Even when it hurts

Jennifer heard two bangs that sounded very similar to thunder.

It was going to be a bad day.

They’d been having a lot of bad days lately.

Jennifer listened as the hurricane upstairs destroyed everything in her path.

She was exhausted.

Please God. She begged before taking a deep breathe, softly making her way up the stairs. Jennifer knew it was going to be difficult, she wasn’t an idiot. She had researched, she watched YouTube videos, she had prayed, she had went to church, she had a phd in developmental psychology, she was ready.

Turns out a doctorate doesn’t offer much shelter when facing a hurricane.

“Ronica?” she said softly as she opened the door, bracing herself for the damage.

Veronica was sat with her back to Jennifer and her head in her hands. Her stringy brown hair covering her neck and shoulders. She snapped her head back so quickly, Jennifer was afraid she might have moved something in her neck.

“My name is not Veronica.” she said with venom, she said it slowly like a snake, enunciating every word, making sure Jennifer felt every single shot. Jennifer felt herself crumbling. She opened the door fully and stepped into the room.

Veronica jolted up.

She was in her territory now.

“What’s going on?” Jennifer tried again, dropping the “Veronica”.

“Why do you care?” the girl asked quietly, Jennifer taking this as a sign of withdrawal,  took two more steps. Wrong move.

“You’re not my mother.” she said. Jennifer felt her hands clam up.

“You don’t love me! You don’t know me!” She was shouting now.

Jennifer remembered when she picked Veronica up to bring her home for the first time. She’d had a tiny suitcase and she had worn a grey hoodie with black leggings, her brown hair as stringy as ever. Jennifer had made the decision to love Veronica then, and to love her for the rest of her life.

Jennifer looked at the girl that now stood in front of her, her face was crumpled up like paper and red, her nose flared and her mouth opened and closed. She looked like an angry tomato. Jennifer looked at Veronica’s hands clamped tightly beside her and her feet stomping.

She’d been thinking about love a lot lately, about what it meant, what it felt like, if she really had it in her, the word seemed unrecognisable to her now, even when she looked at it, it just seemed odd, incomplete.  She’d mentioned her thoughts to her work friends and they looked at her concerned, then she’d mentioned them to her women’s group and they’d said they would pray for her.

She had appreciated that.

Veronica was now walking towards her, she was pushing.

The thud, thud, thud of Veronica’s hands against her, oddly reminded her of rain, or perhaps when water dripped slowly into a bucket. Veronica’s hands didn’t hurt, there was only so much a ten year old girl could do but the shock from her hands on Jennifer’s chest caused Jennifer to take a step back every time.

“I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t want your love! Just leave me alone! Just go away!”

This hurt. Jennifer preferred the hitting.

“You don’t love me! It’s not true! It’s not!” Jennifer felt her heart in her throat.

“That’s not true.” Jennifer responded, holding Veronica’s hands.

“Don’t say that.” Jennifer knew she was crying, she wished she wasn’t. You weren’t supposed to cry in front of your child. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s not true.” Veronica continued, shouting louder as if trying to drown out Jennifer’s words. Veronica was crying too, crying and hitting and shouting.

“It’s not true.” She said finally before falling to her knees, wailing into her hands.

Jennifer looked down at the child at her feet.

She felt it then.

The love that she had been questioning, it had been there the whole time. She felt it as it made its rounds around her heart and then out of her heart, out of her chest, into her throat and into her arms and down her legs to her toes.

She knelt down and put her arms around her child. She felt her stiffen but she didn’t let go, clinging on tighter. She felt her childs’ ragged breaths and felt her lean her head on her chest. Jennifer looked out the window, the wind blew against the trees, dragging them left and right. Jennifer hugged onto her child tighter.

“I love you.” Jennifer whispered first into her hair. Incomplete.

“I love you.” she said again louder. She waited and listened to the wind outside.

“Even when it hurts.” She added. Complete. It felt complete now.

“Even when it hurts.” She heard Veronica mutter underneath her breath.

Jennifer smiled and kissed her daughter’s stringy brown hair.

They’d been having a lot of bad days lately.

But today was a good one.

 

 

 

two.

Nestle had always been a “too” since she was a baby.

She was always too much

or too little.

She was either too small or too big

She was too strong, too rough, too passionate, she had too many edges, she asked too many questions.

Tetley had always been a “to”

He was always in the background.

He was never the subject or the object but simply took his position between them.

In his last year of high school, his 4th girlfriend (he’d had one for every year)  had had a conversation with him he had tried to forget, she was trying to break up with him and he was trying to understand why.

“This isn’t about me is it?” he asked, referring to the breakup

“That’s the problem T, this isn’t about you, it’s NEVER about you! It’s always about me, it’s always “how’s YOUR day” or “what do YOU want to do” or “okay if YOU want” It’s like your life does not exist without me, it’s like YOU don’t exist without me, without someone, like you can never be alone because then there is nothing about you. Tell me, have you ever said or done anything that wasn’t completely influenced by someone else?”

And that’s exactly what had brought him to the dodgiest centre he had ever had the displeasure of seeing. 1/2 of the neon letters in its sign had stopped working so instead of being “Bobby’s pleasure centre”, it  looked  like “Bby’s ere entr”, it looked a bit ominous if T was being honest and the thought of going home had crossed his mind but he swatted it away.

His ex girlfriend’s words had stayed with him even though he was in his third year of University now, he had seen the advertisement for this free ballroom dancing class on gumtree and the conversation he  had with her came flooding back to him because he  once told her it was something he’d like to do, but she said it was too cringey so he didn’t. He signed up without much thought, that would show her, also the girl he was currently talking to said she really liked boys who did “out of character” things, joining the rugby team at his University was most certainly not an option as his somewhat skinny frame would break if any of the athletic rugby lads so much as looked at him and atleast if he embarrassed himself here, no one would know about it.

She had noticed him first.

He wasn’t exceptionally good looking but Nestle liked that, she didn’t like boys that were goodlooking, she always found them somewhat inauthentic, he had a boyish features and ginger hair, features that she wouldn’t normally find attractive but he worked with them well.

Nestle was certain she had found the love of her life or maybe it’s the dim lighting and the adrenaline from the fact that there is atleast one cute guy here, she smiled at the thought.

Well I hope he doesn’t wear that shirt at our wedding, Nestle laughed silently and rolled her eyes at the thought. I’m so annoying. 

T scanned the room, there was a comfortable amount of people, comfortable in that it wasn’t cramped enough to feel claustrophobic but not too few to feel self conscious. There was a good mix of guys and women but it seemed as though most were either couples or  friends, everyone seemed to know each other. His eyes stopped at a girl who seemed to be a bit farther away from the crowd, she was a black girl with cool dark blue braids in, T had had enough black friends to know that that probably wasn’t her real hair and to know that commenting on it was probably not the best conversation starter, except maybe if it was a compliment but then she’d probably have heard that a lot. He still thought it was cool though.

She was smiling and maybe it was the lighting but she had a beautiful smile.

The instructor called for everyone to gather in a circle, possibly introduce himself and give some instructions, T wasn’t  paying attention.

His eyes looked for hers again.

She was standing right underneath the light this time, directly opposite him. Her eyes were gleaming and she tilted her neck slightly, she stared at the instructor in deep concentration, she was quite cute. His eyes moved downwards, she was wearing a black turtle neck and mid length tartan skirt. He looked down at his own choice of attire, a purple and white plaid shirt and jeans, his favourite.

T was never one to shy away from conversation or from people, he liked talking, he liked making jokes, he liked being around people, it made him feel cool, for lack of better word and  under normal circumstances, he would just stroll to her and ask her if she’d be his partner but she made him nervous, like she might look at him and see his whole life and not be interested.

The instructor was now calling for everyone to find partners and everyone was looking to each other, she had moved away from the light.

Waiting.

Waiting to be chosen, she sighed and looked around, she couldn’t understand why people never chose her, why she was always left on the sidelines. She looked at the cute guy who was currently staring at another girl, this always happened to her, she was never going to be chosen.

He wasn’t sure what to do but he knew he didn’t really have much time to think, it was either now or never. His legs started first and before he knew he was right in front of her,  he had walked up to her and she couldn’t believe it, she was smiling again, this time with teeth and she was beautiful.

And she was still beautiful when he placed his arm, in the most cutest awkward way she had ever seen, around her waist.

And gosh, was she beautiful when he spun her, because her skirt spun too and she laughed and if this was a ball, she would definitely be the belle.

“So what’s your name?” she asked in the break, her eyes soft but like fire at the same time, piercing, daring almost.

“Well people call me T,” he responded hoping she wouldn’t ask him his full name “What’s yours?”

“Surely, it must come from something,” she laughed “What’s your full name?” she sounded like she actually cared about what he had to say, she looked like she wanted to know everything about him.

“Promise you won’t laugh, I hate my name, like I feel like my parents were having a laugh when they named me.” He said smiling, she laughed, he had such a lovely smile and his voice was nothing like anything she thought she would be attracted to but she loved it, she would have never thought that an Irish accent could  be remotely sexy, especially after how many times she had heard it.

“Let’s hear it then.”

“My full name is Tetley,” she couldn’t help laughing at the coincidence, it was just too humorous.

“I told you not to laugh!” he said like a child, which only made her laugh harder. he had an amused expression on his face which made her crush for him intensify and his eyes, his eyes were so piercing, they made her feel like a girl and a woman at the same time.

“No! No!” she said in between giggles “It’s not that, it’s just..” she said

“Just what?” he asked, crossing his arms again like a defensive child.

“My name is Nestle.” He couldn’t contain it himself either and laughed

“Are you serious?” He said through chuckles

“I guess our parents really enjoyed breakfast beverages.”

The conversation rolled on for the rest of the night. She called him Tea and he in return called her Mocha, because that was her favourite coffee. He went to the University of Edinburgh and she went to Heriot Watt, she gave him the facts about why Heriot Watt was superior, he didn’t agree. They both agreed One Direction was the best thing that happened to them  however he was very “After Zayn” and she was “Before Zayn”.

She was different, she had responses.

He listened.

She was fast with her remarks.

He asked questions.

She understood all his references.

He knew his memes.

She even had ones he did not recognise.

There were so many things she could tag him in.

She was funny.

He laughed at her jokes.

She was energetic.

He was grounded.

She was eager.

He was calm.

She asked questions.

He didn’t make her feel like a nuisance.

She was passionate.

He understood.

She was strong.

He was strong.

Even though she was little, her personality was big and she wasn’t afraid.

Even though he was big, he didn’t make her feel little.

She was honest.

He was kind.

She made him feel like he was the most interesting person in the world, he actually started believing he might be.

He made her feel just enough.

 

The class ended too quickly.

She wasn’t ready to go home yet, he had to make her stay.

He had to.

“Anywhere I can take you to?” He asked, grinning.

“Well, I guess I’m not too tired.” She responded.

And so they left together, to find a place for two.