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Life After Death
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010, 8:21 pm. a phone call bearing news of apocalyptic proportions marked the end of my life as I knew it. The sun and centre of my universe had been eclipsed for eternity, and only shadows remained in a world devastated by darkness and lacking any source of illumination. The oxygen I depended on for survival became thick and polluted with the bitter taste of despair, making it difficult to breathe. Death claimed my hopes and dreams. My future. My life. I continued to exist after that fateful day, but I am not alive. I’ve been dead for several months, with little hope of resurrection.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My messy, blonde, slacker bun, my big baggy sweats, and my brother’s old band shirt, are anything but a fashion statement. The outfit screams ‘Gloom and Doom!’ It says I didn’t shower this morning, or the day before. It implies I don’t plan on showering tomorrow either: Keep Your Distance. Typically, you shouldn’t make this kind of impression on your first day at a new school, half way through the year, but I’m not interested in making any friends here. I don’t do friends, or fashion anymore. That was Hayden Maye’s thing. Hayden; the popular cheerleader with a heart stopping smile. But Hayden’s been dead for eight months, and has been replaced by a morbid girl in sweats with ten extra pounds.
I should have graduated already. I should be in my second semester of college, but instead I’m 19 and returning to high school, after being out of school for eight months. If only I had been tough enough to finish my last semester of grade twelve. If only I hadn’t skipped my exams. If only— oh! It’s not even worth thinking about it. I can’t change what happened…
At lunch hour, I sit alone at an empty lunch table, reading a book while others stuff their faces with cafeteria junk, and converse about all the unimportant things in the world. No one has bothered to acknowledge me, and that’s just how I like it. I don’t want to be part of this world, so I lose myself in the fantastical world of my novel, happy for the temporary escape from reality. Unfortunately, I’m brought back to my dull reality much too soon by an unfamiliar voice.
“You listen to To Tell?”
My head snaps up, and I take in the appearance of my interrupter. He stands just under six feet, with an air of quirkiness, and a lack of biceps (by my standards anyway). He possesses shaggy red locks, sweeping across his forehead, making a contrast with his aqua blue eyes. He apparently remembers to use sunscreen in the summer, because despite being a red head, he hasn’t many freckles. And not only is his pale skin relatively freckle free, it is also clear of pimples. Honestly, he’s not that bad looking. For a loserific dork, I mean.
“Hmm?” I hope to get away with not speaking a single word to this boy.
“You’re wearing a To Tell band shirt.” He says, gesturing at my black shirt with ‘To Tell’ written across it in bold, white letters.
“Uh-huh.” I confirm.
“Have you seen them live?”
Ginger Boy raises an amused eyebrow. “Not much of a talker, eh?”
I shrug. “Meh.”
He smiles subtly, and takes a seat beside me. “So where’d you get the shirt from?”
I sigh in frustration. Turns out words are required. No way around it. What a drag. “It’s my brother’s shirt. He’s a huge fan.”
“Me too.” Ginger Boy examines my face as he leans on his elbows which rest on the lunch table. “Do you like them?” he waits patiently for an answer, determined to keep the conversation going. I wonder why…
“Sure.” I mumble. “They grew on me.”
In the brief pause, Ginger Boy examines the open book in my lap, then brings his gaze back to my face. I avoid eye contact.
“Good book?’ he asks.
“What kind? Romance?’
“Fantasy. The violent kind.” I answer morbidly. “Lots of blood and guts.”
“Gross.” He grimaces.
“Romance is gross.” I retort. “It’s depressing. Now would you please leave me alone? I’m not looking for friends.”
Ginger Boy forms an investigative frown, like I’m an impossible mystery. Then he snaps his fingers as an expression of sudden understanding falls over his dorky face. “You’re hiding something.” He concludes. I hate that he thinks he can read me like a mystery novel.
“You have an epic secret. I can tell.”
I roll my eyes. “Whatever.” I snap my book shut and stand to leave, hugging the novel to my chest. “Later Loser.”
“Have it your way Miss Cranky Pants.”
My jaw drops at his pathetic insult. What a freak-show. My friends and I would have destroyed him at my old school. We would have stomped him into the ground like a cockroach.
“Oh. My. God.” I say with superiority. “Cranky Pants? Really? Is that the best you can do?”
“No. I could definitely think of something nastier.”
“Then just say it! Say what’s on your mind.”
“And what exactly is on my mind?” he asks, eyes twinkling with amusement at my behaviour and his mouth curving up to the left in a smirk. “Please enlighten me.”
“You think I’m a miserable b*tch. Everyone does.”
Ginger Boy chortles heartily with laughter. “Just remember YOU said it, not me. I try to avoid vulgarity.”
I groan. “Who do you think you are coming over here and bugging the h*ll out of me?”
“Well my name is Zeke, short for Ezekiel.” He says, smiling oh so smugly, and holding out his hand. What a freak! Hmm… Zeke Freak. That has a nice ring to it. “What’s your name?” he asks.
I make a face of disgust, lifting my nose at his outstretched hand. “Kiss my a**.” I spit, turning on my heel, and walking away. Zeke Freak keeps pace, making me angrier.
“No one in their right mind would call their kid that. Real name, please?”
“I’d rather remain nameless, so beat it Zeke Freak.”
“Zeke Freak?” He snorts. “Not bad. I think I’ll call you No Name Hissy Fit. How about that?”
I can’t help but smile at that one. The boy can really hold his own. “Cute.” I tell him.
“You’re a lot prettier when you smile.” He says, grinning. I immediately replace my smile with a scowl.
“Good-bye Zeke Freak.” This time, he doesn’t follow me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Monday, June 14th, 2010. I simply couldn’t bear to hear his name. But he was loved by everybody, and his tragic death was on everyone’s lips. They all whispered behind my back, feeling sorry for me. They used to look up to me. Now they looked down on me with sympathy, and I hated it. I used to be a pedigree cat with high demands. They worshiped me to avoid being afflicted by my perfectly groomed claws. Now they only feared me in the same way they feared an abandoned, stray cat. They felt bad and wished they could help, but avoided me, fearing I’d tear them apart if they got to close. And I probably would have. I was in constant defence mode, and I still am to this day.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
To my horror, I discover that Zeke Freak and I share both afternoon classes. I’m paired up with him for biology, thanks to our last names both starting with ‘M’; Maye and Meyers. Then English turns my already horrible day, to the second worst day of my life. Zeke Freak and I are paired up for a character sketch assignment. Of all the names I could have drawn from that smelly hat, I had to draw Zeke’s. I refuse to believe it’s just laws of probability. Karma is such a b*tch.
“So your name is Hayden?” Zeke Freak grins, taking a seat next to me as everyone else scurries about to find their partners as well.
“Deni, actually.” I correct him. I refuse to go by the name of a dead girl.
Zeke Freak frowns. “Okay then, Deni. Tell me about yourself.”
I look at him in disgust, hoping he’ll understand by my expression that I think he is about as significant as an insect. However, Zeke Freak either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care what I think, and that really ticks me off.
“You can’t just let me fail our first assignment.” He points out.
I groan in agitation. “You don’t want to know what kind of character I am.” I make it sound like a warning. A sinister warning. “Really you don’t.”
“Oh I really do.” He insists. “You’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met.” He grins stupidly, resting his head on his hand, gazing at me in expectation.
“Okay, fine!” I spit, growing uncomfortable with his staring. “Here it goes. I’m a stereotypical cheerleading Queen Bee, like in those really lametastic teen dramas, only I’ve been dethroned by a life sucking vamp called Karma.”
“And now you’ve grown some fangs of your own, and you shy away from the light. Got it.” Zeke Freak’s sarcasm is pushing me over the edge. Then he starts scribbling on his sheet and my mouth drops open.
“You’re not actually going to write that are you?”
He laughs. “Of course, but I’m also adding that you have a secret identity, but not a tacky one like Superman’s Clark Kent, or Spiderman’s Peter Parker. No, your secret identity is Hayden Maye. Deni isn’t who you really are, is it?” He doesn’t wait for me to answer. “And instead of hiding behind a mask, or a pair of blue tights, you hide behind sweats and a bad attitude.”
“Would you stop that!”
“Stop what? Being right?” he asks arrogantly.
“Ugh! Forget it. Just tell me what kind of character YOU are.” I cross my arms and wait for his self-assessment, tapping my foot impatiently.
“I’m the beauty the beast falls in love with.” He says simply. “You’re the beast, in case you didn’t catch my drift.”
I roll my eyes. “I got it. You better keeping dreaming though. You’re no beauty, and the beast isn’t interested.”
Zeke Freak smiles mischievously. “But you will be. In time.”
To my relief, the bell rings to dismiss us, and I am out of that class room faster than the speed of light. I make my way through a mob in the hallways with difficulty, and I suddenly miss the perks of being popular. I miss the days when people saw me coming and got out of the way like I was royalty. Now I’m struggling to get to my locker, being pushed around like any ordinary lowlife. It sucks.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thursday, June 17th, 2010. I felt like a ghost haunting the hallways. Everyone seemed to look right through me, and no one felt comfortable in my presence. They couldn’t look into my lifeless eyes without feeling chilled. I was half dead. Only half of the whole picture. I was Minnie without Mickey. Daisy without Donald. Eve without Adam. Juliet without Romeo. Mark and I were two halves of a whole. I might as well have been Catherine Middleton herself, with Prince William at my side. Of course, as lovely as Catherine is, she is royally nothing without William… she’s common. That’s how I feel now. Common. Lost in the crowd. I’m nothing without my prince. Mark was my better half, and now he’s gone. Half of me is six feet deep, buried underground. Forever.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Five weeks of being lab partners with Zeke Freak, has taught me tolerance. I haven’t had a choice but to put up with him, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think I’m warming up to him and his mad guitar skills, which he demonstrates at lunch. His singing voice is pretty impressive too. He’s all around artsy and musical, and he’s not at all a mean person. The only thing I really don’t like about him is how persistently friendly he is. It’s annoying… but I can tolerate it. He can try to befriend me all he wants, as long as he continues to help me with my biology homework. The kid’s a genius.
“So, what are you doing this fine evening?” He asks me, looking up from the microscope that is magnifying the bacteria we scraped off our teeth. Gross. I know.
“Nothing. Why?” I fear what my lab partner has on his mind. If he asks me out, I’m gonna blow. Dates go beyond common friendliness, and I won’t tolerate more than friendliness.
“Well then, we should hang out.” He waits for my response.
I snort. “You’re kidding right?”
Zeke Freak doesn’t seem the least bit surprised by my reaction, and remains calm, cool, and collected. “It’s my first day off in forever. I want to seize the opportunity. So what do you say? Wanna Carpe Diem with me? ” He winks.
“No.” I say firmly and bluntly.
“Why not?” he asks, showing no signs of dejection. “You have nothing better to do. You have no friends.”
“But I can think of many things I’d rather do.” I say condescendingly.
“Like what?” he challenges me.
“Like bathing in sh*t.” I sneer with brutal sarcasm.
“Ouch. That’s harsh.” And yet the boy grins like an idiot. At least when all else seems uncertain, I can count on Zeke to be a Freak.
“Why the h*ll are you smiling?” I demand, frustrated at his lack of insecurities. I feed off insecurities. Why can’t Zeke Freak take my insults like a wimp? I want a freakin’ reaction! This boy reacts to nothing!
Zeke Freak still has a goofy grin plastered across his face when he answers me. “I just find it really intriguing; the way you work so hard to keep everyone at a distance.”
I glare; a feeble attempt to hide my discomfort.
“Well?” His eyes are full of hope. “What’s the verdict? Still no?”
Deep down in my core, I feel bad, and maybe if I was a nice person, I’d give him the true and legit excuse for not ‘hanging out’ with him. But I’m not a nice person. I’m a selfish snob determined to keep my secrets.
“Still no.” I say flatly, just as the bell rings, saving me from having to witness his disappointed expression that he no doubt possesses. On my way out the door, he calls after me.
“Maybe another time then?”
I don’t answer, but rather, scurry off to English, without waiting for him. I take a seat near the back, far away from Zeke Freak’s seat near the front, so I won’t have to speak to him. When that class finally ends I fly out the door to avoid him, and escape school property without having to face him again. I cuss at the clouds under my breath as I walk home in a bone chilling down pour. I’m drenched and only half way home. This is what I get for being such a jerk to Zeke Freak. It really can’t get much worse—at least, I don’t see how it can until a loud and obnoxious car horn proves me wrong, accompanied by a familiar, but unnerving voice.
“Hey Deni! Need a lift?” Zeke Freak pulls his beat up Chevy to the curb.
“No thanks.” I say, as my teeth chatter wildly.
“You’re shivering.” He points out. “And you’re soaked.”
“Just hop in.”
“I’d rather die.” With that I continue on my way.
Behind me I hear the sound of a slamming door, and footsteps approaching. In a panic, I quicken my pace and splash down the side walk covered in puddles and earthworms, water and mud spraying up and staining my clothes. Then without warning my backpack is stripped from my back, and I whirl around, ready to rip Zeke Freak’s head off. But he has already started back for his car, carrying my bag over his shoulder.
“Zeke Freak! Give me my backpack right now!” I scream after him.
The boy ignores me, and throws my bag in the back seat of his vehicle, then climbs back in behind the wheel. “Get your butt in my car.” He orders.
I groan in defeat, and drag my soaked shoes across the pavement as I approach the Chevy. Zeke Freak waits patiently as I reluctantly climb into the passenger seat then smiles when I buckle in.
“I live on Victoria Street.” I mumble, but the boy ignores me once again and travels in the exact opposite direction. I’m ready to ring his neck.
“Where are you taking me?” I demand in fury.
“We’re picking up ingredients for Root Beer Floats, then we’re off to my place to watch Wipe-out.”
I don’t even bother asking what Wipe-out is. “You’re kidnapping me?” I ask in disbelief.
“Only temporarily.” He winks. I swear if he ever winks like that again, I’ll pluck his eyes out like in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
“Take me home!” I scream in a panic. “Please. I NEED to get home.” Breath restlessly.
“Calm down.” Zeke Freak laughs. “It’s not the end of the world.”
My heart begins to palpitate, and my ears are ringing. I need to see Daniel. He needs to see me. I need to get home. “Now! Take me home NOW! I need to see my son!”
Zeke Freak pulls over immediately, and stares at me in shock for a few moments, before taking a deep breath. “I knew you were hiding something.”
Feeling shaken up, I shed tears, and let out a pathetic sob. “Please don’t tell anyone.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
June 20th, 2010. I cried for hours after I found out for sure. I carried half of Marks DNA. Half of my fiancé still lived. He would have been ecstatic. He always looked forward to starting a family. I on the other hand, had never had a desire to have a baby, until then, because that embryo was all that was left of my Marvellous Mark; the only thing I had left to live for.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I guess that means you’re unavailable.” Zeke Freak forces a grin, but his eyes are full of disappointment. “Who’s your boyfriend?”
“I don’t have one.” I say as calmly as possible. “He died.” I don’t bother to explain Mark’s death. “I found out for sure that I was pregnant, a couple weeks after he passed away…” despite my best efforts to compose myself, new tears begin to fall. Zeke Freak bites his lip, and taps his steering wheel, unsure of what to say.
“I’m sorry,” is all he comes up with.
“Don’t be. I moved and switched schools so I wouldn’t have to deal with people’s pity.”
He sighs, nodding as if he understands. As if. “How old is your son?”
“Three months.” I answer, wiping my eyes.
“Can I meet him?”
Ugh! The boy is relentless!
My mother beams ear to ear when I walk through the door with a boy at my side. She’s no doubt ecstatic that I’ve actually made a friend. Maybe if I keep Zeke Freak around, she’ll worry less. My hopes of this are supported by her quick wave good bye, as she flies out the door for her evening shift, asking Zeke Freak to look out for me. I roll my eyes at that, while Zeke Freak laughs. He sets down a bottle of recently purchased Root Beer and a tub of vanilla ice cream on the table. He gets to work on preparing those Root Beer Floats, while I head down the hall to my bed room, to change. Once I’m in a set of dry clothes, I lift my beautiful baby boy out of his crib. He wails impatiently to be fed, so I settle on the couch with him and a bottle, and gaze at him in wonder. I could stare in awe forever. My little Daniel looks exactly like Mark. As always, the sight of him makes me weepy. My mother has grown accustomed to my tears, but they confuse Zeke Freak, when he settles himself next to me, holding a large bowl of Root Beer Float to share.
“Is something wrong with him?” Zeke Freak worries.
I shake my head. “No, he’s perfect.” I smile and kiss my son’s tiny frail head. I look up to find Zeke Freak shaking his head at me.
“You are such a mom.”
I blush with embarrassment. “I’m not an ideal one, but I love him… more than anything in the world.”
“He’s pretty spectacular.” Zeke Freak says, as Daniel grasps tightly onto the red headed boy’s finger. “So small…”
I nod. “You should have seen him when he was first born.”
“Did it hurt?”
I laugh. “Like a b*tch.”
He smiles. “I like your laugh.”
“Don’t get used to it.” I mutter, wanting to kick myself for sharing my laugh with him. I don’t plan on doing that again, but I fail miserably. I don’t know if it’s Zeke Freak, the Root Beer Float, or Wipe-Out… or the combination of the three, but I become light and hysterical within minutes.
Wipe- Out is a reality show designed by losers for losers. Contestants make fools of themselves as they epically fail to complete a gigantic obstacle course, without ‘wiping out’. It’s nothing like the teen dramas I used to watch, but I easily decide to make this my new favourite TV show. Other people’s failures and humiliations have always appealed to me. I rate each ‘wipe out’ on a scale of 1 to 10, on the Sucktacular Scoreboard, and Zeke Freak, amused by the concept of my scoreboard, joins in the critique of unforgettable wipe-outs. In the next 40 minutes of Wipe-Out, I laugh out loud more than I have in quite some time. I haven’t laughed honestly and from my core since… since before the sun stopped shining. The day Mark was taken from me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010, 8:23 pm. The phone dropped from my hand as I dropped to the floor; my knees collapsing under the weight of my sorrow. I gasped for air, unable to fathom my life without him. He was my sunshine. My oxygen. My whole world. How could I live without him? He was my reason to smile. To laugh. To sing and dance alone in my room. Without him, I was sure I’d shrivel up and rot away into nothing. I simply couldn’t live and be happy without him, and I didn’t want to.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Zeke Freak works more than any teenager I know, but he still manages to come by and see me every weekend, for a couple hours, Saturday evenings. Surprisingly, I don’t mind. He interacts well with Daniel, and he has become quite comfortable holding him, feeding him, diapering him—everything. Sometimes I feel like he’s invading Mark’s turf. Mark should be the one loving the heck out of my son, but it’s nice, to have helpful company while my mother is at work. I appreciate Zeke Freak’s friendship. That’s right. FRIEND. If he’s willing to put up with the mess that I am, then he deserves to be called my friend.
It’s also nice to have someone to motivate me to get back into shape. Every day at school, during spare period, we both have a work out session. Being an ex-cheerleader, I look forward to it. It feels good to be exercising again, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find Zeke Freak isn’t quite as scrawny as I’d originally thought. The boy looks ten times more attractive when he takes his shirt off, revealing a subtle six pack. He isn’t obviously buff like Mark was, but his lean build has its own appeal. I hate myself for staring when he isn’t looking. I hate that my heart flutters every time I catch him watching me. I hate that I’ve agreed to see a movie with him. I insist it isn’t a date, but he wins that argument.
“I’m paying.” He says. “So I decide whether or not it’s a date.”
I sigh in defeat. “Fine.”
So we both go see an early evening show on May 24 Weekend, while my mother takes care of Daniel for a few hours. We sit a few rows away from the back, enjoying a comedy, and a large bag of popcorn. All is well, until I am shocked into a frozen state due to subtle physical contact. Zeke Freak’s hand brushes mine, and I swear I feel a literal spark course through our fingertips, and the electricity now flows through my veins. I never thought I’d feel that again. My heart thuds against my ribcage, as mine and Zeke Freak’s eyes meet.
“Did you feel that?” He grins euphorically. “Sparks. Magic. Chemistry.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I say a little too loudly with false ignorance, folding my hands in my lap. Someone behind us shushes me.
“Hold my hand Deni.” He whispers, holding out his hand. I shake my head. “You know you want to.” He winks, and this time I don’t want to pluck his eyes out. Instead, I’d like to pluck out my own, so I can resist his charm. He’s right. I DO want to hold his hand. I do, but I don’t. I really don’t want to want that. But I do, so I surrender. Make sense?
“There,” he whisper’s in my ear, sending chills down my spine, “that’s not so bad is it?”
But it is bad. It feels like forgetting. It feels like betrayal.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
October 11th, 2006, freshman year. Mark I sat in a movie theatre on our first date, watching some sappy, tacky teen flick. I don’t remember what it was about, for I was too focussed on Mark’s nervous tapping fingers against the arm rest, inches from my hand. I hoped with all my might that he would have the guts to hold my hand. When he finally mustered up the courage to whisper in my ear, the hair in the back of my neck stood on end, and Goosebumps covered my arms.
“Hayden? Can I hold your hand?”
I smiled elatedly, and nodded enthusiastically. My heart leapt for joy, feeling electrified by physical contact; my hand in his. It was perfect. I decided then, I would never hold the hand of another guy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Guilt ridden, I couldn’t be more relieved when the end credits appear on the screen, giving me escape from Zeke’s grasp on my hand. However, when he takes me back home, and we stand awkwardly before each other on my door step, I feel trapped again. He asks if I enjoyed myself, and I just nod. He steps towards me, leaving little space between our bodies, and strokes my face, admiring it with his enchanting aqua eyes. He brings his lips oh so close to mine, and I tremble with both fear and desire.
“I really want to kiss you right now.” He informs me, staring deep in my eyes, waiting for permission to lay his lips on mine. Tears roll down my cheeks as I shake my head.
“Don’t. Please don’t.” I plead quietly.
Zeke sighs in disappointment, and takes a step back. “You still love him. You still love Mark.” He doesn’t ask. He makes a statement of truth.
“I’m sorry Zeke.” My voice wavers with emotion. “I just can’t let him go.”
Zeke surprises me with a snug, warm hug, and rubs his hand up and down my back soothingly. “Hayden,” he uses my full name, and I love how it sounds on his lips. “You’re allowed to be happy. Don’t you think Mark would want that for you?”
I nod. “I know he would. That’s not the problem.”
Zeke looks me in my tear filled eyes. “Then what is the problem?”
“Half of me died with him Zeke. My hopes and dreams and future aspirations, were all tied to him. He wasn’t just any guy… he was the love of my life. The one I was going to marry after high school. I can’t just forget about him.” I sob into Zeke’s shirt. “Don’t you get it? He was my life. I’m dead without him. Lifeless.” I take a deep breathe. “I can’t be happy without him… ”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
I sigh. “I don’t expect you to understand…”
“Hayden, I think I need to bring you home to my place.” He says into my ear, resting his cheek against mine.
I look up at him in surprise and confusion. “Why?”
“I want you to meet my fish.” He explains. I fail to see how this is relevant to the situation.
“No offense Zeke, but I really just want to go to bed and cry.”
“It’s important.” He insists taking my hands in his... “Trust me.”
So I get back into his car, and we travel to his house in silence. I dread every moment. Zeke makes me feel things I don’t want to feel. I reluctantly follow him into a lonely, dimly lit apartment, with no life, except for the large catfish in a tank in the corner of the living room. It doesn’t look like a family lives here. I look to Zeke for answers.
“Do you live here alone?”
He nods. “I pay for rent with the money my mom left behind, and work for grocery money and what not.”
“What happened?” I ask, suddenly concerned for him, momentarily forgetting about my own loss.
“My dad’s a drunk, and he was drunk when he and my mom were driving home from a party. He drove right through a red light, and the car was T-boned from the right. My mom died on the way to the hospital.” Zeke stares at his fish as he speaks.
“What about your dad?”
“He’s still alive but in jail for drunk driving. I was granted early adulthood through the laws of emancipation, so I’ve been on my own since I was sixteen.”
“How old are you now?”
“I’ll be nineteen in September. I’ve been a part time student, but I’ll finally graduate this year.”
I’m speechless for several moments. He and I are in the same boat; stuck in highschool longer than we’d planned. Who knew? “Why didn’t you say anything before?”
He shrugs. “You never asked about my family.”
Tears fill my eyes. All this time Zeke and I have had more in common than either of us realized. “Mark was killed by a drunk driver too.” I whisper.
Zeke’s facial expression
is one of surprise, as he gazes down at me. “You never told me that.” He says, empathy filling his eyes.
“You never asked.” I answer, turning my gaze to the catfish peacefully swimming about, completely unaware of our sorrow.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010, 8:22 pm. Mark’s mother was sobbing over the phone, struggling to give me the news; that her son, the love of my life, had died instantly in a head on collision with a drunk driver. Mark had left my house an hour ago, completely unaware of the tragic fate awaiting him. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and was absolutely speechless as his mother reaffirmed the truth.
“I’m sorry Hayden.” She sobbed. “He’s gone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Her name is Kat, or Kathy, after my mom.” Zeke tells me, as the large Catfish follows my finger which travels up and down and across the glass of her fish tank. I decide Kat is the coolest fish I’ve ever seen. She’s charcoal grey with a white belly, has exotic whiskers, and is about as long as my forearm. “I talk to her sometimes, as if she were actually my mom, reincarnated.” Zeke steals my attention away from the fish. “Crazy right?”
“Why are you telling me this?” I ask, looking him in the eyes.
“You said you can’t let go of Mark.” He explains. “I can’t let go of my mom. I may be living as an adult, but I still need her.”
I nod my understanding.
“My hopes and dreams died too.” He continues. “I can’t go off to university like I always wanted. I simply can’t afford it. But then I saw you all alone looking twice as miserable as me, and I knew I needed to know you. And as I got to know you, I started to dream again… my dream is you.” He’s blushing, avoiding eye contact.
“I’m sorry I’m such an unattainable dream.” I say. And I mean it. Zeke is wonderful, and I wish I could love him like he deserves… I wish I could learn to be happy like he has… but perhaps I already have? Wasn’t he the one who made me smile now? The only person who has managed to make me laugh?
“I’m willing to wait.” He tells me. “They say good things happen to those who wait.” He’s smiling at me. What a beautiful smile. I sigh.
“You mean a lot to me Zeke.” I tell him. “Really you do… if it wasn’t for you I’d still be sitting alone at a lunch table, reading a morbid book.”
“You could love me with your whole heart…if you just tried.” Zeke tells me. “I’m not asking you to let go of Mark. You don’t have to forget him, or stop loving him. He’ll always be part of you. I know that. I just want you to love me too. We can be broken together. We can hold each other up.”
I’m silent, clueless as to what I should say here. I’m simply watching the fish, when Zeke catches me off guard with a kiss on my cheek. My cheek burns with a tingling sensation, screaming for more. In that moment, I can here Mark’s voice in my mind telling me ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy. Slowly my mind becomes overwhelmed with my desire for Zeke. All I can think about is my burning cheek, and his lips. I feel closer to him in a way I’ve never been with anyone; like our souls are bonded by mutual brokenness. I wanted to pull him closer, feeling like maybe, if I pull him close enough, we can mesh the remains of our shattered hearts together and complete each other. If I just take that first terrifying step, everything will fall into place, and I can be whole again. So I step nervously towards him, eliminating the gap between us, then stand on my tip toes, to reach his lips with my own. He pulls me into his arms tightly, lifting my feet off the ground, creating that Cinderella moment we girls dream of. The intensity of my emotions is every bit as powerful as it had been with Mark; my lips snapping, crackling, and popping, building up to fireworks.
“I love you too.” Zeke grins euphorically. My eyes widen with the proclamation and assumption. Zeke laughs at my expression. “You don’t have to say it aloud for me to know it’s true.”
And it is true. I love him, and I’m falling deeper and faster with every passing moment. In time, I think I can love him just as much as I’ve loved Mark. Perhaps I’ll be given enough time to love even more passionately than that. As I kiss him again, one word runs through my mind. RESURECTION. I had died, but now I was living again. This was a new beginning. This was life after death.