Disclaimer: This short story was written around 2003, then promptly forgotten. So I’m sharing it now. Prepare for errors.
My pendent hangs from his neck like an anchor, I have to sigh at his lips and avoid his eyes. They took me in too many times before. Not this time. Not anymore. I twist away like I always do, always have, hoping he won’t watch me go, yet secretly wanting him to. Ah his beautiful eyes, grazing my hide as I retire from his embrace and leave this pain for someone else to bear.
I couldn’t take the pendent back. It had too many memories and I love it too much to keep it. It’s one of those things I want to be shared. My mother gave it to me, before she passed away. She got it from an old friend when she was 17. She was partier in those days, or so she told me. Anyway, it’s his now. Let him keep it, he’s got the rest of me anyway. And if he wants to give it away, that’s fine. Though, I kind of hope he leaves it on my pillow when he collects his things from my apartment, along with the key and a few other nick knacks I’ve given him.
Even if he doesn’t give it back, I hate to give up, but this is the last time I’ll let him do this to me. It’s been too long, and in the end, I don’t think he really loves me. Not like I’ve loved him over the years.
I turn the corner and click the button on my keychain, the one that unlocks my car. I love my car; it’s my last safe refuge. Oh there are memories of us in there too, but I’ve had the car longer than I’ve had him. I have known him longer than my car though. But that’s okay that was before, when we were friends. Those were the best times. I regret ever having taken that first step. Maybe we could be climbing in my dark green 1998 Saturn SL2 together, slide in some tunes we could sing to and take a long drive, go see a movie. Something. Anything.
God I miss him. With my hand on the handle of the door I look up to see him, and want to sigh his name. Just to taste it on my lips, to feel the way it constricts my heart and gets my blood pumping. He was always like that, even when we were friends. Wanted to make sure I got to my car okay, got to my house okay. He wanted me to be safe.
I don’t know why he did it then, if he cares so much, he would have only wanted me. I tugged in my instincts and climbed in my car, turned on the ignition and tried to breathe. Dave was singing All Along the Watchtower on a CD I left in the player. I love this version, and twist up the volume to drown out the beating of my heart. I give him one last look before driving away. Every bit of me wants to go back, take him back, make him promise he won’t do it again. But it’s too much. I can’t. I can’t let him do this to me. Mom wouldn’t approve.
She was a wonderful woman, my best friend. What hurts is we were just starting to get along before they found the lump in her breast. I hate that the last memories I have of her are her sickness. She had gotten so weak, but always held determined strength in her eyes. She wanted to live long enough to see me get married. Kiss her first grandchild on the forehead. I wanted that for her too, but he’s ruined it and now I’m alone all over again.
Sheryl Crow starts to sing her acoustic version of A Perfect Lie and I have to pull over, because I’m crying too hard to drive and don’t want to get into an accident. I want my pendent back, I want my life back. I want Gregory and his eyes, I want him to hold me and tell me everything’s going to be okay. I want to get a mammogram; I want to call my dad. I want someone. Anyone.
I look around the parking lot of the shopping complex I’ve pulled into. An old woman shuffles into the store, hunched over a cart, followed by an impatient mother with wild blonde curls and two bickering children at her heels. My eyes shoot forward where a middle aged man steps out of his car and looks at me. Mat Kearny’s I Won’t Back Down clicks to life on my CD.
Then I remember I’ve been crying and swipe at my tears and try to look like I’m doing something other than sitting there crying like a loser. He stands there a minute then walks away; I wait until he’s in the store to put my car in drive. I need to get home, call someone. Maybe April. I wish she was here, but she moved four states away six months ago. Still, her voice is always a comfort; we’ve been friends longer than me and Gregory. She knows me. She’s my stability.
Yeah, I decide. I’ll go home and call April. She’ll get me through this. I’ll get through this. Oh mom I wish you were here. I wish I could have done better for you. I will though. I’ll prove you proud, even if you’re not here to notice anymore.
I look both ways and turn right, driving away from that shopping center. I drive away from memories and pain, tears and regret. I drive away from Gregory, even though when I get home his scent will be on everything. My CD jumps to Hang by Matchbox 20, I crank it so I can sing along through gulped tears and shuddered whimpers.
My mind is working on what could have been. What it would have been like with mom still alive. What me and Gregory could be doing right now if he hadn’t slept with the bartender after her shift at the Timberland. What kind of trouble me and April would be getting into had she stayed. It’s hard not to think about what could have happened had things been different, but I’m determined to stick to my mind and move on with my life. By the time I pull into the drive way of my town house Dave has just finished singing me I Let You Down.
I’ll prove you proud, mom. I’ll make it for you.