Only two parts left, including this one! Told you it was a short fic!
But I get the feeling the big bang is about to come.
Hey, it's been awhile since I've heard from you! As for a happy ending . . . I usually
end things happy. Usually.
Are crickets really good luck? I didn't know that.
Ummmmm how did he get the cricket out?
I haven't given it that much thought.
So Michael's in love and in a committed relationship. I'm now going to cover my eyes for when it all goes tits over arse. It has to. Because it's you.
Oh, I'm so predictable.
It's really funny to read how Michael sees his own life. The sarcastic undertone you can read between the lines is absolutely hilarious. Just love it.
Thanks! I'm not sure where this tone came from, but it just naturally flowed as I was writing/brainstorming.
Chapter 6 – The Speed Bump
Moving in together was a bigger deal than it should have been.
Maria was ready for it. Maria was responsible. Maria was determined. I was none of those things. I got fired a week before our rent was due (something about never showing up on time), so she had to start working full-time at the library just to cover our asses. In addition to that, she was taking three classes that summer, so I barely ever saw her, and whenever I did, she had to study for a test or write some kind of paper.
The fact that I no longer lived on campus definitely hurt my notoriety. The crop of incoming freshmen had no idea who I was. The number of English majors dropped, as did pledges for my fraternity, and my websites seemed to be getting fewer and fewer visitors each day. I thought about doing something that would get me kicked out of school, just to see if my fellow students would rally and save me again. But that suddenly seemed too risky.
It was just the opposite for Maria. Everyone still knew who she was since she was always on campus for either class or work. She didn’t let it go to her head, though. She always thought it was creepy that that she was so well-known. I probably worried about it more than she did.
It occurred to my unemployed self as I wasted my summer away in our crappy apartment that Maria and I were completely different people. She liked Sarah McLachlan; I liked Metallica and Staind. She liked romantic comedies; I liked hardcore porn. She was really going somewhere in life. I wasn’t even sure if I’d manage to graduate. When I stopped feeling like Michael Guerin, the coolest guy in town, I started feeling like Michael Guerin, the utter loser. And I didn’t like feeling that way.
It probably didn’t help that people on the message board of www.awesomeMaria.com
were saying that she worked with a guy who was studying business law, stood to inherit his father’s multi-million dollar clothing line, and had modeled for Abercrombie and Fitch last year. When I asked her about it, she said he had a girlfriend and that he was incredibly self-absorbed. I still worried. How was I supposed to compete with someone like that?
I got drunk a lot that summer, and Maria and I fought about it a lot. She said I was turning into my dad. I said she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. But maybe she did. I really didn’t want to be him. I wanted to be me, but I had no idea who the hell I was.
You know how they say that girls mature faster than boys? It’s true. Because I didn’t go through that typical adolescent identity crisis when I was in high school. I went through it when I was twenty-one years old, and I felt like a chump.
Things came to a head the night before the start of the fall semester. Maria had gotten a higher paying job at the bookstore, and with all sorts of students purchasing their books for their upcoming classes, it was a busy night. She had to work a double shift. I was drinking and watching porn and trying to get my anti-virus software to actually be anti-virus when someone knocked on the door.
Courtney. I almost couldn’t believe it when I saw her standing out in the hallway. I barely even recognized her at first. The girl who had been a toothpick for as long as I’d known her was now . . . well, a whole lot of toothpicks. She’d put on a ton of weight, and she looked older and smelled like smoke.
I probably didn’t look or smell much better.
“Hey, Michael,” she said, smiling sweetly. “Long time, no see.”
I wanted to slam the door in her face, but I stupidly let her inside instead. I gave her the grand tour of the apartment, which didn’t take long since it only consisted of a bathroom, a closet, and a bedroom/kitchen combo. Then I got a beer out of the refrigerator for her and we sat down on the floor and talked.
She told me how bad her life had sucked for the past three years. She and Benny had stayed together. She’d ended up getting pregnant a year ago. (She blamed her weight gain on that, but I think she just liked to eat cake.) Benny had left her, though, and now she was a single mother. She said she was trying to get back in shape so she could make some money being a stripper. I’d always had a feeling Courtney would end up being a stripper, even back when she’d actually had a future.
I started to tell her what I’d been up to, but she said she already knew.
“I visit the websites every day,” she revealed. “Court’sInOrder_01? That’s me.”
“Really?” I’d always thought Court’sInOrder_01 was a stalker.
“Yeah. I visit Maria’s websites, too. She seems . . .” She trailed off and looked me up and down. “Like she’s too good for you.”
She always had been.
Courtney went on to suggest that I shouldn’t enter into a lifelong commitment with her. She said that serious relationships were bound to fail. “Look at what happened to us, or me and Benny.” She shuddered. “Just don’t get involved with that. It’s so much easier if you hook up and never look back.”
That was definitely easier . . . but not necessarily better.
I told her that Maria was my whole world. She laughed and said she’d never heard me sound so sappy before. I told her it was the alcohol talking. She said it was me.
Even though I loved Maria, even though I knew she was the one for me, an entire summer’s worth of stress, concern, and the fear that I wasn’t good enough kept creeping in, and my fall from grace was complete when I kissed Courtney. I kissed her. I didn’t want to, but I did, and for a split-second, I felt like the stud from high school. I felt like the king of campus. I felt like the guy who actually was someone because I was better than the person I was with.
And then I felt like a heartless bastard when Maria walked in the door. She saw me kissing Courtney, dropped her purse on the floor, and looked as though she were about to throw up.
“No, Maria, I . . .”
She didn’t want to hear my excuses, and that’s exactly what they were. Excuses. She whirled around and ran back out into the hall. I shot to my feet and ran after her. My throat felt dry.
“Maria, that wasn’t what it--”
“Shut up!” she yelled. Her voice was loud. Her eyes were louder. “God, I’m so stupid
. How could I ever let myself fall for you?”
And in that moment, as if I couldn’t have made the situation worse, I said the one thing I probably shouldn’t have said at all, or the one thing I should have said sooner. “Maria, I love you.”
She spun around and slapped me so hard across the face, I thought she’d knocked my jaw out of my mouth. She told me she wouldn’t do infidelity. She told me we were done. I begged her to forgive me. It was just a kiss. She said there was no such thing. She said she deserved better, and she was right.
Even though I knew I’d just screwed up the best thing that had ever happened to me, I followed her downstairs. She didn’t seem to have any idea where she was going, but she clearly wanted to get away from me. I know she would have pepper sprayed me if she hadn’t left her purse in the apartment. I knew Courtney was probably stealing cash out of her wallet at that very moment. I knew Courtney was just a miserable bitch who wanted me to be miserable with her. But I knew I wanted Maria.
“Don’t ever talk to me ever
again!” she screamed, stopping at the end of the sidewalk. She bent down, took off her left shoe, and threw it at my face. It hit my shoulder instead. Still hurt. And with that she hobbled across the road wearing only one shoe, holding her stomach as though it hurt, and crying. I hated myself so much for hurting her.
“Maria . . .” I stepped down off the curb, and an instant later, I was up in the air. I rolled up over the hood of someone’s car, down across the trunk, and landed on the pavement with a thud. I heard Maria scream my name and felt a bone in my leg pop. The last thing I remembered was her hand on my head before everything went black.
My entire life flashed before my eyes while I was unconscious. It’s not a cliché; it really happens. My entire life . . . and all I saw were cars. And all the cars made me think of Maria.
I’m convinced it was the thoughts of her that brought me back. When I came to, I was in a hospital room with my leg in a stirrup, a cast covering the entire length of it. The chart on the wall said I’d been unconscious for two days. There were flowers and balloons all over the room. My mom was asleep beside me, holding my hand. Maria was nowhere in sight.
TBC . . .