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Point of retreat, p.20

  Point of Retreat, p.20

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
 


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  “I wish you would talk to me,” I say. We both make our way to the couch. Normally, she would curl up next to me and sit on her feet. This time, she makes sure there’s plenty of space between us as she drops down on the opposite end of the couch. If I’ve learned anything at all this week, it’s the fact that I hate space. Space sucks.

  She looks at me and attempts to muster a smile, but it doesn’t come off right. It looks more like she’s trying not to pity me.

  “Promise me you'll hear me out without arguing first," she says. "I'd like to have a mature conversation with you."

  "Lake, you can't sit there and say I don't hear you out. It's impossible to hear you out when you're carving pumpkins all the damn time!"

  "See? Right there. Don't do that," she says.

  I grab the throw pillow next to me and cover my face with it to muffle a frustrated groan. She's impossible. I bring the pillow back down and rest my elbow on it as I get comfortable and prepare for her lecture.

  "I'm listening," I say.

  "I don’t think you understand where I’m coming from at all. You have no clue why I'm having doubts, do you?”

  She’s right, I don’t. “Enlighten me,” I say.

  She takes her jacket off and throws it over the back of the couch and gets comfortable. I was wrong, she’s not here to lecture; I can tell by the way she’s speaking to me. She’s here to have a serious conversation, so I decide to respectfully hear her out.

  “I know you love me, Will. I was wrong to say that earlier. I know you do. And I love you, too.”

  It’s obvious this confession is merely just a preface to something else she’s about to say. Something I don’t want to hear.

  “But after hearing the things Vaughn said to you, it made me look at our relationship in a different way." She pulls her legs up on the couch and sits Indian style, facing me. "Think about it. I started thinking back on that night at the slam last year, when I finally told you how I felt. What if I wouldn’t have shown up that night? What if I wouldn’t have come to you and told you how much I loved you? You would have never even read me your slam. You would have taken the job at the junior high and we probably wouldn’t even be together. So you can see where my doubt comes into play, right? It seems like you just wanted to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. You didn’t fight for me. You were just going to let me go. You did let me go.”

  I did let her go, but not for the reasons she’s telling herself. She knows this. Why does she doubt it now? I do my best to be patient when I respond, but my emotions are all jumbled up. I’m frustrated, I’m pissed, I’m happy she’s here. It’s exhausting. I hate fighting.

  “You know why I had to let you go, Lake. There were bigger things going on last year than just us. Your mother needed you. She didn’t know how much time she had. The way we felt about each other would have interfered with your time left with her, and you would have hated yourself for it later. That’s the only reason why I gave up, and you know that.”

  She shakes her head in disagreement. “It's more than that, Will. We’ve both experienced more grief in the past couple of years than most people experience in a lifetime. Think about the effect that had on us. When we finally found each other, our grief is how we related. Then when we found out we couldn’t be together, it made it even worse. Especially since Kel and Caulder were best friends by then. We had to interact constantly which made it even harder to shut off our feelings. And then to top it all off, my mom ended up having cancer and I was about to become a guardian, just like you. That's how we related. There were all these external influences at play. Almost like life was forcing us together.”

  I let her continue without interrupting her as she requested I do, but I just want to scream out of sheer frustration. I’m not sure what point she’s getting at, but it seems to me she’s been thinking way too hard.

  “Remove all the external factors for a second,” she says. “Imagine if things were like this: your parents are alive. My mom is alive. Kel and Caulder aren’t best friends. We aren’t both guardians with huge responsibilities. We have no sense of obligation to help each other out. You were never my teacher, therefore we never had to experience those months of emotional torture. We’re just a young couple with absolutely no responsibilities or life experiences tying us together. Now tell me, if all that was our current reality, what is it about me that you love? Why would you want to be with me?”

  “This is ridiculous,” I mutter. “That’s not our reality, Lake. Maybe some of those things are why we’re in love. What’s wrong with that? Why would it matter? Love is love.”

  She scoots closer to me on the couch and takes my hands in hers, looking me straight in the eyes. “It matters, Will. It matters because five or ten years from now, those external factors aren’t going to be at play in our relationship anymore. It’ll just be you and me. My biggest fear is that you’ll wake up one day and realize all the reasons you’re in love with me are gone. Kel and Caulder won’t be here to depend on either of us. Our parent’s will be a fleeting memory. We’ll both have careers that could support us individually. If these are the reasons you love me, there won’t be anything left to hold you to me other than your conscience. And knowing you, you would live with it internally because you’re too good of a person to break my heart. I don’t want to be the reason you end up with regrets.”

  She stands up and puts her jacket back on. I start to protest everything she says but as soon as I open my mouth she interrupts me. “Don’t,” she says with a serious look on her face. “I want you to think about this before you object. I don’t care if it takes you days or weeks or months. I don’t want to hear from you again until you can be completely real with me and leave my feelings for you out of your decision. You owe this to me, Will. You owe it to me to make sure we aren’t about to live a life together that someday you’ll regret.”

  She walks out the door and calmly closes it behind her.

  Months? Did she just say she didn’t care if it takes months?

  She did. She said months.

  My god, everything she said makes sense. She’s completely wrong, but it makes sense. I get it. I can see why she’s questioning everything. I can see why she doubts me now.

  Half an hour goes by before I even so much as move a muscle. I’m completely lost in thought. When I finally break free from the trance I’m in, I come to just one conclusion. My grandmother is right. Lake needs me to show her why I love her.

  I start to formulate a plan when I decide to grab inspiration out of the jar first. I unfold the star and read it.

  “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”

  ― John Wayne

  I sigh. I miss Julia’s sense of humor.

  Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

  The heart of a man

  is no heart at all

  If his heart isn’t loved by a woman.

  The heart of a woman

  is no heart at all

  If her heart isn’t loving a man.

  But the heart of a man and a woman in love

  Can be worse than not having a heart

  Because at least if you have no heart at all

  It can’t die when it breaks apart.

  Chapter Ten

  It’s Tuesday and so far I’ve spent the majority of the day studying. Only a portion of it has been spent being paranoid. Paranoid that someone’s going to see me sneaking into Lake’s house. Once inside, I search around for everything I need and quickly head back out the front door before everyone gets home from school. I throw my satchel over my shoulder and bend down to hide Lake's key back under the pot.

  “What are you doing?!”

  I jump back and nearly trip over the concrete patio rise. I control my balance on the support beam and look up. Sherry is standing in Lake’s driveway with her hands on her hips. I quickly try to come up with an excuse as to why I’m sneaking out of Lake's house.

  “I…I was just…”

 
“I’m kidding,” she laughs, walking toward me.

  I shoot her a dirty look for almost giving me a heart attack and turn back around to push the pot back into its original position. “I needed some things out of her house,” I say, without going into detail. “What’s up?”

  “Not much,” she says. She has a shovel in her hands and I glance behind her to see part of Lake’s sidewalk cleared. “I’m just wasting time…waiting on my husband to get home. We've got errands to run.”

  I cock my head at her. “You have a husband?” I ask with a little too much fervor. I don’t mean to sound surprised, but I am. I’ve never seen him before.

  She laughs at my response. “No, Will. My children are the result of immaculate conception.”

  I laugh. She’s got a great sense of humor. It reminds me of my mother’s. And Julia’s. And Lake’s. How was I so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing women?

  “Sorry,” I say. “It’s just that I’ve never seen him before.”

  “He works a lot. Mostly out of state…goes on business trips and the like. He’s home for two weeks. I’d really like you to meet him.”

  I don’t like that we’re standing in front of Lake’s house. She’ll be home soon. I start walking away from the house as I respond. “Well, if Kel and Kiersten get married someday, we’ll technically be in-laws, so I guess I should meet him.”

  “That’s assuming you and Kel have a different type of relationship by then,” she says. “Are you planning on popping the question?” She begins walking with me toward her house. I think she can sense I just want to be off of Lake’s property before they return home.

  “I’d planned on it,” I say. “I’m just not so sure now what Lake’s answer would be.”

  Sherry turns around and tilts her head, then sighs. She’s looking at me with pity again. “Come inside for a sec. I want to show you something.”

  I continue to follow her into her house. “Sit down on the couch,” she says. “Do you have a few minutes?”

  “I’ve got more than a few.”

  She walks down the hallway and returns a moment later with a DVD in her hands. After she inserts it into the DVD player, she sits down on the couch beside me and turns the television on with the remote.

  “What is it?” I ask.

  “A close-up of me giving birth to Kiersten.”

  I jump up in protest and she rolls her eyes and laughs. “Sit down, Will. I’m kidding.”

  I reluctantly sit back down. “That’s not funny,” I say.

  She presses play on the remote and the television is interrupted by a brief second of static, then cuts to a shot of a much younger Sherry. She looks about nineteen or twenty in the footage. She’s sitting on a porch swing laughing, hiding her face from the video camera with her hands. The person holding the camera is laughing, too. I assume it’s her now-husband. When he walks up the porch steps, he angles the camera around and sits beside her, focusing the lens on both of them. Sherry uncovers her face and leans her head against his and smiles.

  “Why are you filming us, Jim?” Sherry says to the camera.

  “Because. I want you to remember this moment forever,” he says.

  The camera shuffles again and comes to a rest on what is probably a table. It’s positioned on both of them now as he kneels down in front of her and places his hands by her side. It’s obvious he’s about to propose, but you can see Sherry attempt to suppress her excitement, in case that’s not his intention. When he pulls a small box out of his pocket, she gasps and immediately starts to cry. He brings his hand up to her face and wipes away her tears, then briefly leans forward and kisses her.

  When he settles back onto his knee, he wipes a tear away from his own eyes. “Sherry, until I met you I didn’t know what life was. I had no clue that I wasn’t even alive. It’s like you came along and woke up my soul." He's looking straight at her as he talks. He doesn't sound nervous at all, like he's determined to prove to her how serious he is. He takes a deep breath and then continues. "I’ll never be able to give you everything you deserve, but I’ll definitely spend the rest of my life trying.”

 
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