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“See you tonight,” I strained my voice, attempting to be heard over the sound of torrential downpour. I had walked 20 feet to my car and I was already drenched, but it didn’t matter. The miserable weather couldn’t ruin the fact that it was Shane’s birthday, and I had discovered the perfect present. I closed the door to my old Volvo and fumbled with the keys, chuckling at my usual clumsiness. An abrupt knock on my window caused me to jump. I quickly turned my head to see that even with his sandy blonde hair now plastered to his face and his clothes soaked, he looked glorious. I opened the door slightly, avoiding the merciless rain.
“Shane what are you doing? Did I forget something?”
His face burst into the irresistible smile I couldn’t help but adore. “Yup,” he said nonchalantly, then pulled me out of my seat and gave me the most breathless of kisses. As I melted, time lost its meaning. Our embrace didn’t end until Shane decided he’d rather let go than have me get pneumonia.
“And that is all I wanted for my birthday. Speaking of which, you better have kept your promise about no big presents.” It’s not fair he was so humble. I smiled mischievously, looking into his warm brown eyes as they stared intently into mine. “Maybe, maybe not. You’ll find out tonight.”
He scowled. “You know if you didn’t look so wonderful right now I would be angry.” I broke eye contact as blood rushed to my cheeks. I knew my sopping hair looked tragic. His hands cupped around my face as he kissed me softly one last time and whispered, “Don’t think I’m lying. Now go before I have a sick girlfriend at dinner tonight.”
As I involuntarily drove down the driveway, not realizing my left door was dripping with water, I looked in my rearview mirror to see him running inside his family’s palatial stone ranch with the unforgettable beam spread across his face. I was in incandescent love with this perfection of a boy.
The urgent honking from an angry red Ferrari broke me out of my hazy trance of that stormy day. During my daze, I had veered off of the road heading towards one of the famous Californian palms lining Rodeo Drive. The tree became larger as my conscious screamed to brake, but my body was frozen. As the warm August breeze ran through my hair, the destructive realization raged into my mind. Shane was gone. All in a flicker of time, sounds enveloped my eardrums; the crushing of metal, the shattering of glass. My body threw itself towards the windshield and became both the state my mind and now my car were in; wrecked.
The mumbles grew clearer into voices as my mind crept into consciousness.
“As much you protest, there’s plenty of reas’n to believe that your daughter’s accident was intended,” said a man with a slow Southern drawl.
“Suicide? Absolutely not, that’s impossible,” retorted a strong yet familiar voice. There’s just no point in arguing with my mother, it’s inevitable that she’ll prove herself right. I wanted to smirk at her signature defiance, but my face was too heavy.
“Bu- Marcia,” he stuttered, “There is evidence that this accident occurred because of somethin’ greater than a distraction. I feel it my obligation to have a psychologist come in this afternoon. In the meantime we’ll have to discuss some things about Aubrey.” The man, who I guessed was the doctor, was strangely persistent. Then again, what person of the male gender wouldn’t want the radiant, leggy perfection that was my mother to stay in his office after-hours?
“It’s Mrs. Davynwood,” she emphasized, “And there’s no point, they’re all the same. They say my daughter needs help, but for what? Grief? Misery? She just needs time, and that’s final. My daughter would not attempt something as drastic as suicide.”
This doctor, probably the highest-paid in the state of California, didn’t know whom he was dealing with. My mother was Marcia Davynwood, the beautiful but lethal ex-wife of Keith Davynwood, once one of the most esteemed lawyers on the West Coast. Imagine being with someone who argued for a living. The marriage lasted only 3 years ending almost months after I was born.
The doctor's lungs let out a sigh of relief when his beeper went off. “We still need to have a psychologist come in. I have to go, but I’ll send in a nurse. Aubrey should be awake in a coupla minutes.” The door quietly clicked behind him as he walked out.
Besides the shuffle of nervous feet, the awkward silence that followed was unbearable. I felt my family’s eyes staring intently at me, ignoring any eye contact with each other.
My temple began to ache. The pain, I had forgotten about the pain. The memory of my head hitting the windshield whooshed back. I breathed in sharply, trying to think of anything but the burning sensation creeping up my arms and neck. My mom’s questionably feminine assistant, Garry, oddly appeared in my mind. I let out a small giggle that probably sounded like a wheeze.
“Is she awake?” said the sound of home; my brother Patrick.
Groaning, I winced as I opened my eyes. The stark white walls of the hospital turned the headache into a sickening migraine.
“Oh, finally. Aubrey what is going on here?” my mother said curtly. I knew I shouldn’t have opened my eyes. I didn’t want to be cross-examined yet another time. She must’ve seen my grimace because her tone softened.
“Honey, I know you don’t like psychologists. Just tell us the truth.” True, psychologists didn’t make me giddy, but she really hated them and the truths that accompanied their expertise. The last time I’d seen one, a frigid woman with a sharp black bob said that I had mild depression. I could tell my mother was to some extent, devastated. Being the owner of one of the most distinguished couture boutiques in L.A., and I didn’t know a Prada from a Chloé, I was already a minor disappointment. Stacking mild depression on top of that couldn’t have been a delight. But, I was surprisingly okay with it compared to the girls at my school who strived to be replicas of their tacky Gucci-clad mothers. I‘ve never liked fashion more than my faded old designer jeans from freshman year (a Marcia makeover attempt,) and white C&C tank tops. But this time, the distress I had unintentionally caused ate away at my thoughts. What would it take for her to be content with me?
“What truth is there to tell? I got in a car accident. Did you honestly presume I did that on purpose?” I hissed through my teeth. Patrick was gazing out the window, avoiding the usual conflicts between my mother and me. She nervously tossed her infamous bronze Botticelli waves, one of the only traits I received from her besides the impossibly pale skin. She sighed heavily and walked to my side.
“You do realize that I have good reason to suspect something, Bree, don’t you? You don’t talk to any of us anymore. Your friends know it’s useless to call you now because you don’t go out. Instead, you hole up in your room all day doing nothing, and you haven’t kept in contact with your father at all. What should I think?” She faced me with utter confusion.
Infuriated at her question, I fought back words to give her as much hurt as she just caused me, not just because she had completely lied to the doctor in her own disinterest of psychologists. Even though I resisted my mother and her ideals, I loved her with the love every daughter has for their mother; of comfort and belonging. How could she even think that I would try to leave her? Unfortunately, these words were never interchanged with either of my parents, and they never intended to be.
Her was voice was hinting pain as she continued, “I’ve tried to get help for you, and you’ve persisted that you’re fine. But what if you’re not? I knew to expect some difficulty, but you’ve seemed like a complete stranger ever since… Shane.”
Shane? Shane. The name brought back a confusing muddle of pictures reeling through my mind, stopping one at a time like a teaser trailer for a dreamy romantic comedy. Warm summer mornings in his arms, his impossibly cute way of saying my spaghetti was bad without saying it at all, the ridiculous inside jokes, driving around listening to Ben Kweller with the windows down, spending whole days reading in his father’s library, teaching and failing me how to play the harmonica on my back porch, his scruffy hair, his hearty laugh, his kiss, his love.
“Shane.” I barely whispered. I didn’t know how long I stared desperately at the precious memories I would never, ever let go. I barely managed to come back into reality when my mom said she needed air.
As she clacked out of the room, I could’ve sworn I saw her wipe a tear from her eye, but if you ever asked, there was something in her emerald-green colored contact. Eric watched her leave and continued to stare at the door once she left. I wondered why he’d stayed quiet and completely invisible during the conversation. He stared down at his black Chucks, contemplating the right words to say. He finally looked up, a sincere look of hurting in his eyes.
“Bree please, you need help. It’s been months. You need to move on.”
I struggled to form words. Move on? How can you move on from the memory of someone you held closer to your heart than yourself? You can’t let go because it wasn’t in the agreement. Shane is dead. If I let go of him, I would have nothing.
I sprawled out on my plush, mahogany canopy bed as the dusk sunlight seeping through my French windows warmed my skin. Being in casts for a month gave you an appreciative love of your arms and legs, but they are no use when your thoughts are so tangled and intertwined. The heavy ache in my chest, now a constant companion for the past three months, settled on my chest as I traced the custom molding bordering my heightened ceiling.
I’ve wanted to sob for so long, to give a heart-wrenching performance of blubbers and heaves for air, but I couldn’t. The ache refused to relieve me with or without tears streaming down my face and a blotchy face.
I cried only once since Shane. It was trailing into my room after the funeral when my eyes found his birthday present still sitting innocently on my antique dresser. As soon as my mind grasped that there was no one to give it to anymore, the tears held back so fervently spilled down my face. It was a quiet weep, no why me’s or breaking things. Clutching his gift so close to my heart, it left an imprint on my skin for days. Later on my mother came in to check on me, who then quickly got my brother. While being lifted from the floor to my bed, Shane’s present fell from my hands to the glossy hardwood floor, the clatter sounding distant. They stood at the end of my bed, looking so helpless and pained.
I later realized that crying was a physical expression of how much pain I was enduring, and it hurt everyone else just as much. I then stopped, but they didn’t stop looking worried. My mom would mention that I hadn’t seen my friends in a while. She didn’t understand. Seeing them, seeing people who knew him, broke me. They all would gaze at me with kind eyes; all saying in some form that if I ever needed anything they were “Just a call away.” I didn’t need them at all, though. I needed him.
There was also the fact that I had lost contact most of my friends when I got serious with Shane. The relationships I had once sustained seemed so inadequate compared to what I had. At his funeral, I saw people staring at me like a mythical creature. When I met Shane, I stopped going to parties, concerts, everything. My time was consumed by Shane. My life revolved around me being near him. My family didn’t understand that since he left, so did the meaning of my life.
A rustling sound broke me out of my distant stupor. Leaning out of my bed revealed a dress had slipped from its plastic hanger to the floor in my colossal walk-in closet. I walked over and flipped on the light, exposing the bare space my mom wished was full of clothes, but only one rack was occupied by occasion dresses. My clothes, consisting of jeans and whatever top I could find, were always in laundry baskets and never folded away.
I picked up the fallen, limp cotton dress I wore on Easter back in middle school. After putting it back on the rack, my hand traced over the different textures of expensive fabric while my mind tried to remember the events for which I wore them.
My last homecoming during junior year, I wore a knee-length cream Alberta Ferretti (or Ferretto?) dress my mother had hand-picked from her store’s private collection. She strongly insisted I wear it, so I did without question. Shane said I looked incredible, but I felt like an obnoxious Greek goddess with the empire waist and gold chain embellishing. I scrunched the dress up to my nose, and could’ve sworn Shane’s Dolce and Gabbana scent still lingered. The ache in my chest worsened, and I moved on before I ripped the ridiculously-priced piece in two.
I pulled out the next, almost sneezing from how dusty it was. The short black shift with a ruffled Italian bib was worn two summers ago when I visited my father in Boston. We went to an uncomfortable dinner at a restaurant called La Paella. We stuck to the topics of grades and how my mother and Patrick were doing. Never once did he mention Shane. I did the same. He thought it wasn’t healthy for me to be so involved with a high school boy, and I resented him for that. In fact, I resented him for a lot of things. I hated him when he left California to live in Boston with no explanation but that he “had to go.” I was only 10, so I fully assumed it was my fault since he was already divorced from my mother. I wrote stories about daughters with perfect fathers, and it was essential for all of my Barbies to have one, but it didn’t make the pain of not having one go away. Eventually I became accustomed to the loneliness, and urgently waited for the days he sent e-mails and exciting presents. The last time he sent one was on my 18th birthday three months ago, a couple of days before Shane’s accident. I loved the simplicity of the Chopard diamond studs, knowing he was thinking of me as simple Aubrey. Besides the earrings, my favorite present I received was an old, masculine watch my father bought from an estate auction. The exquisite detailing of amber and yellow diamonds around the face made me feel like a medieval lord when I wore it. He wrote that the bronze metal reminded him of my hair the first time he saw it. I later overheard my mother complaining on the phone, telling him not to buy me expensive artifacts. I was only 11 and didn’t know what artifacts were, but for some reason I thought it meant my dad was secretly coding that he felt bad about leaving, and really did care about me.
At that uncomfortable dinner two summers ago, I found out my young perceptions weren’t all that wrong. I comforted my father when he confessed his regret, saying it wasn’t so bad, partially believing it myself. The love Shane gave me overflowed and filled up the empty, pained spaces of my past life. When I had him, he was all that truly mattered. He was the electric current running through me that I came to depend on. When he or I would be apart too long, I would feel empty and numb. Our reuniting touch after the excruciating wait put goose-bumps on my skin and a rush in my head, akin to a static shock. That is the only way to describe how I felt around him. I don’t know what this inexplicable sensation was, making me giddy even on the worst of days, but I yearned for it unconditionally.
There is no way to explain the depth of the emptiness that subsided within me now, like someone had taken out my being and left me to wilt.
Neither my mom nor Patrick comprehended the vast feeling of incompleteness I felt every day. They didn’t know the aching pain in my chest always grew with time and never subsided.
I unhooked my heavy homecoming dress from the crowded metal rod and sat on the floor of my useless closet, squeezing it close to my body as if it was the memory of Shane, and I was hoping to get one last drop.