I was reunited with my sweet little sugar glider, Aquene, who (I kid you not) sat in her cage with her arms crossed and her back to me. She only glanced over occasionally to shoot me a "how could you leave me, you big jerkwad!" glare.
Everyone I loved was tangible again. Their voices, their mannerisms, their eyes. It was all mine to behold.
Well, almost everyone. Dustin had transfered to another school and campus was not the same without him. Standing in the winter bluster and snow, I was rather lost in the missing.
Suddenly though, mine and Eddie's mutual friend Kaylee came skipping down a hill and reaffirmed my existence by welcoming me back with a hug. She then went to class with the promise that we would see each other again soon.
It was about that time that my (newly purchased and long awaited) cell phone rang. It was Eddie. Oh gosh, it was Eddie! I fumbled, dropped my phone in the sugar dusting we North Carolinians call snow, recovered it and answered. He was in the University Center, he said. Great, I was just outside!
And then I was in front of him again.
He was different. The mohawk was gone. It had been replaced with a regular haircut made irregular by a homemade bleaching. That wasn't it though, something else was different. I couldn't shake the inkling that the usual sparkle in his eyes had been accosted by a subtle undercurrent of uneasiness.
Nevertheless, shivering with cold and excitement, I gratefully gave him a hug hello and asked (as casually as I could muster) what he thought we ought to be about doing. We agreed that we should be on our way to his cabin so that I could meet his squirrel.
The squirrel was lovely, and the cabin was cozy and sweet, but the conversation was confusing and awkward. If only I could remember what he said that had set my head spinning. Alas, I only remember how it made me feel. It was something that indirectly probed into my current feelings, as if my feelings were something he desired to know... and in the same breath implied that he couldn't care less.
The next time I saw him, it was for a movie in the University Center with our friend Kaylee. I sat down in between them just before he left momentarily to get some popcorn. Kaylee turned to me and whispered, "Would you like to trade seats with me? I wouldn't mind!"
I was perplexed. That was an odd request. If she wanted to sit next to Eddie, that was fine with me but the phrasing and the look of concern on her face seemed to imply something was wrong. All I got out was, "Huh?", so she further clarified. "I mean, are you sure you're OK to sit by him? I know it must be hard for you."
I blinked a few times. "Whaaa...?", too late. He was back. We sat where we sat.
When the movie was over he gave us a half smile and bid us goodnight. I asked Kaylee what was going on and she simply sighed, "Oh Sarah, don't you know that guys like to pursue? You never should have told him that you liked him." I only arched an eyebrow because I was too chicken to ask her to elaborate. I wanted to hope.
Later that week Eddie came over to my room so I could give him the paper umbrella I got for him in Australia. We sat on the floor and fed my roommate's hamster a whole snack size box of raisins just to see if he could fit them all in his cheeks. There he was! There was my friend! All was right in my world until I remembered the paper umbrella and pulled it out for him.
I was all enthusiastic, like a golden retriever. He, on the other hand, took it, stared blankly at it for a moment, and said, "What... am I going to do with this?". I guess I hadn't thought that far, exactly. He said he had to go... I don't remember whether he wound up taking it with him or not. I do remember a deepening of my dismay and confusion.
Then one night he called and said to meet him at the soccer field. He was going to introduce me to his church family.
I adored this family from the second I laid eyes on them. The pastors, Jim and Genevieve, and their kids: Kentucky (my age), and her younger siblings Rosie and Josh. I had no idea at that time what a home I would find with them.
I was about to go through a serious Fire Swamp, complete with ROUSes, lightning sand, and a deep understanding of rejection.
My Mom and Dad were moving from North Carolina to Indiana, Dustin was away at another school, and Campus Rock had become more irrelevant to me than a screen door on a submarine.
Thank God that this church family, and my sweet best friend (Star) were there to be a refuge to me. Again and again and again.