Don’t You Understand That It’s Easier This Way?

December 5, 2007
By Lorielle Archuleta, Cleveland, OH

Part I
Lysa knew as soon as her mother walked in the door that something was wrong. She helped her mother unload the groceries, her hands deftly going about their tasks as she turned over the possibilities in her mind. So yes, she had been slacking in school lately but it was harder to catch up after her latest stint in the clinic. Sure she had been moody and standoffish these past two weeks but she knew from experience that she could get away with this for a few more. So what was the problem? She knew that she could not force it out of her mother; her mom would speak when she wanted to.
Lysa finished the groceries and went to her room. Flopping on her bed she reached and pulled out the picture that she kept there. There was no need to look at it for she had it memorized, the angles of his face, his stormy grey eyes, the way his arm was snaked around her waist, pulling, always pulling her closer to him. The way their eyes were locked together, the flash brightening their skin and hair, hers glossy and dark cascading down her shoulders to rest lightly on his arm. It was her favorite picture, the only one she had kept from the fire. At the light knock on her door, she shoved the picture away and sat up.
“Yes?” Her mother opened the door and stepped in with a slight smile on her face.
“Hey, Lys. We need to talk.” Lysa scooted over and patted the bed.
“What’s going on?” Her mom sat down and looked around the large room Lysa had recently required. Her stepsister had chosen to move out when Lysa went to the clinic. Ever since that first time, her stepsister was scared of her.
“Lysa, you know that I’m not happy here. And I now know that you too aren’t happy here.” Her mom glanced at Lysa and swallowed. “It’s time that we moved. This marriage isn’t working and it hasn’t been for a long time. So, at the end of the school year, we are moving away. This way you can finish your junior year and start your senior year at a new school all by yourself.” Lysa smiled at her. “I’m tired of having your stepsister stare at you and him trying to make you seem like you’re crazy. No one talks about my daughter like that.” Lysa smiled even though inside her heart was slowly crumbling.
“Okay, Mom. Have you already found a place?” Her mom nodded happily and began to chatter about the new house. Lysa tuned her out. She was leaving. Leaving her stupid stepsisters and her retarded stepfather, the school system she had been in since first grade, all her friends. But most importantly she was leaving him, her friend and lover, her soul mate. She longed to scream and cry but she knew that then her mother would try and give her that little bottle of those tiny pills, those pills that made her a shadow of herself. He hated it when she was on those pills and with his help she weaned herself off them. Because of him she controlled the pain, she ignored those little voices in the back of her mind, and she moved to the light and away from that eternal sleep.
Her mother finished her little story and left to go do something in the house. Lysa lay down once again and snuggled with her stuffed animal. How could she continue to be a good person when he was gone? Seeing his face made her go on. When he finally talked to her, he wasn’t timid, wasn’t shy, he was real. She recalled his words.
“How could you, Lys? Didn’t you think of anyone? No, you didn’t, all you thought about was yourself. Did you think of me? What about your mom? Or your little dog that you croon over every little thing he does? God, I can’t believe that you are so selfish!” It had made her crouch and cry, scream inside and constantly repeat ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again. After he had told her all the things he had thought and felt over those weeks, he had held her and kissed her and they cried together. It had been a bonding experience. After that they were stronger than ever. It made her realize just how much they really loved each other. Now what were they going to do?
Lysa got up and grabbed her jacket. She had to get out of here and think. All the arguing was not helping. She ran down the stairs and out the door and then headed west down her street to the park. She would have gone to the library but he would be working and she didn’t want to see him yet. She smiled. They had first worked together at the library. Old Mrs. Alanson had forced them to be partners on a project for history. She remembered it like it was yesterday….
“That book is really good.” Lysa instantly put the book back on the shelf and sneered at him.
“What’s it to you, Meyer?” He shrugged and continued down the aisle.
“I was just telling you that it’s a good book.”
“We’re not here to get good books. You work here, just show me to the books that we need and then we can leave.” He nodded and she followed him around the corner. “This is all they have?”
“It’s a whole shelf.”
“Oh.” He snickered at her. “Help me pick some out.”
“Yes, your highness.” She whirled around, her long hair flying out behind her.
“Nothing.” He said. They picked some books in silence, Lysa fuming. How dare he? She gathered up her pile of books and led him over to a table. Derek looked at the books strewn over the top. “This table is taken.” He said quietly.
“Then let’s go over here.” She walked to a table with a nice view of the street, dropped the books down and flopped onto a chair. “I think we should break it down. You should do his early years leading up to his discovery and I’ll do the part about his long grueling work to get into the scientific community.” She pulled a paper out of her book bag and handed it to him. “I made an outline of what we should do each day and I highlighted yours in blue and mine in green.” He took it and she watched him half-anxiously. He looked up and caught her staring.
“Is that cool?”
“Yeah, this is reasonable.” She nodded and smiled for a quick second. Then it disappeared.
“I’m going to go get more books. Can you pull some stuff from the ones we have already or do you need more?” He looked at the list again and then back at the books.
“I think I’m good.” She smiled again and then walked away. He pulled some books toward him and looked in the direction she had walked. “Wow, I never expected this. It’s going to be mighty interesting working with Lysa Davis.”
*End Flashback*
She walked to the entrance of the park and sat on one of the creaky swings. She pumped her legs and let the wind run its cool fingers through her hair. She smiled and leaned back but instead of steadily swinging, she was stopped in midair. Her eyes flew open but she relaxed when she recognized the hands that gripped the swing chain.
“How high do you want to go, Lysa Davis?”
“To the sky! Take me to the sky, Meyer!” He chuckled and pulled the swing back, and then running forward, he pushed the swing so that he ran out the other side, pulling off a beautiful underdog. Lysa kept her body elongated so that her toes stretched and gave the appearance of touching the sky. He stood back with his hands in his pockets and watched her slowly swing back and forth and eventually come to a stop. She sat and looked at him and he stared back, gray eyes to green. Derek slowly walked forward and stretched his arm out to caress her face.
“What’s wrong?” She smiled and looked down, capturing his hand with her own and twining her fingers in his.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were working.” He shook his head.
“I got off early. And just in time it seems.” She stood up and they began to walk down the path that led through the large trees of the park. He said nothing but waited patiently. She was like her mom; she didn’t talk until she wanted to. “I don’t know how to say this exactly.”
“Start at the beginning.” She sighed.
“Well, you know that my parents have been arguing a lot lately?” He nodded. They had many discussions about parents and all the “happily married” couples that soon divorced. “My mom has decided that she has had enough, so the end of this year, I’m leaving.” He said nothing but they continued to walk. She looked at him sadly. “I don’t want to leave.”
“I know you don’t want to. It’s not your fault that they are arguing.” They came to a large tree that had one trunk that branched off into four sections and sat down beneath it. She lay back in his arms as he gently stroked her hair. He opened his mouth to say something and she put her hand gently over his mouth.
“I don’t really want to talk about it.” He nodded and they chatted absentmindedly about fluffy things, trying desperately to ignore the dark cloud that hung over their heads. When the sun slowly set and the streetlights came on, she stirred in his arms. “Derek, I better go home. Don’t want to give my step dad something to yell about.” He nodded and reluctantly let her go. They stood and wiped their pants off and then walked to his car.
“Do you want a ride?” She shook her head.
“No thanks, I want to walk.”
“Are you sure? The streets are dark and who knows who is out now.”
“Did you forget so fast that I used to do that?” He grimaced and hugged her again.
“I don’t like it.”
“Oh well, deal with it.” She watched him get in his car and waved as he slowly backed away. She really loved his old car. As she walked slowly, waving to her friends, she thought about that first innocent ride. She never thought for a second that they would end up this way. If she had known that this would have happened, she never would have ridden in that car….
Lysa slammed down her pen. “Will you stop that damn tapping?” Derek looked up and grinned sheepishly.
“Sorry. I’m hungry.”
“Do I care?” Derek shrugged and stood up.
“Whatever.” She looked up at him as he began to walk away from the table.
“Where are you going?” He looked back at her.
“Isn’t it obvious? To get something to eat.” He paused and then turned around. “Do you want to come?” He asked uncertainly.
“I…I can’t.”
“I don’t have any money.”
“That’s okay, I wasn’t going to buy anything.” He looked at his watch. “Want to call it a day?” Lysa looked out the window at the gorgeous day and then at the mess of papers and books on the table.
“I guess. I’m not getting anywhere on this.” She began to gather up the papers and books and he helped her. “So where are you going to get free food?”
“Home.” Her hands faltered on the things.
“Are you sure?” He put the rest of the things in his bag and nodded.
“Yeah. Come on.” Shrugging his bag over one shoulder, he nodded at the librarians and then led the way outside to his car.
“Wow, nice car.” He unlocked the doors and threw his bag in the backseat.
“Thanks. Where’s yours?”
“I took the bus. I don’t have a car yet. But I do have my license.”
“Oh.” There was an awkward silence and then Derek unlocked the doors. They got in the car and Lysa inhaled the warm smell of cinnamon and brown sugar. The seats were covered in soft black upholstery and Lysa slowly ran her hand up the seat as she reached for her seatbelt. Derek smiled as he watched her.
“Its comfortable and it smells nice.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to thank my mom for that.” He tapped the air freshener on the rearview mirror that was shaped like a candle. “I swear she owns stock at Bath and Body Works.” Lysa giggled and Derek started the car. They pulled out the parking lot and made a left onto the main road. “So, Lysa, where do you live?”
“By the old steel mill.”
“On Mill Road?” Lysa shook her head.
“No, I live on Byers.”
“With that retro park by the lake?”
“Yeah, I love that park. I call it the park that time forgot.” Derek nodded.
“Time definitely forgot it.”
“I love how it’s still made of steel with the peeling paint and the creaking hinges. Its so peaceful and content being what it is.”
“So I take it you go there a lot?”
“Yes, it’s quieter than my house.” Derek studied her face. She was staring out the window of the car but he could see the sadness on the one side of her face. He was going to ask her about the situation at her house but she spoke first. “‘Meyer Manor?’ Isn’t that a bit much?” They were pulling onto his driveway through the elaborate iron gates that blocked passerby from his house. He laughed.
“Yeah, I always say that but my granddad wouldn’t listen. He figures since he paid for it, the house should be built however he wants it to be.” She looked at him in shock as he pulled into the garage.
“Who is your granddad exactly?” He looked at her as he turned the car off. She was looking at his gray eyes with suspicion and curiosity. He waited patiently while she made the connection. “I’ve seen those eyes before, on TV. He can’t be…. you’re related to…. the famous morning show host Daniel Meyer?” He nodded.
“That’s my granddad. He might be here now. Come on, we don’t bite, I promise.” They exited the car and walked into the house through a door that led to a cozy kitchen. A woman with black curly hair that loosely resembled Lysa’s was cutting vegetables. She turned and smiled at Derek.
“Hi, honey, welcome home!” He smiled and hugged the woman then turned around to face Lysa.
“This is my mom. Mom, this is Lysa.” Lysa smiled and stepped forward.
“It’s good to meet you Mrs. Meyer.” Mrs. Meyer smiled a smile that was not true. Even though her mouth made the movements it didn’t go to her eyes. They stayed a cold hard blue. They shook hands but when the woman turned back to her son her smile was all warmth and fuzziness.
“So, this is your partner for your history project?” Derek nodded and smiled at Lysa. Mrs. Meyer gestured to a bar stool and Lysa took a seat.
“What’s for lunch, Mom?” Mrs. Meyer dumped the vegetables into a pot on the stove.
“Beef stew.” The pot bubbled on the stove and they sat and chatted in the kitchen. Mrs. Meyer was cool toward Lysa but not in an overly evil way, just like she was making sure she was a nice girl. When the stew was done, she ladled out three bowls and they tucked in.
“Stew’s delicious, Mrs. Meyer.”
“Thank you.” Derek was almost finished with his so Lysa finished quickly so that he wouldn’t leave her with this woman who obviously didn’t like her. When they finished, Mrs. Meyer did the dishes and Derek led her on a tour of their very impressive house. It was casually comfortable with a hint of expensive taste. Finally they went up to his room. She knew that they would reach it eventually. They had been working together for a week now and were more comfortable together but she was still wary of him. She was constantly reminding herself that he was Derek Meyer, class star and while she wasn’t the worse student, she was no where near him in academics.
His room was very nice, tastefully done in dark green and light wood. One side of his room contained a shelving unit that was cluttered with books, awards, pictures and trinkets. He had an oak bed set with a matching dresser. He sat on the bed and she plopped down in the computer chair at the desk.
“So, how do you like it?” He asked as he studied the ceiling.
“It’s nice. Your mom’s nice…” She trailed off when he snorted. “What?”
“You don’t have to lie to me. I saw the ‘smile’ she gave you. She does that to all the girls I bring home.” She felt a pang in her stomach at the mention of him bringing other girls to his house. She studied his face and body. He was very attractive, gray eyes and dark hair, tall and slim with the ropy muscles from real work and not gym time. He was very nice even when she wasn’t and he was a good listener. She often had to resist the urge to spill her guts. What she didn’t know was that while she was studying him, he was going over all the things he knew about her and how beautiful she was. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
*End Flashback*
When she arrived at her home, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom. Flinging her coat on the floor, she sat at her computer desk and booted up her computer. When it was ready, she checked her e-mail and then cruised the web aimlessly, only to have something to do. She was soon bored with this so she shut down the machine and went to bed.
The next morning she went to school lifelessly, even more disconnected than usual. Her teachers didn’t comment on this. It was an unspoken rule: when Lysa is in a mood it was best to give Lysa her work and leave her alone. They were all afraid to push her too far because none wanted to be to blame if she had to take another trip to the clinic. The only people who could push her with no consequence were her mother and Derek.
She walked home and dropped off her books then turned around and walked to the library. When she entered, the warmth and quietness enveloped her like a soft blanket. She sighed and then walked to the teen section to look for a book. She was walking slowly in one of the more secluded aisles when she felt hands wrap around her waist and a kiss planted at the nape of her neck. Would this be the last kiss; the last hug?
“Hello.” She twisted around and smiled.
“Hi. What brings you here directly after school?” She giggled and kissed his nose.
“You.” He grinned at her but shook his head.
“You do know that you really shouldn’t be here.” Lysa shook her head.
“I’m not here to see you even though you somehow found me; I’m here to read a really good book.” He wrinkled his nose.
“Do I care?” They giggled and then Lysa remembered what needed to be done.
“But seriously, go do your work. We’ll talk later at the park.” He nodded and after a kiss of farewell, went back to his job. She wasted time, reading without really reading. She knew what must be done but she didn’t want to. She already had her speech put together in her head, she had rehearsed it last night in front of the mirror, but she knew that it would be easier to tell it to her reflection instead of to him. Soon, too soon, it was nine o’clock and the library was closing. She gathered her books and donned her leather jacket then with a meaningful glance in his direction, headed out the doors to park. Settling on the slide, she waited. She gazed out over the parking lot and he sat next to her.
“So, what’s up?” She sighed and turned to him, praying for courage, for the strength to tear herself apart.
“Derek, I think that maybe, the move is a good idea.” He nodded.
“Yeah, I’m really happy for your mother finally showing some backbone and getting out of that dead end marriage.” She shook her head.
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about us.” He cocked his head.
“What do you mean us?”
“I think that I’m doing better now. And I really want to thank you for being there and not being afraid to call my crap and telling me how you really felt. That was very helpful because it made me see that I was wrong. But your mom already doesn’t like me because she knows that I was the cause of your pain.”
“My mom doesn’t have anything to do with me. I don’t care about what she thinks. You are the only girl I’ve dated that is real.” She smiled a grim smile.
“Why, because I tried to kill myself?” He shook his head in shock.
“No. Lysa, how could you say something like that? You don’t care about the latest fad; you don’t follow all those stupid trends and traditions. You are who you are and you’re not afraid to express that.” She shrugged.
“That’s not what I meant. We aren’t here to talk about us. What I’m trying to say is that maybe we should take a break. My doctor has been telling me that it’s not good to get involved with anyone right now and I see why. I crave your attention, I use you as a crutch, and I take out all my emotions on you. It’s not fair to you because I’ve been taking more than I’ve been giving. So, I want you to find a new girlfriend. Someone who is as loving and caring as you deserve and can meet you halfway. I’m not good enough for you, I never have been.” He had been shaking his head since the beginning of her little monologue.
“Stop, it Lysa, stop doing this. You don’t mean it. You’ve been taking those stupid pills again, haven’t you?” She shook her head. “Well, than what is it? Did that dumb cheerleader finally get to you? No? Well than what exactly are you acting from?” She felt the tears well up in her eyes at his pain but she knew that this must be. She blinked furiously.
“I’m not on anything anymore. This is me. I’m really; really sorry things happened this way but I think that this is some divine intervention. I think that we should just end things now, a clean break.” She kissed him and then stood. “I hope you understand that I never meant to hurt you.” She walked away, the tears streaming down her face.
“Well, regardless of what you meant to do,” he called after her, “I’m hurt.”
End of Part I

Don’t You Understand That It’s Easier This Way?
Part II
The rest of the school year sped by and soon she was at the end of her junior year. When she had broken up with Derek, it was April and she had only a few months wait until she no longer had to see his sad face.
Soon it was the day of the infamous move. It was an emotional struggle and if Lysa knew that she would have to visit the doctor after this. Her step father was neither a help nor a hindrance. If she needed some help with something, he would do it but other than that he sat and watched, brooding over a bottle of beer. Lysa’s mother was very brave, holding back her tears and avoiding her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s eyes. They packed up all their things and after an awkward moment where neither side had anything to say, they closed the car doors and pulled away.
Lysa and her mother unloaded all their things and lugged them to their new apartment. When they were finished, they went down the street to get something to eat. They ate slowly, still looking around the new apartment in disbelief.
“It’s hard to believe that we are here.” Lysa nodded in agreement as she took a bite of her taco.
“Yeah, I thought we’d be living in that house forever.” Her mother sighed.
“You’re not the only one.” That night, as Lysa lay on her makeshift bed in the middle of the living room, she finally allowed herself to think of him. She hoped that he could forgive her, that he had moved on. She hadn’t heard anything through the gossip grapevine but she had been going out with him for three weeks before people figured it out so she didn’t expect the people to know anything. Lysa sighed and let sleep slip over her. How she missed all her old friend already. Oh no! She was already thinking of them as old friends!
She soon settled into her new life, making new friends and new hobbies. It was two months into the school year when she saw him in the mall. She was browsing through a random clothing store, with nothing particular in mind when he walked past the window. She walked through the doors and followed him nonchalantly, shooting occasional glances at him to make sure that he was still in front of her. He went into a video game store and she smiled. He hadn’t changed a bit. They both had a love for video games. This way if he saw her in the store she could declare innocence. Or so she thought.
“Why are you following me? That never looks good to be seen with your ex’s.” She put down the box she had been examining and turned around in shock.
“I wasn’t following you. Don’t flatter yourself.” He took her arm and led her to the back of the store.
“Hey! What are you doing? Let me- “ He cut her off with a breathtaking kiss. She resisted for one nanosecond then she melted like butter against his soft lips. God, how she had missed those lips.
“You sucker.” She looked at him. “You lied.”
“I lied about what?”
“‘I’m not on anything. This is all me.’ What a joke.” She shook her head.
“I was telling the truth.” He quirked a brow.
“Yeah, right.”
“It’s true.”
“Then why did you melt like that?”
“I did not melt like anything.” He moved to kiss her again. “Okay, okay you win, I melted. But really, I wasn’t on anything when I said that. I was serious. We need to move on. Have you?” He looked into her eyes and shook his head.
“How could I move on? You are the only girl for me.” Though she felt a thrill at his words, she shook her head.
“You absolutely have to move on. There is no question about it, you must.”
“Just because.” She twisted out of his grip and stormed down the aisle to the reality games. He followed.
“You have to stop lying to yourself. I saw the look in your eyes.” She whirled around.
“Do you think I don’t know that I’m lying to myself? Do you know how hard it was to live without you for all this time? I’ve spent more time with my doctor than with my mother because of this. But I keep on pushing. And so should you.” He lightly laid his hand on her shoulder.
“I’m not giving up on you.” And he walked away. Her body turned against her better judgment toward him.
“Wait!” She reached into her pocket and found a crumpled piece of paper. She scribbled her address on it and pressed it into his hand. “Here. If you still want to come see me.” He smiled and kissed her hand, then left the store.
So she waited. For weeks she waited for him to come and visit her. Eventually she was rewarded. One day she came home from school and there was a knock on her door. She opened it and squealed. He laughed and she jumped into his arms. He squeezed her and kissed her hair.
“I told you I wasn’t giving up on you.” He came in and they settled on the couch to watch T.V. When her mother came home, she laughed and hugged Derek. She too, it seemed, missed him. Her mother prepared dinner and they ate in the dinette, talking about their lives and what had been going on in their old neighborhood. Everything was going well until Derek’s cell phone began to ring. He looked at the phone and then slowly got off his chair and stepped into the hall. Even though he moved, Lysa could still hear every word. “Hello? Hi Mom. No, everything’s fine, I’m still here. Yeah, I found what I needed. I’m coming home shortly. No, I uh, stopped at Burger King. Yes, I ate a vegetable. Of course, I always am. Yes, love you too. Okay, bye.” He closed the phone and came back to the kitchen with a sheepish smile on his face. “Sorry, that was my mom.” Lysa rolled her eyes, put her dishes in the sink, and walked to her room. “Lysa, wait.” He followed her.
“What do you want, Derek? So, where did you tell her you were going? To the library for some research? To the store? Why didn’t you tell her you were going to see your suicidal ex-girlfriend? Huh?”
“No, I didn’t tell her. I’m sorry.”
“Why? Were you afraid of what dear old Mommy would say?” He glared at her.
“Don’t say that. Don’t even say that. You were the one who told me to move on, who told me that things were over. Then you follow me and tell me to come see you. Of course I didn’t tell her. She would have asked me to explain and I didn’t know what to tell her.” Lysa sat down on her bed with a sigh.
“See, this is what I was trying to prevent. I didn’t want to be dependant on you anymore and I know that if I don’t do something now, I never will. I thought that if we stopped seeing each other, I could tell myself that you had moved on, that you were better off without me and we would have all been fine.”
“Were you just going to ignore the fact that you were the one who ended it?” He asked quizzically.
“I didn’t say it was a logical plan. We’re dealing with emotions here, it’s impossible to be logical.” She said defiantly.
“Okay, I’m sorry. So what do we do now?” They looked at each other and then she spoke up.
“I have an idea. We have to just stop seeing each other. It’s obvious that I need to get over you. I don’t know about you.”
He snorted. “I’ve noticed that these plans are always for your best interest.” She shrugged.
“I didn’t want to get you involved.”
“Not get me involved? Who else were you going to ask for the answer? I’m your boyfriend. Or at least I was. I’m the reason that you’re doing this whole crazy planning thing.”
“Yeah, well, once we break up for good, that won’t matter.” She said sadly. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to break up. It’s just that I know we have to.” He looked at her, really looked into her eyes and he saw that she meant what she said. For both of them to move on and grow, it was important for them to break up. He stood and took her hands, pulling her up with him.
“Just remember, that I will always love you.” She nodded.
“And I you.” They kissed and then he left her room. She waited while he said goodbye to her mother, then with one final wave in her direction, he walked out the door and out of her life.
Lysa got better. She finished her evaluations with her doctor and he gave her a clean bill of mental health. She excelled in her classes her senior year and made good friends. Her mother finalized her divorce and got a new job. Both Lysa and her mother began to date new people. Lysa went to the movies with a group of friends. While she was out, she saw Derek across the crowded lobby. She wanted to go talk to him but he smiled and shook his head, like he knew what she was thinking. He picked up his drink and popcorn and went to his date and Lysa went back to her friends. She never saw him again.
In the end, it was easier that way.

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