Ask Jenny

Dating

September 14, 2019

This is a rough draft of a story I wrote in July 2018. This draft wasn’t perfect so I was embarrassed to shared it, but today I found it and I guess it’s kind of dorky and cute. I now feel courageous enough to share!

The foyer of the mansion was full of both friends and strangers talking lively. She felt like she needed a short break, so she walked away. For a while, she wandered down hallways with high ceilings and past columns and curious bathrooms. Though she did not care about every door she passed, she did open the many that caught her whim. She peeked into bedrooms, studies, galleries, drawing rooms, libraries, and even music rooms.

Sometimes, a peek was enough. Other times, she entered and loitered a little because something caught her attention. In a few rooms, she admired pictures, vases, and tapestries. In others, she perused vast record collections and lounged on big sofas and rugs. In rooms filled with easels, she fiddled with paints and calligraphy sets. In rooms with books, she flipped through novels for good sentences, or encyclopedias for long ones. Her fingers traced the most interesting trinkets.

It was not surprising when she encountered other people. Some she knew already, some were strangers. She joined impromptu bands and listening parties. She debated novels with new friends. From her conversations and observations, she came to many new conclusions, like:

“YOUR MIND IS IN EVERY CELL OF YOUR BODY”

and

“COMPARISON IS NOT CONCLUSIVE”

She wrote them down and kept them in her pocket. She enjoyed her time in each room, but there was always a point when she felt done, so she said goodbye and continued on her walk around the mansion.

She wandered further and further away from the merrymaking until the encounters grew less frequent. She became more and more aware that she was distinctly alone. She started to wish she had someone to share her walk with. A few times, she went back to one of the parlors or drawing rooms to invite her company along with her, but she found the people reluctant. They would look up at the ceiling, then look at the door, then admit to her that they were comfortable just as they were.

She considered returning to the foyer, but she kept walking a little longer because she did not feel done with her break quite yet. She soon came upon a room with an especially beautiful and strong door. It was so intriguing she had to stop and ponder it. Even the doorknob was the perfect amount of ornate, and very comfortable to hold. She twisted it and walked in.

The room was a study. It looked like the other studies she had visited, but the atmosphere here felt unusually clear, wonderful, and safe. This study not only had pictures and vases, but also novels next to the encyclopedias. They sat on a large shelf beside a chest of art supplies, next to a friendly easel and a record player. Soft rugs and wide sofas with blankets filled the floor, and posters and tapestries decorated the four walls. The study even had a small fireplace. She thought it was perfect.

There was also a tall shelf with knick-knacks of fantastic shape and origin. Her favorite item on the shelf was a jar, still rather empty, with slips of paper with conclusions much like her own. She sat down and curiously unraveled a few:

“HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY”

“DO IT BEFORE YOU’RE READY”

“ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS”

When she finished reading them all, she noticed she was sitting next to the base of a ladder. She looked up to see where it led, and to her surprise, this study had no ceiling. She saw the bright blue sky and understood why the air felt so refreshing in this room. At the top of the ladder, she saw a person standing, pondering the world beyond.

She watched him but did not say anything. He finally noticed her when he turned to descend the ladder. When he reached the ground, they stood to face each other, and they considered each other for a moment. They were nearly the same height, and his cheeks were slightly red from standing in the crisp air. She could not help but to smile at him. He started to smile, too.

“Hi,” he said. “Do you want to go back to everyone now?”

“Hi,” she replied. “I was taking a break, but I’ve been gone for a while. Yes, let’s go back.”

They left the study and followed the sound of laughter back. They rejoined the festivities. In the foyer, they told stories about knick-knacks and wisdoms and long sentences from encyclopedias. They talked about their dreams for the world beyond. They talked to familiar people and new people, best friends and strangers. Sometimes they were together, sometimes they were apart.

When he felt like he needed a break, he walked away. When she felt like she needed a break, she walked away. Sometimes they would walk away on their own. Other times, they would find each other and wander away together.

When they wandered together, sometimes they went directly to the study without a ceiling. Other times, they liked to peek into other rooms. In some, she wanted to stay longer to paint, while in others, he wanted to take a nap on an especially good rug, or vice versa. They often ran into friends or strangers. When this happened, they may both have stayed to chat, but sometimes, one felt more compelled to stay than the other. So, sometimes, they were apart.

Nonetheless, they always eventually found the other in the study without a ceiling. She might have returned to paint from memory an especially beautiful tapestry she saw, or to place a new conclusion in the jar. When she would come back, he was usually already there or would walk in shortly after with his own slips of paper or a new novel or record to play.

When they were both in the study, they lounged by the fire. Sometimes, they compared conversations and knick-knacks, or pondered the slips in the jar. Other times, they were completely silent, and she painted and he wrote, or she read and he napped. Often, they stood side by side on the ladder to see the world beyond and talked about the future. After they both felt like they had been gone for too long, they returned to the festivities in the foyer again.

They took breaks like this for a while. One time in the foyer, she felt like she needed a break. She could not find him among all the people, which made her a bit sad. Nonetheless, she decided to walk away on her own, as she had done many times before. As she made her way out of the crowd, she overheard a conversation:

“There’s a storm coming,” a person said.

“How do you know?” the other person asked.

“The sky looked like it yesterday. There are some rain clouds that will pass over us soon,” they replied.

She wondered how they could tell that far in advance, because no window she encountered offered much of a view of anything. Then she thought about the study without a ceiling, and she began to hurry through the halls.

When she entered the study, he was not there, and the air was suddenly much colder than anything she had felt before. The sky was completely gray when she looked up.

She climbed the ladder to get a better view. It was windy, but she could see the rain clouds clearly. They were getting close. She knew what was going to happen. She could already see the damaged trinkets, broken record player, soggy rugs, and ruined slips of paper. The future looked bad without him. The rain might destroy the room. She wished she could find him to tell him about the storm. She wanted him to be here so they could figure out a plan.

She hurried down the ladder and ran through the halls, opening every door she passed, looking for him. Many doors were locked, and other rooms were completely deserted. She could not find a single person, especially him.

She ran back to the study because she had no other choice. When she came back, it was already raining. Water came down from every angle. She did not know what else to do than grab a blanket, drape it over the easel, and crawl under it. She was scared. Where was he? She held herself and began to cry, which she had never done before. As unfamiliar tears fell from her cheeks, she pulled out pen and paper from her pocket. She began to write on a slip:

“I DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU”

This was not all she wanted to say. She crossed it out, ripped it up, and wrote another:

“THE FUTURE LOOKS BAD WITHOUT YOU”

And then another:

“LOVE FEELS LIKE THE FEAR OF LOSS”

The storm continued as the sky turned to night. She could not write down all she meant and all she was feeling, so she kept ripping and rewriting until this rhythm and the rain eventually lulled her to sleep.

* * *

She woke up in the morning holding one slip of paper. The sky was blue and the air was fresh. The study looked as if no storm had passed at all, besides the fact that the vases were still filled to the brim with rainwater. The record player looked as good as new, and the knick-knacks were shinier than before. She was shocked.

At the top of the ladder, there he stood, draping rugs over the edge of the study to air dry.

She clutched tightly the slip of paper in her hand and cleared her throat.

He looked down at her, then paused. He took a breath. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“I learned a lot during the storm,” she replied.

“Me too,” he admitted. “I came to a new conclusion.”

“I was very scared,” she ignored him. “I couldn’t find you. You weren’t here.”

“I wanted to be here.”

“Where did you go?” she asked coldly.

“I’ll tell you, but first I want to show you what I learned,” he replied and climbed down the ladder. When they stood to face each other, he saw tears starting to swell in her eyes. He looked down and knew not to speak next.

She cried in front of him for a while. Finally, the tears stopped falling from her cheeks, and she spoke.

“I came to a new conclusion too.” She showed him the paper in her hand:

“LOVE LOOKS LIKE THE FUTURE”

He looked at the slip, then looked at her. “Yours is a bit cryptic.” He swallowed. “But I think mine means the same thing.”

“LOVE HAS NO CEILING”

His cheeks were slightly red, and he started to smile. She could not help but to smile back.

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