20. The Room
“Are you awake?” Sara asked from the bed across from me.
“Uh huh,” I grumbled from under the covers. “I’m awake.”
“You need to wake up so you can tel me about dinner last night.”
I roled over to face her. She was definitely more awake than I was,
propped up on her elbow, waiting for me. I stretched and yawned
loudly. I propped the pilow against the headboard and pushed myself
up to sit.
“How was dinner? I can’t wait any longer,” she insisted. I provided the
details of the other dimension, including descriptions of Evan’s parents,
the rude guests and how different Evan was around these people.
I left Catherine for last. When I was done, Sara was laughing hystericaly,
not quite as hard as I did when it happened, but she did wipe
tears from her eyes.
“I cannot believe you said that to her,” she finaly managed to say.
“I couldn’t contain myself,” I confessed. “I guess it warmed me up for
“Wait, what happened at Jake’s party, besides everyone hooking up?”
“Let’s see - I met Drew Carson, and I thought he was such a nice guy
until I realized what the party was al about, and then Jake folowed me
into the other side of the basement and tried to get me to go somewhere
alone with him.”
“What did you do?” she asked, looking horrified. “I warned you not to
“Sara, I had no idea what you were talking about. But when I finaly got
it, I basicaly told him there was no way in hel I was hooking up with
him and came upstairs where I found you and Jason. Sara, Evan knew
what kind of party it was when Jake invited me, and he didn’t warn
me. He’s been to one before.”
“Seriously?” she asked in disbelief. “Wow, I didn’t think he was like
“Neither did I,” I agreed. “And he swears he’s not and that he didn’t do
anything. But he couldn’t tel me what he did. Maybe I realy don’t want
“I do,” she exclaimed.
“Sara!” I looked at her, astounded. “He can do whatever he wants with
whomever he wants. It’s none of our business.” Needing to change the
subject, I asked, “What’s going on with you and Jason? How was your
Sara sighed and fel on her back. It was not the reaction I was
“What?! Tel me!” I demanded impatiently.
“You and Evan did more on that couch last night than Jason and I
have. Wel, except we’ve kissed and even that took forever,”
she confessed in frustration.
“What do you mean?”
“I know what you think of me,” she glanced over at me and my eyes
apologized again. “But I don’t care; I like sex. He won’t touch me. I
don’t know what to do. I don’t think he’s into me.” The sorrowful disappointment
resounded in her voice. I wasn’t sure how to console her.
“Do you stil like him?’’
“I’m not sure of that either.” After a moment in silence, she cautiously
brought up, “So, we never got to talk about what happened the other
night with your mom showing up at the game.”
“I’d rather not,” I blurted. “It’s just too much to think about.” I didn’t
want to let myself go back there to that night, or any other that involved
my mother. It was too painful.
Sara respected my withdrawn response without a word. She glanced at
the clock next to her bed and asked, “What time is Evan picking you
“Ten-thirty,” I told her and then glanced at the clock too.
“Sara, he’s going to be here in an hour. I need to take a shower. But
we’re not done talking about you and Jason. We’l talk about it tomorrow,
“Okay,” she sighed.
Evan arrived at exactly ten-thirty – I was barely ready.
“What are we doing today?” I asked, feeling the warm November sun
on my face through the car window as we drove away from Sara’s.
“Don’t worry, I’l show you.”
When we puled into his driveway, I was surprised to find a silver
BMW parked there as wel. I’d never seen another car in his driveway
before. Then it struck me that someone else was home. Could I possibly
face his parents after my humiliating performance last night?
“Who’s home?” I asked, hoping he’d tel me, no one.
“My mom. Don’t worry, we probably won’t see her.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when the kitchen door opened
and his mother stepped out to greet us.
“Or maybe you wil,” Evan corrected in surprise.
Vivian was dressed in wide legged black pants with a fitted blue turtleneck
sweater that flattered her petite figure. I couldn’t get over how refined
she looked, even without al the glitz.
“Emily,” she said with a smile, “it’s nice to see you again.” I smiled
cautiously, not understanding the warm reception. Even Evan was
scrutinizing her greeting.
We met her at the bottom of the porch steps and she gave me a brief
embrace. I froze, unable to return it since it happened so quickly, and I
honestly wasn’t expecting it.
“I understand you and Evan have planned to spend the afternoon together.
I think that is wonderful,” she glowed.
“Mom, what’s wrong with you?”
Vivian looked at him disapprovingly.
“Evan, I’m happy to see Emily again, that’s al.” She smiled at me apologeticaly
for Evan’s rudeness.
“We’re going in the garage,” he told her, eyeing her suspiciously.
“It was great to see you,” she said. “Perhaps you could come over for
“Um, that would be nice,” I answered in shock. I replayed our interaction
last night, not understanding why she was being so nice to me.
I folowed Evan into the garage, but instead of going upstairs to the rec
room, he opened the door leading into the other half of the garage.
When we were behind closed doors, he paused, his eyes flickering in
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I have no idea why she’s acting so strange, and it’s making me realy
nervous. I’m trying to remember if I said something, or overheard
anything to explain it. I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable.”
“I was actualy trying to come up with the same answer,” I admitted. “I
was expecting her to despise me after my humiliating clumsiness last
night. Besides, I thought for sure Catherine would’ve said something.”
He smiled, remembering my departing comment.
“Oh, I’m sorry about that by the way,” I told him, looking at the floor.
“What are you talking about?”
“I should have helped you out more than I did during dinner, instead
of laughing. I realy wasn’t laughing at you. I felt bad that you had to
put up with her. I was laughing at how ridiculous she was.”
“Don’t worry about it. You definitely helped in the end with that priceless
exit.” He smiled, and I smiled back.
“Okay, what are we doing?” I asked, looking around the expansive
space. There were two ride-on lawn mowers, a jet ski and some other
recreational vehicles parked in the otherwise empty space.
Evan walked over to a black dirt bike and handed me a red helmet.
“We’re going for a ride,” he said, kicking up the stand and roling it toward
the large door at the other end. He pressed a button and the door
I watched him, not sure if my legs could move, let alone about walk.
“Evan, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.”
“Trust me, you’l love it.” He fastened a black helmet on his head. I
warily walked out to him and slid the helmet on my head. What the hel
was I doing?
Evan helped me fasten the strap and showed me where to sit and place
my feet. He explained that the path was pretty flat, but to expect to
bounce a little. Great, not only was this my first time on a bike, but this
one could potentialy throw me off!
Evan kicked the starter and the dirt bike revved to life. The explosive
rumble caused my heart to falter. It didn’t help when he throttled it a
few times. He motioned for me to get on. Before I could talk myself out
of it, I climbed up and threw my leg over the seat. I slid closer to his
back and put my hands on his waist. He grabbed my hands and puled
them around him. Once we started, I understood why.
We sped off through the back field, toward the woods. My heart pounded
against my chest. I gripped him tighter as we entered the woods
and the terrain became bumpier - I could feel the seat give with each
divot and root, stil too scared to enjoy the experience.
Eventualy, I became accustomed to the uneven ride and loosened my
death grip. I stil kept my arms snugly around him, knowing that one
unexpected bounce and I’d be airborne. I focused on the trees streaking
by and the sun fighting through the tops of the evergreens. It was
brighter in the woods than I expected, probably because most of the
trees were bare, preparing for winter - despite the unseasonably warm
Evan eventualy slowed and crawled to a stop. He shut off the bike and
took off his helmet. I sat up and attempted to do the same. I couldn’t
figure out how to take it off, so I climbed off the bike and asked him to
help me. My legs trembled beneath me.
“Wel?” he asked, after removing the helmet from my head. I shrugged.
“What?” he questioned. “You loved it, admit it.”
He shook his head and smiled.
“This is nice.” I nodded toward the glistening clearing with the sunlight
dancing along the swaying overgrown blades and the brook along
the bottom of a smal hil, bubbling over rocks before disappearing into
“I’ve taken some amazing pictures out here.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen your pictures. Wel, except for the newspaper
and the one you submitted for the calendar.”
“I can show you when we get back if you want.”
We walked to the brook and sat at its edge, mesmerized by the water
rippling over the stones.
“My mom showed up at the game the other night,” I blurted, staring
into the water. I wasn’t prepared to say that, and honestly, I thought I
was past it until I inadvertently found my thoughts drifting there
“You must have been happy to see her.”
I let out an uneasy laugh. “I don’t know about that.”
Evan remained quiet, waiting for me to continue.
“It was awkward,” I confessed.
“I’m sorry,” Evan replied, not knowing what else to say. I shrugged
dismissively, afraid to reveal more.
He casualy took my hand, making my heart trip. We sat in silence,
caught up in the glistening flow of the water.
“I’m stil trying to figure out what my mother’s up to,” he finaly said.
“Or it’s possible she could actualy like you.”
“Thanks,” I shot back sarcasticaly.
“You know what I mean,” he offered, trying to make me feel better.
“It’s not like you talked to her very much last night. She’s never been
this… accepting of anyone before. She’s realy hard to please.”
“I can see that,” I recognized with a slight nod. “Speaking of which,
you were so different at the Jacobs’ house. It was a little strange.”
“You seemed… older. You talked more proper and were almost stiff,” I
shared, hoping I didn’t offend him. I looked over at him to see his eyes
moving, considering my words.
“I guess I never thought about it, but you’re probably right. It’s most
likely from years of having to go to those things – they’re rubbing off
on me. That sucks.”
I let out a short laugh.
“I guess you’l have to come to more of them to keep me real,”
he suggested, gently nudging my shoulder with his. I caught my breath
at his touch, my mouth posed in a shocked smile with thoughts of future
Then I heard a buzzing and a distant chime. Evan reached in his pocket
and took out his cel phone. He read who was caling on the screen
and grinned at me before answering.
“Hi Jake,” he answered. My mouth dropped open. Evan smiled. He
listened for a while, but couldn’t keep the smile off of his face, occasionaly
glancing at me.
“Sorry I didn’t tel you I was showing up with her. I didn’t think it
mattered.” He listened again for a minute.
“I understand, but I warned you she wasn’t like that.” He looked at me
with a grin. My eyes grew wider - I could only imagine what was being
said on the other end.
“No, I don’t think you have to worry about either of them saying anything.
No, Jason won’t – I talked to him about it last night.
“Yeah, I’d say she wasn’t interested either.” Evan smiled wider
– heat flashed across my cheeks.
“Don’t worry about it; it’s fine. I’l see you tomorrow.” He laughed as he
“You’d better tel me what that was al about,” I threatened.
“He was pissed that I was there, thinking that’s why you acted that
way. And he wanted to know if I thought any of you would say anything.
The parties are handpicked for a reason – no one talks about
what goes on there. There are rumors, but no one ever admits to anything.
But the good news is that you won’t have to worry about him
hitting on you – I think he got the hint.”
“Wel, that’s good,” I admitted. “He realy is so ful of himself. I can’t believe
you’re friends with him.”
“I wouldn’t say we’re friends. I met him before I moved here. His
mother and mine were on a fundraising committee, and I met him at
the dinner. When he found out I was moving here, he invited me to
one of his parties to introduce me to people before I started school.” I
realy wanted to comment about his “introduction”, but the thought of
it made my stomach flip. I forced out the stray thoughts.
“Besides that, we have soccer in common, and we’ve hung out a few
times with other guys. But I would never cal him up and ask him over.
He’s a lot to take by himself. I’d hate to be the girl he’s focused on –
you have no idea what he says…” Then he stopped to look at me
“Evan, are you serious?! He’s said things about me to the soccer
team?” My stomach turned in disgust.
“He doesn’t when I’m around because he knows it pisses me off, and I
have no problem teling him that. He’s an ass, don’t worry about it.
He’s not lying and saying that you’ve gotten together or anything like
that.” I knew he was trying to make me feel better, but I was fuming at
the thought of being the topic of anything that came out of Jake’s
“We should head back,” Evan said, puling me back from my angry
thoughts. I folowed him to the bike where he helped me with my helmet
before we climbed on. The return trip didn’t seem as long, thankfuly.
Can’t say the bike was my favorite adrenaline rush. Evan parked
the bike in the garage before leading me upstairs. Upon entering, he
selected the music of a guy with a smooth voice, strumming a guitar to
an easy rhythm, singing about being under the stars - it reminded me
of being on the beach.
“Are you hungry? I can run down and grab us a couple of sandwiches,”
“Sure.” He left while I sat on the couch, enchanted by the optimistic
melodies. I barely heard Evan run back up the stairs.
“Here you go,” he announced. I jumped.
“You don’t pay attention very wel, do you?”
“I didn’t hear you,” I defended. He let out a quick laugh. He placed a
plate on the table in front of me with a bottle of root beer.
“Is your mom stil here?”
“Yeah, she just gave me a hard time about taking you out on the bike. I
assured her you weren’t that breakable.” I tightened my lips to hide a
smile. I couldn’t imagine his mother being so concerned about my wel
being. She barely knew me.
When we were done eating, Evan asked, “Do you want to see the pictures
I was talking about?”
I folowed him as he opened the door behind the foosbal tables into a
rustic room with exposed wood beamed wals. There were two smal
windows on the other side of the room, overlooking the drive way. Two
twin beds with navy comforters sat along one wal, and a long desk
with pictures and photography equipment sprawled across it ran along
the other. There was a simple, doorless closet on the same wal as the
entrance with shelves of clothes, books and photography equipment.
One of the first things I noticed was Sara’s white scarf hanging on the
back of the roling desk chair. Evan caught my eye and pressed his lips
“Yeah, you forgot that in my car. I keep forgetting to give it to you.” I
nodded, not sure what to make of it, so I decided to dismiss it.
Evan started pointing out different pictures of scenic landscapes that
were pinned to the wooden beams above the desk, explaining where he
was when he took them. I was easily lost in the detail of each shot,
transported to the location as if I were there standing next to him
when he took them.
I began flipping through the loose pictures scattered on the desk. Evan
commented on some of the shots then became silent to let me look on
my own. I couldn’t say anything – I was speechless. I knew he was talented
when I saw the results for the paper, but I had no idea.
I opened a black bound book, causing Evan to take in a quick breath. I
hesitated, uncertain if he wanted me to look through it.
“That’s my work for Art class,” he offered. It didn’t explain his
“Can I look through it?” I’d never seen him so tense before.
“Sure,” he breathed, remaining uneasy, standing perfectly stil. I turned
the pages and studied the art that he captured through his lens. The
portfolio contained scenic pictures, sports action pictures, and abstract
pictures of unidentifiable objects with smooth lines and intricate
curves. Then I flipped the page and stopped. I could sense Evan stiffen
even more when the image caught my breath.
I examined the black and white angled profile of the girl. The soft lines
of her face filed most of the picture, her pale skin providing dramatic
contrast with the dark background. A thick wet strand of hair clung to
her subtly parted ful lips. Drops of water scattered on her smooth skin,
dripping from her sloping nose. Her almond shaped eyes were
smeared with black, framing their haunted depths as she focused on a
place far removed from the picture.
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed, admiring the powerful emotion and truth
frozen in the single shot.
“I love that picture,” he admitted softly. “I think it’s because I love the
girl in that picture.”
I turned slowly to face him, confused by his words feeling my stomach
“What?” The strangling spread to my chest. I could feel my heart beating
in my throat.
“You don’t remember when I took that picture?”
I stared at him, unsure of what he was talking about.
“You were so quiet for so long. You didn’t say anything when I came
back to check on you. So I left to get my camera, thinking I could get
shots of people at the party and give you time alone since you didn’t
seem to want to talk.” I was afraid to hear more. My heart beat louder,
and my head felt light – I could barely breathe.
“By the time I got back, it had started to rain. I saw Sara in the house -
I told her where you were, and that I’d meet her outside. You looked so
amazing in your stilness, sitting in the rain; at the same time, you
looked displaced – like you were a milion miles away. I had to capture
it. I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn’t say anything. So I sat next to
you and waited. You finaly stirred from wherever you went and realized
it was raining.”
I heard every word he said, but I couldn’t comprehend a single sylable.
Then I stared into his stormy blue eyes and saw what he was saying.
My knees buckled - I inhaled several fast breaths. I slowly lowered myself
onto the chair at the desk, staring at the floor, my breath lost.
After a few minutes of deafening silence, Evan asked, “Are you okay?”
“No,” I mouthed, shaking my head slowly. I looked up at him.
“Evan, you can’t say that. You can’t mean it.”
“That’s not quite what I hoped you’d say,” he responded, the disappointment
evident in his tone.
“I’m sorry…” I started.
“Don’t be, it’s okay,” he replied quickly, suddenly trying to downplay
the situation. Then he thought better of it, and asked,
“Are you realy teling me you don’t feel the same way?” I held my
breath, and my heart ached.
“I can’t, we can’t,” I stammered. “You don’t understand. It doesn’t
matter how I feel, it just can’t happen.” He stared into my distraught
eyes and shook his head in confusion.
“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”
“Can’t we please just stay friends?” I begged.
“But you’re not denying that you feel the same way.”
“It’s so much more complicated than that. If we can’t be friends, then
–” I couldn’t say it. “Please, can we just be friends?”
He didn’t respond. The silence was disrupted by the vibration of his
phone. He puled it out of his pocket and looked to me. “I’ve got to take
this - it’s my brother.”
I nodded and he left the room. Soon after, I heard his footsteps on the
I became aware that I was strangling my shaking hands, and released
them, but was unable to loosen the knot in my throat or calm the
throbbing in my chest. I took a couple breaths in attempt to push it
away. I stood on my rubber legs, taking another breath before walking
out of the room, closing the door behind me.