Home > Exodus(3)

Exodus(3)
Author: Kate Stewart

“I believe in this, in everything you’re doing, in everything you stand for. I want in.” It’s the absolute truth, but I fear I’ve spoken up too late.

Back turned, he pulls my top from his pocket and frees it at his side before it falls to the deck. “I’ll think about it.”

 

 

The first sign of autumn chill confirms his decision. And silence is my answer. It was always going to be no.

It’s only been weeks since my confrontation with the hostile stranger, but it’s the crisp air that plagues me with finality. No more summer nights beneath the stars with Dom, no more lengthy hikes with Sean. My love, affection, loyalty, and devotion mean nothing.

The end of the season marks the end of everything I’ve come to care about in my time here. It was just a little over three months, but I feel the change in myself, the change in my makeup. I’m so far from the curious girl I was when I arrived.

My reality is changing as rapidly as the foliage surrounding me in varying shades of brown, crimson red, and marigold. And in my state, I can’t appreciate the beauty, only the message.

Summer isn’t endless.

It’s all over.

I started community college this week and threw myself into my studies. My shifts at the plant are more grueling now that Sean quit—and he’d done so the minute after he left me in that office.

Just once I’ve given in to my curiosity and walked through the expanse of grass of Roman’s back yard and into the wooded clearing—only to be met by utter silence. The picnic benches are gone, and the landscape’s starting to rapidly grow over. It’s as if it never happened. Aside from the new vegetation and the rustling of the trees, the space is void of life.

My tan has faded, and I know I’ve lost weight, my figure becoming gaunt as my heart shrivels, surviving only on memories from the months prior—months where granting smiles didn’t feel like a chore.

It’s my dreams that can sometimes bring relief. Dreams of long walks in a hazy cloud, of heated looks, of thunderstorms, and captive kisses. It’s waking from them that leaves me raw, aching, grieving.

Melinda’s been a surprising support, spending endless shifts updating me on all things Triple Falls, carefully avoiding conversation about those who I long to hear from the most.

Not that she would know.

Sean said he would make things right, but the pretense was one day.

One day.

A term so vague, so loose for interpretation that each day feels like a sentence.

The more days that pass, the more I realize it wasn’t a promise or a guarantee, but more of a hope.

All of this heartbreak is because of two ghosts doing their job in haunting me. I’ve honored Sean’s request. I never drive by the garage, never try to text either of them. It’s pointless. They’ve made their decision and declared their loyalty. Our time together wasn’t significant enough. I wasn’t significant enough to cause a ripple in their agenda.

At least that’s how their silence makes me feel.

Christy keeps me sane with long FaceTime talks of the future. Of our plans and the idea that in a year, we’ll resume them. It brings some comfort. This was only supposed to be a stopping point. As it turned out, it proved to be a leaping point, but right now, I have nowhere safe to land.

The longer they remain silent, the more my heart breaks.

I drift in and out of my days doing what I can, but every step, every tick of the clock weighs me down like a boulder in tidal waters. Every morning I shake off my dreams, determined to guard my heart, as if they haven’t already ripped it apart. But the more leaves that fall, the more the pieces gather collectively rattling in my chest.

I’d been a fool to think I knew heartbreak before, and maybe I have, but never have I felt I lost a piece of myself to it, until now.

I’m a drifter in my own life, living only for memories, for my dreams, reveling in the endless hurt, the ache of missing them, teetering on the edge of forgetting myself all over again. I came back determined to kick bad habits but hadn’t expected to forgive them. I hadn’t expected time to play the factor, to be the reason to let them go.

One day.

Today, I forced myself out of bed and mindlessly dressed, determined to try and spend a few hours outside of my head. Arriving downtown, I’m barely able to secure a parking spot before joining hordes of Triple Falls locals and tourists as they exit their cars with anticipatory smiles. Melinda has been talking about the apple festival nonstop, and when I round the corner and scour the square, I almost laugh.

It’s a poor man’s street fair at best. A small-town shindig made up of street vendors passing out tastes of local eateries and artists set up in tents with their works on display. It’s a far cry from any large-scale city gathering, but upon entering, I decide it has its own charm. And of course, there are apples, locally grown and harvested. A quick glance at the logo on a tableside banner of the orchard Sean and I rendezvoused at for our midnight picnic levels me. The further I venture in, the more I regret coming, the walk back to the car becoming more tempting by the second. Memories of being worshiped between rows of angry trees surface, suffocating me, reminding me that I’m not the same girl I was when I arrived, and maybe I never will be. Instead of a quick retreat, I amble on the sidewalk along the rows of shops adjacent to the festival tents. I’m stopped short when a door opens as a group of guys walk out of a tattoo parlor. It’s when I hear, “I know you,” that I look up and into the eyes of a familiar face.

It takes me a few seconds to recall where I’ve seen it.

“RB, right?” He’s taller than me by half a foot and towers over me with amused, warm, honey-colored eyes.

“Right,” he says. “And you’re Dom’s girl.”

“I…” I fumble, trying to think of an answer when my gaze zeroes in on the unbandaged ink sneaking up past his neckline—feather tips.

My eyes bulge as RB’s smile goes wide, his eyes cooling considerably as his lips twist in condescension. He pulls at the soft white bandage, revealing fresh black wings gracing his arm, “Guess it’s a good thing we don’t all think like you.”

Stunned, I try to come up with appropriate words, my demeanor brimming with mortification. He saw my fear that night, my hesitance, but mostly he saw me draw assumptions.

“Chin up, girl, don’t cry about it.”

I could give him a ton of excuses. I could mention that my fear stemmed from being in unfamiliar territory, from the unexpected appearance of a gun in Dom’s lap, from their clipped exchange and the insinuation in their conversation, but none of it is good enough. I assumed the worst about both Dominic and RB. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. “I’m sorry.”

A grin is his reply as he flexes his bird with pride. “I guess it makes a difference when you know I’m standing beside you. Respect to your boy, he saw it in me when we were kids.”

Speechless, I try not to hang my head, and instead give him my eyes, hoping he can see the truth, that I am ashamed, that he’s right. Once again, I’ve been schooled in a way that makes me uncomfortable, but I’ve learned it’s the only way to grow. Sean taught me a lot over the last few months, but mostly he showed me the beauty of humility, and that’s all I feel as I look up at him.

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