(The Central High School Creative Writing Club is writing stories for the "1000 Prompts, 1000 Dollars" Contest. Here's our first entry.) "Memory"

Cassie Lawsonby Cassie Lawson

(Inspired by Prompt #10 in the "Memory" category, here.)

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to stop the tears from flooding my eyes. I slammed the door behind me and slid to the floor, my back against my bedroom door. I wrapped my arms around my knees and sobbed. My phone rang, an annoyingly happy tune chirping at me. I picked up my crappy flip-phone and threw it against my wall. I heard his steps as his loud, heavy footsteps down the hall as he paced after me. He tried to open the door, but I braced against it.

“Kit, just listen to me—please—I can explain. It wasn’t what you think.” His voice sounded sad. Sad for being caught¸ I thought bitterly.

“How?” I wailed, “You were singing her our song! I saw the look on your face.” My voice broke, remembering what I had seen. My boyfriend, Ryder, was a musician who worked at the local coffee shop. I decided to stop by his work between classes, so I could surprise him during his break, but I saw him with another girl. They were sitting on a leather couch and he had his guitar on his knee.

If Heaven and Hell decide/ That they both are satisfied/ Illuminate the "No"'s on their vacancy signs/ If there's no one beside you/ When your soul embarks/ Then I'll follow you into the dark,” he sang the chorus of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” strumming gently on his guitar. The girl had her hand on his knee and as he sang, he gave her the look. The look when his grey eyes looked gentle, and his smile was soft. The look he got when he thought of us being together forever. The look he had when he loved someone. The look. I dropped my coffee when I saw him, my heart shattering against the floor in time with my latte. Everyone—including Ryder and the girl—turned to look at me. When our eyes met, I turned around and ran straight out of the café. I didn’t stop running until I reached our apartment four blocks away, ignoring his shouts.

As I sat in my room, the sun blazed high in the sky and bird chirped out the window.  I glared at the sky through tear blurred vision. Why was it always sunny in this damn town? It should be raining. From behind the door, I heard Ryder’s knees hit our hardwood floor and I could imagine how he looked right now. He sighed and I pictured him running his hand through his shaggy black hair so his bangs were out of his eyes. His shoulders were probably slumped, he always slumped his shoulder when he got upset. I heard his hand gently thump as he rested it against the door. “Kit, please…”

I was surprised by the pain in his voice. He sounded hurt and sad. I wiped the tears from my eyes. Gandhi once said that forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. I took a deep breath and scooted back. After a moment I opened the door to find Ryder and I looking eye to eye. Normally, he is a good foot and a half taller than me, but when he is slumped over I’m only a few inches shorter. He slowly looked up from his hands. Tears streaked his cheeks, some still clinging to his thick black eyelashes.  “Kit,” he said, his voice breaking. He reached towards my hands, which I had placed in my lap. I pulled them away quickly, as if his touch would burn me.

“What?” I asked bitterly, glaring at him through my tear-soaked bangs. “Explain yourself.” After I avoided his hands, another tear fell.

“Please, just listen to me. Please. Will you listen to a story before I explain? Trust me, I can explain everything.” I nodded and he closed his eyes. “Do you remember the day we met? Because I remember that I had gotten a job at the café my junior year—I needed to pay for school and all, I didn’t have scholarships like you—and I hated it. It was always the same people, stuck up girls pretending to be artists or boys who wished they were in a band. Day in and day out, I made black coffees and foofy drinks for college students that just called me ‘coffee guy.’ But then you came around. Instead of the scent of coffee, you smelt like green apples and your roommate’s clove cigarettes. I still remembered that you called me by name. You ordered a caramel frappe on the first rainy day of the school year. All the other girls were whining about the weather, but you shone. The chilly rain brought beautiful color to your cheeks…” He paused, and raised his fingers to my cheek. He hesitated, and then let his hand drop to his lap. “ You looked beautiful. When you began coming in regularly, I was ecstatic. I began pulling extra shifts in order to work whenever you were there. Do you remember the first time you heard me play?”

I nodded. He and his band played a late night show at an apartment complex that all of the art kids decided to rent together. We had our own little community, sectioned into the poets, the musicians, the painters, and the sculptors. I didn’t move into my room until the second week, when I realized that I hated the party girl roommate I had. Elly and I met in Creative Writing 201, a sophomore class I got special permission to get in. It was after our first poetry slam that she invited me to be her roommate.

“Well, it’s just that my boyfriend and I just split and I’ve been looking for a new roommate. You seem like you’d fit in with the indie kids. Unless you’re an axe murderer, I’d be happy to have you for a roommate. Oh yeah, you don’t smoke, do you?” I shook my head and Elly grinned, putting a clove cigarette between her lips. “Good. My ex used to always steal my smokes.”

Ryder’s band sang a bunch of cover songs by famous punk bands. I remembered him from the café, but I didn’t know he was a singer. It turned out that he lived in the complex four doors down from me. That was the night I finally felt like a college student. I hung out with Elly and a few art majors. I recognized many of them from classes and the café. Elly introduced me to Alec and Jace, brothers who were named Alexander and Jason, but decided to shorten it just as Elizabeth and I, Katherine, decided to become Elly and Kit. We danced with them and sang along to Ryder’s band for what felt like hours. When the sun began to rise Ryder’s band was replaced by Elly and Alec DJ-ing from their iPods.

“Hey,” Ryder said from behind me, offering me a Monster Energy drink with a smile on his face. “I didn’t know you lived her. Or are you just hanging out with a friend?” Then his smile began to falter as he added, “Or maybe your boyfriend?”

“No boyfriend, just my new roommate Elly. I didn’t know you sang Ryder. You were amazing!” Ryder grinned and looked down at me. He bowed, his black bangs fell down and when he looked up at me, they covered his right eye. He took my hand in his and kissed it. I giggled at the goofy, yet sweet gesture.

“Caramel Frappe Kit, will you do me the honor of this dance, and if the night goes well, maybe we can see each other somewhere other than the café?” I nodded, my lips curling up at the ends, without clarifying which I was answering. After we started dating, Elly told me that she had seen us together and that was why she played “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

Time seemed to stand still as Ryder placed his hand on my hip. He gently took my hand and I placed my lace-gloved hand on his shoulder. He pulled me close, and the scent of coffee beans and boy engulfed me. He was warm and with our chests pressed together, I feared he’d feel my heart racing. The party around us disappeared when I got the courage to look up. I could see my hazel eyes in his grey eyes, as we stared at each other.

“You’re absolutely beautiful, Kit.” Ryder whispered into my hair. I blushed and looked down. That was the first time anyone outside of my family had ever called me beautiful, and coming from him I almost believed it. It was like he could read my mind because he lifted me up and held me around the waist as we swayed to the music. “And it’s okay if you don’t believe me yet. Because I’d be happy to spend every day proving it to you.”