„Sweetheart, can you help me? “
Christen turned around, looking at Walter and immediately seeing that he dropped his ball again.
“You are supposed to keep that in your hand, you know?” Christen tells him while smiling at the old man. Walter was one of her favorite patients. Always polite although she didn’t really enjoy anyone calling her sweetheart – but old habits die hard. She corrected him for the first few months but just gave up at some point.
Apart from that she enjoyed her moments with Walter. He seemed to genuinely care about her life, always interested and his never ending advice suited his whole old-wise-grandfather-persona. He also looked a lot like an old ship captain. He was always wearing a captain's head and a white shirt. His full, white beard made him look like a character straight out of a children's book.
He came into the retirement home shortly after christen started working there a year ago. His wife had died a few years prior and after suffering a stroke he couldn't walk anymore. Still sitting in a wheelchair today he has made a good recovery in many aspects. He was talking a lot and had full mobility in his right hand. His left hand was still a bit weak but he exercised regularly even outside of his physical therapy sessions - just like right now. She placed the small, red ball back in his hand and watched him squish it from time to time. He seemed lost in his own thoughts today. They often joked when they spent time together. Christen really enjoyed working at this nursing home.
Because it was one of the higher priced ones they had way less residence then the one she worked at in LA. This gave her the freedom to actually spend time with many of the patience.
She genuinely loved all of them.
But Walter had a special place in her heart. They bonded quickly when he came here. Because she was new herself they both were figuring out their life in a new place. She moved to Portland because of this job, and mostly because she felt a need for change. She loves her family and had a lot of friends in LA but something pulled her out of it. She felt stuck in a life that didn’t seem to change much anymore. And when she got offered a job at this high end residential home she went with her gut feeling and just took it.
She wasn’t usually a spontaneous person – but she never regretted it.
She was reorganizing the shelfs in the community room and attended the bookshelf again after helping Walter.
After a moment of silence he spoke up again: “You know sweetheart I have to ask you something” She turned around and looked at him curiously. The big hearted man seemed more serious than usual. So she abandoned the bookshelf for a moment to sit down in one of the armchairs.
“You know that you can ask me anything” she told him with a smile. And it was true – they had become something like close friends over the last year. It might seem weird from the outside because of their age difference but that was never really holding them back; they shared the same sense of humor and were genuinely interested in each other's lives.
She really considered him a friend – and she meant it when she told him as much.
“are you happy here?”
Christen was taken a bit aback by the question – she didn’t think she seemed like she wasn’t. And she didn’t really think about it on a day to day basis – but she always made an effort to have a positive outlook on life and on herself. She chose to be optimistic on most days and thought she was doing a good job at it.
He deserved a honest answer though so she really thought about it before answering
“I think I am, yeah. I like working here and I have a good roof over my head also I'm surrounded by a lot of people I genuinely care about. Where is this coming from Walter?”
He looked at her with his dark brown eyes – he always seemed to be looking straight into her soul. He was quiet for a moment. And Christen thought she saw a glimmer of sadness behind his eyes.
“Today is my wedding anniversary” his smile seemed melancholic. It didn’t reach his eyes like it usually did. Instinctively Christed reached for his hand.
He talked a lot about his wife – and Christen was sure he loved her with all of his heart. He was just that kind of man. He rarely seemed sad while talking about her – his outlook on life was generally a positive one like Christens. Her heart broke even for the slight hints of sadness that was habouring in his face right now. She knew he wasn’t done talking. So she just right hand in both of hers and stroke over the backside of his palm with her thumb.
“My wedding day – I know it sounds cliché – but it really was the happiest day of my life! I couldn’t believe that I found a woman like her. And that we found the love we have.” For a moment he hesitated - he looked like he was going to correct himself . Instead he looked straight into her eyes: “I still feel it, you know? I still feel her love. And I still love her so much. I know she is out there looking after me. I see her love in my children – and grandchildren'' he is smiling his biggest smile now. The tears that are forming in his eyes are the bitter mix of tears of love, joy, loss and sadness. “Oh gosh – I even see it in my great grandchildren!
Breathing deeply he continues:
“She made me happier than I ever deserved in a livetime. And I wanna celebrate that today. I just … can you… would you mind taking me to church today? I know it's not a Sunday. I just always feel closest to her there. Do you think you could take me there today?” He is looking at the ceiling trying to compose himself. A few tears are running down his cheeks – although he is still smiling the biggest smile she has seen.
She loves his smile.
Her eyes are also getting wet. Full of empathy with her old friend. With the love he has for his family and the world. With the love she also feels from him – and for him.
“Of course we can! I finish my shift at 3 PM today – and I would be honored to take you after”
“Oh Sweetheart – I don’t wanna crash any plans! I thought you could take me as part of your work”
“I probably could do that” she thinks for a moment, “but it would be rushed. I told Eliza I would reorganize the shelfs today. I really don’t mind taking you after – and we have all the time we want. Maybe we can get some Ice-Cream too” She winks at him – they both have a sweet tooth and bonded over many secrets and or stolen Ice-Creams over time.
He smiled at her appreciatively – just nodding in approval. He really was way more quiet than usual.
When they were sitting at the café and ordered some ice cream, Christen decided to speak up.
They were quiet on their way to church and during their time there.
They were quiet while they were lighting a candle at the back end of the church.
And they were quiet on their way to the café.
Christen didn’t mind it. She knew silence can be powerful and she simply enjoyed their surroundings while she was pushing his wheelchair. After sitting down at the café though she felt like he was getting lost in negative thoughts. He seemed sad. Very sad. Not just melancholic.
“Tell me about her” she surprised herself with the question... “only if you want to of course”
He was looking at her. With a little sparkle in his eyes. Harboured deep behind the sadness. He looked at her.
Like really looked at her.
Sometimes it felt like he could see straight into her soul. Not in a way that was scary, but in a way that only the wisdom of a long life teaches you how to.
He looked at her appreciatively. With so much trust and warmth.
“I’d love to!” The sparkle in his eyes got bigger, growing with every memory that flooded through his mind in that moment. He didn’t really know where to start. And after a moment of silence he told Christen what was on the forefront of his mind.
“You would have loved her!”
“She was quite a troublemaker, she always knew what she was going for. I really didn’t stand a chance. She was more confident than I ever will be. And I know it should have scared me – woman at that time were quite different that today. All the other girls were quiet and reserved, well mannered and put together. But not my Tobin! She had my heart from the moment I saw her! She was working at a cinema box office – I was just traveling through New Jersey for work. I was bored and alone – My hotel was in a small town with nothing much to do, so I decided to go and watch a movie. I didn’t even know what they were playing that night – I still don’t know!” He is smiling his warm, big smile again. “She was sitting at this small booth – looking at me like I was mental to be watching a movie on my own. And somehow she convinced me to stay with her. We talked until her shift was over. We went to a bar and ordered two beers. She was even paying for them! I hadn’t seen a woman order for a man even less paying for both of them. I knew she was special – and I was so drawn to her! I walked her home – I wanted to ask her on a date – or even kiss her right then and there. But she just opened the door, turned around and pointed at the numer on the wall. Telling me that I know her address now and she expects a letter in the mail from me.” Walter is full on laughing now and Christen can't help but let out a chuckle. “She closed the door without even saying goodbye”
“So I assume you wrote her the letter?”
“Are you kidding me? I started writing it as soon as I got back to the hotel. I even delivered it myself bevor I had to leave the next morning”
Christen was replaying that story later that day when she was sitting on her balcony. She tried to imagine a young version of him, hopelessly in love with a woman who was ahead of her times.
Walter kept telling her Stories about his Tobin until it got dark outside and she took him back to the retirement home. The warm juli night engulfing them, while she pushed his wheelchair.
Nights like these felt magical to Christen. The warm summer air, the streets still filled with people - with life even after the sun went down.The smell of freshly cut grass, warm asphalt and a bbq somewhere along the way mixed together in the unique blend that smells like freedom - like a summer break - like happiness.
He told her how she wrote him a letter back, and although they only could see each other every two months when he was traveling the same route for work over and over again, they fell in love. And their love seemed deep and meaningful. Christen is shure she would have loved Tobin. She sounded like someone who kept him on his toes. Who was open to the world and opened her heart even more for everyone living in it. He told her how he proposed without asking her father because he hadn’t even met him.
Sitting on her balcony now she imagined it all like a black and white movie - it was silly - but sometimes she over romanticized stories like these.
She smiled to herself.
She loved that Walter trusted her like that. She really, really enjoyed talking to him.
He had this warm and welcoming aura that they just got comfortable in.
Thinking about him and his Tobin made her heart beat a little faster.
Stories about real life got her in a way no movie ever could.
She felt the emotions Walter was talking about while he was telling them. And she tried to feel them over and over again while she closed her eyes to retell the story to herself.
Behind closed eyes she could see that little new jersey town - the old buildings and the sell signs in front of the shops - the facette of the cinema Tobin was working at - the paper they wrote their letters on to each other.
She inhaled deeply, smelling the sun that was setting a few hours ago. She didn’t want to go to bed. She wanted to start dreaming right here. She didn’t want to lose the warm feeling of this story about young love. But she knew she should.
She thought to herself that if she just ignored that she was living in a different time, not looking at all the electronic devices in her small flat, she could just start dreaming before she even got to bed.
She didn’t want the feeling of loneliness to get to her today.
While drifting off to sleep, she thought to herself that she might have just been born in the wrong time. The fast pace lifestyle everyone seemed so adapted to just didn't get to her in the same way the stories of all her senior friends got to her.
She had dreamed about their dance parties, and the way she might have found the love of her life at one of them.
She romanticised those simpler times. It seemed impossible to meet someone outside of some sort of a modern dating app or website today. And that’s just not what she wanted. That much was for sure!
Those were the last thoughts she had before she fell into a deep sleep dreaming about a reckless woman in a long dress with a self-confident smile and a big heart.
In the following weeks Christen found herself having the same dream over and over again.
She was dancing with this woman in the middle of the streets, or chasing her through knee deep water of a river she had never seen before. Sometimes they were surrounded by mountains - sometimes it was a busy street in a big city.
After their chat on Walter and Tobins anniversary, he often showed her some old photography's of him and his wife - and then some newer ones where you could see the two of them growing older. They had three children and moved to Portland. He was working as an engineer and she was a stayed home mom.
And to quote him: “the best cupcake baker for every charity event”
They were a picture perfect family, active in their church community - and at some point they even had a cute dog. All three children went to college and now have families of their own.
After the day of their anniversary he seemed as cheerful as he did before. Laughing and joking with everyone. Rolling by Christen after breakfast just to drop a hershey's kiss in her pocket as he sometimes does. She always acts like she doesn't notice him doing it - he knows - and she knows that he knows. It's this little choreografie they're doing.
He was working on getting his mobility back, and didn’t let any small setback stop him.
She loved him, she really did – and she could tell that he was a well loved man!
His children and so many of his grandchildren came to visit all the time, mixed in between old friends, neighbors and colleagues.
Christen was sure he must have had this special charme all his life – and that’s why he still had so many people of all ages surrounding and loving him.
He was happiest when he got to spend time with his family though – when she asked him once why he decided to move in a facility like this one instead of getting a carer to come home to him, or even live with one of his children, he made his decision sound like the only right thing to do after his stroke.
She could understand why he didn't want to bother one of his kids in their everyday family lives and why staying in an empty house without much mobility didn't seem like the right choice either.
Instead he made the nursing home his “forever place” sometimes it feels like everyone else working and living there is just a visitor and Walter is the man of the house.
Not in a dominating way - just in a way where he makes everyone and everything feel like home.
It's a nice little lesson Christen learned through his presence: You can hang up as many nice pictures as you want - and keep everything clean and tidy - but it takes a personality like Walter to make a place feel like a home. It takes a warm laugh and this comforting energy that surrounds him.
Some days she felt more at home in his room then in her own four walls. He just had this way about him.
She had a feeling today was going to be a good day!
She woke up without an alarm because she works the late shift. After watering the plants in her apartment and opening every window possible to let the fresh air and the morning sun in, she texted Sue asking if she was up for a cup of coffee.
Christen didn’t really have a big social life outside of work. After moving to Portland just over a year ago the only socializing she really did was at the yoga-studio around the corner. She tries to go two to three times a week - sometimes more - sometimes less. And even though Sue was practically a colleague they didn’t really see much of each other during the workday. Sue is working in administration while Christen is more hands on - directly with the patients.
So they always had a lot to talk about.
She really enjoyed her time with the slightly older woman. A few times she even found herself at a dinner table with Sue and her girlfriend Megan.
Most of the time when they hung out it was just the two of them though. Sue's girlfriend was travelling a lot for work. Christen never really got a grip on what exactly it is Megan is doing – but she understood that the Pink haired firecracker of a person is responsible for meeting athletes and signing them for Nike.
As soon as she received a text from Sue containing an enthusiastic “hell yeah” and a bunch of random emojis, she made sure to get a little yoga session and a quick shower in before meeting her at the coffee shop around the corner.
When they talk – they laugh-- a lot!
They kind of have the same sense of humor while also really caring deeply about so many things. They can get quite deep and philosophical and crack up about foam-art in the same breath.
“So do you have any plans for your summer vacation?” Sue asks her “You did apply to take a couple of weeks off, didn’t you?”
“I did – but I can't remember telling you” Christen says with a wide grin
“Yeah I kind of stare at the calendar managing everyone's vacations everyday right now – I was kind of glad to see you took some though. I think you haven’t even used all your vacation days from last year!”
“You're right, Sherlock!” She took a sip from her coffee - looking at Sue she felt like she needed to explain - “I didn’t really feel the need for a proper vacation last year. I just moved here and everything still was so new for me that I kind of felt like I was on a vacation for the first few months, .. you know?”
“You do remember that you worked a lot though, do you?” The question doesnt really contain any judgement - not even a trace of concern, but maybe she needs to explain it a bit better she thinks.
“I do – but most of the time it honestly doesn’t really feel like work. Everyone is so nice and I kind of get to talk to old people all day – and you know how much I love that!”
“Oh believe me, I do!” they fall into an easy laugh again.
“So what got you taking a vacation then?” Sue asks her after a few moments.
“My younger sister is getting married at the end of August – and I kind of wanna take the week before and after to help her and get a chance to see all my family and friends”
“Wow! So you’ll officially be the last single Press! That means your market value should increase by another 100% to about 324%!”
„Now you just sound like Megan“ Christen says with a raised eyebrow and a big laugh. “She is rubbing off on me I know – or I just compensate for her not being here with a little voice in the back of my head that sounds a lot like her -- you know, while she is travelling”
“Is she out of town again?”
“Yeah she has been for the last four days. But she'll be back tomorrow” she is smiling – and Christen notices the look on her face she always gets when talking about Megan.
She didn’t really picture her with a girlfriend like Megan when they first got to know each other. Sue talked about her – of course. But when they first met at the christmas party last year Christen was a bit intimidated by the pink haired energy-bundle. She kind of pictured Sue with a quieter woman. Maybe one who was wearing glasses and reading a lot. Living a quiet domestic life while working a quiet normal job.
But their lives were far from that. She liked Megen, she really did.
It's like a bit of Megan's energie always rubbed off on Christen and it sparkes a sense of activism in her.
Megan was also a deep thinker with big feelings.
She is sensitive about her surroundings and very vocal when she fels treated unjust -- or sees someone else being treated that way.
They shared a surprisingly big amount of interests and compassion.
And Sue is like social glue - she has this way about here that makes everyone feel comfortable. She is like a more grounded and quieter version of Megan. It is a match made in heaven, it really is.
They complimented each other's best assets, without ever seeming too dependent on each other. She could see how they challenged each other to grow.
Christen couldn't help but think, that if she would ever find herself in a relationship again – this was the kind of relationship Christen wanted for herself.
Right now Christen is happy with her life the way it is though. She feels like she has arrived at a good point. She likes her Job, her neighborhood and the changes that came with moving. She stopped actively looking for someone a long time ago, hasn't even tried dating ever since she moved to Portland.
And although her sisters and sometimes even her dad and most of her friends challenged her with the all familiar unwanted advice of “you’ll find someone one day” and “the right one is out there” they never really seemed to believe her when she told them that she was actually happy and content on her own.
Sue wasn’t like that – she never asked her too many private questions, and when she did she never seemed judgmental, more like she actually cared, only giving advice when explizit asked for it. She was a good listener.
And so they chatted about work, and life, and puppies.
Sue and Meghan thought about adopting one – and Christen... Well Christen was always up for some puppy talk.
She had been thinking about getting one for the better half of the last year. But it always came down to her already feeling guilty to leaf a dog at her flat alone all day while she was at work. She didn’t want to care for a dog, and not be around most of the day. It would just be selfish.
Sue and Meghan on the other hand – she could really picture them with a dog.
Sue told her that they were thinking about picking one from the local shelter – and Christen found herself promising to go with them and enlighten them with all her knowledge about dogs – as Sue would say.
Christen shared a few funny stories about the dogs she had when she was a kid – and about the ones she took care of since. She was the go-to Dog-Babysitter for a lot of her friends and promised to do the same for Sue and Meghan when they would both be out of town.
“You are going to be the best auntie” – Sue was reallys excited.
Christen could sense that it had also something to do with the fact that this was kind of the next step for Meghan and her.
“Dog-Auntie is a title I could get used to”
“Seriously thank you for offering to help with all of this – I feel like I’m planning for my first child without ever reading one parenting advice book”
“You'll be fine – You are a very intuitive person – you will be excellent with handling a dog!”
Sue looked like she still needed some encouragement “Plus – when you get a dog from a shelter they will forever be thankful that you rescued them. I swear they can remember that kind of stuff!”
They agreed to check out one of the local shelters the next week because Meghan would be home and they could both find a slot where they were off of work.
The prospect of going to a dog shelter got Christen more excited than socially acceptable but she really didn't care. Not holding back feelings was one of the things she tried to actively work on. So if she felt as excited as she did right now -- excited bouncing and clapping was her go to move.
Arriving at work she made sure to greet everyone mostly sitting in offices for administrative stuff.
She bought some strawberries on her way there – because – why not?
And it made her honestly more happy giving them away to her coworkers than they were probably happy to receive them.
After passing by the offices she puts the remaining ones in a big bow and places them in the middle of the table in the community room. Taking another look at the bookshelf she reorganized the other day - she was really happy with the outcome.
Afterwards she walked through the hallway - looking through the community-rooms to get a feeling for who was where . Their retirement home was on the more expensive end of the spectrum which meant they only had a few residents per home – The list Christen was mentaly checking off in her head was not very long.
After a short walk through the garden she just needed to check the private rooms to make sure no one was missing.
She always made sure to check on Walter last – knowing that they’ll probably end up chatting for a little bit – she just wanted to be sure to have anything else under control so she could give him her undivided attention, without worrying about anyones whereabouts.
She always wanted to give every patient her full attention – simply because they deserved it. Everyone here was so nice – and often kind of wise. Some more than others – in general some were more mentally fit than others but she could hold a somewhat normal conversation with all of them.
That’s a side of her job she was really lacking back in LA – everything was way more hectic and on the go. She didn’t really have the time to actually connect with the residence on a deeper level.
And although she knew everyone living here quite well - her connection to Walter was different. He was an actual friend.
Something she didn't really expect at first.
They just clicked.
So when she knocked on his door accompanied by a small bowl of strawberries that she wanted to give him, she didn’t immediately get an answer but instead heard the all familiar mumbling through the door that indicated that he was talking to someone on the phone again.
She decided to quickly slip in just to give him the strawberries quietly – not wanting to disrupt his phone call.
He smiled his widest smile when he saw her. Signaling that he was nearly done – and she should stay. Pointing to the chair at the window.
She didn’t really listen to what he was talking about. She could feel how happy he was though – watching him sitting in his wheelchair – laughing at whatever was said on the other end of the line – she got lost in her own thoughts for a moment.
She got pulled out of them when his tone indicated the end of the phone call “Thanks Little-one! I’m really excited! Thank you so much for calling – but I have to go! I got company waiting for me” there was a small pause - the person on the other end of the line must have said something that made him laugh out loud. He was looking at her now. “Nah not like that – I have a feeling I might not be her type! Bye little, I love you - talk soon!!”
After he put his Phone down he adjusted his position to face Christen - still smiling his widest smile he reached for the small bowl “So are you going to tell me what I did to deserve the honour of some strawberries? - Are you trying to impress me after all? Should I maybe call my granddaughter back to tell her I might have a chance with you? She was curious, you know?” He said with a wink that displayed the wrinkles around his eyes even more.
“Nah - You are getting ahead of yourself - I wouldn't dare to think I had a chance with you! -- You’re way out of my league”
“And here I was always thinking I might me a bit to masculine for you” He is laughing - Christen on the other hand didn’t join in immediately.
..was he implying what she thought he was implying?
“Don't be shy all of a sudden kiddo! I have eyes you know!”
“Sorry - I was just trying to think if we ever talked about that” she said, joining with a small chuckle. She felt herself blushing a little - she wasn't uncomfortable or shy about her sexuality - it had more to do with the fact that she usually didn't talk about things like THAT with him.
“Did I ever tell you the story of how we bought our first house?” He decided to change the subject.
Christen was shaking her head no, thankful for the change of subject - although she still had a few questions!
“It was one of those nights where we couldn't really sleep. She kind of took me for a walk - we weren’t talking much, just always walking through quiet streets, sometimes stopping to look up to the stars. When we were close to the sea she always took me to the beach. Those small acts always grounded me - on days where I was thinking too much, she knew she needed to get me out of the house - no matter the time.
We were just staying in Portland over the weekend. She was holding my hand when we walked towards a house at the end of a small street.
It was an old house with a big pear tree and lots of small strawberry plants in front of it.
She just turned to me - gave my hand a reassuring squeeze before she told me that we are going to live there one day.
I didn't really take it seriously - at that point I kind of pictured myself building my own house - with my own hands, like my dad did.
Looking back it was probably for the best i didnt, I'm not really a handy man. I had to learn that the hard way over the years when it came to fixing things in the house.
We were standing in the middle of this street in the darkness of the night and looked at this old house. She seemed so sure
I liked the idea, but I was being way more realistic -- looking back I should maybe say pessimistic … I didn't think the odds would actually lead us there … but what can I say?
I brought three healthy kids home to this house - they all climbed on that old pear tree, faces read from the strawberries they shoved into their mouths, and I will never forget that dessert Tobin always made for thanksgiving with fresh pears from this tree.
I think it's a german recipe she got from her own Grandma. It's called Birne Helene .
I never wanna eat it made from anyone else but my Tobin and with the pears from this tree.”
He was looking outside through the window now. The familiar sadness visible in his face. Christen didn't want to disrupt him. She gave him those quiet moments before he looked at her again.
“strawberries are alright though - I couldn't give them up forever just to honour our time in that house” his eyes are lighting up again while he grabbed a handful of the strawberries Christen brought with her.
“she was right, you know?
she was kind of stubborn - but she guided me through life - it always felt like she knew where to go - i was just following her blindly - trying not to stumble on the way. And when I did - she was always there to catch me.
I would have been so lost without her.
I’ll never take our love for each other for granted.
I know she is still guiding me - sometimes i can be a little unsure about god - but i'll always believe in my Tobin.”
“One day I wanna find my Tobin!”
It felt like a secret she hadn't shared before. Not even with herself. She was a bit surprised by the revelation. Usually priding herself on her independence. Ensuring everyone that that kind of partnership was not really in the cards for her. Of Course she was being a bit over dramatic thinking that now that she was over thirty love wasn’t as available anymore, like it was when she was younger.
Shaped by the impression that everyone her own age was already taken, married and having kids. She knew that this was not the reality – and more so, that some people fall in love when they are sixty, seventy or even eighty years old. She spent enough time with people that age to see that it was as exciting as it was for people half their age.
She imagined herself in every different scenario and really didn’t prefer one over the other.
She could see herself having a family –
she could also see herself being single, owning a little house on some beach somewhere – a dog being her companion. Living a peaceful existence content witherselft.
… but some part of her must have wished for this – for a love like the one this old man she loved so much was describing.
He was smiling at her mischievously
“I’m sure you will!”
That's all he said. But he looked like he wanted to say so much more. Like the wheels in his head were spinning at a high speed. Mapping something.
“Will you be working on Sunday?” He asked, as if this would be the solution to readjust the threads and gears in his head. To find a solution.
"I have the late shift - means I am here from 2pm on, like today. „
For a second she thought about asking him why he was interested in her schedule all of a sudden - but he seemed like he needed to think about something - so she grabbed a strawberry instead, smiling at him the same ways he was smiling at her.
Leave me some Feedback or Ideas ;)
“You know Monica, I think our next guest might be a bit toooo famous for you”
Christen had gotten into the habit of listening to podcasts or audiobooks whenever she went out to go grocery shopping or doing any other activity where she didn't need to engage but was still surrounded by a lot of people.
It's her little escape out of all the noises
the kid yelling a few aisles down
the older couple talking very loudly with each other
the mechanical voice announcing the best offers
and old country songs playing in a similar quality in between.
She was accompanied by a flawless shopping list - an art she perfected over the years.
Every item was written down in the same order it’ll appear on her way through the store. She liked to be particular like that - not in an OCD kind of way - it just felt good to be organized and efficient while maneuvering through the store.
She enjoyed it even more since she got into the habit of shopping with her headphones on. She loved to listen about the depth of the universe while picking out the right kind of apples, loved getting an inspiring message from Michelle Obama while walking through the cereal aisle.
She felt distracted in the best kind of way.
Never too much to get completely lost - but enough to not see the frowning faces - to not think too much about the neighbours, their problems and the latest talk of the town.
Shopping like this became a new place of happiness.
Sometimes it got weird though.
She knows she must look like a maniac, when she can't hold back a low chuckle or a full on laugh. It doesn't happen often but when it did she was met with the worried eyes of strangers.
Today was especially proun for moments like this.
She listened to a podcast interviewing one of her favorite authors. The woman was insanely inspiring. A deep thinker and good observer of everyday life.
But today she also seemed to be a standup comedian.
Her answers were whitty and spot on. Some responses came out of nowhere and it had Christen giggling more than she could hold back. She tried to control it.
Tried to focus on buying cookies she could bring to work the next day.
Tried her best to keep looking kind of serious while doing so - and also actually pick a kind that no one was allergic to.
She held her head down so nobody could see her grinning widely - because if a woman laughing to herself was seen as anything, it must be as mentally unstable.
She was still standing in front of the Oat cookies - not really paying attention to anything happening around her.
As soon as she placed the small box with adequate cookies in her shopping cart, her suppressed giggling was paying its revenge at a particularly funny part - and she started straight out laughing.
It didn't last long - she had some self control after all - but when she looked up she was met with a pair of very confused looking eyes.
They were brown like rich honey, belonging to a woman that must be around the same age as her. But because she was looking so confused, and a little bit apologetic - mostly caught off guard, she looked more like a four year old that had done something wrong.
“is it really that bad?”
Before Christen could say anything the stranger already started rambling
“I usually don't really buy groceries all that often - but I mean - it's really just two bags of gummy bears and some chocolate - it's not even all for myself - I was planning on giving some to the kids in my new neighborhood… And I also was planning on getting some vegetables! There were just a lot of people before so I thought I’ll get them at the end - I swear!” Christen only heard half of what the attractive woman in front of her was saying. she really did look like a little kid that got caught doing something she wasn't supposed to do - a bit of regret, mixed with confusion and a healthy amount of justification.
She took one of the earplugs out to catch the last sentences of what was being said to her.
when she understood that the woman was defending herself - or her choice of groceries - in one way or the other she needed to start laughing for real. Not because of the podcast still playing in one of her ears but because of the situation she found herself in
“I’m sorry - I don't know what impression I gave of - I’m not even sure what you are actually talking about - but I was listening to a podcast, and it got really funny, really unexpected”
the face of the other woman fell even more and started to be occupied by a slight blush
“I really thought you were judging me for my groceries - I swear my mom has a permanent residency in the back of my mind - because I could really see her judgy face as soon as you laughed at me”
The last words were mumbled because she was now covering her whole face with her hands. Hiding her embarrassment behind perfect fingers - Christen noticed.
Long, strong, elegant and a small gold band on the middle finger of her right hand - It was more feminin than the rest of her appearance.
Christen was shaking her head lightly - still laughing about this uncommon encounter “Nah you're good, I mean some dark chocolate can nearly be considered healthy and I'm sure there is a good reason for three packages of sour patches too”
This made the brown haired woman laugh.
Christen was now grinning from ear to ear.
“Don't even think about judging me about those sour patches! I love them and didn't have them for nearly three years!”
“That seems like an unnecessary long withdrawal for your favorite sweets --- very long diet?”
“Nope - I was just living in Europe and they don't have them there - can you believe it?!”
“Seems very unfair for all those Europeans to miss out on the perfection that is sour patches! - Maybe that's why you barely ever see them smile.”
Christen feels a little rush from head to toe when the other woman starts laughing at her joke - It makes her want to talk more with the stranger. She wants to hear her laugh again feeling the tingling all over her skin she just keeps on talking:
“Shopping can be hard when you come back from a foreign country after a long time! I see why you got stuck in the sweets aile - after I came back from Sweden after a year I was dying to get my hands on some reese's peanut butter cups. My Mum could barely contain her laughter after I literally ran through Walmart to get some as quick as possible”
“You've lived in Sweden?! Sweet! - I never really made it up north. I lived in France and mostly travelled south to go surfing and stuff”
She looks like someone who would surf.
The easy going vibe she gives off, the baggy pants and the long shirt, the wavy hair that falls effortless over one shoulder paired with a supreme cap resting on top of it.
Her whole style looks effortless and attractive nonetheless.
“Sweden is beautiful - you should really check it out if you ever get the chance! But I bet France was beautiful too”
“yeah! It just has a different vibe I guess - and pretty dope food!”
She talks like a surfer too
They get interrupted because an older lady tries to navigate her shopping cart through the aisle they are currently standing in the middle off.
Both have to pull their shopping carts to the side - now with even more distance between them Christen wonders if she should stay or take this as an opportunity to end their conversation - she doesn't want to keep the other woman that probably just wanted to go grocery shopping in peace like herself.
Before she can say anything though brown eyes find hers again.
“So a podcast huh?”
Christen is blushing.
why is she blushing?
“I usually listen to something that makes me think while I’m shopping - but somehow I ended up with a really funny one today”
“So you always listen to podcasts while you are out and about judging people for their grocery choices?”
Christen could hear the teasing tone - she still wanted to make sure she wasn't misunderstood though
“I really wasn't judging you - I promise! - although, now that I had time to have a closer look - maybe you should walk by the vegetable aisle again”
They are both laughing - loud - and Christen can't pull her eyes away from the little wrinkles that form around the corner of those warm brown eyes.
After a long moment of uninterrupted eye contact the stranger clears her throat and shakes her head a little as if she had to get rid of a thought.
“I’ll check out the vegetables again - I promise!”
It seemed like a goodbye, so Christen starts moving her cart a little
“I’m glad! I’ll get back to my podcast then”
She says while pointing to one of her earplugs
“maybe I’ll see you at the checkout - if not, have a good day --- oh and welcome back to the US!”
Christen is rewarded with the widest authentic smile she has ever seen.
“Thanks! And good luck with not laughing for the rest of your shopping trip”
It's the last thing she hears before the stranger is gone and Christen is left behind.
Now it's Christens turn to shake her head.
It takes her a moment - but then She puts her headphones back in and continues her trip through the market.
After paying and grabbing her bags she thinks about waiting for the stranger in front of the shops but decides against it.
Maybe that would be a bit creepy.
She is still thinking about the warm brown eyes when she unpacks her bags in her apartment.
And when she meditates.
She is even still thinking about them on her way to work, a bit annoyed with herself that she didn't ask the woman for her number - or even her NAME!
When she meets her again that night in her dreams - she asks her for her name.
By the time she gets up the next morning she has forgotten it.
While Christen never felt like her work was actually hard work she really didn't consider working on a sunday work.
She started most sundays off with a warm cup of coffee - quiet music filling her apartment. She didn't have a newspaper getting delivered on sundays so she grabs whatever book she is currently reading.
Getting lost in the pages for a little while.
Her family was somewhat religious but she never really participated in regular church services. She didn't see herself as a religious person - but sundays were still special to her.
She tried to listen to herself more - be still - meditate a bit and make sure to be extra mindful while going through the notions of getting ready for work.
She made sure to drop cookies in the community room and light a candle to place in the middle of the table.
Sometimes she closed her eyes to send a little prayer.
Today was a good day. She wished for more days like these.
Eyes still closed she tried to ground herself. Listening to the noises of people talking, a TV thats always showing some sort of old romantic movie in the corner of the room.
The Music playing in Barbara's Room.
The smell of the candle, mixed with a hearty smell still lingering in the room from whatever food was served for lunch today.
She opens her eyes again, ready to start her shift with the routine of checking on everyone.
Walter, as always, is the last on her list.
She hears his infectious laugh through the closed door still echoing into the hallway.
Her good mod was even more amplified by the noise.
With another box of cookies in hand she opened the door - she was expecting him to be on the phone talking to someone.
Instead he sat in his wheelchair facing the door - opposite of him - company. He smiled at her as soon as she walked into the room. His eyes tear filled from laughing so much.
She was about to close the door again but he already spoke up
“Christen! - This is perfect timing! I want you to meet Tobin” He was pointing at the woman sitting across from him, still with her back to the door.
A hint of worry must have already flashed across Christens face
„Don't worry kiddo” he is still smiling from ear to ear – “I’m not going crazy! I mean the little Tobin. My Granddaughter”
“oh” -- it took her a moment -- “OH!”
while Christen was still trying to get her racing heart to slow down it sped up even more when the little Tobin turned around.
She was met with a wide smile similar to Walters
“little, this is Christen - my best friend” He introduced her while winking at Christen.
Her mind was still trying to catch up on the fact that Walter didn't have some sort of weird flashback but was introducing her to one of his Granddaughter he talked so much about. She barely could get to the point of recognizing who she was looking at.
She blinked a few times and when their eyes met they both started laughing.
Infront of her was the stranger from the supermarked.
The second before Tobin started to speak felt like an eternity. Christen could swear her mind was never so slow with unsolving a pretty solvable puzzle.
“So you are the Christen that Grandpa can't stop talking about - you might be a bit famous in our family group chat”
Christen wasn't sure if her face showed surprise, confusion, happiness or still a hint of worry but when she finally found her voice she was pointing at the little Tobin.
“you are the sour-patch-lady!”
“Sourpatch-Lady?” now it was Walters turn to look confused.
Christen held her hand out to greet the woman whose name she had just learned
“Nice to get to know your Name Tobin I’m Christen ”
Tobin took her hand “I know” she chuckled “Good to see you again Christen”
Her heart skipped a beat.
I really enjoy reading your comments - so in the kindest, selfish way I'm asking: please keep them coming!
And as always: Feedback is more then welcome!
Chapter 4: That Feeling
I'm learning that writing is hard - and finding time to write is even harder!
I want to stick with it though.
As always - feedback, inspirations and your thoughts are always more then welcome :)
Somehow she spent nearly the whole afternoon with Walter and his Granddaughter.
She tried to leave a couple of times because she started to feel like she was neglecting her work, but he always pulled her into another story he was telling.
The stories weren't only exclusive about Walter's life though. He talked a lot about Tobin too.
How she was fearless as a small kid, how he thought that of all his Grandchildren she really was the right one to end up with the name of his beloved wife. His Tobin and the little one were similar in so many ways. Both were strong minded and independent, both had a wild imagination and a heart of gold. He assured Christen that Little still held all of these traits. He told her how the two of them were inseparable when Littles family was living close to Portland.
How Little was the one helping pick the pears from the huge Tree in their garden year after year - and no matter where in the world she was - she always came back for a few days just in the right time to pick said pears - even when she lived half way across the world. Tobin joined in on the story, telling Christen that she called those weeks her “annual time machine”. Walter tells Christen that he called them “Two weeks of two Tobins”.
Christen was like a silent audience member, entranced by the choreography of well told stories playing out in front of her. She got lost in them - and in the comfortable energie
and Walter shared. It felt like being teleported into a warm living room around christmas time. Where there is a fireplace lit and everyone is snuggled under blankets. Where she herself is just a little kid listening to stories of her own grandpa and uncle.
She only gets pulled back into the reality of Walter's room whenever Tobins eyes find her own.
Always Giving her a reassuring look, like she wanted to check in with Christen, to see if she was still comfortable. It places a whole other feeling of soft warmth and coziness in the middle of Christens chest. A feeling she would carry around with her for the next few days,even weeks - while her mind was trying to figure it out. She felt so drawn to those soulful brown eyes.
Christen learned that Tobin and Tobin seemed to have a strong bond - that translated into Tobin being a very independent and adventurous kid.
Christen also learned that Tobin was referred to as little Tobin for the first few years - but over time it was shortened to just “Little”
He told story after story that made Tobin, the cool relaxed looking woman blush more than Christen thought someone with such a calm nature could blush. Even through blushing she gave off the impression of honestly not carrying too much.
Christen was eying the woman all the while Walter was telling his stories. Tobin is someone who seems just confident and comfortable with herself - like someone who is happy with her life at every moment she is in. She seems present and thoughtful
- and in between she also seems like a little kid.
Maybe because she was sitting next to her Grandpa right now - maybe because that's just the way she is, but when Walter was pulling out some of the Hersehys kisses he was famous for always carrying around - she grabbed them with the energy of a four year old on a sugar rush and it made Christen smile more then might have been appropriate. She really didn't care though. There was a careless energy in the room that she simply let herself fall into.
Walter was a great storyteller - he must have been all his life.
He never rushed while talking, but also engaged with his whole face. His voice deep, and warm, and comforting.
His eyes reliving moments of a time long gone.
They end up in a story about how the little Tobin decided to live in the tree in front of her grandparents house for the whole Summer. He helped her build a Treehouse, because everyone seemed to agree that the little Tomboy couldn't be stopped anyway - so they better help her make it a safe place.
He continues on telling how his Tobin snuck out of the house - with books, flashlights, blankets and a Thermos flask containing hot chocolate - to spend the night with their Granddaughter. Maybe - because she still felt as adventures as the eleven year old herself - but mostly because she could understand her better then anyone and knew that adventures were best lived with a partner in crime - so she decided to be that person for the little one over the next few days.
At some point in the story Christen saw Tobin grabbing Walters hand - instinctively - she didn't even seem to notice she was doing it. Her eyes focused with adoration on those of her grandpa, who keeps on telling his story as unbothered by the physical contact as Tobin.
That little gesture made Christens heart swell -- she was touched by how authentic, open and loving these two were with each other. How it seems like they know each other in and out. She was moved in a gut wrenching way. Longing for her own family maybe - for an unconditional connection like the one that she saw in front of her - but mostly because she was outbursting with happiness for her friend. She loved that he always had family around, that he got to live a life that was worth telling in so many stories. She was happy that she gets to be a part of it all.
Getting lost in her own thoughts for a moment she was met with those unfamiliar warm brown eyes - as soon as she looked up again.
She didn't shy away but was getting lost in the soft smile that seemed to ask “are you ok?” without any words. Both still listening to his story, but oblivious to the smile on Walter's face that was growing wider and wider because of the scene in front of him.
An excited feeling was spreading through Walter's veins. A feeling that is usually so quiet it takes a lifetime of experience to listen to it.
It's a kind of deep knowing.
Of everything good lining up.
There were moments in his life where he described it as god's guidance.
But this time the feeling wasn't for him. It was for the two other people in the room. People he loved differently but still so similar.
He was really excited - and tried his best to not show it too much. Afraid it could scare whatever small seed was just starting to grow in front of him. He promised himself to water and care for it in the best way he possibly could though.
These were the kinds of promises that would never be broken.
Reluctantly at some point Christen really had to get going - she had a job to do after all.
And she also wanted to give them some space. She really didn't want to intrude.
To Christens surprise Tobin opened her arms and held her in a tight hug to say goodbye. It was short and strong - but felt like a hug that could make you forget all of your worries - a hug that makes you relax instantly.
She felt the slight hint of Tobins perfume engulfing her.
Christen found herself wishing to stay in this exact moment, heart pounding strongly inside her chest, her nervendings pulsating. she was feeling alive in the best way possible.
It took her a bit to figure it out though. right now she was just sure that she must be having a really good day.
Later, when it was Tobins time to leave, Walter took one of her cheeks in one hand and kissed her softly on the other.
He looked at her meaningfully
“You made me very happy today”
It was mostly whispered and after a few moments that felt profound somehow he opened his arms and he pulled her down into a full hug. Because of his wheelchair she ended up sitting in his lab to hug him properly.
They embraced each other for a little bit.
“It's so good to have you back in Portland”
She was holding him tight.
Her grandpa that she didn't get to hug for way too long.
The man she would always move around the world for.
She must have been a kid the last time she sat in his lab like this.
Tobin felt a tear run down her cheek. It was immediately followed by a large hand and shaky fingers wiping it away.
They didn't need to talk about it - they understood each other without using words. They knew that this was not a tear of sadness.
Still holding her tight - her head now on his shoulder - his hand stroking over her head - they both smiled content.
“I’m just happy that the universe brought me back here. It feels like it was always meant to happen like this. Like I’m right where I should be”
“I know. -- I feel it too”
They stayed like this in silence for a bit. Just in this moment - where they were right where they're supposed to be.
He waited until he felt her whole attention
“Promise me to always trust this feeling. Nomatter what point you are in your life. It's a good feeling. It might not always feel exactly like this - sometimes it's more in disguise - but you'll know when you know. And I need you to trust it. Always.''
It felt like one of those wisdoms that she’ll remember for a lifetime.
A moment whose exact details are forever etched in her memory. Archived even in the furthest corners - and traceable in the darkest hours.
Christen was sitting on the floor of Beth's Room when she heard the front door of the other room open and close - It was Walters door - she didn't hear any wheelchair noises so she knew it must be Tobin leaving.She has this immediate urge to jump up - and try to catch Tobin. She tried her best not to listen - to keep her focus on Beth but she really wanted to talk to this girl some more. She knew it was silly. She knew it was irrational, but for a split second she looked at Beth and tried to figure out a white lie why she needed to leave the room right now. She didn't come up with a solid one though - and instantly felt guilty and… well...kind of crazy.
To be honest - Christen felt drawn to the woman - she had this urge to get to know her -- outside of just Walters stories. Like a magnet being pulled to the other.
Tobin seemed so relaxed and Christen easily felt like she could learn a thing or two about that from her. She wanted to ask her what she was doing in Europe - if she was back for the long haul or just because fall was just around the corner and she would pick the pears at Walter's old home again.
She wanted to ask if she needs help, or if she needs a friend, another person who is new to this area, … although Tobin must know this area if she spend her summers here - and also a part of her childhood? But she might still need help picking the pears in the Garden of Walters old house.
Thinking about it she wasn't even sure if he sold the house or still owned it…. she made a mental note to ask him the next time they talked about the past.
She also kind of longed for another hug like the one Tobin gave her.
And for the love of god! - She really wanted to know what they were talking about her in that family group chat Tobin mentioned?
She was horrified Tobin could have a wrong impression of her.
Her thoughts were spiralling through the unplanned meeting in the supermarket - and about everything she said today. All of a sudden she was concerned she gave off a weird vibe..
Beth pulled her out of her thoughts - “honey, you look really concerned - are you ok?”
Christen tried to shake the feeling - and inevitably also those thoughts. “Yeah , yeah sure - I just got lost for a moment - sorry” She was blushing - she usually wasn't unprofessional like this.
“Where were we?”
“You were going to help me to transfer my Yucca-Plant into a bigger pod” she said with an empathetic smile.
They started to move the plant out of the small pod - into a bigger one that Christen filled up to three quarters with soil.
“Why don't you tell me about him?”
That really caught her off guard
“What? - What do you mean?” Beth wasn't one of her patients that had a mental disorder or was getting disoriented.
“You are obviously thinking about someone important - why don't you tell me about him? Its been a while that I heard a good love story”
Her eyes were sparkling with curiosity.
Christen really didnt feel like there was something to talk about - but she also didnt want to dissapoint Beth - She really didnt want to go through the whole gay talk at the moment though - so she stuck withe a more neutral approach when it came to talking abaut her sexuality with keeping words as as neutral als possible.
Trying to get a grip on what she was feeling at the moment she took some time before she started speaking. She hadn't figured out what happened earlier in Walter's room - or even in the supermarket - she couldn't really get a grip on her urge to intercept tobin bevor sie geht. she just decided to start talking and see where her telling of the storie so far takes her.
“I just met someone the other day - and maybe I actually can't stop thinking about that person. But I think it's only because it was someone who seemed like they could tell a thousand stories and has a great outlook on life. I think I just wanted to ask a million questions I never asked”
“Honey - I don’t mean to intrude - but that sounds like someone you might have a crush on. I mean you were not born a journalist so why else do you seem so eager to interview him?”
The pronouns made her cringe internally but Christen wasn't sure if she really wanted to get into THAT talk today.
She decided to postpone that topic for another day.
The words of Beth got to her though.
But she didn't even know her. She was being a bit irrational.
She still decided to feel into it in her next meditation session.
Changing the subject she tried to get Beths mind into another love story “You know - I actually can tell you a real life love story if you want to. My younger Sister is getting married in a few week time - and I’ll fly out to help her with the preparation at the end of next week”
“Oh that's wonderful” Beth clapped her hands together and folded them in front of her chest.
“How did he propose?”
“oh that” Christen started laughing “ that's actually a pretty funny story - he kind of had to propose twice because she didn't get it the first time. To be fair - he didn't have the ring on him then - the second time around was perfect though. I was even able to watch it because my older sister was facetiming me when he did it.”
She spent the better half of her shift with Beth and her plants telling her about the upcoming plans - about the dress she was going to wear to the wedding and what presents other relatives were planning on getting Channing.
Before going home she stopped by Sues office to confirm that their plans to go to the shelter were still up for Thursday.
Leaving that day her heart was beating a bit faster, she was feeling a bit lighter and mostly she just couldn't stop smiling. She had a feeling that it was going to be a good week.
What could be better than the prospect of picking a pub for one of your closest friends to amplify this feeling?
She immediately pulled out her phone to open a group chat with Sue and Meghan - she would need it.
The coming days all kinds of articles, amazonlinks and even a documentary found their way in there.
She couldn't wait!
Chapter 5: Home
Picking out a pub at the shelter with Sue and Megan was both easier and harder than anticipated.
The two women seemed on the same page with everything and fell in love quickly with a Bernese Poodle mix.
What turned out way harder though was for Christen not picking out a dog for herself too.
It was a good call to take the two women here shortly before she was travelling to her sister's wedding. Cause it would just be irresponsible to adopt a dog right at this moment. That's what she kept trying to tell herself anyway.
Nevertheless she couldn't help but keep walking up to this small blond pub with piercing blue eyes. The sign next to the cage, saying it was a golden retriever-husky mix, also indicated that the pub was the last one left of his litter waiting to be adopted.
While Sue and Megan were signing the papers for their own new dog, Christen was sitting on the floor - hands reaching behind the bars to scratch the little girl behind those floppy ears.
The dog was looking at Christen with almost human-like, cencire eyes that stirred a sense of protectiveness and care deep down in her.
“I’m sorry I can’t take you with me!” she whispered “but my sister is getting married in just ten days - and I’m leaving tomorrow. That just wouldn't be fair to you!” she tried to reason with an animal, like she needed to explain her behavior to those blue eyes that just kept focusing on hers.
The dog didn't seem to bother though. She was pushing her head stronger into Christens soft hands, still keeping eye contact.
“How about this - if you are still here when I’m back in three weeks I’ll take you home with me?”
As if the small golden brown dog understood what was being said to her she started wiggling her tail even more, no longer interested in being scratched she ran around in small circles inside her cage. Christen chuckled a bit at the reaction - she couldn't help but feel heartbroken to leave the pub behind though.
The next day, sitting on the plane - her phone was full of text messages from Sue and Megan - mostly pictures of Merkel, their new dog - whose naming made Christen laugh and roll her eyes at the same time but mostly made her love them even more.
Between the step to step documentation of every move the pub made there were a lot of questions about the perfect routine, potty training, and the right amount of food. They were nervous when their set timetable for the new family member was 10 minutes off, and Christen was kind of loving how untypically uneasy and nervous Sue and Megan seemed to be with the new situation.
She knew they were well prepared - even reading not one but many books on the topic but the excitement of a livechnage like this turned them into the equivalent of helicopter moms.
With that thought she sent a last text message with encouraging words to the couple and turned off her phone.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and tried to be excited for everything that was to come. To celebrate the love of her little sister and her fiance, to be back in LA - for the first time in nearly a year. Thankful for this moment in her life and the days to come. She was drifting into a light slumber thinking about the small blond pub whose soulful eyes made her heart swell, and whom she promised to come back.
She really meant it when she made the promise.
She woke up to the captain announcing their landing and a whole different set of eyes still on her mind. A pair she just met last week but made her heart beat faster nevertheless. Still lost in the limbo between dreaming and waking up, confused to where she was, those soulful warm brown eyes with the most authentic faint lines of wrinkles around her eyes faded, just to be replaced by the bright light inside the cabin.
She leaned back, preparing for the landing and the coming days.
Coming home is different when you spend a long time away.
She could smell, what must be the scent of her home - her nose no longer accustomed to the smell which nevertheless immediately evokes a feeling of security and warmth deep inside her
The need for change that tore her away from this place - from her home - nearly forgotten. It was a funny thing. The first few days back she nearly started doubting herself. Why did she ever feel the need to leave? This place is where her family is, where the branches of the trees she climbed as a kid still reach up into the sky.
The energy of the place capturing her, enveloping her in a veil of memory and nostalgia.
But as the days progressed and the same rhythm was repeated over and over again, as the old little quarrels of her aunts filled the living room and especially in those moments when the absence of the soul that was the heart of this family, the glue whose unconditional love and attentive eyes held everything together at its core became painfully conscious, she knew why she longed for the distance.
Longing for a change of scenery, for a different coffee shop - another bakery, and mostly a chance to steer her life into a different direction, to be the captain of her own boat.
When she moved to Portland, she followed her heart and her gut.
Christen, who always planned everything - and for whom structure was the foundation of her life - had followed the urge to leave all structures and pillars behind. Maybe to find out who she was outside the world that had shaped her.
Like a piece of a puzzle that has always been part of the same picture - but wanted to find out what kind of other pieces were out there. Pieces that didn't shape who she was - but gave her the opportunity to build a whole different picture instead.
The realization of having a longing for the familiarity of her home, her sisters, her father, her aunts, her grandmother and even the ever-changing newspaper delivery boys makes her acknowledge a sense of a very special foundation.
Yes - this is where her roots lay - and no storm could take them away from her - even if the branches spread out in different directions - the roots of all of them were found here in this living room. Between the laughters and the cooking, the bickering with her sisters - and the never ending advice from her ants.
After being greeted like a long lost child - and a few very hectic days in a very noisy house she found herself finally calming down sitting on the porch, a cup of tea in her hands. The sun had sat a while ago, but she was just enjoying the light breeze from the ocean close by, the rustling of the leaves in the trees she grew so fond of. Her bare feet grounding in the grass. Changing between closing her eyes to take it all in, and opening them to gaze at the stars and the small crescent of the moon.
Tomorrow was going to be the big day. Everything was set up, everyone knew what to do as soon as the sun rises. She had hung the dress she was going to wear on the outside door of her closet, she already straightened her hair, so she only needed to go over it quickly in the morning and was then ready to style it.
All the noise had turned into quiet anticipation. As far as she could tell everyone took that anticipation into their own rooms, getting rested for the day ahead.
She was bursting with happiness, Channing deserved the world!
Her little sister was always the quiet one, the one who had been silently struggling - until she found meditation and Yoga. From there on she blossomed into this beautiful, strong woman with such a deep understanding of human nature and the emotions of those surrounding her.
She picked up on Christens moods like no other.
Which is why Christen wanted to make sure to be relaxed and in a good place of her mind when she stood as a bridesmaid behind her on the arguably most important day of her life.
And Christen was truly looking forward to it. Closing her eyes she could see her little sister in the beautiful floral dress she helped pick out - gazing into the eyes of the love of her life - Michael. Her long time Boyfriend that Christen adored nearly as much as her sister does. He is an honest and spiritual man - he always looks out for Channing - showering her with love and affection.
Christen knows that what those two have is real.
She sees them standing in front of their friends and family. Smiling into the bright summer day.
Christen is lost in her thoughts when she hears the door open and close softly behind her.
She feels the presence of her dad before she opens her eyes to look at him.
Without saying a word he is sitting down next to her and she instinctively leanes her head on his brought shoulder.
Both not saying a single thing for a view minutes.
“Are you ok up there in Portland?”
“Yeah - I really think I am” she lifts her head from the soft cotton of his shirt to look him in the eyes.
“Are you mad at me for leaving?”
“Oh Mo!” - that's what he calls her sometimes “I could never! I understand - I really do!” He is looking at her, taking her hand in his strong big hands and giving it a little squeeze.
“That doesn't mean that I don’t miss you though”
“I know, I miss you guys too - being here the last few days was really something. I’m so happy to have you all around me all day, to share everyday life with you, and I feel so warm and safe here. Dad, this is my home - it always has been, and it always will be!”
He knows that she means it - he can also see that she is not done sharing her thoughts. Christen seems hesitant to say the next words - so with another soft squeezee of her hands he encourages her
Christen looks at the gras in front of her - not quite brave enough to look at her dad while talking now. Scared to hurt him.
“But it also brought back a lot of memories” she takes a deep breath “so many good memories - but somehow they still hurt … so much… especially here!”
Her sight is getting blurry and she can hear her voice crack a little. She takes a moment -- but then her eyes land on his again.
It's like the floodgates open as soon as they meet.
“I just miss her … so much … She is everywhere in this house. She is in You and Tyler and Channing - and especially in Aunt Sel!” This makes the huge man chuckle a little.
“I know it sounds like I’m running away from it - I’m not, I promise! But I just had this strong feeling to close one chapter and open another one. Like my life at this place ended with her - and it was time to start writing on new pages. To live my own life - and to have some change.”
She can't really read her dad's expression at the moment so she just keeps on talking. “I don't want to forget her - and I think about Mum everyday, but I want to think of her because a puppy reminds me of her love for our dogs, or because I think about her while I’m folding my laundry because she always made such a big deal about us doing it right. I don't want to think of her because I see an empty chair that she is supposed to be sitting on… You know?”
“I do Mo, I do!”
He pulls her into a tight hug. stroking her back in the same soothing way he always did when she was upset about anything and everything
“How do you do it, dad?”
Now it's his time to take a deep breath. “I just do, …. and I think it's different for me. I don't look at that chair and see something that is missing, I look at it and feel her presence. I think I’m the opposite to you. I need to stay here, because I can feel her here. I don't think I can ever let go of that”
“She was the best mum” Christen sniffles into his shirt.
“She really was!” His voice sounds lighter, not as labored by grief as it did before. So thats how he does it Christen thinks to herself. She is relieved to know that he is doing ok. Hurting - but moving on.
There is one more thing on her mind though, she wasn't gonna talk about it because talking about it just felt like speaking it into existence. A feeling that might not even be that prominent tomorrow as she fears.
“I’m really scared that Channing is going to hurt tomorrow because mum won't be there” She whispers into the night.
“Me too … But she'll be ok. She might be sad at some point, but I have seen her deal with her grieve at her own time - and I really think she is doing good. I think it’s normal for her to maybe feel it at some point tomorrow. But please don't let the thought of it hinder you from speaking about her. Channing is similar to me - being reminded of your Mum gives her more comfort of her still being part of our live, then it hurts her that she is physically not here”
The last bit surprised Christen a little. Her dad was always a rational thinker. Not really into religion or spirituality. He works as a banker and Christen always thought that the job fit his mind. Structured, predictable, calculated.
“Where do you think she is, dad?”
“I don't know Mo, but like I mentioned before I can feel her in this house. I think her energy is still there. Maybe her spirit even visits from time to time. And when I meditate I can sometimes feel her like she is sitting right next to me”
Christen is not really good at controlling her face - and her expression right now makes Cody laugh a whole hearted laugh
“You Meditate?! … when did that happen?”
“ah - your Sisters got me into it. I don't know… It really helps'' he is smiling at her, bumping his shoulder lightly into Christens because he can see the surprised look turn into something that comes pretty close to a smile
“I can't believe they never told me!” she narrows her eyes at him “are you really meditating or are you joking with me now?”
“nah Mo, I never joke about meditating”
“I need to see you do it , otherwise I might not believe you”
He chuckles “ I might not be able to meditate very well knowing you are observing me”
She still isn't fully convinced “how come I have never seen you doing it the last few days?”
“I meditate right after I get up, even before I grab a coffee - I sit down on the balcony outside my bedroom - You can join me tomorrow if you want. It’s a special day after all”
a wide smile is spreading across her face - like she was just offered a challenge “I actually might”
Dancing is exhausting!
That's why Christen is now sitting at the table with her grandma, her aunts - and basically everyone that is over the age of 60.
They are having light conversations while everyone is watching the party going on on the dancefloor.
Somehow Christen always found herself surrounded by seniors. Her Mum always used to joke that she has an old soul. A trait Christen liked in herself though.
Talking with her older relatives seems way more appealing than jumping in the middle of some dance floor surrounded by a see of sweaty people.
It was a gift, really!
Never underestimate older people - Thats what she had heard herself say many times over and over again to friends who didn't quite seem to get her affection, or strangers who treated their older relatives like they were no longer human. She said it to the grown up children of a few of her patients when they seemed surprised with the richness of their parents' still colorful lives.
She said it a thousand times - and jet she sometimes needed to remind herself of just that.
Never. underestimate. older. people.
“The blond one, isn't she your Granddaughter?” The needly dressed woman sitting across the table from Christen a few chairs down, but close enough that she could hear every word that was being spoken.
“No - that's Betty’s Grandsons wife”
“She doesn't look very married to me!” she watched her raise an eyebrow nearly comically so. It might just disappear underneath the perfectly styled grey perm.
“She seemed quite flirty with the tall man she is talking to right now”
“You think so?” Christen saw a devilish smirk flash across her aunt's friends face - or was she one of their old neighbors? - she can't really remember. But she was pretty sure her name was Lauren.
Yep the smirk on Laurens Face said that she knew more than Betty at that point.
“Well the handsome young man in question IS my Grandson, and he is happily married too. Like REALLY happily married”
First a flush of embarrassment flashed Bettys face - but then her resolutness was back. She wasn't going to back down from what her eyes were seeing.
Christen couldn't blame her. She was quite sure the blond woman - whom evers wife she might be - was heavily flirting with the tall man in question.
“Are you sure, they are as happily married as they seem to make you believe they are?” Her tone is slow, her eyebrows now both raised.
Everyone at their small table was paying attention now. Everyone was looking more or less obvious at Lauren - to get a hint of any emotion she was feeling right now.
Her face is one of a relaxed poker player though. One who you knew was handed the right cards, still looking professional, but under all the layers of neutral expressions the knowledge of triumph was blossoming.
She was still looking at the dance floor. Eying the situation.
Withouth giving anyone the gratification of facing them she stayed as neutral as ever when the words left her mouth.
“Oh yeah I’m sure. They just like to share their bed from time to time. They enjoy it quite a bit. You know, the swinger parties and stuff”
Christen was blowing wine through her nostrils. Coughing up the remains that didn't find their way to exit her nose - instead going down another wrong pipe.
She was sure someone at the table must have a heart attack soon.
Turns out - no one was having a heart attack.
No one was paying attention to her nearly dying either.
“That's nice” Betty says “He is a lucky man. Or she is a lucky wife! - Rob never wanted us to try something that adventurous. It's really good when those kids are on the same page with things like that. It keeps a marriage alive”
Everyone seemed to agree.
Christen was feeling like the prude at a table of whose average age was twice her own. Like the kid that never went to any parties. Although she had her fair share of those. Involving a few frat-party activities that would surely make the laid-back group of people surrounding this table sit a little straighter, maybe someone's wine would find its way down the wrong pipe too.
Or maybe it wouldn't.
Looking around the table, thinking about it for a moment - she was sure, they wouldn't.
Never underestimate old people.
She felt old, at the old-peoples table - that's how she ended up on the dancefloor for a bit. Much to the delight of her older sister who tried to twirl her around and jump to the beat of a song Christen has never heard of.
Trying to catch the feeling of the thrill of the days when we were young Her mind set on having moments to look back on, for a time in the future when her place at those tables was not voluntarily chosen between a few songs, but made her permanent residency without even questioning it.
Collecting moments that remind you of the good old days .
Christen couldn't really let herself believe that dancing on a sweaty dance floor was supposed to be the good days .
The carefree nature that was implied, was nothing she ever found among mindless decionins or one-night stands. Not in the alcohol in her system or the lack of responsibilities.
She was different.
she craved for responsibility.
She found freedom in nature, and long talks with people who had thought a lot about life.
She was carfree, when she didn't let doubt slip through the words her mind was producing faster then she could catch up - just to contribute to a deep conversation without restricting herself. Chasing a feeling of deeper knowledge. About herself, the world around her, or humanity as a whole.
That's how she ended up just outside the venue, scrolling through the pictures she had taken of the day.
She knew there were beautiful pictures to come - taken by a professional photographer that was following them around all day.
But she liked those on her phone.
She liked them for their authenticity.
How none of them tried to be perfect, they were simply capturing the moments of this life changing day of sorts.
From this day on she has another brother in law.
A whole different family had attached itself to hers.
There were faces jumping on the dancefloor, or sitting on one of the tables, that she was going to see at the birthday parties of children that were not born jet, faces that would be omnipresent on big days like these.
The picture on her phone shows her beautiful, beatiful sister, in her wedding dress - no shoes on her feet jet, beaming at her dad - in his nicest suit, beaming back at her just as bright.
Christen could tell he resisted the urge to hug her too tight, afraid he would ruin her hair.
Her sister was on cloud nine, because that's where she belonged now.
High in the clouds, following whatever dream was next to come.
There might be a new house soon, a dog, a cat, and at some point there will be little human feet running around. Christen was sure of the last part.
Channing was going to be a Mom one day.
Her older Sister Tyler wasn't quite sure if she wanted to be one one day, Christens life was far from it right now, but Channing was sure.
She would be handing down the legacy of their own mum.
The noodle soup she would make when they were sick, the tucking into bed the night before christmas, the little song she sung when they had to brush their teeth.
Channing would guide and support her kids like her own mum showed her to.
and Tyler and Christen would be there to help.
To remind her when she would be overwhelmed.
To take the kids for a couple of days when Channing and Mike had to go away to find themselves again - just to return impatient to hold their babies again. Even if they would only be gone for two or three days at a time.
Christen would show them around Portland. Maybe she would manage to be the fun aunt. Maybe she would see a bit of herself in them, or a bit of her mom, or her dad, or just a mix of them all.
This is something she can get excited about.
The life her sister deserved - so much.
Christen loves her a whole lot.
Her dad was right about today.
It was a beautiful day - and although there were deeply painful moments where they were reminded that their family was missing the person who held them all together all the time. Who purred her love in everything she did. The hurting didn't make them deeply sad, it assured them of her presence.
Her Mum was all around them.
She could feel her.
Just like her dad had told her he did.
It was good to be home.
And still, she was looking forward to returning to Portland soon.
To her life, her house, her workplace.
Return to Walter and Beth, and Sue and Megan, and to the dog in the shelter she couldn't stop thinking about.
For now she was revelling in the feeling of being where her roots were laid.
Growing stronger from the connection.
From the love surrounding her.
Today was a day to celebrate all that.
And she ended it by celebrating it the best way she knew she could.
After waving relatives and friends goodbye, after helping escourt not one but four way to drunk people to their Ubers, after sending Channing and Mike off to their Honeymoon.
After helping to pick up the chairs, collecting a few of the bottles laying around, after making sure the catering team was comfortable to take it from here, after looking into the very tired eyes of her dad who was waiting on her to be ready to head home
after a very eventful day - she stood in the dark kitchen only illuminated by the moonlight shining through the large glass doors leading out to their backyard, and made two cups of Chamomile tea.
Taking them outside to the place by the trees where she could hear the waves crashing in the distance.
She knew her dad would join her. It was never a question.
She loved having Tea at night with her Mum when she couldn't sleep. When she needed to process through whatever happened that day.
Some were hard days, some were overwhelming days, some were just incredibly happy days.
Sometimes she started out nervous or anxious, needed to talk about something or just sit in silence.
Her Mum was always by her side - chamomile tea in her hands.
Just like she was right now.
Maybe because her dad was there, maybe because they scattered her ashes is the waves she could now hear crashing against the shore. Not able to see them, but still know they are unmistakably there.
She is thankful to end the day with her dad in silence - just like they started their day actually meditating like he invited her to.
There was no question she was the one inviting him tonight to sit with her, outside in the dark, strong hands holding his cup.
She didn't need words to ask, she loved, that they could communicate like this.
There was one thing she needed him to hear though. Just to make sure he really knew.
“I feel her too. I know she is with me, next to me, inside me. She is in my heart and in my thoughts. Even when I’m not here, you know?”
He is silently looking at the cup in his hands, nodding his head.
“She will always be where you are Mo, I’m pretty sure she is taking care of all of us - how else do you explain, that I still haven't burned down the house while cooking”
This is what they do.
They feel deep feelings together, and then they laugh wholeheartedly
Her dad is one of her soulmates.
Standing in her Childhood bedroom two days after the wedding - and just two days before she was heading to Portland again she was getting ready for an event she put in her calendar over three months ago.
She was going to meet up with her old highschool friends in just two hours, and she could barely contain her excitement.
without any reason - and mostly for good old times sake different piles of clothes were scattered all over the room.
Looking herself over in the mirror one final time she was ready - casual, comfortable, self confident and ready.
Looking at one of the pictures on her wall she saw her younger self in the middle between the best friends she had at the time. Tim, Sam, Becky, Daniel, Julie and Kelly. Their faces were rounder then they are now, most of their smiles laced with braces. They were never the popular kids - but they were not disliked either - they mostly didn't care for all the hierarchies of highschools, they cared about being good people - about being the most authentic version of themselves they could be while still trying to figure out who they were. They cared about supporting each other and laughing a lot.
To this day the energy within their friend group was still so carefree, and teasing, so lighthearted and fun.
It connected them to a time where life was way less serious but could still feel so dramatic at times.
These were the people she grew up with, and although they drifted apart in the way life takes different directions for everyone - some moving away, most starting families of their own, everyone finding their place in this world - whenever they got back together over the last decade it was like no time had passed at all.
It was like a break from reality everytime.
A vacation into the land of the young and the hopeful.
The most trouble Christen had to go through was deciding what pair of pants she wanted to wear today, while Tim and Daniel are each driving nearly two hours into the city. Sam, Becky and Julie who were all still living in the area had left their kids with their respective partners in a collective sleepover party. And Kelly who was still single but spent most of the year in Europe due to her job, just arrived back in the states yesterday - will pick her up.
It seemed like a huge undertaking to get everyone's calendars aligned so they could sit at the same table at least once a year but it was worth it!
The second she opened the passenger door to Kelleys Jeep she knew this was a whole different level of Home she was only visiting sporadically.
“Yo Press, didn't think you were so eager to get going” The slightly older but shorter woman greetet her - already playfully teasing her about all those times she picked Christen up when they were kids. Kelley often had to wait ages until Christen was happy with her outfit, her heir and her makeup. She can't help but laugh about herself - being relieved that the days of anxiously trying to fit in were long behind her.
Christen had a tendency to be an anxious kid. Her way of controlling it at that time had seemingly been getting her makeup perfect while Kelly was laughing and joking with her dad downstairs.
The allusion to older times not lost on Christen she shoved Kelly's shoulder - making the dark blond woman grin even bigger.
“Well I guess some things have changed after all - It’s so good to see you!” Trying to give an awkward hug over the console in the car they settled on a big smile each. Thousands of memories flashing their minds back to situations painfully similar to this one. Them sitting in the car, laughing, talking, crying - and generally figuring life out one day at a time.
The thing with good memories is that it comes with a feeling of melancholie towards the moments that were shaping you in the past - but no longer held the same power of shaping identities in the present.
That did not men they couldn't visit these exact memories - that united them back then - and will unite them for the rest of their lives.
“Yeah I guess you really grew up, didnt you Press?”
“Yeah I guess we all did.”
“So, Portland, huh? - How is the mecca of hipsters treading you? Are you already a coffee expert? Knitting your own socks? Sleeping with a lot of hot chicks?”
“Kelly!” the last statement made Christen blush - similar to the power Kelly always held to make Christen blush way too easily
“You know I don't do that! I have never done that!”
“Maybe you should - some casual sex from time to time could be good for you - there is a lot of healtjh benefits, you know? Did they teach you nothing at university?”
Christen could only roll her eyes.
“So that's how you justify sleeping with half of europe?”
Kelly was just shrugging her shoulders, a proud smirk on her face - while she was starting the car.
And that was the whole conversation she had so many times before.
Everyone always meant well - but Christen just wasn't really interested in sleeping with just anyone - health benefits be damned - she wasn't really sure if the benefits of an orgasm would really outweigh all the health risks that came with STD’s anyway.
Maybe it was old school, or prude, or naive - but the relationships she pictured herself to be in, whenever sleep didn't find her easy - or it found her and she was having another very realistic dream - they were deeply connected ones. Like in the old black and white movies.
It wasn't found on some hipster version of Tinder or any other dating app for that matter.
Not really willing to let the conversation go into that direction again she decided to change the topic.
“So you are still driving that old thing, hu? Maybe we didn't grow up all that much after all!”
And just like that - they were back to their roots.
The rest of the night was more of the same.
A perfect mixture between the nostalgia of long forgotten funny incidents and new stories about their everyday life.
All those who had children of their own made it sound like their own childhood was lightyears away. The new trends, and toys, and parenting methods, the text chains of all of the parents in their kindergarten classes or discussions about high-tech-car-seats painted the reality of a whole different childhood then the one they had.
They asked Christen a lot of questions about Portland and her new life in general. Kelley told story after story about her adventures overseas - nearly all of them rooted in some kind of misunderstanding due to language barriers.
After studying psychologie Kelley took a whole different route and is now working for netflix. She always made it sound important and secretive and Christen only understood that she was somehow responsible to understand the reception differences between the cultures and figure out unique preferences of the respective countries.
At times Christen felt like the group had changed after all. Sure, their old dynamic was the same - but within those structures new dynamics were evolving mostly around Sam, Becky and Julie who all stayed in the area and started families of their own around the same time.
These three of her oldest friends were like a modified mom version of their old group. When Christen shared that thought with the group everyone was laughing so much they had tears in their eyes!
At that point they all had a drink or two - laughing about so many ridiculous memories - that they took Christens idea and spun it into a over dramatic version of desperate housewives.
This was typical for Christen - while everyone was laughing and having a good time - herself included - she was still analysing situations, thinking about the bigger picture around those moments. And not holding back those thoughts.
What made these people special was that they know what to make of it.
To implement those thoughts rather than see them as a disruption to the fun and lighthearted conversation. They are not taken aback by her thoughts - but understand her thought process.
So they laugh a bit more about how ridiculously domestic their lives have become - and how Christen and Kelly are the last remaining living people out of all of them. They were assigned the job of adventuring enough to make up for all the married people in the group. Christen was quick to point out that Kelly could perfectly take on that job representative for all of them and the rest of their highschool - because Christens life was far from exciting in the traditionally newsworthy sense - and Kelly was always up to enough shenanigans to have everyone covered.
As the night came to a close they held each other tight, glad to still revive this group every now and then - and with that the parts of themself that might get lost in the throws of everyday life.
Somehow they made plans to meet up in Portland around springtime next year.
Christens head was spinning - a bit from the drinks she had had - a bit from the excitement of the night - and already a bit because she was thinking about what to show them when they all travelled to her new home.
Maybe she would just drop kelly off at some gay bar - and take the adults with their families to the park close to her home. Or would no one bring their children?
She could help but hope they would. She loved all her honorary nieces and nephews and saw them far from enough for her liking.
Kelly dropped her off with a kiss on her forehead and the promise to meet up again soon - before Christen was heading back to Portland. She mumbled something about the remaining singles having to stick together …. Christen would have agreed in a heartbeat even without some sort of reason. She told her as much before the sound of Kelly's old cheap disappeared in the darkness of the night.
What do you guys think?
Are we ready for Christen to head back to Portland?
Do you guys enjoy the more elaborate story telling or would you just like me to get to the point of the story already?
I said this before - but I’m aware that I still have much learning and growing to do in regards of storytelling and mostly putting these stories into written words - so I truly appreciate ANY KIND of feedback!
Chapter 7: Take a walk
And a quick shoutout to everyone who is still reading this story. Turns out Its way harder then anticipated for me to write something I’m happy with.
I tried not to overthink this. So as always I would really enjoy your feedback towards the Storie and the writing.
(I apologize in advance for any spelling mistakes. In an effort of not overthinking I didn't pick apart every word)
I hope you still enjoy it!
She was happy, content and happy - waiting in line at her favorite coffee shop, back in Portland, in the familiarity of the streets she walked each day, the coffee shop she almost always stepped in to, even the air was different and still so familiar.
She loves being in Portland.
What she doesnt like though - the fact that it was getting colder by the minute.
Usually she walked to work - she likes being outside for those extra few minutes.
But she could sense fall was just around the corner. Remembering how the change from her favorite season to the next took place last year.
First she could see the subtle changes in the color of the leaves on her way to work, then she needed to layer up. And finally every day started of grey and rainy, and walking to work was just not worth it anymore.
She pulled her jacket a bit tighter around herself just thinking about it.
These were just the first tingelings of fall and she was already cold. Great!
Her mood changed though as soon as she stepped outside again - hot coffee in her hand - and the sun shining in her face.
The leaves might just start to change - but she was sure she could ignore the upcoming season just a bit longer.
Being back at work was great.
Being back in her routine was even greater. She enjoyed the small thing she got used to so quickly out here.
The familiar face of the stranger behind the counter at the coffee shop.
The same bus driving up and down the street all day. It's the same bus she’ll take as soon as fall hits too hard - and walking to work is just not worth it anymore.
The little spots of green on every street corner.
The same bin she always throws her empty coffee-cup in.
The big door at the front of the nursing home, the polite smiles on familiar and not so familiar faces of many coworkers from different houses.
The smell of the community-room as soon as she steps in her house. Being surrounded by all the faces she sees everyday.
She is greeted with Beth's beaming Face - the old lady practically jumping out of her seat - because she HAS TO show Christen the latest developments on the growing status of her Yucca-Plant.
She spends the whole day catching up with everyone - moving from room to room - handing out some medications, listening to the latest talk of the house and confirming that she had a great time at her sisters wedding over and over again.
It might have been easier to print out a summary of the last few days for everyone - but she still wouldn't even think about complaining to anyone that she had told the same story at pretty much every room she stepped in today. It didn't really stop when she talked a bit with her coworkers here and there either.
It stopped though when she stepped in Walters room.
As usual he was the last stop on her list of checking in with everyone - she hadn't seen him at the community room at all today whenever she was there.
Instead she found him sitting by the window - a small book in his hands, a content smile on his lips - and his eyes not looking up when she stepped in the room.
He spent a few more moments finishing the last line of the page he was currently reading. He softly placed his bookmark, before closing the book in his warm hands - mindlessly pulling it a bit closer - like he might be going to hug it.
His eyes were beaming though as soon as he saw Christen.
“Sweetheart you are finally back!”
She rolled her eyes again at the use of this particular pet name.
She cant help but smile though - giving him a quick but heartfelt hug.
Sitting down across from him she couldn't help but smile at the feeling of home hitting her hard again.
Everything was right where it should be, a thoughtful smile on his face, the old sea captains hat on his head, a hershey's kiss magically appearing in his hand - bevor his warm brown eyes find hers again end he hands the treat to her.
“I might have actually lost a few pounds without you handing me one of these everyday!”
He chuckles but he doesnt seem to be the one to start a conversation today.
“so before I start to tell you all about the kisses of the last two weeks - why dont you tell me what you are reading here?”
Christen mentaly pats herself on her shoulder because walter looks like he is about to say something with a lot of delight written al over his face - christen quickly realises though that the smile is more of a smirk - ans she stepped right into a oppertunity for his endles teasing”
“Oh! so their were kisses? Why didnt you say that as soon as you stepped through the door?”
Christen can't help but groun at her own choice of words “Walter! You know I didn't mean it like that - I was referring to all the kisses my sister shared with her now Husband! You know - because it was her wedding and all”
Walter is laughing - more at her need to explain - then about his own joke.
In an fruitless effort to shift the topic she just keeps on talking “And you know I would tell you as soon as I stepped into your room - with you being my best friend and all - it's just a given, don't you think?” She tries to wink at him which only makes him laugh harder “But as long as there are no scandalous kisses to talk about why don’t you finally come around and be polite enough to answer my question about the book?”
Seemingly ignoring her last sentence - he just keeps laughing - and when he finally calmed down he is back at asking Christen a question.
“I would hope so! And as your best friend you have to tell me what made you laugh the hardest over the past few weeks!
“Oh I see - you are asking the philosophical questions again! A simple - how was the wedding wasn't good enough for you, was it?”
“Nahhh what valuable information would that answer get me? I want to know what your mind was up to these last couple of weeks!”
She couldn't help but smile at that.
It took her a few moments - different situations flashing in her mind - but eventually she settled on one.
“okay - this might not be as special as you think though” She felt like she should warn him.
“My whole family loves breakfast - like if you would give us the option we would probably have breakfast for each meal of the day. The tricky thing is though - that none of us is really good at making it. And with that I mean, that we are like a helpless group of five year olds that find themselves standing in a kitchen for the first time. The only one who could really pull it off was my mum. She was like the queen of breakfasts, and I am sure that is the only reason we all love it so much. She just spoiled us.
When I was still a kid my Mum was travelling cross country with her girlfriends once. It must have been the first time she really left my dad alone with us.
She was so nervous about it, that she started preparing everything weeks in advance and prepping each of us in different tasks.
That's how my dad ended up in the kitchen with her - trying to make pancakes but he must have failed terribly - because all I can remember is my aunt coming every morning my mum was gone to make us breakfast.
She never stopped teasing him about it - and because she got her sister involved it was basically a running gag at every extended family gathering.
I haven't seen him attempting to make pancakes since. But the first morning I was back I came into the kitchen - the table all set up - and a huge stash of pancakes in the middle. We all ate together - but after a few bites channing said something about him cracking eggs as bad as he cracks jokes because she just bit on a huge piece of eggshell.
That alone had us laughing, but by the end of breakfast everyone had crunched on a piece of eggshell at least once - and with every one we started laughing more and more.
I was basically not able to take another bite because I was already laughing so hard - and the thought of biting on another piece of eggshell made it so much worse!“
Walter is laughing at Christens story just as much as she is
“I’m sure it was kind of a cathartic release for all of us. We didn't really have a breakfast like that ever since she was gone. It felt good to laugh so carfree even though she is not here anymore, you know?”
“I do know!”
He looks earnest, not a hint of pity in his eyes. She is thankful for that.
That’s one of the things that makes opening up to him so easy for her. He is always empathetic but never sympathetic. He tries to get to the bottom of how she feels, although he mostly is right beside her without needing to ask many questions anyway. He just gets her.
A comfortable silence falls around them. When she sees his thumb mindlessly stroking over the cover of the book in his lab though she breaks the silence.
“So I think you still owe me an answer to my question to you though!” She is nodding towards the book “Whatcha reading old man?”
“Oh this?” he is pointing towards the book as if there would be another book around somewhere christen could be referring to
“Tobin brought me this book yesterday - it's full of poetry - she is such a softie sometimes”
He says it in a way that makes Christen check if Tobin is around somewhere - like he might be teasing her behind her back, but just loud enough she can hear him.
He must catch her doing a quick look around the room.
“You dont think I’m going crazy again, are you? I mean my Granddaughter of course - not my late wife”
Christen feels the immediate need to explain that she didn't think that at all.
“No! No, of course not - I know you mean the sour patch lady!”
She makes herself laugh with the reference.
“What is it with you and that weird name for my little one?”
He asks with an equally wide but curious smile.
“Oh that is a great story! You might even like it! -- and just for the record - you are a big softie yourself, you know?”
“Oh i do know! And I’ll let you know: I think it's pretty great quality to have!”
“I think so too” she had said it more to herself then to him - but he was smiling at her again in a way that told her he might have already known she was going to say that, like he just wanted her to say it out loud for herself to be reminded.
“You look like you have access to the whole wisdom of the world again - will you tell me what insights you got today? Did they send you an owl with an envelope again? Do you finally know all my secrets?''
She knew he enjoyed their teasing - she did too. That's just the way they always have been.
“Oh sweetheart did you read Harry Potter again while you were gone or something? I’ll let you know that no magic owl showed up on my window to change my life, thank you!
And for the wisdom part - all I can tell you is that you should probably stop referencing a childrens books when you are trying to tease someone - it just makes you assailable for so many bad jokes”
“Don't you dare ever joke about Harry Potter old man”
She had a stern face, finger raced and everything.
Walter on the other hand was just laughing again.
“Now you just look and sound like Little again” at the mention of her name he is handing the book in his hand to Christen “here, take some real literature to get enlightened at some of the world's wisdom too. There is a lot to learn from a good poem”
“Whatever” She tries to look annoyed - clearly being defeated this time - she still reaches for the book though.
She quickly flips through the pages.
It's filled with many small poems and a few bigger ones. The words of the smaller ones centered in the middle of the page - while the longer ones fill the same paiges from top to bottom - left to right.
The leather cover gives the impression that the book must have some value.
She skimms over a few of the poems - but a hand written note on the first page catches her attention.
For my OLD Soul mate and dearest friend, the man most people just call “the one with the captains head” that I get to call “Grandpa” though.
I love you, I feel you, and I want you to take the journey through these words.
It’s a great one - I promise!
If he had seen her read it - he didn't comment on it.
Instead of doing the laundry as soon as she got home - like she planned to, she just changed into some more comfortable clothes, purred herself some hot tea into a transportable cup and left the house again.
She had this urge to get outside some more. Probably because she could tell fall was just around the corner and she wouldn't enjoy the longer walks through nature as much anymore. Maybe she just wanted to reconnect with the place after being away for the first time. Either way the clothes in her suitcase will need to wait another day.
Walking through nature never failed to wrap her in a thick blanket of peacefulness.
She walked for about half an hour before she sat down at a secluded bench at the edge of the forest with a view over vast fields and the clear outline of Mount Hood in the distance.
She closed her eyes, leaned back, and focused on her breathing.
She paid attention to the noises around her.
She felt the warm light of the sun, mixed with the cold windy air.
She could smell the mossy ground and the wet dirt up to the point where she could nearly taste it.
She could hear the wind blowing through the leaves, the birds singing somewhere in the distance - and one that must be pretty close. Happily chirping away - like it just waited for someone to sit down on the bench. Someone it could sing a little concert to. Christen silently promised to listen to the private show.
Until she heard something else, something quick and excited, a noise that got closer to her at the second - and when she finally opened her eyes it was just in time to catch the excited puppy that started jumping up her leg.
A flush of happiness rushed through her at the sight.
Dogs never failed to make her smile - but the blue eyes looking straight into hers made her heart flutter a little. It was the pub she saw at the shelter before she left for LA - she was sure of it. She met the excitement of the dog with equally as much excitement. Patting her and talking in the high pitched voice reserved for interactions like these.
After a few moments of mindless interaction her thoughts catched up to her though - because judging by the collar around her neck there must be a human that now belonged to the little excited creature sitting in her lap. She must have found a home!
The realisation made her so happy that she couldn't help but wrap her arms around the pub as best as she could to give her a hug and whisper into the soft fur behind her ears. “I’m so glad you got adopted! Are you happy? Did you find a good home? You deserve it!” With that she realised that the owner of this bundle of happiness must be close by too.
At that thought she finally looked up and around. As soon as she did her heart skipped a beat without a warning. Mostly not because she didn't notice the woman in front of her before - but because of the somewhat familiar face with those warm brown eyes she couldn't stop thinking about at the most random of times.
The warm brown eyes didn't seem to be able to hold Christens for long, she looked down to her shoes, her hand scratching her neck, as if she was caught doing something she wasn't supposed to - Christen couldn't help but find the body language adorable. Here she was, holding the woman's dog, and still she looked like she did something wrong.
“yeah - Christen, right?”
“What? You can't remember my name? I thought I was famous in your family's group chat?” She was teasing of course - but Tobins gaze was still not meeting hers. Instead she was mumbeling - her hand still scratching her neck - the other one buried inside the pockets of her loose fitting pants.
“You really are -- I don't know why I just said it like that, ofcourse I know your name .. I just … i didn't want to seem creepy I guess..”
For a woman whose whole style and demeanor looks so laid back and cool,like nothing in the world could shake her confidence she seemed pretty nervous, right now.
Or is she flustered? Christen couldn't really read her expression.
“Sorry for occupying your dog”
She tried her best to look at least a little bit sorry although she was beaming ever since that small thing came running up to her.
That at least made Tobin look up again. Looking at her dog all snuggled up to Christen.
“she seems to really like you!”
“Yeah, i think we might know each other”
It took Tobin a second to realise Christen was referring to the dog, and not to herself “You know Olli?”
Christen couldn't help but laugh a bit at how confused Tobin looks.
“Oh your name is Olli?” Christen was talking to the dog again, holding her face between her hands, not caring that the pub took the closeness as an invitation to lick all over her face ''Olli is a great name!”
Remembering that she still needed to explain the situation to Tobin she looked up at her. Tobin was not staring at her shoes anymore but she still looked a bit helpless - both of her hands now in her pockets.
“I helped my friends pick out a dog at the shelter a few weeks back - and I think I met her there. Did you get her from a shelter?”
The very young memorie alone was enough for Tobin to finally talk a bit more.
“Oh I did! I was just going to look around - maybe help with the dogs from time to time - but she just stole my heart right from the spot. I just had to take her home!”
“I know how that feels - if I were not heading to LA the day after I might have just adopted her myself!”
At that thought Tobin looked just the tiniest bit guilty.
“oh don't feel bad about that! It's better that way. I really shouldn't have a dog. I love them, but I’m out of the house most of the day, and it would just be unfair for them to be left alone all day.”
She nods understandingly. “So you were in LA, that explains why I didn't see you around at all when I was visiting Grandpa!”
The thought of Tobin looking for her - even just mindlessly is sending a tingly rush of heat through her whole being.
While they just softly smiled at each other, Tobin found some sort of confidence - or at least reminded herself to fake it for the time being “so considering you guys have already met and seem to get along just great - would you want to join us for the rest of the walk? I have a feeling that she is not going to run away from me again when you are around”
“Oh I cant promise she won't, but i might just have to carry her to make sure”
“if you are happy with her doing her business on your coat, sure!”
At that Christens nose wrinkled in the most adorable way Tobin noticed, and she leaned down to softly place Olli on the floor. Tobin couldn't help but laugh.
They started walking side by side, Olli always staying close just like Tobin thought she would.
“So, if I remember correctly you just got back from france?”
“I did!” She couldn't help but feel special with Christen remembering things about her.
“And already got yourself a dog? You must plan on staying here for a bit then.”
She stated more than ask - Tobin still took it as an invitation to tell her a bit more about her circumstances. It was weird, they had only met a couple of times, but because of Walter's endless stories they knew more about each other then they thought.
Many stories Tobin shared, Christen already knew in parts and vice versa.
There were a few basic things though they had no idea about.
“so you pretty much know what I do all day - but what about you? What do you do for a living? Did you go to france for a job?” She was rambling a bit - but Christen felt like she was in a rush to get to know as much as possible about the little Tobin as soon as possible.
“Oh! So you know I only eat bananas for a week when I was eleven but he never mentioned what I do for a living?”
She honestly considered it for a moment. Her mind checking any situation where Walter mentioned any information about Tobins job...
“I guess he didn't!”
“Well, I’m glad I still have a bit of mystery left” She winked at Christen - and regretted it as soon as she did it. Was she flirting with her? Was she overstepping? Would Christen just be creeped out by her?
She must have, because Christens cheeks look just the tiniest bit more rosy than before.
She is uncomfortable of course she is! Tobin could kick herself for losing her cool with the woman walking beside her so quickly - she couldn't help it though. She could feel her heart beating faster everytime she did as much as glance over to catch a glimpse into those green eyes, the prominent cheekbones framed by the must beautiful raven coloured curls…
She realised she was staring again. But as soon as Christen was looking up at her, smiling just the tiniest bit sheepishly too - saying “I guess you do” she tried to compose herself again.
“Well I” “her voice was cracking.
Clearing her throat - she tried again “I’m actually a stage designer, well first I was a carpenter - but I have always been into art - and through a lucky accident I ended up in a small theater just outside of Washington DC. Its weird, because I never thought I would move away from here. I always loved working with wood alone - but building something that was just part of someone's imagination, something that will be part of the wonder of illusion, part of the escape from everyday life that the theater is. I couldn't say no to that.
From there on I changed jobs a lot, worked myself up the ladder, ended up on a few film sets in LA but didn't really enjoy it -Ii wanted to go back to working in a theater environment.
The work is just different there, more quiet, more abstract…While I was working in LA this french dude had given me his card - offered me a job in Paris, I didnt even think about taking it - but then I just woke up one day and knew I needed to change things up - that's when I remembered his card - I called him and was livin in Paris just a month later.”
“That sounds like quite a ride! Living in Paris must have been exciting… even your job sounds like a hundred times more interesting then mine. I swear to god - there is days where my biggest adventure is accidentally washing my white T-shirt with my coloured clothing…” She stopped herself there because she was not quite sure why she was even telling her all this.
“I’d say moving to sweden is a pretty big adventure!”
“You remember that?” She could feel a subtle blush creeping up her cheeks, she didn't dare to make eye contact with her at the moment. Instead she was watching Olli running and jumping around.
“Yeah, but that was when I was still in highschool - I think everyone is a bit adventurous when they are in highschool”
“You lived in Europe when you were basically still a kid?!”
Tobin sounded so shocked, that Christen couldn't not look into her face - she was met with those soft brown eyes that were wide open in shook but also seemed to have a glimpse of curiosity and admiration in them.
“I felt pretty grown up back then - but looking at it now.. I was still a kid, yeah”
when they got back to the carpark, both didn't really want to stop talking to each other. Christen was right in front of her car, Olli running in circles around her legs.
Across from Christen Tobin followed her eyes.
“maybe i should put her leash back on again - i don't want her to get run over by a car“
she took the leash that was just hanging over her shoulders the whole time into her hands and clicked it in place as soon as Olli ran by her close enough.
“I don't like putting it on her.“ Tobin is pointing at the leash in her right hand. I feel like I’m constraining her freedom or something”
Christen thinks her concern is adorable.
"Don't worry - dogs sometimes need a little guidance - especially at this age, the leash often also gives them a sense of security and a bond with their owner. A leash can also be a channel of communication if you use it correctly."
“you seem to know a lot about all that - i feel like im a rookie beginner at this whole dog thing”
Christen really feels the need to put her at ease.
“You love her, that's enough to start with - and it will be enough to strengthen your bond. You belong to her, and she belongs to you - you guys are a team now!
But it still helps to set clear rules, it's just easier for her to know exactly what she can and can't do - and what you expect her to do and when."
“Are you some kind of dog whisperer? You sound like one!” She takes a deep breath but tries to seem as casual as possible.
”would you mind giving me your number so I can ask you ALL the questions that I’m sure will come up? I have been dying to meet with a dog magician like yourself”
well, she noticed.
Tobin turnes a shade of beatread but couldn't stop smiling as soon as Christen handed her her phone.
“Why don't you put your number in my phone so I can just drop all that wisdom on you without you even asking for it?”
She looked at it while it was lying on her Table next to her Coffee each morning - she felt it heavy in her coat pocket on her way to work. She tried to not look at it while she was at work. And she simply had to put it in another room when she was meditating. It was a constant reminder - a chore - a choice - a door to new possibilities.
She was overthinking this.
She tried following her routine - going through her everyday life … but she wants to - she could… she should… but how? She opened the messaging-app once, twice, endless times a day. Just to stare at it.
In the end her phone felt heavier than a brick.
She should have just given Tobin her number! what was she thinking?
Her mind had tried to make up a thousand different openers - but shut them all down immediately because they either felt lame, too obvious, obnoxious or just not like something she would say.
She unlocked it just to stare at her home screen and lock it again.
Days! It had been days -
days full of agonie. Of her thoughts doing summersaults. Running from one wall to the next. Jumping up and down.
And then it just happened naturally
Walter told her one of his countless stories - this time with Tobin as the main character - but to Christens surprise - a mean one.
Christen: Care to elaborate why you ignored your neighbors kid for a whole week when you were eleven?
Tobin: I’m really hoping you are Christen and not someone related to Stella?
Also, that's a very one sided way to frame that story - what did the old man tell you?
Christen: Oh Yes, sorry should have put my name at the end of that text :D
Pretty much what I just texted you …
I thought you were a nice one?
Why did you torture poor Stella?
Christen: Also I’m just now realising that this was an amazing chance to pretend I was someone else and torture you for a bit. Bummer.
Tobin: That's not what that was at all! I was reading a book in which the kids had magic powers and could make themselves invisible and stuff like that - and I thought she would feel like she had magic powers too when I acted like she was invisible … I didn't really realise that she didn't like that at all ...
Christen: Thats kind of a sweet idea - but I heard that poor girl was in agony for a full week !!!
ugh don't remind me of that - I still feel so bad about it! Maybe I should look her up and apologize again...
Do I even want to know what else Grandpa told you about me?
Christen: Oh no …I’m pretty sure you don't.
How is Olli doing?
Oh she just peed all over the new hardwood floor - so I’d say she is doing pretty fine.
PS: If you have any handy tips about that let me know!
Christen: Non that you can't just google I guess.
Tobin: I’d rather have you explain them to me than google. Not everyone has a private dog whisperer. I have to take advantage of that!
I can ask you follow up questions - google just leads to more googling in the end .
Christen: Is that so so?
Tobin: Yes !
Christen: By the way - New hardwood floors?! Look at you sounding like an adult!
Do you guys live in a new building or something?
Quite the opposite actually! I guess I still have some mystery left and the Old man hasn't told you everything about my life so far.
Christen: To be fair - he is mostly sticking to old stories about you - so yeah, I might know a lot about the little Tobin growing up - but the adult Tobin with hardwood floors and a peeing dog is still a mystery!
Christen: PS: You already used the mystery-line the last time we met.
Tobin: Great. Now I’m blushing.
Tobin: But Christen,...
I’m glad to finally have your number now.
…. to tell you embarrassing stories about Grandpa ofcourse!
Christen: And here I was thinking that you just wanted me for all the information about potty training your dog.
Tobin: That too of course ;)
The thing is once they started texting … they didnt stop.
It felt like as soon as the floodgates were opened there was no way of closing them again.
Christen suddenly found herself constantly on her cell phone. The small shots of dopamine that flooded through her when the same name appeared on her lock screen over and over again gave her steps new momentum, making the device that had been her enemy not long ago, now a constant companion.
It’s her lifeline to quick exchanges that bring tears of laughter to her eyes - A little door into the thoughts of a fascinating person.
Getting to know Tobin like this was exhilarating to say the least.
Christen now carried her phone wherever she went, she texted and texted and texted. All throughout her day she found little pockets of time to respond to Tobins latest message.
Talking to her was just easy - they seemed to have the same sense of humor, and were equally eager to get to know the other one. In between Oli was always a good distractive topic - and a reason to keep the conversation light.
She now started her day with a quick look on her phone - she was mostly without a doubt awake before Tobin, but she could almost always be sure to have a text from her waiting from the night before. Walking to work and getting started now felt like the longest stretch of the day. Waiting for the first message of Tobin throughout the start of the day was now a concept of time mocking her with trying to be the longer than the Physics lessons back in her school days. She tried to be present at work - something that was always important to her. She tried to keep the phone in her back pocket when she was interacting with different patients throughout the day - but more often than not the little vibration pulled her focus bag to the never ending conversation between smalltalk and deep topics about anything and everything.
They never seemed to stop. But in between all this - everything felt like walking a tightrope.
Christen was unsure if they were only talking like good friends do - or if there was something more behind the never ending stream of messages. some comments seemed a little flirty but she could easily be misreading that. Christen couldn't really put her finger on it.
Most importantly: So far neither of them acknowledged the neverending nature of their digital connection.
If she was being honest: There are a lot of things they didn't acknowledge.
The deeper they got into it, the longer their conversation was going on, the more Christen felt this longing for more. She wanted to see her again, wanted to feel if her own heartbeat would speed up again in the same way it did the last few times she saw her - and the way it did now every time there was a new message waiting for her. She wanted to look in those warm brown eyes and find something in them. A nudge as to where their connection was heading.
Their interactions changed from friendly to intimate - but never really on the nose flirting or hinting to more than just a very intense and deep talk like she would have with her closest friends or maybe with her sisters - and in the blink of the eye they were back to friendly again.
Before Tobin texts could live unanswered in her phone for days on end. It was always more effective to just call her.
Which means she isn't familiar with the digital dance she is partaking in. That's why she isn't sure how to turn the newfound connection away from a solely digital one into a face to face interaction. Proposing the idea of meeting each other again without pushing the direction they were talking in one way or the other? That seemed impossible.
She was new to this. The feeling of really getting to know someone - to know their daily routines without ever partaking in them, knowing her favorite coffee order, without ever listening to that raspy voice ordering it, following the development of little Oli without touching her soft fur, knowing the grocery shopping list without ever having seen the fridge or the whole kitchen for that matter.
Sometimes it all just feels like a fantasy, like a person just existing in her phone - made for her to laugh harder than she has laughed in a long time. Open up about herself in a way she hasn't in a long time with a person her own age. It's like the image of soft brown hair was just created in her mind for her to fantasize running through it with her fingers .
Tobinn seemed like a dream, stuck in her phone.
which is why she wasn't expecting Tobin to just appear in her real world life all of a sudden.
She should have expected her to visit her grandpa - of course. She should have just expected to run into her at any place really. Tobin seemed to have a way of doing that.
But her mind was still in a very different place when she opened the door to his room at the end of her round of checkin in with every resident.
So - she shouldn't have been surprised, but she clearly is. Her feet stay rooted at the spot, she is looking straight at her, just for a second. Those brown eyes meeting her own green ones again. A shy smirk making an appearance on Tobins face - but before she could think about that little dimple she hadn't noticed before, her attention was pulled towards an excited bark underneath the table and then, of course to Walter himself.
She hopes she isn't blushing. But she is sure her heart is racing faster than it ever has. Running track be damned - she is struggling to keep her breathing under control just standing still in a comfortable room.
“Christen! Great to see you today - you already know Tobin, but I’m really excited for you to meet your closest competitor for the title of my youngest best friend'' Walter was excitedly pointing at the small dog Christen already has a soft spot in her heart for.
She was still processing being in the same room as Tobin again, Walter's words echoing loudly in a deserted corner of her head, while her entire focus is still somewhere between the written messages and the current reality - before it comes crashing down on her like a fast train. She understood that she was supposed to show a reaction - any reaction. Barely seconds have probably passed since she entered the room, but her mind was still playing catch up.
Say something, anything!
It turns out - she isn't able to think about a lot of words when standing right in front of Tobin - so she takes the first way out she can think of. Oli is always good for an appropriate distraction of the current focuspoint. Leaning down she just focuses on the excited pub - scratching her properly behind her ears.
Oli was already rolling on her back and letting Christen give her generous belly rubs, when she finally finds the courage to look up again. Walter is smiling his signature smile, stretching over his whole face.
“She really seems to like you”
Christen couldn't help but smile in return, looking down at Oli again.
“Yeah, we have met”
“Well that's a line i’ve heard before!” Tobin muttered quietly with another smirk on her lips.
The little bit of teasing didn't go unnoticed by Christen. Quite the opposite. Looking back at Tobin she raised her eyebrows in a bit of a challenge - not going to dig deeper into it in this moment - but feeling a glimpse of hope their connection might actually be heading in a flirty direction.
Just like that the butterflies in her stomache were going wild again.
Before she could get lost in those eyes again she pulled her focus back, remembering that she was actually there for a reason. She has to make sure Walter gets his medizine. Standing up she is reaching for the small pill container in the back pocket of her jeans.
“Are you going to look at your Phone again?” Walter looks at her like he is about to scold her for something. “I meant to tell you that you are non-stop looking at that thing nowadays. What happened to my I don't really enjoy technologie in my life Christen?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
To Tobins amusement Christens face turned beet red before Christen could speak up again - holding the small bottle with Pills in her hand she tried to contain some sort of composure. “I was trying to give you your pills, if you would have let me finish”
“My observation still stands. Don't let yourself get pulled into this thing. Real life happens right here - and not in there!”
Tobin was trying her best not to laugh. Forcing herself to neither look Christen nor her grandpa in the eyes - out of fear she might actually start laughing out loud.
After another second the stern look on his face faded again. He apparently decided to let her off the hook.
For a spilt second Christen tried to get some help on the matter from Tobin - but as soon as Walter changed the topic she is happy to let that one go.
“So how do you know my little best friend?”
Christen really hoped he would let that one slide.
Instead her face didn't seem to get a break from the constant blushing.
So Christen did what she did best.
She took a deep breath, trying to ground herself.
Gibving herself a moment, she sits down on the empty chair at the small table and briefly looks around the room she is so familiar with. With another deep breath, she let the initial panic slowly subside and let the waves of familiarity take over.
This is Walter, the man with whom you shares so many thoughts - the man who makes you laugh and cry. And next to him is Tobin, his granddaughter that just so happens to occupy every single one of your thoughts every day for the last week. No big deal.
Besides, what could be weird about this story? You ran into her by accident, or Oli did at least.
“Well your granddaughter doesn't like to keep her dog on a leash”
It seemed like a good start to the story as any.
With Walters' curious eyes, and Tobins big smile she told the quick version of their accidental meeting. Trying to skip the last part about them exchanging numbers.
She just had a feeling the old man would latch onto that fact real fast.
“You should really keep her on a leash when you are taking her somewhere. At least until she is fully trained” Now he was looking at Tobin with the same scolding look on his face he directed towards Christen earlier.
It is a good look - becaus it is working.
Christen was just happy that's what he took away from that small story, glad he didn't try to dig deeper into it. He has a tendency to do that even with small anekdotes - often finding some bigger meaning behind the small moments of her life.
His pedagogical side was obviously focusing on Tobin now - and even if it's a little selfish, she's glad for the moment out of the spotlight.
Tobin looked down at Oli mumebeling something about “not wanting her restrained” and “freedom”.
“I bet she has more than enough freedom around the house and the garden, she’ll survive being on a leash from time to time. It is actually good for her!”
“Well that's what Christen said too”
Before Walters' surprised but curious look could turn into more questions about her again, Christen stepped in real quick with a question of her own.
“You have a garden?”
“Well of course she does. It's the most beautiful garden with the world's best peartree” Walter said with a loud proud voice.
It took her a second but then she placed two and two together “You are living in Walters House?”
“Well it's Littles house now, and she is renovating it to fit herself better - but I like to think of it as my old home, yes”
Christen was a bit stunned - she didn't see this one coming. It's quite a commitment to take on such an inheritance. Somehow she got more of a nomad feeling from Tobin although she already told Christen about putting down some roots here. She just didn't think those roots were that big. Like renovating an old family home big!
“That sounds like a lot of work”
“It is - but I love it. It's nice to put all those carpenter skills to good use - and this way I actually get to live in the progress I created”
It was the first thing Tobin said directly to her since the conversation had started, her warm smile grounding her while also making her tingly all over.
“That does sound like a cool project!” She commented a bit breathless.
Christens thoughts suddenly venturing to Tobin being all handy, and strong. Her mind trying to picture her working on different things around the house. While their eyes never leaf each other. Neither of them say anything, they are just looking. Really looking. Connecting after all that texting.
Christen can't be sure, but she gets a feeling Tobin also needed a little reminder of what it was like sitting in front of each other. Looking at the face you only imagined to the best of your knowledge while typing the same sentence over and over, imagining the reaction it might bring out of the other woman. Being able to just see them again, feel their presence right in front of you.
Just as she started to notice a slight blush on Tobins cheeks they were pulled out of their little moment.
“You should have a look at it sometime” Walter interrupted them.
Both must have a slightly confused look on their face.
“The house I mean, you should show it to Christen - she heard so many stories about it, it couldn't hurt to give her a bit of a context “ he winked.
He knows what he is doing.
Or does he?
She didn't dare to look at Tobin at that moment - instead choosing to change the topic jet again.
“I’m going nowhere if you don't take your pills!”
They managed to keep the conversation light after that. Mostly focusing on Oli and her curiosity. To Tobins and Christens amusement Walter tried to teach the dog her first trick - but was helpless as long as Tobin kept hostage of all the dog treats.
Without looking at the clock Christen let herself get lost in the company a bit to much. Talking to them was just so easy and comfortable.
Even without a look at the clock one of them got impatient.
“Is she toilet trained jet?”
Christen asks pointing at Oli sniffing the floor, showing the tell tale signs of needing to have a wee soon.
“She does good on most days, why?”
Tobin asks, a bit taken off guard by the question.
“Most dogs begin to search and sniff the ground when they need to go outside. They also look about as restless or nervous as she does right now” she says while chuckling a bit to herself at how clearly Oli is looking for a place to do her business.
“shut up” she counters Tobins teasing with a wide smile.
“As much as I start to like that dog, peeing in my room might put a strain on our new friendship” Walter intercepts with a belly laugh. “I should also lay down for a bit. I’m getting quiet tiered”
“Are you ok?”
Tobin's quick concern warms Christens heart.
“Of course Little, I’m just getting old” He reaches for her hand to pull her into one of those warm hugs Christen has received as often as she has seen him give them to other people. They are great hugs.
“Alright, alright” Tobin is laughing into his shoulder “I’ll let you sleep old man”
“Thanks for coming by today, and thank you for introducing me to that little firecracker. But please get her out of here before she leaves me a little present”
Just now realizing that she simply stood there watching their interaction this whole time Christen makes an effort to check in with Walter too. “Let me know if you need anything - I’ll see you at dinner after your nap!”
As soon as they walk out of the room and shut the door behind them Christen realises they are alone in the hallway. Suddenly overwhelmed by the closeness she doesn't really know where to take it from here.
Tobin is leaning against the wall, snapback on her head, hands in the pockets of effortlessly good looking baggy pants. A white shirt highlighting the white teeth that shine through the wide smile she is giving Christen. Christen, who lets her eyes roam over the woman in front of her, before she looks straight into those warm brown eyes again.
Her breath is catching in her throat because of the sudden urge to lean in and touch Tobin. She wants to hug her as tight as Walter just did, she wants to run her hands through the soft hair, place her fingers on her arms, she wants so much - - -
she is overwhelmed.
And Tobin, Tobin is just letting her look, giving her this small pocket of time - of security. She waits for Christens eyes to meet her own again. And even then she gives it another second before speaking up again.
“You can, you know” biting her bottom lip she tries not to look away. Her right hand rubbing her neck, while the left one is holding Olis leash in a vice grip.
She looks nervous Christen realises.
It takes her a second before she can think about the offer, too distracted trying to decipher the body language of the other woman.
“I’d love to show it to you -- the house I mean”
Christens voice sounds happy and unsure at the same time. It's more of a whisper - her confidence apparently left somewhere in the security of their Text Messages.
“okay, show it to me”
Well mybe she had at least a little bit of confidence left. Another moment passes.
That makes her laugh a little, breaking the tension that is building faster than she can comprehend.
“No, not right now I still need to work - but I can come over whenever you want - well as long as I’m not working”
“and when would that be?”
“I’ll get out late today - but I have tomorrow morning free”
Too soon? Too overbearing?
“Sounds good! I’ll make sure to have some breakfast and coffee ready. That big old dining room table is screaming for a proper inauguration.”
With that Oli was getting impatient again, pulling on her leash.
“I should probably get going” there is a hesitancy in her voice - something that tells Christen Tobin would stay with her in this empty hallway for much longer if she could.
“Seems like she communicated that to you through the leash”
Christen points out proudly.
“Still doesnt mean I have to like them”
“You'll get around to it!”
“I’ll try - so... see you tomorrow morning?”
Tobin is pushing herself off the wall, movin even further into Christens space. She can see the small freckles on her nose, smell the intoxicating perfume Tobin must be wearing, feel her own heart racing.
“Yeah, see you then”
With that Christen takes a step back - to obtain control over her senses again - and to let Tobin start moving ofcourse.
“I’m sure I'll text you before that” it feels like a promise ”because of Oli of course”.
Grinning wide she lets her go.
“Sure! Because of Oli”
Christen won't be able to wipe that huge smile off of her face for the rest of the day. Especially not when she receives another Text Message about an hour later.
Tobin: Oli wanted to make sure you know where to go tomorrow:
Attached is a picture of Oli sitting in front of a door, the number 8 next to it.
Christen assumes that's the front door of the famous house.
...And then there is another text with Tobins address.
Writing is hard, but your comments keep me going!