Tuesdays by Morgan Smith

It was mid-July and exceptionally pleasant for that time of year. I’d just finished work – I had gotten a job at the library to keep me busy over the summer while I wasn’t in school – and decided to take a walk through the park before heading home.
Tuesdays
Tuesdays by Morgan Smith
I had already been there for about ten minutes when I saw her walking toward me. Or running, rather. She was chasing a small dog, her arm stretched out in front of her, desperately grasping a light blue leash and fighting as it threatened to slip away. I figured she was meant to be walking the dog, but it sure seemed like the dog was walking her. She had gorgeous hair. That was one of the first things I noticed about her. It was dark brown and curly. Very curly. It came just past her shoulders. And her eyes. Oh man, her eyes. Even from afar I could see them sparkle. Whether they were blue or green, I couldn’t tell. And I didn’t want to stare. But I sure did pick the wrong time to divert my eyes. As soon as I looked away I felt something hit my legs, coming at me from the left. It caught me completely off guard and, honestly, I’ve never been the best with balance. I fell over, landing in the grass to the right of the path. It was the dog that hit me. Jumping on top of me, it furiously licked my face until the girl was able to catch up to it and pull it off me. Apologizing profusely, she helped me back to my feet. She explained that she was dog-sitting for her aunt who was on vacation in Rhode Island for the week. The dog was stronger than she’d expected considering how small it was, and she hadn’t been informed that it would take off like a rocket as soon as it saw people and definitely shouldn’t be taken on walks in a crowded park. Brushing the grass and dirt off my pants, I smiled at her, telling her it was not big deal. She thanked me for not being mad and continued on her walk with the small dog anxiously leading the way. I watched her for a few seconds as she was pulled towards a group of people having a picnic under a large tree. I continued on my way in the opposite direction, not wanting to stick around long enough to witness the disaster that was sure to unfold when the dog finally made contact with the food. *** The next time I went to that park was Tuesday of the next week. I’d gotten off work a little early and the weather was nice again. I was sitting on a bench sketching the scene before me in my notebook when I heard a voice ask if the other end of the bench was taken. I shook my head and gestured for the person to sit without looking up from my drawing. We sat in silence for a few moments before I heard the voice again. “Do I know you? It’s just that you look really familiar and I can’t figure out why.” I looked up, finally, and saw her sitting there. The girl from before. I drew in a sharp breath, stunned once again by her beauty. Before I could even begin to speak, a look of realization spread across her face like a wave washing over a sandy beach. “Oh my gosh! You’re the girl Bailey tackled the other day.” I nodded, assuming Bailey was the dog. “Yeah, that was me.” She blushed, looking embarrassed. “I’m so sorry about that. I had no idea taking him for a walk would be such a bad idea.” I smiled. “Seriously, it’s fine. I just hope you two got home okay.” I paused before adding, “And that that family didn’t mind you crashing their picnic.” She laughed. It was a cute laugh. It made her skin glow and her eyes light up. They were green, by the way. A beautiful, brilliant green. Like a forest the day after a rain shower, when everything was full of life and basking in the glory of newfound sunlight. “That was a mess.” Her posture relaxed. I hadn’t even realized how tense she had looked. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t realized how tense I was. I tried to relax, allowing my shoulders to fall and my back to lean against the wooden back of the bench. “I’m Loren, by the way,” she said as she stuck her hand out for me to shake. I took it and the feeling of her hand in mine, her palm pressed against my palm, sent shivers down my spine. “I’m Maria,” I said. She’d just come from school. She was talking a couple summer courses at the community college. She was a photography student. I told her I was also in college and she asked if I was an art student, gesturing towards the open notebook sitting in my lap. “Biology, actually,” I corrected her. Art was just a hobby of mine. It helped me process my feelings and kept me calm when I was stressed. I wasn’t all that good, but I loved. She told me how cool it was that I was into biology. She was never that great at science herself. We talked for a while. Probably about an hour. Maybe a little longer. Nothing all that special, really. We talked about some pretty basic things, to be honest. It’s hard, though, to talk to someone you don’t know. That’s something I’d never really been good at. I’d always found it hard to keep a conversation going. But with her it was somehow easier. Not easy, per se. But easier. She told me about her family. I’d already heard about her aunt and Bailey the dog, but I learned that she lived with her mom and stepdad. Her mom was a dentist and her stepdad worked in construction. They were great parents, she told me. She couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Her biological dad was an accountant. She didn’t get to see him very often because he lived five hours away. He’d left town after her parents got divorced when she was eight. She was fine with that – it was probably for the best – but she missed him. She had two siblings. A brother and a sister. Both older. The three of them were really close when they were younger. Then her sister went away to college and her brother followed two years later, leaving her alone at home. They still loved each other, of course – they were still siblings after all – but things weren’t the same. We talked about our favorite colors. Mine was yellow, hers was maroon. And our favorite kind of music. I liked pop and she liked rock. Her favorite milkshake flavor was strawberry, but it had to be from the tiny ice cream stand just down the street from the house she grew up in. Otherwise, she’d probably go with vanilla. She’d taken guitar lessons for years when she was younger and always dreamed of being in a band, but it never happened. “Not yet, at least,” she added with a smirk on her face. She loved cats more than almost everything else in the world. Her family couldn’t have any because her stepdad was allergic, but once she moved out, they’d have to practically lock her up to keep her from adopting all the kittens within a ten mile radius, just you wait. I could have listened to her talk forever. There was something about her presence that was so intensely calming that it hurt in the best way possible. But eventually we had to go our separate ways. I had to get home to help my mom with dinner and she had an assignment that she definitely needed to get started on as soon as possible. She was a master procrastinator and had effectively wasted the two weeks that had passed since it was assigned, leaving herself with just two days to complete the whole thing. So we said goodbye to each other and told each other how nice it had been to talk to each other and we walked away from the bench we had shared, me in one direction and her in another. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first of many, many, Tuesdays. *** Have you ever been obsessed with a person? Like, not in the ultra-creepy, stalker-ish way. Just in the way that makes it hard to think about anything else. Like no matter what you do they’re always there. A watermarked thought placed over all your other thoughts, always there no matter what else was going on. That was Loren. I wondered constantly about where she was, what she was doing at that exact moment. I knew I wanted to see her again. So much so that I found myself back at that same bench at that same park at the same time on the Tuesday of the very next week. It was as if my body was on auto-pilot, flying itself there without my permission. I guess I was hoping she’d be there, even though I knew it was a long shot. And when I got there and didn’t see her, disappointment washed over me like a bucket of ice water. Still, I sat down. I got out my notebook and a pencil, but before I’d even flipped to a new page, I heard movement beside me. I looked up to see her smiling at me. I smiled back. She said hi to me and I said hi back. But then we were both quiet for a while. Like neither one of us had anything to say. And I was scared for a minute. Scared I was losing her. Losing someone I’d never even had. We were strangers to each other. That’s all we were, really. Yet somehow it hadn’t felt like it the week before. Then, finally, she spoke. “To be honest, I was kinda hoping you’d be here.” Her cheeks turned the color of roses and she bowed her head to stare at the ground. “To be honest,” I replied, “So was I.” And all of a sudden things went back to the way they had been the other day, the two of us talking as if we’d known each other since the day we were born. We took a walk together. The path went all the way around the park, encircling it and probably totaled about two miles all together. We walked the whole thing three times before we noticed how late it had gotten. Neither of us wanted to, but we said goodbye and turned to walk in opposite directions home. We weren’t even ten feet apart when she turned around and jogged to catch up to me. “There’s actually something I really wanted to ask you today,” she said. “Go for it,” I replied, giving her my most encouraging smile. She looked nervous. She was staring straight ahead, avoiding eye contact. And she was picking at her fingernails absentmindedly. “I…” She closed her eyes and I could hear her take a deep breath. “I wanted to know if maybe you would want to go get dinner together sometime. Or lunch, maybe. Or we could see a movie. I don’t know.” The words came out fast as lightning. It was kinda cute. I couldn’t help but giggle. Although it was clear almost immediately that that wasn’t exactly the most appropriate response. Horror flashed across her face as she visibly braced herself, probably for rejection. “I think that would be nice,” I said quickly before the poor girl had a heart attack. And immediately her entire face lit up. Her eyes seemed greener and a smile appeared on her lips that showed all her teeth. I gave her my phone number so we could figure out the details later and walked home in a daze. It appeared as if I’d just been asked out. *** We talked on the phone a couple times over the next few days and decided that Tuesday night – one week from the last time we’d seen each other and two since our first real conversation – we’d go to the movies. She wanted to see this new science fiction supernatural-esque movie I’d never heard of. That wasn’t necessarily my genre of choice, but she seemed excited about it. And I was excited because she was excited. In the week leading up to our movie date I cycled through every emotion I could’ve possibly felt. It was intense. First, there was excitement. It came in waves and left my whole body tingling, like electricity coursing through my veins. Then, I was nervous. The typical butterflies-in-your-stomach was multiplied by about a thousand and I felt like there was an entire charm of hummingbirds ready to burst out of my chest. After nervous, came fear. A sickening fear that twisted my insides, shredding my soul to bits. I was afraid of messing up, afraid it wouldn’t go well and I’d never see her again. And, finally, I was back to excitement and the cycle began again. Eventually, Tuesday rolled around and suddenly I was feeling every emotion at once. It was so overwhelming that I wanted to hide in my room under a blanket. Either that or catapult myself into an endless void where no one would be able to hear me scream. I wasn’t sure which would be more satisfying. Bat, alas, I did neither. Instead, I got dressed – I had no idea what to wear. I tried on every clean outfit I owned before settling on the floral sundress I’d gotten on sale at the end of the previous summer. I slipped on my favorite sandals and hoped I looked okay. And I headed out to the place where we’d agreed to meet – outside the movie theater a few minutes’ walk from my house. She wasn’t there yet when I got there, which was fine, honestly. I was still nervous and needed all the time I could get to prepare myself. Plus, I was a little early. Well, maybe a bit more than a little. We’d planned to be there by six, fifteen minutes before the movie was supposed to start, and it was only a minute or two past five-thirty. I didn’t want to be late. To my surprise, she showed up not even ten minutes after I’d gotten there. From the look on her face, I could tell she was surprised to see me, too. “I like to be early,” I said. “Me too.” She smiled her beautiful smile and the two of us went to get our tickets. She wanted to pay for mine. Insisted on it, actually, said that it would only be right considering she was the one who’d asked me to come. I tried to tell her that that wasn’t necessary, however sweet it was, but she wasn’t taking no for an answer. I gave in, hoping I’d have the chance to return the favor sometime. After we got our tickets and a bucket of popcorn, we made our way to the theater to find seats. The theater was mostly empty. Only about seven or eight people were there before us and not many others showed up after. It wasn’t a bad movie. It was actually pretty good. Loren seemed to enjoy it, too. I kept looking over at her, watching her watch the movie. I couldn’t help it. She kept making these adorable little facial expressions whenever anything big or exciting happened. The credits started to roll and it turns out she was one of those people who liked to stay all the way until they were over. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t really ready to leave anyway. And when we did finally leave, she walked me home. The whole time I wanted so badly to hold her hand. It was like my hand was a magnet, desperately pulling itself to hers. I resisted the pull, though, too shy to make a move like that. That night I lay in bed replaying the date in my head. In my opinion, it couldn’t have gone better. And I fell asleep smiling. We ended up going on a second date exactly a week later. This time we played mini golf and ate ice cream – my treat. She beat me. By a lot, actually. Apparently she had a tradition of playing mini golf with her family every summer. And apparently she’d won every year since she was thirteen. So basically she was well-trained and I was a newbie. Not exactly a fair match, but I didn’t really care. No matter how competitive I normally was. I’d just have to find some other game where I’d have the upper hand. We sat at a table as we ate our ice cream. Mint chocolate chip for me. Cookie dough for her. We talked for a while and I began feeling the pull to grab her hand again. And this time I let it happen. Her hand was resting on the table, next to her half-empty bowl. I gently placed my hand on top of hers, reaching across the table to do so. It was soft and gave off a warmth that I felt radiating through me. I felt her tense up for a moment and, scared I’d freaked her out, I quickly let go. Embarrassed, I mumbled a quiet, “Sorry.” “No.” She smiled. “That was fine. Just wasn’t expecting it.” Her eyes rose to meet my gaze as I put my hand back over hers. We held that position for who knows how long. It was as if time had stopped and nothing else existed except this table and us. I think that’s the moment I knew she was special. I mean, she was special from the second I met her, but it took until that moment for it to really sink in. I would have been content to live in it forever and I prayed that she felt the same. We held hands the rest of the evening, only letting go when it was absolutely necessary. And even then, only for a short time. When I went to sleep that night, I could still feel all the places where her skin had touched mine. It was like her hand had become an extension of my own and now that it was gone, I longed for it to return. *** Tuesdays quickly became “us days.” We’d go on dates or hang out or even just talk to each other on the phone. We did things on other days, too, sure, but Tuesdays were special. Whatever else we had going on, we made time for each other. Somehow. On the third Tuesday, I was out of town with my family. My dad had taken a few days off from work to take the family on a short vacation before I had to go back to school. The university I went to was only half an hour away and I didn’t even live on campus. But still he acted like the start of classes would signal some sort of natural disaster, trapping me there and never allowing us to see each other ever again. So in order to make up for it, we had to spend as much time together over the summer as possible. He’d done this for about as long as I could remember. Ever since I was in elementary school. I know it sounds like it could be annoying – and there was a time when I thought it was – but it was sweet. It reminded me how much he cared. And as I got older, I began appreciating it more and more. So, because we couldn’t see each other in person, Loren and I talked over video chat. It was nice seeing her face but I wished she could actually be there with me. A few times I felt the urge to reach out and grab her hand like I had the week before, and a couple times I almost did only to be struck by the realness of the distance between us, of the computer screen barrier locking me out of her world. I thought to myself how awful it would be for that distance to be permanent, and hoped that it never would be. The fifth Tuesday was when we had our first kiss. She’d invited me over to her house while her parents weren’t home. We sat on the couch and watched TV, a marathon of a decade-old sitcom that for some reason people never stopped watching even though they probably should. Sitting on her couch, we found ourselves slowly inching closer and closer together until we were practically on top of each other. Her head rested on my shoulder and I had my arm wrapped around her. We were on our third episode when she looked up at me. She looked peaceful and calm, like everything was right in the world when she looked into my eyes. She leaned in closer to me, out faces suddenly no more than an inch apart. My heart quickened and I forgot how to breathe. She stopped, backing up a bit, probably sensing how tense I was. I nodded my approval, my eyes willing her to continue. I remember how her hand cupped my cheek and her lips pressed against mine. I remember reaching my hand out and placing it on the back of her head, my fingers weaving themselves through her hair, her curls soft against my palm. I remember the way she smelled and I remember never wanting to separate my lips from hers ever again. When we pulled apart. I felt like my whole body was smiling. And our Tuesdays continues. We hung out on the sixth Tuesday. And the seventh. And the eighth. We went on dates on the ninth and the tenth Tuesdays. And so on. And at some point along the way we’d started calling each other girlfriend. On the thirteenth Tuesday, she met my parents. Well, they’d already sort of met. They’d said “hi” to each other in passing on days when she’d picked me up for dates or walked me home at night. But now my parents had invited her for dinner and they were going to really, officially meet. I was nervous. So nervous. As nervous as I had been for that very first date. Well, not quite. But almost. I’d done this whole thing with her parents not long before and everything went great. Still, I worried. I’d never brought a date to dinner before. Turns out I’d worried for nothing. My parents loved her as much as I did. They must’ve told me nearly a hundred times after she’d left what a wonderful girl she seemed to be. They didn’t need to say it – I already knew. Yet, there was something so deeply satisfying about having my parents’ approval. The months that followed were magical. I know – cliché, right? But there’s just no other word to describe it. I felt like I’d been transported to a faraway land full of mythical creatures and fantastical happenings. I was living my own personal fantasy, except it was way better than anything I could have possibly imagined on my own. And then, all of a sudden, the magic disappeared. We had a fight. Our first real, actual fight. We’d argued before, but never like this. I don’t even remember how it started. It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? You can have a passionate, heated argument so intense you think the world might cave in from all the tension. And when it’s over, you don’t even remember what it was about. All you remember is the intensity and the pain. All you feel is guilt and sorrow. The thirty-second Tuesday was the first in months that I didn’t speak to her, didn’t see her. The thirty-third was the same. I didn’t know why I was still counting – it seemed silly, all of a sudden – but for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. Maybe I would eventually, but not yet. I missed her more than I’d ever missed anything else in my life. It was like she was a part of me and that part had been cut off and now all that was left was a gaping hole. It was a hole that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t fill. Because she was the only one who could fill it. I’m not sure why I went back to that park on the Friday after the thirty-third Tuesday. But I did. I guess, maybe I wanted her to be there. Although, I’m not sure what I would have said if she was. I wished we could start over, press a reset button and everything would go back to the way it was before. I walked the path to our bench. It’s funny how I thought of it as “our bench” – stupid, maybe – but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to see it without thinking about us. Without thinking about her. When I got there and it was empty, I felt my chest tighten like I’d just tried to run a marathon even though I’d never trained a day in my life. It was hard to tell it I was disappointed or relieved. A little bit of both, I guess. I sat there for a while, watching people walk past. There were couples and families. There were people with their children. There were people walking their dogs. And there were people walking all alone. And there was me on the bench, trying not to cry. Eventually, I decided to go home, my trip to the park feeling useless and unsatisfying. Nevertheless, I went back the next day. As I approached our bench, I saw there was someone sitting on it. They were wearing a black beanie and an oversized sweatshirt. Their legs were pulled in close to their body as if to keep warm. I almost turned around and left right then and there. But then I heard someone say my name. At least, I was pretty sure I’d heard it. It was so quiet, though, that part of me was convinced I’d imagined it. Then I heard it again. Turns out it was Loren, the person sitting on the bench. My eyes met hers from where I was standing. She smiled at me but it was different from all her other smiles. It was full of heartbreak and sorrow instead of happiness and life. I didn’t know what to say. Half of me wanted to hug her and the other half wanted to flee the country. But I did neither. I was frozen where I stood, feeling helpless like a lost puppy, longing to go home but unsure of how to get there. Lucky for me, she spoke first. “To be honest, I- I was sort of hoping I’d see you here.” Her voice was still barely more than a whisper and it shook a little as if her vocal cords had forgotten how to do their job. “To be honest, so was I.” I knew the words had come from my mouth, but I wasn’t sure when I’d decided to say them. It didn’t sound like my voice, either. It was too cold, too mechanical. There were tears in her eyes and I hadn’t realized it until then but there were some in mine, too. I sat down next to her. Neither of us spoke for a while, and then we couldn’t stop talking. We both apologized about a million times. And we cried a lot. We talked on the phone the next Tuesday. And pretty soon our Tuesdays were back to normal. It was rough, at first. I didn’t expect it not to be. And then everything was good again. Better than before, actually. We still fought sometimes, of course, but we handled it better. We understood each other better, I think. I also think we understood “us” better and what we were to each other. We were still together when we graduated college. We got an apartment not long after. Living together took some getting used to. I thought I already knew everything there was to know about her, but living with her taught me so much more. And once we were used to it, it was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. And Tuesdays were still special to us. We saw each other every day now, but it was nice to have that time set aside for us. Just us – the rest of the world irrelevant. *** We dated for a few years before she asked me. We were at the park – yes, that park – having a picnic. We’d finished our food and were just sitting there. I was leaning on a tree and she was leaning on me. Her head was on my chest as I ran my fingers absentmindedly through her hair. She sat up suddenly, grabbing my hand as she looked into my eyes. She looked just like she had the day we met. Absolutely beautiful. And she asked me to marry her on the two hundred and seventy-first Tuesday. I said yes, of course. And I kissed her. And I cried. I must’ve looked like a mess, but I didn’t care. I was so happy. Ecstatic, really. The wedding took months to plan, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Neither of us were picky about things, per se, but we had a couple pretty specific ideas regarding how we wanted things to go. And when the day finally came, it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was everything you’d expect it to be. The white dresses and the cake and the dancing. And I loved it. We got married three hundred and eighteen Tuesdays after that very first Tuesday. And we went on a honeymoon and, when we came back, we bought a new house. And we adopted a cat – her idea. And life was good.

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