Saturday, December 24, 2011
Ben and Molly
From a distance, he didn't look half bad. Like maybe he was worth it. Just maybe. Molly caught herself lingering by the new books at the library.
"Well, come on, we don't have all night." Ben motioned for her. They were here for DVDs, not to find the love connection.
Molly eye-balled him. He eye-balled her back.
"Remember, we are looking for Christmas movies or BOLT." He was serious. Even now. Why was family so important? Molly dragged herself away from the blond guy that she might have gone to high school with, she thought now.
Ben was home from college. Just an old friend, who texted her like mad for three days about all the things they'd do, but as it was, not a date yet. Only this last minute thing, getting movies at the library. Molly hugged herself. She bet he had someone back at the University. He liked to talk, but not about everything.
At the moment, she felt in limbo. Was this even worth the effort?
Oh, the excitement building. Ben coming home. She knew not to get her hopes up. He was a friend, always would be. But it would be nice if something clicked.
"Why are we looking for BOLT?" She got why about the Christmas movies. But BOLT? That was an animated kids' movie.
"Because, my grandmother loves that movie." Ben looked over at her, his lanky self had the poorest posture, but possibly that was a signal. Probably not. Molly was beginning to think, he wasn't anything like she remembered. Maybe she needed new glasses.
He was wearing his loyal high school purple hoodie, and his cargo shorts. He braved the cold while Molly wore a slouchy tam and a scarf with her blue plaid coat that matched her lite blue eyes. She even wore her snowboots, just in case a blizzard might happen.
Molly scanned the DVDs as she hugged herself. Waiting. Kind of annoyed. Why was it always like this?
She spent her days at a dining hall in a nursing home. It was pretty gray there. And she was saving up to go back to cooking school. She'd wanted to bartend but her parents wouldn't hear of it. She heard they made really good money. Her friend Steve said they were making more than he was at the motel where he worked.
That's what she needed to be focused on. Making more money.
She thought of all the things she could be talking to Ben about, but here they were in the library. Well, she was waiting. Perhaps something exciting might happen in the last fifteen minutes with Ben, while parked in the driveway.
Molly knew she was behind in life. Way behind. Some of her friends she'd gone to high school with were having their second kid. Some were already divorced. And here she was waiting for a little something to happen with Ben who couldn't decide between WHITE CHRISTMAS or CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.
"I'm gonna be Micky's best man. He's getting married in January." Ben finally said.
Molly needed to think who that was.
"Is he the one who's Dad went to jail?" Molly winced trying to remember what he looked like.
"I think so. But he went to jail too." Ben nodded.
"And you want to be his best man?" Molly shook her head.
"Well, no one else will do it. Its at that indoor water park." He licked his dry lips. No, she was sure that was not a signal for anything. She yawned.
"You could come." He shrugged.
"I dunno." Was he asking her out? A serious date. "I wouldn't have anything to wear."
"Its just casual." He was slumping more. Suddenly, she imagined him an old man. Would they still be having these long drawn out conversations about nothing? Still?
"I guess." She shrugged. She didn't really see it happening because a lot of things always fell through with Ben.
She thought of her mother and how she'd put the math together. "You'll be old and gray before you get him. He's a solo act, honey." She'd told her.
Now Molly looked up at Ben, not wanting to give up hope. But she might have too.
"You sure..there..there might be someone back at the University-"
"Who?" He laughed. "God, I can't believe you." He went to check out the five DVDs then with his mother's library card.
"Well, I dunno." Molly gave him a scowl as she stood there with him. Not that she wanted to mention last New Years when she got shitfaced and woke up the next morning with Joel from down the street who was just in town to meet some woman he'd met online. He was from out of state. It wasn't that she remembered much of what happened. But that was as good as it got last year.
"What are you trying to tell me? You've got a boyfriend, don't you?" Ben decided.
"No, I don't have a boyfriend." Molly rolled her eyes as they walked out into the cold. "I'm not seeing anyone." And that was the truth. Yet, there was Rocco who ran the dishwasher at work, and he was always leaving her little candies around and smiling as if she were the queen of the kitchen. And Steve who she usually bumped into once a week down at the grocery store. He was always happy to see her and she was glad he was there in produce to tell her what vegetables were best in season.
There was still Ben's Christmas gift to give him. 12 CD mixes. She saved them up. Each month she'd burn him one. Even if he had his trusty iPod, a fingers touch, for just about everything. And she'd made him a little pillow this year out of an old T-shirt from when they were in Blithe Spirit, along with a bag of his favorite mint candies. Of course, she wouldn't get a thing from him. She never did. Unless she counted the little teddy-bear he won at the county fair, a couple of years ago.
But now she'd made him mad. She didn't know why a lump pushed up in her throat so. For what? It wasn't worth it. How she'd wanted to see him. But this was the reality of it.
They climbed into the old pickup truck.
"I'm sorry, I like ..you..so much." She began. It was really a hard speech not quite developed. Just bits on her mind. She guessed. Molly wasn't sure she had the energy to get through it. A part of her wanted to get out of the truck and walk home. "Here." She didn't need to explain it. She gave him the little gift bag. All the CDs in artsy covers and little ribbons.
She pressed her lips tight. She doubted her breath was even minty fresh, anymore. And she really didn't care. He started up the truck and let it warm up. Naturally, he was quiet. Hardly a sigh from him. He stared at the bag.
Molly thought of the boy who loved her. Freddie. He'd gotten her fancy stockings for Christmas. It was kind of an odd gift. She was in eighth grade back then. His glasses were so Harry Potter, and his body quivered when he kissed her. She couldn't stand it. It was creepy. But she liked the gift. Possibly, the best gift she'd ever gotten from a guy.
Molly bit her upper lip. She was not a bad girl. Not really. On occasion she'd go to a party. Drink like everyone else. But usually, she was the one who helped clean up, afterwards. She watched life go by. Perhaps, she was hoping they'd get past this. The tension. The quiet times.
He drove toward the intersection. It was a green light but he hardly went. It was all so slow. She could be home in five minutes. But he didn't take a turn toward her street.
"Let me drop these DVDs off. Then..then we can go out." He said.
"OK." She liked the idea. She could sit right here while he went in. Keep the truck warming. But he turned off the engine. She didn't budge, but he came around and opened the door for her.
"It won't take but a minute." She didn't believe a word he said. Molly sat there as if he needed to fix the door or something. "You coming?"
"Oh." She cleared her throat. They didn't hold hands.
Of course, there were a houseful. His parents became foster parents after Ben and his sister went off to college. There were a lot of noisy kids. And everyone wanted BOLT. Naturally, they pulled Molly in more. There were sugar cookies. Had she seen the big sausage log that somebody gave his Dad from work. There was a cheese ball too. Wasn't she hungry?
Molly did her best to muster up a smile. They wanted her to take off her coat. Her hat, too.
"Oh, she's not dying her hair, anymore!" His mother got a laugh out of that. "She used to be so goth." His mother shook her head as she was telling who ever would listen, how Molly used to dress. "Black was her only color."
Suddenly, Molly felt so claustrophobic. There were too many kids. Just so many people. How could she get out of this? It was stifling in their house. They didn't keep the temperature down, like her parents. One wore a sweater to bed at her house.
Molly was losing her smile quick.
"I need to leave." She said near Ben, but he wasn't listening. She leaned in more. And then, he linked his pinky with hers. His smile didn't seem quite real.
"My Mom, can't stand you." He chuckled.
"Don't say that, Ben!" His mother was pointing her finger at him now. Evidently, there was a little wine or something in what they were drinking. "That's so not true."
"No, its true." Ben was smiling. "She keeps asking me if you have tattoos or any new piercings." He cracked into laughter.
Molly felt a little light headed. Maybe she'd have some cheese ball yet, even if she was trying to stop eating dairy.
"Come on, lets get out of here." He took her hand, leaving her coat and hat behind.
"But, but its so cold, outside." She grabbed her stuff on the way out.
"Lets go to your house." He decided.
"But I thought we were going out?" Molly scrunched a frown.
Ben was in a hurry now. He backed out of the driveway as if they needed to get out of town fast. Molly stared out of the passenger window wondering what Ben had in mind. Was he crazy? No, his mom was crazy. His mom could make anyone crazy, in fact. But he just left. Molly looked at Ben.
They'd never actually held hands. Until now. Well, they'd been close. Sort of. She guessed. But now it was as if she needed to read his mind. And she didn't know what he was thinking as he sped around corners and barreled into the empty driveway. No one was home at Molly's.