“Well, that bloody sucks!” Annabelle complained loudly, throwing her hands up in the air.
There were screams from nearby pedestrians, cries of fear and sympathy, pitiful glances and horrified looks as well as a few rubber-necking busy bodies trying to get a better look at the too-still body on the ground. With a scowl, Annabelle folded her arms and stared down at the too-familiar body of the teen girl at her feet. A cold wind rushed away the umbrella the figure had previously held, the rain drenching the fallen girl’s clothes and blonde locks, the water diluting the blood…
“Damn, that’s got to have almost pierced my lung,” Annabelle muttered crossly, staring down at the damage to her own body and ignoring the way she could see through her current ghostly form. “I don’t believe this!”
She glowered at the panicked van driver who jumped out of his vehicle to run to her fallen side. She swiped her transparent arm at the stupid man who had run the red light, dissatisfied when her arm went through the idiot.
“You killed me!” she accused angrily, no one hearing her and the fact annoyed her more than ever. “You’ve damn well killed me! How am I supposed to finish school?” She demanded, “How am I going to get to my appointment at University next week? That was for my scholarship!” It occurred to her at that moment that school and her future was pretty well down the drain if she died, and that maybe she ought to be regretting a few other things like the fact— “Anthony Charles doesn’t know I exist yet,” she moaned. She stared morosely down at her body then amended, “Well that I used to exist, at least. Shit.”
Then she remembered her diary collection under her bed and wondered how her mother would react to finding the stash when they cleaned out her room, since her whole life was in there. How she embarrass herself at the prom, prank her teacher, first time watching porn - everything. That was enough to make her groan, drop onto the ground, and bury her face in his hands.
“My mother is going to freak out, and Dad is going to wonder where he went wrong,” she moaned. “They are going to be so disappointed in me…” Another thought occurred to her then and she grimaced, wrapping her arms around himself and hunching a little more. “And now I’m going to hell for my… perversion. Ugh! This totally sucks.”
She remained curled as splashing wet footfalls came running. “Oh my God,” said the newcomer in a soft and shocked voice. The young male, sounding eerily familiar, demanded, “What happened?”11
“I was pushing to get past the yellow light,” the agitated driver replied honestly. “It turned red just as I passed. She wasn’t looking, she was reading a book, I guess when she heard the pedestrian signal beeping for her to go so she just stepped forward then suddenly— Look, it was an accident!” The driver sounded like an honest guy and Annabelle felt a little guilty for trying to hit him. “It was an accident, I swear!”
There were little musical noises, the kind from a mobile phone, before the familiar voice urgently said, “Emergency ambulance please! A pedestrian has been run over at a crossing, she needs immediate help!” There was a pause and movement, and Annabelle nearly gave in to the urge to look up but she was dead and whatever these nice people did, nothing could really change that. She remained dejectedly balled up and listened, enjoying that some random people cared enough to try.
“Yes, she’s breathing!” said the voice, making Annabelle start. “One side looks horrible! There’s a gash down the side of her face and neck, her arm looks completely broken and under that in her lower abdomen there appears to be a… a… I don’t know, but it looks like it’s caved in! There’s no blood but her bones—under the skin— God, it’s sunken in and looks awful.”
There was genuine panic in that distraught voice as it continued to list Annabelle’s injuries before relaying their location, and those emotions finally made Annabelle look up. When she did, she distantly thought that if she’d had a heart, it would have stopped.
“So he does know I exist,” Annabelle dazedly mused at the sight of her school crush of two years, Anthony Charles himself, kneeling in the wet road, mindless of the falling rain and panicking. Over her own body she recognized Anthony’s trench-coat but-- she watched in shock as Anthony reached for her cheek, smoothing knuckles lightly over the too pale skin.
“Anna,” Anthony murmured softly, shocking Annabelle all over again. He urgently begged, “Please…” He had a mobile phone pressed to his left ear which he angled when he spoke again, “Yes, I do know the victim.”
Pause, nod. “Annabelle Crown, she’s a senior student at Brooks Academy.” Pause. In an anxious voice, “No, I don’t know her blood type.” Pause. “Um, no, I don’t…” His expression cleared and he excitedly declared, “But the school has records! They have her medical records and blood type and they’ll know who to contact in this case!” He paused before he gave a brief and rueful smile. “Okay, great. Yea, I can hear them now.”
Ambulance, Annabelle realised with a tilt of her head to listen. There came a strange sensation on her ghostly hand and she lifted it up to stare at it, momentarily startled. As she looked through her hand… she realised that behind it Anthony was holding her physical hand. She stared in wonder, a warm sensation expanding in her chest.
Two sets of uniform-clad legs stepped into view but Annabelle paid them little mind, eyes fixed on where Anthony gripped her hand. She bemusedly clenched the same hand in her current form, her left, enjoying the phantom-faint sensations.
“Officer,” Anthony nodded, acknowledging the uniformed policeman crouching beside him.
“Did you see what happened?” the officer asked gently, pulling out a notebook as his partner pulled the van driver away to question him as well.
“Not really, I was a little too far away,” Anthony answered. His attention focused mainly on the approaching Ambulance, eyes narrowing when it appeared to be held up. People tried to sort themselves and their cars to get out of the way and let the Ambulance get closer to the accident site.
“You know this girl, I see,” the officer said as he nodded down at their clasped hands. “You’re wearing the same uniform, aren’t you?”
“We go to the same school,” Anthony replied shortly, attention drawn away when the medics, unable to get the ambulance any closer, jumped out of the back and ran for them, carrying a folded-up stretcher.
“What’s your name, kid?” asked the officer as he stood, gesturing to move away from the scene. “I’ve got a lot to ask you--”
“And that’s fine if you have a lot to ask, I am happy to cooperate. My name is Anthony Charles,” he replied. “But I’m going with this girl,” he pointed, “to the hospital. You can find and speak to me there.”
“I see,” the officer said, eyeing again where their hands joined. “Thanks for talking with me.” He stepped away toward the supervising medic. “See you later.”
“This is unreal,” Annabelle muttered, astounded at everything Anthony had said and done. “This can’t be real… and I’m dreaming… or dead…”
It wasn’t like in the movies where ghosts could just float around and go places, Annabelle realized. She had to run and make sure she could get on the ambulance as it left, dazed as she watched Anthony watch her intently the entire way. She followed through closing doors and rushing people to the hospital, startled at the number of other translucent people about the place. She was rather relieved to find she couldn’t really see them very well, and actually couldn’t hear them at all —but oh, it was so cool to go through stuff.
She watched as she was attended to in Emergency surgery, Anthony refusing to release her hand the entire way.
“Talk to her,” the doctor said with a nod as he worked quickly. “People in a coma should have someone here to remind them they should wake up.” There was a swarm of people about Annabelle’s body now, calling out measurements and dosages, demanding for an operating theatre to be made available.
“Coma?” Anthony whispered dazedly into the empty curtained-off section. He sat back down heavily. When he turned back to Annabelle’s still body, his eyes were wet. “I should have been closer, shouldn’t I?” He stroked Annabelle’s cheek murmuring, “I should have been close enough to say something or pull you back or even push you out of the way… something!” He shook his head and said softly, “I’m sorry…”
Annabelle stared, still and shocked.
Anthony whispered urgently, “I’m so sorry, Anna.”
“Anna!” shrieked a far-away voice.
“Mom?” Anna turned, poking her head out through the curtains to see her mother striding down toward her little booth.
“Right over here,” said the nurse gently with a gesture.
Annabelle turned back toward her bed, nervous about what her mother would think to see Anthony holding her hand and bent over her… but there was no one in her bed-side chair. The curtain into the empty booth beside her own was still swaying, so it was safe to assume Anthony had escaped. She wanted to go have a look through that curtain, puzzled but unable to decide what might be going on, but her mother yanked her booth curtain back.
“Anna!” She dove for Annabelle’s bedside so quickly, one of the nurses had to warn her not to jostle Anna in her bed.
“Mom…” Annabelle watched her burst into tears as a doctor explained what had happened.
Annabelle was swamped with guilt at her mom’s misery. She shrieked when, at that moment, the nurses prepared to wheel Annabelle away. Strangely, without really trying, she felt herself being floatily drawn away with them as they rushed her body away.
And when she glanced back at the swinging doors, she mourned how her mother wept but… behind her, through the curtains, there were a set of warm and worried eyes watching her go. The sadness and regret shone so potently that Annabelle wanted, if she saw Anthony again, to wipe and kiss that sadness away.
“Anthony?” Annabelle squawked. She glanced worriedly at her parents; no one could see or hear her, still. And her body… well, she’d been down for a second day running.
Mr and Mrs Crown looked up from where they each distraughtly clutched one hand of their daughter’s. Anthony had his head poked in through the doorway. He glanced at each parent and said, “Sorry, Mr and Mrs Crown, to disturb you. I… uhh… I’m a friend of Anna’s from school.”
Mr Crown recovered his manners first, “Of course, please come in.” His voice was hoarse and Annabelle felt horrible. If she’d had a throat, it would have been balled shut in emotion at seeing her parents this way. “We haven’t met you before, have we?”
“Um, no sir. I’m Anthony.” He hesitated, “Anthony Charles, sir, ma’am.” He glanced nervously back and forth between the two adults. His nose scrunched up a bit as he brokenly attempted to explain, “We don’t usually hang out much. Um, or talk much. But we’re friends… she and I are both into theatre…”
“Don’t worry, dear, you’re welcome to come and visit when you please,” Mrs Crown interrupted softly. She looked tired and drawn. “Is there something you came for today? She’s just come back from surgery and she’s still…”
Anthony looked over at Annabelle on the bed, an expression flickering over her gaze a moment before she turned back to Mrs Crown and replied, “I was just wondering if I could sit with her a bit.”
Mrs Crown studied him for a moment before she nodded and waved him in, releasing her daughter’s hand and reaching for a tissue. She stood as Anthony carefully approached, gesturing him into her chair. “Oh, you dear, did you come straight after school? You’re still wearing your uniform.”
“Oh, uhh… yeah,” Anthony smiled a little, fidget-fingering his clothes.
“Liar,” Annabelle fondly muttered, though no one could hear her. “You’ve been here all day again, haven’t you?”
“Don’t worry about a thing. But it’s getting late and visiting hours will be over soon. So please,” she motioned him to take a seat again. “She needs to hear more than just the two of us worrying about her.” She gave him a wobbly smile, “Tell her nice things, you hear?”
She caught her husband’s eye and indicated the door, “We should get some coffee, hm?”
Puzzled but cooperative, Mr Crown got up and followed his wife. Annabelle frowned as she watched them go. What was going on?
“Hey Anna,” Anthony whispered as he sat, gaze losing all sense of his surroundings and studying Annabelle’s sleeping face. The door was swinging shut behind Annabelle’s parents when he added, “I missed you today, you imp.”
Annabelle smiled. “I wish I had known you would miss me.” She joked to herself, “Coz if I had known ‘absence makes the heart go fonder’ would work then I’d have made myself scarce and had you chase me to begin with!” She sighed as she watched Anthony clutch her hand, that phantom sensation rising on her hand again. “I can feel it when you hold me, and I can feel it when my parents hold me.” He mused, “But not when the doctors or nurses touch me… I can’t feel those.”
“I hope you can hear me,” Anthony whispered, leaning closer to the sleeping body as though trying to convey something important that would be defaced if spoken above a whisper. “The specialists say in books about people in comas, someone who loves them should speak to them… makes them find their way back from the sleep.” He rubbed his thumb over Annabelle’s hand. “I really… I really wish you could feel this.”
“Maybe that’s why I do,” Annabelle murmured to himself. “Because you want me to, because it matters to you that I do.” She smiled a little, “Love, huh?”
Anthony talked for a long while, not even noticing when Annabelle’s mother poked her head in to check up on them. He told Annabelle how the theatre club had panicked a little when they’d heard about her accident, no longer certain what to do with their production project without such a pivotal character. Oh sure, the Second was fine… but Annabelle…
Finally, Anthony fell quiet. He whispered again, “I know…” he gulped, leaned closer, “I know you don’t know me, you probably have no idea that I exist, but I wish… I wish you knew how much this scares me… I wish you knew how I feel.” There stole a soft smile over his face when he added, “so when you’re better, I promise… you’ll find out.” Urgently, he added, “You’ll find out there’s one more person who cares about you, okay?”
“I’ll hold you to it,” Annabelle whispered softly, unthinkingly reaching out to cover Anthony’s hand where it lay on her body’s physical one. She swore she could feel a pause in resistance before her hand slipped through Anthony’s and that Anthony’s eyes widened a moment –but she could not be sure because…
All she knew was that when her ghost hand hit her body’s hand, it seemed to pull him in. It was like a great and gentle vacuum, sucking her phantom hand in and her ghostly form up from where she stood into a great fall down, down, down…
“She’s waking up,” said a distant and clogged-sounding voice.
Annabelle felt heavy. There was no other description; a tired and exhausted, bone-drained heaviness of weary weight. She couldn’t move, but at the same time, her mind moved. Rising, slowly, cotton-filled and sluggish… a laborious waking from the deepest sleep she could ever have imagined.
Wasn’t she supposed to be up early today? She’d probably fallen asleep in the office again, her dad had told her often enough not to settle too comfortably into the over-stuffed couch they kept in there because she kept falling asleep in it. Studying… she was studying, wasn’t she?
What time was it?
“Honey, can you hear me?”
Mom. She sounded worried.
Had she fallen and hurt himself? There had been that horrible time she’d fallen from the couch, she’d smacked her head on the corner of the oak coffee table and split a side of her skull open. Okay, so it had only been her scalp but it had still been a very bloody affair. She’d knocked herself out and freaked her mother in the process… but that little oak table was gone. Her mother had relished burning it in the back yard the day they’d returned from hospital…
Mom? She couldn’t speak. Dad?
“Hey, Anna, I’m here.” Dad!
She tried to speak, tried to open her—ugh, her eyes were so heavy and her tongue wouldn’t cooperate. What had happened? “Da--” she coughed. “Muhh…”
“Oh, baby, don’t try to speak if you can’t.” His mother sounded as though she were crying. She felt her then, warm on her arm and in her hand, her mother’s bright perfume wafting comfortingly over her.
“Muhh…m…” she tried to squeeze her hand in return. She must have succeeded because Mom began to cry harder. “Dahh…d…?”
“I’m here, too.” Another hand, larger, warmed enveloping her other hand.
“Mom… crying?” she swallowed a few times, the words odd on her tongue.
“Yes, Anna, she is.” She felt her father stroke her bangs off her face in that tender way of his. “But that’s because she’s happy. Not sad.”
“Wha…” She was so tired, her blurry gaze slipping narrower and narrower as her eyelids fell, having never really focused at all. “What…” she swallowed again and licked chapped lips. “What happened?”
“You were in an accident, Anna,” her dad whispered to her. “But you’re alright now. We’ve got you.”
Fear made her clutch her parents’ hands, “Don’t…” her eyes had shut now, but she managed to scrunch up her brow, “Don’t go…”
From a great distance she heard her father’s reply, “We’ll stay right here. Just come back soon, okay?”
And she did.
They told her it had been a full week since she was brought in.
And it had been a full day since she’d first woken, but don’t worry because she really was making such good progress. The doctors prodded and tested and asked all sorts of questions. She answered everything, feeling like a little kid because she didn’t feel safe or alright alone with all these strange professionals. She held her mom or dad’s hand like a child.
But they didn’t mind and eventually she felt much better, urged them to get back to work and visit later. Later, later, she said. Visiting hours are okay, really. And in another two days, she said, yes she was doing fine and feeling better so… um, could she please have some lasagne?
Her parents laughed. She’d always loved lasagne. Her doctors smiled, declared it was a very good sign… but no lasagne yet.
She pouted and her parents laughed again.
All through it all, Annabelle knew that there was something a little off.
As though there was something important… important, she knew it was… but she had forgotten. And it was time for therapy anyway.
“Yes, mom,” Annabelle wearily replied on the Monday morning of her first day back to school, six weeks after the accident.
“Don’t start with me and that tone of voice, young lady,” she said. “You were in an accident. You had an up close and personal with a truck of all things.”
“Yea, I know. And I lost, I get it.” She calmly shrugged as her mother tossed her a horrified glance. “Mental note, don’t pick fights with trucks.” Thoughtfully she tapped her chin, ignoring the storm clouds gathering in her mother’s eyes, “Or maybe, just with anything generally bigger and faster…”
“Annabelle Lyle Crown!” screeched her mother, snatching up her wooden kitchen spoon and hurling it at her –which she easily ducked. “That was not funny!”
“Aw, come on, mom!” Annabelle reasoned on a childish whiney tone of voice, “Everything’s okay.” Before she could argue some more, Annabelle jumped forward and pounced, grabbing her in a hug which she immediately returned. “It’s a Monday, my first day back at school. Dad is driving me, and I feel like a complete wuss I’m not even allowed to walk to school by myself by the way, so everything is going to be just peachy.”
In a very small voice she whispered, “I… I was so…”
Annabelle hugged her tighter, “I know, mom. I love you.”
“I love you so much, Anna…” There came a quick honk of car from outside and Mom pulled away, brushing her hands quickly over her eyes. Snatching up a box of finger food Mom’d made for her lunch, she shoved it at Annabelle and made shooing motions to the door, “Go on then, off with you. Tell your father to drive safely and you,” she shook a finger at her, “You go to the med centre if you need a rest! Don’t force yourself today because, you know, you only argued your way into starting school again up so soon because if I’d had my way--”
“You would never let me out of the house again!” Annabelle finished and dashed out the door, chased by her mother’s shout. She grinned as she hopped into the passenger side of the car, adjusting her skirt and throwing her father an innocent look.
“You really shouldn’t stress your mother out again so soon, Anna,” her father berated as they backed out of the driveway.
“She’s being all clingy and weird,” Annabelle reasoned calmly as she popped open her lunch box. “You know how she gets.” She stuffed one of her mother’s gourmet finger sandwiches into her mouth and closed her eyes with rapture. Her dad chuckled, and she offered the box up at the next stoplight, “The only thing I can be grateful about with those weird white-gloved Sunday lunches she hosts is that she’s learned to make the tastiest little sandwiches ever.”
“They are pretty good,” her dad agreed warmly, helping himself. The light turned green and they pulled away, and when he was only halfway done chewing, he pointedly asked, “Isn’t this supposed to be your lunch?”
“But I’m hungry now…” she rolled away her eyes, twirling her hair innocently.
“You eat at least twice as much as I did when I was your age,” he muttered. “And you’re a girl. You’ll turn into giant eight, you know,”
Annabelle laughed as she fed her dad a sandwich. “You, don’t complain! I share! And I need to build my strength back up.”
At school, lunch box empty, Annabelle accepted a fold of bills from her father, “Don’t overfeed yourself, young lady.”
Saluting with mock solemnity, Annabelle replied, “Yessir! Thank you, sir!”
“Maybe you can buy your friend lunch today, then,” Her dad said with a soft chuckle as Annabelle shut the passenger side door.
“Hm?” she asked distractedly, tucking the money away. “What friend?”
“That boy who came by the hospital; visited almost every day in fact.” There was a thoughtful pause before, “Anthony, I think he said his name was? Two first names… Anthony Charles, I believe it was. Nice kid. Is he your boyfriend?”
Annabelle remained frozen as her dad called a last farewell and pulled away with a cheery wave.
Dazedly she shuffled to class, people glancing at her worriedly all over the place. A few people stopped to talk to her but she was too shell-shocked to reply more than thank you, yes she was doing fine, of course she would be going to class today…
She’d thought they were dreams, three weeks’ worth of nights in recovery and recuperation filled with fragmented dreams of Anthony Charles at the accident site, the ER and her hospital room. After all, Anthony didn’t know she existed. They’d never spoken… never really got anywhere beyond meeting eyes and a small smile as they passed in the halls or at Silver Star theatre summer camp…
Anthony hadn’t recognised her at school from camp, nor at camp from school. Well, she’d always styled herself differently but still…
Anthony Charles? Uh, hello! School’s biggest jock, totally cool and very stylish; leader of the school society like all the other popular kids.
And so completely a different person at summer camp every single year…
But then as she climbed slowly up the steps to her first class, there stepped in front of her Anthony Charles himself, looking as delicious as ever, one hand touching briefly at her arm and it burned…
“Hi,” Anthony said softly, an almost intimate tone to it.
“Um…” Annabelle’s mind went blank. The only thing she could be grateful for was that her face had probably gone blank too. “Hi.”
“So, uhh… you don’t know me but I wanted to say it’s good to see you… better.” Anthony looked quite ill at ease and Annabelle thought it rather endearing.
“Your accident… I uh, I kind of know all about it. It was pretty rough,” Anthony explained, nervously gesticulating with one hand. “It was a truck that hit you, after all, and you had a lot of injuries. Plus you were in a coma, right?” He smiled nervously, “So it’s really good to see you back on your feet so soon.”
“Thank you,” Annabelle replied, embarrassed. She could feel the heat of a blush climbing up her neck.
“How’s your arm?” Anthony asked with what looked like genuine concern. “Are you sure you shouldn’t keep that in a sling?”
“It’s doing pretty well, actually,” Annabelle replied slowly, lifting it a little and twirling her hair. “My shoulder doesn’t hurt so much anymore and I couldn’t wear a sling coz of this.” She turned her head a bit, showing off the line of stitches up her neck.
“Right!” Anthony stared in sympathetic horror at the long, snaking scar. “Yea, no way you could rest a sling on that.”
Feeling a little embarrassed at the attention she’d just drawn to the ugly marks, Annabelle looked down and awkwardly said, “Thanks for asking, though. I appreciate the concern.”
They stood in discomfited silence for a bit, shuffling their feet. Annabelle wished he could think of something to say but every interaction she’d had with this guy had been a… a dream –and that held absolutely no common ground in reality!
“Right…” Anthony gave a quiet little sigh which made Annabelle look up uncertainly. Anthony gave a small smile, “Here, this is for you.” He presented a long, slim parcel wrapped in colourful and easy to tear wrapping tissue… the kind a mainly one-armed person would find easiest to unwrap.
“What’s this?” Annabelle asked puzzled, as she accepted it.
“It’s a welcome-back present.” With a roll of his eyes when Annabelle just stared at it, Anthony prodded, “Well open it.”
Pulling the flimsy tissues away, Annabelle revealed-- “A silver umbrella. Hey, it’s just like my old one from…”
“Silver Star,” Anthony finished.
“You… that… but they don’t make these anymore,” Annabelle stuttered, astonished. “And how do you--?”
“I’ve had it since I went last year,” Anthony explained. An odd expression crossed his face and he said slowly, “You know, there was this one day I saw the same one like this out on the street. There was some girl under it, all serious, wearing glasses and all that… and I knew this girl must have been at Silver Star but I didn’t recognize her at first so I kind of… stared.” He shrugged, “I wanted to know who she was.”
Annabelle stared, her heart thumping. Her numb fingers clenched around the umbrella, waiting and listening…
“I had so few classes in common with the girl so it took a few walks to school to figure it out.” Anthony rubbed sheepishly at the back of his neck and, “Pretty weird of me to mention I looked for and watched a girl. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal but that girl… I didn’t know anyone from this school went to Silver Star, its kind of obscure and… well, thy girl, she smiled at Professor Vincent in the halls one day… and I realised who it was. Or should I say, who you are?”
Annabelle cringed, “Don’t tell me you recognised me from Silver Star…”
“Can’t do that.”
She begged, “Don’t tell me this has anything to do with last year’s Les Miserable production at Silver Star…”
Anthony smiled and replied, “Can’t do that either.”
Cradling her forehead with her hand, Jamison moaned, “Oh no.”
Annabelle’s brow creased when she realised, “Hold on. You noticed me because of my silver umbrella?”
“I realised we went to the same summer school because of the silver umbrella,” Anthony corrected. “But I first saw you at Silver Star.” He explained with a gesture to Annabelle’s hair, “You look different with your hair curled and contacts in, the way you did everyday of camp.” He smiled at Annabelle’s startled look. “Oh yes, I pieced the two looks together eventually. But it wasn’t until then that I did. And it was at that moment I realised how I’d missed catching you after the Les Miserable production, coz I remember seeing you glasses on and hair straight leaving off to one side of the stage.” He cringed, “I just didn’t know it was the same girl.”
“Oh,” Annabelle sighed, feeling a little disappointed. But her heart lurched at the indication Anthony had been waiting for her after that long-ago show.
“Look,” Anthony said softly, “I know I failed The Great Recognition Test. I should have known that was you. So I’m sorry, really I am… and I was hoping you might give me a chance to… well, to see those sides again. Maybe even more sides to you…?”
Frozen, Annabelle stared. “Um, you sound… pardon me for saying this, but you sound like you’re--”
“Asking you out?” Anthony shrugged, “I am.”
“How did…? Huh? When did you…?” Annabelle sputtered, “What is going on here, is this some kind of joke?”
“Last I checked…” Anthony trailed off. But then he looked mortified suddenly, “Oh gosh… Um, I heard you were… Oh God, I’m wrong, aren’t I?” He looked crestfallen. “I am so sorry, Anna, I totally thought that you were single and like me and I…” His expression melted into misery, “Oh you’re never going to talk to me again, are you? Shit.”
“Hold it!” Annabelle commanded with a snap of the umbrella and Anthony stared warily as she took a deep breath, “You’re telling me that you… you’re asking me out?”
“Uhh…” Anthony half smiled, “Yes?”
“Answer the questions with statements, please.”
Anthony squared his shoulders then repeated firmly, “Yes.”
“And this isn’t a joke?”
“Not a prank?”
Annabelle stared a moment before bemusedly murmuring to herself, “Could it be that wasn’t a dream?”
“Pardon me?” Anthony tilted his head to one side, expression curious.
“You were there when I was hit,” Annabelle said excitedly, almost accusingly. “You held my hand, you sat by my bed side… and you talked about what the drama club was doing without me.”
Amazed, Anthony demanded, “How do you know that?!”
“I thought I dreamed it,” Annabelle confessed. “I thought you never knew I existed. I was totally convinced it was some sort of warped dream fantasy. I would have sworn it all happened but you weren’t there when I woke up so…”
“You heard me?” Anthony looked quietly happy, a small smile blooming across his face. “I didn’t know if you could but the doctors said it would help and I had never spoken to you up front before.” He sighed, “Wow.”
“So it really… happened?”
Looking proud and happy, Anthony replied, “Yes it did.”
“So this… date--”
“If you’re not single, I totally understand--”
“I am.” Annabelle smiled, holding her suddenly more precious than anything umbrella a little closer and repeated more firmly, “I am.”
A huge grin split Anthony’s face a moment before dimming a little and he hesitantly asked again, “So will you give me a second chance?”
Annabelle smiled, “I’ve been watching you since Silver Star too, actually.”
“I… uh… actually really liked you in your Grease production…”
“You only liked the leather, admit it,” Anthony snorted, cheeks colouring a little. “It was a rotten production.”
Holding up what fingers she could in surrender, thumbs hooked on the umbrella, “Guilty as charged on the count of Leather Admiration. And the production wasn’t that bad.”
Anthony laughed. When he got his mirth down to chuckling, he said, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Annabelle said softly, shyly, “Well I’m glad it finally did.”
Smiling with joy, eyes warm and tender, Anthony stepped forward. He took care to avoid Annabelle’s injuries and tentatively enveloped the younger girl in a warm and gentle hug. As they settled into each other, he whispered into a sensitive ear, “I’ve wanted to do this since you argued with Coach Francis.”
“The Silver Star dance instructor?” Annabelle hugged back, pushing her nose softly into Anthony’s neck and moaned, “That was two years ago and to this day I still can’t believe he tried to teach us that lame-ass routine…”
Anthony laughed again, shoulders shaking, and he relaxed into the embrace. “I thought you were clever, passionate and focused. I admired you from that day.”
They pulled apart a little, but remained leaning into the other, meeting each other’s eyes. “You caught my eye on Quiz Night,” Annabelle confessed, and Anthony gave her a startled look. Nodding, she explained, “That first year, the first day of camp. I’d seen you at school all polished and pure jock. You were so popular! But at Silver Star, you just let loose and goofed off. You had… have… such a sense of humour and your jokes were actually intelligent.” She admitted, “I never suspected you’d have a side to you like that.” With a shrug, he added, “But you tucked that side away at school.”
“Is that why you didn’t come and talk to me at school?” Anthony asked curiously. “Seeing as how you knew who I was?”
“Yes, it was,” Annabelle admitted. She rolled her eyes, “I can’t accuse you of duplicity since I changed my look for summer camp as you did. There’s obviously more to us… than the Everyday.” Then she added softly, bashfully, “But now I can’t wait to meet all the other sides to you.”
“Any side of me and I’ll show it,” Anthony murmured back decisively, fingers gently stroking back a lock of Annabelle’s hair.
“So shall we start with lunch?” Annabelle said happily as she leaned into the embrace. “It’s my dad’s treat.”
“Any day, Anna,” Anthony whispered softly, “and anytime. As long as it’s you.”