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Radiating Adrenaline and Triumph

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So, there I was. I was alone and I was frightened for the future, but I was also radiating adrenaline and triumph. I breathed in the victory with every chilly breath that stung my lungs. I knew that something was going to happen, something that I was going to regret and remember until my dying day, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t care. At that moment, at least. Knowing myself like only I can, I probably would later, within the following forty-eight hours. And not only would I worry, but I’m prone to freaking out. Consider yourself warned.

I really wondered what I was doing there. If I’m going the right thing, you know? (Who are you, exactly? I mean, my story is interesting ‘n all, and I’ll try to tell it to you in my best grammar and language and voice ‘n stuff, but you’ll only get it as much as a stranger can. Second warning.) And I wonder what I know. I’m a freshman at college in a (relatively) tiny university in a town that no one’s really heard of (and whose name is quite difficult to pronounce if you haven’t lived in the region for five years), scrambling to earn a degree and kick myself outa here. I’m kind of worried.

Looking back right now, if there’s one thing I knew, it’s that I was in big trouble. But I actually knew quite a lot of things.

a) I already gave preamble on this one: I was toast. Want the list? I hadn’t paid rent yet. My teachers had no idea where I’d been for the last twenty-four hours. The police had a nine-one-one recording of me, and probably by that time, my address (which I was going to lose since I had no money). To top it all, my father was out to kill me. Seriously. The whole cloak-and-dagger thing. Incognito. If I didn’t board a greyhound soon, I was going to be in a worse-case scenario.

b) My mother was getting married in two days in San Francisco, and I was supposed to be there at that moment helping her pick out the style of her cake and the color of his tie and the type of ribbon for the flowers.

c) I was leaving behind not only a room full of treasured items and cat food that I would later desperately need to feed Leopold, but a wonderful, selfless senior that was utterly in love with me. The only things I had were: about two hundred dollars (with about an eighth of it in quarters for laundry), a toothbrush, bathroom necessities, one can of tuna (for Leopold, of course), a change of clothes, four pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, and a collection of crumpled letters, all stuffed haphazardly into one duffle bag with my name written on the side with a permanent marker. Of all the things I wanted to take, it was the letters. There’s about twenty of them. They all have different, multicolored stamps and are all written with the same attractive handwriting and all from the same person. Tom Reed. And they’re all to the same person. Lucy Sutcliff. Which would be me.

The thing I wanted the most to do right then, sitting on a cold bench with a real estate ad on the back board, waiting for a bus that would take me to San Francisco, was to find Tom. I’d known him for a half-a-year and my heartbeat went crazy whenever I’d hear his name in my head, off my lips, whenever. Truth be told, I love him, possibly more than he loves me. I’m not even sure he knows-knows me. I might have been a totally different person in my letters. I was happy and buoyant and sardonic and hopeful, instead of shy and only-loud-when-I’m-with-my-friends and embarrassed (most of the time). I told him as much about myself as I could, once I’d gained his trust. I told him about my cat, about my dreams of being an editor in New York, about my brother and my mom, about my dad. About how, when I was still living at home, because of my dad I had to hide my books under my wardrobe, or else he’d burn them. About how, when I was twelve, I got sent to the principle because I wouldn’t undress with the other girls in Gym because I didn’t want anyone to see my bruises. About how my dad was never drunk when he beat me or my mom. About how he never touched, or even talked to, my brother. About how I hit the road right after high school graduation, but I could only afford to go to the local university, only a thirty-minute car ride away.

And it turned out that he told me everything too. I learned what his favorite time of day was, what he was majoring in, what his roommates cook for dinner, what park bench he sits on, what his dream car is. Stuff like that that is usually stuff you discuss on a first date. We haven’t even dated, officially. But letters are the next best thing.

There I was, waiting for a bus, ready to put him away forever. Once I get to San Francisco, I thought, I’m not coming back. I’ll convince mom to buy a house there and bring Jake back from camp and they’ll live together, Mom, Jake, and Dr. Harrison. And then the thought of people triggered the thoughts of other people: Lizzy, my roomie. Joshua, my study-buddy. Tom, my boyfriend that would stop me in a trice if he knew I was there.

I hope he still has my letters, some sentimental bit of my brain said. Of course he does, answered the more practical bit, the one that resided around my medulla oblongata, I think. The question is, after you leave, will he throw them away right away, or will he wait a week or two?

That hurt. Low blow, I told myself. I’m doing this not only for my sake, but his as well. If he really knew what my father was, what I was, he’d back off. If he wants to find out, that his problem. If I want to tell him, that my problem.

Yeah, that was a help. Once, I remember, Lizzy told me about relationships. We were discussing the irregularity of mine. “Just remember,” she said, “it doesn’t have to be a relationship. Heck, it doesn’t have to anything. Just make it what you want it to be.”

At that time I wanted to say, “What if I wanted a relationship? It’s not that bad.”

Now, I’d want to say, “Oh, sure. Make a casserole out of only watery noodles, celery, and moldy cheese. Just don’t call it a casserole and you’ll be fine. Call it a heap of gunk from my fridge, and presto! Your life is complete. Yeah, that works every time.”

Lizzy was not one for relationship advice, her and her wide and diverse collections of boyfriends she saw every night.

Now back to the freezing bench in the wind. I took out Tom’s letters, and found the last one. I only started crying when I read the tiniest part.





Lucy, I love you. It’s taken me all this time to realize it, but


now that I have, I don’t know how I can stop you and ask you


face to face. So I’ll just ask you hear, although it does lose


some of its magic on paper. Could it be remotely possible,
even in the slightest, most infinitesimal way that you could
love me too? Because I’m willing to do anything, anything
to convince you that I’m the only one for you, and that you
were meant for no one but me. Believe me, I would do
absolutely anything for you to say yes to me. Will you?

At that moment, I made my mind up. There was no way that I could hurt him, plague him with the terrors that I had been through. He had done nothing to deserve that, and I would not be the one to give him that burden. I tucked the piece of paper in my jacket pocket as the bus pulled up and let out a spurt of exhaust. When I tried to move, movement didn’t respond. I closed my eyes, and thought of Tom, and what would happen to him if I stayed, if he found me. Keeping that image in my mind, I stood, money for the ride to Idaho Falls clutch instinctively in my hand. I turned, facing the valley my home. From here, I could see the university buildings, the pillars standing erect of the hilltop. I saw the park where he would be sitting reading on a bench. I raised a hand, briefly, and then I turned to face the bus.





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