Maybe Not: A Short Story (Day 9 of 12)


Where I live, December doesn’t mean snow.. Cold? Usually. Short Days? Of course. But snow? Never on December first, sometimes not even on Christmas.

It was still green on the ground that day as I sat in the fire station. Beyond the grass was a sandy gray stretch of cement. And beyond that was a thick, black strip of tar dotted with yellow and white. Above it all was a quilt of clouds, which weren’t dropping a single flake.

I hadn’t wanter to come here. Originally, I gad intended today to be lazy kind of Sunday, because all of my homework was done. But then came mom, with a green flyer in her hand, promising, “It’ll be fun!” before even telling me what would be fun, and then dragging me off to the car before I could ask.

“Don’t look so dismal,” she’d said, “Cole’s dad runs the Benefit. you two are friends, right?”

That much, at least, was true. Cole and I, along with our other friend Ryan, went out a lot together. But that was primarily on social days like Monday and Saturday, and not strictly antisocial days like Sunday.

“I’m tired,” I’d said.

“No you’re not,” mom had replied.

“I have a test tomorrow,” I’d said. “A big one. I think it’s a final.”

“No you don’t and no it’s not.”

It wasn’t really bad, once I got used to it. Cole’s dad had me hang some garland on the tree, which was stuffed in the corner at the far end of the refreshments table. The way it was positioned made a Christmas tree seem more like a formality than a necessity at a Fire Department Christmas Benefit. That was alright, because it meant Cole was at the opposite side of the opposite end of the room, helping little kids stick foam shapes onto other foam shapes.

Eventually I ran out of garland and ornaments, and was forced to hang out awkwardly on the outskirts of the station. I picked at my nail polish, played with the hem of my shirt, bit my lips. Nothing kept me from insane boredom. I tiptoed my way along the edge, until I realized that I was slowly but surely inching my way over to Cole, at which point I stopped moving.

My eyes focused on scattered bits of the station. Little kids trying on boots that were obviously large for them, and their companions wearing equally oversized shielded helmets. Sparkling things on the floor. An entire table filled with gourmet cookies with a sign that said, “Two per person please.” And between each of these, I saw Cole. I couldn’t keep him out of my vision.

I was now along the same wall as Cole’s foam-sticker station, although we were at opposite ends of it. A sprig of mistletoe, which I hadn’t noticed before, hung between us. For some reason my eyes darted continuously between him and the mistletoe. A thought went through my head. He looks really nice in green. And it was true. The color brought out both his hair and his eyes. But then a scarier thought followed: he would probably look cute in any color. Never, not once in my life, had I thought that Cole was cute. He had a long forehead, a skinny, straight nose, and a peculiarly small mouth, but somehow, I thought, everything came together to give him a boyish charm.

I set my eyes at the floor. He called my name.

“Carol! Hey, come on over! When did you get here? I didn’t see you earlier!”

I smiled up to him and pretended I didn’t hate myself for what was going through my head when I did. He waved me towards him.

The mistletoe dropped behind me as I walked, but for some reason I felt disappointment instead of relief.

And then I realized, I haven’t felt this disappointed since he asked Nicole to Homecoming.

“Sure is dismal out, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yeah. I wish the weatherman would stop lying.”

He gave this a halfhearted smile, then commented, “We’re almost out of snowmen. What will they put faces on then?”

I picked up one of the white foam things. “You don’t need this to put a face on something. Can’t you just print out coloring pages?”

“We don’t have a printer, Carol,” he said jokingly.

“Oh well, shows what I know.” I laughed but I was flustered with myself.

“I guess we could do this.”

He picked up a sheet and poked out a bunch of little black circles. Carefully, he peeled back the white paper and stuck one on my face.

I suddenly felt uncomfortable with every atom at the bottom of my stomach.

He put on three or four more, and I felt that it was a smile.

“What are you doing, Cole?”

“What does it seem like I’m doing?”

“Stop it Cole.”

“I’m almost done, Carol,” he huffed, and not wiping the playful smirk off his face, continued, “I broke up with Nicole.”

“Really? When?” I asked, my eyes wide with shock.

“Last week,” he answered dryly.

“Oh my gosh, Cole, why didn’t you tell me?” I wasn’t being demanding, I was just asking like a friend should.

He glanced at his feet, and his whole being seemed hesitant. “Because.”

“I won’t ask,” I promised.

“Almost done,” he promised in reply. “Just the orange triangle.”

“You mean the carrot?”

“Yeah, that.”

I watched with all my soul as he removed the backing and exposed the adhesive side to the world. He pressed it onto my cheek with enough tenderness to be more than a friend. My stomach churned inaudibly. My heart pumped enough blood into my face to turn it a perfect shade of red. My feet twitched a little.

“Kind of weird that they would put up mistletoe when no one’s used it,” he said, trying to be cool as a cucumber when he was clearly as tense as I was.

“That is weird.”

Silence. And then, “There aren’t any more snowmen.”

“Here,” Cole offered, “Just draw one on this paper and put the face on that.”

“Okay,” said the little girl who had brought it up. She hobbled off, presumably to find some paper.

“It’s not fair that it can be so cold out and not snow,” I said.

It was still as gray as it had been last time I looked. That much, at least, wasn’t improving.

“That is a shame,” he agreed. His hand was still on my face, I realized with a pain in my gut. He slowly brushed it down, pulling away after my chin, which I was much more than grateful for. But his hand bumped into my hand, a few inches beyond my knee.

“It’s snowing!” It was some little girl’s voice.

Cole and I both looked out the window. There wasn’t much yet, but it was definitely snowing.

“Maybe not such a shame?” he asked, a rue little smirk pushing up his left cheek.

“Maybe not,” I replied.

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