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Chapter XII, Fall Forward
Winter Quarter at UCLA arrived for both my sister and me rather rapidly. It seemed that we had barely the time to bid our farewells to both of our parents and solidify something of normality between the two of us. However, it was also welcomed in that the routine that it represented would challenge our minds and, in its course, gain some sense of closure that we desperately needed. UCLA is unique in that as a University on a quarter system, students tend to take fewer classes due to its faster pace but also to think in terms of weeks instead of quarters. Hence, at week four, students are in the throes of midterms and in week ten, finals. The faster pace also minimized the endurance necessary to tolerate certain professors’ personalities that did not exactly inspire confidence or wakefulness.
Like all solid institutions of higher learning, there are a steadfast percentage of faculty slots reserved for the mundane. Ashley was an exception, of course, to the normal. While an ordinary course-load might be three of four classes, my sister insisted on carrying six to eight every quarter and with great accomplishment. She never seemed to be unduly pressured and managed to have ample time to share with me or our friends and peers that we associated with. Even the volume of books that was required of her, she never needed to bring home any more than myself. While she never boasted of her academic abilities, the amazement she garnered in not only her brother’s and peers’ eyes was also shared by her admiring mentors.
Both of us studied to the best of our academic gifts, not only for the achievement and standing, but also in the desperate attempt at garnering at least one day a week in which we were not confined to the screens of computers but to allow ourselves a day of rest and enjoyment. In our case, the singular day blessed to us alone participated in extended passionate physical love as well as the chance meeting with friends for dinner or amusement. Over breaks, a drive to Napa Valley or Sonoma gave us a romantic interlude in an otherwise hectic schedule. A walk through the picturesque towns of Carmel or Sausalito examining the paintings and creations of the local artisans and maybe a side-trip to marvel at the majestic form of the native sea otters in Monterey gave an emotional respite to the weary minds of students fatigued with calculations. Other times, a simple dinner and drinks with our fellow students who were often our friends from our childhood as well caused us both to feel bayan esmer escort bursa a belonging that once was centered over our extinguished family.
During evenings and weekends at campus, we often took in an event at the Pauley Pavilion or an exhilarating Pac 12 football game. Simply put, we had opportunities that only a big city like Los Angeles could provide and both Ashley and I would take whatever advantage that we could whenever the call of our books receded that allowed us time to be young and free. Even as a committed couple fully in the arms of love, we still dated then as now. Living in each moment, experiencing the events, the sensations, the experiences of the world around us as well as each other gave us the ability to create mutual lifelong memories that define us. To fully appreciate the gift of life never wishing to retreat from the other but to embrace each opportunity and to continually build a foundation and an intertwined destiny of happiness in its rewarding spiritual, emotional, and physical embrace.
We lived in an environment of continual learning about the other; growing closer and nearer with the passing hour. It was like we both existed as separate matrices with each intersection of the lattice molding and expanding to match exactly to the other so that both could overlay equally. At each juncture, the combination would create with twice the energy giving rise to a third entity of greater strength and endurance than either one of us alone could ever hope to achieve. We fully accepted our love and the exploration of it demanded an eternity to explore.
My sister and I, ever since our childhood, were extremely close to a group of perhaps ten friends. We ran together, laughed together, graduated through our classes at the same school, and were incredibly close from a very early age. Of those ten, six were now in college with us and that group expanded with their associations of various relationships that they were engaged in. I say six but perchance seven, Derek was sort of an outsider of our group, pathologically shy at times, but I suppose out of pity we always included him whenever he was around.
As we grew older, he became a bit more open and spent more time with us but never the amount of the original group. He, too, was at the same university of our original six and as such, we made him feel as welcomed as his introverted personality would allow. For some unavailable reason, he could never gaze directly at Ashley but always seemed bursa ucuz eskort to mumble his words to her by speaking directly to the ground. The shyness was heartbreaking to my sister’s sense of compassion, and she would endeavor to make him feel more comfortable around her.
At times, she would make introductions to this female friend or acquaintance in an effort to find common ground and a companion that would thaw the walls of his inhibitions only to thwart her efforts by his paralyzing bashfulness. My sister never gave up hope and continued to make introductions to others while including him in our impromptu activities. When Derek actually found the innate courage to suspend his anxieties somewhat, he was always courteous even though extremely quiet, and seemed to appreciate the opportunity to be included. To the astonishment of most is that he was also a gifted athlete in his own right playing baseball for as long as we have known him including, now, for UCLA.
As an outstanding catcher with a power swing and an enormous arm, it was somewhat confusing to see such a competitor on the field and the demure person in public. Nor was his family particularly any different than most, his father was an out-going man that loved fishing, his mother was the neighborhood gossip, and while Derek was an only child, there was never an indication of mistreatment or abuse on the part of his parents or the neighborhood kids. Derek was just Derek and how some people’s personalities develop is often a mystery to others that seemingly have known them most of their lives.
A simple evening’s affair might entail eight of us, nine if Derek came, and their assorted girlfriends/boyfriends of the time to dinner at a local restaurant, bowling, a sporting event, or occasionally, an invitation to our house for a home cooked meal, wine, and conversation. The warmer days might be spent at Zuma Beach enjoying the surf and working on a perpetual tan. A pickup game of volleyball might ensue, anything to bring laugher and joy to a bunch of college kids trying their best to enjoy life with whatever funds that was available to cash-strapped students on a budget. Both my sister and I were in better circumstances financially the most of our friends, but we lived modestly with goals and thoughts foremost in my sister’s sweet mind. Still, if one of our closest friends was presented the choice of not being able to participate in a gathering because of money issues, the group would always find a way to bursa anal yapan escort share what we had and include them in.
During winter break and on Christmas Eve, we had about twenty people at the house including Derek. We exchanged gifts chosen at random from numbers in an old top hat that was lying about, and everyone made something to pass except Ashley. My sister made a spread that would be the envy of the Savoy and had started the task two days beforehand with my contribution being mainly staying out of her way and running errands. The front of the house was decorated with the requisite Christmas lights, artificial snow, and a sleigh with wrapped packages placed in a red velvet bag in back of a fat jolly Santa Claus equipped with his own internal lighting.
The windows were sprayed with canned frost framing an electric candle in each and cardboard candy canes festively displayed to impart the impression as best as we could that it was much less than the 72 degrees the thermometer read. Still, with four palm trees in the front, it would take a fair stretch of the imagination to think that we lived anywhere near the North Pole. Though, for my sweet sister and to a lesser extent me, Christmas was about the spirit and not the locale. Inside, we had a completely decorated live fir with all the decorations to celebrate the moment when brotherhood and joy were supposed to descend upon mankind. After the first, I would take the tree and plant it in the Angeles National Forest.
The joyful event continued to about midnight when it started to break up. We wished everyone a fond and wonderful Christmas this day and to our surprise, Derek was last to leave. He offered to help clean up and while that was welcomed, my sister and I decided that except with what had to be refrigerated immediately, everything else could wait till the morning. Besides, there was not all the much to do since we employed disposable plates and cutlery wherever possible. We had picked up most of the wrapping paper and made what we could orderly as the night progressed. We thanked him and Ashley walked him to the door. Ashley gently grasped both of Derek’s hands, said something to him, and as he bent over, she kissed his cheek and whispered a Merry Christmas to him. Derek recoiled slightly from the contact and with a strange look upon his face, left mumbling something inaudible. Ashley shook her head for a second and walked towards the kitchen to help finish what I had started in terms of our final chores for the night. After we had turned off the lights on the first floor, leaving on the lights to the tree and decorations outdoors, Ashley engaged me with her seductive smile, “Do you want to unwrap your Christmas present now?”
We gathered each other in our arms and made our way up to the room that became our fortress and symbol of hope of better days to come.
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