I’m Sorry

She watched him get shoved down.  She watched him get tortured every day.  She saw him shoved into lockers.  She heard what they called him.  She saw how much it hurt.  She did nothing.   It had always been this way.  She was one of the popular kids, and he simply wasn’t.

His clothes were obviously hand me downs or recent purchases from Goodwill.  Her clothes were all designer, her walk in closet full to capacity.  He was small and weak.  Her boyfriend was an all star athlete who looked like he had hit puberty at age ten.  He barely talked, sat in the back of the classroom, ate lunch alone.  She was constantly deep in mindless conversation, sat surrounded by friends whether in class or not.  He was rarely seen outside of school.  She was at every social event of the school year.  He worked at the local bookstore.  She would never need to work thanks to her parents money.  They were polar opposites and somehow, they had gotten stuck together working on this English project.

She always invited him to her house, even though the expansive home obviously made him uncomfortable.  He always looked as if he didn’t want to touch anything for fear of ruining it.  Her mother, shocked at first that she would associate with such a boy, still managed to be welcoming and inviting.

She did her best to converse with him.  But it was difficult.  He never spoke about his family.  He never mentioned any friends.   She couldn’t bring up school because she knew it was hell for him, in fact she was one of the people who made it that way.  Mostly they talked about the project.  That was the one thing that connected them.  They both loved English.

Her friends told her how sorry they felt for her.  They told her how awful it must be to get stuck with him.  They told her to ask him to do all of the work.  She had parties to attend and shopping to do.  He’d obviously comply because he was obviously in love with her, who wouldn’t be?  Just blow off the project.  I can’t believe you invite him over.  He’s been in your house?  I hope you disinfected everything that came in contact with him.  What does your mom think?  Well, at least she’s being nice.

That night she was supposed to go to a party.  Instead she called him and invited him over to work on their project.  He declined.  She was shocked.  He claimed he was too busy to leave his house, so she offered to come over.  He immediately became furious and hung up.  He had told her to keep her conceited head out of other people’s business.   She took serious offense to this.  Conceited?  If she was conceited, she would have gone to that party and left him to do the work himself.  Determined to show him she really did want to work on their project, she gathered the pieces from her room and drove to his house.

Everyone knew where he lived.  It was the only house with no car in the driveway.  The only house that never gave out candy on Halloween or put up lights for Christmas.  It was, by far, the smallest house in town.  Peeling paint, weeds,  a screen door hanging on for dear life.  The curtains were never open.  You rarely saw a light on.  This is what he biked home to after being tortured all day at school and working his after school job.

She pulled into the empty driveway and knocked on the door.  No answer.  She rang the bell.  No answer.  Then she heard the crash.  She opened the door and ran inside.  There she saw him trying to help his mother off the kitchen floor.  There were liquor bottles lining the countertops and littering the floor. We all knew his mom had gotten sick after his dad was killed in action, but we didn’t realize this was her disease.  He looked up and ignored her, intent on getting his drunken mother to her room for the night.  He was struggling under his mother’s weight.  She reached out to help him, but all he had to do was look at her for her to know he didn’t need or want her help.  He did this every night.

After he disappeared into the hallway with his mother, she began to pick up the chair that had been knocked off its feet and the empty bottles on the floor.  She looked around for a trash bin as she carried the empty bottles through the kitchen.  This is why he wears hand me down clothing.  His mom can’t take him shopping.  She obviously doesn’t work, so he had to pick up that job at the bookstore.  This is why he looks so tired.  This is why he’s so quiet.  This is why I was never invited here.  He goes to school, and we make it hell for him, then he comes home to this.

She found the trash bin outside and emptied her arms of the bottles.  As she turned to come back inside, he was standing at the back door, silent.

“I’m so sorry,” she managed, before breaking into tears, “I’m so sorry for everything.”

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Stuck

IT had only been twenty minutes, but it seemed like days.  Julie dug around in her over-sized purse for the granola bar she just knew sat somewhere at the very bottom.  Eli was watching her with curiosity.   They had never gotten along, but now, with nothing else to look at in the cramped space of the elevator, he was noticing little things about Julie that he had somehow overlooked in the years they had known each other.  Did she always bite her lower lip when she was concentrating?  How had he missed how gracefully her hands moved?  How had he overlooked these things?  Julie suddenly looked up at him, as if she had felt him examining her.  He looked away, pretending to be fascinated by the arrangement of the elevator buttons.

Julie stood up, took the three steps she needed to get to the other side of the passenger car, and slumped down beside him.  He focused intently on the buttons, and was trying so hard to not see her that it was all she could do but laugh.  Embarassed by his immaturity, he acknowledged her new place beside him and chuckled as well.  She had found the granola bar and was carefully unwrapping it.  He felt his stomach growl.  He hadn’t been hungry until he had seen her with food, but, being a gentleman, he was going to refuse it if she offered him any.  The idea was quickly thrown to the wind when she split the bar in half and handed him a piece.

“Well, at least I have food,” Julie said with a smile, finally breaking the silence that had lingered between them since the elevator stopped and they realized the emergency phone didn’t work.

“Ya,” Eli agreed, slowly chewing the granola bar, “and at least we have each other.”  He regretted what he had said the moment he felt the words escape his lips.  He swallowed hard.  He should have phrased that differently.  Julie never liked him due to the fact that she hated his brother.  To be honest, Eli wasn’t bad for a brother-in-law, but she just could not see past her sister deciding to marry that loser  brother of his.  Eli knew all of this, and returned Julie’s disregard for him with an identical sentiment, but the words he had just uttered were about to give away a secret he had kept from the moment he met Julie.  A secret he had no intentions of setting free anytime soon, especially while trapped in an elevator with her.

What did I do wrong?

He was cold, wet, and hungry.  He wasn’t sure where his family went, but he knew they would be back.  He sat at the back door, patiently waiting.  What were they going to do without him?  Who was going to play with the little boy?  Who was going to pick up all the dropped scraps from the kitchen floor?  Who was going to protect the house from intruders?

He had seen them putting everything into big boxes.  He had watched them move all the boxes into the big truck.  He had seen the couch he used to sleep on go into that truck along with the beds and the tables and all of the other furniture.  They would come back for him.  They had to come back from him.

The small awning that sheltered the door did not protect him from the rain.  His bowl was there with him, but had been empty for days.  Where were they?

Birds rustled in the bushes that lined the fence.  A squirrel scampered up the trunk of the large tree where the tire swing hung, barely moving in the autumn breeze.  The wind made a chill run through his damp fur.  He waited.

A few days later he heard a car pull up to the front of the house.  He sprang to his feet and began barking.  They were back.  They had come back for him, just like he knew they would.  He ran back to the door and waited, tail wagging mercilessly.  He heard them walking through the house, but something wasn’t right.  Something didn’t smell or feel right.

The back door opened,, only the worn, flimsy screen separating him from…this stranger.  Who are you?  He barked and the hair on his back stood on end.  The woman at the door looked at him and pulled out her phone.  The woman spoke kind words, but this was not his family.  This was not who he had expected.  The door closed once again.  He curled up on the porch as a light rainfall began and waited.  They will be back.

Not too much had time passed before there was another arrival at the house.  A man opened the door.  He definitely did not smell right, and what was in his hand?  He opened the screen door and showed no fear at the barks and growls and warnings to stay away.  The pole in his hand had a loop on the end and soon, it was around the dog’s neck.

I don’t know where I am.  It’s cold and unfriendly here.  There is no grass, only the hard, unforgiving concrete.  Where is my family?  Why did they leave me?  Will they be back for me?  Why did they stop loving me?  What did I do wrong?

Someone, help me.


The Jump

She was going to do it.  As she stood at the edge, the salty spray of the angry sea below misted her face.  She took two steps forward and peered over the edge.  That was quite a drop.  Assuming she missed the jagged rocks, she was hoping the strong tide of the storm would soon devour her.  She backed up and look out towards the horizon.  The sky was a sea of swirling black and blue. Every so often a streak of lightning would illuminate the outer edges of the thick clouds, heavy with rain that was soon to be spilled, and a rumble would pass through the sky.

Breathe.  It won’t hurt in just a few moments.  Just breathe.

Suddenly, the headlights were upon her.  He must have come home early.  He must have found the note.  He must have known she would come here to do it.  He must be trying to stop her.  He must be upset.

She glanced over her shoulder as the lights turned off, and he stepped out of the car.  She could barely see his silhouette, but she could feel that it was him.  He began running towards her, and she turned away, tears blurring her vision.

He doesn’t understand.  I need to do this.

She inhaled and took her two steps forward again, the dance she had been doing for over an hour.  He called out to her as he approached.  She pretended his words were lost in the wind.  She took a deep breath, her last, as he made it to her.  She was within an arm’s reach.

He could still save her.  He had to save her.