Skylights let the morning's rays of sun leak in, washing the room in winter's pale, bleak light. It made the reality of the room's emptiness more harsh, the loft's now sole occupant left to feel profoundly alone in the cold winter sun. He woke with a sinking feeling in his stomach, the feeling that confirms one's isolation from loved ones. This wasn't uncommon for the thirty year old man laying on the king-sized bed for he had many love affairs starting in his mid-teens, but it hit just as hard everytime his latest boy left him.
Not one of those boys left such desolation in his wake as his best friend did when she left. There was a two year period after she was gone that he spent every morning like this one: alone, lost. He was seventeen once more, insecure, missing her desperately, wondering where she was, what she was doing. He wanted so badly to find her, tell her he was sorry. Maybe if he found her and apologized, he would finally stay in a relationship for longer than ten months.
He closed his eyes against his bedroom; it was so large, and like his bed, much too big for just him. He had a guest room just as large as his own; he told himself that it was there for anyone who needed a room, but deep down he knew that the kelly green bedding and record player were there for her, if only she would want to stay. He knew that lying to himself made nothing any different than it was, but he liked to think that she was never there, but in the dark, he couldn't keep himself from wishing he would have said sorry while he could. While she was there, listening. All of those hours, days, months wasted.
He opened his eyes and made his way out to the kitchen where he made himself a cup of coffee. In his old age he traded energy drinks and pop for that Colombian drink he once despised so much.
Sitting at the island, the man stared around the kitchen. Its size seemed excessive now that he had no one to share it with. Louis had left the night before, his words resembling those of a certain girl from more than a decade previously. He now understood the meaning of those pained words, the melancholy he heard in her voice so long ago was found once more in Louis' voice.
The kitchen echoed with the boy's tear-filled voice, his strained accent, his choked out explanation as to why he was moving back to his home in New Orleans. It was reminiscent of Delia's barely held together words, her visible fight against the tears she knew he couldn't take. He saw in Louis's tears Delia's lack thereof. He understood that when she left, she truly wanted only his happiness and his comfort and would suffer twice the pain if only he suffered none.
He cast his dark brown gaze around the kitchen, taking in the advanced, unnecessary technology he found and almost immediately began to loathe. He moved on to his living room, the luxury making him sick. He hated to see all of the richness of his self-image manifest so boldly before him. Dance in front of him pointing out all of his faults in a ten minute period. It hurt him so much that it was quite like a physical pain, though the logical part of his mind told him that the pain was only illusion.
Abruptly, he turned back to the kitchen, setting his half-drank mug of coffee on the counter and ran to his bedroom. He quickly got dressed in his worn pair of designer jeans and a t-shirt he'd gotten from one of his college boyfriends. He suddenly remembered that the particular ex he was thinking of was an English major. He had went through a string of English majors in college, though he couldn't take any one of them for long as each one would remind him painfully of his lost friend.
He slipped on his sneakers - an idea had struck him and he grabbed his keys to the apartment and ran down the stairs to the lobby, too on edge to take the elevator. Upon gaining the lobby, he flew out of the door and down the cold Chicago street. He finally calmed himself long enough to walk, however fast his pace may be.
He walked into a small bookstore he found on a side street; it was cramped, and he had no idea if it was any good since he hadn't been in a bookstore in years. He stepped inside, taking a deep breath. His nose filled with the smell of old pages, ink, and something he couldn't quite name unless the term "home" was appropriate.
After standing in the doorway for a moment, he ventured into the store further. He ran his fingers along the binding of the worn books shelved in the establishment. Making his way to the back of the store, he found two little girls sitting at a table two rows over in what he assumed to be in the children's section. One had wavy, chestnut-brown hair, the other had flaxen ringlets, but they both had the same eyes - grey-green and heavy-lidded. They couldn't have been more than six years old. Fascinated by the girls' eyes, the man stared at the books on the shelf before him, listening to their conversation.
"Lady Mairead, I would be very pleased if you would pass me the sugar," the brunette asked of the blonde, her small voice had adopted a mock English accent, occasionally lapsing back to American.
"Oh yes Lady Ophelia," the blonde replied, her voice following the same pattern. The man decided that the two girls were most likely twins.
The girls were wearing what looked like miniature gowns and large, flowery sun-hats. They had a porcelain tea set sitting out on the small wrought-iron table, their little gloved hands pouring tea into the cups and eating pastel colored macarons. It sounded as if they were having tea over a discussion of books they'd recently read and movies they'd watched over the past week.
The brunette, mid-sentence, stopped talking and saw the man who had been watching them discreetly. She blinked quickly, then found her voice, "Oh hello sir, and how are you today?"
Tears threatened to escape his eyes at the words he'd heard daily for so long from Delia, and reflexively he grinned a little, "Bleh."
"Why?" the blonde one asked.
He smiled then, a sad smile, but that characteristic was almost imperceptible, "Grown-up things is all."
"Oh. My momma tells me all sorts of things about grown-ups. She says that she gets sad a lot, but it's because of something that happened a long time ago. What's bothering you, did it happen a long time ago?" the blonde asked.
"Yes and no. It's repetative actually. So what are your names?"
"I'm Mariead, and that's Ophelia," the blonde said. "What's yours?"
"Brody," the man said, pushing his dirty-blonde bangs from his face.
"Well Brody, would you like some tea?" Ophelia inquired, her familiar eyes widening.
"That would be lovely," Brody smiled again. "So where are your parents?"
"Our father is in Paris working and our Momma is in the back."
Ophelia looked at her sister, then at Brody, "Yes, she's trying to decide what books to bring out for the week."
"Ah. Well, I don't actually read a lot, though my best friend from high school did, all the time. So I think I'll go, but thank you so much for the tea," the familiarity of their eyes and the smell of Delia was overwhelming; he thought that he might finally have went insane.
"Oh yes, anytime. We quite enjoyed your company," Ophelia said with an air of superiority. Mairead nodded in agreement.
A woman walked languidly up to the twins, a smile wide on her cherry-red lips, "And how are my lady daughters on this fine morn?"
Looking over at the woman, Brody felt his breath leave him entirely. He understood that she hadn't registered him at all just yet and he took the time to take in her appearance.
She was the same as always, though smaller it seemed. Her hair was just as wild, just as strawberry-blonde; her eyes were the only thing that had changed. They were more loving, if that was at all possible, and there was a measure of sadness in them that wasn't there before. When she noticed that he was there, her smile slowly faded away, "Hello? Do I know you?"
Another hit - she didn't recognize him. And the fact that it was probably fate that had them meet once more made her confusion hurt more than it probably should have. He took a breath to steady his voice and then answered her, "Yes. It's me. Brody..."
"Oh momma! Do you know our friend?" Ophelia asked excitedly.
"Yes," Delia told her daughter, immediately she seemed exhausted. "Do you remember why I get sad at times?"
"Oh, yes," said Mairead. "Is...Is he why?"
"Delia, I'm...I'm so sorry. I know that it's about ten years too late, but...I am." His eyes plead hers for forgiveness.
She waltzed to the front of the store, he followed, the twins knew enough to stay where they were.
"Why? What made you finally understand?" she asked, eyes blazing, though her voice was still and quiet.
"I woke up completely alone. I re-lived my latest break-up. Louis was like you...minus your love for me and...well...everything..."
"Oh. So you finally understand?"
"Everything isn't going to go back to the way it was in high school Brody. You...your heartlessness and your frustration with what makes me who I am was damaging. I have a family now," she said, tired already.
"Weird, I don't see a ring, and you said you weren't ever going to have kids..."
"I'm not married. No. But I love him with all my heart, even more than I loved you. And more passionately. The way I was meant to love someone. Not give everything up to platonic relationships and settle for my twin, or was that too sappy for you?" she spat the last bit of her question, years of hurt surfacing, slapping Brody in the face.
"No, oh Delia, I'm so sorry. I didn't really care..."
"Yes you did. And I have two daughters because they were a fantastic accident. Why? Why did you come here?"
"I told you, I woke up alone and all I wanted to do was find you and say sorry. I didn't think I would ever see you again so I settled for the next best thing: spending an hour or so in a bookstore...they smell like you, you know?" Brody turned pink at his sentimentality.
"You hurt me Brody. Irrevocably."
"I have a room just for you. Like I promised I always would. And I had it decorated just for you...in case you ever needed a place to crash."
She rolled her eyes, "I can't do this. I'm thankful you get it, that you understand, but I can't take this. I couldn't then, and this is almost as bad."
He knew she wanted to cry, he wanted to let her, but then the pain would be real, and he'd have to witness it once more. He knew he was being selfish, he wanted to fix everything now, just as she'd tried to all those years ago. He pulled her to him, holding her and letting her finally cry, letting her soak his shirt and finally letting her know that he actually cared.