A university student who never gets noticed finally gets a break. But, how long will it last? Angst only in parts. Not always romance either.
"Finished being snotty yet?" Brendon asked, flipping his cell phone into the air and catching it again. His face was devoid of expression. She stopped in the middle of the hallway and put her hand in her pocket, wrapping her hand around the key for a fast exit.
"Brendon, I'm sorry I stormed out of the party like that. I shouldn't have, it was rude." She looked at the chic carpeting beneath her feet.
"Oh, don't apologize to me, it's to everyone else. Although, it was I who thought to buy you the birthday cake that just ended up in the garbage." He laughed and smiled sardonically. "Jon, Spencer and Ryan all put in something special for your party, and we invited everyone and made sure that you wouldn't find out and here we thought you would just love it, but I guess you aren't one for surprises." She bit her lip, trying not to say something she would regret, she was so angry. She wished she could just explain it to him, but couldn't find the words to do it. Brendon walked by, clapping her on the back.
"Have a good night." He didn't mean it. Before he could even disappear into his room, she was off the way she came towards the elevators to take her to the gym.
When she got to the gym, she put her earphones on and changed into her sneakers from her duffle bag. Three Days Grace pounded in her ears as she ran around the track, trying to get her frustration and anger out without hitting anyone.
Half an hour later, Ryan knocked on Brendon's door. When he entered, Brendon was lying on his bed watching television.
"Where's AmeliÃ©? Do you know?" Ryan sat on the edge of his bed, looking uninterestedly at the screen.
"Last time I checked, running around in the gym." Ryan made a face at him.
"At two thirty in the morning?" He asked, running a hand over his head, then he saw the smirk on Brendon's face. "Brendon, what the hell did you do?" He lay back on the bed.
"I laid the guilt trip on her. She deserves it, the spoiled brat. Her parents probably threw these huge parties for her and the best that we could do wasn't good enough for her." Ryan went to pull back the drapes to look into the gym, spotting AmeliÃ© running around.
"I think it's more than that, Bren." He stood watching her slow progress. "When she walked in, she was surprised, but then there was that look on her face, it wasn't excitement."
"No, it was disappointment." Brendon flipped channels during the commercial break to see what else was on.
"It wasn't disappointment. It was something like sadness. She seemed sad about something, almost like she wanted to cry." He went to sit back on the bed.
"What could possibly be so bad about a birthday that makes you want to cry? I mean, she didn't even eat her birthday cake to make us feel like we'd done something right."
"I don't know, there's obviously something, and I'm going to try to figure it out; see if she'll tell me. She feels ashamed for acting like that, I can tell, because she wouldn't answer any of our phone calls." Brendon didn't say anything. "Also, last night when I went to give her bag back, she told me she shouldn't celebrate her birthday. She was being careful the whole time talking to me, but that slipped out. Not just that she didn't want to celebrate, but that she shouldn't celebrate." Brendon shrugged.
AmeliÃ© felt someone jog up behind her. When she looked to the side, Ryan smiled brightly at her.
"Hey." He was out of breath. She didn't say anything and when they neared the bleachers, she didn't show any signs of wanting to stop, so he pushed her gradually off the track until she had no choice but to stop. She took her headphones off.
"What?" She gulped from her water bottle.
"Why are you running this late at night?" He flopped onto his back, tired from following her for three laps.
"Because I can't sleep." She started pacing, wringing her hands.
"Why are you shaking?" Ryan sat up, concerned. She folded her arms, aware of her shaking now.
"Because." He was getting on her nerves.
"Why?" He asked again.
"Because I want to hit something and I don't want it to be Brendon." She blurted. Ryan was silent for a while."
"Why shouldn't you celebrate your birthday?" He scratched his chin, keeping himself propped up on his other hand. She stopped pacing and stared at him.
"What?" Her voice was small and meek.
"Yesterday, you said that you shouldn't celebrate your birthday, but you obviously weren't aware that you said it." He smiled shyly, but was glad he called her on that.
"I'm tired, I'm going to bed." She grabbed her bag and left. This time, Ryan was prepared for her to try and back out of the confrontation. When she left, he got up and ran to the nearest staircase and raced up the stairs, hurtling down her floor towards her room. When he reached it, he shoved the key in the lock and threw himself in, shutting the door behind him. He took a deep breath and had time to sit in a chair before she opened the door herself. She didn't even see him until the door was already closed.
"Ryan, how did you get in here?" She asked, throwing her back on the floor in exasperation.
"Spare key." He jingled it proudly between his fingers to show her. She sighed and sat on her bed. It was then that he saw how tired she was. She couldn't even keep her eyes all the way open and she was slumped, she couldn't hold her posture straight like she normally did.
"Elly, did you sleep last night?" He went to sit beside her. She shook her head to imply no.
"I told you, I couldn't sleep."
"What about the night before?" Again, she shook her head.
"Not really. It's been kind of hard lately." Ryan's face softened a little. How had he not noticed the extent to which she was depleting?
"What is it about the song 'Traveling Soldier' that makes you cry?" He asked, deciding that being gentle would get him nowhere and tried being blunt. She sighed, all the anger ebbing away. Instead she was filled with an incomprehensible empty aching.
"I don't want your sympathy, or your pity." She waited for him to say something, but he was waiting for her to tell him, and so she took a deep breath and tried to tell him. "I had a best friend, and I knew him since I was three. We were so close. He would pick me up everyday after school and we would go out for coffee and talk about our day and just hang out. It was the best. Then one day he told me that he joined the army. He was shipped off to Afghanistan. Before he left, he gave me a hug and told me not to worry. That he would come back to me. On my birthday last year, I was at home with my mom and dad and my brother and we were just sitting down to a piece of birthday cake and the phone rang. Jake was killed. How nice is that?" She laughed cynically. "I'm eating a piece of cake while my best friend is getting shot down and killed by a gunman." She hugged her knees to her chest. "His body was brought back to Winnipeg for the funeral and his mom gave me his dog tags." She pulled them from their hiding place under her shirt and showed them to him. She had started crying somewhere during her explanation. She felt hollow and she missed him.
"Now I understand." He handed her back the identification tags and watched as she tucked them away again. "Why didn't you just tell us? We wouldn't have made such a big deal out of your birthday." He placed a hand on her knee comfortingly.
"I don't want your sympathy." Ryan tried to veer away from that.
"Is that why you haven't been sleeping?" He asked, as it finally clicked. She nodded in agreement.
"I keep dreaming about him. The last words we said to each other. I just wish I wouldn't have let him go." He folded her into his arms and held her in a hug.
"There was nothing you could have done. He signed himself up to go, he had to." He placed a hand on her head.
"I know. I just miss him so much though. You never really appreciate something until you don't have it anymore." He could only nod his agreement to that. She showed him a small photo album of her and Jake when they were growing up. The last picture they took together was the day that he left. Her face was tear stricken, but they were hugging and looked like they could be soul mates.
That night, Ryan stayed with her until five in the morning, when she finally managed to fall asleep for awhile. He tucked the covers up to her chin and again noted how much older she looked. Just by the way she was sleeping, he could tell that she was completely exhausted in every sense of the word. On his way out, he stubbed his toe on the dresser. He stumbled back, hopping on one foot, clutching the other in his hand and trying not to curse. He looked at the figure in the bed, she hadn't moved or woken. That was a good sign. When he went to continue on his way, he noticed that a notebook had fallen off the dresser when he bumped it. He picked it up and happened to scan the page that it flipped open to, then he started to read it more in depth. It was a poem. Again, he looked over at the sleeping form, then back at the paper. He grabbed a pen and paper off the dresser and wrote out the poem, taking it with him. He had a good idea that she was sure to love. After that, he didn't immediately go talk to his friends about AmeliÃ©, he went to bed, thinking all the time of the plan he was going to set in motion.