Forty Five: You Can't Fight Fate

Wednesday, March 5, 2003.
Alley


Music blared loudly from a jukebox against the wall. The small restaurant, if you could even classify it as that, was packed full of hungry college students like us, despite the fact that it was close to two in the morning. I leaned my elbows on the table and rested my chin in my hands, studying Alex. He was smiling, meeting my gaze without flinching.

“Something on your mind?” he asked.

“Why do you ask?”

“You’ve been sitting there with this curious look ever since we got here.”

“Well…” I hesitated. Actually, I did have something on my mind, but I wasn’t so sure this was the time, or place, or even the person to discuss it with.

“Come on,” he said gently, giving me an irresistible grin. He leaned across the table and clasped my hand in his.

I studied our interlocked hands for a minute. His skin was dark and smooth, his hands large with strong, sturdy fingers. My pale white hands were a stark contrast, and I grimaced when I noticed my fingernails. Dry, cracked, and nail-bitten. I quickly folded them into my palm.

“Do you believe in fate?” I asked abruptly, regretting the words as soon as they left my mouth.

“Fate?” he repeated. “You mean, like predestination?”

“Well, kind of… like, say, do you think things just happen by coincidence or whether they were supposed to happen that way?”

He stirred his drink with a straw. The ice crinkled softly as it hit the insides of the glass. “No.”

“No? You don’t?” I was surprised. He seemed like the type who would be into that sort of thing. “Why not?”

He shrugged. “I just think it’s all rather silly. I mean, you choose what kind of life you want to lead, what you do with it, who you choose to be with.”

I wrinkled my nose slightly. “That’s no fun. Not even a little?”

“Nope.”

“But what about things that are just too weird to be coincidence?” I pressed.

“Like what?”

“Like…. I dunno…. Meeting people,” I said vaguely. “In the strangest places…”

“What do you mean?”

I stared down at my empty plate. This was going nowhere, and I couldn’t find a way to further explain myself. So I changed the subject.

“Well, nevermind. Just something I thought of.” I laughed nervously. “How was work tonight?”

He proceeded to give me a detailed description of his evening at Radio Shack. I half-listened, nodding at all the appropriate times and trying to keep my eyes focused on his face and not at the window behind him. When he was finished speaking, I decided to drop another loaded question on him.

  “Have you ever been to Tulsa?”

He looked taken aback, which wasn’t surprising. He always said that I was the most random conversationalist he’d ever met. “Tulsa? Yeah, I’ve passed through there before. Never stopped and visited, though.”

“How far away would you say it is? I mean, time-wise.”

“I’d say….” He shook his head slightly. “… probably between 18 and 20 hours.”

“Okay.”

“Why?”

“Um… no reason.”

“Alley,” he laughed. “No reason? Complete randomness?”

“Well… I was thinking about going there.” I fiddled with my napkin. Please, don’t ask me why I want to go there….

“Why do you want to go there?”

Shit.

“Well,” I hedged. “Just, you know. Never been there. Go have a look, see the sites.”

“What sites?” By now, Alex was completely amused.

“Well…” I seemed to be saying that word an awful lot tonight. “There’s, um…” I tried frantically to remember any info on the city from my internet searches. “Wichita Mountain…. Uh…”

“You are so bizarre,” Alex said, shaking his head. “So unorthodox. That’s what I love about you.”

I nearly choked at that word and tried to brush it off. “Well, you know me,” I said lamely. “Just gotta be different. Who needs Myrtle Beach or Panama City when you can go to Tulsa?”

He laughed again and squeezed my hand. “Whatever makes you happy.”

“So, you know, if I decided to go, how would I go about getting a hotel or something?”

“You can do it online, I think. Or at least find out some hotel names, then call and make reservations.” He pulled his drink over and took a sip. “When were you planning to go?”

“Um…. Next week?”

“Next week?” This time it was his turn to choke. “Why next week?”

“Because…. It’s the week after midterm and I’ll need the vacation.”

“You’re going to skip classes?”

“Yeah, just for a few days.” I shrugged nonchalantly. “No big deal.”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No,” I said quickly. Probably too quickly. “Um, Louise is going with me. Girls only, you know. Sorry.”

“That’s okay. You can use my notes for chemistry when you get back.”

“Thanks.”

“So exactly what days will you be gone?”

“Well, I mean, I’m not even for sure we’re going to be going yet, anyway… I still need to talk to her about it… it’s not confirmed. But I was planning on maybe Monday through Wednesday, something like that. Or maybe leave on Sunday.”

He nodded, though it was still quite evident he was confused. “Alright. Well, I hate to interrupt, but let’s go. I’m worn out.” Laying several dollars down for a tip, he took my hand and led me out the door.

“Who’s going to feed your cat?” he asked on the drive home. “Are you taking him somewhere?”

“Shit,” I mumbled. “I forgot all about him.”

“I’ll feed him. No problem.”

“Okay, remind me to give you a key. He should have plenty of food.” I rolled my eyes. “If he doesn’t eat it all by then, that is.”

Alex chuckled softly. We drove the rest of the way home in silence. When we pulled into my driveway, he opened my door and escorted me to the front of the house.

“Well, Alley,” he murmured, wrapping two strong arms around my waist. “Goodnight. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He leaned forward and kissed me. I sighed softly, letting my arms hang lightly over his shoulders and neck. It was nice, it really was. But I still felt…. Every time we kissed, it still felt like something was missing. It wasn’t passionate, or soul-searching, or even hot and steamy. It was sweet, and while that was certainly a nice quality, I wondered if it was enough. I mean, where were the fireworks I always read about in romance novels? I was going to be sorely disappointed if I never got to experience those.

“Goodnight,” I whispered when we broke apart. With a small smile, I turned and put my key in the door. He walked back to his car, and I quietly slipped inside.

The inside hallway smelled strongly of vanilla. Louise or Taylor one had probably burned a candle. I stumbled into the living room, groaning aloud when I noticed the time. I would never be able to get up in the morning.

“Well, it’s about time you made it home.”

I turned, very surprised, to see Taylor sitting on the couch, arms folded. “Taylor! Why are you still up?”

“Waiting on you, of course. Why else would I be sitting here in the dark at three in the morning?”

“Waiting on me? Why?”

He shifted slightly and avoided my gaze. “Well, I can’t sleep when you’re not there anyway, you know that… and I thought you were going to be home around one. I was getting worried.”

“Awwww…” I was touched. Taylor, for one, looked horribly embarrassed at admitted his worry. I walked over and collapsed on the couch beside him. I leaned over, laying my head in his lap. “I’m sowwy, Taylor. Do you forgive me?”

“I guess,” he answered gruffly. “But next time, at least call or something.”

“Yes, mother.” I rolled over until I could look him in the eye. “Carry me.”

“Carry you?”

“Yes…. Carry me upstairs, I’m exhausted.”

“Like hell!”

I sat up, feigning exasperation. “Fine. Some gentleman you are.” I stood up and headed for upstairs.

Apparently he took offense to this. “I am a perfect gentleman,” he called to my back. The next thing I knew, two thin arms came up from behind me and hoisted me across his shoulders. I screeched in surprise.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Carrying you, like you asked,” was the response I got. We started up the stairs. I grunted with each step.

“Yeah, but I didn’t intend to be treated like a sack of wheat! Put me down!”

“We’re not up there yet,” he replied pleasantly. I struggled to be released from his surprisingly iron grip, but changed my mind when I realized that if I did get free, I would promptly roll down the stairs. But he was having way too much fun with this...

We reached the top, but instead of heading to my room, he began walking down the hall. “What are you doing?” I demanded. “Take me to my room.”

“Oh, your room, eh? Nevermind that I’m the one who cleans up that dump periodically.”

“Take me there now.

“I believe you’ll go where I want you to go. You’re in a pretty compromising position, are you not?”

“Dammit!” I kicked my feet out, successfully kicking the wall and making a whole hell of a lot of noise. So it was only natural that Louise appeared in her doorway, studying us with a confused and sleepy expression.

“I’m not even going to ask,” she mumbled, and promptly disappeared back into her room. The door slammed shut.

“Look what you did,” I hissed. “Now she’ll be cranky in the morning.”

“Me? I believe you were the one that initiated this…”

“Lemme down.”

He trotted into my room and promptly tossed me on the bed. I yelped in pain as I bounced against the wall.

“You bastard! You’ve broken my ribs!”

“Oh, stop whining.” He flipped the overhead light off and crawled beside me. “Baby.”

I gingerly poked at my side, glaring at Taylor through the darkness. “Shut up.”

“Well, that’s what you get for making me worry,” he said. “Don’t do it again.”

Don’t do it again,” I mocked him. 

“Alley,” he warned.

“Fine. I’m going to bed.” I rolled over forcefully, my back to him.

“Me, too.” I felt him roll on his side. Everything was quiet for several minutes.

“Taylor?”

“What is it now?”

“Do you believe in fate?”

Silence. Then, “Yeah. Yeah, I do. Why?”

“No reason.” I smiled. “Goodnight.”