Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thirty-Ninth Entry: A Kiss To Build A Dream On

February 14th

It's been a couple of weeks since Pippa joined us, and I think she is fitting in well. It's hard to believe this is the same girl we held at gunpoint just last month; she looks a lot healthier than she did when she first got here. This is probably from eating regularly and actually being able to sleep.

Pippa reluctantly gave up the last of her magenta hair, and allowed Sharon to cut it. Sharon cut it really short; the only cut she really knows how to do judging by the fact that she gave me the very same cut not too long ago. It looks a lot better on Pippa that it did on me.

Maria has spent the last week laid up with something. I wish one of us had any real medical knowledge. We found some medical references here in the cabin. But most of them seem to be based more on pharmaceuticals than actual diagnosis. It could just be a bad case of the flu, it could be pneumonia. All we know for sure is that Maria is even more of a pain in the ass sick than she is well since she keeps trying to get up do stuff, and we have to keep forcing her back to bed.”

It's not really a matter of us being worried about her, but more that we're worried that she will get something worse if she doesn't stay in bed. We've moved her to the master bedroom, which has its own fireplace, in an attempt to keep her warmer. Despite all of the conflict that has come up between us I don't want to see anything happen to her, and I hope she gets well.

In an attempt to get some medicine for Maria, Beth, Sharon, and Gerry went into town to try and find a drugstore (telling one shop from another is none too easy when everything is covered in snow). That left Pippa and I here alone with Maria, who thankfully spent most of the day asleep.

I haven't really spent a lot of time with Pippa since she got here, but she's a nice girl. She reminds me a lot of Sharon when we were younger, although Sharon never went for the emo (which didn't really even exist then) thing with piercing and dyeing her hair. Sharon has always been proud of her red hair.

Another way that Pippa reminds me of Sharon is her attitude or at least the way her attitude used to be. For all that has happened to her, Pippa has managed to still be happy, cheerful, and energetic. It makes me a little sad, because that part of Sharon has not come back when, for a lack of better words, her wits came back.

According to Pippa, her real name s Phillipa, but hates how some people shorten that to “Phil”, so she shortened it herself to Pippa. She wasn't a great student, and even though she misses her parents, she didn't get along with them very well (which I suppose just makes her a normal teenager). She seems to be taking to all of us well though, so maybe we'll work as some sort of replacement for her.

Pippa has taken to our little chore routines easily. Chopping firewood (we're probably going to have to actually cut down a tree soon for more wood), fishing, boiling snow to make it drinkable, etc. She's also not a bad cook, although I think we are all getting a little tired of fish.

She's a lot more curious than the rest of us, and has practically torn the cabin apart looking for things (in a respectful way, she hasn't actually broken anything). She found that this house has a pretty big attic, and has spent a good portion of her free time up there going through the boxes and boxes of stuff.

The attic has turned out to be a virtual treasure trove of stuff. A couple of days ago Pippa came down dressed in an old pinstriped suit clearly made for a man at least a foot taller than she is. It was very cute up until she showed it to Maria, who pointed out that it was probably filthy even though it didn't look it. That grossed Pippa out, and she couldn't get it off fast enough.

Today, after the others left, I was out back chopping firewood (I pretend it's zombie heads, or sometimes the head of Hashmir Kaur, and that keeps me going) when Pippa came bounding down the back porch at me, not wearing any coat.

“You have to come see what I found!” she called to me excitedly.

I thunked the ax down into the scarred stump that looks like it has been used for years of wood chopping, and followed Pippa as she ran back inside. As I came through the door into the fire-warmed living room I heard music; it was crackly, but it was music, and it was a song I know.

“Mayyyyybeeeeee, you'll think of me, “ came a high pitched, slightly distorted voice, “when you are alllllll alone.”

It was The Ink Spots; the song was “Maybe”. Why do I know a song like this? Because it was the theme song to the game “Fallout”. I loved that game when I was younger, and the opening sequence with that song playing over it has always stuck with me. It's odd that a video game from the nineties got me into a musical group from the forties.

Pippa led me to a black case sitting on the side table next to the couch. The case was open to reveal it as a record player, and a black disk labeled “The Best of The Ink Spots” slowly rotated around and around as the voice of a singer whose name I never bothered to learn flowed from the speaker. I felt strangely emotional hearing that ghostly voice from the past; it was like being reminded of everything that the world has lost.

“Maybe the one who is waiting for you, will prove untrue, then what will you do?” the record player continued.

“Where did you find this?” I asked.

“It came in the mail,” Pippa answered snarkily, and then, “I found it in the attic, duh! It's a wind up, so no electricity,” she smiled proudly.

“Are there more records?”

“A whole box. Look!” Pippa said, pointing to a box over on the dining table, “There's nothing really great in there, it's all stuff my grandparents would have liked, but it's music.”

I looked through the box of records while “Maybe” ended, and transitioned into “Java Jive”. It was an interesting collection; lots of musicians I've never even heard of along with stuff I do know. There was Louis Armstrong, The Mills Brothers, Cole Porter, but also Sinatra, Davis, Martin, and Glenn Miller, which seemed somewhat out of place to me. There were also some classical records, Chopin, Brahms, that sort of thing.

“This is really great, Pippa,” I said.

“I know.” Pippa grinned.

“I think, “ I said, stepping towards her and spreading my arms, “that you deserve a big hug.”

Pippa gave a laughing shriek, “No! Get away from me, you pervert!”

“Oh come on,.”

Pippa laughed, “No! You're old!” she yelled. She then turned and ran back towards the hallway where I knew the ladder to the attic would be set up..

I'm not that old.

I sat on the couch and listened to the rest of the record with my eyes closed. I thought about everything that I've lost; everything that's happened to me. I felt sad, happy, and relaxed all at once, the music draining months of tension out of me that I hadn't realized was even there. I must have dozed off that way.

I was awakened by the front door smacking open. I jumped up from the couch not knowing what to expect, but it was just Beth, Gerry, and Sharon returning from town. They were each carrying brown paper bags.

Their haul was a good one, and there was more stuff in the car. They got some NyteTyme and Acetaminophen for Maria to hopefully help her a little more than the aspirin we found in the cabin has been. They also got batteries for the lamps, candles, some canned food, and some board games.

“The T-Mart in town was almost totally cleared out, “explained Gerry, “I mean if we need some summer clothes or oil for the car, we're in good shape there, but the food was gone, as was all of the gun ammunition, batteries, propane, and most anything else that would be useful to us right now.”

“We did find a Bianco's that hadn't been ransacked though, which is where we got all of these goodies,” said Beth, motioning to the bags.

I got a chance to look through our new supplies shortly before I started writing, and I see a potential issue. Almost all of the medicine they got expires this year, and I'm sure if I go look, I'll find the same thing on the canned foods. I am a bit worried about what that means for our future, which is basically that we need to find somewhere that we can secure from the zeds, that has a fresh water supply, and that we can grow crops on. I think the alternative is going to be playing roulette with food poisoning.

I intend to keep this observation to myself, at least for the time being. I don't want to be the one that pisses on their parade, you know? Plus for all I know this canned food will outlast us. It's odd to consciously acknowledge that.

The others were impressed with Pippa's discovery, if not really with the musical selection. Sharon thought some of the music was interesting, but then she has always had different tastes in music than most people; just another one of the things I've always liked about her.

“We should go check out some of the other houses on the lake, “suggested Beth. “We could send you into their attics, and see if you can at least find us some eighties music.”

“Sounds like fun!” exclaimed Pippa without any hint of sarcasm.

We had dinner early; fish of course with some canned peas. Pippa doesn't like peas, but she's also no fan of starving either, so she ate them. Personally, I'm looking forward to when we are down to the canned spinach; I don't think anyone likes that crap.

Maria joined us for dinner even though Gerry tried to serve her in bed. “I'm not crippled!” she insisted. I can tell that she hates being sick, and part of does enjoy seeing that, but I do still want her to get better.

After dinner Beth heated some snow over the fire, when it was warm enough, she poured it into the plugged up sink and Sharon and I did the dishes. Is this how people did this before running water? It's a bit of a pain in the ass.

When we went back into the living room, Pippa was again looking through the box of records, as if this time she would find some “My Chemical Romance” or “Lady Gaga' in there. She was starting to flip through again, this time from back to front, when Gerry walked up.

“Pippa, lets you, me, and Beth go in with Maria and play a game, “ suggested Gerry, holding up a shrink wrapped Scrabble box in his right hand and shaking it so the letter tiles rattled against each other.

“That's okay. I'll just stay here, thanks.”

“Come on, it'll be fun, “said Beth.

“What if we wake Maria up?”

Gerry held up a bottle of NyteTyme in his left hand, “Then we'll just have to put her back to sleep.”

“No, thanks,“ Pippa went back to looking through the records.

Beth came over and gently, but firmly, grabbed Pippa by the shoulders, and pulled her away from the records, “It will be fun, come on,” she said stiffly.

“But I don't want to,” Pippa protested, but didn't try to pull away.

“Yes you do,” stated Gerry, and the three of them disappeared down the hallway to the bedrooms.

“What was that about?” I asked to Sharon, who was standing next to me alone in the living room.

“They wanted to give us some time alone, “ Sharon replied, walking over to the box of records.

“What for?” I asked cautiously. Sharon has been dropping really obvious hints lately, even since she's been better, that she wants us to go to the next level.

Sharon's face brightened at one of the records. She pulled out an avocado colored jacket with a picture of Louis Armstrong on it blowing his horn. The title “Hello Dolly” was printed in green letters, but it wasn't the soundtrack to the musical. She looked at the back of the album, smiled, and slid the disk out.

Sharon places the platter on the turntable, and started cranking up the record player, “Because you and I need to talk. Well, I need to talk to you.” She sounded very serious, and I felt a little worried.

When she was done cranking the hadle on the side of the payer, Sharon placed the needle on the record, and after a few seconds of crackling, a soulful horn flowed out of the speaker. Shortly after that Armstrong's voice started singing a song I didn't know.

“What is this?”

“When It's Sleepy Time Down South,” Sharon answered, reading it off the back of the sleeve, “Sit,” she ordered, pointing me to the couch.

I sat down obediently while she went over to where some of the brown paper bags still sat by the front door. She dug around in a couple of them before finding what she wanted. She came back over to be with a small bundle of paper that said “Happy Birthday” on it, and was decorated with balloons and confetti.

“It's not my birthday, you know that,” I said.

“It's what they had,” she answered, and sat next to me, “It's not a birthday present, anyway. I have something I need to ask you.”

Sharon looked me in the eye, the dancing light from the fireplace reflecting off of the lenses of her glasses. The first song ended, and was followed by a really upbeat, almost Dixielandish song. I was not sure what type of mood Sharon was trying to set, but I didn't think this went with it.

“Beth told me what you and her talked about.'

I drew a blank. I only see five people ever, and as a result talk about a lot of things with all of them (well, except for Maria, I try not to talk to her much if I can avoid it), so I really had no idea which specific conversation with Beth Sharon was talking about.

“About how I find chopping firewood to be kind of soothing?” I asked.

“No” Sharon smiled slightly, “Not about that. I guess this was around the time that I tried to kill you with that Lord of the Rings sword you like.”

“I think I remember that,” I said, trying to not sound like a complete dick.

“Yeah, well, I guess you told her that you felt responsible for all of this.”

“I don't think that's quite how I put it,” I protested.

I just looked back through to that entry, and yes, that is basically how I put it.

“Well that's how Beth tells it, “ Sharon came back, “ And I'm sure that you didn't want her to tell me, but she worries about you; so do I.”

“Why? I'm doing fine.”

“You told her that we would not be in this position if you had opened up to me earlier. You believe that your not telling me how you felt about me caused all those people to die.”

“That's a little melodramatic,” I said, but again, it does seem to be pretty much what I said.

Sharon went on, “Well, I knew how you felt about me, but I wanted to make you say it first,” she looked away from me then, finding something interesting to look at in the thick shag carpet, “I wanted to show that I was the stronger of the two of us; that I was in charge. I'm not the stronger one though, you are.”

“That's not true,”

“Sure it is. We've lost so much this last year, and yet while I lost my mind, you just kept going. You took care of me while I tried to get you killed. You fought for me, and all I did was cause problems and make things more uncomfortable for you,” sharon looked up at me, and I could see that her eyes were watery.

“You did not make me uncomfortable,” I protested.

The cheery song ended, and a familiar one came; a trumpet sounded over the crackling of the fire, filling the silence between us.

Sharon smiled as the trumpet played. She knew I recognized this song, but what she didn't know was that I had listened to “Maybe” earlier in the day, and here she had set up the opening song to that game's sequel.

“Give me a kiss to build a dream on,” Armstrong sang, “and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss. Sweetheart, I ask no more than this; a kiss to build a dream on.”

“It doesn't matter,” Sharon said, “I want to try and make up for my past mistakes.”

I started to protest, but she cut me off.

“Our past mistakes, “ Sharon corrected herself. She took a deep breath before hesitantly asking her question, “Will you be my Valentine?”

I hadn't even realized that it was Valentine's Day. I was stunned by her question for a moment.

“I know you still have feelings for Tara, and I still love Alex, but I also know that it always seemed right that you and I would be together. People always said that, you know? They said it to me anyway; even Bud asked me why we weren't already going out once. I really do love you, and I hope that you still love me too. So will you...?” her question trailed off.

Her eyes looked so big and beautiful through her glasses; I had a lump in my throat, and didn't know what to say. This is what I wanted last year when we gave each other gag Valentine's gifts (I gave her a Naruto plush, even though she hates Naruto, and she gave me a volume of Deathnote yaoi), and it felt right now too, but I was scared to say what I really wanted to.

Sharon has been dropping some major hints on me that she wanted us to be more than just friends, and a big part of me wants that, but I've been worried about her mental state; whether or not she really knows what she wants. And what about Tara? I know she's dead, and in my dreams she says she wants me to be happy, but it still felt like I was contemplating betrayal.

Sharon continued to stare at me, her eyes looking hopeful and hurt at the same time. I knew what I wanted to say, but was it the right thing to say?

“Yes,” I whispered.

Sharon lunged at me, throwing her arms around me, and kissed me hard. It was our first kiss; well our first one like this anyway. It felt so right, and I felt guilt, and despair, and utter joy all at the same time. In the back of my head I heard Tara cheering me one, but I also heard her crying.

When Sharon pulled back, I could see that a couple of tears had escaped from her eyes; the firelight reflected off of their trails down her cheeks. She smiled at me, and said, “Open your present then.”

“I don't have one for you,” I said.

“It's nothing to get excited over,” Sharon cautioned, “It's from a drug store after all.”

I tore open the birthday wrap to reveal a small PVC gorilla in a graduation cap and gown. He was holding a heart in his hands that read ,”ConGRADulations, my love”.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It was either this or a blanket with sleeves, “Sharon said in her defense, “I told you that it was nothing to get excited over,”she leaned in and kissed me again.

I'm not sure if the record ended, or the player just ran down, but we stayed on the couch in each other's arms until long after the music stopped. When that happened Sharon led me to the den where we have been sleeping since Maria took over the master bedroom, and showed me what else she picked up at the drugstore. It wouldn't do to get pregnant now after all.

I'm not going to go into the details of what happened, other than to say that it was everything I ever fantasized it would be (other than the fact that we were in sleeping bags on the floor with a stuffed deer head looking down on us from over the window). Her skin, her lips, her touch....

It all felt so right, but even now I still feel guilty about it. I know, especially given the last choice she made, that Tara would have no right to accuse me of betrayal for this, but that doesn't stop me from feeling this way. She died for Alex while I lived for Sharon.

I can't help but wonder what things would be like now if this had happened last Valentine's Day. Would we be dead now? Would Mallville have been lost? Would Alex and Tara be alive? What would have happened to Pippa if we weren't here for her to find? Are the way things are now the best way they could be? Is the alternative even worse?

It doesn't matter now. Under all of my guilt I feel a strange sense of peace. It's like no matter what happens next I feel complete. I felt this way with Tara too, but this is different somehow. I don't really know if it's better or worse, but it is different.

The best way I can think to describe it would be to say that I had two soul mates. Sharon has always felt like an important part of me, but Tara felt like that too. Is it possible to have two soul mates? If you lose your soul mate, can you have another one?

Tara is still in my heart, and I don't imagine that I will ever stop loving her, but she is gone and she wouldn't want me to be alone for the rest of my life anymore than I would want her to be if things were reversed. I'm not sure how I'll deal with my feelings about all of this now, but at least I know I won't be alone while I deal with it.

I had better get back to bed before Sharon wakes up. We have a lot of lost time to make up for, and I don't want to waste any of it.

1 comment:

VoltRabbit said...

Ah, that man. Such a gentleman, doesn't kiss and tell. A cry'n shame ;-)