I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much for me.
Why did things like this happen?
What did I do to deserve this?
Out of pure anger and exasperation, I picked up a nearby vase and hurled it at the wall. It shattered into a million fragments.
Just like my heart.
The fragments flew through the air, and I heard them pelt against the cabinets and the floor. I sunk to my knees and cried. It wasn’t the pretty cry you see in movies, when the characters are hit with peril and are at the end of their rope.
It was a real cry. Happiness and love belong in movies. They had no place in the real world.
My sobs wrung my body like a wet rag. I collapsed on the carpet in my misery. Tears streamed onto the carpet in my hair.
Memories flooded back into my mind. Memories of my younger sister who was now cold in her grave. Memories of my autistic brother who was sent to a special needs facility. Memories of my parents who were divorced and didn’t care about us at all.
I hated everything. I didn’t understand why life was like this. Cruel. Dark. Cold.
Life is brutal. That’s just the way of things, I guessed.
The rain fell harder as I walked down the sidewalk. Not wanting to get drenched, I walked faster and pulled my coat higher up my neck.
I finally reached my apartment complex. As I crossed through the door frame, I shook off as much water as I could.
I was able to make it up to my apartment without too much human interaction. There were mostly old people living in the apartment, but there were a few young college students, like me, who took refuge here from the dorms.
As I closed and locked my door, I heard a terrific crash in the apartment above mine. It sounded like glass and a significant amount of it.
Violent crying followed the crash, and them someone fell.
Most people would’ve shrugged and said, ‘none of my business,’ but the noise tugged at my heart. I wanted to help whoever was upstairs. By the sound of the cry, I guessed the person upstairs was a young girl, probably in college.
I tried to go about my business for the next half hour, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl. Her sobs had quieted down after about fifteen minutes, but the eerie silence had me worried.
I sighed resignedly and slipped my hoodie on. My conscience was making me miserable. I grabbed my keys and headed out of the door.
As I walked down the hall and got in the elevator, I started wondering if it was weird and intrusive. The elevator doors slid open and I walked down the third-floor hall to the apartment above mine.
I came to a stop at the door. The number 209 stared at me as I raised my hand to knock. I paused before rapping my knuckles on the wood.
Was I being a weirdo?
I second-guessed myself again, but I forced myself to knock on the door. The rap seemed to echo down the hall. I immediately blushed. What if I knocked too hard? Did I have any food in my teeth? This was really weird, wasn’t it.
The door swung open suddenly, revealing a girl with tousled braids and a stormy expression. Something in my heart felt warm when I made eye contact with her. Her eyes were big and crystal blue––so crystal and shimmery I could almost see my reflection in them.
She seemed angry at first, but her eyebrows furrowed and she looked puzzled. Seeing me confused her, I guessed.
“Hey,” I stammered. “I live in the apartment below yours. I heard some glass break and I was just wondering if you were alright.” My cheeks burned as I spoke. She looked down and the stormy expression reappeared.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you heard. Nothing like that happened here. It’s nice of you to check in, and I’m sorry I can’t tell you what the sound was. Must’ve been the air conditioning.”
“Yeah, must’ve,” I replied slowly. “My name’s Cody, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you. If you don’t mind, I have to go in now.” The girl hastily shut the door, leaving me to go my way.
So that’s what I did. I wasn’t mad at all, just worried. I couldn’t forget the look of fear and pain deep in the girl’s beautiful eyes.
I felt like I recognized her. Her dark caramel-colored skin looked so soft, although I had noticed a few scars around her wrists. She had long, thick braids cascading down her back and shoulders, and her long eyelashes glistened with tears. She seemed about average height for a college girl––I assumed she was in the same college I was because she had the Rhodes University logo and name on her sweatpants.
Even though she was slightly familiar to me, I couldn’t place her. But those eyes––I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
I laid in bed for hours that night thinking about her. I wished I could help her. I sighed heavily. I knew I had done it. I was done for.
I was in love.
“My name’s Cody, by the way,” Cody said amiably, starting to hold out his hand.
“Nice to meet you,” I replied coldly. “If you don’t mind, I have to go in now.” I hastily shut the door before he could say another word. Before he could make me fall any more.
After I closed the door, I turned around and sank to the floor, letting my head fall into my hands.
It felt like Cupid had shot me. I daresay he did. The memory of Cody’s dark brown eyes and comforting voice stayed with me the whole day.
When I had heard the knock, I was expecting to see the mailman or some old person bringing me disgusting fruitcake. I wasn’t at all expecting the tall, curly-haired college boy I saw––I assumed he went to the same college I did because of the Rhodes emblem on his jacket. He probably assumed the same thing after seeing my Rhodes sweatpants.
And the name Cody was just so adorable––No, no, I couldn’t think like that. Love at first sight isn’t real. But his fair skin and cute smile just made my heart throb.
Why did things like this have to happen? I didn’t have the time to be in love, and then I’d have to deal with a breakup, and dates, and people touching me––the whole thing was a mess.
The night ended in me drowning my sorrows in bags of Ghirardelli chocolate, sticky, caramel-y kettle corn, and cheesy rom-coms.
I don’t know how I did it, but I met her on campus one day. I was so glad I could’ve jumped for joy––but I didn’t, because that would’ve been weird.
We crossed paths on our way home a few days after I saw her at our apartment. I didn’t want to seem like a stalker, so I tried to casually amble up beside her, but I think I ended up looking like a creep.
But luckily it didn’t end there. She was in a great mood and introduced herself, apologizing for the way she had acted previously.
Her name was Sarah––I couldn’t stop saying it over and over again that night because I loved it so much. She was a freshman still finding her way around. Since I was a seasoned junior, I offered her a tour of campus the next day, since it was still early in the semester.
Sarah said she had already had a tour, but would love another one, as she was still a bit unfamiliar with the locations of everything.
I asked her if she had made any friends yet, and she said no, no one besides me. Then I asked her if there were any friends back home who kept contact.
I knew it was a weird question, but I wanted to make sure to some degree at least that she didn’t have a boyfriend.
She said no, she didn’t keep in contact with anyone back home. She fell silent and looked at the ground.
“Are you alright?” I asked quietly, afraid I had touched on an injury still raw and aching.
Sarah looked up again and smiled a bit. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
“If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m just an elevator ride away,” I said, smiling.
She smiled back, but I knew she wasn’t going to take my offer.
“Well, we’re here now,” she said as we approached my apartment door. “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon for my tour, right?”
I grinned. “Yep, see you tomorrow. Good luck on your tests.”
“Thanks,” she said as she walked down the hall.
I was shaking so hard from nervousness I could hardly unlock my door.
I was definitely in love.
I was definitely in love. There was no denying it at that point. He had left a sticky note on my apartment door; I guessed he had dropped it off there sometime between the day we crossed paths on our way home and when I left for school the next day. It had a song suggestion that happened to be my favorite song: Lean On Me ~ Bill Withers.
I had felt a tingly feeling when Cody was walking with me around campus.
The tingling must've been all common sense leaving my body. I was done for.
The tour was…well, it was a tour. I loved spending time with Cody, and when we finished, we walked down to a little coffee shop in the city. We sat and talked for a bit, and Cody bought us some food while we sat.
As we talked and laughed, I felt like I had a friend. It was a very new feeling to me. After I lost my sister, I didn’t really have any friends. She was my best friend––and even if Cody and I became really good friends, he could never take that place in my heart. But it was nice to feel like someone enjoyed my company.
After we spent about an hour at the coffee shop, we decided to walk around the city a bit since it was getting dark and the city lights were beautiful.
“Look at all the lights,” I gasped as we walked through downtown.
“And all the colors,” Cody continued, looking up.
“Oh, Cody, look!” I grasped his hand in my excitement at a spinning wheel of light and a few fireworks.
Cody glanced down at me. He wasn’t angry, just a little surprised. Then he smiled.
I had loosened my grip in my embarrassment, but he tightened his around mine comfortingly. I smiled back and held on to his hand.
We found a bench to sit on as we watched the fireworks. A small breeze was flitting through the air. I shivered.
“You cold?” Cody asked.
“Just a bit,” I responded. Neither of us had brought jackets, so Cody began putting his arm around me. He paused a second and looked at me, I supposed to make sure I wasn’t appalled. I guessed he saw I was alright with it because he put his arm around me and pulled me in.
“See the violet firework over there?” Cody pointed over the treetops and buildings to a big firework. “Didn’t you say violet was your favorite color?”
“Yeah,” I responded, looking at the brilliantly colored firework. Its long fingers grasped the air as it faded into the night sky. I rested my head on Cody’s shoulder as we watched. “This is really nice,” I said quietly to myself, not thinking he could hear me.
“Yeah, it is,” he responded.
Cody’s hand was resting on his leg, his fingertips gently brushing mine. Without thinking, I slid my hand closest to his across my lap and laid it on his. When the common sense in me realized what I’d done, I blushed wildly and almost drew back.
Sarah slid her hand over to mine. She laid her hand on mine, and I could feel that she instantly regretted it. I wasn’t sure what I should do to show her that I really appreciated the gesture.
I took my hand out from under hers and picked her hand up. I ran my thumb along the side of her hands. They were so soft and delicate. I slowly intertwined our fingers; I could feel Sarah’s heart beating fast, so I sat still for a while, just taking in the moment and really realizing that I loved her.
Sarah’s breathing became slower and uniform as I continued to watch the fireworks. I assumed she was asleep, but I didn’t mind. I wondered what she had been struggling with. I wanted to help her.
I felt her shudder and her breath sharpened.
“Sarah,” I whispered. “Sarah, are you alright?”
She didn’t answer. I guessed it was because she was asleep, but I was a little worried.
“Sarah, wake up,” I whispered again, rocking her gently. She stretched, letting go of my hand and straightening up.
“Hey, you fell asleep,” I said, smiling at her groggy look and frizzed hair.
She opened her eyes wider. “Oh, I’m really sorry, I’m just exhausted. Maybe we should head back now.”
I nodded and we stood up. She still seemed a little sleepy so I slipped her arm through mine and she leaned on me as we walked back to our apartment.
I walked up to the second floor with her and to her door. I waited while she unlocked her door so I knew she was safely inside.
“Thanks, Cody,” she smiled, leaning against the doorframe. “I really had a great time today.”
“No problem,” I grinned back. “Thank you too. I really enjoyed myself.”
Sarah was looking at me with something in her big eyes that I hadn’t seen before.
“What,” I laughed. “Do I have something in my teeth?”
Giggling, Sarah said, “No, I just think I’m in love with you.” Immediately, she blushed and looked down. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that.”
“No, no, it’s alright,” I responded quickly, stepping forward. “I feel the same.”
Sarah looked back up at me. Her blush faded, leaving a rosy tint in her dark cheeks. “I’m glad. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow?”
I nodded. “Goodnight,” I said, turning to walk down the hall.
“Goodnight,” she replied.
I started walking down the hall, but something was tugging my heart. I turned around. Sarah was still standing in her doorway. She stepped forward, and so did I, and she ran down to meet me.
Sarah flung her arms around my neck, and I wrapped my arms around her body. Her sweet lips met mine, sending waves of joy throughout my body.
His arms held me tightly against him. I felt so safe in his embrace as he kissed me. His strong hands trailed down my back as I kissed him back.
I leaned back in his grasp to look at his beautiful eyes. “I love you,” I whispered.
He leaned his face into mine. I felt his warm breath blow across my face as he responded.
“I love you too.”