Caller ID-Part III

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

“Hello?”

He knew her voice instantly, even after years of total separation. He hadn’t expected to get it right, despite his brother’s encouragement, and his stunned silence prompted her to repeat herself, in a slightly less friendly tone of voice.

“Hel-LO?”

“May I speak with Charlsie please?” he needlessly asked.

“This is me,” she cheerfully replied. “Who’s this?”

“It’s Aaron. Silverman. From Laney Street. Do you even remember me?”

“Who is this, REALLY?” she asked snidely. “Is this YOU, Drew? Is it? You jerk. I’m sorry I ever told you about Aaron. You have to be so mean about it. So I have a crush. I admit it’s dumb and immature. But I can’t believe you’d do this. Are you really THAT bored?”

Aaron’s heart raced at her unintentional revelation that she reciprocated what he regarded as unrequited affection. He interrupted her berating with a word he thought would clearly identify him. “Chuck?”

Harsh realization struck Charlsie. She flooded with overwhelming inhibition and minor panic. “Oh my…Oh shit…Oh NO…this IS…” Each halting sentence fragment became louder than the previous one.

“Aaron. Silverman. From Laney Street,” he repeated with much more confidence. He found himself flattered, rather than upset, at the dead air he faced. “Still there?” An irrepressible grin spread from ear to ear. Ronnie, upon seeing the smug, unbridled mirth on his little brother’s face, exited the room, whistling.

“Yes,” Charlsie meekly answered.

“Guess you remember me.”

“Yeah. Stuff I said…not good.”

“What?! Totally good.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Kinda…really surprised you called me.”

“I gathered that. I’m sorry…I mean…”

“You shouldn’t be sorry. I’m the one that should apologize.”

“For what?”

“For…nevermind.”

Aaron chuckled. He couldn’t believe this was the same girl that routinely stole his baseball hat. And his Coke and French fries. And his scooter. The same girl that skinned both knees and shins, permanently scarring both legs, to prove she could ride a skateboard as well as he could.

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When his thoughts of her weren’t poetic about her aquatic blue eyes, they were mathematical, counting the warrior marks on her legs.
Her uncommon apprehension tamed his, and, strangely bolstered by her nervousness, he directed  the conversation toward his ultimate aim at its relative beginning. “Who’s Drew?”

“My chemistry lab partner.”

“Not your boyfriend?”

“Oh, no way. Drew’s just a friend. If he’s that.”

“Who’s your boyfriend, then?”

“Don’t have one.”

“You want one?”

Her surprise at his stunning audacity topped her already grandiose amount at just receiving his call. She had written him off as a silly, unattainable childhood goal, like winning Wimbledon. Beyond that, she mercilessly flirted with him at every previous encounter beyond fourth grade with all the fervor and skill she had, and he was oblivious. She was certain he had zero romantic interest in her. She’d pushed thoughts of him to the back burner, dismissing them as childish, but also involuntarily compared every unwitting teenage suitor to Aaron, and the challengers never could conquer the champ. She answered him with the same candor he displayed. “Depends on who’s asking.”

“I’m asking.”

“Then yeah. I want one.”

“Now you’ve got one.”

“Now you’ve got a girlfriend named ‘Chuck.’ Your friends are gonna make fun of you until you’re nearly suicidal.”

“Not once they meetcha. Then they’ll all start looking for girls called men’s names.”

“You must be all that, setting trends and shit.”

“Listen to you talkin’ tough now. You couldn’t even get out a syllable a couple minutes ago.”

“I was amazed to speechlessness that Silent Silverman called me.”

“Silent Silverman?”

“That’s my little pet name for you.”

“I have a pet name already?”

“Already? It’s been YEARS in development.”

“Any room to change the nickname?”

“I guess. You don’t seem silent anymore. What should I change it to?”

“Sexy Silverman.”

“Haha! How ’bout Silly Silverman?! Where was this guy when I lived right across the street?”

“He was here. He was just too young, scared, and dumb to say anything.”

“Glad he grew up and got brave and smarter.”

“You really had a crush on me?”

“YEAH.”

“I’m in a moderate to severe state of disbelief about that.”

“I can’t believe you couldn’t TELL. I used to sit on the curb across the street and watch you play basketball in the driveway. I thought you didn’t even notice me.”

“Believe me, I noticed.”

“Then how could you not know? I thought you were smart.”

“I was afraid to get my hopes up.”

“Shit. That’s some POWERFUL self doubt. I literally sat across the street waiting for you to look my way.”

“Self doubt’s still there.”

“Well, what the hell made you call today?”

“Snow. And Ronnie.”

“Only time I’ve liked the snow since Christmas morning. Maybe the only time I’ve liked Ronnie EVER.” Aaron let out an amused scoff, but then latent shyness bubbled to the surface. “So…w-what do we talk about?”

“What’s new in your life?”

“I’m on the tennis team here. Can’t wait to start playing in the spring. And I’m doing alright in school, I guess. How about you?”

“Playing baseball. That’s about it. Nothing else exciting happening?”

“Well…some guy I’ve had a crush on since I was eight called me up out of the blue and asked me out today.”

“He likes a girl named Chuck? Must be a weirdo.”

“He is a weirdo. I’m not sure why I like him so much. I’m not sure why he likes me, either.”

“He digs the scars on your legs.”

Her normally ironclad poker face turned expressive and scarlet when he called something out as an asset she hid in her new surroundings, as she’d learned to view them as a flaw. “I don’t wear shorts in the summer anymore…”

“Bummer. They’re one of my favorite things about you.”

“My ugly legs?”

“Those scars aren’t ugly. They’re badges of honor. They show you’re a force to be reckoned with. And I can remember when you got every one of them.”

“Damn, Aaron. Nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Her voice wavered and the beginnings of tears formed in her eyes. Other boys that wooed her complimented her beauty, which didn’t go without appreciation, but Aaron’s sincere admiration of something beyond the tangible truly touched her. It was another unexpected reason to hold him up as a superlative.

“Wanna hear some other reasons the weirdo likes you? You swear like a sailor, you’re trying not to cry now because I’m being nice, and you go by ‘Chuck.’”

“I don’t go by ‘Chuck’ here.”

“Have you outgrown it? Does it embarrass you now? I’ll try not to call you Chuck around your friends.”

“No, I…I kinda like it when YOU call me Chuck.”

“That’s good. Because it’d be a real effort to quit.”

“There probably really is something wrong with you…wanting to date a girl you call ‘Chuck.’”

“It’s like calling a big guy ‘Tiny.’ That’s the last thing you look like…’Chuck.’”

“What DO I look like?”

“Gorgeous.”

“Oh, stop it. I can’t believe you’re going with ‘girlfriend’ based on this awkward phone call and memory.”

“You’re taking the same leap.”

“True. I’m not trying to talk you out of it, but you haven’t even seen me in years.”

“Did you change?”

“A little.”

“I did too. So?”

“You might be really disappointed when you see me. And then I’ll be crushed”

“Somehow I doubt it.”

“I was lying when I said ‘a little.’ It’s pretty radical change.”

“Oh yeah?” he egged her on, hearing her oozing sarcasm. “Tell me all about it.”

“Let’s see…I got braces with rubber bands and headgear, I have a serious acne problem, and all my hair fell out.”

“I’m having a hard time visualizing that. I’ll still have to see you in person to know for sure I don’t find you attractive.”

“Alright. If you aren’t ashamed to be seen in public with a troll like me…”

“I’m sure school’s gonna be canceled tomorrow too. Can I take you out to lunch?”

“You wanna TAKE ME OUT?”

“Yes? You know…I’ll come and pick you up…I’ll drive us to a restaurant…we’ll eat…I’ll pay the check…”

“Alright. Guess you’re in charge. Take me out.

“Did I use the wrong phrase to refer to a date, and now I blew it? You know I think you’re my equal, Chuck…if not my superior.”

“I wasn’t pointing out a mistake, just a difference from the other guys I know. Honestly, getting ‘taken out’ is kind of a turn on.”

Really?

“Yeah. Guys around here seem kind of afraid of me. They always just concede every decision. ‘I dunno. What do YOU wanna do?’ gets old quick.”

“I’ll surprise you tomorrow then.”

“What time should I be ready?”

“How early do places open for lunch? Wanna go to breakfast instead? Wanna go to dinner tonight? Want me to pick you up and ‘take you out’  right now?”

“I’ll be ready at eleven tomorrow. Wow. I really hope I’m as good as that picture you have in your head.”

“I’m probably underestimating you with the picture in my head.”

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