Hi, this is Nikki. I'm a huge Taylor Swift fan, and this is one of her songs I recently came to love, Begin Again. It's a short story, and will only last 3-5 chapters. So enjoy. :)
Chapter One: As UsualEdit
Late. I wait in the chair and glance at the clock. Nothing. I smooth my silky skirt for the hundredth time, waiting for someone who's always late. The soft wisps of my hair tickle the back of my neck softly, and I twirl them as I listen to the steady tick of the clock. When he's ten minutes late, I grab my sketchpad.
In my pad I keep some pictures of places I always wanted to go to. The Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Great Wall of China.... Those types of places. On the little blue notebook, I roughly sketch the Eiffel Tower, carefully arching the sides just right. Clicking noises catch my attention, and I look to the door.
The doorknob moves, and I roll my eyes. Finally, Henry bursts in, looking sweaty. He pants, and holds his arms out, but I just wrinkle my nose and follow him outside.
"Heels again?" He disapprovingly looks at my soft pink heels. I flush, remembering he hates when I wear them.
"Yes." I reply softly, not wanting to cause more trouble for myself. No hellos, no "how are you," not even a hug. Of course, he offered. But who shows up to a date sweaty? Henry.
We drive the car in silence as usual, and I catch glimpses of people along the way. Happy couples holding sparklers in the park, teens our age holding hands at the Cafe, children drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. I sigh. That could have been me maybe. Everyone thinks Henry and I are perfect for each other. Taylor, the head cheerleader. Henry, the football team captain. Of course, that means nothing to him.
"Lets go." He abruptly pulls to a stop outside of the quaint cafe. He gets out and slams the door quickly, and I follow. We walk in, distant. Bt when I see my friends and their boyfriends, I grab his hand, ignoring his sweat stench.
"Heeeyyyy! Brad, Charlie!" Henry beams at his football buddies, and puts his arm around me. He acts like I'm a prize. His delicate little cheerleader girlfriend that's so pretty. As if I were a china doll to show off.
As usual suit, I seat myself and watch the boys catch up together- because their one hour gap between football practices are SO long. My friends chatter aimlessly together, talking about Valentines Day plans.
"Brad and I are going to the chocolate factory and then to the park!" Mandy squeals excitedly. The other girls make squeaks at the pitch only girls can reach.
"Well Adam and I are going to the Aviary for the "Lovebirds" tour." Giggles Fiona. They plunge into a deep discussion on whether she should wear a hat in case a bird poops on her, but my thoughts are elsewhere.
The boys jostle each other rowdily, but the girls don't notice they're forgotten. As usual, I buy my own cup of tea, and sip in quietly, dipping my toe into the conversation occasionally.
But I don't do much. As usual.
Chapter 2: Casualties Edit
I scratch at the chipping cement between the glass tiles on on the table mosaic, bored. Of course, I'm used to this. In my mini sketchbook, I carefully trace my pointer finger, then fill in details. The boys look about done with their pow-wow, and i sip the last of my chamomile tea. After a round of head butting and chest bumping, Henry comes back and sits across from me.
A waitress I hadn't seen before, new to this cycle, comes to take our orders. She is about our age, maybe a couple years older or younger. My finger traces a mosaic tile on the table as I study her tightly wrapped bun, and listen to Henry order his drink.
"Bud Light." Henry says abruptly, and flips out his phone to follow the football game going on. The waitress narrowed her eyes, partially annoyed at his rude attitude, but she jotted down his order all the same.
"Another chamomile tea please." I ask softly, and look down. But I can tell she is grateful for my manners. She walks away, and I stare at the ground, listening to the clicking of her shoes.
Henry shrugs and watches his game, sometimes making loud outbursts. I sip my new cup of tea and watch him take swigs from his beer. He would get drunk soon, I knew. Of course, it would get better when the summer was over.
While I applied lip gloss, he exchanged drunk banter with his friends. He ordered a third beer, and I got up to leave. I couldn't take this anymore- I usually left about now.
"Hey," Henry slurred drunkly. "Where you going?" He and his friends laughed hysterically. He grabbed my arm, but i shook him off. I didn't want his company.
"I'm leaving." I shake him off, and hear him call after me.
"This means were over then!" He and his friends crack up, and he takes a sloppy swig from his beer bottle.
"Fine." But they don't notice. Mandy grabs my arm as I try to leave.
"Taylor, they're just messing around." She pleads. She met her boyfriend through me and Henry, and I knew her relationship would probably crumble after mine did.
"You deserve better than Brad." I tell her, and walk away. Her relationship won't last long. But it's just another casualty in the war of love.
Chapter 3: Lonely Edit
I walk out of the cafe and go home on foot. My feet are sore from wearing my heels, but I just jump onto my bed. Although I'm in my second year of college, I still live at home.
My favorite instrumental starts playing on the radio, Gabriel's Oboe, and I lay down and listen to the soothing music. Away from Henry, and his drunken football friends. But I knew I couldn't hide forever.
"Free." I breathed. For now. But it was cold. Exposure. Alone. I had mostly been independent from Henry, but he was still there to fend off some of the other guys. But that was out of fear of him. Even drunk, other boys stayed away.
In the mirror, I saw my long curly hair starting to frizz, but I ignored it. Usually, I kept a polished and prim appearance, but now I was single. Most people told me I was a beauty- mature and strong.
But the girl I saw in the mirror was frightened and scared. Young- as if she saw something that changed her forever. A permanent saddened look was painted across the face. A waxy mask of lost innocence.
A tear slid across the girl's face. Her blue eyes were watery and forlorn, and fair skin paled. Blotches of red appeared, and disfigured the face. This couldn't be me, I thought. But she blinked when I blinked. She moved as I moved. And her tears followed the paths of mine.
Why, why was I crying over a boy who never loved me? Who acted as if I were a lovely trophy to be admired on a shelf, collecting dust but a symbol of his power and amazing-ness. Love can only break and destroy, I thought bitterly, not what they lie about in music and movies and all those stupid, stupid books.
When I met Henry, it was just after a football game. I had been doing m signature move, a cradle toss and then a flip. Everybody cheered, and as I landed, Henry made the winning touchdown. The team lifted him up, and the crowds screamed in delight. The cheerleaders lifted me up, and I did a head-toe touch. He looked at me, and smiled. Don't get me wrong, Henry is completely hot and muscular. Wavy brown hair, a perfect bronze tan, and a well formed figure. That night, the cheerleaders and football team went out for pizza, and Henry confronted me.
"Hey, Taylor right?" He walked up to me, flipping his perfect hair and holding out his hand. "Great job out there."
"Thanks, ditto." I smiled at him, and he asked me out, of course, I said yes. We ate pizza, laughed and had a great night. The first date was at a vampire movie, a stupid one at that. We mercilessly mocked it afterwards, and I had a great time. Two dates later, we were official BF and GF.
The neglect started a month later. When Henry turned 19, he got into alchohol. At first, it was a beer here, maybe a glass of wine there. But soon, it became incessant. He would go to a pizza parlor at 7 with some friends, and return to the dorms around 3 am drunk. This became a cycle. He never hurt me, but he would act stupid and humiliate me. The only reason I stuck with him was that there were worse guys at our college, and Henry was the only reason they stayed away.
I was done with love. I was done with boys.
And I would live with being lonely.
Did I have any other options?
Chapter 4: Pictures To Burn Edit
(See what I did there?)
Phone calls. Which is short for a ton of sappy, sentimental girls who want to comfort you. Try to comfort you. But they never understand. Don't that get that comfort isn't wanted?
The next day, after the breakup, I stayed at my house all day. My friends tried to visit me, but I told them I was sick. Which wasn't a lie. I was heartsick.
I laid on my soft bed, and let the warmth envelope me. But it made no change in the cold I felt in my heart. Maybe I did love him a little. But really, I couldn't understand why I was so torn up over a guy. When I was little, I promised myself I wouldn't get tangled up in a stupid relationship like I saw in movies or on TV. Ironic.
When I was done crying my eyes out, I got up from my bed and went to my vanity for some tissues. Around the mirror were pictures of Henry and I before he started drinking. Cute photos. A photo strip of a visit to the carnival, a heart shaped picture of us kissing, a ticket stub to our first movie...stuff like that. I touched a picture of the cheer squad and the football team, gathered around Henry and I at a fast food restaurant. My hands lingered on the picture, when I felt a roar of emotion.
And I ripped the photo off the mirror. It came off quickly, and fell to the ground. A pang of guilt swept through me, and I almost picked it back up. But then another wave of feeling came, and I stopped. One by one, the pictures of our past went into the wastebasket. Us at the library. A surprise picture he took of me. A dance. All thrown away.
It was vindicating, throwing it all away. To show him I wasn't lingering in the past anymore. I stopped when my hand reached for the last photo. The first night at the pizza parlor. We see both laughing at some joke, and I could see my friends in the background giving us bunny ears.
They went into the garbage.
Chapter 5: WednesdayEdit
It's hard to think that I would ever leave my room. But one Wednesday, I looked in the mirror. I brushed my frizzy hair, and swept it into a neat ponytail. I pulled over a turquoise blouse, and put on a neat skirt.
With a bit of lipstick, and a stroke of eyeliner, I looked the same. I took a deep breath and walked out. My favorite little bike was in the garage, and I hopped onto it. I pulled on my headphones, and a song came on. The title escaped me, but I just know that I love it. Henry never understood it. But I do.
The sun was shining over the quiet street. I didn't understand how the day could be so peaceful, when I felt so much unrest inside. A slight breeze cooled down an otherwise hot day.
It was only when that song ended, that I realized I had subconsciously ridden my bike to a café. The café. It was quiet inside, with scattered people inside. I parked my bike, and walked in.
I ordered a small strawberry cake and coffee, and sat down on a bench, sipping my coffee quietly. Pieces of conversation catch my attention, and a group of young students come in. They joke around, but not in the obnoxious way that Henry always did. I recognize them as the photography club.
One of them smiled at me across the café, which I uneasily returned. He was cute, with a messy haircut and dark eyes that flashed when he smiled. He smiled a lot.
He said something to his friends, and then got up. I sat back, restless. Finding another guy wouldn't help. Relationships would break, and burn, and eventually end.
But the boy Couldn't hear my mind pleading for him to go away.
"Hi, I'm Jason." He grinned broadly and politely held out his hand. I shook it softly.
"Taylor." I breathed, staring down at my half eaten strawberry cake.
"I'm doing this photography project on some athletes. You're a cheerleader, right?" He asked kindly.
"Mmhmm." I mutter, and look down. His words were innocent enough, but they hit me right in the gut.
"Well I was doing the football team, and the cheerleaders. Mind if I take a few pictures of you?"
"No..." I gave him a half smile, which he snapped a picture of. He made a pompous unsatisfied face, and I laughed- the first time that week.
"Perfect, dahling." He laughed in a fake accent, taking pictures of my now wide smile.
"So that's basically do on break? Drink coffee and eat cake?" Jason asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh, no." I grin. "Mostly schoolwork. You know. All those dull reports."
"AHHH, I see. You're one of those over achievers."
"Sort of." But I smiled, because that labelled me perfectly.
"Well, I think that's pretty cool. Not many beautiful girls are over achievers." He gave me a genuine smile, and I could tell he really meant that.
"Thanks." I said quietly, because Henry never complimented me on my intelligence.
I sat their, idly stirring my coffee, as Jason looked over the photos. I almost started talking, but then I closed my mouth awkwardly.
"You know how I got into photography?" He asked randomly.
"Well-" and Jason launched a story involving a bet, a phone, and the huge fountain outside the campus. I cracked up as he described falling into the fountain, and at the funniest parts, he would throw back his head with laughter- you know, the way you always hear about in books, but never really see? I was smiling the whole time.
"No way!" I laugh. "He didn't!"
"He did! For about an hour!" He assures me. We laugh about stupid people, and I don't even think about Henry.
"So that's basically your life? Photography and science?"
"Pretty much. Oh, and taking pretty girls to dinner?" He raises an eyebrow, and it takes me a moment to realize what he just asked.
"Oh. Well, um, sure." I stutter, surprised.
"Then it's a date."
Chapter 6: (TBA) Edit
My fingers glided over the two dresses, trying to decide between the two. It was already about 7:45 PM. The agreed upon time was 8. I glanced at the clock, only to reaffirm the time. Whatever. It's not like…he was never on time. They're all the same anyway. I gripped a hanger tightly.
They're all the same anyway. Why am I even bothering again?
I looked down. I tried not to imagine the sparkle in Jason's eyes when he talked about something geeky like Nikon versus Canon cameras, and why the world could very well be on the back of a turtle. In our short conversation, he had already enamored me with his passion. He was never harsh, caustic, nor sarcastic. He noted my opinions, and took them seriously. With Henry I never had an opinion.
I grabbed the light blue sundress. I could wear the sparkling pendant that- no. Nothing of Henry. I pulled the glassy necklace from my jewelry box. Cubic zirconium- what else could I expect from him? I tossed the fake necklace in the trash. The metal was probably lead anyway.
The blue sundress looked fine without the pendant. Instead I put on a dark blue beaded necklace. I didn't need Henry's cheap gifts.