October (a Fabrication)
Wooden stairs led up to the room where he sat alone. She knew because everyone else was downstairs in her mother’s basement, washing clothes, talking, eating warm cookies. A Saturday night ritual, performed by whichever students currently resided in the attic apartment. Usually she played along, all fifteen years of her excited at the prospect of another weekend hanging with the college boys, their conversations and movements a mystery to her, a confusion she relished.
He was different. On Saturday nights, he never came down the rickety steps her father had built the summer the family decided to take on boarders. Instead, he sat on the collapsible sofa, poorly playing guitar or reading some obscure novel. Sometimes when he played, she sneaked up to the landing, avoiding the 6th step creak, and watched him through the window. Every time, her heart melted at the sight of him. She felt slightly ashamed of her voyeurism, but the overwhelming feeling was something else. A feeling she decided to call love.
So what if he was 19. Four years was nothing in the grand scheme of life. Besides, she’d be 16 almost 8 months before he turned 20. She knew he felt a similar affection for her. She could see it in his blue eyes whenever they were near each other. Like time she walked from the backyard into the kitchen and he was seated at the table, talking with her mother, and as she passed by, he looked up at her, smiling. Or when he sometimes said hello as she arrived at the house after school, shouting down to her from the apartment, like he had been waiting for her, anticipating her.
They were never alone together, which made her sad. It was her fault, really. Nervousness overtook her. The after school conversations were always brief. Over before she reached the door to the house, and always about her day. Her replies were friendly, but short. He bewildered her, and that confusion made her silly, childish, and she wanted to be anything but a child to him. Tonight would be different.
She had put on her best shirt, blue and white horizontal stripes with a scoop neck, and her favorite pair of Guess denim. He mom said the outfit made her look years older. The perfume she’d stolen from the high priced, French bottle her mother wore had made her sneeze at first, but she was used to the scent now.
She was ready. Without hesitation, she took the first step.
Up she went, putting her full weight on each stair, especially the 6th, listening to him sloppily chord out a song she thought she recognized. When she reached the landing, she stopped in the doorway. The screen was closed, but the oak door stood wide open, revealing the slightly messed living space he inhabited with the three others. He was on the sofa, a crinkled musical score laid out on the coffee table along with a glass of what looked like cola. Again, she was startled by his beauty. Sandy brown hair, bangs in his eyes. Tall and lean in a black concert t-shirt, and a pair of 501 jeans, faded in all the right places, bare feet. She inhaled deeply, swallowing her anxiety. With as much calmness as she could muster, she simultaneously knocked on the screen door and called out his name.