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Growing up, my father always used to tell me that I was special. I had a photographic memory, and he used it to make me clever. You see, my father worked privately, coming up with crossword puzzles. You know those really hard ones that make you want to punch the person who made them? Yeah, he might have received a lot of death threats. Anyways, he always insisted that I should use my cleverness to do some good. But I really didn’t want to. That is, until he died from cancer. The entire family was shocked. He hadn’t told anyone. Everything was a blur. Funeral, wake, the whole thing was simply there and then school. I was seven at the time. It was rushed, and I can remember how many tears were on my grandmother’s face. My gift is really a curse.
Whenever I got sad around those times, I’d remember something clever my father said. Something weird, like always stay to the right, or to trust in my gut, not logic. He was weird. It was this weirdness that I loved about him. He was always nice and caring. His death still haunts me to this day. But I know that I can make him proud, one of these days.
Love, live, laugh, love more.
“Hey, a bunch of us are going to the creepy Cauler’s corn maze. You want to come along? I know you love those puzzles.”
Junior year. Tests, more tests, and basically all the stress in the world. I normally would have said no, but Ren was my best friend. He was always trying to get me to cut loose.
“Who’s all going?” I daftly asked. It would probably be eight girls and the two of us. That was how Ren was. Strange and different. Just the perfect person to be friends with the camera.
“Well, Maddie, Sarah, Sara, and Wendy all said yes. So did Jon, John, George, and Trevor. That gives us ten. Oh, and Jackie said only if you’ll drive her. I had Colleen in my car, so basically you have to go now.”
Jackie and I had dated, and then she ended it. It was horrible. Then she started dating the entire school. I suffered through so much, but I still had feelings for her. And Ren knew it.
“I hate you so much,” I said with the most venomous voice I could think of. Ren simply grinned and slapped me on the back.
“I hate you too, buddy!” He pushed me away, and simply walked away.
“When?” I shouted at him.
“Ten, and there will be s’mores! You better show up!” He shouted back with a grin on his face. I smiled. And then I realized I would be driving Jackie.
I pulled into Jackie’s driveway and waited. I didn’t want to honk my horn or text her. I’d just wait. Five minutes later, I was considering texting her when she came out. She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt a size too big for her. My stomach did a little flip. What if that was a new boyfriend’s sweatshirt. I started to get angry, but then I calmed myself down. We both have moved on. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I know I haven’t, and I know I won’t. Not now, not ever.
“Hey! Did you here me?” I jumped as I saw her sitting next to me. It was weird to see her this close after I started avoiding her. She still smelled sweet, this strange scent that I loved.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah!” I said, coming back to reality. “Just a bit tired.”
“You look like crap. Have you slept recently?”
“Liar. You know I can tell when you lie. So why do you even bother?”
“Cuz it’s fun.”
After that awkward encounter, I began to drive towards the cornfields. It was about an hour away, so I decided to pick Jackie up around eight forty-five. It was a good call, too, because there was an accident on the way to the cornfields. A deer must have run in front of a car, because there were cops all over. They let us through, but I had to come up with a new plan on getting home. Jackie sat silently, looking out the window, appearing as beautiful as ever.
We were the last to arrive, due to the accident. Jackie and I got out of my car and walked towards our group of friends. Ren was already making teams, so that we could figure out who got out the fastest.
“Teams of two, okay? Staggered by five minutes. The fastest time this year is just under an hour. Ready? Teams are going to be: Dan and Jackie, Me and Colleen, George and Maddie, Jon and Sara, John and Sarah, and Trevor and Wendy. All good? Dan, you and Jackie go first.”
We both walked into the maze, and started along a straight path. It was straight forward: turn right here, turn left here. I began to make a map in my head, and it turns out we were only done with a quarter of the maze by the time we go to the center, which is when it got fun.
“Which way do we go?” Jackie asked. I looked at the choices, and my gut said left. Based on my map, the left would take us to the opposite end of the maze, away from the exit. But dad always said to trust my instinct.
“I say left.” Jackie looked at me like I was nuts. I knew this would happen. She always used to call me “clever” and “genius” but that was before. Now, she probably thinks I’m trying to get more time with her.
“I say right,” she said defiantly. I knew she was going to be stubborn about the whole thing. She had this tendency to stick to one idea, no matter what. It was one of her greatest flaws, but I kinda liked it. It gave me a challenge.
“I can see why you’d choose right, but it’s a red herring. Trust me; I can get us out of here the fastest.”
“What, are you smarter than me all of a sudden?” She was about ready to scream out of rage. I didn’t know what to do. This part of our arguments always left me standing speechless. But some part of me wanted to stand up for myself. And so I did.
“No, but I know which way to go. It’s predictable. Just because you always think you’re right, doesn’t mean you are always right. So just do me a favor, and go to the right. I hope you get lost.” At that, I stormed off to the left. I could hear her crying, but I didn’t care. She destroyed me. It was time for her to pay. I walked for a good five minutes before realizing I was almost done. I could see the exit. I ran as fast as I could. It was a good 800 meters, but I was able to get it done in a matter of minutes. My pulse raced as I leapt through the exit. The old man, Mr. Cauler, stared at me as I lay gasping for air.
“New record kid. Not many people take the left. They take the right, and immediately get lost. Takes them hours to get out.” He had on a grin as h offered me some water. I drank it greedily, and I simply sat, waiting. After about two hours of talking about the history of this place and how huge his land was, Mr. Cauler turned on a neon sign, which lighted up the exit.
“If I don’t do this, some people stay the whole night. We don’t want that happening, do we?” He winked at me, and I almost wished for Jackie to not find her way out. After another two hours of waiting, I started to get worried. Just as I was about to go back in, the whole group came running out. They were laughing and gasping for air, just like I was four hours ago. They walked over to where me and Mr. Cauler were standing, and started to question me.
“How long ago did you get out?”
“Is this a new record?”
“Were you bored?”
“Why didn’t you go back for a second run?”
“Where…is…Jackie!?” Ren was looking straight at me, almost as if I had done something I shouldn’t have. I simply shrugged, and started talking to the others. He wouldn’t let it go.
“Go back in there and find her. Now!” He literally picked me up, and threw me into the maze. I was p*ssed, but I didn’t care. I ran towards the area where I left Jackie. There were three choices: Straight, left or right. I took the right. After a good minute, I came upon another split. I let out a sigh, and simply decided to try something else.
“Dan! Where are you? I’m so sorry!”
This should have made me happy, but all that I felt was worry. It was cold, and she didn’t have a very good jacket. I ran and ran, hoping to happen upon her, but there was nothing. Just darkness. I was getting p*ssed at this point, but I needed to find her. I needed to have her.
“Jackie, I need you to yell so I can find you, okay?”
“Sure. I’ll just talk about how freaking cold it is! Why the h*ll did you leave me?”
“You left me!” I yelled angrily. “You said that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too much of a loser for you. Do you even understand what that felt like? To be called a loser by someone you might love?” Everything was coming out, just like a faucet. I couldn’t stop.
“Then, you go and start screwing half the school! I almost died inside. I wanted to die! I couldn’t control myself. I nearly did off myself, but I couldn’t, because I still loved you. And you left me. YOU left me.” I was gasping for air. It felt like a huge weight was removed from my chest. It felt great. I listened for her retort.
“I’m sorry.” That was all. It was muffled, almost as if she was trying to hold back tears. I felt a pang of guilt. I heard her sobs, so I ended up walking around trying to follow them. After thirty minutes, I found her, curled up in a ball and nearly asleep. She was shivering, and I immediately put my jacket over her. She started to mumble some nonsense. I picked her up, and started towards the exit. I followed the map in my head, and we ended up outside after some time. Our friends crowded around, but I ignored their questions.
“Is she okay?”
“Why did you leave her?”
“We heard what you said. I’m so sorry.”
“Go home. You both need your rest.”
I turned to Ren, who simply grinned, as if this was what he wanted the entire time. I was close to punching him. But I didn’t. Not yet.
The drive home was boring. We didn’t talk. I think she was asleep.
When we arrived at her house, she was still asleep. I was about to shake her awake, when she turned to me and kissed me. When she pulled away, she stared into my eyes.
“I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
“Maybe,” was all I said. I wasn’t sure if I could. But maybe someday.