Claudia laid her forehead on the steering wheel in a vain attempt to make her agitated mind stop its whirling. She had suspected that it really wouldn’t help much, but for some reason she gave it a try, anyhow. Even if the action provided no real relief, she had to admit, the coolness of the faux leather was a welcome sensation to her brow.
It was a very cold morning, the kind of morning that only mid-November in the Midwest could supply. The drizzle was falling silently on the once crisp, but now very soggy leaves. The weatherman had casually joked that everyone might want to consider wearing an extra layer of clothing this morning. Claudia had smiled ruefully at that advice. She could have worn extra clothing, but if it were only to keep her warmer, then it really wouldn’t be very necessary. She knew from previous experience that she wouldn’t be needing anything at all to keep her warm today. She might, however, find herself wishing that she hadn’t forgotten the extra cushion she’d meant to bring with her, especially if this meeting was anything compared to the last.
She was aware of cars driving past, but she really couldn’t pay them any mind. She had other things to occupy her mind this frosty morning. She looked at the tablet pc on the passenger seat beside her. She had brought it with her as a matter of habit, she supposed. It wasn’t as if there was anything to email about this morning, that’s for sure, and she certainly wouldn’t be posting anything online about where she was at this moment.
As she laid her head once more on the headrest and closed her eyes, she heaved a deep sigh of discontent. She wished that there was some possibility of retracting the drawn out email she had sent last night, to keep it from being read, possibly? She knew it had, likely, been read shortly after she had clicked “send”, but absence of a reply from the addressee kept her a bit edgy, as she really had no way of knowing. Claudia knew, of course, that even if it were possible, the outcome would be likely very close to the same. She might have tried to not tell all the things in her heart, but somehow he would know. He always knew. Claudia had never met a more perceptive man. Actually, Claudia had never met a more perceptive person, male or female. He had a way of knowing precisely when there was something amiss, and he wasted precious little time in getting to the root of a thing. He certainly knew how to get around her defenses, Claudia thought to herself, not really sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Well, she supposed, since it had always done her good to have no choice but be honest–completely so–with him, it must be a good thing. A good thing that, perhaps, did not always feel good at the time. Sometimes for a week or so after the time…
She looked out of the window and to her right, at the very plain-looking house staring back at her, the lone girl sitting in a midsize sedan. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary here, she thought. Just a girl sitting in a parked car outside of a very normal looking home. If someone were to notice her sitting out on the street in front of the house, they might assume that she was waiting for someone, which wouldn’t be entirely untrue. They might assume that she was giving someone a ride to school, which, she mused, was more than a bit ironic. It was she who was on her way to learn lessons, and she knew it all too well. Would that they were only book and pencil type lessons, such as she had in school, but these were much more difficult. It would have likely helped her a great deal to have not skipped her last few “lessons” as well. She would, she knew, have some catching up to do.
Her stomach would simply not cooperate, doing its somersaults, flips, turns, quite the gymnast, her tummy was. She leaned back in the seat, forcing herself to breathe deeply through her nose, expelling the warm air through her mouth. In and out, big breaths, destined to help her calm the senses. There was, she knew, no real need to be so very nervous. She had been here before. Well, not here, exactly, but in a similar situation. This was indeed her first visit to this particular residence, although she was very familiar with the tenant. She knew him well enough to know it was silly of her to be so worked up. No matter what happened within those very normal looking walls, she knew that she would be completely safe within them.
Why, oh why had she felt the need to be so very forthright and upfront about her feelings? She was usually adept at tamping them down, keeping them trapped tightly in their own little pigeonhole, hidden away from everyone. Sometimes she could, if she tried very carefully, even hide them from herself. It was quite the surprise, then, when she had been so bold as to type them all out, in glorious Technicolor, on the tablet last night during an impromptu email that she had not been asked to send, again, something that she would not normally do, unbidden, at least. She had sent the emails that had been requested, and she had been very forthcoming with information that had been asked for. Why, then, had she felt such a need to empty her soul, so to speak, before this meeting?
To be honest, part of it might have been the glass or two (or three) of wine she’d indulged in. It wasn’t something that she did often, but it did have a calming effect and it always helped her to get some sleep. Speaking of sleep, it was something she did precious little of, lately. Perhaps the lack of sleep helped this process along as well. She knew, though, that the main reason she had decided to put so much information into an email and dispatch it out into the ether was that she wanted him to know. She wanted someone, for once, to really understand at least a part of what went on in her mind. It was such a busy mind, always turning things over and over…and over once more.
She laid her forehead back on the steering wheel. She was thinking too much, again, she decided. As long as she could remember, it had always been the same. She would make a decision, a choice, only to spend, or waste, rather, an incredible amount of time second guessing everything she had done. She would, most times, look back at her original decision and realize that it was exactly the right thing, even if she was unsure of it at first. She knew that her decisions were generally very well thought out and that she was at least of normal, average intelligence. There was little reason for her to doubt her intellectual abilities. Of course, she knew that this had not been an intellectual decision. This had been a decision comprised more of emotional substance than of thinking. Perhaps that was what had her set so on edge.Claudia couldn’t remember a time when she had made such a decision based solely on emotion.
She made another sideways glance, from the corner of her eye. The tablet was still sitting there, mocking her. “Coward!” it seemed to shout at her. She had to admit, she was a coward, really. If she weren’t a coward, she would be inside the very non-descript house already. She wasn’t though, was she? No, she was still sitting right here in this midsize sedan, head on the steering wheel. What if she were being watched? Would he have noticed the car pull up to the curb, although she was over thirty minutes early for arrival? She chanced an upward glance at the lace curtains covering the large alcove window in what, she assumed, must be a front living room. It didn’t look to her as if anyone was staring out the window, but there was no way to really know.
She picked up the tablet, still switched on, and woke the screen. She quickly pulled up the email application and looked in the “sent items” folder. There it was, the email from last night. She held her breath, willing the contents to be different from she knew they were. As the missive opened up on the screen, she read every line, although she knew, having written it herself, exactly what it said.She may have had a little wine, but she had been far from intoxicated.
As she reached the end of the message, her stomach had stopped flipping itself around and just dropped itself into her abdomen. She tried to take solace in the fact that every word had been true, but really, that was cold comfort. It took her a few minutes for the thought to fully register, but she was increasingly aware that the real problem here was that she had left herself completely vulnerable. She was laid wide open emotionally, and that was the thing that worried her. She wanted so very much to be able to be so completely honest, and yet, doing so was the thing that she found the most frightening.
She felt the old panics begin to rise again, threatening to choke the very life from her chest. She felt, in that few seconds, as if she were made of rice paper, that just a pin would puncture her, a gentle breeze could rip her into shreds, completely destroying all that she had made herself into. It was then that it occurred to her that this was the very reason that she hid so much of herself from everyone around. It wasn’t because she was strong. It wasn’t because she was somehow superhuman. It was because she was afraid.
She was afraid of so much, she realized. She was afraid of things that could happen to her, and yet she was so much more afraid that nothing would ever happen to her. She was afraid of being noticed, yet so much more afraid that no one would ever notice her. She knew, deep inside she knew, right then, that she must force herself past this insane fear and panic. She had to make the short (although it seemed so much longer than it should) walk up to the door. She would knock on it, and she would not, no matter how much she might want to, run away from it.
She was finished with running. She knew that no matter how much it scared her to face the future, she really had no choice. She realized, at last, that in refusing to face the future, one could only be looking at the past.