The theatre had a few inner rooms that were empty, including the bunker-like main hallway. Len led Gabriel to a smaller tributary, also windowless. There they sat, on the floor against the wall. Everyone else in the theatre either sat in the main hall or in the bathrooms or in the enclosed makeup area. A radio was on somewhere, repeating information. It echoed down the hall toward them.
Stacey had texted back, saying she was in the bathroom at Esme’s with the other female customers.
“Are you okay? You’re probably not used to tornadoes.” Gabriel said.
“Other than The Wizard of Oz? No.”
“The siren will let us know when it’s gone,” he said. “It was heading the other way, but they’re unpredictable sometimes.”
“Do they happen often?”
“Often enough. We don’t get big ones here,” he said with a short nod. “Like like they do in Oklahoma. We used to have to sit in hallways like this in school, from kindergarten on, for drills.”
“We did that, too, but it was more for terrorist bombings.”
Gabriel shook his head. “I can’t imagine.”
“They told us it was for hurricanes and then kept yelling at us to stay away from doors and windows,” she said. “It could’ve been for hurricanes, but we never got that many. They used to call it a ‘shelter drill.’”
“That’s nice and ambiguous.”
“Yup.” Lennon’s phone beeped again and she lazily glanced down at the text message. From Etta: CNN says there’s a tornado in Mo! You really need to come home.
Lennon leaned her head against the cool, white-painted blocks and closing her eyes, she let out a long sigh. “I need to make new friends.” She felt her shoulders being moved forward, then the sliding warmth of a strong arm behind her.
“Personality clash. Complete and total lack of understanding of what I’m doing out here. She has no idea who I am.”
“So why are you out here?”
She opened her eyes and glanced over at Gabriel. “I guess it was to get away from an unhealthy state of mind. Experience a new place, new people. Spend time with Stacey.”
“Who spends more time fighting with Nick. I saw them arguing in front of the market the other day. They were…spectacularly entertaining.”
She snickered. “Aren’t they just? Did she try to run away from him again and fling herself into oncoming traffic?”
“No. She stormed into the store.” He sent her a bemused look.
“She ran away from him last week. Would’ve been run over if I hadn’t grabbed her arm in time.” Seeing the expression on Gabriel’s face, Lennon added, “I’m serious. This was in Sedalia, too. Where there’s traffic…sort of.”
“Enough to run someone over, yeah,” he said.
Silence reigned for the next several minutes. The only noise emanated from the echoing radio further down the hall. The hall lights flickered, then came back on. Lennon was conscious of her breathing in the stillness of that moment, in and out, in and out. When else had she been able to sit in silence and listen to herself breathe out of peacefulness and not out of anger or stress? She couldn’t even begin to remember the last comfortable silence she’d had with anybody recently; certainly never with anyone male.
The light flickered again and stayed dark longer. Everything came alive to Lennon in the dark. Nighttime was quiet and still. The world was smaller to her in the nighttime and she was able to focus then. She’d spent far too many nights staying up and writing with an almost manic fervor.
When she was a kid, she strived to be a successful author. She was single-minded about that goal. She used to go into bookstores and wander into the Ms of the Fiction/Literature section. She wiggled her small hand in spaces where her book would be shelved. McCarthy, McCourt, McCullers, McEwan, McKinney. She’d been so damn bright-eyed and innocent, eternally hopeful. What happened to her? She used to go around telling people she was going to be a famous writer. She’d endured the well-meaning advice of people who told her that writers never made any money, writing was a hobby not a job, it was a total crapshoot, writers were depressed and lonely creatures who turned to alcohol for solace. Lennon had heard it all, three or four times over.
She’d stored it up, staying up even later and writing far into the night. Her attitude then had been a youthful “I’ll show ‘em and they’ll regret telling me not to do it.”
The light came back on. Gabriel’s hand, dangling from her shoulder, brushed her arm. Len scooted closer to him and took advantage of his shoulder, using it as a pillow. He didn’t shrug her off. Now she could feel his breathing. It was in synch with hers.
“Hmm?” She asked, turning her head toward his face.
“What does your sister’s name mean?”
“Light,” Len grinned.
“What does yours mean?”
“Beatle fanatic. No, actually, it’s derived from an Irish last name. Means love.”
His lips tipped into a closed smile. He turned toward her, his arm drawing her close, and his face tipped forward. She looked at his eyes; they were intent on her mouth. The light went out again as his lips met hers and her eyes drifted closed.
It could’ve been a few seconds; it may have been a few minutes, even, but she was aware of voices down the hall and a hand cradling the back of her head. The colors behind her eyelids turned from pitch black and blue to almost orange as the light came back on. His lips pulled away, leaving her open-mouthed. Both of them were breathing a little harder.
“So you’ll come on Friday, right?” He asked, blue eyes blazing. She nodded. “Sweet. That’s one guaranteed audience member.” They lapsed into silence again, but it was a touch less comfortable.
That night, in bed, Lennon licked her lips as she fell asleep. She didn’t dream about a faceless man and smut this time, as she did in the past. This time, her dreams revolved around a very real man with whiskers ready to appear above skin, brushing against her smooth cheek. The man had full pink lips and an endearing smile. He had interested blue eyes and long eyelashes a few shades darker than, but still matching, the tousled brown hair on his head.
Lennon buried her face in her pillow and wondered if she should feel like she did, a tiny bit of embarrassment mixed with pleasure. In the darkness, it was hard to banish the embarrassment. She wouldn’t have done anything differently anyway.
But she replayed and rewound that moment in her head nonetheless. Maybe next time, if there was a next time, she’d grab him instead.
*If y’all can find a better word for “light” and/or “light fixture,” that would be awesome. Thank you.*