YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 16
I almost didn’t recognize the face I saw in the mirror. It didn’t look like mine. It belonged to a strange person with huge, starry eyes, messy hair, and a wildly beating heart. For what seemed a very long moment, I could only stand in front of the vanity table, trembling, with my hands to my cheeks, thinking over and over and over again, “What just happened back there? What’s even going on here? How is this even happening? How could he turn me inside out and upside down like this? What is going to happen now? What am I going to do? How can I ever go out there and face him again?”
The very idea of confronting those amused green eyes again completely unnerved me. I didn’t want to ever have to do that. I wanted to hop into bed and pull the covers over my head and cower under there until he had departed. I could do it too, I thought. I had a legitimate reason. I was sick after all. Look, my forehead was hot. And maybe that was what had made me behave like this. The fact that I was sick. Yes, that had to be it. What else could it be? I refused to consider the ’else’ already blinking in my mind. I had made enough of a fool of myself on that matter after Drumont’s Bar. I needed to stop. I needed to rest. It was crucial that I rested.
I heard him go into Tavi’s room and wondered what he was making of the whole thing. Was he even giving it any thought, or was it something that happened to him all the time? Most likely the latter. I recollected Mari Kenlay’s gaga behavior. Was mine any different? Had I turned out to be yet another easy idiot, ready to sacrifice pride and self-respect for a smile and attention from an acknowledged beauty? It was beyond everything. I couldn’t do this to myself. I couldn’t be like this.
I took a deep breath and hastened to get out of my damp clothes and into my nightie. Then I got into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin and stared up at the ceiling and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t being a total coward. Without any degree of success, of course. I knew I was only trying to avoid him. Worse still, he would know I was trying to avoid him. He had already called me a coward. That singed my dignity and it became intolerable to lie there and keep up the pretense. Gawd, pull yourself together, I thought. I jumped out of bed and flung open my cupboard.
I spent an inordinately long time next finding something suitable to wear. I tried on and discarded nearly everything I had. This one was too formal. This one was too casual. This one was a little gaudy. This didn’t match. This one made me look too thin. This one might look like I had made too much of an effort. Not that I wanted to impress anybody, I told myself, but, of course, I was lying to myself again. And this self-knowledge only distressed me further. I could hear him whistling his new tune in the adjoining room and my ears seemed keyed on alert to catch his every movement.
“This isn’t right,” I told myself. “This isn’t right at all. What’s the matter with you? Have you gone insane? He’s a total jerk. Not only that, he’s got a girlfriend. Several girlfriends, actually. You don’t even have a chance. Why do you even want a chance? Have you forgotten last night’s dream? Don’t do this to yourself. Please don’t.”
“Lea?” came Vanousheh’s voice.
I cursed inwardly and picked the first dress, a sleeveless yellow sundress, off the heap that had by now formed on the bed, and hurriedly put it on and shook out my hair.
“Coming!” I called, and grabbed the rest of the clothes from the bed and crammed them back anyhow into the cupboard. “Coming!” I repeated and went to open the door.
Vanousheh came in with the turmeric milk, apologizing for the delay – she had had to boil the milk and make the tea and take that and the snacks out to the guests first – and telling me that Tavi had given her my medicine and I was supposed to take one of the tablets before I drank the milk. She headed straight to the water carafe on the side table and put down the milk glass and fished into the paper medicine bag and began tearing open a silver-foil tablet strip. Dr. Immer had given me a whole lot of antibiotics, she informed me, and my prescription was pretty much exactly the same as what her youngest sister, Natalia, had been prescribed just last month, would you believe? It was getting to be scary. If we all kept getting prescribed the same antibiotics for everything, we might soon become immune to them. Natalia’s pills hadn’t worked for her at all. They had left her feeling drowsy and even more sick, and, finally, they had stopped giving them to her. The turmeric milk had turned out to be more effective.
“I don’t know why I didn’t suggest it earlier. My Mum swears by it too.” She turned and paused and eyed me with surprise. “What is this? I thought you were going to bed,” she said.
“Yes, well, after they are gone,” I said, self-consciously, and seized the tablet from her and downed it with the water she handed me. “I mean, they are guests, right?”
“Right, but you don’t have to put yourself out if you aren’t feeling well. If you want to go to bed, you go to bed. I’m sure they won’t mind. And, anyway, I’m here to do whatever is needed, you know.”
“Of course, you are,” I said, downing the milk next. “But I ought to give you a hand now and then.”
She missed the sarcasm, which was just as well; I regretted it the moment I let it loose; she had just been so nice to me after all. I wiped my upper lip and stood still as she reached to tuck my chemise strap back under the dress sleeve. She looked me up and down and nodded. Finally, it seemed, I had met her fashion standard.
I stifled a fresh bout of sarcasm and inquired, “It looks alright? Not too much?”
“No, it’s fine. Is this a new dress?”
“Yeah. Aunt Zarrin got it last week.”
“Another one? I mean, didn’t she get you one last month too?”
“I know. Billy’s burning up. He said she ought to be saving her money for her old age, not spending it all on togging the neighbor’s daughter.”
As I spoke, I saw Guy come to pause in the doorway behind, his eyes gleaming with amusement. I didn’t die instantly under his scrutiny like I had been sure I would, but I did feel my face start to heat up again. He had buttoned up the shirt, but his hair, which he didn’t seem to have touched after my scrubbing, stood all awry, like the petals of a golden chrysanthemum. He rested a shoulder against the door jamb and took in my dress, not missing a detail of my figure, it seemed to me. I put an end to this flagrant viewing by stepping exactly in front of Vanousheh, out of his line of vision. His grin widened and he actually swung sideways to look at me. Vanousheh glanced about at him and laughed. It occurred to me that he didn’t seem to affect her at all as he was affecting me. I found that incredible, and that she could speak to him in much the same manner as she spoke to Hansin.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking at the Sunflower there,” he said, pointing to me. “What a sight for sore eyes. I LOVE that dress!”
I tried to curb the instantaneous giddy feelings that rose within and said, “If I had only known before, I would have lent you this instead of that.”
“Nah, smartie,” he said, coming in and circling about me. “I wouldn’t have looked anywhere as sweet.”
Vanousheh glanced from him to me, a surprised realization dawning in her eyes, and, flustered, I caught his sleeves to stop him from completing another circuit and pointed out that he had buttoned his shirt all wrong and needed to run a comb through his hair. And, even as I spoke, I began re-buttoning his shirt. And then I couldn’t believe I had embarked on that. What are you even doing, my inner voice cried, first you dry his hair and now you button his shirt? Are you going to comb his hair next? And what after that? Are you going to be feeding him and wiping his mouth for him too? I reddened at the thought and my fingers fumbled on the last few buttons. His hands came to cup my elbows and his eyes smiled into mine with an almost half-tender light, and then I didn’t know what to do with myself.