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“What was your childhood like?” Amanda asked him with a punch to the shoulder.
“I didn’t really have one.” Aaron knew that this response was simple, but he thought it was the most accurate way to describe his bleak childhood.
“Come on, what about your parents?” She asked as he playfully leaned on his shoulder and made a faux pouty face. “You must have had parents, right?”
While Amanda spoke, Aaron usually looked her in the eye. Somehow he thought that because of her looks, she deserved to only be looked at through her eyes. There was something about her turquoise blue eyes as well. Aaron privately thought that her eyes were the prettiest part about her, but of course there was a deeper meaning behind them to him. That was under normal circumstances, however. When the thought of his parents came up, he somehow broke that indestructible gaze between the two of them and proceeded to stare off into space.
While keeping his focus on the point where the floor and the wall met, Aaron again gave her his most accurate way of describing what she had asked for. “Um…yea, but they didn’t like me.”
With that reply, Amanda suddenly stopped acting silly, and sprouted a more concerned look on her face. “Don’t be stupid, Aaron. They’re your parents, of course they love you! I bet you can think of a ton of times when you and your parents had a heartfelt family moment together.”
Aaron shook his head.
“Come on! I’m not taking no for an answer. Think, Stupid!” She half-yelled as she playfully kicked him. Aaron could tell that she was trying to re-lighten the mood, but he could also tell that it wasn’t working on him. Not this time at least.
“Well there was this one time I thought we were going to have one.” He said as he slowly let a grin crack open on his face. As soon as it spread across his face though, it faded just as quickly.
“There ya go!” Amanda yelled once more, flopping her body down on the bed. “Tell me about it! Paint me a word picture!” She continued while waving one of her arms in the air, pretending it was a paintbrush.
“It was uh…” Aaron trailed off for a moment as he tried to pull the memory out of the recesses of his mind. “It was my graduation day.”
“I thought you said that you didn’t technically finish high school?”
“Okay then, go on.”
“Well um, I…I got dressed up in my graduation gown. You should have seen me.” He said as he quickly glanced over in Amanda’s direction.
“I think that was the best I had ever looked while in high school. Anyways, I was all ready to go, and I left my room, and I saw my parents standing in the living room all dressed up. I remember what they were both wearing. My dad had khakis and a green and white striped shirt on, and my mom had this really beautiful purple dress on. I think I remembered that because they were smiling.” Aaron turned his head to her again for this time an even more fleeting moment.
“They hardly ever smiled. My mom said that she was proud of me, and my dad nodded. I got really excited and asked if we were all going to walk there, or take my mom’s van. We only lived a few blocks away from the school, so that’s why I always walked. And they um…”
Aaron trailed off again, this time swallowing before he continued. Also, his face seemed to grow more dismal as he remembered. In some way, the story didn’t agree with him. It was like he was remembering one of his nightmares, but this time he somehow remembered every excruciating detail.
“They told me to go ahead and walk there, because they had something they needed to do, at the time I thought that they were going to go pick up a graduation present. I was hoping that it would be a car, for college. So I walked there, and I waited. I got there about two hours before it started, and there was a photographer there taking pictures of all the families with their grads. I kept waiting and waiting for them to show up so we could take our picture, but they didn’t make it in time. All of the grads had to sit out on stage in the auditorium, and I went to go find my seat. Well, I found it, and I wondered why they were late. Most of the families and friends had filled up the auditorium by then, and I was worried that they weren’t going to make it. Then I thought that I probably missed them walk in, and I searched the crowds for them, but I couldn’t find them. I thought that if I stood up to look out, I would see them wave and I would feel silly, but I did and they didn’t.”
Aaron’s voice became shakier and sounded more unstable as his story went on, and Amanda sat up on the bed and tried to look him in the eye. When she tried to look him in the eye, he kept his constant stare at the point between the floor and the wall, and that’s when Amanda knew that there was something wrong with Aaron’s story. She reached over and took his hand from off of his lap and held it in hers. His skin was noticeably hot, but when she reached out for his hand, it cooled back down to a normal temperature.
“When the faculty was getting ready to start, I got really worried.” Aaron went on. “That’s when I got up out of my seat and ran out. No one shouted at me, so I knew that they weren’t in the school after all. I sprinted all the way home with my cap underneath my arm. I remembered thinking that the green and white tassel was going to fly off because I was going so fast. When I got back home, I was so out of breath that my eyes weren’t focused, and I ran into the house through the door in the side of the garage. I was really confused because my parent’s cars were gone, both of them. So I ran into the living room and shouted for them, as many times as I could repeat, almost at the top of my lungs because I was afraid they somehow couldn’t hear me. I searched every room I thought they could be in, and then I went into mine. All my stuff was gone, and all of my posters were ripped off the walls. The only things left were the dresser and my bed.”
Amanda could tell that Aaron was on the verge of bursting into tears. By the look on his face, she thought, it was almost as if after years of not letting things out, he didn’t quite know how to let out even a single tear. She saw how everything was so painful for him, and she had to keep from crying herself.
“I was baffled and I couldn’t think straight because I was out of breath. So I went outside to see if it all was some kind of joke and their vehicles were parked somewhere else along the street. Then I saw luggage sitting out on the front porch. I still thought that it had to be some kind of joke so I looked through it, and it was filled with all of my stuff.”
Aaron began to shake his head, almost as if he was trying to reject the words coming out of his own mouth. “I still just couldn’t believe it, so I just ran right back into the house and looked around for hidden cameras, or something. I was throwing plants, and ripping out drawers, and I don’t know what else. All of my thoughts were just fog, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on.”
He stopped, and finally looked into Amanda’s eyes. They looked like a green ocean as they welled up with tears. The spent a good minute looking at each other, sort of making sure with each other that everything was going to be okay. After they both realized how long they had remained quiet, she wiped her eyes dry with her free hand and broke the silence.
“What happened next?” She asked, hoping that the story had a happy ending or even a funny one, even though she knew that there wouldn’t be.
“I can’t remember.” Aaron responded.
“I came to in an alley, wearing a bunch of burned up rags.” Aaron collapsed back on the bed similar to what Amanda did earlier. He glanced up at the ceiling and looked at it like through it he could see the stars. He laid there for a moment with his hands crossed on his chest.
“I saw on the news later that night that my house had burned down, and they thought that I must have been still inside since no one could find me, and I had nowhere to go. And I don’t know, I just stayed in that alley until I got hungry, and then got something to eat with money that a stranger gave me, and then I went back and slept there. I did that over and over and over until the day that Bill and I met.”
Aaron stared up at the ceiling and thought guessed that the old him never really left that burning house. He always believed that he had actually died there, and now he was this other person walking around with his old self’s memories. Of course he knew that he had actually started that fire. He also knew that he was the same old person from before. It was just easier for him to sometimes pretend that he was someone else entirely. He liked to think that he had somehow found a way to start anew.
Aaron laid there and pondered those things for a moment or two, and then felt Amanda’s glance. He turned his attention back to her, and looked back into her beautiful blue oceanic eyes. For the first time, however, it felt like she was looking back into his eyes of dirt brown. He turned to her, and moved a stray strand of her dark brunette hair back behind her ear.
Next, he didn’t know if it was her that kissed him, or the other way around. All he felt was the feeling of her lips against his and her cool touch. All he tasted was her quirky pizza flavored lip balm. All he heard of the deep, dense silence of the empty mansion. All he saw was the soothing, calm black of the back of his eyelids. All he smelled was the scent of her pretty perfume. Finally, all he thought about was the dense fog being lifted from his mind for the first time since.