Title: An Unexpected Reunion
Character(s): Heather, Noah
Author Note: If anyone comes up with a better title for this, please tell me. xD
I had meant it to be a simple trip to the park. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Granted, it wasn't the most creative way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but there wasn't much else I could think of to do with my time. Usually, I would've done my weekly routine of downing however many cups of coffee at my local Starbucks and reading the paper ten times over, but there was something different about today.
Actually, it was no something, it was the weather.
Sure, there had been sunny days in the big city before, but everything about this particular day's weather was startlingly perfect. It was almost like being in a fairytale. The sun, seeming to be extra generous, casted its radiant glow upon everything with unbelievable force, and it would've been extremely hot if there hadn't been a kind wind to balance the temperature out. And of course, this seemed to put everyone who lived around in a good mood, which wasn't a bad thing at all.
As I rolled up a blanket I'd grabbed from my little apartment and stuffed it into the trunk of my sedan, I wondered if this whole nice weather thing was really all in my head. Maybe the grittiness of city life had finally gotten to me. Normally, there seemed to be an endless gray haze hovering over downtown, complemented by the dull colors of the uniformly painted buildings and the cold and uncaring atmosphere. Generally, most walking up and down the busy sidewalks would never think of making eye contact or even acknowledging the presence of those in the general vicinity, myself included. One can guess that it was a real big shock when I got at least five smiles and a “how ya doin'” that day as I ventured to my car earlier that morning, not that I minded or anything. Yep, times like that are certainly rare. Why waste such a gorgeous day?
After checking for my keys, money, and ID, I sped away from the apartment building parking lot, letting “Perfect Day” by Hoku blast from my car's speakers. Whistling along, my hand tapped the steering wheel to the beat while gusts of wind coming in from the open windows blew threw my short hair. Sometime during the ten minute drive, I tried to pull up some memories of the last time I had paid a visit to any park whatsoever, but I was only able to summon images of the lake and feeding some ducks with my parents when I was a kid, nothing specific.
My eyebrows furrowed as I remembered my mom and dad, who'd oh-so-lovingly kicked me out of the house on my eighteenth birthday and told me that if I wanted to finish college and make a living, I would have to do it on my own. Apparently, my little adventures two years before on that forsaken reality show who's name shall not be mentioned had assured them that they'd spoiled me way to much when I was younger and that I needed to be taught a lesson or whatever on how to fend for myself. Since then, I'd moved to the big city and managed to find as a simple bank teller. It wasn't the most glamorous of jobs, but college isn't cheap. Yes, my parents were just wonderful to me, weren't they?
I shook my head, banishing those thoughts to the back of the mind. Now, where was I?
Oh yeah, the park.
It didn't take me long to park once I reached my destination, just taking the first available space. The first thing I did upon stepping out of my car was take a deep breath, extremely thankful for the fresh air. I couldn't take my time with retrieving my blanket and my precious iPod, though. The park was packed, from people feeding the squirrels to children riding bikes with their parents. I would be fortunate to even find somewhere to sit down. However, either fate had decided to take pity on me or luck was on my side today, for my eyes spotted a vacant area almost immediately.
It was a tree. A big, strong tree, its branches thick with green leaves that shielded the surrounding area from the blazing sunlight. Perched upon a tall hill, it was almost as if it was watching over everything. Blanket bundled up in my arms, I started to jog towards it, not wanting to lose this perfect space. It took my only about fifteen seconds to reach it, and I quickly set down the blanket and iPod on the soft grass, breathing a sigh of relief. Looking around, I realized that the tree really did seemed to be watching over the park. I could literally see everything. The rays of the sun shone brightly on the lake, the cool water sparkling as it reflected the golden light. It was a spectacular sight. Content, I sat, flipping on some music and relaxing as the playful breeze placed light kisses on my bare shoulders—
I raised my eyebrows, stopping myself from completing the motion of laying back on the blanket. There was something peeking at me from around the tree, and I instantly recognized it as a book. My first reaction would have been to leave it alone, but instead, I sat up, taking a closer look at it. It was a hardback, colored a dark shade of green, and I was intrigued at how well a stray leaf that had fallen from the tree and landed on the object blended in with its cover. From what I could see, its pages were lined with gold.
Now, I'm not really a bookworm, but I actually had to make an effort to keep from being nosy. Clenching my teeth, I jacked up the volume on my music player and tried to forget about it. Temptation was already worming its way into my brain, consuming me. Just one look wouldn't hurt...right? I could just read a page or two and decide whether it was worth a trip to the library later. Just pick it up, get its title and author and put it back down. Yeah, just one look....
I sighed, getting on my knees and crawling towards it, picking it up ever-so-gingerly. The title was imprinted with graceful gold text: The Last Thirty Seconds by Amy L. Morehouse. I blinked, carefully placing my hand on the book's smooth cover and lifting it, skipping ahead a few pages to the start of the first chapter and beginning to read.
Time passed, but I paid no mind to it, eyes intently taking in every word of this magnificent work. I swear, whoever the heck wrote this thing is a genius. Everything around me became a dull blur, and there seemed to be nothing else in my world other than the book and my hands flipping the pages. Each chapter was more gripping than the last, so much that it took me a while to realize that the clear drops of liquid landing on my right hand were my own tears. I didn't bother to wipe them away, hoping in the back of my mind that I would finish the book before its owner came looking for it—
Speak of the devil.
My head shot up, immediately recognizing that voice. Eyes wide in surprise, I turned away from where the voice had come from and clumsily dragged my arm across my face, wiping away the wet streaks that had stained my red cheeks. I closed the book, bowing my head and letting my hair fall over my eyes so whoever was coming towards me couldn't see my embarrassed expression.
“Uh, this yours?” I muttered, refusing to meet the eyes of the obviously male owner standing next to me. Biting my lip, I held the book up, offering it to him. Our fingers brushed momentarily as he took it from my hands. The man's skin was tan and his identity confirmed in my mind, but I didn't look directly at him, not wanting the him to see my face.
I shut my eyes, sensing that he was still staring.
“I don't blame you for reading it, y'know. It really is a good book....” I opened my eyes, blinking when I saw that he was holding a tissue in front of my face.
My hand stopped, frozen in the middle of reaching out to accept the Kleenex. Turning my head stiffly, I faked a smile in his general direction, refusing to meet his eyes.
“Yes, it is, Noah,” I said, hoping he could hear the distaste in my voice. I stood, took the tissue, and began to roll up my blanket. Biting my lip, I decided there was no way to get out of this without it seeming extremely awkward, but I had to get out of there.
“Well, it's been fun, but I have some papers to fill out at the bank. Seeya,” I mumbled, turning my back to him and walking away, breathing a sigh of relief. That was a close one—
Oh, God. I still don't know why, but I was quickly losing my patience. He was probably asking me to stop so he could cut me down with some snarky comment before I left.
“Yes?” I answered. Seemingly unsure of what to say, he was quiet for a few more seconds.
“There are tear stains on the fifty-sixth page.”
I grimaced in embarrassment.
“Yeah, Chapter Five kind of...got me.”
Noah chuckled, making me cock an eyebrow.
“I would never have pegged you as a book lover.”
I turned, regarding him curiously. Could this possibly be an attempt at....small talk?
“I'm not, but it isn't my fault that thing is so darn interesting. I might check it out later so that I can finish it. What brings you here, anyway? Haven't seen you around town before,” I said, regretting it almost instantly. Like I wanted to stay and chat with someone whom I'd met while living in that wretched summer camp. After all, I had so many of wonderful and happy memories from that TV show that would certainly last a lifetime. We weren't even really on good terms.
“Eh, I just came out here because of the weather. It's nice today,” he replied, to which I nodded. As our gazes locked together, I finally got a good look at what had changed about Noah. His hair was a bit longer now, and his clothes were noticeably less awkward. Other than that, though, he was still the same Noah. A couple more tense moments passed between us as we studied each other. After mulling it over, I sighed in defeat and set down my blanket on the soft grass once more, inviting him to sit down.
“So...um....how's life?” I asked. Noah shrugged.
“It's fine. I moved here about a month ago and tomorrow I'm supposed to attend a job interview. You?”
“It's been bearable,” I lied through my teeth. “Apparently, karma from Total Drama Island still isn't done with me. The last college class I needed to complete my degree was canceled a day before the final last week. Now, I have to take it over again during the summer.”
“Ouch,” he replied, giving me a sympathetic look, which surprised me. “Um...how far have you gotten?” He patted the book. I blinked at the sudden change of subject.
“That's pretty far,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “How long have you been here?” I frowned in uncertainty together, looking towards the dying sun.
“I've kinda lost track, although I know it's been hours,” I admitted, giving him a sheepish look. He nodded, leaning back on his elbows and joining me in watching the sunset. The closest star to Earth was slowly disappearing over the horizon, its bright rays tinting the sky pink. I sneaked a glance at Noah, seeing that that he had closed his eyes and let his head lean back a little, taking in the last of the sun's light and warmth before night shrouded all in inky blackness.
“Noah?” I said, breaking the silence. He opened his eyes, looking at me.
“Aren't we supposed to be enemies?” I asked. Unsurprisingly, he was taken aback at the question, letting my words hang in the air for a second before answering.
“Because of the stuff that happened on that stupid TV show? Heather, it's been three years.” Now it was my turn to be taken aback.
“Hm...funny. I was thinking that maybe you don't hate me because you weren't in the competition long enough to have a real conflict with me.”
“Meh, Total Drama Island was never that important. I'm still trying to push out the memories of the awful food," he said. I shuddered, images of Chef's nasty slop coming alive in my mind, vivid as the day I'd first laid eyes on it.
“Yeah, that's something I'd rather not revisit. In fact, I say we just forget that crappy summer altogether.”
“So...” I said finally, “does this make us...”
“Friends?” he finished for me. “Yep.”
We didn't need to shake hands to confirm it or anything. The way we looked at each other at that moment said all that couldn't be expressed with words.
“You can borrow the book. I've read it ten times already, so there's no rush in returning it.”
We turned our gazes back to now dark horizon, the sun just having slipped away from view.
I let a small, hidden ghost of a smile drift over my face, soft as the breeze combing its slender fingers through my hair.
“I would like that.”
I don't know if it was for real or just my eyes playing tricks on me, but out of the corner of my eye, I could've sworn I saw Noah smile, too.