The ground was dirty and it was cold. She sat on the edge of the sidewalk, leaves and debris kicked up into swirling bursts by countless eighteen wheelers whooshing by, covering the gleaming white bustle of her dress.
Her wedding dress.
An off the rack special from Goodwill, a dress not special enough for its original owner to keep. A dress of little value, a dress consumed by feelings of sadness and regret.
She always thought her wedding day would be the happiest day of her life.
And there was a chance it could be, still.
Especially given that she just clambered out of the bathroom window at the courthouse mere minutes before her civil ceremony was due to begin.
She was eighteen when they met. He was twenty-two. So grown up and such an adult. He had his own car. A leather jacket and a pack of cigarettes that never seemed to run out. He was in a band and just like his song said, he was on course to capture someone’s heart. He was a bass player and a dreamer and he said that she was his future and at eighteen, in a strange city, in a virtual sea of no one, he was an island. He made her feel safe. More than anything he made her feel like she wasn’t alone.
At nineteen, he told her they were gonna get hitched.
He didn’t ask her. There was no proposal. Just “we’re gonna get hitched”. He hadn’t even told her that he loved her.
Her parents hated him. They had big dreams for their little girl. College. Seeing the world. All of the places they had never been, places they had only read about in books. They wanted a life for her that surpassed all of the dreams they had once had for themselves. Marriage would come, they said. Love would find her. Tap her on the shoulder when she least expected it and envelope her in the tightest embrace she could ever hope for. She was destined for something more than this boy. She could take on the world, they knew, and she would win.
Now she was twenty.
Sitting on the side of the i-90 with her battered cassette player, her rucksack containing her favourite childhood book, The Wizard of Oz, her coin purse and her favourite red flannelette shirt. Her hastily painted ruby red toes were jammed into her tattered Chuck Taylors that once upon a time were white.
Alone again. And yet she had never felt more at peace.
The sticky heat that rose off the tarred road did nothing to ruin her mood. She knew a time would come where she might mourn what she had given up today. A period of grieving, for the first man she thought she had loved. Right now, all she felt was elation. Perhaps a smidgen of fear. Mostly joy. For the first time in a long time she had no plan. No road map. No way of knowing where life might lead her.
All she knew was that she wanted to get the heck away from here.
- - - - - - -
He had just finished his shift when he saw her for the first time.
He was driving a yellow taxi cab for the summer. The hours were long, quite often the people were rude but he found he loved it. He had made his way to Boston from California. He had cousins there, an Aunty, extended family that he didn’t know well but well enough for them to offer him a room from late May until the end of August. During the day he drove his yellow taxi cab, windows cracked as far as they would go, meeting people from all walks of life. Businessmen. Notable political figures. Members of the Clergy. They would talk over him in their often pompous voices, telling him that sure, he was doing an honest man’s work but he should be trying to better himself. He should be working with the bereft, going to school, learning how to became a man of class. But Adam didn’t need any of those things in that moment.
He was in Boston and it was 1991. He was 19. He would go to school. He had all the time in the world to figure out exactly what his place was in it. Right now he was fixated on the blonde sitting on the sidewalk, her feet dangling off the edge of the barrier. It had to be 90 degrees outside and she had been there for hours. He wondered what she was waiting for.
He had first seen her in the early afternoon and at the time had thought nothing of it. Now, it was early evening and she was still sat in the same spot. She had her thumb out as if trying to score a ride, a battered bag at her side and a keen sense of determination written on her face. Her seemingly tiny frame was ensconced in a blur of white, dirty blonde hair pinned at the nape of her neck with a single pearl stud in each ear. Curiosity getting the better of him, he pulled over.
“D’ya need a lift?”
She hesitated with her hand on the door handle, worrying her bottom lip as she took a proper look at the man in the drivers seat. He wore jeans and a soft well-worn white tee and sneakers the same as hers on his feet. His smile was kind as his sandy brown hair fell over one eye. He looked young and as she moved to speak the blaring horn of a passing oversized truck made her decision for her, the noise shocking her into yanking open the cab door and falling into the back seat. Her heart raced as she fought to recover from the scare, the pounding in her ears in harmony with the road trains racing against time beside them. She quickly pulled the door closed behind her, shutting it on the train of her gown as the cab indicated and transitioned seamlessly into the early evening traffic. Closing her eyes, she let out a heady sigh of relief as the young man watched her in the rear view mirror, captivated by the strange girl who had hopped in his cab without a word. They drove in silence for a few minutes before she properly acknowledged him for the first time.
“I don’t have a lot of money.”
He shrugged. “Never said I was going to charge you, did I? I’m not on duty.”
“Oh! I’m sorry. You can...” She peered out the window, trying to establish where she was exactly and if she would be able to plan her next movements from there. Wherever there was. “I’m sorry,” she repeated dully, realising she had absolutely no idea of where she was. “You can drop me off here. I can find another way to get where I’m going.”
He shook his head. “It’s dangerous out there at night, when you’re alone. Tell me where you need to get to and I’ll take you there.”
“Well that’s the thing,” she said hesitantly as she leaned forward. “I don’t know where I’m going. Today was meant to be my wedding day and... all I know is that .... All I know is that I want to be far away from this place. I don’t want to get married. I want ... I want to stay up all night and lie back on the damp grass and look at the stars. I want to learn a new hobby. I want to write more. I want to go everywhere. All over the world. I want to make people laugh. I want to fall in love with a boy who makes me feel like I can fly.”
Their eyes met in the rear view mirror. “That’s a pretty dress,” he said finally. “Must be a heck of a good reason for you not wanting to make an honest man out of him.” Her head dropped to her chest and he frowned. He hadn’t meant to upset her. He watched as she fingered the lace brocade on the dresses waist and made a snap decision that inevitably would end up changing his life. “Do you want to get a beer?”
Her head shot up, flustered as if she had forgotten he was there. “I can’t. I’m not 21.”
“That’s ok. Neither am I.”
The place he took her to was nondescript. Music blared from within, dulcet notes drifting outside to the beer garden where she sat, fidgeting, waiting for her roadside saviour to return. Perched on the top of a picnic table she held her rucksack tight against her side. She had never been to a place like this before. Places like this didn’t exist where she came from, the middle of nowhere, Massachusetts. The train of her gown skimmed the dirt as she tried without success to shift the bustle of the dress behind her to get more comfortable and she huffed in frustration.
“You never told me your name.”
He joined her on top of the table, handing her a beer. She sniffed it warily and took the smallest sip finding it wasn’t as horrible as she had anticipated it to be. “You never told me yours.”
“Nice to make your acquaintance.” He took a long draw from his own bottle and looked at her seriously. “Did he beat you?”
“Cheat on you?”
Amy shook her head no, a little taken back from Adam’s forthright line of questioning. “No. Nothing like that. He was perfectly pleasant. He wanted to get married. So we did. Or I suppose we would have, had I not climbed out the bathroom window just before the ceremony.” She stared out into the distance, watching a flickering fairy light on the far wall weakly switch on and off. “My parents didn’t like him. They want me to finish school. Do all the things they haven’t done. When I looked in the mirror and saw myself dressed like this...” She picked up the skirt of her dress and made a face. “I knew I wanted something more for myself, too.”
Adam took another long pull of his beer. “I thought every little girl grew up dreaming of her wedding day.”
“They do,” Amy insisted. “But... They want the church. Or the big fancy hall and the beautiful dress. Not a civil ceremony at the courthouse or a dollar deal from Goodwill. And some girls...”
She trailed off and Adam frowned, prompting her to continue. “Some girls?”
“Some girls...” Amy took a big breath. “Some girls mistake companionship for love. Some girls take a little while to realise that they’re destined for something better. Bigger. That they’re deserving of something more. That they’re terrified of being trapped. And they’re so grateful that when the moment came to say ‘I do’ that they were brave enough to escape out the bathroom window.”
Adam wasn’t sure what to make of this whirlwind of chaotic energy he had stumbled upon. He was used to unique personalities sliding their way into his backseat. They generally weren’t beguiling beauties on the search for adventure or escape. Amy intrigued him. She didn’t look any older any him yet she possessed a level of emotional clarity he didn’t quite understand. She had walked out on her fiancé on their wedding day. He wasn’t sure if she was brave or stupid but he knew that of all the cars screaming down the freeway he was glad she had jumped into his.
He lifted his beer in a toast. “To escaping out the window.” Amy touched the neck of her beer bottle to his and echoed his words, taking another small sip. She set it back down on the table and Adam hopped down, offering her his hand. “Come on. I want to show you something.”
She grabbed it without a second thought and followed him into the night.
- - - - - - -
He continued to hold her hand as he drove. Boston was quieter now. She could see families having dinner through illuminated windows as they wound their way through the city and then into smaller neighbourhoods she wasn’t familiar with. He pulled over outside a yellow weatherboard split-level property and released her hand. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Amy nodded, watching as he locked the doors behind him and disappeared into the house via a side entrance. This must be where he lived, she thought. It was nice. The small apartment she lived in was pokey and in a bad neighbourhood. She wondered if she would be able to go back there and retrieve her things. Her clothes, at least. And her notebooks. Amy shifted in her seat and her skirt rustled, giving Amy the sudden urge to be free of it altogether. She reached up and back, desperately trying to undo the buttons that lead down her spine to the curve of her hip but they would not budge. Ripping at the fabric she pulled and pulled but it was hopeless. She hadn’t been able to get into the dress alone and now she was unable to get out of it. Clenching her jaw she suppressed a frustrated cry as Adam returned, sliding into the bench seat on the drivers side. He watched her struggle for a moment before covering both of her hands with his and lowering them to her sides.
“Let me help you.”
Deftly, his fingers undid the trail of buttons holding her hostage. She felt his calloused skin sooth a particularly raw spot she had clawed and slumped forward, failing to object as he carefully drew the straps of the dress down her arms, ignoring the way she quickly bunched the fabric in front of her chest to cover herself. She had a beauty mark on her shoulder and unable to help himself he lowered his lips to her skin and covered it with a kiss. She was warm and soft as he withdrew, silently pulling the pins from her hair and laying them on the dashboard.
“I don’t have any clothes with me,” she cringed. “And I need to get out of this dress.”
Wordlessly, he reached around her to offer a shirt and a pair of jeans he had brought from within the house. Greedily, she took the t-shirt and pulled it over her head. Her senses were immediately assaulted by the smell of the beach and fresh mint, coloured by a woody aroma she couldn’t distinguish.
Adam. The shirt smelt like Adam.
She let the front of the dress fall and looked at the jeans. A door opened and then Adam was standing before her.
“Straighten your legs and lift your hips,” he said quietly. She did as he asked, leaning back on her elbows as Adam roughly grabbed the lace covering her hips and pulled, disappearing into a mess of white and quickly turning away from her. Slipping off her shoes she undid the button fly on the jeans, surprised to find they fit and fit well after she tugged them up over her narrow hips. She could still feel the heat of his mouth on her back as he balled up her dress and stuffed it into a trash can on the kerb.
He appeared back on the drivers side as she slipped on her shoes. “Better?”
Amy nodded gratefully and wrapped her arms around her middle. Key back in the ignition, he turned over the engine and they were once again on their way. “Where are we going?”
She was rewarded with a crooked smile. “We’re going to stay up all night and look at the stars.”
They drove for almost an hour, stopping only to visit a drive thru when their stomach’s growled loudly and in unison. Amy insisted on paying for their meals and Adam nodded somewhat reluctantly, letting her order for them both. They ate quickly, sitting in the car park without speaking and using the facilities to freshen up.
Amy leaned over the narrow sink under the harsh glare of the fluorescent light and splashed water on herself. Staring in the mirror she barely recognised herself. Her eyes were bright and even with the shadows beneath them, she looked happy. Her cheeks were pink and her recently unpinned curls hung loosely around her face. Adam’s t-shirt was long on her but the fit was snug across her chest. She didn’t know who Soundgarden were but the t-shirt had a softness that could only be achieved from a few hundred washes and she liked it. The jeans were well broken in, too.
There was a knock on the door and she jumped. “Amy? Ready to go?”
“One second,” she called. Digging through her rucksack she pulled out her raspberry lip-smacker to moisten her lips. Her fingers brushed the stiff edge of a polaroid picture as she tossed it back into her bag and she unlocked the door to find Adam leaning against a telephone booth. “Do you mind if I use that before we go? I won’t be long.”
He shook his head, looking mildly relieved. “Take your time.”
Stepping past him she slid a quarter into the coin slot and dialled. The call connected and was picked up almost immediately. “Hi Mom. Mom, calm down. I’m okay.” Amy looked embarrassed as she covered the mouth piece with her hand to limit the commotion on the other end of the phone. “I’m in Boston. No. I’m not going home tonight. I’m staying with a friend. Tomorrow, I guess? I’ll find somewhere. Okay. Okay. I love you too. Tell Dad I said hey.”
Amy heard her quarter drop as the call ended and she hung the phone back on its hook. Adam used his foot to push off the side of the telephone booth and headed in the direction of the parking lot, Amy following dutifully behind. Her cheeks grew pinker as he held open her door for her to slide in and she stared at him curiously as they pulled out of the parking lot and back on the road.
He could feel her eyes on him. “What?”
“That look on your face when I came out of the bathroom. What was that?”
If he was taken aback by her observational skills he didn’t show it. “You were taking a long time. Thought you might have jumped out the window and done a runner on me.”
She knew she probably should have been upset that he was having a laugh at her expense but she instead shook her head with a tiny grin. “You promised me adventure. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
It might have been a trick of the light but she swore the corners of his mouth quirked up as they turned onto an unsealed track. The cab lurched over a large pot hole and Amy steeled herself against the dashboard, not wanting to hit her head on the roof. They continued on for a few more minutes before the vehicle came to a stop just outside a clearing. Adam exited the car and walked to the rear, popping the trunk and moving back to open her door, a large bundle of fabric in his arms. He looked at her expectantly. “Are you coming?”
She had one foot out the door before she worked up the nerve to blurt out the question on the tip of her tongue. Wherever they were it was awfully isolated. “You didn’t bring me out here to murder me or something did you?”
“I’m not really the murdering type,” Adam offered wryly, heading into the clearing. “You can stay in the car,” he called over his shoulder. “Or you can come and sit with me. Your choice.”
By the time she caught up with him he was already laying out what happened to be two sleeping bags zipped together. He removed a small backpack she didn’t remember seeing earlier and pulled out a bottle of water and a pillow. The air was still and she could feel the grass crunch under her feet. The clearing was small, wildflowers growing in wayward bunches across the landscape surrounded by a halo of trees. Closing her eyes she heard the scuffling of night in their branches, squirrels and chipmunks racing through the foliage as birds chirped to themselves, settling in for the night. She took a deep breath and was surprised to find she could smell the dampness of the leaves, trodden but sun kissed by people having visited the area during the day. “What is this place?”
“When we visited on the holidays when I was younger my Aunty used to bring us here,” Adam explained with a shrug as Amy tentatively sat down beside him on the sleeping bag. “We spent our lives at the beach, this part of nature was a foreign concept to us.”
Her curiosity piqued. “You’re not from here?”
“California,” he said with a shake of his head. “Just here for the summer.”
Something about his admission made her sad. “Oh.”
He shot her a plaintive smile, laying back with his head on the pillow. “Lie down with me. Close your eyes.”
Doing as he requested, she laid back and rested her head on the pillow next to his. The sleeping bag was soft and a chill was beginning to cling to the air. She shivered, even though she had put on her flannelette in the car and Adam shifted closer, his side pressed against hers.
“Now open your eyes,” he said softly. “Tell me what you see.”
The first thing that struck her was how dark the sky was. They were just far enough away from the city that there were minimal lights impeding their view of the sky and what was illuminated was lit by a blanket of stars. There was no cloud, the moon was full and Amy almost found herself brought to tears by the complete tranquility of it all. “Everything,” she whispered, a goofy smile on her face. “I can see everything.”
Her smile was contagious and he found himself grinning alongside her. “Even without a telescope we might be able to see Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune tonight. Maybe Mars. There is this thing called the elliptical plane and when the moon orbits the earth at a five degree angle like it is now, it makes them easier to see.”
Amy blinked. “How do you know all this?”
He laughed. “You’re not the only one around here that’s allowed to dream,” he teased before his voice broke and his tone became infinitely more serious. “My parents used to fight a lot, before the divorce. I’m the youngest and my brother had to do a project on the moon and I remember devouring the library books he had from end to end. The idea that we’re a part of something bigger than this... I think about it a lot. We would come here and my Aunty would have her old clunky telescope and we would stay up and watch the stars. It was my favourite thing to do growing up.”
Amy’s heart sank at the tremor in his voice and she reached for his hand, linking her fingers through his. “I love the moon. Every time I look at it, I feel less alone and less afraid. The stars... the stars look like little twinkling campfires set in space.”
She thought she heard him chuckle and he lifted their joined hands, pointing at the sky. “See that pattern of stars? That’s the Summer Triangle. It’s not a single constellation but a formation comprised of multiple stars. Behind that is the Milky Way. And just before sunrise? We should be able to see Venus too. It’s the second brightest object in the sky.”
“Wow.” She squeezed his hand as he lowered them back to the ground between them. “Thanks for sharing this with me.”
He was silent for a long time before she heard him murmur. “Thanks for listening.”
They stayed like that all night, moving only to move inside the sleeping bag when the chill properly descended on the ground. She told him about growing up in a family that had not much to their name but love and he showed her the scar he had from when he had learned to ride a bike. He spoke of the sunny beaches back home and she listened, enraptured by the prospect of sun and sand all year round. They laughed until they cried as Amy detailed her experience as Dorothy in her school’s stage production of The Wizard of Oz and they each had a earbud as they listened to Adam’s favourite cassette tape as the first light of dawn began to peak over the trees. He told her about his mother and how she was his hero and that more than anything in the world he wanted to become someone that would make her proud. She told him that she wasn’t sure if she was making a mistake in walking out on her fiancé but with every moment she spent with him she became more and more certain she was doing the right thing. He told her that he envied her strength and wished he had the ability to stand up for himself like she had earlier that day.
She laid her head on his shoulder as the sun grew high in the early morning sky and not once did their hands let go.
The rest of the summer passed by in a flash. Nights were spent with Adam exploring the city or laying in what she came to think of as their clearing. He went with her to reclaim her belongings the first morning and promptly informed her she was staying with him that night. He shyly introduced her to his Aunty and Amy became a natural fixture at their place even though she had found her own. She read books. They took road trips to the Cape and to see her parents and her brother and she was relieved when her parents doted on Adam as though he was one of their own. They watched the Red Sox on the television and bummed rides from other taxi drivers when they were too tired to drive. They laughed a lot. Uproarious, bellyaching laughs over the smallest things, Amy’s cackle proving to be the soundtrack of their summer.
They held hands a lot. They shared a bed at night to sleep but things never went any further than that. In a way, they were both glad of that fact. Their friendship was so special to them both that they felt as though spending hours wrapped up in each other in their clearing or on her couch having never ending conversations about what they wanted for themselves and for each other was far more intimate than sex could ever be.
She made him feel as though it was okay to be vulnerable. He made her feel like she could fly.
They shared a kiss on Adam’s final evening in Boston as they sat inside his yellow taxi cab and it was the perfect ending to a perfect summer interlude. They both cried, Amy harder than she felt she ever had before. They kept in touch for a spell through letters and phone calls and Amy visited Adam’s Aunty every week to feel closer to him. She never did return his Soundgarden t-shirt or what had turned out to be an old pair of his sister’s jeans. Adam decided to go to school and Amy threw herself into her studies. Adam never said anything, but his decision to pursue acting had been something he had wanted since childhood and spending the summer with her had made him realise that if he wanted something badly enough, he should pursue it relentlessly.
When they looked at the moon, they smiled and thought of each other.
The phone calls and letters grew more infrequent. Amy moved to Chicago and then New York and fulfilled her dream of being able to make people laugh. It was tough and there were moments where she wished for nothing more than Adam by her side. Adam was based in California but travelled all over for auditions and a part of him always searched the crowds for that familiar head of dirty blonde hair and the cackle that hurt his ears as much as it filled his heart with joy. He didn’t even know her last name. It hadn’t mattered at the time.
Not once did their paths cross. Not once did they forget the summer that had ultimately changed their lives.
There was a party. Adam was in New York sleeping on his buddy Paul’s couch while he auditioned for one of half a dozen roles he desperately needed but didn’t necessarily want. Paul had worked on a film with someone who knew someone that worked for Conan O’Brien who had guest hosted Saturday Night Live that evening and given that Adam was based in Los Angeles and Conan in Burbank, Paul figured that they should use the opportunity to network and make some connections. They had been skirting the outer edge of to main group for a little over an hour when Adam heard it.
Was she here? She had to be. There was no way something that sounded so piercingly wonderful to his ears could have come from anyone else.
There it was again. High pitched. Off key.
Paul excused himself from the conversation he was having to move to Adam’s side. “Are you okay? You looked like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Adam’s eyes surveyed the crowd, searching for anyone with dirty blonde hair. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what? That laugh?” Paul asked as he took a sip of his beer. Too many whiskeys one night had lead to Adam spilling his guts over the girl he had spent a long ago summer with in Boston, the beautiful blonde with the crazy laugh that Paul had deduced Adam was stupidly in love with. “Oh man. No way. Dude. She’s here?”
Adam nodded a little frantically, starting to feel a little overwhelmed. “I think so. That laugh. That’s her laugh.”
Paul grabbed a bottle of beer from a passing server and shoved it in Adam’s hand. “Drink. Have a sip. It’ll calm your nerves. What does she look like again?”
Adam licked his lips before taking a long pull of his beer. “Dirty blonde hair, blue eyes. Short. Really short. Wild smile.”
“Not really narrowing it down, bro.” Paul shook his head. “What was her name again?”
“Amy,” Adam said without thinking. “Wait. No. Whatever you’re going to do, don’t. Paul-“
“Amy?” Paul called loudly. “Is there an ‘Amy’ here? Blonde. Blue eyed. Amy?”
The crowd fell quiet and parted as Adam looked like he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him whole. Murmurs started to sound as Paul tried again.
“Amy? Really cool laugh. What did you call it, bro?” He asked Adam quietly. “A cackle?”
Amy heard the cacophony behind her and turned. She fit the description of whoever this guy was looking for. She didn’t think it was her he was looking for though, because she had no idea of who the heck he was. Starting to walk toward him, the man beside him turned and stared straight at her.
Amy’s heart dropped into her stomach and she froze. It couldn’t be. What was he doing here? How... The glass of wine she was holding started to shake in her hand and she almost dropped it before Maya stepped forward to relieve her of it. She took another step and Adam swallowed heavily.
It was her. It was definitely her. A decade might have passed but he knew her face. He saw it in his dreams.
It was him. He had filled out a little, broader shoulders and now he had a beard. He could have waxed off his eyebrows and she still would have known it was him. She saw his face in every beer garden, in every cab driver, in every cassette tape she saw, relics that they were.
The din quietened and the entire party was focussed solely on the two of them as he took a shaky step forward and she called his name.
Chapter 2: New York New York
I do not own any of the aforementioned individuals featured in this work of fiction. I have also played with the month in which Conan’s SNL episode occurred and the location of his show which for the purpose of this fic is filmed in Burbank, CA.
This is end of this tale. For now.
His name fell from her lips like a prayer and his knees buckled with the sheer shock of it all. He felt a hand grip his elbow and vaguely realised Paul was the only thing keeping him upright.
“Steady, bro. Let’s sit for a minute,” Paul encouraged Adam quietly, trying to change his course to the couches in the corner. Adam couldn’t find the words to say otherwise and before he knew it was happening he felt plush fabric hit the back of his knees, sinking into the depth of the sofa. He blinked, seeing a halo of golden hair hovering behind Paul’s shoulder and in an instant the world started to turn once more. The entire room that had been watching them turned back to their own conversations, a shrug of shoulders enough to dissuade their concern in whatever was to transpire between Amy and his new mystery man. Paul placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t move. I’m going to get you a Coke. Get some sugar into your system.”
Paul was intercepted by Maya as he moved toward the bar. Protective of Amy and unsure of who these strange men were she blocked his path and squared her shoulders. “Who are you and who is that and why are you causing a scene?”
“Uh,” Paul shrugged. “I’m Paul. That’s Adam. I’m gonna assume you’re a friend of Amy’s and if you are, then that name should ring some bells.”
“Adam? Adam,” Maya muttered quietly to herself. “Why does that sound so familiar?”
“And we weren’t causing a scene,” Paul pointed out. “These two crazy kids haven’t seen each other for like a whole decade. When your buddy says hey, I think the girl with the wicked laugh I fell in love with years ago is here you don’t think ‘Okay, well that’s great. Let’s work the room some more and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see you.’ You think ‘Holy smokes. It’s her. Hold my beer, I’m gonna help my dude find his soulmate.”
Comprehension dawned on Maya’s face. “Holy shit. That’s Adam. Boston Adam. Let’s spend the summer together and hold hands and fall hopelessly in love and neglect to tell each other that, Adam.”
“One and the same,” Paul agreed. “Can I get passed? Think we should probably get some sugar into him before he passes out from the shock.”
“What? Oh yeah, sure.” Maya moved out of Paul’s way and continued to stare at the pair as Amy sank down to a crouch in front of Adam, one hand tentatively finding purchase on his knee to stabilise herself. “Are they...?”
“She’s never been safer with anyone in her life than she is with him right now,” Paul informed Maya with a firm but gentle hand on her lower back, steering her away. “She’s fine. Adam has spent the last ten years basically dreaming about this moment. Leave them be.”
- - - - - - -
Her head was swimming.
He was here. In front of her. Close enough to reach out and touch. Another wobbly step toward him saw her sink down into a crouch in front of him as he sat dazed, something she was certain was reflected in her own features. She wobbled not so gracefully as she lowered herself down and made the split second decision to reach for his knee with her hand. The heat that flared at their joining sent a burst of nervous energy right to her brain and she held his knee a little tighter as he seemed to regain control of his faculties, a shy smile spreading across his face. His voice was barely louder than a whisper but it wouldn’t have mattered to Amy if they had been underwater. For the first time in forever he said her name and the soft, rounded syllables felt like a shot to her heart.
Her face crumpled rather indelicately and she had to stop herself from launching herself right into his arms. A swell of tears in her eyes hopelessly blurred her vision but she felt familiar calloused fingers cup her chin and she laughed giddily, Adam feeling the noise reverberate in the depths of his soul. She looked exactly like he remembered her. The way tiny creases formed at the corner of her eyes when her left dimple was showing. The two blue endless stretches of calm that he had spent weeks at a time day dreaming about diving into. The softness of her hair that often ended up tickling his nose on the nights they shared a bed, starting on opposite sides before inevitably waking up curled around each other like a question mark.
She laughed again, still very much in a state of disbelief as his hand moved to her cheek, his thumb brushing a wisp of hair from her face. “What are you doing here?”
His simple and earnest admission warmed her heart and she managed to keep it together for merely a moment before dissolving in a puddle of tears.
“I wanted my Soundgarden t-shirt back.”
“Stop it,” she laughed dubiously.
His gaze was unwavering and she knew this time his answer was completely serious. “I was looking for you. This whole time... I’ve been looking for you.”
She hiccuped in surprise through her tears and he covered her hand with his, lifting it from his knee and encouraging her to move from the ground to sit beside him. Amy hesitated, more than willing but not qnecessarily wanting to share this moment with three hundred other people.
They had spent two and a half months together practically half a lifetime ago. They were now virtual strangers. Yet fifteen minutes ago Adam had popped back into her peripheral and it went without saying that where they had left things in that taxi cab that night was about to be blown into smithereens.
This was about the two of them, as it always had been.
“Do you want to get out of here?”
It was only when she stood that he realised she wanted him to follow. He stood, willing to travel anywhere to be with her in that moment and she clasped his hand tightly before they wound their way through a bevy of people to the bar. Amy swiped at her face in an effort to make herself appear somewhat presentable and made a beeline for Maya and Paul who had decided to do shots of goodness knows what. The pair were laughing uproariously at something as they made faces at each other and Paul seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
The brunette turned, her features softening when she saw Adam stuck to Amy’s side like glue. “You heading out?”
Amy bit her bottom lip, nodding skeptically. “Is that ok? I know we were going to hang tonight.”
Maya shook her head, wobbling slightly as she left her stool. “Totally fine baby girl. Paul and I are good here. Do you have your keys?” Amy nodded and Maya haphazardly threw an arm around her neck. “Tell me everything.”
“Later,” Amy promised, a sheen of tears still layered on her cheeks. “Have fun.”
“He’ll look out for her,” Adam said quietly behind her. “Paul’s a good guy.”
Amy squeezed Adam’s hand as Maya released Amy and climbed back on her chair. “The best,” Amy agreed softly. “Paul?”
Paul swivelled to face Amy, eyeing her curiously. “Yeah?”
Tugging Adam along behind her Amy dropped his hand and threw her arms around Paul, pulling him close. It took Paul a second a process what was happening and he loosely wrapped an arm around her, returning the gesture. She said something in his ear and mollified, he gave her a quick squeeze before releasing her. “I’m glad you’re here, too.”
They were moving again and Adam reclaimed Amy’s hand as she lead him through the halls to the dressing rooms. Knocking on a nondescript door she waited for a beat before heading inside, heading straight for a tiny mirrored vanity in the corner. She grabbed her bag and looped it over her shoulder and across her body, pausing when she saw her jacket. Adam made the decision for her, holding it up as she slid her arms into the sleeves. His hands lingered on her shoulders and she indulged him with a shy smile, a complete juxtaposition to her tear-stained face. “Every nerve in my body is screaming at me to hug you right now. And I want that, so badly. I just don’t want to do it here.”
“It’s okay. Same. I’m the same,” he settled on, his hands moving down her arms. “If you let me... I don’t know if I’ll be able to let you go.”
The sparkle in her eyes transported him back in time. A part of him knew that one of them needed to be rational about this, whatever this was. One of them needed to remember they weren’t kids anymore, to keep them aware of the fact that so much could have changed for them both in a decade. The excitement, the thrill of finding each other again didn’t give them permission to be irresponsible with the others feelings. Where did they go from here? He loved her without knowing how but he had no idea of knowing if she felt the same. He had no expectations but at the same time, he had unconsciously spent the last ten years imagining this moment. At the risk of sounding pathetic, he almost felt like he needed to protect her from himself. An overt physical closeness was nothing new for them. Him wanting to act upon that closeness was.
“Stop,” she said calmly without even sparing him a glance. “I can hear the wheels turning. You’re overthinking this.”
What he said next was definitely unintended and surprised them both.
“You looked beautiful tonight. You always did.” Their eyes met in the mirror. “I hope you know that.”
“I know how beautiful you always made me feel,” she said softly, honestly, a little taken back by how forthright he was being. “It’s always been enough.”
Impulsively, he ducked his head and placed a kiss so light she could barely feel it behind her ear. She reached up to touch the spot, to feel the heat left behind as if to reassure herself that it had happened. Just like a decade ago, she could feel the burning of his lips long after they were gone.
“Are you ready to go?”
He bumped her shoulder with his. “Lead the way.”
It was March and it shouldn’t have been especially chilly but winter had decided to linger late this year and the air carried a slight nip. Midnight was close and the streets were teaming with tourists and young people alike.
“Where are we going?”
“West Village. Maya and I lease a studio on the ground floor.” She looked embarrassed. “It’s nothing special but it’s home.”
“I knew you were in New York but I didn’t know where,” he said awkwardly, trailing behind her as they headed down to the subway station. “Your last letter had a Chicago address and then I lost track of you.”
Amy paused in the middle of her descent, forcing dozens of commuters to separate and swarm around them both like a rock in a river. “Hey. We lost track of each other. Come on. We’re going to miss our train.”
Relief washed over him as he realised she didn’t blame him for disappearing from her life, even though it wasn’t his fault. He followed her to the platform and into the subway car, aware of how tightly she was pressed against him. He felt completely out of his element and a part of her knew that, her back to his front as music played and people
called to each other throughout the car. A half a dozen stops later she moved to the doors and he moved with her, close enough to be a shadow. Ten minutes later they were back at her apartment and he entered first, allowing her to lock the door and deadbolt behind them.
“Maya’s not coming home tonight?”
She shook her head at his gentle inquiry. “No. Someone will have a couch she can crash on.”
“I didn’t mean to keep her from her own home. Sorry.”
Amy shrugged off her jacket and put it on the small table at the entry with her keys and purse. “Maya doesn’t get caught up in stuff like that. She’s never not put my happiness first. She knows that you being here is... important and that I would appreciate some space.”
Adam surveyed the small open plan apartment, the two rooms partitioned off with privacy screens. The kitchenette was tiny and the living room was a collection of bits and pieces the pair had accumulated over the last few years but it was comfortable. Cosy. It was Amy. “Oh? So you’ve mentioned me, then?”
The faint smile playing on her lips was accompanied by a nonchalant shrug. “Once or twice.”
His hands were jammed into his pockets as he stood somewhat uneasily in the middle of the room. She was leaning back against the table when the realisation hit her.
They were in her apartment. They were alone. They hadn’t seen each other in years. And for some stupid reason she wasn’t wrapped up in his arms yet.
“I’m going to hug you now,” she said somewhat awkwardly. “Um. I don’t know why I announced it like that either.”
They met in the middle. She went to loop her arms around his neck but wasn’t fast enough, Adam crushing her against his chest, her arms trapped between them. He held a hand to the back of her head and another at her waist as she tried to burrow closer to him, the hand at her waist finding purchase on the band of skin between her jeans and her shirt. She managed to wriggle her arms free and slipped them around his back, his button up doing little to protect him against the sensation of her nails digging into his skin through the cotton. The height difference between them hadn’t changed and he lowered his head to rest his chin on her hair, his senses immediately assaulted by the smell of her raspberry scented shampoo. The front of his shirt was rapidly dampening and he soothed her with a kiss to her hair, opening his stance and shifting his hips to allow her to rest her weight against him should she choose. Her grip upon him somehow became tighter and he caught her off guard, lifting her up the length of his torso and taking her feet from the floor. She wrapped her legs around him instinctively and her arms made their way to their original destination, Amy laying her head on his shoulder as he deftly manoeuvred them to the left and into one of the rooms. For the second time that night he felt the furniture beneath him before he knew it was there and he shuffled back against the headboard as Amy found herself straddling his lap. It was several moments before she lifted her head to look him in the eye and when she did he smiled, still rhythmically rubbing the skin on her lower back. “Hi.”
“Hey,” she managed, digging in her pocket to find a tissue to wipe her face. “You’re here.”
“I’m here,” he confirmed. “In the flesh.”
She looked like she wanted to say something else as she discarded her tissue in the bin beside her bed and she frowned, opting instead to lower her head to his shoulder. “I almost can’t believe it. I’ve imagined this so many times in so many daydreams that it’s almost surreal. Of all the places, of all the parties... You walked into ours. Where have you been? What have you been doing? Are you acting? Do you live in New York? How long are you here for?”
She could feel his shoulders shake as he laughed to himself, most likely at the speed at which she was firing off questions. “I’ve been acting, a little. I’ve been in California. I’m based in LA. I’m here auditioning. Staying with Paul while he films something. It was his idea to crash your party. He worked with someone who knows someone who works with Conan. We were meant to be networking when I...”
“When you what,” she probed gently, looking at him with concern. “Adam?”
Adam made a face. “When I heard you laugh. I didn’t even see you to start with, I heard your laugh and I didn’t dare hope it was you-“
“-and then Paul took it upon himself to find me,” Amy surmised with a wry smile. “I like him.”
“Same.” Adam admitted with a chuckle. “SNL, huh? That’s amazing, Ames.”
Amy’s face lit up at the familiar nickname
only he used and she nodded. “It’s just temporary at the moment. I’m doing some writing and I’ve done a couple of small segments on screen. Hopefully they see something in me and want to stay on for another season. Maya has been an amazing help. I was really struggling before I met her. Chicago was tough. I’m proud of what we achieved as the Uptight Citizen’s Brigade but I never expected... I never expected the nights to be so lonely. There are times we would drive all day and all night only to end up losing money. Which was fine, because it was never really about the cash, but those road trips.... they were never as good as the ones I took with you,” she said truthfully. “There were so many nights I caught myself wishing you were beside me. I don’t know if you think that’s weird.”
“It’s not weird. It’s nice to hear that you were still thinking of me, actually.” He moved his hands to her hips and delicately lifted her off of his lap. She looked at him questioningly before realising he was moving to lie down and she mirrored his movements, her head right next to his on the pillow. Her bed was a double meaning there was room for them both to have their own space yet they remained in the middle of the bed, pressing against each other. “I wasn’t lying before when I said I was looking for you. Every so often I would have an insanely vivid dream that you would show up in California and I would get to see you again. That summer changed my life, Amy.”
They were both laying on their sides, Adam’s hand still at her waist. He seemed strangely fascinated by the bare batch of skin at her back and while his fixation on the area surprised her, she couldn’t deny that feeling his touch anywhere was more than okay right now. His fingers rounded the curve of her side and she held her breath as his hand splayed across her stomach. She knew he could probably hear the pounding of her heart given that it sounded like a drum line to her own ears and she forced herself to relax as his fingers lightly tickled her sides.
“I have to tell you something,” he swallowed nervously. “I don’t know what your situation is or if you’re seeing anyone but I made a promise to myself that if I was ever lucky enough to be in your company again that I would be completely honest with you about how I feel. I think I could love you, Amy. I’ve never, could never forget about you and the greatest summer of my life. I would gladly have you in my life now in any capacity, but to be able to hold you and kiss you without torturing myself about how good you taste and how badly I want to be with you... It’s what I want. I know that this might seem sudden but for everything I know about the crazy girl who took a chance climbing out a bathroom window... I needed to tell you.”
He felt her stomach hiccup and immediately began to berate himself for being so forward. Amy had yet to say anything and she felt a tiny moment of pride given that Adam had been able to find the courage to be so honest with her. The Adam she knew would never have been able to do that. Did she really know him now, though? His smile was the same. The way his arms cradled her and made her feel at home had not changed. There were a thousand more things she could think of that she didn’t know about him but given his visceral reaction to seeing her tonight she had no reason to doubt his heart or to not want to learn more about the man she wasn’t readily prepared to let go.
Yes. She thought she could love him, too.
She moved a hand to cover her and linked his fingers with hers. “How long are you here for?”
“Til Monday night.” Her face fell and he couldn’t deny his heart dropped at the same time. It was Saturday night, or early Sunday now. “I have an audition Tuesday afternoon that I can’t miss.”
Any nodded, releasing his hand and suddenly rifling through his pockets. Adam watched bemused as she found his crappy Nokia cell phone, entering what looked like her name, number, address and email as a new contact. She called her phone from his number before he could say a word and dropped his phone on to the bed. “As soon as you get home I want you to put those details somewhere safe. Okay? I’m not losing you again.”
“Okay,” he said seriously. “I will. I’ll give Paul your number too. You can give my number to Maya. Give it to the entire cast, if you like. Whatever works.”
She allowed herself a small smile and drew closer to Adam, her stare moving quickly from his eyes to his mouth and back up again as if asking permission. He answered her question by surging forward and capturing her lips with his own. For all of his bravado his movements were tentative and sweet and Amy grinned against his mouth as she wrapped her arms around his waist and positioned herself flush against his body. She tasted like raspberry lip-smacker as she opened her mouth to him and he sighed before touching his tongue to hers, one hand moving to her hair. He tasted like peppermint and as he not so subtly slid his hand down first to her clavicle and then to ghost over the swell of her breast she let out a tiny whimper, inexplicably grateful that the universe had returned the first boy she felt she had really truly loved to her life.
The rest of the night was a blur of misplaced clothing and whispered tales of their time apart. She told him about appearing on Conan for the first time and hoping he would be watching. He told her about meeting Paul and that when he struggled to sell himself in an audition he allowed himself to think back to their first night in the clearing and how brave she made him feel and he just got on with it. She murmured irreverent musings about his tongue as he worshipped between her thighs and she could still feel his fingers tangled and tugging in her hair the next morning after she made him see stars.
They made promises of tomorrows and long weekends and Amy knew she would find a way to get to Los Angeles before the month was out if it killed her. The longing feeling in her stomach was replaced by pure contentment as she woke up with him wound around her, clinging with veracity as if he thought she might be gone when he awoke and Adam had just finished making pancakes as a commotion sounded at the front door, Maya and Paul stumbling in without having slept. Seemingly now fast friends, the pair spent most of breakfast ribbing on each other before Maya fell asleep in her pancakes and Paul collapsed on the couch, light snoring echoing through the largely open space.
Amy and Adam slipped out shortly after, taking advantage of the limited time they knew they had together before he had to leave and as they looked upon the same moon that night for the first time in a decade, it seemed as though falling in love with each other was inevitable.
And if they were being completely honest, neither would have it any other way.