No one came up to my room. No one came to the door. I don’t know if I really wanted anyone to or not. For as much as I might have wanted someone to ask if I was okay, I didn’t want to talk.
I didn’t pack any clothes or take my sketchbooks when I left by dawn’s early light. No note. Nothing. I just wanted to get away from everyone for a while.
At four in the morning, I climbed out my room window, dangled over the side and dropped to the ground floor while breaking my fall by a doing a few short jumps. I didn’t look back to the window or the house as I hurried to the driveway. There were only three cars parked—my aunt’s, uncle’s, and mine. Mom must have left, perhaps after Uncle Allen told her off. My car was clear to back up and out of the driveway. I got in, shifted into neutral, and rolled onto the street by the sheer force of gravity. When the car had cleared the driveway, I turned the engine over and slowly drove down the block and onto Freya.
The drive was lonely. The feelings I had a little under two weeks ago were fleeing. I didn’t really care anymore. Didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere.
Assuming Mom came back in the morning, if she did at all, I would have less than two hours before anyone knew I was missing—since I normally took my runs in the early hours only a glance at the driveway would clue anyone in.
Did I feel a bit of guilt for leaving? A bit.
Did I feel lost? Yep.
Could we have gotten it all straightened out by talking about it?
I didn’t know. Talking didn’t work with Matt and I couldn’t even look at Lindsey or the rest of my family. It was a great idea to change my name entirely as I was on my own at that point, but there was one place to go and I was on my way there—back to Missoula.
The sun was low over the mountains when I arrived and I took a little more time to drive out to Gran’s. I pulled up to the house to see her stranding in the carport.
“Everyone’s been calling,” Grans said as she held up her new cordless phone.
“I thought they would be,” I answered in defeat. “It’s a big mess, Grans.”
“I’m sure it is, but I want to hear it from you.”
The phone rang. She waved for me to follow her inside as she answered it.
“Hello? Yes, Lydia.”
We walked to the dining room and Grans sat in her chair and motioned for me to sit next to her.
“Is Rachel there? Don’t put her on the phone, just tell me if she’s there. Never mind, I hear her in the background.”
I looked around the dining room and wondered if she would let me stay. Of course she would, but I would have to lay everything down on what happened.
“Lydia, could you go into another room, I can’t hear you, dear.”
Maybe I would be lucky and get away with just saying I hated my dad and that would be all I needed to say.
“Is there a way you can tie your sister up or at least keep her busy and not have her call every few minutes since six?”
I felt at my ears—I still had the bandages on them—and Grans would never fall for an allergy excuse.
“Yes, she is. She’s right in front of me.” The conversation was now about me. “No, I do not think that’s a good idea.”
I had to wonder how much of the story she already knew.
“Lyd, don’t get me started on the crazy things you did when you were a teenager.”
Did she know the terms of the divorce settlement?
“Yes dear, I know. Give us a few hours.”
I held onto my arms and tried to calm down. It was either that or scream in frustration.
“She’s wearing jeans, a white blouse, a large shirt over it and her ears are cut….by an idiot boyfriend if I recall correctly.”
I had to blush at that.
“We’ll think of something, Lydia. Thank you. Goodbye, dear.”
Grans hung the phone up, sat it down, and crossed her arms as she looked at me.
“You slapped your father and didn’t bother to take a picture or tell me?”
“I didn’t plan on doing it, it just happened.”
“What kind of man signs away the life of his kid?”
“I know, right?” I said as I put my head down on the table. “I just wanted him to look at me for who I am.”
“Jen, remember your parents are…how did I put it? Your mother is an idiot and your father is a fool. A rich, belligerent, cold-hearted, cheating fool. I’m sorry, dear, I could probably go on all day on what to call him.”
“Did you really tell your mother to fuck off?”
“And Alan told her off too?”
“I wish I could have seen that too,” she said with a slight grin.
The grin faded away though as I sighed and laid my hands on the table.
“I told someone who I used to be.”
“Did he ask you to?”
“I didn’t want to keep it from him, I mean, I didn’t have to…it didn’t matter but—”
“What’s his name?” she asked as I pushed the chair away from the table.
“Matthew,” I replied.
“Didn’t a boy named Matthew used to pick on James?” The phone rang.
“Oh.” Grans looked at the screen, pushed a button and the ringing ceased. “And he didn’t like what he heard?”
“I don’t know…if you saw the look on his face it was more like hurt and confusion. He said he didn’t want me to come near him again.” I paced around the table. “But I can’t do that, Grans…I-I tried to talk to him, I—”
“You didn’t try hard enough. When you were in the hospital, battered, broken and bemoaned, did you just lie there and give up or did you push?” Grans stood up and blocked my path around the table.
“I-I couldn’t just lie there, I—”
“Damn right you couldn’t. And the surgeries, you got through those,” she said as she reached up to put her hands on my shoulders.
“You’ve gotten used to balancing those on your chest, right?” She poked me, hard, to drive her point.
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as her words soaked in.
“You were born again into a world that didn’t know you—and you went out, right?”
“So what’s stopping you now?” She lightly slapped my arm. “You lived through Hell; you survived a metamorphosis…and bitch-slapped your father! Consider those achievements.”
I nodded but then bit my lip. “But what about Matthew?”
“What about him?” she asked as the phone rang again.
“I love him.”
“Then go talk to him.” She reached for the phone, opened the back, and pulled the battery out before setting it back down. “It’s obvious he’s just as stupid for you
as you are for him. He’s a boy. They react with punches and muscles and reflect with the heart and badly written poetry.”
I tried to smile but felt like crying.
“If he says no, then you’ll know. You can love him all you want in your heart, but you’ll have to put it all out there to know the truth.”
“I don’t know if I can do that,” I replied.
“You’re a woman, Jen…you can do whatever the Hell you want to. Now, are you hungry? Let’s go get something to eat. And even if you’re not, I am. You can drive us.”
Two hours later, I placed the battery back into her phone, said my goodbyes to Grans, and drove back to Spokane. I could live through Mom’s verbal assault…and Dad’s legal attacks, assuming he would actually want to pursue such a fool’s errand. My aunt and uncle would probably ground me for running out like I did, but I could deal with that—in fact, I hoped they would take my car away for a bit. And the time had come to face Matthew once again, perhaps for a final time.
I drove up to the house and saw Mom’s car was not there—I hoped she wouldn’t be coming back. Krys stood on the porch then walked over to the car. She stood a few feet away as I got out.
“I don’t know whether to hug or hit you,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“You can do both.”
“Come here,” she ordered and I stepped over. It was a hug. “Why did you leave like that?”
“I wasn’t thinking straight. I’m sorry.”
“Just glad you’re back,” Krys whispered.
“Come on, come inside. Oh and Mom says you’re grounded.”
I kind of hoped she’d say that. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
We walked into the house and into the living room. My aunt and uncle were there along with Lindsey, who I didn’t expect to see. She ran up to me and smiled the original toothy grin I remembered.
“Jennifer. Will we be expecting you at practice tomorrow?”
“You owe me five laps around the track.”
“Not a problem,” I replied.
“I will personally kill you if you leave like that ever again.” Lindsey held her hand up in a fist.
“I won’t go away again,” I said as the three of us huddled together.
“You better not. I’m not sure I could survive another day without both of you nearby.”
“Jen, I’ll need your car keys,” my uncle stated.
“Yes, sir,” I replied, “walking works for me.”
I went upstairs with Krys and Lindsey. We went into my room and we were all quiet for a brief time as I took my flannel shirt off and placed it in a laundry basket.
“So, are you going to talk to Matt?” Krys asked.
“I’m going to try.”
“Damon told me he’s been sad for the past two days,” Lindsey added as she sat down at my desk.
“Yeah…and that he had a gash over his eye. A fight or something.”
“Still sounds like the same Matt,” Krys stated as sat down on the edge of the bed.
I looked at the floor and then up to them.
“No, it’s a new Matthew.” I clapped my hands. “I’m feeling daring. Let’s say we embellish our uniforms before basketball season. How ’bout it?”
I woke up in the morning covered in cloth and other material. I had dragged out every stitch, pattern, and design I could think of. I looked out the window at the darkness but I saw a light out there—the sun peeked through the clouds in the sky. Maybe I was being a hopeless optimist, but I didn’t care, because I was back to who I wanted to be.
I went out for my run, knowing full well I would be walking to school less than an hour later, so I kept it short and fast. I even ran by my old house but never acknowledged it—it was no longer looking at me, no longer screaming in agony. Or there was no longer a little boy trapped in that house, that home life. He had moved on. Good for him.
“We’re walking?” Krys asked me just as I stepped into the bathroom after my run.
“You don’t have to,” I replied as I closed the door.
“Going to anyway. Have you seen my running shoes?”
“So it took me being grounded for you to run with me?”
We left the house overly dressed for the cold weather.
“I kind of got used to you driving us.” Krys shivered as she spoke.
“I can take it, how are you holding up?”
“It will get better,” I replied as I felt the cold against my cheeks.
“Not until the spring.”
We walked a block in silence until Kris cleared her throat. “Jen, I have to say something.”
“You remember…when—” Krys hesitated for a moment “—when I came to help James out of whatever was happening at the time?”
“Everyday. I never thanked you for that.”
“I didn’t expect you to.”
“Right,” I answered.
“And I thought that I’d have to still look after you, but then it didn’t seem like you needed me to, so—”
“I’ll always need you, Krys. One day I’m going to do something incredibly stupid, and I’ll need to call you for bail money.”
“You won’t be able to. I’ll probably be in the cell next to you. We’ll need to call Lindsey.”
“Nah, because she’ll be there too,” I replied. I stopped and spun around on my heels.
“You are way too excited at seven-thirty in the morning.”
“I know, right?” I exclaimed.
“I hope it’s not contagious.”
“Of course it’s contagious, Krys, and it’s going around. I—” I stopped as I looked ahead to see Lindsey standing next to Matt on the corner in front of the school.
She ran toward us, grabbed my hand and whispered, “Someone’s been waiting for you.”
“How long has he been there?”
“I don’t know, but judging by the color of his cheeks, a long time. So, Krys and I will walk this way,” she pointed to the side of the school, “while you walk over to him.”
“Do I have Damon to thank?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she replied as she pulled Krys away.
“Don’t hit him too hard,” Krys hinted as I looked at him standing on the corner. His face was red and his ears looked like they were about to fall off—so I guess we matched in that way.
I took a deep breath and walked over to him.
There was a moment of silence as we looked at each other, waiting to see who would speak first.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Of course,” I replied.
“I’ve been-been thinking about what happened and I don’t expect you to forgive me, I—”
“I do forgive you,” I replied.
Matthew’s face showed shock. “That’s-that’s good. I mean, I’m sorry for what I did, I— There was no reason for me to….”
“I’m sorry too,” I replied.
“I didn’t tell you from the start,” I answered as I took a step closer to him.
“Kind of hard to do, I mean, I wouldn’t have believed it until—”
“Until you were thinking straight?”
“That hasn’t happened for a long time, but I’ve been working on it.” He held his hands out to me in offering and I took them. “I’ve been thinking that—this is so hard for me to say—I’ve made so many stupid mistakes. I’ve been putting on an act, I—”
He let go and moved a few feet away and I moved up to him. Matt turned away, and in that time, something seemed different about him. I could no longer see the person he was two years ago—that person no longer existed. He turned back to me and gazed into my eyes.
“I didn’t want to leave you there, but I was just so angry with myself and what had happened or was happening that I just drove off. I didn’t go home…just parked a few blocks away and sat in the car…looking at something between me and the windshield. Spent the last few days trying to figure out what to do. Figure out who I am and who we are. And I went and talked to Tyler’s dad.”
“I see that…he didn’t take it well?”
“All I could do,” his voice seemed to quiver, “was tell him the truth. Like you did.”
“You did good,” I replied as I held back a few tears. He moved in and hugged me.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry…for everything I have ever said or have done to you. In this life or-“
“Can you still give me the moon?”
“You’ll need to give me a little time for that. Would you settle for a walk under it?”
“I’ll take that offer,” I replied as he put his arms around me.
“We said we should go slow.”
“Yes, we did. Is saying I love you going too fast?” I asked.
He put his index finger to his lips. “Hey, do you hear that?”
“What?” I asked.
“It’s the sound of two hopeless romantics who can’t speak their hearts.”
“Then don’t,” I replied as he kissed me.
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