The girl stood before the mirror. It was glass, silver backed. It did not lie. Or at least she had never considered it to, before. Frowning, she glanced for a second and then away.
'That man should be shot, ' Amy thought. 'What does he know?'
Behind those outward thoughts, were the ones that had brought them to the surface. Thoughts best left hidden, left untouched. Thoughts that deep could only hurt.
It was the manner in which he spoke, as though he knew.
"Ha," Amy almost blurted out while thinking.
The initial reason she'd been attracted to him, made the notion he knew anything about what she felt...
Her mind came up with many fanciful ideas. The most outrageous was that her mother had put him up to this. Her mother didn't know him, or that he existed in her life at all. Still, it made almost more sense than this.
Raising her hands to her face, she ran her fingers through her hair.
It had been almost a year ago when they met. A chance meeting. He had been playful, flirtatious, yet reserved. He had made her feel special. She liked it, so she had made sure to coordinate more 'chance' meetings.
The phone rang in her room, startling her. Both because it jerked her out of her daydream, and because of the proximity of the noise. She was standing now by the phone, several steps away from the mirror. She didn't remember walking away from it.
"What?" she answered.
"Amy? What's got you all strung up?"
Shaking her head, as if that would shake the ideas out of it, she responded, "Nothin'. What's up?"
The conversation was non-existent. Her friend could tell Amy wasn't 'there, ' and that this conversation was going nowhere, so she cut it short.
Amy didn't feel any better. 'What the hell did she mean, 'deal with it?' Deal with it? Like she has a clue.'
Purposefully, Amy moved in front of the mirror and looked.
She smiled, but even she could tell it was forced.
Then she made faces, venting some of her frustration. That ended up making her laugh. She caught that twinkle in her eyes, the smile on her face, the skin pulling up and accenting her cheekbones.
Things he had told her were there.
Turning, she walked away, this time with intent. Away from that mirror.
What had pissed her off more than him telling her she was more beautiful than she realized was him going into nauseous detail of her face, and then telling her why she wouldn't want to believe it. She had never considered him an arrogant bastard, but the thought was something she was now mulling over in her mind.
'I am not going to want to believe it, because with that comes responsibility that I don't want.' She replayed in her mind. 'Responsibility!'
She sat down hard in her chair; so hard that the chair went off balance and she ended up on the floor.
Her head shook with rage. She wished these crazy thoughts would just go away.
Standing, she grabbed the phone and dialed his cell phone.
Closing her eyes when she got his message, she wasn't sure she was relieved or not, that she didn't have to speak to him in person.
"What right do you have to do this to me?"
She slammed the phone down. It would have been much more satisfying to do that to his ear, rather than to the answering machine.
"You radiate a beauty you have no idea you possess. Your outward looks can grab even the most disinterested, but what keeps someone leaning towards you is what emanates from you. It is an aura, if you will. A force that you don't even know you have."
She had been so dumbstruck at what he'd said, that she could now repeat it verbatim.
'Beauty, indeed... '
The phone rang again. She wished she had caller ID, or that her cell worked. She picked it up, this time answering it a bit more politely.
"Mad at me?"
"I guess that means 'yes.' Amy when you are ready to listen to me, I'll tell you why I know what I do. Right now, you have to look at yourself and see that there may be some truth in what I'm saying."
"Are you done?"
"No. I have one thing more to say."
"I love you enough to have you this mad at me."
"Goodbye, Amy. Give me a call when you want."
Kenneth Stapleton's hands shook as he replaced the receiver. It had taken every ounce of power he had inside himself to remain calm and even sounding on the phone. It wasn't the way he felt, inside.
What had possessed him, in the first place, was something he had mulled over and over.
It was not like him to do something like this; to upset someone else's world and at the same time make himself vulnerable. He had built a nice wall around himself. It felt good and people responded well to it.
Now he found that he had opened a door. A door he'd had little idea was there in his wall. Although the door was cracked open for just one, he could tell that if the door was pulled open all the way... He didn't like the thought of having the wall crumbing down. It would make him open in a way he had never liked.
Without the wall, life had hurt.
It was after half a bottle of Zin, and before dinner, that his brain was able to get past the possible hurt and deal with the realities of 'why.' Deep down, he knew 'why.' It wasn't so much love, although there might be some of that there, it was compassion. Amy and he were almost identical in so many ways, that it was eerie.
That is why he recognized the signs. He had looked, and watched. Then when she had least expected it, he'd told her what he knew she wouldn't believe. He knew, because he wouldn't have believed it either. No one had bothered to tell him, though.
Oh people would come up... later, much later in his life... and say things. He never knew what people thought at the time, though. The time she was now going through in her life. His world needed to know and, without that knowing, he was tormented. He doubted his abilities, and knew that doubt hurt what he could accomplish. How does one go up to someone and ask for an honest evaluation of their life though? It simply isn't done. When no one offers, and your life is desperately in need, what happens to you inside isn't pretty. No, what happens is that you get pretty fucked up.
Amy knew Kenneth (or Ken, as she thought of him, even if no one else called him that) was too old for her. Hell, he was old enough to be her father. Yet he wasn't her father, nor did he act like her father. Not that he acted like one of her friends, either. Which was good, considering...
Ken was something in between. Playful and freethinking, yet he was thoughtful and mature. It was a very nice combination. He didn't look so bad either.
So did he think that way of her? Was he attracted to her? Of course she knew older guys liked younger women. Everyone knew that. He didn't show that side though. There weren't any sexual comments. Playful ones, yes. A touch of flirting maybe. Anything definite? No. So why would he tell her something like that? Why else would he tell her she was more beautiful than she realized. And, what was that part about responsibility? Was he finally putting 'the move' on her? Is that what this was all about? Did she want that?
The biggest problem was that there was no one to talk to about these questions. Her girl friends would think she'd lost it. Maybe she had.
'God, ' she thought, 'I'm already there. Shit. What do I do now?'
Kenneth was at his computer, working. There were two clients he was IM-ing. One lived in Australia, the other in California. He needed to close a deal and he was close.
The phone rang and without even looking at the caller ID, he picked up the phone.
"Look, I've been thinking... and I think that maybe... I can't talk to you for a while."
"Oh, God. This is embarrassing. I've got to go. Bye."
Kenneth heard the phone click in his ear. The screen in front of him was blinking and needed his attention.
All he could think of was that he fucked up badly. It made him feel like shit.
He made the deal. He had to; it was how he made money and paid the bills. After he was done though, he turned off his computer.
Knowing from experience, he needed to get out of the house. Depression was going to set in and he needed diversion. By the time he got to the restaurant, it was too late. It had already set in.
Trish, the waitress that sat him, asked if he was all right. Kenneth knew it showed on his face. There was little he could do about that. When she came by to take his order, she sat down in the chair across from him.
"Kenneth, you come in here often enough in the daytime that I know I've never seen you looking like this. What's wrong?"
"I wish I knew what the problem was," Kenneth said sadly. He was shaking his head.
Crying would have felt good, but he also knew that if he let himself truly feel the pain that he was trying to squelch... He'd had too many therapy sessions. He knew rock bottom was not that far away once he started to fall into a depressed state. Suicide was simply not something he could think to consider, now in his life. Once long ago it had been entertained. The thought still scared him, that he could consider doing such a thing.
After his dinner, he went home. He called Amy and the phone was not answered. It just rang. The answering machine had been unplugged.
By the time Kenneth went to bed that evening, he was starting to get angry.
'Why did she just cut me off like that?' he thought. 'Didn't I deserve a little more respect? I thought she cared. Maybe not."
Amy sat in her room, on her bed. Her knees up and her arms wrapped around them. She was rocking back and forth. Amy was in pain. Not physical, but emotional.
'I don't know Ken that well, so why does it hurt so much?' she wondered.
Her therapist had told her to do it. 'Cut off the ties. A man like that could hurt you badly.'
Would it have hurt any worse than what she was feeling now? She wasn't so sure.
Amy went to bed that evening feeling like shit. She was going to give her therapist hell about this.
Two miserable days passed. Kenneth had to know. He called.
"Amy will you let me talk? Will you listen?"
"Who is this?"
His heart sunk.
"Amy, I want to still be friends, can we do that?"
Kenneth didn't feel the same smile on her face that he'd felt in her voice, before. It wasn't the same. He had no idea if he had lost her trust for good, or if it would ever come back.