Title: A Surprise Visitor
Author: IrisFlower81 (Ellen)
Challenge: “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls
Prompt: See above. I don’t remember what the exact challenge or prompt for this. I just remember the song.
Author’s Note: I received about equal parts constructive criticism and positive feedback for this piece, mostly because it belongs as part of a larger work and I never answer enough questions when I write things that aren’t standalones. That being said, my apologies for unanswered questions and a few somewhat gaping holes.
I was sitting alone in my bedroom, the windows cracked open just enough to allow a slight breeze entry, when someone knocked on my door. Setting aside my guitar, which I’d been holding without making any music for the past five minutes or so, I got to my feet and went to answer it. Even as my feet carried me towards the front of my apartment, I found myself wishing, hoping really, with everything in me that it would be her.
It came as something of a shock when I opened the door and realized that she was, in fact, standing on my doorstep. Right away though, I knew that something was wrong. There was no usual smile on her face, no usual bright greeting as she bounded into my apartment. Instead, her face was quiet and closed off. That’s not to say that she wasn’t still beautiful. To me, she was always beautiful, even when she looked liked she wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.
That was her strategy, most of the time I knew. She’d hide from everyone in the world it seemed, except me. I tried to convince myself that this meant that she felt something for me. Even if it wasn’t the love I felt for her, at least it was something. And I’d take it over nothing at all.
Now, even though I wanted to press her, I forced myself to be calm, but nonchalant, concerned, but unaffected. If she thought for a second that I was going to make a big deal out of whatever the matter was, I knew she’d turn tail and leave. “Hey,” I said. “You want to come in?”
Not saying a word, she moved past me. Her movements were so slight that she didn’t even seem to affect the air through which she walked. Once the door was shut behind us, she turned to face me. I won’t say look because she wasn’t. Her eyes stared right through me, as though I wasn’t there.
Whatever this was, it was serious, and I knew that playing unconcerned was no longer the best option. Taking her face in my hands, I tilted her chin up just enough that she had to look at me, and nowhere else. “Are you all right?” I asked her.
I don’t know how it happened. One moment she was looking—at me, this time—and the next she was crying, tears spilling from her eyes and pouring down her cheeks and over my fingers. She made no sound, but it was clear that she was miserable.
I didn’t know what to do. I’d never seen her completely . . . undone, I guess is the best word for it. With no other options on the table, I did the only thing I could think of, which was to hoist her neatly off the ground and carry her over to the sofa. We sat there for ages, her in my lap, her face buried in my shirt.
Two things about the situation made me feel horrible. One was that she was so upset over some issue about which I knew nothing. The other was that it almost made me happy to have her in my lap and in my arms. I’d never had the chance to just hold her before, to just sit and hold her. And even though the circumstances were terrible, I couldn’t help but feel content.
Slowly, with me rubbing circles on her back, she calmed down. I expected her to move, to sit up and switch positions so that she was next to me instead of against me, but she stayed, her head against my chest, one arm almost around my waist. Speaking would kill the moment, but she hadn’t just come over here for this, which meant that it wasn’t simply my job to enjoy it.
Timidly, considering I was still holding onto her, I touched my chin to the top of her head and whispered the only question I could think it my place to ask. “What can I do to help?”
As I’d expected, she sat upright, and I dropped my arms so she could get off my lap if she chose. When she looked me straight in the eye without any urging instead, I had to suppress my momentary surprise. “You can listen,” she said.
I can do more than listen, I wanted to say, but I didn’t. She told me once that I was her best friend, and that role compelled that I do as she suggested. “Okay,” I said.
Having been granted the signal she’d been waiting for, she began to speak. And as I said I’d do, I hung on her every word. But the longer she went on, the more I could feel my heart cracking, for her and for myself. For her, because she clearly was having problems that were almost beyond my capability to fix. For myself, because the confession she was making was not the one I wanted to hear.
And no matter how much I wished for it, I knew that what I dreamed of would never come to pass. But sooner or later it’s over, I thought to myself, unsure of where the words were coming from. I don’t care; I just don’t want to miss you tonight.