Happy Tuesday, it’s #BlogBattle time!! Hop on over to Writing Rachael Ritchey to read some of the other stories.
#BlogBattle is a weekly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Hosted by Rachael Ritchey.
A Day in the Loop
It’s a beautiful summer day, a perfect day to spend in the Loop. It’s only a short train ride for us from Indiana, so we do it often. It’s what we do this time every year, it’s Jillian’s birthday, and her and I spend it every year in her favorite place, downtown Chicago. We spend most of the day at the Art Institute; her and I both love the architecture and all the stairs in the museum. We just get lost in all the beauty of it. But our final stop is the stunning A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, taking in each detail. Even though we have spent more hours than we can count just staring at this painting, we still find it fascinating. For fun we have named every person and pet in it, and refer to them like they are old friends.
“So, do you think Jacques has introduced himself to Juliet yet?” Jillian asks me quietly.
“Juliet is not his type.” We hadn’t noticed the two guys that came up beside us, this from the one standing next to Jillian.
“Oh really? So who is his type?” Jillian plays along.
“The hottie in the bikini,” he wiggles his eyebrows up and down, smiles and holds out his hand, “Hi, I’m Aaron and you are?”
Jillian says without hesitation, “Leaving.” She takes me by the arm and we walk away. But before we get to the doorway, she turns around and playfully says, “By the way, I’m the Birthday Girl, and we are heading over to Giordano’s. Since you obviously don’t appreciate art, I’m sure a guy like you can appreciate really good pizza.” She gives him a wink and we leave.
On our short walk, we giggle like schoolgirls, talking about how cute they are. They of course find us, sit down at our table and we place our order. They properly introduce themselves as Aaron and Aidan Anderson, fraternal twins from Minnesota, here for an extended weekend visiting relatives.
I reply, “Nice to meet you, I’m Stephanie and this is my younger sister Jillian. Actually, my mom calls us Irish Twins, we’re only 11 months apart, me being the oldest.”
We talk about our families, our hometowns, work and all kinds of things. The conversation flows easily between the four of us, like we were old friends. After I don’t know how many slices, Aaron declares, “This is the best. Pizza. Ever!!”
Aidan looks at his brother, shakes his head then smiles at me and asks, “So why do they call this area the Loop?”
I point my thumb over to Jillian, “Ask her, she loves it here and knows everything about it.”
Jillian smiles brightly excited to share her knowledge, “Well Aidan, you see most people think it comes from the “L” trains…”L” standing for elevated trains, which do actually form a loop around the downtown area. But the name is actually from back in the 1800s. It was the route of the streetcars that served the Chicago area that formed a loop.”
“Interesting, it’s a great city.” He sincerely says.
Aaron agrees, “It is. After this we want to check out the Ledge in the Sky Deck of the Willis Tower, you should join us.”
Jillian rests her elbow on the table with a talk-to-the-hand gesture towards Aaron, and turns to me and says, “What did he just say?” in mock horror.
“Here we go” I say rolling my eyes.
“What?” Aaron asks confused, hoping he didn’t offend us.
Jillian puts her hand up further, makes a noise to silence him without turning her attention away from me.
I flatly reply, “You heard what he said.”
“Yes, but I don’t think I heard him correctly, Steph.” She argues.
Aidan and Aaron just look at each other utterly confused.
I try to calm her, saying, “Give him a break Jilly…they are from out of town.”
Addressing Aidan and Aaron I try to explain, “Uh…Jillian has a little problem with it being called the Willis Tower. Even though in 2009, Willis Group Holdings obtained the building’s naming rights. We have always known it as the Sears Tower, and she fondly continues to call it that.”
As they all look at me blankly, I shrug saying, “I know a few things too.”
Jillian says, “You’re right Steph, I am sorry for my rudeness,” she says to them sincerely.
“It’s just a thing for me, I know they earned the rights to name it, but still…it will always be the Sears Tower to me. And yes, we would love to go with you to the Sky deck of the Sears Tower. We were planning on that as our next stop. After that, we will show you guys the Bean.
“What’s the Bean?” Aidan questions.
I reply with a smile, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
By the time we make it to the Bean, we all have had a great time, not wanting it to end. It’s then that Aaron asks Jillian for her phone number so that they can keep in touch. I see the quick look on her face, but only I know what it means, or notice it, she smiles and says playfully, “My dear Aaron, that would be too easy now wouldn’t it. Here is what I propose. We take a picture of all of us in front of the Bean, and we agree to meet back at the same place in the museum where we first met, the same time next year. You know, you could just be reacting to the euphoria you are feeling from having the best. Pizza. Ever. Let’s leave some things up to fate and destiny.” She nudges him with her hip and gives him a wink.
I could tell that Aaron wanted to argue, but not many people could resist my sister’s beautiful smile when it makes her blue eyes sparkle even more.
Aidan then looks at me and asks, “Are we leaving things up to fate and destiny as well?”
“Sadly, yes. The Birthday Girl has spoken,” I say as I look into his eyes a little more intently willing him to understand.
Before we say our good-byes, Jillian happens to look down and spots a penny on the ground, and enthusiastically picks it up saying, “Oh look a shiny new penny!!” Smiling like she just found a million dollars, she puts it in her pocket.
We all just look at her amused, and she says, “What? Some people say pennies are from heaven.” That’s what I love about my sister, that she truly believes in all that kind of stuff.
Reluctantly we part ways with the cute guys from Minnesota with lingering hugs, and promises of “same time next year.”
Her and I walk silently back to the train. Just as we are about to get on, I put my arm around her and ask, “Are you OK.”
She replies quietly, “I will be, it had to be done that way.”
“I know Jilly…I know,” as I tighten my arm around her shoulders and lean my head against hers.
“Thanks Steph for a great birthday. I think it was one of the best.” She says with a smile.
“Only the best for my lil’ sis.” I reply as we board the train to go home.
It’s the same beautiful summer day, a perfect day to spend in the Loop. I sit in front of the painting like I have done so many times before, but it’s not the same, as a lone tear escapes down my cheek, I miss her so much.
“Stephanie?” Aidan says as he walks up from behind me.
“Aidan, you’re here. Where’s Aaron?” I say looking behind him, searching.
Aidan looks at me with a look I see in the mirror, a look I feel every day, he says in a tremulous whisper, “He’s gone Steph.”
“Aidan, no!!” I reach out to hug him, “Jillian’s gone too.”
“I know” he says.
“How” I reply with a questioning look.
“Jillian found me and contacted me and explained everything, I am so sorry for your loss Stephanie. She asked me to be here for you, she didn’t want you to be alone. She said that you were so strong and always there for her during all her treatments. She wanted to be sure that you wouldn’t be alone, she knew that you would need someone to lean on. What she didn’t know is that I would need you just as much. She had sent a letter to Aaron, wanting to say goodbye to him in a more personal way than just sending an email. I was never able to give it to him. I received it the same day he was involved in a fatal car accident.”
“I am so sorry Aidan. Thank you for being here.” So grateful he was.
“I just wish we were all here together.” His grief palpable.
“I’d like to think they are together…just not here with us.”
“So” Aidan said trying to lighten up the mood, “Let’s do all the things we’d do if they were here, like visiting the Sears Tower, and the Bean…
“And eating the best. Pizza. Ever. I interrupt with a smile.
By the time we make it to the Bean, we decide to take another picture, make plans to stay in touch, and make this our yearly celebration. As Aidan takes my hand to walk me to the train, I look down and there in front of us are two shiny new pennies. I pick them up and hold them in the palm of my hand. I look up at Aidan and say, “I was wrong, they are here with us.”
He smiles and says in amazement, “Pennies from heaven.” I put one in his hand, he kisses my forehead, and we walk away hand in hand.
Photo credit: http://www.chicagotraveler.com/cloud-gate-chicago
© 2015 Carrie Ann