Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twentieth Entry: If It Were A Snake

October 21st

I am once again torn by my feelings.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty quiet as things go around here. The tension levels seem to have settled nicely; not gone away by any means, but leveled off. There have been two more incidents of zeds in the mall, one suicide, and one accidental death (a little girl fell down a staircase in the residential area while her mother was sleeping, neighbors who came running managed to get the woman away before her reanimated daughter could bite her), but the kind of simmering dislike of the security force has not boiled over into violence yet.

I am starting to think Ash may have been right. How much longer can it be before someone on one side or the other strikes out? What will happen then? My stomach sours at the very thought of having to leave here for good. Yes, I am being melodramatic.

Plans are moving along to try and do something for the kids for Halloween. Alex has been stockpiling candy, and the plan is to do trick or treating around the shopping area with Mallville staff and store employees handing out candy.

Alex told me that there are around 500 kids in Mallville (he did not specify what was being considered a kid though). That just doesn't seem like very many to me; it's only like 20% of the total population. Of course I have no idea what the national average is, was, so maybe it's a lot, I don't know.

The park move-out went surprisingly well, and with no time to spare, as we had our first rainstorm last night. There are now five people living inside Insert Coin. Chris and Molly Trevor, and Bryan and Toni Rogers and their pre-teen son Bishop. They're all really nice, and I've gone down and spent a couple of evenings with them, Tara even joined me once.

Chris was a contractor, and Molly a web designer before the end. They came here after the end of the first month when it became clear that the government had basically abandoned us, and they had run out of supplies in their house. They were one of the first people to have to set up camp in the center park.

The Rogers have a different story. They were in town on a vacation/job interview; Toni was a weather girl in Lovelock, Washington who was interviewing with a local station to be an anchor. The good news is she got the job, the bad news is that before the celebratory vacation was over, all hell broke loose and they could not get back home. They stayed in their hotel for a few weeks before the remaining staff, who were also hiding out there,asked them to leave. Bryan said they were very nice about it except for the guns they were holding.

Bishop is an interesting kid, a geek in the making. I hope he gets the chance to bloom into full geekhood. He was the only one of the five that set his tent up inside the store, and I'm not so old that I do not understand the desire for privacy at that age; hell, I still desire privacy sometimes. He asked me if I could bring out some of the video games for him to play.

“If I brought them out here, you'd either have a bunch of people wanting to play, or someone would try and take them from the store,” I explained.

“Oh,” he said, looking sad.

“Do you like to read?”

“Yeah, but I only had a couple of books with me at the hotel, and the people at the bookstore won't let me borrow any.”

“How does this sound. I'll loan you some of my books, and I'll get you a DSi and some games out of the back. The only catch is that you need to keep them out of sight. I don't want you getting hurt if someone tries to take it from you.”

His face lit up like I offered him the keys to the Batmobile, “Oh, I promise. I'll only play in my tent with the sound off and a blanket over my head to block the light.” Spoken like a kid experienced in after-bedtime gaming.

I told Bryan and Toni of my plan to make sure it was okay. They were very grateful, Toni even cried a little, which got the attention of Chris and Molly, so I let them in on it as well; it's not like Bishop was going to be able to hide it from them anyway. Bryan and Molly asked if I could maybe loan them some books to read too.

I ended up in my storage space down in the parking level going through the boxes of books I have accumulated over the years. I brought up a small shopping bag of maybe a dozen books. I tried to be varied. I ended up deciding on a couple of “Stainless Steel Rat” books, some Heinlein, a couple of “Shadowrun” Novels, and some collections of short fiction. I almost tossed in a collection of zombie stories without thinking. I used to love zombie stories.

I'm not sure who was more interested in getting into the bag when I put in on the sales counter, the kid or the adults. Molly and Toni both kissed me on the cheek, which prompted a dirty look from Chris that lasted just long enough for me to worry before it turned into a smile and a chuckle. I consider it my good deed for the week.

Something big happened last night, and for the first time in months, it did not involve guns or the undead. I realized that for the first time in years, I love someone other than Sharon, and for the first time ever someone loves me back.

I've never really been in a relationship before. I've dated girls, and I've even gotten a few into bed, but never a real relationship, at least nothing I would call a relationship. Certainly nothing where the term 'I love you' was used.

It was just another night at Tara's. We were debating bringing a few decks of cards down to Insert Coin and trying to strike up a card game with them when things got serious.

Tara had made pasta with Alfredo sauce for dinner, and even though it was really good, and I could easily have eaten more, I refused her offer of seconds. I know she's getting extra supplies through Alex, but I still don't want to put a strain on them.

After we finished doing the dishes, Tara kind of stood in the way, blocking me in the kitchen, “Can we talk?” she asked.

Shit, this is where she dumps me She's grown tired of me, and would rather go back to being alone all the time than deal with me. Or so I thought.

“Yeah, sure,” I actually said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“We've been spending a lot of time together, right?”

“Yeah, it's been fun, but if you want to spend less time together, that's fine,” I blurted out.

She ignored that part, ”And we agreed to just be friends, right?”

“Right, 'cause you're into Alex, and I'm after Sh-”

“I know who we each like,” Tara cut me off, “I've been doing some thinking., and I was kind of wondering if you maybe have any feelings for me other than just friendship?”

“I'm not sure I know what you mean,” I said, honestly unwilling to believe what it sounded like she was asking.

“I know that you are in love with Sharon, and I'm still in love with Alex, but it doesn't look like either of us has any chance there. I've really enjoyed spending time together, and I really like you as a person, and,” she paused for a second before taking a deep breath and continuing, “and IthinkIloveyou!” she blurted out like one big long word.

The words hung I the air between us; I had to take time to process this. Did someone really just tell me that they love me? Did a beautiful geeky woman just tell me that she loves me? Has she been hinting at this, and I've just been too unwilling to accept that someone could feel that way about me.

Let me be honest here, I've gone out on dates, and I've gone to bed with girls, but I've never had what I would term a “girlfriend”. I usually end up straight in the friend-zone, even if it is friends with benefits it still never becomes anything serious.

A minute probably passed (although it seemed like an hour to me) between Tara confessing to me, and my responding. Her eyes had completely lost their normal confidence, the look that she gives everyone when it is not just her and I alone, and looked on the verge of panic, and she was biting her lower lip. I think she was taking my silence for rejection. I had to come up with an answer; do I love her?

The answer came to me like a light bulb going on over me head. Yes, I do feel love for her too.

“I,” I took a breath, “I love you too.”

“Really? You're not just saying that?” there was an almost pleading look in her eyes

“Yeah, really.”

She threw her arms around me, and held me tight. She kissed me hard, and I kissed her back.

“What about the others. Do you want to keep this a secret?” I asked her when the kiss ended.

“Alex and Sharon both think we're sleeping together at the very least anyway, so why bother? It's not like Alex is interested in me anyway, but if you want to keep it secret, I understand,” she sounded slightly dejected as she said this, but I'm not sure if it was the idea of Alex's lack of interest, or the idea that I wouldn't want people to know that bothered her.

She was right though. Ever since catching us hugging in the hallway a couple of weeks ago, Sharon has been persistent that there was something more than just food and geekery going on between Tara and myself. Maybe she saw something that Tara and I were not, or at least something that I was not seeing.

Sharon would make little comments a lot, especially if Tara's name actually came up in the course of conversation. Most of her comments were actually kind of mean, like she's a little bit jealous that someone else could be interested in me. Her big thing, of course, was the age difference, Tara being a full ten years older than me and all.

When Sharon would bring this up I would generally point out to her that there was nothing going on between me and Tara, and that the age difference between her and Alex was greater to the point that he could be her father if he had her at a young age. This has generally resulted in Sharon calling me an asshole, and then not talking to me for awhile. I was very thankful when she stopped and went back to just being snarky.

“ I have no reason to try and keep it a secret,” I replied,” but what if things change between Alex and Sharon?”

“If they become available again, then we will have to re-evaluate our situation.”

“Who would you choose between me and him if we were both willing?”

“Don't make me choose, that's not fair,” Tara kissed me tenderly on the lips, “I'm not asking you any questions like that.”

Fair enough. I couldn't answer that questiont anymore easily. Right now I'm not sure I could even give an answer. I don't think I am thinking clearly; I've never been in this type of a situation.

“Do you still want to go play cards downstairs?” I asked.

“No, I think I'd rather stay in with you,” Tara said with a smile.

I ended up spending the night with Tara. We did not go all he way, but we did get to know each other better. I'm not going to go into any details about that though. A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell...and neither do I.

Of course the real fun was this morning when I came home. Sharon was already up, and was laying on the couch, reading a volume of “Battle Royale” for the umpteenth time. She didn't lower the book, so Kazuo Kiriyama's face sneered at me as she spoke, “Did you have a good night?”

“I was at Tara's.”

“I know where you were.”

“Is that a problem?”

Sharon put the manga down on the coffee table roughly, “What you choose to do with your life is none of my concern.”

“Why do you hate me being with Tara so much, it's not like you have any interest in me. It's not like you have ever had any interest in me.”

“What did you want me to do, pounce on you naked? I've waited for years for you to make a move, yet you have no problem telling Darth Cougar how you feel about her,” Sharon suddenly exploded at me.

“Okay, fine, maybe I should have spoken up sooner. It doesn't matter though, because you're with Count Sigler now,” I snarked, trying with great effort to keep a level voice.

“That's right! Alex isn't afraid to tell me how he feels.”

Now it was my turn for a small explosion, “Alex isn't afraid to tell anybody how he feels,” I yelled, “about anything!”

“No, he isn't, and you know what? Neither am I! I love you, I have always loved you, but you've never bothered to notice; you've flirted and teased and been jealous when I've dated anyone else, but you have never just told me that you have feelings for me, and now it's too late. That doesn't change that I love you though, and I care about you, and I don't want to see you get hurt by her. Have you see the way she looks at Alex?”

“I know exactly how she feels about Alex. I also know how she feels about me.”

“Well then you better tell her to keep her claws in you, and away from him. While you're at it, maybe you should keep some distance from me for awhile too!” Sharon got to her feet.

“I live here!”

“Well maybe you should go live with your darling Tara,” she stormed off into the bedroom, and slammed the door behind her.

“That's my bedroom!” I yelled at the closed door.

“Asshole!” her voice replied from behind the door.

I stood there for a few seconds, breathing hard, trying to slow my breathing, and regretting the whole scene. I still regret it. Sharon and I have had our fights before, but never like that.

“I love you too,” I said quietly to the closed door.

Apparently I did not say it quietly enough, because Sharon must have heard it. “Fuck you!” she bellowed from behind the door.

So that is where things stand. Tara loves me, and I love her too. Sharon finally admits that she loves me, and then curses me out for my never telling her. Love was there in front of me all along, but to be honest, and maybe I'm just still mad from the argument, I don't care all that much.

Sharon had every opportunity to approach me is she had feelings for me, so she is just as guilty as I am for us never pursuing a relationship. Tara did not sit around waiting for me to suggest taking our friendship to another level, she asked me. Maybe it's just a maturity thing, who knows?

I think I may finally be happy with Tara, and while that may not last forever I don't know how much of a forever is even before me. I'm going to enjoy what I have, and take everything else one day at a time right now.

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