Title: Life Lessons in Old Navy
Genre: Romantic Dramedy
Summary: Marin hates Brendan Washburn. Then to her disgust she gets stuck taking art classes with him. But when she gets to know the real Brendan, he teaches her a new way to look at life...and love.
Life Lessons In Old Navy
Same Old Scenario, Same Old Rain
Moms are magical. They can take one look at you–just one single look–and know that there is something wrong. Maybe its something in our eyes. Something that sparkles, maybe? Something that twinges? Something that is a tint lighter, a shade darker? Were they wider, or narrower? Or maybe it was just because we are part of them. We have their eyes. We have their hair, their hands, their skin, their blood. Maybe its just how they know what they’re like when they’re sad that lets them know that you are, too.
But really, its just magic.
I stuck a few mouthfuls of Froot Loops into my mouth as cold white milk spilled over the rim of my spoon. My bed head hair was plastered to one side of my head, like I had been in a furious windstorm. Sleeping on my left side was habitual for me. Sure, I’d probably have some sort of weird gimp when I grew up that would make me walk sideways or something, but I still couldn’t stop. No matter how hard I tried, I always ended up in that position when I woke up.
Mom came into the kitchen. She took a familiar glance at the clock, which read eight thirty. I could tell she had been up for many hours. Many more than she should have been.
But then again, so had I.
Who was I to point fingers, then?
And then, Mom saw it.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked as she started the coffee maker. Slowly the sweet odor of coffee grounds filled the room, overpowering the scent of cardboard and cereal. I yawned, delaying my response. But I knew by now that there was no point in saying that there was nothing wrong. She wouldn’t buy it, even if that’s what I believed.
She was the only one I would answer this question honestly to. Everyone always asks you how you are. But they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t believe in the assurance that you would say “I’m fine” or “I’m good”. They would merely watch you with a close eye, just wondering when you’d start acting normal again. Trust is sacrificed for comfort too often. At least it is in my life.
“I had the dream again,” I answered, twisting the silver spoon in my fingers nervously as the pale kitchen lights danced on the surface.
Mom quietly threw away the coffee packaging into the garbage can under the sink. Her eyes traveled along the wall of the counter for a few moments, then she finally looked to me.
“Are you...okay?” She asked. She obviously never wanted to hear that dream again. I couldn’t blame here. Each vivid image is more than one person should see.
But I see it anyway.
I nodded. Sure, Mom. I was okay.
I felt her eyes bearing down on me as I turned down to stare into the small careless bubbles that floated around on the surface of my milk. They played tag around the Froot Loops, going in and out of the huge holes.
She burst out suddenly, “Dr. Richards called.”
Of all the things that I hated to hear, of all the things I hated to think about, of all the things I hated to remember, this was the worst to hear, to think, to remember.
I cringed, not taking my eyes off of my milk. Marin’s voice suddenly echoed in my head like a nagging teacher as it mocked, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
Mom’s eyes were full of sadness as she looked at me. “He wants you to come in for a blood test. Just to...you know...check up.” Her words were broken up, like a shattered mirror.
I dropped my spoon into my bowl and rested my right palm against my eye, pushing back a sudden oncoming headache. I didn’t want to have to think about that again.
After a moment of unsettling silence between us, I asked, “When?”
“Next Friday after your art class, if that’s okay.” Mom answered quietly.
I nodded in understanding, now taking up the silver spoon in my left hand. I played with it again, watching the milk slide out of the comforting pocket of the spoon into the large emptiness of the bowl as the Froot Loops shook helplessly on the waves.
I stood up suddenly, a deafening ring filling my ears. I walked past Mom without any thought. I just knew I had to get out of there. I had to get away. Away from the pale lights, away from the milk, away from it all. I went to the only place that kept fragments of my past stable. I could hear myself quivering as I climbed the stairs, past my room, past Jack’s room. I reached the white door; the door to my only safe place. I kept running away from the monster downstairs. I pulled open the handle and walked up the final set of stairs, sawdust catching on my toes from the stairs that never got finished.
A cold dribble had started outside. I could see it falling outside the windows. But it never got to me here.
It had been my dad’s office. This was where he came to work. But it had a different purpose now.
The stacks of paper on the large oak desk remained untouched, a thin layer of dust settling over the dark print. An old computer sat anciently in between the papers, silently wishing to be brought back to life. The old office chair sat waiting to fulfill its duties. The blue fabric that covered the seat was worn and faded, lost of its original azure. The once-tough tweed had lost its ambition and sagged hopelessly. There were old newspaper clippings push pinned to the wall. They were all the hero stories. The good stories. There was no bad for Dad. He wouldn’t have it. Every time a neighbor saved a family from a house fire, Dad cut the article. Any time a charity helped someone from a natural disaster, Dad cut the article. Any time some one won the spelling bee, Dad cut the article.
I read one of them silently to myself as tears burned the edges of my eyes. Four-year-old Saves Mother From Suffocating.
Dad always believed in heroes. He always believed in me, too.
But God knew I was no hero. I couldn’t even save him after all he did for me in my time of need.
I sat down on the floor, pulling a large brown cardboard box out from under the desk. It was full to the brim of photographs. Many were old and even starting to yellow on the edges. Some were Polaroids that came out half developed. We always used to laugh about those. I found one of me and Mickey Mouse at Disney World. Only the top of my hair was visible in the picture. I smiled faintly, remembering that very instance. Dad was wearing a yellow shirt. Yellow was his favorite color.
The ringing in my ears was dying away. I looked to the bookcase against the wall. Classic titles lined the shelf, begging to be read, begging to share their treasures. Look, look, The Three Musketeers. D’Artagnan asking me to come along on his adventures. See, the Scarlet Pimpernel. Dear Percy Blakeney telling me to help stop the French Bourgeoisie. Treasure Island, too. Long John Silver beckoning me to find treasure on a perilous journey.
I wanted to go. But I just couldn’t. Every time I thought about those books, I thought of when my Dad used to tuck me in at night, rustle my hair playfully, and sit on the edge of my bed as he read a chapter in the book. One at a time. Sometimes I fell asleep before he was done, but usually not. Sometimes the dreams that the books were made me want to dream enough to sleep, to have my own adventures.
I didn’t dream of adventures anymore. All I dreamt about were ghosts of my past traumas and the pain I felt when I went through them.
No adventures for me. No stopping the French for me. No finding treasure for me.
Fate had taken that away from me. And I wasn’t going to get it back. It had a grip like a vice on my hopes, my dreams, my love. It had taken it away from me, and left me cold and empty, thriving off memories and the will to try and make things better.
What was that? Oh, a splash from a tear had landed on the back of my hand. My cheeks were wet. How long had they been that way?
And the worst part of all that, you ask?
That was normal.
That, to me, was fine. I was fine.
Its such a shame that having someone else open your eyes can be so painful.
Denim suffocated me as I hazardously navigated the isles in Old Navy, trying to not make a fool of myself once again. Over the hill of pants in my arms I caught a glimpse of Marin, who was watching me carefully. She probably expected me to drop them spectacularly again. What can I say, I have a bad balance. Watching me dance is like watching drunk pirates throw baseballs.
Well, I mean, if you’ve ever seen drunk pirates throw baseballs.
I winked at her, grinning like a fool as I carried the pants away. She stuck out her bottom lip, and turned to a customer who was wondering around with a misguided look on her face. She swapped on her “customer-friendly” smile as she chimed, “Can I help you find something?”
A moment later, after heading halfway down the length of the store, someone swiped half of my stack of pants. I saw the grinning face of Shelbie beaming at me a moment later. “You looked like you could use some help,” she explained, tucking the pants under her arm.
“Are you going to pitch a race or something?” I questioned, relieved to have the rest of my vision returned to me.
“No. I wanted to ask you something,” she responded, leading the way towards the jean shelves. We reached them a moment later, signs like Boot Cut, Low Cut, and Hip Hugger hanging everywhere.
I’ll never understand girls and their pants. I mean, they’re just pants. Does it really matter how high they go up or how low they go down?
“What’s that?” I returned, wondering what she wanted as I placed three size sixes on the third lowest shelf.
Shelbie shoved her pants roughly onto the shelf in front of her. I wondered if they really all went there or if she just wasn’t in the mood to take the time to pinpoint their exact locations.
She faced me then, placing her hands against her hips, looking like she was ready to start the Macarena.
“I heard you’re taking art classes with our boss’s daughter. Marin.”
I appreciated the fact that she added on the Marin at the end since all of our boss’s daughters work with us and take art classes with me.
Okay, cheap attempt at sarcasm, I know.
“Yeah, I am. What about it?” I asked, vaguely wondering who had told her this. Marin was probably off bad-mouthing me and telling everyone of how I play with pencils and don’t look at people when they talk and pretend like I’m philosophical.
Or that I start with the cones.
“Well, I just find it kind of funny, you know? Since you don’t like her and she doesn’t like you. It’s like, why would you force yourself in a position where you have to be with someone you hate?” Shelbie responded, shifting her elbow against the shelf to rest her weight.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t hate her.”
“Sure seems like you do, with the way you’re always pointing out her flaws and talking back to her and belittling her character,” Shelbie’s eyes bore up at me like she was expecting me to say something earthshattering. Something amazing. Something shocking.
I really didn’t have anything like that for her, however. “I...don’t hate her,” was all I could say. That was all I thought I needed to say.
But apparently Shelbie needed more. Her thirst for competition made her quite ambitious and a wee bit nosy. But what can you do?
“Then why do you act that way around her?” She asked, a small smirk crawling up her lips, still aching for an earthshattering answer.
I thought about this. I really did. Why did I do those things to Marin? Why did I point out her flaws? Talk back to her? Belittle her character? I should know better. She is my boss’s daughter, after all. She could get me fired. And I knew worse people that I treated better. Why Marin? Maybe it was because she was my boss’s daughter. Maybe it was because her boyfriend Theo was such an ignoramus. Or maybe it was simply because I needed a catalyst. A catalyst that I could unwind my leftover grief and anger upon so that it wasn’t in me so much. Maybe that was why.
I finally answered, disappointing Shelbie once again. “I don’t know,” I said. Because truly, I didn’t. I truly didn’t know.
Shelbie frowned, like she had been expecting to get some serious dirt that she could use to her advantage later. Instead she just sighed and responded, “Fine, whatever. You want to help me with the new baby shoes?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
I sincerely tried to be on time to my art class that week. I left as early as I could. But I was still late. Fate seemed to have doomed me to be late to everything for the rest of my life. It was really an unfortunate curse.
As I ran down the hall past the dentist and past the chiropractic clinic the pounding of my feet against the linoleum floor echoed against the walls, bouncing sharply into my ear drums. I finally reached the door at the end of the hall reading Art Life and I burst into the classroom. I suddenly regretted doing that, betting that the art students, who were all probably hard at work at their canvases creating master pieces, would be disrupted by my intrusion into their sanctuary.
I opened my mouth to whisper an apology to Pam Thatcher, but then my eyes caught the scene going on in front of me.
I saw something terrible. Something horrifying. Something that no male should ever have to see, let alone encounter in his entire life. Something that struck fear into the bravest hearts. Something that took the noblest men and turned them into complete fools.
I gaped at the classroom. It stood in the center of the room, where all the tables and canvases and chairs had been pushed up against the walls to create space. The art students stood in a circle around the horror. The terrible.
It was truly frightening. It was a menace to society. A real villain.
A dance teacher.
Note from the authoress who has been listening to Phantom of the Opera for too long and should go to bed!
Well readers, I hope you like this chapter! I don’t feel its as good as the last one I wrote from Brendan’s perspective, but I did like that last part. Ooooh, what does dancing have in store for Brendan? And what about Marin? Oh yes, predictableness ahead. Anyway, please review! Let me know how its going!
By the way, I didn’t make this very clear before but they just barely graduated from high school so its summer. There you go! :)
Chapter One - God Bless the Monotone Life
Chapter Two - For All the Ifs in the Middle of Life
Chapter Three - If I Knew Better I Wouldn't Be Here