Monday, December 24, 2012

Amongst the Chaos

Hello everyone! It's Christmas Eve here and I'm possibly having the worst Christmas ever. Everyone in my family is really irritable this past week. I have no idea why. I've also had way too much food in the past few days. On the bright side, I downloaded Microsoft Word for Mac and I've missed it immensely. Pages is mediocre but I'm not sure if my connivence is worth $94. It's my Christmas present this year. Right now, we're waiting for carolers from church! As an early Christmas present, here is another chapter of Coffee Shop.
Amongst The Chaos
Dani wished she didn’t have to wake up, ever. She wasn’t suicidal but just wished that maybe she could stay in her dreams forever. The magenta in her hair had long faded but she hadn’t the energy or desire to dye it back. She just wanted to fit in and be normal. It had already been a year since she had last seen Noah. He visited her a couple times but their reunions were marked with painful memories and painful goodbyes. His visits were simply signs that they couldn’t be together and she wasn’t strong enough to hold his hand and pretend that everything was happy for a day, two days, or even a moment. She was a junior in high school in Sacramento, again living with her dad and stepmom. Her mother was living in the house next to them but wasn’t able to house her. After her car crash she had never fully recovered and Dani blamed it entirely upon herself. Dani herself was never the same after returning. Her heart belonged in New York. She was an empty shell but there was nothing that anyone could do. Her mother, her real mother, was frightened by this sudden change in Dani’s personality but didn’t have the words to convey. Cassandra tried to plan mother-daughter bonding days but they were met with anger and shouting. Dani had truly managed to isolate herself. 
“Danielle, what are you dreaming about now?” Dani shook herself awake and stared at her teacher, Mrs. Plums. Dani just shrugged as her fellow classmates giggled. They hated her more after she returned and never fully believed that she had a gorgeous boyfriend named Noah. They thought she had even gone the lengths to photoshop the pictures of the two of them. Dani had given up on trying to convince anyone. Only Peggy was really there for her. The story of her arrival wasn’t even worth explaining. 
“Nothing,” she meekly answered.
“She was probably just dreaming about her fake New York boyfriend.” The class erupted in more laughter. Dani sighed. She had once tried to prove that he was a real person. He mailed her things every so often; things like shoes, bags, and gummy candy. Those gossipy girls thought she was mailing herself things just to keep the story up. They even started to steal things that came in her mailbox. She had to eventually ask Noah to stop mailing her things. She had even told him that she had a new boyfriend here. He wouldn’t be able to move on with life if he still had her in his mind. She had already sacrificed her happiness for that of Claire’s and it was only right that Noah be able to enjoy of some of the benefits. 
“The winter ball is coming up,” Peggy said with a smile after class. Peggy had changed a bit over the year. A lot of her piercings had disappeared and she had a nice, steady boyfriend, named Matt. He was a clean cut guy who didn’t engage in drugs or alcohol and even convinced Peggy to stop drinking. Dani could only feel that her own levels of maturity and growth were rapidly decreasing. She remembered her mother had said that Dani should make other friends when she first met Peggy. Her mother said that Peggy was the type of girl who would get into some sort of big accident. 
“Has Matt asked you yet?” Dani tried to smile for Peggy. “He can be so romantic sometimes.” That was a total lie. Matt was a nice guy but he was probably also the most boring guy. His favorite class was computer programming and they only ever went on movie dates. Dani knew that Peggy clung onto to Matt because she wanted a sense of normality. 
“Not yet, but he said he had something really special planned tonight,” Peggy said with a bright smile. She was almost glowing from happiness and Dani sighed. Tonight was supposed to be a movie marathon at Peggy’s house. Dani had counted on it as a way of escaping a night with her own family. 
“What about our movie marathon?” Dani couldn’t help but mention it. 
“Dan, we’ll do it another day. When have you been so serious about those things?” Dani just politely smiled and refrained from saying anything. When had she started doing that? Peggy was the one person she could probably speak her mind to. “Have you thought about dating anyone here?” Dani just rolled her eyes. Lately, this had been a hot issue between them. 
“What? You know that I’m not ready to leave Noah.”
“He’s probably dating some hot girl back in New York, Dani. Face it. When was the last time he talked to you? And plus you told him you were dating some guy here so why not actually do that?”
“I made a promise to him that I wouldn’t date someone here.”
“And I made a promise to keep my virginity. That’s the type of thing you say naturally at an airport. It’s not the type of thing you keep true to.” 
“What? When did you lose your virginity? I said I had a boyfriend to protect him, not to actually get a boyfriend, Pegs.” 
“I’ll tell you later. I have to get to class.” Peggy actually left her hanging by the classroom. Dani shuffled to her own classroom but couldn’t stop thinking about what Peggy was saying. Maybe it was time to move on. It had been a year and Noah hadn’t even called her once in the past six weeks. 
“Dani?” She turned around to see Nathan. She had been infatuated with him before she left for New York. All the girls had been and still were. She hadn’t seen him after she had returned though. They just didn’t have classes together and were in completely different social groups. 
“Hi Nathan,” she said trying to pull of a casual smile. 
“I didn’t know you came back.”
“You didn’t hear the million rumors?” Her heart was beating, fast. She could barely say a coherent sentence. Dani looked up with a sudden little smile. She should’ve felt a little guilty. 
“No,” he said with a smile of his own. The bell rang in the background and Dani nodded her head. 
“I guess I better go. See you around.” Words were just words. She didn’t really intend of seeing Nathan again. Was that how Noah felt at the airport? Maybe Peggy was right. But why did everyone have to always like the popular guy? Why couldn’t see fall head over heels for a guy who wouldn’t cause her to have a notorious reputation?
“Okay,” he said. She walked off quickly hoping that it really wasn’t the last time she saw him around. Dani rode the bus home, alone. She plugged her headphones into her phone and listened to music. Already she seemed less alone. In reality, she felt like she was alone in the world. It was her fault mainly but she couldn’t help but feel envious at the gossipy girls whispering in the back seat of the bus. At one point in her life, she had been like that. She checked her phone to see new messages from Vanessa and Noah. There were none from Claire. It hurt too much to hold on to that dream. There was no way she could move on with her life here if her mind was there. She deleted her inbox and switched the song. Dani hopped off the bus after the third stop. She wanted to be rebellious but there was nowhere for her to go in Sacramento. There was one popular burger shop but everyone she knew went there, including the girls who hated to see her face anywhere. 
Her parents weren’t home and her mother was at the hospital. Her brothers were off doing something. She was alone and she wasn’t even surprised anymore. She wasn’t really a part of this family at all. Dani went upstairs and turned on her computer. She threw her backpack down and didn’t even want to think about her impending homework assignments. Instead she logged on to Facebook. There were new messages from Noah. She decided to respond because in truth, she did miss him no matter how much she pretended not to. A new message icon popped up. Huh? It wasn’t the thread of messages she had with Noah or Vanessa, or even Claire. It was Nathan. Dani couldn’t help but smile. 
It was the start to something new. Peggy didn’t like Nathan much but did like the fact that Dani was starting to behave like a normal human being again. She started to smile and wear her hair down. There was a little bit of makeup on her face and Peggy appreciated the fact that Dani was joining society again. 
“Hey Dani,” he said to her one day after school. “Do you want to come over today?” He had even made the effort to stop by their lunch spot tucked under the maple trees. 
“Sure,” she said under Peggy’s watchful eye. 
“Hi Peggy,” he said a moment later but the invitation wasn’t extended to her. 
“You never told me about what Matt’s special surprise was,” Dani said as if nothing had just happened. 
“Oh, it wasn’t much. He had Chinese takeout ready and was wearing a bowtie. He can be such a geek sometimes.” Dani could tell by Peggy’s tone that she had been disappointed. 
“Did he ask you to the dance?”
“Not yet,” she said sighing. “I think he’s getting ready to though. I can see him so nervous and I even caught him rehearsing some lines.” Dani laughed. It sounded just like Matt to write a formal invitation. 
“Ah, but you have to get ready for your date.” 
“Is it a date?” 
“Duh,” Peggy said with a wink. “How long have you guys been talking?” 
“A week,” she said smiling. “He starts the conversations too. I can just feel my heart beating faster at the mention of his name.” She felt a bit guilty. Her heart was supposed to want Noah, no one else. 
“Well good luck,” Peggy said squealing. Dani smiled and they walked back to their classes when they heard the bell ring. Dani raced out of her classes at the end of the day. She had been too excited. Nathan waved to her at the bus loop. He held her hand and led her to the junior parking lot. Dani could feel the excitement. She actually hadn’t gone on that many dates with Noah. They had never gone over to either of their dorms. That had been tacitly off limits. Nathan didn’t have a nice car after spending all that time at Le Cordon Bleu Academy. He drove a nice silver Mercedes and it was one of the best cars at this entire school. She was proud to ride in it as he speeded off the freeway. He took a right turn towards his house and the radio blasted music loudly. She sent a quick text to her dad telling her she’d be at Peggy’s. Her dad would freak out if he knew she was with Nathan. He parked his car and she saw that no one else was coming. Was it just the two of them?
“So, welcome,” he said unlocking his front door. She smiled and went inside. 
“Thanks.” They talked for an hour before Nathan started inching closer to her. She was unsure about this. Noah had never been pushy with her. 
“Hey what are you doing?” She finally asked. A movie was playing on the TV in the living room. 
“C’mon, Dani, what’s holding you back?” She stared into his eyes. 
“I didn’t know you liked me like this. Didn’t you have a girlfriend?” In fact, Dani knew he had a girlfriend. Her name was Allison and she had started the rumors about her photo shopping pictures. 
“Allison and I broke up,” he said. 
“I didn’t know.” He shrugged. He didn’t even seem upset about it. Did he want her to be his girlfriend? Her thoughts immediately jumped to Noah. 
“Come here,” he said forcefully pulling her towards him. He kissed her and she looked up at him surprised. 
“I don’t know if I can, if we should,” she began to say. 
“You’re beautiful, Dani,” he said ignoring the words she had just said. He kissed her again. She didn’t feel that spark that she had felt with Noah. She pushed him away and looked at him again.
“What do you want, Nathan?  You can tell me.” 
“Serious?” 
“Yes.” He heaved a sigh. She wondered what he’d say and she wondered what she even wanted to hear from him. 
“I’ve been in love with you so long but I couldn’t say anything.” She kissed him and he smiled. 
“Well, maybe I’m beginning to fall in love with you too,” she said. He wrapped his arms around her but she couldn’t rid her mind of the feeling that this was all wrong. He drove her home and she faced the wrath of her parents alone. 
“Where were you?” Her father shouted. 
“Peggy’s.” 
“Let her be,” Cassandra said surprising Dani. Usually she was the one who called for some sort of punishment. Dani sulked up the stairs still trapped in the early memory of today. Everything was a lot sunnier in Dani’s world when she returned to school the next morning. Peggy smiled at the fact that the old Dani she knew was back. Dani told Peggy all about last night. They were riding the bus to school as they eavesdropped the gossipy girls. 
“And she was totally easy, I heard. Yeah all that stuff is made up,” one of the girls said. Dani wondered who the poor victim of today was. 
“Can you believe that nerve? She probably never even went to New York.” It couldn’t be her. There were a ton of people who went to New York. Lisa moved there last summer and Augusta had just transferred back from a semester at a special art school. 
“Allison is probably crushed.” Dani had a terrible feeling in her stomach.
“It was Allison who orchestrated the whole thing. Do you seriously think that he could fall for her?” Dani wanted to yell why not? Dani felt crushed as Peggy tapped her shoulder reassuringly. The bus arrived at school and she went out confidently to see Allison with her group of friends. Peggy bit her lip. 
“Who do you think you are?” Allison yelled at her. Allison tied her blonde hair into a ponytail. It really wasn’t that different from her first weeks at Le Cordon Bleu Academy. She had her fair share of jealous girls who wanted nothing but to cause her pain. And then it happened. Allison had thrown an egg at her. Dani wanted to cry but she wouldn’t because that would bring sheer joy to these girls. The eggs came but Dani just snidely smiled. 
“Ask Nathan if he didn’t enjoy it,” Dani said and walked away with grace after the egging process was over. Allison was gaping at her in frustration but Dani was done with Allison and even feeling anything towards her. She washed up in the bathroom and was only two minutes late. At the end of the day, Nathan cautiously approached her. She wondered why.
“Haven’t you done enough? Didn’t you get your laugh? Leave me alone.” 
“Do you want to be my girlfriend, for real, Danielle Hastings?” She wasn’t stupid the second time. 
“Fat chance,” she said closing her locker. “You said you broke up with Allison.”
“I did. She was angry at everything and I’m really sorry about that egg thing. I hang out with you because I want to.” Dani wanted to roll her eyes at the whole situation. 
“Why do you cling on to Noah when he’s not even real?” Nathan asked when she had no response. She could see where this conversation was headed. 
“He is real, Nathan, much realer than you.” Dani briskly walked off leaving him hanging. She took a shower and went inside her room. She grabbed the pair of scissors on her desk. Snip. Snip. Dani smiled as she saw the hair falling on to the carpet. 
Vanessa stared at her phone again, for the millionth time. She was sitting in a bustling cafe all alone. It was a new hot spot that had erupted in popularity like some fad. No one knew when the fad would be over so they were all lining up to step into the limelight before the popularity faded. She was an Atkins so securing a spot had been easy. After Claire’s insistence, she decided to give Stephen another chance. She questioned her sanity. She missed Dani but every time she sent a message there wouldn’t be any response. Claire didn’t want to talk about Dani and always slightly broke down to tears whenever her name was mentioned. Noah was always pestering her about Dani and she felt like the messenger stuck in between. He had become a satirical person and Vanessa missed seeing him smile. She even missed the guy he was before Dani. It was that bad. 
It was already an hour past the time that Stephen had agreed to meet her. Vanessa was shivering in the cold even if her Hermes scarf was wrapped around her neck. She even came ten minutes late just to show up fashionably late. The waiter was glancing at her nervously. She finally ordered pasta from their trendy picks and handed her menu in. She ate slowly with hope that New York traffic was horrible or that the subway had a technical issue. She had been stuck in the subway for an hour or two the last time there was a major issue with one of the doors not closing. Maybe he was going through something like that. His cell service wasn’t working and that might explain why he wasn’t calling her. She sighed. How many times had she said that for Ryan? Claire never complained that Ryan was late to a date or that he blew her off. She wondered if she would be a lonely cat lady or a really unhappy married woman. 
She was about to leave when she saw Stephen. The nervous waiter had already taken her food away and she had ordered a coffee too just to prolong her visit. She had drunken about half of it. He was out of breath and maybe the subway explanation still worked. At least he showed up like he had sprinted to see her. She wondered where he had been. Him showing up about three hours later was better than not showing up, right? He had buttoned his jacket wrong. The buttons had been shifted one up and then she had that terrible feeling in her stomach. Was he in a rush? Had he forgotten about their date? He was holding wilted flowers for her. Flowers did wilt from a long ride on a subway but she had an irking feeling that this wasn’t the case.
“Hi, Stephen,” she said pausing to smile. “I didn’t think you were coming.” She lifted up her clutch bag and dusted off her dress. She was wearing stockings and three inch heels and some of her favorite jewelry. She had tried. Ironically it was the jewelry that Ryan had gotten her when things weren’t so bad between them.  No one knew that though and she had gotten a boatload of compliments whenever she wore it. She had dressed to the nines for a date that hadn’t happened. Her mouth was taut with disappointment. 
“Vanessa, I’m so sorry! These were, are for you. Well, I mean they still are for you.” She waited patiently to hear his excuse.  “This girl named Sasha needed help with something and I was over there-” 
“What?” She just rolled her eyes in frustration. “What did she need help with?” 
“Her lamps were broken, Nessa.”
“Are you being serious right now? If you wanted to be with her then why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I’m sorry, Nessa.” There wasn’t even any other explanation, just defeat in his voice. Vanessa felt the urge to laugh and cry at the same time. 
“Just remember, don’t call me next time.” He stood there with his flowers dying in his hands. She flipped over her sunglasses and left the cafe. At least she made a cool exit. It had been a waste of time after all. When was the last time she had actually felt giddy for a date? The memories of being disappointed and sad were fresh in her mind. He was standing there still gaping at her and she felt better about everything. It was her who was leaving him behind. Never again would she ever wait for someone so patiently like she did for Ryan. She didn’t have any reason to excuse Stephen for what he did to her. How was Sasha better than her? This was decreasing her own value. Her phone was constantly buzzing from apology messages that she didn’t even want anymore. All he did was apologize which meant that he had done something wrong.  Vanessa threw her purse into the back seat of the town car and applied a fresh coat of lipstick. She wondered what to do with the rest of her day. She blocked his number with a bittersweet smile. Vanessa had wanted this to work out but she didn’t feel pain wrenching her heart apart. Was she just a cold, emotionless person? She called Claire. 
“Hi Claire.” 
“Hey Ness. How’d it go?”
“He stood me up but I definitely made a star exit. Maybe your friend Lillian can hook me up with some movie contracts. I’d be perfect for the part.” Her voice was riddled with sarcasm.  
“Why did he stand you up?”
“He was hanging out with Sasha. I’m pretty sure they slept together. His cited reason was because of her broken lamps. Maybe that was an excuse to get together in the dark.”
“Vanessa, I have to tell you something later, when you get home.”
“Do you know any single guys without anything to do?” 
“Actually, I do. Stephen has a friend. They’re supposed to meet up in two hours or so. Ryan declined to go, that’s why I know.” Claire said. She sounded a little guilty. Vanessa immediately dialed this mystery guy. They had a nice conversation and Vanessa didn’t even feel that bad. She directed the driver of the town to drop her off at the nearest coffee shop. Coffee shops were a great way to introduce yourself. 
Chris Hawkins wondered what luck it was that a Vanessa Atkins called him. She wanted to meet with him about some matter or two and he didn’t really care about the details. The most important part was that she wanted to meet with him. He was a big picture type of guy. He slung a tie around his neck and made sure to spray a decent amount of cologne. The coffee shop she chose was right outside his house. Maybe she lived around here. He had heard some good things about her, mostly from Ryan Nichols since they went to the same school. He parked his car around the curb and saw a gorgeous girl sitting in the cafe. Was this her? He couldn’t help staring at her long, exposed legs. He walked in and she waved over at him. Had they met before?
“Hi, I’m Chris,” he said as he sat across from her. “Let me treat you.” She smiled. He knew this type of girl pretty well. He knew before he even asked that it was implied that he would be buying the coffee. Vanessa had a beautiful smile. 
“Vanessa,” she said cheerily. “It’s so wonderful meeting you. I’ve heard just the best things about you. My friend Claire is dating Ryan Nichols and you know, she thought I should meet you. I like peppermint mochas by the way.” This was a good thing. 
“Okay,” he said getting up from the table to order their drinks. A few minutes later he carried two peppermint mochas back to their table. “Tell me about you. You seem to know a lot about me.”
“I’m Vanessa and I go to Le Cordon Bleu, Academy if you prefer to be technical. I think that’s about all you have to know.” He smiled. She was his type of girl. Just being with her made him a little bit happier. They talked about nothing for a while. It didn’t seem either one was interested in conversation. 
“Do you live around here?” She asked. He liked forward girls. After wiping her mouth on a napkin, she stared at him with her big brown eyes. 
“Sure, my parents are out for the weekend.” She simply smiled at him as he led her out. He touched the small of her back as he led her to his car. He opened the door and stared at his watch. Stephen would probably show up late again and he had an hour to blow anyway. He turned on some music and dimmed the lights. Vanessa was sitting on the couch and her shoes were already thrown away on the carpet. He took a seat next to her and inched his face closer to hers. 
“Do you want something to drink?” He was nervous and she sensed it. 
“No,” she said and he impulsively kissed her. She seemed a bit surprised but she batted her eyes with delight. By the end of the hour, his shirt had joined her shoes and her dress was hiked up. They both jumped at the sound of the doorbell. Chris checked his watch. Since when did Stephen show up early? Wasn’t he meeting some girl today? Chris felt annoyed as Vanessa patiently glanced over at the door. Stephen owed him big time. 
“Sorry, I invited my friend over not knowing you’d call.”
“Oh I don’t mind,” she said kissing his cheek. Her hair was a mess and her sticky lipstick had ended up smeared on his face. But he liked this Vanessa just as much as the one he’d seen in the coffee shop. He opened the door carefully and saw Stephen holding a brown bag. It was too dark to see that Chris had forgotten to put his shirt back on. 
“Can you come back?” Chris said opening the door just a peep. 
“Why? Chris, I had the worst day. I brought some Jack,” Stephen said letting himself in. Chris flicked the light switch on. Stephen gave him a weird look before glancing over to the girl on his couch. “Vanessa?” Chris watched Stephen emotionally break down. Did they know each other?
“What is she doing here? You know her?” Stephen sounded angry. 
“Stephen? You know this guy?” Vanessa sounded smug. 
“Vanessa, how could you?” Chris wondered what to do.
“How could I what? Did you seriously think we had something?” 
“Wait, you guys know each other?”  He dumbly asked. His question was ignored. 
“The door is that way, Stephen,” she said. 
“What the hell did I do to you?” 
“What am I doing to you?” 
“You’re sleeping with my goddamn best friend!” There was an awkward silence hanging in the air. 
“You slept with a girl named Sasha and stood me up, Stephen,” she said with the same hurt she had felt this morning. 
“As much as I enjoyed this, Vanessa, you guys are going to have to sort this out somewhere else. Dude, I didn’t know she was your girl,” Chris said sheepishly. 
“I’m not his girl!” Vanessa quipped as she walked to the front door. Chris watched the two of them leave. He sat down on the couch without bothering to wash his own face. He knew he had been used by Vanessa but somehow he didn’t feel angry. 
Claire stared outside the windowsill when Vanessa came in. She had just opened the door and let herself in. Vanessa was a mess. Tears were everywhere and her makeup was beyond repairable. As strong and determined as Vanessa was and appeared, she was still a girl inside. She had feelings and a heart no matter how much she didn’t want people to believe that. Sasha had hurt her twice and Claire wondered what the right thing and the right step was from here. Sasha was obviously ruining their lives because of her. What kind of friend was she? 
“What happened?” Claire asked. Maybe it was time to let Sasha have Ryan for the sake of everyone else. A little voice in her head told her that it was too late for her to do anything but that was also the same voice that told her she’d be nothing without Ryan. 
“He said he never wanted to see me again.”
“That’s not the end of the world, Vanessa.” 
“I was looking for a little bit more sympathy. I called up that guy because I thought Stephen cheated on me. He doesn’t want to see me anymore because he thinks I cheated on him with his friend.
“I have something to tell you.” Claire took in a deep breath. “Sasha wants Ryan and she said she’d ruin all my friends’ lives. I feel like Dani’s has been thoroughly crushed but I don’t want yours to be either. I don’t know what to do anymore, Ness.” 
“Do you realize that everything isn’t about you, Claire? Dani sacrificed everything in order to spare you your relationship. She gave up her dream so that you could have a boyfriend. You can’t not do anything.” 
“Well, what should I do?” There was a pause in their conversation. Vanessa didn’t seem so sad or angry anymore. She had calmed down. Claire wondered if it was the right move to just give up Ryan now while she still could. 
“I think I have an idea,” Vanessa said thoughtfully. A loud knocking at their door interrupted her idea. Claire opened the door and saw Lillian staring back at her. Claire squealed and hugged her tightly. She hadn’t seen Lillian in forever. 
“Is Andrew here too?” 
“No, sadly, he’s not. He’s busy filming in Europe,” Lillian said blowing a raspberry. “Hi Vanessa.” Lillian dragged her suitcase in and sat down on the couch next to them. 
“So what brings you here?” Vanessa asked with a smile. 
“Maybe you’ll laugh but there was a little episode in my trailer while on set for some minor film stuff. I was just accompanying my dad to one of the shoots and they had generously given me a trailer. There was a bomb that went off, luckily while I wasn’t inside. My dad told me to leave as soon as possible. He still had to stay in LA and film other things so I flew up and went to the one place I feel comfortable enough going. There’s no way I’m going home when Mrs. Kendrick lives there.” Claire became a pale and discolored. It was time to put an end to this, once and for all. All her friends were suffering because of her. How long was she going to let it continue? 

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