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episode sixteen - separate destinations
The day after I killed Sam Carson, my sister Ruby came by first thing. I was about to leave for school. I was thinking about what might happen now, whether I'd be sent away to jail when people knew what I'd done the night before or if they'd think it was justified and they'd let me go. Or, maybe no one would even figure it out. Saint wouldn't tell anyone. I was somehow sure of that. And, even if my father suspected, I could keep him from talking pretty easily. All I had to do is threaten him, threaten to expose him, threaten to hurt him, and he'd say nothing about what I'd done to Sam Carson. And, if Jaimie figured it out, or if Phyllis did, all I had to do was explain that he was no better than Frank had been and he deserved it. Surely, they'd understand.
It scared me a little, the idea that people might not understand. I could be sent away to prison. In a way it would be worth it. I'd done something good. I'd made Kyle's death mean something. I'd made my life mean something. I'd effected the world itself. I'd done my part of the side of good, the side of God. I could be a saint, maybe. Well, that could be taking it a bit far. But, if I was sent away to prison, if I died there, maybe I'd be sainted. That would be pretty cool. Then, I could visit my mother more often.
Hey, she's my mother. I can make bad taste jokes like that.
Anyway, as I was saying, it was a little scary that I could get sent away. And, the biggest reason was that I wouldn't have Haley in my life anymore. With Kyle gone, the two of us could be together again, but there was a chance we'd never get to take advantage of it. I'd go to prison. Haley would go on with her life. I'd get out someday, of course, maybe even as soon as my eighteenth or twenty first birthday, but by then, she could have gone on with her life, found a fate apart from mine, a separate destination, a life without me. I wasn't sure what to do to keep from being sent away, but I had to do whatever it was. I couldn't be without Haley like that. Our destinies were supposed to be the same. We were predestined lovers, had been since we were kids.
Ruby said she had big news. Though I wanted to get to school to talk to Haley, I stuck around. I didn't care if I was late; it wasn't like school mattered much in the wake of recent events, and Haley would still be there whenever I did arrive.
"I'm pregnant," she said, almost shouting it out. We didn't have to ask if she was happy about it. She made it pretty clear just from her tone and that look like she could just lose it and start hopping around like a crazy woman that she was happy about it.
Samantha was the first to congratulate her. Responsible as Sam was though, she got in a quick hug then headed off to school. Carrie didn't seem too impressed by the news at all, but she faked it then went on her way. Danni was ecstatic, hugging Ruby repeatedly and already offering up suggestions for names. Me--I was happy for her. She and Daniel had been married longer than Danni had been alive and I'd wondered sometimes why they didn't have any kids yet. It's not like Reverence is a place where people put off kids for other things. There just aren't many of those other things here. If you want the other things in life, you go elsewhere, you leave Reverence behind.
There's an accidental play on words there. I'm sure atheists all over would love that you make something of your life you've got to leave Reverence behind. But, I digress.
I congratulated Ruby. I even hugged her. Well, she hugged me, I think. But, I didn't go out the door immediately. I wanted to see what our father would do.
The thing is, he barely even seemed to have noticed what Ruby had said. He was watching me. Was that suspicion I saw in his eyes? Was it fear? There was definitely a wariness in his eyes, but the specifics of that wariness were hold to nail down.
"Dad," Ruby said, "you gonna say something?"
He stayed focused on me a moment longer then turned to Ruby. And, he grinned. It was a fake smile. I think it was what they sometimes call a shit-eating grin. "Congratulations," he said. "I know you and Daniel have been trying for years." He moved to hug her, but I was between the two of them. He wouldn't pass me.
An awkward moment passed, then Ruby, not knowing what was going on, but not forward enough to ask, stepped past me and hugged our father.
Correction: HER father.
Over her shoulder, even as the embraced, he eyed me. I smiled innocently.
"Don't you have school," he asked me.
Their embrace over, Ruby turned around and looked at me. "You don't want to be late, Trav, do ya?"
"It's not like it matters," I told her. But, I headed for the door then anyway. I stopped before exiting, turned back to look at them both, my oldest sister and her father. "We should go visit mom," I said. "She'd love to hear the news."
Ruby smiled. She loved the idea.
Her father looked almost frightened.
"And," I said, "how bout, for a name, if it's a boy anyway, Kyle?" With that, I went outside and headed to school.
I figured Saint would find me before class and say something about the night before, but he was nowhere to be found. Of course, I didn't look too hard, as I saw Haley sitting on a bench in front of the school, her head in her hands. She was crying.
I sat down next to her. She turned her head just enough to see who was there, then she leaned against me, put her arms around me. "Kyle," she said. Not "Kyle's dead." Not "Kyle got hit by a car." Just "Kyle." Then, she cried harder. I put my arms around her. She shook there against me, and I held her as tightly as I could. I could have held her like that forever.
When the schoolbell rang, Haley raised her head from my shoulder, looked toward the school, then looked at me.
"You want to go somewhere," I said. It wasn't really a question. I knew what she was feeling. School didn't matter today. Life as usual didn't matter. If she'd suggested we run away together, leave this pathetic little town and find new lives elsewhere, I would have done it without thinking twice.
She nodded, and I saw something resembling a smile form for just a second. Then, it was gone, and she put her head down again. I pulled her close against me again, her head against my neck, her face by my chest. And, I just held her. There was no sound from the kids entering the school late for class, no sound from any birds or any cars driving by, no sound at all. The universe had gone quiet for the two of us.
An idea occurred to me. I still didn't know why Kyle had been over on Spruce the night before. I wondered if it was God's way of getting him out of the way of me and Haley. It wasn't the best solution. Had Kyle and Haley just stopped being a couple, he and I could have been best friends again, the three of us the same trio we'd been so many times in the past. Throw in Josh Doyle and Barbara McMasters and it would be just like old times. That would have been the better route. But, maybe God had known something I didn't. Maybe God knew this was the only way. Kyle had died so Haley and I could be together. He hadn't had any reason to be on Spruce. He'd just been there to die. It was his fate. There was no other reason to it, no logic.
Just like most of life. There was no reason to it, no logic. Some people suffer. Some people die. Some people lose their minds. Some people hurt children. Some people believe so fervently in angels that heaven eclipses the earth and the misery of it all. Some people fall in love. Some people die so others can go on with their lives. But, there was no way of predicting any of it. Could I have predicted Olivia coming into my life? Could I have predicted how she would leave it? Could I have ever guessed that an angel would speak to me in a rundown church I'd been afraid of approaching most of my life so far? Could I have predicted that my mother would be locked away in Cedar Cliff? Could I have predicted that I would be unable to save Haley the day at King's Fate? Could I have predicted that I would murder Sam Carson? That I would kiss a ghost? That Kyle would be killed by a car? That my father would actually be afraid of me? That Haley would actually want to be with me the morning after Kyle's death?
She pushed away from me momentarily, then she looked me in the eyes, hers full of tears. "I don't know what to do," she said.
"You don't have to know," I said. "Whether you have the knowledge of what needs to be done or not, life tends to . . . " Was I giving a speech? I shut up and looked into Haley's eyes. I remembered always thinking we'd end up together. We'd be one of those lucky couples that had been together forever. I remembered loving her above everything else, not being preoccupied with Olivia or Jaimie or my father or Sam Carson or Saint or anything else, just loving Haley. I wanted to feel it like that all over again. I wanted to do nothing but love her for as long as I could. I grabbed her hand in mine and stood. "Come on," I said.
"Like you need to ask," I said.
In no time, we were at the park. I pushed Haley in one swing then got into the one next to hers. And, for the longest time, we just swung together. Neither of us pumped too hard or swung too high. We mostly just passed the time, let the day go by around us.
After a while, Haley stopped swinging and turned toward me. "Travis," she said.
I stopped swinging myself and looked at her.
I smiled. "Anything for you," I said.
She started to cry again then. Something told me they weren't just tears of sadness this time.
"I love you, Haley. I always have. I always will."
"I know, Trav. I love you too."
"Not the same as you once did, though."
She thought about it then shrugged. Then, she started to swing again.
"You remember when you asked me to marry you," she said, still swinging.
"Does the offer still stand?"
She stopped swinging and faced me.
"I would marry you anytime, anywhere," I said. "That offer will always stand."
She leaned over and kissed me, said "good," then she started swinging again, just like that.
I still just sat there. She'd gotten me in the mood for talking not swinging. "Would you have married Kyle," I asked her.
She stopped swinging.
"I mean, did you love him like that? Were you two in love?"
She hesitated. "I don't know, Trav. We're still so young."
"So are you and I."
"It just is."
"So, you didn't love him like that?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I know, sometimes, I did. Sometimes, it was like Kyle was the whole world. I woke up and thought of him. I came to school because he would be here. I went to bed so the next day would come faster and I could see him again. You know what I mean?"
"But, there were days that I just wished he would be absent from school. Days I didn't feel like being with him, having a boyfriend. Days I just wanted to be alone. Or, days I just wanted to be with you."
She got quiet and after a moment, she started swinging again.
"Ruby's pregnant," I said.
Once again, Haley stopped swinging. "Really?"
"She came by this morning to announce it. I told her to name it Kyle."
Then, Haley had a weird look on her face. "Why did you do that?"
"What do you mean? Kyle was my best friend. He and I had our fights, sure. Especially since he was your boyfriend, but it's still . . . he's dead. I thought it might be nice. I think I'll tell her, if it's a girl, name it Olivia. Of course, she'll probably not take any of my--"
"That's not what I meant, Travis."
"Oh. What did you mean?"
"Ruby came by this morning?"
"And, you told her to name the baby Kyle because Kyle died?"
I nodded again.
"How did you know Kyle was dead? I didn't even know until I got to school. I heard his mother was so freaked out over it, she hadn't said a word to anyone. So, who told you?"
Stupid. I was so stupid. How could I tell her I saw it happen? I'd have to say I was there, and if I was there, after things I'd been saying, Haley would put two and two together, and she'd know I'd killed Sam Carson. Would she tell on me? Did it matter if she did? And, besides all that, how could I have seen Kyle die and not have called Haley to tell her the night before?
I lied. It wasn't difficult.
"My father told me this morning," I told her. "Right before Ruby came over. I guess one of his cop friends called or something, one of the Lodges I think."
"Oh, ok." That air of suspicion and confusion was gone. Silence took it's place.
"I talked to Paul Lodge about my father," I said.
"What about your father?"
Hadn't I told her? I realized I hadn't. I'd left her out of one of the most important things going on in my life lately. I felt suddenly a huge emptiness inside me, guilt eating away at my organs. Tears welled up in my eyes. Whether they came from grief over Kyle's death, or guilt over not telling Haley about everything that had been happening, or something else entirely, I didn't know. But, before the tears poured down my cheeks, I reached out for Haley and she moved closer and put her arms around me.
There was a frailty in her. And, no doubt, that same frailty in me right then. But, we held each other up for a while.
I broke the embrace and told her I was sorry.
"You're sorry? For what?"
"There's been so much going on lately, and you've been so busy doing stuff with Kyle, I haven't told you anything. I've found out so much about my father, and about certain other men in this town."
"Anything to do with that stuff you were saying about Olivia before?"
I nodded. "She was raped. By her father. By Jerry Sedgwick. By Carl Silvers. By MY father."
Haley's eyes opened wide. Her mouth did the same. "What?"
I nodded. "And Paul Lodge laughed it away when I told him about it. And, Sam Carson was just like them. That's why Saint and I have been . . . "
Haley frowned at me. There were tears in her eyes again.
"What? What did I say?" Had she heard about Sam's death too? Was she putting it together right now? Did she know I'd killed him?
She shook her head. "Nothing," she said. "Nevermind. What were you doing?"
"We watched him." I was wary enough not to mention Olivia's ghost just yet. "Someone warned me that he was hurting Jaimie. So, we watched him. And . . . "
"You didn't hear about it?"
"Sam's dead. He died last night too." I paused only briefly before lying again. Well, not quite lying. "Someone shot him." Shading the truth a bit, I'd say. She'd know the truth of it soon enough.
I shrugged. "Everything's gotten so damn complicated." I grabbed her hand. "Everything but this. Us. Things were in our way, but I never stopped loving you."
Haley smiled at that. This smile quickly faded back into her overall sadness, but while it lasted there was such brightness in it, such brightness in her eyes. It made me think the world only mattered insomuch as she was happy. She came first. That's how it had to be from now on. No more getting sidetracked by ghosts or angels or bad men. Haley came first. I'd decided once that she was NOT the whole world. But, she WAS. She was the whole world. My whole world.
"You still liked Kyle," she said after another momentary silence passed, "even after he stole me from you. Didn't you?"
I laughed a little. "Yeah, I guess I did. But, he was always so fun to fight with." I thought of all the times he and I had fought, not just our physical fights but many many more verbal ones. And, always, we made up after. We remained friends. Best friends. "I'll miss him," I said.
"I already miss him," Haley said.
Silence took its place around us again. As the minutes dragged by, we let go of each others hands and got to swinging again. Both of us this time.
And, it was like old times. We even got to trying to outdo each other in how high we could swing. And, even if just for that brief time, everything was perfect again. We were perfect again.
Then, our legs grew tired of pumping, our arms tired of holding us up. And, we stopped swinging. After a minute resting there on the swings, we got off them and climbed onto the bars and sat atop them, next to each other, our hands touching between us, Haley's left foot crossed over my right. She leaned her shoulder against mine.
"It's me and you, again," she said. "Me and you against the world. No Kyle, no Olivia."
"No Barbara and Josh," I added.
"No Jaimie," she said.
Haley leaned away from me abruptly and looked at me. I looked back at her. "What?"
"If I ask you something," she said, "will you promise not to get mad?"
"How could ever I get mad at you? I love you." I knew that didn't mean much. I'd seen evidence aplenty that love didn't necessarily keep people from hurting each other or getting mad at each other. love didn't cure all. But, I imagined that the two of us would be the exception to that rule. Love WOULD be enough for us. We wouldn't fight, wouldn't get mad, wouldn't hurt each other.
"Do you really think Saint is real?"
"What are you talking about? Of course he's real. You've seen him. You've . . . Why are you asking this? I'm not like my mother, Haley. She sees people that aren't there. I don't. I know what's real and what isn't."
"If I remember correctly, one morning at school recently, you said something about talking to Olivia, and it didn't sound at all like you were talking past tense, well, no more past tense than the night or the day before. Olivia's been dead for three years, Travis."
I said nothing. Whatever Haley was getting at, now was not the time to bring up Olivia's ghost.
"And, you always felt so guilty about not pulling me out of those bushes below King's Fate. You thought you should have been the one to do it, since you were in love with me, or something like that. You always said Saint pulled me out. Well, there is nobody named Saint. Charles Lodge pulled me out of there. With your help, Travis. And, Josh and Kyle helped too. No one else was there."
"Well, yeah, Barbara, but she actually didn't climb down there to help. She was too afraid she'd get all scratched up. And, she probably would've too. But, there wasn't any other boy there. There was no one named Saint. And, that day Kyle and I found you watching the gas station, no one was there with you."
"Stop, Haley," I said. "Please stop."
"Travis, I love you. That's why I've let you keep holding onto whatever this Saint guy is to you, but I can't do it anymore. Every time you mention him, I think about your mom, and I wonder if--"
"Don't say it." I was almost yelling, but not quite. Haley shut her mouth. "I AM NOT MY MOTHER. I'm not like her. I'm not crazy. Hell, I'm not even sure if she's crazy anymore. After the things I've learned about my father, I wonder about a lot of things he's told me over the years."
"Travis, your mother is crazy. Why do you think she's up there at Cedar Cliff?"
"My father wanted to get rid of her cause he was having an affair with Hannah Payne."
Haley was taken aback by that one. She recovered quickly. "Well, I don't know anything about that. But, even if that is true--"
"You don't even believe that? Do you believe anything I tell you? God, Haley, how the hell can you love me if you don't even believe me?"
"I didn't say I didn't believe you."
"No, but close enough."
"Travis," she said, and she broke down in tears again.
I put my arms around her. She put her head against my neck and chest, and she sobbed. "I'm scared, Trav," she said between sobs. "I'm so scared."