Separated Paradise: Chapter 3
The next day, I went to school in absolute bliss, not really paying much attention to the teachers. All I could think about was Gale and how far away Saturday felt. It may have been Thursday, but it felt like Saturday would never come.
Finally, the school day was over, and I rode the bus home, wondering if Gale would be there. Unfortunately, when I got to the apartment building, I didn’t see Gale’s black BMW car there, so I went up to my apartment, knowing my parents wouldn’t be there like they usually would be since they had left in the morning.
I immediately pulled out all of my oil paints, and I picked out one of the biggest canvases I had. I had been thinking of Gale’s face all day, and I was eager to paint the image into reality.
Since my parents weren’t home, I played my heavy metal music through the speakers of my computer instead of putting on my headphones like I normally would. With that, I started to sketch out guidelines for the portrait itself with a lead pencil, anxious to get to the painting part.
When I finally got to use my colors, I made sure that every stroke of my brush was careful and steady. Especially around his eyes, the light yet deep hazel, and I tried hard to capture the kindness in them. I surrounded his face with darker colors in contrast to his lighter brown skin.
By the time I was done, it was seven o’ clock, and my arms were spotted and brushed with different colors- proof that I had been doing nothing but painting. This made me realize that I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch at school.
But I was completely fine with that as I stared contently at my painting. It wasn’t as good as the real thing, but my memory definitely served me well because I loved to see Gale’s kind gaze.
I wasn’t sure if he’d approve of me drawing a portrait of him without telling him first, but I was pretty proud of how it turned out, nonetheless.
Suddenly, one of the default ringers on my phone overpowered my music, and I picked it up from my bed to see that my mom was calling me. I immediately turned down the speakers on my computer before I pressed the green button.
“Hello?” I answered, placing it against my ear.
“Hi, Hun, how is everything going over there?” My mom asked.
“Good, same old, same old.” I replied as I admired my painting.
“Have you eaten?” She inquired, almost accusingly as if she knew I hadn’t.
“Yes, Mom, don’t worry.” I fibbed, knowing she would get onto me if I told her I hadn’t yet. “How are things where you’re at?”
“We just got to Dallas, we’re about to go check into the hotel. The game is tomorrow so I’ll try to send you a text as much as I can. If you need anything, you better call us, okay?”
“I will, Mom.”
“If anything happens, don’t be afraid to ask our neighbors for help, okay? And if you have friends over, just be sure to clean up after.” My mom encouraged. She knew that I hadn’t made any friends in this unfamiliar city yet, but every so often she would try to get me to go out like normal kids. Sometimes I wondered if she secretly wished I would sneak out like other teenagers.
“I don’t really have any friends, but okay, Mom.”
“Don’t stay cooped up in your room, Tory. I have to go; your dad and I love you!” She said, and I could hear her kissing the phone.
“Love you guys too. Bye.” With that, we hung up, and I turned my music back up.
Though, just as I was about to get up to get some food, I heard a knock.
Confused, I wondered who could be here as I stood up and started heading for my door. But when I heard the knock again, I heard it from behind me, so I turned my music back down to figure out what was going on.
“Hey! You there, Tory?” I heard the pleasantly familiar voice being muffled through the wall along with another knock.
“Yeah!” I shouted, getting excited.
“Come over!” I heard him yell.
I almost stopped breathing, and I had to remember to turn off my computer and grab my key before I rushed out of my room. I was still in my painting clothes, but I felt like if I couldn’t even lock my apartment door fast enough, I definitely wouldn’t have enough time to change into my nice clothing. So my faded and paint-spotted Slayer t-shirt and old black cargo pants ripped at the knees would have to do.
I stuffed my key into my pocket as I stopped in front of Gale’s apartment door. My heart was going insane as my trembling hand lifted to knock on his door.
But before I could even use my muscles to knock, the door opened up with Gale standing in the doorway, and he grinned at me. “Hey, sorry if I was bugging you. I could hear your music though the wall and I just wanted you know if you’d like to chill for a bit.”
“Um, where is…?” I looked a little past him to see if his blond wife was glaring at me.
“Clara? She’s having a girl’s night out. Not that I really care. She’s out of my hair, so I have the place to myself tonight. Come on in, Tory.” He stepped aside, inviting me in.
I hesitantly walked in, my excitement suddenly draining to nervousness. His apartment wasn’t like I expected, I expected it to be a little more… punk, since he would always wear mostly black clothing. He didn’t wear leather jackets and large pants with chains on them like I did, but he definitely didn’t dress trendy like Clara.
His apartment seemed pretty normal, aside from a few dumbbells next to the door.
“Come on; let’s go to my ‘cave’, as Clara calls it.” He started to walk past the living room, into an open doorway that had a couch in the center of the room facing toward a TV on a wooden entertainment center. It was decorated with dragon sculptures along with three different game consoles and a ton of games neatly on the bottom shelf. There was also a huge, decorative black axe hanging on the wall, which led me to think that he and I had more common likes than I thought.
“Do you like video games?” He asked, kneeling down in front of his entertainment center.
I nodded, “I play a little bit, but I don’t have nearly as many games downloaded onto my computer as this.”
“Ah, so you’re more of a PC gamer. Well, have you played Call of Duty?” He asked, pulling out a game case from his shelf.
“I’ve played it a little.” I bashfully said, wondering if this was a good idea. I was terrible at shooter games.
“I love this game; it’s a great party game. Don’t worry though; I couldn’t throw a party here even if I wanted to. If Clara saw just you here, she’d flip her lid. But it’s easier to get one person outta here instead of fifteen.” He took the disc out of its case.
I suddenly became concerned, and the last thing I wanted was for him and Clara to fight again. “I’m not going to get you in trouble, am I?” I gulped.
“Nah, and even if she did come home early, she can kiss my ass. I need some chill time.” He said as he put the disc into the “Playstation 3” slot and turned it on.
“Your chill time is definitely not the same as mine…” I thought about how I relaxed by painting, but I was glad that he wanted to include me.
“Well, I just want hang with someone who doesn’t know Clara personally. Hell, even my co-workers know Clara in some way or another, and usually, they can’t keep their damn mouths shut.” He sat down on the couch as he held out a controller to me. “Go ahead and sit down. Relax.”
I could feel my face blush as I took the controller and sat next to him on the leather brown couch, being sure to keep my distance.
“So what’s your deal, Tory? I remember seeing you move in a while back, but I couldn’t introduce myself because I had to work. Where did you live before you came here?” He asked, starting the game up.
My nervousness was making my mouth dry, so I swallowed to make some sensible noise. “Um, I lived in Seattle, Washington before my parents decided to move down here to Oklahoma.”
“Really? Wow, that’s a big move. Why move here?”
“My parents said there were better job offers down here. I just wish they would have waited until I graduated. I’m not very good at making friends…” I admitted.
“Yeah, you don’t really seem like the talkative type. I only ever hear your music. Nice taste, by the way. I’m more of a punk rock guy myself, but Clara hates it so I can only listen to it on my morning runs.” He explained as he chose multiplayer. “Did you wanna play zombies? Do you know how to play?” He looked at me.
I nodded, “I know the basics, but I’m not that good.”
He chuckled lightheartedly, “That’s cool, practice makes perfect. Anyway, why couldn’t your parents wait to move? They must know that you would have a hard time at a new school- especially since you’re a senior.”
I blushed even more, pretty sure that my face was red already. I never had someone who was so genuinely interested in what I said that he remembered what we talked about the last time I saw him. “M-my parents wanted me to make more than just the two friends I had back home. But if anything, it just made it worse for me. The only reason I had even those two friends was because they talked to me in classes. Now that I think about it, they weren’t even my friends.” I stared down at my hands holding the controller, realizing how much of a loser I really was.
“Get ready for the first round.” Gale warned, and I suddenly remembered that we were playing a game, so I looked up at the screen. “But no, your real friends are the ones who keep in touch with you even if you move or graduate. I found out who was my real friend whenever it was too late to get into contact with him again. So don’t worry, know that you have a friend right next door to you. I’m only a knock away.”
I looked at him with awestruck surprise. I felt his words were genuine, as if they held me up and warmly brushed against my face.
He glanced at me with a smile, “You’d better rebuild that barrier, or the zombies are gonna get you.”
I had to remind myself again that we were playing a game, and my attention immediately reverted back to the TV. But my mind was still on the fact that he was my friend, and even though it was hard for me to accept, it somehow made me feel really good about myself.
“So what other bands do you like? I remember hearing Korn.” He asked, and I was caught a little off-guard, but then again, I was really flustered.
“Um, Megadeth, As I Lay Dying, Pantera… Bands like that…” I said bashfully, surprised that he was able to hear Korn playing through the wall.
“Wow, I didn’t think the younger generation liked the same stuff I did.”
“How old are you?” I asked curiously.
“Me? I’m twenty-three. But a lot of people think I’m younger. Personally, I think it’s because of my hair.” He chuckled.
I was suddenly really embarrassed that I had thought he was older just because he was married.
“And you’re gonna be eighteen soon right? You look young for your age too, why do you think that is?” He asked.
“Um, I guess it might be my hair too…” I glanced at him as I tried to focus on killing zombies.
“Nah, you know what it is?”
I looked at him after I killed a zombie, and he glanced at me with a smile, “It’s your face.”
I blinked for a moment before I could look back at the TV to keep playing the game, but I kept glancing at him. “What do you mean?”
“You kinda have a baby-face. It makes you look a lot younger than you are.” He said nonchalantly as if it didn’t make my whole face flush.
I looked away as I continued to kill zombies, hoping he wouldn’t see my red face. But just at that moment, a loud growl was heard from my stomach. He immediately started to chuckle, which made me want to die from embarrassment.
“I’m sorry to laugh. It’s just that I’ve never actually heard someone’s stomach growl that loudly before. Here, I’ll make you something to eat.” He said as he paused the game.
“Uh, that’s okay, I-I have food at home…” I started to say, even though I really didn’t want to leave.
“Nah, it’s fine. Come on.” He stood up with his smile enticing me to stand with him.
With a hot face, I followed him back into the living room and toward the back of the apartment into a kitchen.
“What do you like to eat?” He asked as he opened his fridge. “I can make you some grilled chicken, or some pork chops. Hell, I can even make you some soup, if that’s what you feel like.” He looked at me, his eyes seeming to smile as bright as his lips.
I looked down at my feet, trying to figure out what I really wanted to eat, even though I still felt bad that he was feeding me. “Uh, I like grilled chicken…” I bashfully said.
“Grilled chicken it is then! I’m actually getting hungry myself, so I’ll make some for the both of us.” He stated as he reached into the fridge for the ingredients. “Make yourself at home; go and have a seat at the table.”
I looked over to the far side of the kitchen to see a small square table against the wall with two chairs on either side of it. It was plainly obvious that two people lived here, instead of the three people in my apartment.
As he started to prepare everything, I studied my surroundings, noticing that they had a very different taste in home decoration than my parents did. They had hardly anything hanging on the walls other than a few shelves with some random animal figurines next to spices, chips and sweet snacks.
I thought of my kitchen that my mom had decorated with geese things since that was her favorite animal, and she was the one who organized where all the food would go. My dad was the one who decorated the living room with lighthouses, while I decorated my room with heavy metal band posters.
“Thank you.” I suddenly remembered my manners.
He studied my face with confusion in his eyes, and he chuckled. “For what? Making you food? I invited you over, the least I can do is feed you.”
“Well, it’s just that even back where I used to live, the friends I had never invited me to their houses, so I’ve never had any opportunities like this to just hang out and eat with someone who’s not my parents.” I explained, realizing that I was more of a hermit than I thought.
He stopped for a moment, staring at me with such surprise that it almost made me feel uncomfortable. “You really don’t know how to talk to people then, do you? I just thought you didn’t know how to start a conversation. I’m sorry. But hey, just know that you can be comfortable around me. I don’t judge other people- that’s too much trouble to stress about. Life’s easier when you talk to everyone.”
I was astounded at how accepting he was. He wasn’t like anyone I had met in my old school. My old friends weren’t even as welcoming as he was. “So you don’t care that I’m quiet and dress differently?” I asked.
“What? Of course I care. But not in the way you think. You see, I’m pretty out there too. I just wish I could be brave enough to show it like you do. I just want you to speak your mind, because you are very quiet, anyone can see that, but the fact that you show your personality in how you act and how you dress means a lot.” His smile was comforting.
“I-I’m not brave, it took me a lot of courage just to talk to you the other night- and really the only reason why I went downstairs is because you sounded so angry and I wanted to make sure you were all right…” I replied, hoping he wouldn’t lose that flattering view of me.
“Maybe you’re not brave in socializing with people, but I would think it takes a really courageous person to be as shy as you are and still dress in whatever you want. I mean, you look pretty good in that paint-spattered shirt and pants, and I’ve seen you when you’ve been really decked out in black.” He continued making the chicken as he talked.
I sat there dumbfounded and with a red face, unable to comprehend the uplifting words he spoke to me. “Gale, I wish I could talk to people like you can, but that… that made me feel really nice…” I smiled, trying to hide my blush.
“I’m glad. Don’t let people intimidate you; you’re worth a lot more than you think.”
I sat there with my face looking like a cherry, but my heart light as a feather even when it was filled with happiness.
“It’s almost done. Did you want any special seasoning on it? We don’t have much, but I can put a little bit at least.” He glanced at me as the chicken sizzled.
“Um, I like garlic powder…” I managed to say past my shyness.
“I got that.” He took a small bottle from the shelf and shook some garlic powder onto the chicken, then he served it to me with a fork once it was done, and went back to cook his own chicken.
My mouth started to water as I saw it, the smell becoming stronger, and I picked up the fork he gave to me. “Thank you, again.”
“Yeah, no prob. Just don’t choke. I like chili powder on mine, that’s why I asked since not too many people like chili powder on everything like I do.” He served himself and sat down across from me.
I picked at the chicken, taking a huge bite once I tore it apart.
“There you go, don’t be afraid to eat it. I’m gonna dig right in too, if you don’t mind.” He stabbed his fork into the chicken breast, taking a huge chunk off of it with his teeth.
I couldn’t help the smile that crossed my face as I took another bite, loving the taste of the garlic mixed with the juicy chicken.
“Good choice, Tory. This is pretty good- if I do say so myself.” He took another bite.
“Mm-hmm.” I mumbled approvingly as I chewed, feeling so giddy. I never wanted this to end, even if I did feel really awkward. Though, I still felt strangely comfortable, despite everything.
But then a loud ringer interrupted both of our smiles. With an annoyed groan, Gale pulled out a phone from his back pocket and slid his finger across the touchscreen. “Yeah?” He answered with such a monotone voice that it completely caught me off-guard. “No, I’m still at home. I told you a hundred times before that I’m not cheating… Okay… See you in an hour then… Yeah, but your ‘in a bit’ usually means an hour… Whatever, okay, bye.” Then he slid his finger on the screen again and put his phone on the table almost aggressively.
“Sorry about that, Clara is on her way back, or so she says anyway. She usually takes forever to come back. I swear, she always accuses me of cheating when she’s the one who wants to stay out all day and night. I would be able to have a party with prostitutes and still have enough time to clean up afterwards. Not that I would though, I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of her being right.”
I sat there and ate, pondering on his words, then spoke after I swallowed. “Is that the only reason?” I asked.
“What? The fact that I won’t cheat on her? Nah, I’m not one to be a cheater. Besides, if I tell the truth then she has no solid proof that I’ve been doing anything, and I have no reason to accuse her.” He took another bite of his food.
“I don’t see why she doesn’t trust you.” I wondered aloud, seeing how honest he was.
“Well, I understand why she doesn’t. She’s been through a lot of shit, especially with guys, so I try my best to prove her wrong. Not all guys are the same, but she really doesn’t give me any slack. But it’s whatever. I’ll just deal with it. I’m just trying to make sure we don’t get into another fight like last night, that’s why I didn’t say anything when she took off today to spend time with her friends.”
I suddenly felt bad for Gale. He was trying so hard to keep her happy but she was just giving him more bullshit. She was so unappreciative, I felt like she didn’t see the amazing person that she could hold whenever she wanted, and she couldn’t see Gale as the wonderful husband he was trying to be for her.
I suddenly lost my appetite because of a sour taste in my mouth, despite the fact that the chicken itself was delicious. “I don’t want you two to get into another fight just because I’m here. You don’t need that. Thank you for the food though, it was delicious.” I stood up, not wanting to overstay my welcome, but most of all, not wanting to show Gale my angry side.
“Hey, wait, you don’t have to leave yet. Clara won’t be home for a good while.” He insisted, but as much as I wanted to stay, I wasn’t used to being in anyone’s presence when I was mad.
“I just don’t want to be the cause of more grief for you, but I hope that we can still hang out Saturday.” I looked at him with hopeful eyes.
“Of course! Here, let me give you my number.” He picked up his phone.
I grinned, feeling better as I reached for my phone that I usually kept in my right pocket, but I panicked when I remembered that I had left my phone on my bed after my mom had called. “Uh, I left it in my room.”
“That’s okay, what’s your number?” He unlocked his phone, ready to type in my number.
I struggled to remember my number, and then said it as soon as I remembered before I could lose it again.
“Whoa, give me a second.” He chuckled as he typed on his touchscreen phone. “There, got it. I’ll shoot you a text right now so you’ll have my number. He smiled at me, and I smiled back in pure joy.
“Okay!” I was almost excited to go back to my room just to see the text but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave.
“Did you want to take that with you?” He pointed at my half-eaten dinner.
I looked at it and was tempted to eat the rest of it just so I could spend more time with Gale, but I really didn’t want to stay if Clara did come back early. “Um, if you don’t mind…”
He chuckled as he stood up, “I don’t. Here…” He reached into one of his cabinets, and pulled out a plastic container with a lid. Once he put my chicken inside the container, he handed it to me with a smile. “There ya go. Just don’t forget to eat it.” He grinned.
“I won’t. Um, I should get going…” I wasn’t exactly sure how to say good-bye.
“If you insist, but hey, I’m only a text or a knock away. Just don’t be a stranger.” He started to walk into the living room. I admired how he seemed so casual about something that I was so uncomfortable about.
“And on Saturday, I’ll let you meet my crew, but don’t be scared. They may be a loud bunch, but they mean well.” He assured me with a laugh as I followed him to his front door.
I suddenly became really nervous and I started to question what the hell I had agreed to. But then Gale put his hand on my shoulder, which calmed me down.
“I’ll see you later, okay? Shoot me a text sometime.” He told me with a smile.
I smiled back at him, “Okay, I will.” I opened his door, and when I closed it behind me, I took in a deep breath. I could feel the excitement building up in me. “Yes!” I softly said to myself in a whisper, unable to keep my happiness in.
I rushed back to my apartment, and went straight for my room, and picked up my phone from my bed. I had two unread messages. The newest one was from a number that I had never seen before, and it read, “Hi Tory! Its Gale
I immediately hit the reply button and said, “Hi
” Then I looked at the other message as I lied down on my bed with a huge smile on my face. It was from my mom, and she had asked me if everything was still good over here.
I replied to her, “Going great mom dont worry about me