Point of Retreat
“Basagna?” she says.
I shake my head and laugh. “Lasagna, I mean.”
My grandmother smiles at me and it reminds of my mom. They were almost identical. She and my grandfather are both tall and thin, just like my mom. A lot of people find my grandmother intimidating, but I find it hard to be intimidated by her. I’ve spent so much time with her; it feels like she’s my own mother sometimes.
My grandfather sets their bags down by the front door and they follow me into the kitchen. “Will, have you heard of this twitter?” He brings his glasses to the edge of his nose and looks down at his phone.
My grandmother looks at me and shakes her head. “He got one of those intelligent phones. Now he’s trying to twit the President.”
“Smart phones,” I correct her. “And it’s tweet, not twit.”
“He follows me,” my grandfather says, defensively. “I’m not kidding, he really does! I got a message yesterday that said ‘The President is now following you.’”
“That’s cool, Grandpa. But no, I don’t tweet.”
“Well, you should. A young man your age needs to stay ahead of the game when it comes to the social media.”
“I’ll be fine,” I assure him. I put the breadsticks in the oven and start to grab plates out of the cabinet.
“Let me do that, Will,” my grandmother says, pulling the plates out of my hands.
“Hey Grandma, hey Grandpa,” Caulder says, running into the kitchen to hug them. “Grandpa, do you remember the game we played last time you were here?”
My grandfather nods. “You mean the one where I killed twenty-six enemy soldiers?”
“Yeah, that one. Kel got the newest one for his birthday. You want to play it with us?”
“You bet I do!” he says, following Caulder to his bedroom.
The funny thing is, my grandfather isn’t being overdramatic for Caulder’s benefit. He genuinely wants to play.
My grandmother pulls a stack of glasses out of the cabinet and turns to me. “He’s getting worse, you know,” she says.
“He bought himself one of those game thingies. He’s getting all into this technology stuff. Now he’s on the twitter!” She shakes her head. “He’s always telling me things he twitted to people. I don’t get it, Will. It’s like some sort of mid-life crisis, twenty years too late.”
“It’s tweeted. And I think it’s cool. It gives him and Caulder a way to relate.”
She finishes filling the cups with ice and walks back to the bar. “Should I set a place for Layken, too?” she says flatly. I can tell by her tone that she’s hoping I say no.
“Yes, you should,” I say sternly.
She darts a look in my direction. “Will, I’m just going to say it.”
Oh boy, here we go.
“It’s not appropriate with the two of you just running off for the weekend like this. You aren’t even engaged yet, much less married. I just think you two rushed into things so quickly, it makes me nervous.”
I put my hands on my grandmother’s shoulders and smile reassuringly at her. “Grandma, we aren’t rushing into things, believe me. And you need to give her a chance, she’s amazing. Now promise me you will at least pretend to like her when she gets here. And be nice!”
She sighs. “It’s not that I don’t like her, Will. It just makes me uncomfortable, the way you two act together. It just seems like you’re…I don’t know… too in love.”
I take the pan of basagna to the table as I respond to her. “If your only complaint about her is that we’re too in love, I guess I’ll take it.”
She brings the extra place setting to the table and sets an extra glass down for Lake.
“I still need to jump in the shower, it won’t take long,” I say. “The breadsticks should be done in a few minutes if you’ll take them out.”
She agrees and I head to my room to pack a few things before going to shower. I reach under the bed to grab my bag and set it on the comforter. When I zip it open, I notice my hands are shaking. Why the hell am I so nervous? It’s not like I’ve never done this before. Then again, it’s Lake. I realize as I’m shoving the last of my clothes into the bag that I’m grinning like a complete idiot. I really need a cold shower.
I grab my change of clothes and head to the bathroom when I hear a knock on the front door. I smile. She’s trying to impress my grandmother, so she knocks this time. It’s cute. She’s making an effort.
“Oh my God! Look who it is!” I hear my grandmother squeal after she opens the front door. “Paul! Come look who’s here!”
I roll my eyes. I know I asked her to be polite to Lake, but I didn’t expect her to make a spectacle. I open the door and make my way into the living room. She’ll be pissed if I leave her to fend for herself while I shower.
Shit! Shit, shit, shit! What the hell is she doing here?
She’s hugging my grandfather when she sees me standing in the hallway. “Hey, Will,” she smiles.
I don’t smile back.
“Vaughn, we haven’t seen you in years,” my grandmother says. “Stay for dinner, it’s almost ready. I’ll make you a plate.”
“No!” I yell, probably a little to angrily.
My grandmother turns toward me and frowns. “Will, that’s not very nice,” she says.
I ignore her. “Vaughn? Can I talk to you please?” I motion for her to join me in the bedroom. I need to get rid of her, now. She walks into my bedroom and I close the door behind me. “What are you doing here?”
She sits down on the edge of the bed. “I told you, I just need to talk to you.” She’s got her blond hair pulled back in a bun again. She’s looking at me all doe-eyed, trying to gain my sympathy.
“Vaughn, it’s really not a good time.”
She folds her arms across her chest and shakes her head. “I’m not leaving until you talk to me. All you’ve done is avoid me.”
“I can’t talk right now, I’m leaving in half an hour. I’ve got a lot I need to get done and I won’t be back until Monday. I’ll talk to you after class on Wednesday. Just please, leave.”
She doesn’t move. She looks down at her hands and starts crying. Good god, she’s crying! I throw my hands up in the air in frustration and walk over to the bed and sit beside her. This is horrible. This is so bad.
We’re almost in the exact same predicament as we were three years ago. We were sitting on this very bed when she broke up with me. She said she couldn’t imagine being nineteen and raising a child and having such big responsibilities. I was so upset with her for leaving me during such a low point in my life. I’m almost just as upset with her now, but this time it’s because she won’t leave.
“Will, I miss you. I miss Caulder. Since I saw you the first day of class, I’ve done nothing but think about you and how we ended things. I was wrong. Please, just hear me out.”
I sigh and throw myself back on the bed and cover my eyes with my arms. She could not have picked a worse time. Lake’s going to be here in less than fifteen minutes. I need to get rid of her now.
“Fine, talk. Make it quick,” I say.
She clears her throat and wipes the tears from her eyes. It’s odd how I don’t care that she’s crying. How can I love someone so much for so long, then have absolutely no sympathy for them whatsoever?
“I know you have a girlfriend. But I also know that you haven’t been dating her near as long as you and I dated. And I know about her parents, and that she’s raising her brother. People talk, Will.”
“What’s your point?” I say.
“I think maybe you’re with her for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you just feel sorry for her since she’s going through what you went through with your family. It’s not fair to her if that’s why you’re with her. I think you owe it to her to give you and I another shot. To see where your heart really is.”
I sit up on the bed. I want to yell at her, but I take a deep breath and calm myself down. I feel sorry for her, really. “Vaughn, listen. You’re right, I did love you. Did being the key word, here. I’m in love with Lake. I would never do anything to hurt her. And you being here, it would hurt her. That’s why I want you to leave. I’m sorry, I know this isn’t what you want to hear. But you made your choice, and I’ve moved on from that choice. Now you need to move on, too. Please, do us both a favor and just go.”
I stand up and walk to the bedroom door and wait for her to do the same. She stands up, but rather than follow me to the door she starts to cry again. I roll my head and walk over to her. “Vaughn, stop. Stop crying. I’m sorry,” I say, putting my arms around her. Maybe I’ve been too hard on her. I know it took a lot for her to come here and apologize. If she really does still love me, I shouldn’t be acting like such a jerk.
She pulls away. “It’s fine, Will,” she says, wiping her eyes. “I’m okay with it, really. I shouldn’t be putting you in this predicament, anyway. I just hated how I hurt you and I wanted to say I’m sorry in person. I’ll go,” she says. "And…I really do want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy."
I can tell by the tone of her voice and the look in her eyes that she’s being genuine. Finally. I know she’s a good person, otherwise I wouldn’t have spent two years of my life with her. But I also know the selfish side of her, and I’m thankful that side didn’t win tonight.
I brush the hair away from her face and wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Thank you, Vaughn.”
She smiles and hugs me goodbye. I’ll admit, it feels good finally having closure between us. I feel like I’ve had closure for a while, but maybe this is what she needs. Maybe being in class with her won’t be so unbearable now. I give her a quick peck on the forehead when we separate and I turn to the door.
And that’s when it happens…my whole world comes crashing down around me.
She’s standing in the doorway watching us, her mouth open like she’s about to say something, but can’t. Caulder brushes past her when he sees Vaughn standing behind me. “Vaughn!” he says excitedly as he rushes to her and hugs her.
Lake looks into my eyes and I see it…I see her heart breaking.
I can’t find my words. Lake slowly shakes her head, like she's trying to make sense of whatever she's seeing. She pulls her gaze away from mine and turns and leaves. I run after her, but she’s already out the front door. I slip my shoes on and swing the door open.
“Lake!” I yell as soon as I’m outside. I reach her just as she makes it to the street. I grab her arm and turn her back around to face me. I don’t know what to say. What do I say?
She’s crying. I try to pull her to me but she fights me. She shoves me back and starts hitting me in the chest without saying a word. She just keeps hitting me. I grab her hands and pull her to me but she continues to try and fight me. I keep holding her until she grows weaker in my arms and starts to fall to the ground. Rather than hold her up, I melt to the snow-covered street with her and hold her as she cries.