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Music and Butterflies
My legs started cramping. Damn. Too many stairs. I thought absently. I just had to make it to the end of the bike path, and then I could stop and walk. I ran past a life-guard stand and closed my eyes briefly in the blessed shade it provided. Hm. Maybe I should bring water next time? Way to go, Brooke. I opened my eyes to see someone else’s staring right into mine. I gasped and jumped back, falling onto my butt. Oooh. Ouch. Another reason to run on the sand. I pulled out my headphones and winced as I realized I could still hear them. What can I say? Music is so much better loud. I looked up at the eyes to see who they belonged to. Oh Jesus. Here we go. A hot running surfer guy who I happened to run into. This is gonna be good. Now what do I say? I stood up and looked at the guy.
“Hey. Why you gotta run into me, huh?” he asked playfully. I dropped my jaw mockingly.
“Into you? I think you ran into me. Or stopped right in front of me. Or something.” Who is this guy? He’s kind of making my brain not function. He laughed.
“Sure I did. I’m Nate.” He stuck out his hand. I brushed my bangs out of my eyes and reached for his hand. I grasped it and goose bumps went all up my arm. Nate? Nate is a nice name. I like Nate. The name. And uh, maybe the guy.
“Nice to meet you, Nate. I’m Brooke.” His eyes smiled.
“Nice to meet you too. So you never answered my question,” he raised his eyebrows. I tilted my head to the side and said,
“Your question? Oh.” I laughed. “I ran into because…you were in my way.” He looked at me for a second and then threw his head back and laughed. I smiled while trying to discretely fix my hair and wipe the sweat off my face. Then I stopped. He could see I was running. I’m not going to pretend that I come back from running looking fabulous. He’s not going to ever see me again, anyway. My heart started stuttering. I know. I don’t like that idea either.
“So. I’m sorry for being in your way, Brooke.” He smiled at me. I like the way my name sounds in your mouth, boy. It sent shivers down my spine. I smiled back.
“So. Apology accepted, Nate.” We both laughed. I watched his eyes rove from my Nike-clad feet to my mussed up blue-black hair.
“So Nate, it was nice meeting you, and I am sorry I ran into you,” I grinned, “But I probably should be going.” I watched his eyes again. They were so, so blue. I really really don’t want to leave. Actually I kind of want to cry. And they were swimming in despair. He doesn’t want me to leave? I’m a freaking mess. He’s crazy. I smiled to myself. But I like crazy. His hands groped around his waist, like they were looking for pockets on his pants, but his running shorts had none. He began to play with his headphone cord instead.
“Could I buy you coffee or something? I was in your way, after all.” He smiled hopefully at me. I laughed softly. Coffee? Really? Yes yes yes. I can do coffee. I like you too much to say no.
“How can I say no? Thank you.” I answered. His face lit up like a child’s on Christmas.
“Awesome. My car is this way,” he pointed towards the end of the bike path. No no no.
“Fantastic. My house is that way” I pointed the opposite direction. He stuck his tongue out at me, so quickly I almost didn’t realize that was what it was. Ooh, so he’s a childish crazy boy. I like him even more.
“Here, you can buy me coffee and then take me home after.” I offered. He beamed at me.
“Sounds good. Shall we?” Sounds good to me too. He fell into step next to me as we walked towards his car. I smiled to myself. I think I like this crazy boy.
Damn. She’s pretty. Brooke was more than pretty, she was beautiful. She was small and fit with tan skin and big, green eyes. Her hair, up in a messy, falling out ponytail, still looked amazing. So she’s got that hair. Lucky her. When it was down, it was probably to just below her shoulder blades, and so black it was almost blue. Hmm. Um, Brooke? Just so you know, I’m going to need to be with you for a while. You are not allowed to leave. Ever. She didn’t want to get in my car, saying that she was sweaty and would mess up the seats. Oh please. Just, get in the car? I need to be as close to you as I can. I told her it was no biggie, just come on. She finally smiled her gorgeous smile and got in. I couldn’t help but watch her legs as she did, but I made myself look away. I wasn’t looking for that. But as I busied myself with the radio, I smiled to myself. You done good, boy.
I took her to coffee and resisted the temptation to wrap my arm around her as we walked. She was so tiny she’d fit perfectly right under my chin. I was dying to smell her hair- it looked like hair that smelled good. I reluctantly dropped her off later. But I had a number in my pocket and a smile on my heart from her. I could last till next time.
Nate dropped me off outside my apartment building a while after we had finished our coffee. I REALLY didn’t want to go. Like at all. But he told me he’d see me again, and that made me ridiculously happy. He had been to half a billion places and I had been to the other half. He went everywhere I wanted to go, and I went no where he wanted to go. I smiled, remembering. I think I convinced him he wanted to go to Prague. He’d been to the Czech Republic before, but never Prague. I told him he was crazy and he smiled. After I described the old, ornate buildings and the century old cobblestone streets, he told me that I changed his mind. I smiled and said good, I hope you get to go sometime.
I asked him if he played an instrument and he said no, but he wished he did. He asked if I played something and I said three somethings. He stuck his tongue out at me again and I laughed and he smiled.
I bit my lip and wrote my number on a scrap of napkin. I told him to call me and I’d play for him sometime, and then we could go to dinner. He smiled and pocketed the napkin scrap, saying he’d like that. I looked at him and asked if he really would, and he looked back and said yes. As we stood up to leave he hesitated and then pushed some hair out of my face. He sent shivers down my spine. For the second time that day.
The next week I was running in the sand. Just in case I ran into someone. And sure enough, he was running the opposite direction, right in my way. He stopped in my path and spread his feet apart and put his hands on his hips. I laughed and slowed down.
“Why do you always stop right in my way?” I asked breathlessly. I pulled out my headphones and noticed again that they were too loud. He smiled vaguely and nodded to my music playing softly from the ear buds in my hand.
“Whatcha playing?” I shook my head sheepishly.
“Oldies but goodies, I guess. Well, not all oldies. But all goodies, I think.” He held out his hand.
“May I?” I nodded and held out my iPod to him, realizing a second later that it might have been a very stupid move. I really want you to be good. Don’t mess this up for me. Please. I begged silently. But he just stood there and went through my music library. He glanced up at me.
“Is this all your music?” I shook my head.
“I have a whole wall of CD’s at home.” His blue eyes widened.
“That’s something I gotta see.” He said softly. I smiled.
“Want to come see?” I asked him. His eyes widened again.
“For real?” he asked. I laughed.
“Sure. Not now though. I’m stinky.” He laughed and I stuck my tongue out at him. “Come by tonight?” He smiled.
“Sure. Five?” I nodded and said,
“I’ll text you the apartment number later. My phone is home, which is that way.” I pointed the opposite direction from where I was running and grinned at him. I took my iPod back from him and put my one headphone back in and held the other in my hand.
“So I’ll see you later?” I said. He nodded and put his headphones back in. I waved and kept running. Yes. I like that boy more every time I see him. Hey, you want to just come now? Five is an awfully long time away…I don’t know I can wait that long.
I did my food shopping in my running outfit, getting more than one look from old men. I rolled my eyes every time. I had on enough clothes to allow myself to go to the supermarket. I put it away and showered. Oh how I love to be clean. Glancing at the clock and seeing it was only three, I opened my piano lid and played some old pieces I hadn’t played in a while. It’s amazing how you can forget how beautiful something is when you are away from it for a while. I sighed happily as my fingers danced across the keys. There was nothing else on the planet I’d rather be doing. My doorbell rang. Jesus, five already? Where’d the time go? I hurried to get the door and there was Nate, his hands resting comfortably in his jean pockets. Well actually. Sorry, I lied. I’d rather be with you. And here you are. You don’t know how happy you just made me by smiling. I’d never seen him clean; but he cleaned up pretty nicely. His red-brown hair looked like he combed it with his fingers on the drive over, but it still looked so good. He had shaved, showing his gently strong jaw-line and his straight, white teeth. I leaned against the door jam and studied his face. He imitated me and asked softly,
“May I ask what you’re staring at?” I smiled and answered,
“Sure. I’m trying to figure out where your family is from.” Um no. I’m trying to slow down my heart rate and quell the butterflies that suddenly seem to live in my stomach. He answered with a laugh
“Ireland and um…Scotland, I think.” He shrugged. “I only ever visited family in Ireland.” I nodded.
“Very nice. You want to come in?” I stepped back and let him into my apartment. He took two steps and stopped, putting his hands on his hips. I went to stand next to him.
“What?” I asked.
“You have an awesome view.” I smiled and looked out over the ocean.
“Thanks. I have to bust my butt every month for rent, but coming home to this makes it totally worth it.” He stood for a moment and asked,
“What do you do? I need to learn how to do it” I laughed.
“I’m a photographer for a magazine.” He glanced at me in shock.
“How cool! I didn’t know you were a photographer.” I smiled and shrugged. I gestured to the walls on the way to the kitchen, which were covered with frames of different sizes.
“These are mine, if you want to look. I need to start dinner, anyway,” I started walking towards the kitchen, and when he didn’t follow, I said,
“May I ask what you’re staring at?” he stuck his tongue out and began to follow me.
“You’re just…more than you appear at first glance.” I shot him a look.
“You just opened yourself up for a whole round of questions, boy. First: What do I appear to be a fist glance, and second, what’s different?” I stood on my tiptoes to get him a glass that I filled with sparkling water.
“I don’t have anything else, sorry.” He shook his head and sat at my breakfast bar.
“This is fine.” He took the glass and took a thoughtful sip.
“First: You look like you’d be…I dunno, a previous cheerleader or something that works in a Ruby’s by day and a club by night.” I rolled my eyes as I washed my hands.
“Gee thanks.” I said sarcastically. He grinned at me and continued.
“But you’ve traveled all over the world, even to the less glamorous places. You are a photographer for a magazine. You love music. You like by the beach. You obviously have a really good worth ethic.” He shrugged. “It’s not stuff someone would assume from a hot chick they see walking around town.” His face reddened slightly as his mouth went faster then his brain. I paused in my salad making and stared at him.
“That’s all really sweet to say, you know?” he glanced at me.
“But it’s all true,” he said earnestly. I laughed.
“Not all of it. But thank you.” I put my wooden salad bowl on the table and grabbed the matching salad tossers out of a vase-like thing that sat by the stove.
“What do you mean by ‘not all of it’?” asked Nate. I gave him a look.
“Exactly what hot chick we talking about here?” he gave me a look right back.
“Um. This wonderful one who’s making me dinner? Oh yea, that one.” He smiled and looked at the picture frames. I paused and slowly smiled. Do I love this boy? Oh yea, that one. I opened my fridge and stared at the contents for a moment, my lips perused and all my weight on one hip. I felt Nate’s eyes on my back, and I was suddenly very grateful for my jeans. I squatted down and pulled open the vegetable drawer.
“Can I help at all?” Nate asked. I grabbed what I needed and stood up, kicking the fridge closed.
“Naw. Thanks though. I’m just making sauce. I throw it together and let it cook. Then maybe I’ll play for you.” Nate smiled at me.
“I’d like that.” He sipped his water again. I smiled back and began chopping.
Dinner only took a little while to make. Nate added cooking to the list of things that was unexpected about me and told me I didn’t have to make dinner, we could have gone out. I told him I liked to cook, and it was no big deal. When he tired the pasta sauce he asked me where I learned to cook and I told him my dad taught me. He went back for seconds and asked if my dad could teach him. I laughed and he smiled. He told me it was once a dream of his to be a music producer, but he never followed through. I put down my glass and asked why. He shrugged and said he was always told he never could, so he gave up. I watched him for a moment and told him that you should never give up on dreams. He just looked at me and smiled sadly. After we ate he went to wash his hands and found my wall of CD’s. I joined him and stuck my hands in the back pocket of my jeans. He admired how much music I had and how diverse it was. I told him it was another thing my dad and I did; collect music. He put a CD into my stereo system and jumped slightly at the volume. I said sorry and turned it down. I caught him watching me and shrugged and said music is better loud. He laughed and agreed and I smiled. He asked if I could play any of the music I had on CD and I said some. He asked how much some was and I smiled sheepishly and said kind of a lot. I showed him the shelf next to the piano that was all sheet music from different artists and different shows. He stared at me and I asked why. He shook his head and said Brooke, you’re something else.
“Here, Nate, why don’t you pick something, and I’ll play it?” Brooke offered. Oh man. I love the way my name sounds when you say it.
“Sure. Just warning you, I’m not so familiar with a lot of this. If it’s awful tell me and I’ll pick something else.” She laughed. Oh man oh man. I love that noise too. I was a hopeless case.
“Don’t worry. All music is good music. Well actually.” She sat on the piano bench. “That’s a big fat lie. Anyway. Go ahead and pick something.” She is too cute. I grinned at her and looked at her books. Phantom of the Opera, The Elton John Collection, The Complete Works of the Beatles- Oooh, Beatles. Can’t go wrong with Beatles. I kept looking and saw a fatter book of John Lennon. Even better. I pulled that off the shelf and watched her stunning green eyes light up. I could totally just get lost in those for hours and hours and hours. So pretty. Still watching her, I opened the book. Looking down the table of contents, I saw my song. I opened the book the page and set it on the piano before her.
“This one ok?” I asked. She read the title and smiled almost sadly.
“This one’s perfect.” She wiped her eye and set her tiny porcelain looking hands on the ivory keys.
Now, I was expecting a pretty song I could clap at the end of. I was expecting the song I’d listened to a thousand times. I was not expecting the emotion she played with, or the raw energy and love I felt from her. I was not expecting the longing to join the beauty that I knew could never be reached. She began humming along and finally began to sing at the very end,
“You may say I a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” She held the last three notes until they faded gently away and smiled, wiping tears from her checks. I wiped one away softly.
“Hey, sorry. I didn’t want to-” she touched my hand gently.
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t usually cry. I learned that song in eighth grade- for a project.” She smiled and shook her head. “I was up late doing homework one night after I’d practiced a lot and my dad came up to say good night. I was giving him a hug and he told me that every time I played that song he got a little teary. So now, every time I play that song, I think of him and I cry a little too.” She sniffed and tried to laugh at the same time. She tries so hard to be strong. But the thing is- she is strong.
“It was beautiful,” I told her. “I got goose bumps. And I’m a surfer. I don’t get goose bumps.” She did laugh that time, no crying. I smiled. I loved making her laugh. She had such a pretty, innocent, pure laugh. She played some more Lennon for me. Maybe she could tell I liked him. Maybe she liked him enough to continue for me. Thank you, I thought, for so much more than just the music you’ve given me. You made me love again. And now I’m in, I’m never going to be out.
I offered to put the book away once she was done; I was closer to the shelf anyway. I knelt down by the self.
“By the way, Brooke?” I asked, pretending to struggle with the other sheet music.
“Hm?” she asked absently. I struggled a little more.
“You have such a pretty voice.” I said, a little breathlessly. She stopped the little tinkling song she was playing softly and knelt next to me. She looked at me for a moment and kissed my cheek.
“Thank you, Nate.” She smiled at me and stood back up. She resumed her little tinkling song. When I stood and watched her, she glanced up at me and nodded to the spot on the bench next to her with a small smile. I sat, with a slow smile spreading across my face.
I checked the clock. Uh oh. Nate’ll be here in, like, two seconds. I rolled my eyes and checked the potatoes I had in the oven. I still needed a shower. I decided that my potatoes wouldn’t burn and took the fastest shower of my life. My hair would be wet when he got here, but something told me he wouldn’t mind. The butterflies still acted up when I thought about me and Nate together. We certainly made fun of each other like we’d known each other forever, but we’d only been together a few weeks. Not even long enough for me to feel comfortable to kiss him. Sure, I’d kiss his cheek and he’d kiss mine, and occasionally he’d kiss my neck while I cooked or played the piano, but that was as I far as I was ready to go. The doorbell rang and the butterflies went crazy. I tried to tell them to hush as I walked to the door. I glanced down to make sure I had everything important, like pants, as I opened the door, and before I could look up Nate had grabbed me for a hug. I gave a small laugh and hugged him back. I still couldn’t get over how good his reddish hair always smelled, and how warm his hands always felt around my waist. Oh man. I think I missed you. Like a lot. I thought as I smiled at him and pushed my still-damp black hair out of my face. He gently grabbed a strand and smelled it.
“Mmm, baby, you’re hair smells really nice,” he murmured, pulling me in for another hug.
“Thanks. I literally was out of the shower two minutes before you got here.” I grinned at him. He smiled back and led the way to the kitchen. A timer went off and I rushed past him to check my potatoes. Nate passed me, gently touching my back to let me know he was behind me. He grabbed a glass and poured himself juice.
“Whatcha making?” he asked, leaning again a counter.
“Steak and potatoes. And…oops. No vegetable. Sorry.” I said sheepishly. “I could make salad, but I don’t have the stuff.” Nate grinned.
“It’s fine. I like steak and potatoes.” I laughed and ruffled his hair as I grabbed plates.
“Yep. You’re my little carnivore.” I walked around him again as I set the table and asked over my shoulder,
“Hey, Nate, will you grab me a glass?” I heard him set his down and open the cabinet. I smiled and kissed his cheek as I took it from him and got the juice out of the fridge. I poured the remainder of the carton into my glass and threw it out. I stood at the sink to drink when Nate came up behind me and wrapped his hands around my waist.
“Hey, you,” I said softly in surprise. I put my glass down and felt the butterflies stir.
“Hey,” he murmured into my neck. “Gah.” He muttered to himself. He moved my hair over my shoulder and started kissing my neck and my shoulder, exposed by my moved hair. I smiled as the butterflies went crazy.
“Hey, baby, how much longer do the potatoes need?” I glanced at the timer.
“They can come out now. Why?” He let go and I felt a moment of panic. Hey, wait, no. You’re not allowed to let go.
“Will you take them out? I need to go somewhere.” I glanced at him. Where could you possibly need to go? I need you here.
“Right now?” he nodded and went to grab his coat. I shook my head. Crazy boy. I took out the potatoes and wrapped them in tin foil. I shut the oven off and called,
“Hey, Nate, where do you need to go?” he didn’t answer and I was about to turn around and call again when he came up behind me and kissed my neck before draping my coat over my shoulder. Better. Now don’t let go again, you hear?
“Grab your shoes?” he smiled hopefully. I looked at him while I put my arms in my coat. Finally I smiled and shook my head and I walked by him to where my shoes were waiting for me by the door. I pulled him on and opened the door, gesturing for him to go.
“After you,” I smiled at him as he walked by me.
I expected to go to Nate’s car, but as we started walking he took my hand and put the other in his pocket and led me down to the beach. We walked a little, almost the same route we ran, but instead of staying parallel to the bike path, we turn and walked toward the ocean. A little before the surf broke he sat down, and patted the sand next to him. I sat. We just sat in silence for a moment, and finally I said,
“I love the beach at night.” Nate looked at me and asked,
“Why?” I shrugged.
“I don’t know. I just do. It’s calmer and less…reserved some how. It’s like the ocean lets go of everything.” I rubbed my eyes and asked,
“Nate, why’d you have to come out here now? I mean, I love the beach, and I don’t mind. But I feel like you’ve got something on your chest.” Nate smiled at me and put his arm around my shoulder in a one armed hug.
“That’s because you’re pretty amazing and you know when something’s up.” I smiled and shook my head. Who me? Amazing? Haha you’re funny. He turned so he was facing me.
“Brooke, a few weeks ago, I was your typical guy. I went to work, I ran, I went surfing, I ate frozen foods,” he chuckled at my grimace. “I’ve been hurt, same as anyone. And last time…well, let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood to let anyone else in for a long time. And then you got in my way on the bike path and-” I put my finger to his lips.
“Real quick: you got in my way.” I smiled at him and said, “But go ahead.” He smiled and shook his head.
“I guess- I dunno. Feelings are hard to explain, you know? Words don’t always do them justice.” I nodded wisely.
“I know.” I leaned my head closer to Nate’s until our foreheads touched and I whispered,
“Nate, a few weeks ago, I was pretty average. I went to work, I ran, I played the piano, I cooked. I’ve been hurt as anyone has. And recently, I just wasn’t that willing to love. But then you got in my way on the bike path,” he started to interrupt, a mischievous look in his eyes but I put my finger to his lip again.
“Hey hey hey. You got in my way.” I said huskily, smiling. “So I guess- I dunno. Sometimes feelings need actions.” I bit my lip, hesitating for only a second. I hesitated a second to long. Nate leaned in and kissed me, softly at first before pulling away.
“Sorry, Brooke.” He whispered. He started to move but I put my hands on either side of his face, cradling it.
“Hey hey hey,” I said. “I wasn’t quite finished.” The butterflies started acting up big time as I watched as his eyes widen slightly and then glow as he leaned in again. I pulled away for only a moment to say,
“I love you.”
I felt him smile before my lips met his again.