Teri Bachelor. My high school sweetheart, though we were only together for a few months officially. We had been close friends throughout high school then when I chickened out during prom time, she asked me. It was then we became an official couple.
Problem was… when I left… I never said goodbye to her. And in all the months I was gone, I had never called or sent any sort of message. And now that I was home in the Valley, I still hadn’t called her or anything. Seeing her here was quite a shock to my system.
“Hello Teri,” I said, my voice choking slightly with nerves. Her eyebrows raised very slightly but then they curved down again as she glanced aside, obviously pained. “It’s… good to see you,” I continued, probably sounding like a complete dolt. Good to see you? I thought, resisting the urge to smack my forehead. Real brilliant there, Cal. You don’t talk to your girl in 19 months and the only thing you can say is ‘good to see you’?
I rather wished I could just disappear then and there. I figured Teri was just going to hit me but she just continued to stare at me in an awkward silence.
Just be brave, I told myself and I slid one foot forward, pulling my other foot behind me. I was a little closer to her now. After a deep gulp, I moved just a tiny bit closer. When our eyes met again, she looked down.
“I am so sorry,” I burst out. “Damn it, Teri… I know I was stupid. I should have…” I had no excuses. Nothing but a lot of ‘shouldas’. What could I possibly say to make up for what I did to her? I had no idea what she went through. Graduation, probably a job. Had she met someone else? I bowed my head slightly, looking for an engagement or wedding ring. Her left hand was bare.
“My father didn’t let me go to your father’s funeral,” she finally said. She raised her slender hands then let them drop again. “I came to your house the next day but you never answered.” Cautiously she raised her dark green eyes to look into my face. “I came by several times but you were never there. Your phone went unanswered, until it started going straight to voicemail. I…”
She stopped speaking and pulled her arms up, wrapping them around herself. She sniffled very slightly and looked down at the bright grass at our feet.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, knowing it was pointless. I closed my eyes tightly, lights dancing on my eyelids seemingly to the painful beats of my heart. “I didn’t take my phone. I just took some money, some clothes and just… left.”
“Why?” she said swiftly.
“Teri… there’s a lot about me I never told you.” I opened my eyes and stepped back, seeing the sadness in her had been overtaken by anger. “I don’t think I can explain easily.”
“Well maybe it’s time you start explaining!” she said, her voice like venom. “You up and left me! You just disappeared, not a word to anyone! I wanted to go to the cops but my parents said you were an adult and there was nothing I could do!” She sucked in some air, making a sort of crying sound. “When I was officially an adult, I did go to the cops but they told me there was nothing they could do.” Her eyes sparked slightly and she drew away from me, glaring down at the ground so hard I fully expected that bright grass to start burning. “They told me this town would be better without you.”
The words didn’t surprise me but they still hurt. I wondered what all Teri had found out in my absence. How she felt about me once she did know. I have to tell her, I thought, my heart pounding hard in my chest. I felt as though it would rip through and fall onto the ground, it was beating so hard. My hands became clammy and sweat started trickling down my back.
“Do you know what they meant by that?” I asked. My throat was dry and it was hard to form the words. Teri’s eyelashes fluttered as she blinked, and a tear slid down one of her cheeks. I wanted to reach out and wipe it away but doubted she’d feel comfortable with me touching her.
Her voice was quiet and sad as she said, “Now I do.”
“Teri!” I said as she started turning away from me. “Please, I can explain.”
“Explain?” Her voice rose into a fevered pitch. “Explain what, Calcifer?”
“I understand why you’re mad,” I said, guilt tugging at my insides. I had always gotten mad at my father for not telling the truth, it was only right that she was mad at me that I never told her. “I should have told you the truth a long time ago.”
She spun around and glowered. “Truth?” she spat out. “What truth? That’s you’re a–a–a no-good, dirty, rotten little brat?” I stepped back, very much so surprised by her words. I had expected something a little more… ‘monster’. But she kept going, slamming her finger into my chest rather painfully. “You just up and left town without a word to me, leaving me to wonder what I had done, what I possibly could have done to make you so mad at me! My so-called friends told me it was because I didn’t ‘put out’ and I didn’t believe them at first but is that why you abandoned me? Because I’m not as loose as some of the girls around here?”
“No!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up as a sort of shield. “No, Teri, that has nothing to do with why I left!”
“Why did you leave, then?” she demanded, her shoulders drooping as the fight left her.
“It’s so complicated…” I looked into her eyes, trying to convey how sorry I was, how much I regretted my actions. “When the cops told you that this place was better off without me… you said you knew why they said it.” My lips tugged downward and I could no longer meet her gaze. “Do you really know why?”
“Because you’re rotten,” she said, but I could tell by her voice she was no longer sure. “Because you didn’t love me anymore.”
“No!” I exclaimed and reached out for her hands. It didn’t surprised me that she yanked them away before I could get a grip.
“Don’t touch me!” she snapped. “I hate you.”
I staggered slightly at that but knew I deserved it. I just hoped she’d let me explain. “Look, there’s something about me that I never told you. I didn’t tell anyone. Some people in town know but some don’t, and I wanted to try to put this in the past but I have to tell you. I made a mistake not telling you before. I made… a lot of mistakes.”
Her face was so full of hurt that it was hurting me. “It was a mistake not telling you sooner, and a mistake not to tell you goodbye. Grim Reaper, Teri, I never meant to hurt you!” My voice was ragged, desperate. “I left town because I’m a monster!”
“Yes you are!” she shouted. It felt as though she had slapped me until I realized she wasn’t talking about the same thing I was talking about.
“Please let me explain–” I begged, once again reaching out for her.
“I never want to talk to you again!” She spun away from me, pushing my reaching hand away with a slap. “You’re horrible!” she wailed before taking off in a fast fun.
I jogged after her but then stopped in my tracks. She was so mad at me right now that I figured I would have a very hard time convincing her of the truth. She was really hurt and if I chased her down I might say something to hurt her even more. I needed to give her a little bit of time to cool off and then maybe I could talk to her.
At least, I hoped that she’d let me talk to her and I didn’t just make another huge mistake not going after her.
“Are you okay, Cal? You seem tense.”
“You look upset. You sound upset, too.”
After the horrible incident in the graveyard, I had come home and hopped into the tub. After trying–and failing–to soak away my concerns, I threw on a pair of old sweats and began painting furiously. It would be my third painting; my second had sold for sixty dollars. Not bad considering I still felt very amateurish.
But Penny could tell something was wrong and she wasn’t going to let it drop. Finally I sighed and carefully set my paints down. “I saw Teri today.” I brushed my fingers against my forehead, pushing back my hair. I looked into Penny’s blank eyes. It was a bit of a relief, to be honest, after looking into Teri’s sad, angry ones earlier. “Remember her? She and I–“
“I know who she is,” Penny said, quickly and rather quietly. “Your girlfriend. What happened?”
I gulped and looked down at my bare toes. I pressed them down against the wood floor and realized I didn’t feel like talking about this with anyone yet, not even Penny. I went into my bedroom and she followed closely. “We had an argument,” I said shortly.
“Are you all right?” she asked. I turned to look at her and wished I could explain everything. My words seemed so jumbled in my head that there was no way they’d come out right.
“I’ll be fine,” I said then jumped when I realized I had just spoken the words that always annoyed me when my father had. He had always lied when he said it, and now I was doing the same. I can’t escape the past, I thought as I stormed back and forth.
But did I want to? Wasn’t that one thing I wanted, to bring the days of yesteryear that never were? My dad’s dreams? And all the hatred I felt about myself wasn’t going to easily leave. Who was right? The people who said to leave the past in the past, or to continue to look in the past so you wouldn’t make the same mistakes? I couldn’t leave the past in the past but I knew perfectly well I wasn’t learning from my previous mistakes; I was still making them. Plus…
I wanted revenge. There was no doubt about that. Whenever I thought about THEM I felt like the rage would make me spontaneously combust. Now that was certainly not escaping the past, it was dragging it with me kicking and screaming.
Where are they? I wondered as I threw back the covers of my bed. My dad hadn’t been able to track them down but I would. I would find them. Once I had enough money, I would go to Twinbrook myself and start hunting them down. And if they were still alive, I would make them wish they weren’t.