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Maybe it was the way that the California sun hit the dewy grass in the morning, or perhaps it was the clear, crisp air of the night that nipped at his bare skin that made him love this state so much. There was always that nagging thought in the back of his mind that he was supposed to do something big with his life; he didn’t know what exactly he was supposed to do, but it was to get out of the hot, dry Nevada desert and go somewhere where it’s, you know, bearable. The atmosphere of this entire new adventure seemed to entrap him with each and every passing adventure that he decided to stumbleupon. He really wasn’t really used to this many people in one proximity, but he just guessed that’s why they called it ‘San Diego’ and not ‘Carson City’, Nevada. Fifty-four thousand seemed like a big number that just floated around in his mind from time to time; he recalled on numerous occasions the many ‘fights’ that ensued with he and his brothers over how many people could be stuffed into a city such as their own. (Fifty-four thousand is the number, he soon figured out.)
He really didn’t know what attracted him to the sunny state of California, and he really wasn’t sure just why in the hell he decided to apply to the University of San Diego. His mother was begging and pleading with him to go to Nevada State; she always told him that they had the exact journalism program that his top choice had. Journalism was one of those things where it really didn’t seem like it fit him, per say, but whenever he had to write a report for say, English, he always was the first one to receive an ‘A’ for his work. Again, based on his grades, his mother kept on pleading with him. The two of them would have the same exact argument every single day; it literally started the moment that he walked through the door of his home. His older, wiser mother would constantly harp on him until he decided to slam his door shut for the evening.
The room at his house was much bigger than the apartment that he shared with his friends was. They all ranted and raved about how this was going to be such a good idea, about how this was going to be a life changing experience for all of them. The big deal, at the time, was that none of them wanted to live on campus at the time. Personally, he wanted to live on campus--there was a better chance of him meeting new people and mingling with the ladies that just so happened to be abundant on this campus. He wasn’t looking for anything serious at this point, maybe just someone to go out to get pizza with, or maybe make out on his couch.
He really wasn’t picky about how they spent their time, as long as the two of them were together.
You could say that he was a rather hopeless romantic with very high standards.
So, all of his ‘friends’ that he met either at the first day of classes, or around the city, he ended up in a rather tiny, spacious apartment. He realizes that former is kind of an oxymoron, but he’s not an English major, so he doesn’t really care, thank you very much. If you walk in and continue stepping your feet until the very middle of the room, there’s a spiral staircase (because they all wanted it, it really wasn’t good for when you were drunk or hungover, honestly.) that extends up into the second floor. From the top of the spiral staircase, if you look directly to your left, you see a dark brown door, the only dark brown door that is in the entire apartment, and it’s the door to his room. There’s not a whole lot going on in his room; a few notebooks scattered here and there, his bed propped up against the wall; his bed usually isn’t made anyway.
The small keyboard sat on one of the dressers in the far corner, because he never really found any place else to put it that it wouldn’t be sticking out of random places. The keyboard, a present from his father, was one of the only things in his room that had any sort of value to him. Keys were beginning to become worn out, even though he had made so many mental notes to get those damn things repainted. Sounds rang throughout the hallway whenever his fingers took control of the keys; he could never be disturbed when he was creating music within the confines of his space. It was all a rather peaceful process to him whenever he didn’t have to cram study for exams, except for when one of those keys started sticking again, then it would make the entire process stressful yet again to him.
The final bell chimed throughout the school’s campus; the students were finally set free from the academic institution for the weekend. Students stampeded out of the classroom trying to meet up with friends and boyfriends, anything to get out of their prison just a little bit sooner. But, he never really found the motivation to run out of the door like a wild animal. No, that type of behavior really wasn’t like him at all. Sure, he would push his leg muscles to the limit and back again when he was running late to class, but there really was no reason for people to be pushing themselves out of the doorway just to go and lay in their dorm rooms for the weekend. It really was sort of repulsing, seeing all of these people just running away from academics like that.
Such a shame, really. Friends chatted in the hallways of the main halls as he made his way through the noise of the crowd. Big crowds really weren’t his type of thing; he found them to be quite pointless and tiring, after all. There was nothing more pointless in the entire world than huge crowds. People honestly just needed to learn when it was okay and when it was wrong to just congregate whenever they felt like it. He let out a sigh, and ran his fingers through his black hair, trying to make his way through the ‘crowd’ of people. Honestly, this was starting to look more and more like a mob or a small gathering than a ‘crowd’. His friends waved to him from across the hall, which he ignored. He wasn’t one for socializing, and right now wasn’t the time for him to try and start doing that thing called ‘talking to friends’.
If you could even call them that, that is.
The sun was peeking through the white clouds pressed against the sky, and a light breeze danced through the trees of the campus. The time was around 2:30 or so, and he had just finished his last class of the day. The air seemed to be filled with a scent of adventure, which was odd within itself. Usually, the air reeked of disappointment and surfer slang hung within the gallows and confines of its route. He shook off the feeling physically, but mentally casted out any feeling of excitement.
His green eyes flickered over to the quad; girls were all lining up to see the latest d*bag composed and play an ‘original’ piece that he ripped off from an unknown 90s band. Behavior of the typical college student, honestly. The girls seemed to be eating it up today more than usual; their legs were spread out on the quad’s freshly cut grass, soaking up the sunlight and listening to the notes and rhythms that dances within their very own eardrums. Girls waved their hands at him, trying to get his attention, no doubt. He gave them such a courtesy smile that it literally pained his jaw muscles just to produce such a stretching thing. Short giggles and blushes filled the air, but all of those inconvenient noises and flushes of the face really didn’t faze him in the slightest.
Girls weren’t really on his mind too much, to be honest.
It wasn’t like he wasn’t attracted to girls, because he definitely was in all aspects of the word ‘attraction’, it’s just that the female population on this campus in particular was a rather dull pickage, as far as he was concerned. Memories always flowed through his mind of the remarks that the females that populated this campus have said to him. Some comments were positive; some negative; some just...bizarre.
“Look at him, he’s so intelligent…”
“He never talks to anyone, though. Is he antisocial?”
“Maybe he has a bit of social anxiety. I heard all journalism students are kind of off…”
“I always hear music coming from his room in his apartment. Maybe he’s talented….”
He was about half of those things, honestly. He would agree with them; he was weird and he was intelligent, but he wasn’t antisocial, no. Being choosey and being antisocial are two totally different things, to be honest. If he were antisocial, then he wouldn’t have gotten an apartment with so many people just to live. Honestly, he could have gotten a single dorm and he would have been happy. (Give him room for a piano or a keyboard, and he would be just fine.) But, he did get an apartment and he did go out with friends.
Bringing his left hand up to his chest, he fingered his way through a melodic piece that he had been pacing through his mind since the beginning of the period. It was habitual, and a tedious habit such as this was more than a little difficult to quit cold turkey. Every single time a beat popped into his mind, his hand would go straight to the nearest item, drumming and tapping along with the rhythm inside his head. God, it could go on for hours on end; but in the end he really didn’t mind that much because it took his mind off of important things.
You know, like how he was feeling at the moment.
A quick, sharp cold spell danced through the air; goosebumps multiplied throughout his arms and torso. He went to pull on the jacket that he always kept with him: that would keep him a bit warmer than the average temperature outside right now, anyway. Pulling his jacket onto his arms, he quickly pulled the zipper up in an attempt to keep some of his internal body heat from escaping. A normal body temperature for him was usually a regular occurrence, and he’d like to keep it that way. The wind kept whipping away at his face, which irritated him a bit. This was supposed to be California, and it never got cold in California.
But then again, wasn’t he wearing shorts this morning when he went to class? His eyes flickered down to his bottom half, and frowned. Of course he had to be wearing shorts today. It was an odd occurrence in itself for him to be wearing shorts in general, and it was an even stranger situation because today was laundry day and he totally forgot to get his clothes out of the washer. ‘I hope Kevin didn’t have a date today, because he’s not getting his clothes washed in time.’
All sorts of life forms were downtown today. Women with their short skirts and even shorter shorts were strutting what they had in front of the men who seemed unintelligent. A few he recognized from school, most of them were middle aged women trying to find some sort of man to satisfy some sort of urge within themselves. He tended to avert his eyes from that; that was the one thing that he didn’t want to see, honestly. His legs were taking him to a spot that he knew very well: the piano in the middle of town.
Maybe he would get lucky and make a few extra dollars. Those few extra dollars could go towards late night pizza orders, or next month’s rent. No one knew how the piano got into the middle of the square; it was really a mystery to all of the inhabitants that lived here. Some say that it was donated by a multi millionaire composer he kicked the bucket fifty years ago, others believe that it was originally supposed to be a gift to the University, but they had no room at the time, so they placed it in the middle of the town for everyone to use and enjoy. He honestly didn’t care how it got there, he just loved to play it.
He loved the way the smoothe keys felt when he placed his fingers directly on them. They honestly felt better than the keyboard that was sitting on his dresser. He loved that keyboard with all of his heart, don’t get him wrong, but the real feel of an actual grand piano...there wasn’t any other way to describe it. It was just a wonderful feeling to run his fingers along the white and black keys of the piano.
He walked all the way to the grand piano and smiled at the man standing guard by it. He knew the man by name, because they usually had a pretty decent conversation; they asked how the weather was, how the wife and kids were going, and if he had found a date yet.
The weather was nice; beautiful, even. The wife was busy complaining, the kids were doing great in school. No, he had not found a date yet, and he wasn’t even trying. He stopped straight in front of the man, and smiled. “Hey, Al.”
The old man’s eyes flickered up at him, a brilliant color of blue locked with his own. “Hey, it’s my main man, Joel.” He took off his hat and tipped it at him, like he usually did. “How’s school goin’ for you?”
Joel shrugged his shoulders, a signal to the man. “It’s not going too badly. I’ve had better days.”
“What year of school are you in now? Aren’t you graduating this year?” He placed his hat back on his head, but quickly placed his hand back on top because the wind started to pick up yet again. “A little windy today, don’t you think?”
“You should maybe wear a jacket,” He let out a small chuckle. Al always made him laugh, and that was one of the things that he liked about him. Whenever he was having a terrible day, he would go over to Al and just strike up a conversation, and by the end of it, he would be having such a laugh that he couldn’t contain himself. “I hear that jackets help out with that sort of thing.”
Al tipped his hat at him again. “That’s what I like about you, Joel. You always know what to say to cheer me up.” His blue eyes gazed over to the piano, but his smile quickly faded. “No one has really come to the piano today, honestly. It’s like no one’s even interested.” He let out a rather large sigh. “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to charge you this time to play it.”
Joel raise his hand at the man; he didn’t even care that he needed to pay Al. He was more than happy to dig into his pocket to get some spare change for him. Joel knew that he needed all the help that he could possibly get now a days, and he was more than happy to give it to him. “Here, five dollars is all I have.”
He gingerly took the crisp, green bill out of his steady hands. “Always a pleasure, Joel. Always a pleasure.” He opened the gate in front of him, and lead him to the inside towards the piano. The grounds were always kept so clean and tidy around the skirt of the piano: the sidewalk was always filled when there were major cracks, and the weeds were always pulled out. Al stopped short, just in front of the piano. “Oh, Jesus Christ.”
Joel almost bumped into him. “What is it, Al? You could have given me a little bit of a warning.” He met his gaze and stared at the sight before him. A woman sat at the piano, her legs brought up tightly to her chest, hugging her knees tightly inward. Joel stepped slightly over to the right, trying to see exactly what was going on with her. She tucked a stray hair behind her ears, but other than that slight movement, she was doing nothing with her hands or fingers. “Who is that?”
Al shook his head from side to side. “She gave me ten dollars to play the damn thing,” He just continued to look at her. “She’s just been sitting there the entire time, she literally has not moved a muscle since she sat down, and I really…” He stopped his sentence short for a moment, and then let out an aggravated sigh. “You’d think that she would play it. But no, she’s just been sitting there the entire time.”
“I don’t mind waiting,” Joel interjected, trying to calm Al down if only in the slightest. It was true, he didn’t really mind waiting. It wasn’t like he had somewhere to be in the next five minutes or anything. “I’ve had my last class of the day. And trust me, my friends aren’t going to be missing me any time in the near future.” He ran his fingers through his dark hair, and then shrugged. “Do you want me to go and talk to her? She looks almost catatonic.”
Now it was Al’s turn to shrug his shoulders at Joel. “Do what you want, honestly.” He lead the way to the piano, and Al just looked at the girl sitting there. Well, at least she was moving now. “Some catatonic basket case you’ve got there.”
Joel shrugged him off. He didn’t care what anyone said about any individual particularly, he didn’t really judge people to his full capability until he actually got to know them a little bit. His eyes examined the girl upon further review. The girl appeared to be barefoot, and her long skirt covered her legs marvelously, but there were moments where her ivory colored skin peeked through. Her shirt was a little free flowing as well; this girl obviously liked to be comfortable during the week. Now that he could look closely around, his eyes wandered upon textbooks and notebooks scattered about the grand piano. His mind tossed about the question of “Why do you need that much stuff for a piano?” from time to time. This whole situation just seemed like an odd combination of objects to be thrown about so carefree.
Joel cleared his throat once, twice, three times at the girl. You know that sort of obnoxious sound that comes out of someone’s throat? Yeah, it was kind of like that. He paused for a moment in between the clearing of his sinus passages, waiting to see if the silence was going to get a general effect from the woman in question. He decided to clear his throat one more time, as loud as he possibly could muster.
The girl’s hazel eyes flickered over to him as she shut her notebook bluntly. She placed her hands on top of the notebook, looked at him directly with a sarcastic expression, and finally said something to him: “Do you need a cough drop or something?”
The awkwardness could literally be felt within the air. Joel tried to clear the air by letting out some sort of misplaced laugh, but the girl just shook her head, dismissing him. “No, I don’t need one, thank you.”
“Well, you sure sounded like you needed one,” She shrugged her shoulders ever so slightly at the unknown man. “You literally sounded like you were dying.”
“You looked catatonic, if we’re going to be throwing compliments around,” He let out a laugh at the woman, but this one seemed to be a bit more filling and welcomed. “May I sit here?”
“I could use the company, so why not?” She patted down the seat beside her, and smiled. “You’re not too cold to sit with me, are you?” She soon got her answer when he placed himself on the cool seat. “What’s your name?”
“So blunt with your questions,” Joel said, picking up a notebook and flipping through it. His eye scanned the page as he saw angry drawings and journal entries spitting out at him, begging and pleading to be put away. He continued to scan the pages with his eyes, but dared to ask the question, “Are you an art major?”
Now it was the girl’s turn to ask. “Hardly. If you think that that’s art in there, you’ve got another thing coming.” She looked at him and sighed. “I’m a Writing Major.”
“I would have settled with your name, but ambition is nice.” He gave her the notebook, and she quickly snatched it out of his hands, hugging it protectively. “You’ve got a ton of s*** goin’ on in that head of yours, girly.”
“Girly? Do you know how degrading that sounds? Girly?” She shook her head from side to side at him, casting him away.
“Oh, so now you’re a Women’s Studies Major?” Joel laughed, but quickly received a punch in the arm from the woman. “Okay, okay. Can’t you take a joke?” Joel flashed her a smile, which seemed to get something out of her. “That’s better. But I’d much rather know your name,”
She relaxed her posture a bit before answering Joel. Joel couldn’t help but feel his grin widen as he watched her compose herself ever so elegantly. “My name? My name is Casey. And what’s yours?”
Joel extended his hand towards the woman, trying to be a little bit formal with her. “My name is Joel, nice to meet you.” The smile that was painted on his lips faded for a moment, seeing as Casey didn’t take his hand at all. In fact, she just sort of stared him down with her hazel orbs. “Uh, do you not know how to shake?”
“Shaking is for right winged Republicans and businessmen,” She explained, putting her legs down to the ground. “Damn, I forgot how cold the ground was,” Casey flicked her line of vision over towards Joel, and let out a giggle. “Do you uh, do you not know what to do with your hand now? It’s just sort of laying there. Well, not really laying, but you know what I mean…” His hand still continued to linger within the space between the two of them. “Okay, are you losing control of your hand now?”
Joel quickly retracted his hand from the lingering, awkward space. “Sorry, I just get nervous around pretty girls…” He quickly scooted away from the girl, a hot, red flush coming to his cheeks. “I’m sorry, that part just sort of came out of nowhere.” He turned back towards the girl slowly, trying to regain his composure. Well...he was trying, wasn’t he? “I understand if you want to leave right now.”
Casey let out a short, sweet giggle. “It’s fine, really. I think it’s cute because you have all of that red on your face.” She scooted over, just wanting to be a bit closer to him, whatever it took. You know how there’s that sort of thing of instant chemistry? How it’s sort of hard to explain? A new feeling of heat and admiration swept over her entire body, flooding her being entirely. It was a rather nice feeling, honestly. She turned her body slightly to the left, facing the piano fully. “Do you play?”
“Piano? Well, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good, yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, not trying to come off as too cocky to this girl. He brought his fingers up to the keys, sighing contently as his digits came into contact with the coolness of the piano top. Joel turned over to her, brushed a stray blonde hair from her ear. He leaned his body over, and whispered ever so slightly into her exposed eardrum, “What do you want me to play, beautiful?”
She giggled as the hot breath was entered into her ear canal. “You’re like a modern Rico Suave, you realize that, right?” She looked over at him, and he just nodded slowly up and down at her. “Do you know Coldplay? I could listen to some ‘Clocks’ right about now,” He just blinked at her. “Listen, you asked what I wanted to listen to, and I want to listen to Coldplay.”
“No, I was just surprised that you have an actual taste in music, is all…” He smiled, and brought his fingers into an outward position, and then stretching them outward. The crack echoed throughout the atmosphere, ringing loudly in front of Casey. He looked over, seeing her cringe in disgust. “Sorry, it’s just necessary before I do anything.” He placed his fingers on the keys, and recited the rhythms and necessary measures over and over again, all from memory.
Music and love filled within the air, intoxicating them both. Casey closed her eyes and let the music take over her; she swayed back and forth, letting the melodies and harmonies take control over her. She put her whole entire mental state on autopilot as she cruised through the lane of rhythmic, melodic tempos and scales. Her entire mental state was flying through a land of bliss and warmness. Finally, when the song was over, she opened her eyes ever so slightly and slowly, and looked over at him. “Where the hell have you been my entire life?”
Joel just flashed and smile and grabbed her hand, bringing it up to his lips, and planting a direct kiss onto it ever so lightly and lovingly. “I can come around more often, if you’d like me to.”
“I think I’d like that,” Casey said, smiling and blushing at the man. “Maybe you can pencil me into your busy schedule?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
I love you so much, I can’t even describe it. Thank you for everything that you’ve done, and thank you for making my heart skip a beat every single time I look at you. You’re so wonderful, and I don’t know what I would do without you. Happy Valentine’s Day, love.