Saturday, January 2, 2010

15.) Hope

A/N: Thank you for sticking with me as I work on this story. This is the most difficult story I've ever worked on up until this point, and it means a lot that you're with me as we ride this roller coaster together.

Soundtrack Song - Hoobastank, If I Were You

“Maybe it was supposed to happen,” I said absentmindedly. I like to believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes, we may not be able to discern that reason right away, but it later makes sense. So maybe we were meant to meet; maybe this all is supposed to happen, and I’m supposed to help Jo just like this.

“I told you,” she bit out at me. “I don’t believe in that superstitious hocus pocus. Things just happen, for no reason at all.”

I shook my head. How could Jo want to believe in meaninglessness? I understood that she didn’t want to rationalize the death of her brother, but to think that there was no point to anything was such a waste. If everything was random, then there was no point in living because you’re living for nothing. “Do you really believe that, or do you just want to believe it?”

“I believe it. Wouldn’t say it if I didn’t.”

“You do realize that that makes you a hypocrite, right?” I asked, knowing it was going to get a reaction out of her but having to speak my mind.

Jo turned slowly to face me again, her mouth hanging open. “Excuse me?”

“I called you a hypocrite. You tell me how you like to figure out how things work, and you use science to predict how stuff happens. And then you say that nothing happens for a reason? When as a scientist, you’re supposed to search for reasons?”

“That was back then! I used to think that way, back when life made sense. I had plans for myself. I had my life all figured out. But then James died, my mom left us, and my dad mentally checked out.” She started to get upset again, and I moved my hand along her back again. “At that point, nothing made sense anymore. And believe me, I tried to find an explanation. I tried to figure out why everything just went down the shitter and got ruined, but I couldn’t. I still can’t. So the only conclusion I can make is that there is no reason. No reason for anything at all.”

As she wiped at her cheeks again with the backs of her hands, I couldn’t help myself—I slid along the length of the couch until I was right next to her, and then I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. She fell against me and allowed herself to let out more of her bottled up emotions, like she had tried so hard to prevent this from happening but finally succumbed to the release.

It sounded so depressing to me: to have no meaning in life and to live feeling like there’s no rhyme or reason to it. That’s a mentally exhausting approach to life, and it had taken its toll on Jo. I held her and started to rub her back again, rocking gently. When her sobs began to subside and her body stopped shaking so much, I said, “In times like this, you can only rely on your hope to get you through it. Just because you can’t find a reason now doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Isn’t that how science works? You come up with a theory, and if it doesn’t work, then you scrap it and try another. But you don’t give up trying.”

“Hope,” she mumbled, turning her head so her face was no longer pressed against my chest. She pressed her ear against my shoulder and looked out into the room. “What is there to hope for now?”

“Well, anything. That’s the point of hope. It’s not easy, but it’s all we have to hold onto.”

Jo tilted her head so she should look up at me without fully pulling away from her position. I waited for her to say something back, and I hoped that she would say something to let me know that I had somehow gotten through to her. She replied, “You smell good.”

“Thanks.” I chuckled softly at her unexpected remark. Meeting her hazel eyes, I waited to see if she’d add anything more profound. I got caught up in just looking at her, being drawn into the pain in her eyes. It was hard, losing Luc, but I had a network of support around me. I had his family to mourn with and a team full of understanding guys. Jo didn’t have any of that. With no one to turn to, she shut down and kept that pain locked up. I wanted to help her let go of that and be the one to show her that she still had a thousand options ahead of her from which to choose. Even though her brother died, she still had her own life to live. She could do it in his honor, because that’s what he would want for her.

A sudden urge washed over me, and I wanted to kiss her. Immediately I chastised myself, thinking that it was inappropriate to have that desire at a time like this. The longer I stared into her eyes, the more I wasn’t sure if I could stop myself. I cleared my throat and looked away. “What do you say we do something, huh? Cheer you up?”

It took her a moment to speak, as if coming out of her own trance. “My choice?” she asked, perking up a bit.

“Whatever you want,” I told her with a smile. Now that I knew what was going on underneath the surface, which had entailed Jo bringing up all those raw emotions, we needed a little fun to lighten the mood.

She pushed off the couch and aimed for the door. “Let’s go.”

I was confused. “Where are we going?”

“Didn’t you say I got to pick?” I nodded, thinking that we would watch a movie or maybe order a pizza or something. She, however, informed me, “We’re going to the zoo.”

“Why?”

Jo looked at me like I was stupid. “Because it will cheer me up. So come on, let’s go!”

I wasn’t sure what was going to be so fun about the zoo, but I drove us there anywhere. On my insistence, I paid the entrance fee for the two of us. It was only thirteen bucks per person, so I didn’t mind. Besides, it was my idea, so I should have paid.

As soon as we walked in, I watched Jo transform into a big kid. She cast one look back at me with a devilish smile before she took off running. The zoo was pretty empty; kids were still in school this early in the afternoon, so the only there were mothers with young children. Shaking my head, I began to jog after her.

I caught up to Jo in the African Savannah section. She pointed out the different animals as she flitted from pen to pen. Jo would grab my hand and tug, pulling me along as she tired of looking at the lazy lions or the tall giraffes. She told me interesting facts, like how a lion’s roar can carry for up to five miles.

I followed and listened, observing the way that she seemed to let go of the pain and emotion she had shown earlier as her childlike enthusiasm took over. She was carefree and light, without a worry in the world. Like she was truly a five-year-old trapped in the body of a young woman. Jo was having fun and enjoying herself, and it was a pleasant change from the anger and tears I was used to seeing.

While I watched the bears meander about their habitat, I didn’t even know that Jo had temporarily disappeared. I was trying to wrap my head around everything that had happened and everything I was worried about feeling. Somehow, this whole thing had gone beyond wanting to help a kindred spirit and had turned into needing to help Jo.

But I couldn’t get too emotionally invested. Jo had her friend, in that guy she called Tubby; and right now, she didn’t need just another friend. She needed someone like a mentor, to help and guide her through. And nothing more than that. The guys had asked earlier if I liked her, and although I didn’t answer them, I knew my answer. I also knew I’d have to keep my own feelings in check. Besides, let’s face it—I could never handle being with a girl like Jo.

“Why so serious?” she hissed, mocking the Joker from The Dark Knight and startling me from my thoughts. Jo had a bag of blue cotton candy in her hand, and her mouth was already purple from eating some. “Want some?”

“No thanks.”

“But it’s blue,” she offered again, using a sing-songy voice to entice me into taking some as she waved the bag in the air.

“Nah, I shouldn’t.” I wasn’t really uptight about eating or not eating food to stay in shape, except that was nothing but sugar, so it had no nutritional value whatsoever.

“Oh, come on, Kristopher. Live a little, will ya?” I shook my head, and she pressed, “I thought you wanted to cheer me up? Well, this will cheer me up.”

“Then I guess I can do that,” I said, caving and tearing a piece from the bag.

Jo smiled at me and linked her arm with mine, pulling me away from the bear habitat. “What do you say we head into the aquarium now, hm?” We walked into the building, and Jo pulled me toward the penguins. “Well, look at this. All your buddies are here!” We walked up to the glass and peered in. She pointed to one with a large beak. “That one is your blond friend, Jordan. And the one that’s following him around has got to be Tyler, because I swear those two are always together.”

I chuckled. “Are you going to find every one of my teammates in there?”

“That sounds like a challenge. Yeah, I will. The whole team. You tell me a name, and I’ll pick out which penguin he is.”

“You think you know the guys that well?” I asked, genuinely curious. I had never noticed her before, and I was under the impression that the guys hadn’t either. How much would she know about us?

“I’ve heard plenty of talk about you all through the hallways in the arena. I may not be able to place a face to all the names, but I bet I can do this.”

I played along with her game. “Sidney Crosby.”

She hummed in thought before pointing to one swimming in the water. “That one. Always working out, perfecting his technique.”

I laughed and thought of another one, “Max Talbot.”

Jo giggled and pointed to another penguin. “Easy. The one that’s preening over there in front of all those girls,” she said, anthropomorphizing the scene. “Showing off. Did I nail that one on the head, or what?”

Forgoing the rest of our game, I went straight to the name that I really wanted an answer for. “Kris Letang.”

Reddening slightly, she bit her lip and scanned the tank carefully. She was silent, taking her time and making a well thought out decision. Jo hummed and clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth before she pointed to a lone bird in the far corner of the tank. “That one.”

I waited for her explanation, like she had given for the other two answers, but she didn’t offer it. So I asked for one. “Why that one?”

“Because he’s not hanging out with the other penguins. He fits in, because he’s a penguin, but he’s different, too. Look at the way he hangs back and watches them instead of participating.”

I tilted my head to the side. “So you’re saying he’s different. But is there anything wrong with that?”

“I didn’t say there was anything wrong with it. I’m not analyzing. I’m just observing.” She turned and rested her butt against the railing so she was no longer looking at the animals and was looking at me instead. “It could be a personality thing. Maybe he’s just a little introverted or shy. Or maybe....”

When she didn’t continue, I egged her on. “Maybe what?”

“Or maybe he’s afraid to let go and have a little fun.”

“Afraid to have fun?” Now she was taking this too far. She got me all wrong.

“He does things that make him feel good. That make him feel like his life has a purpose. But when was the last time he did something for himself, and not for another person? When was the last time he forgot about the ‘bigger picture’ and lived for the moment?”

“Right now.”

“Really?” she asked, sounding surprised.

I nodded. “I’ll admit that I never would have thought about coming to the zoo. But yeah, I’m having a lot of fun. With you. Right now.”

Jo smiled broadly at me before turning back to the tank. We watched the penguins a little longer before exploring through the rest of the aquarium. We ended up staying in the zoo until it was about to close and we were forced to leave, and then I took her back home. She tensed as approached her neighborhood, but she relaxed as I pulled up to the curb. I shut off the engine and got out of the car, walking her up to her door to be polite.

“Thanks for taking me out today, Kris,” she said as we reached her porch. “It was, uh, interesting, to say the least.”

It had been an interesting day. Between practice with the boys, going to the school, talking at my apartment, and then the zoo... interesting was the only word that could adequately describe it. “Believe it or not, I really did have a lot of fun.”

“I’m glad,” she said, fiddling with her keys. “This is kind of awkward.”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right,” she replied, before grabbing a fistful of my shirt and standing on her toes and planting her lips on mine. She pulled back and released her grip, then headed into her house without another word.

I walked back to my car, once again trying to wrap my thoughts around what was happening, but the only thing I could think about was how Jo tasted like cotton candy.

9 comments:

  1. the penguin thing was soo cute... and they kissed! huzzah!

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  2. omg they kissed yahhh:D
    for some reason i thought he was going to kiss her when she picked out a penguin for him and asked him when the last time he did something for himself:D
    but yahh im so happy she kissed him...now he has to man up and kiss her too

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  3. KISSING!!!! YAAYYAYAYAYAYAYYAYAY

    I was gonna say a bunch of other stuff but... I forget it now... cause they kissed! YAY!

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  4. OHHH MY GODDD!
    she kissed him :]
    yayyy!
    it's like she read his mind!
    hah i'm with zigh, i had lots of stuff to say, but not after that kiss made me lose my thoughts!!!!

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  5. Does he not know that a women fiddling with her keys at the door, is the international sign that she wants to be kissed? Lucky for him Jo is a take charge kind of girl.

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  6. Oh, Kris. For someone so smart and so thoughtful, you can be so dense sometimes.

    Another update that's right on the mark, Jay.

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  7. Woohoo...between Jo & Kris kissing and you using the word "anthropomorphizing" (yes, I did have to scroll up to the paragraph to get the right spelling) this chapter was full of win, sister!

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  8. OMG!! YES YES YES YES YES YES!
    Kisses for Kris<3 =D
    So happy right now! Off to read the next chapter!

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  9. ok cotton candy kisses are ADORABLE.

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