Point of Retreat

Page 20


"The night is still young."
My grandmother laughs and places a slice of pie onto a plate, then turns around and hands it to me. "I like her, Will. You better not screw this up. She's good for Caulder."
My grandmother's comment surprises me. "Really? I didn't think you liked her very much."
She continues slicing sections of the pie. "I know you think that, but I do like her. What I don't like is the way you're always all over her when you're around her. Some things are better left in private. And I'm referring to the bedroom, not the laundry room," she says as she whips her head around and frowns at me.
I didn't realize how publicly I flaunted my affection toward Lake. Now that my grandmother and Lake have both brought it up, it's kind of embarrassing. I guess the laundry room incident from earlier also didn't help to dissuade the opinion Lake thinks my grandmother has of her.
"Grandma?" I ask as I pick at my dessert. She never gave me a fork so I tear off a piece of the crust and pop it in my mouth.
“Hum?” She notices me eating with my hands so she reaches into the drawer, pulls out a fork and drops it on my plate.
"She’s still a virgin, you know."
My grandmother’s eyes grow wide and she turns back toward the pie to cut another slice. "Will, that's none of my business."
"I know," I say. "I just want you to know that about her. I don't want you thinking the opposite of her."
She turns and hands me two more plates of dessert, then grabs two of her own and nudges her head toward the kitchen door. "You have a good heart, Will. She'll come around. You just need to give her time."
Lake sits in the backseat with Kel on the way home and Caulder rides in front with me. The three of them talk the entire ride home. Kel and Caulder are droning on about everything they did with Grandpaul. I don't say a word. I tune them out and drive in silence.
After I pull into my driveway and we all get out of the car, I follow Lake and Kel as they make their way across the street. She heads inside without saying a word. I pop the hood on her jeep and reconnect the battery, then shut it and head back to my house.
It’s not even ten o’clock at night yet. I’m not tired at all. Caulder’s in bed and Reece is more than likely still out with Vaughn. I sit down on the couch and turn the T.V. on when someone knocks at the door.
Who would be coming over this late? Who would knock? I open the door and my stomach flips when I see Lake shivering on the patio. She doesn't look angry, which is a good sign. Her hands are pulling her jacket tightly around her neck. She's got her snow boots pulled on over her pajama bottoms. She looks ridiculous…and beautiful.
“Hey,” I say, a little too eagerly. “Here for another star?” I step aside and she walks in. “Why’d you knock?” I ask, shutting the door behind her.
I hate that she knocked on my door. She never knocks. That small gesture reveals some sort of change in our entire relationship that I can’t pinpoint, but I know I don't like it.
She just shrugs her shoulders. “Can I talk to you?”
“I wish you would talk to me,” I say. We both make our way to the couch. Normally, she would curl up next to me and sit on her feet. This time, she makes sure there’s plenty of space between us as she drops down on the opposite end of the couch. If I’ve learned anything at all this week, it’s the fact that I hate space. Space sucks.
She looks at me and attempts to muster a smile, but it doesn’t come off right. It looks more like she’s trying not to pity me.
“Promise me you'll hear me out without arguing first," she says. "I'd like to have a mature conversation with you."
"Lake, you can't sit there and say I don't hear you out. It's impossible to hear you out when you're carving pumpkins all the damn time!"
"See? Right there. Don't do that," she says.
I grab the throw pillow next to me and cover my face with it to muffle a frustrated groan. She's impossible. I bring the pillow back down and rest my elbow on it as I get comfortable and prepare for her lecture.
"I'm listening," I say.
"I don’t think you understand where I’m coming from at all. You have no clue why I'm having doubts, do you?”
She’s right, I don’t. “Enlighten me,” I say.
She takes her jacket off and throws it over the back of the couch and gets comfortable. I was wrong, she’s not here to lecture; I can tell by the way she’s speaking to me. She’s here to have a serious conversation, so I decide to respectfully hear her out.
“I know you love me, Will. I was wrong to say that earlier. I know you do. And I love you, too.”
It’s obvious this confession is merely just a preface to something else she’s about to say. Something I don’t want to hear.
“But after hearing the things Vaughn said to you, it made me look at our relationship in a different way." She pulls her legs up on the couch and sits Indian style, facing me. "Think about it. I started thinking back on that night at the slam last year, when I finally told you how I felt. What if I wouldn’t have shown up that night? What if I wouldn’t have come to you and told you how much I loved you? You would have never even read me your slam. You would have taken the job at the junior high and we probably wouldn’t even be together. So you can see where my doubt comes into play, right? It seems like you just wanted to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. You didn’t fight for me. You were just going to let me go. You did let me go.”
I did let her go, but not for the reasons she’s telling herself. She knows this. Why does she doubt it now? I do my best to be patient when I respond, but my emotions are all jumbled up. I’m frustrated, I’m pissed, I’m happy she’s here. It’s exhausting. I hate fighting.
“You know why I had to let you go, Lake. There were bigger things going on last year than just us. Your mother needed you. She didn’t know how much time she had. The way we felt about each other would have interfered with your time left with her, and you would have hated yourself for it later. That’s the only reason why I gave up, and you know that.”
She shakes her head in disagreement. “It's more than that, Will. We’ve both experienced more grief in the past couple of years than most people experience in a lifetime. Think about the effect that had on us. When we finally found each other, our grief is how we related. Then when we found out we couldn’t be together, it made it even worse. Especially since Kel and Caulder were best friends by then. We had to interact constantly which made it even harder to shut off our feelings. And then to top it all off, my mom ended up having cancer and I was about to become a guardian, just like you. That's how we related. There were all these external influences at play. Almost like life was forcing us together.”
I let her continue without interrupting her as she requested I do, but I just want to scream out of sheer frustration. I’m not sure what point she’s getting at, but it seems to me she’s been thinking way too hard.
“Remove all the external factors for a second,” she says. “Imagine if things were like this: your parents are alive. My mom is alive. Kel and Caulder aren’t best friends. We aren’t both guardians with huge responsibilities. We have no sense of obligation to help each other out. You were never my teacher, therefore we never had to experience those months of emotional torture. We’re just a young couple with absolutely no responsibilities or life experiences tying us together. Now tell me, if all that was our current reality, what is it about me that you love? Why would you want to be with me?”
“This is ridiculous,” I mutter. “That’s not our reality, Lake. Maybe some of those things are why we’re in love. What’s wrong with that? Why would it matter? Love is love.”
She scoots closer to me on the couch and takes my hands in hers, looking me straight in the eyes. “It matters, Will. It matters because five or ten years from now, those external factors aren’t going to be at play in our relationship anymore. It’ll just be you and me. My biggest fear is that you’ll wake up one day and realize all the reasons you’re in love with me are gone. Kel and Caulder won’t be here to depend on either of us. Our parent’s will be a fleeting memory. We’ll both have careers that could support us individually. If these are the reasons you love me, there won’t be anything left to hold you to me other than your conscience. And knowing you, you would live with it internally because you’re too good of a person to break my heart. I don’t want to be the reason you end up with regrets.”
She stands up and puts her jacket back on. I start to protest everything she says but as soon as I open my mouth she interrupts me. “Don’t,” she says with a serious look on her face. “I want you to think about this before you object. I don’t care if it takes you days or weeks or months. I don’t want to hear from you again until you can be completely real with me and leave my feelings for you out of your decision. You owe this to me, Will. You owe it to me to make sure we aren’t about to live a life together that someday you’ll regret.”
She walks out the door and calmly closes it behind her.
Months? Did she just say she didn’t care if it takes months?
She did. She said months.
My god, everything she said makes sense. She’s completely wrong, but it makes sense. I get it. I can see why she’s questioning everything. I can see why she doubts me now.
Half an hour goes by before I even so much as move a muscle. I’m completely lost in thought. When I finally break free from the trance I’m in, I come to just one conclusion. My grandmother is right. Lake needs me to show her why I love her.
I start to formulate a plan when I decide to grab inspiration out of the jar first. I unfold the star and read it.
“Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”
John Wayne
I sigh. I miss Julia’s sense of humor.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
The heart of a man
is no heart at all
If his heart isn’t loved by a woman.
The heart of a woman
is no heart at all
If her heart isn’t loving a man.
But the heart of a man and a woman in love
Can be worse than not having a heart
Because at least if you have no heart at all
It can’t die when it breaks apart.
Chapter Ten
It’s Tuesday and so far I’ve spent the majority of the day studying. Only a portion of it has been spent being paranoid. Paranoid that someone’s going to see me sneaking into Lake’s house. Once inside, I search around for everything I need and quickly head back out the front door before everyone gets home from school. I throw my satchel over my shoulder and bend down to hide Lake's key back under the pot.
“What are you doing?!”
I jump back and nearly trip over the concrete patio rise. I control my balance on the support beam and look up. Sherry is standing in Lake’s driveway with her hands on her hips. I quickly try to come up with an excuse as to why I’m sneaking out of Lake's house.