less lame.”
“You need a more original comeback, man. ‘Shut up?’ Weak.”
“So what if I think about her?”
“For four years without even seeing her? Damn. Why don’t you do somethin’ about it?”
“What am I gonna do? She moved away.”
“She didn’t move to Ecuador. She’s not even ten miles away. You got a car and a license. Make something happen. Call her up.”
“I don’t know her number. I didn’t have it when she lived in the neighborhood.”
“You didn’t need it then. She was across the street. Look it up in the white pages. I thought you were supposed to be ‘the smart one.’”
“I’m just gonna look up ‘Anderson’ in the phone book and hope I guess right? Embarrassing. Getting a bunch of wrong numbers.”
“You’re more afraid of getting the RIGHT number. Chicken.”
“’…up, Ronnie.’ What are you afraid of? You daydream about her every day but won’t call? Textbook definition of ‘chicken.’”
“What if she doesn’t remember me?”
“Do you think she had a traumatic brain injury? How could she not remember you? She lived across the street and saw us every day of our childhood.”
“What if she has a boyfriend? In fact, that’s a dumb question. She certainly has a boyfriend.”
“So? Look, if you get a wrong number, who cares? You’re never gonna talk to those people again. If you get the right number and she’s with somebody, you’re just an old friend calling to see how her life is on a boring snow day…and…come ON, man…if you get the right number and she’s INTO you…isn’t that a risk worth takin’? You’re still thinking about her. Four YEARS. That has to mean something. Call her up.”
“I dunno, man…”
Ron ignored his brother’s skepticism and flakiness, and hunted for the family white pages. He opened to the ‘A’s,’ flipping through names semi-violently until he reached ‘Anderson.’ “There’s only one ‘Anderson’ in Stanley. Call. That’s gotta be her.”
“But I…what if…”
“You want ME to call? It’s that level of ‘bored.’ I’ll call a high school girl for my kid brother just to have some kind of story in my head today.”
“Hell no! I’ll call.” He snatched the heavy brick of listings from Ronnie’s hands, and stared at the digits standing between him and the beautiful, aching promise of a dream actualized.
“Well…phone won’t dial itself.”
Aaron picked up the cordless phone, his hand shaking slightly more with each baby step forward. He swallowed hard and exhaled heavily as he heard the last ‘beep,’ then held his breath for three rings; a total of perhaps twenty seconds, but those seconds felt like days deprived of oxygen.