Most normal, well-made American girls would be pleased as a pickle to be spending their 16th birthday on a whirlwind trip around Europe and she was pickly pleased until just 20 minutes prior to this point in time. Right now at this remotely viewed moment she's sitting on the side of a giant bed with a ridiculously fluffy white comforter. She's got a notepad filled with numbers in one hand and the hotel phone in the other.
Her head is down and she's sobbing gently, working up to a more substantial weeping. She's still wearing her traveling clothes from earlier that day, a boys' navy and baby blue striped polo shirt and a pair of baggy jeans. She has a thermal shirt wrapped around her waist carelessly and is wiping her snotty face on one sleeve. Our girl finally raises her head and flicks her thick chestnut hair off of her shoulders in a mindless head cocking motion. She hangs up the phone, distracted by some commotion outside.
Not impressed by the huge glass french doors, the striking wrought iron balcony or the amazing mountain rising before her in white majestic grandeur, she gazes out at the group of her fellow students frolicking in the village many floors below her. They're all participating in a delightful, laughter-filled snow ball battle, American voices raising up to her on the balcony, echoing off the walls of the gothic cathedral flanking the mountain-side.
The phone rings and she scuttles across the room in a clumsy sprint.
"Hello!?!?" She's so breathless with excitement, it's comical.
"Hello Erin! Happy Birthday!" It's her Mom. Not who she was hoping to hear from, but pretty damn good.
"Oh Momma. Thanks. I was feeling weird there for awhile. I miss you guys."
"But not too much, right Erin? Having a good time? "
"Yep! Having a wonderful time, Momma. Just feeling homesick for a minute. I feel so much better now that I talked to you."
"It's strange not having you here for your birthday, we'll have cake when you get home. Michelle and Mindi should be calling you shortly, I gave them all the numbers."
"Oh! Thanks Momma."
"Love you, Erin, be good. Please."
"Bye Mom, thanks again."
She waded through two more perfunctory conversations, two that made her feel so much better, but not the one she really was hoping to get. She hung up from the last phone call, thinking she could definitely go and join her group, finally. A smile was creeping over her generous mouth thinking about the journey she was on and how silly she had been acting earlier.
Before she left the room she checked her international calling card minutes one more time. 6 minutes left. Tensing up immediately she decided to try calling him one more time. She went through the annoying process of dialing out the calling cards numbers, the international dialing codes and finally, checking and double checking his number, she slowly pushed the buttons that would very hopefully connect her with him. On the first ring, her very self-absorbed mind she imagined him waiting by the phone, expectantly, hand poised above the receiver. On the second ring she tried to imagine what he might be doing instead of waiting by the phone for her call...skating with friends? Flirting with some girl? Not thinking about her, for sure. On the third ring she realized it was almost 11 pm in Pennsylvania. Was she calling too late?
"Hello?" A gruff, tired voice answers.
"Hi, Is Jeremiah home?"
"No, no he's not. Can I take a message?" Gruff, but polite.
"No!...No, that's okay. I'll just see him when I get back, I think." Click.
She grabbed some necessities and ran, clumsily again, out of the room. She tried to clear her head so she wasn't consumed by embarrassment or some other basic emotion. Leaving the hotel, she forced a smile onto her face like shoving an ill-fitting piece into a near finished puzzle and ran to meet her group.
The rest of her trip was wonderful.
She didn't talk to Jeremiah again for almost 8 years.