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All Your Lies
I've changed. I'm not just somebody's slave anymore, obeying every order they give, every command. I've taken control of my life.
That's the first thing I would tell you, if I ever see you again.
Not that you'd recognize me after all this time. I can imagine the meeting: I would stand there awkwardly, remembering those eight months where I tried to do everything right for you, even changed myself for you, and then, in the end, it didn't matter. You still left me for someone else. You would plaster a smile on your face, searching my eyes, looking for something you knew, but you wouldn't see it. You would walk away wondering who that guy was.
I sigh and close my eyes. This is always when the memories come flooding back, on our anniversary. It seems like it was only yesterday when we were in high school and I was madly in love with you. I can see everything so crystal clear in my mind, especially the day you finally noticed me.
I was just one of those people who blends in with the crowd. There was nothing special about me. I was shy, quiet, only spoke when I had to. But I had the biggest crush on you. You, the most popular girl in school. The one who could have gotten any boy she wanted, and usually did. You captivated me with your wavy hair the color of chocolate and your eyes the color of leaves in summer. I fell in love the first day I saw you, but you never even knew I existed.
That is, until the day when we were paired up for a biology project. I remember how you looked at me as if seeing me for the first time and how I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. I heard your friends laughing, making jokes about us, but I didn't care. I was so in love.
And then there were those nights, those nights in my room and in yours, where we stayed up late doing more talking than working. You were apprehensive at first, tentative of getting to know me, but it didn't take long before we were the best of friends. They were the happiest nights of my life, and even now, knowing what came afterwards, I still look back on them fondly.
I get up and go over to my closet. It takes a few minutes of searching before I find what I'm looking for: the old scrapbook. I don't know why I've kept it all this time, but I have. It sits in the back corner of my closet gathering dust all year except for this one day, our anniversary.
I shuffle back over to my bed and lay back against the tear-stained pillows with a sigh. I've been laying here for hours, lost in my memories, trying to get you out of my head.
But it's impossible.
I slowly open the book and feel my eyes getting wet as I read the message you wrote for me ten years ago: I love you, forever and always. Katherine. It wasn't forever and always. You were wrong. It was all an act on your part. You never loved me like I did you.
I flip the page and see the pictures, the moments in time we've captured. In every one, I look ecstatic, smiling down at you or kissing you or just holding you close. And in every one, you don't look as happy as I am. You look slightly sad, or maybe annoyed. It's not very noticeable; I only see it because I know the truth.
One picture in particular catches my eye. It's us standing in front of the lake. My arm is around you and I look like I just won the lottery, which I guess I had, in a way. You are looking at the camera, a little smile on your face, sunglasses hiding your eyes. I remember when we went there for the first time, and announced that we were a couple. Your friends were so shocked. I laugh a little at the memory.
We'd turned in the project only a week before, but had been dating before that. You said you wanted to wait to tell them, for it to be a surprise, but now I know that you wanted to mold me into your image of a perfect boyfriend before I met them. You'd already started to change me, although it was only little things then. I was so in awe that you were finally mine that I barely even noticed at first.
Your friends couldn't understand why you, the most wanted girl in school, would be with me. I didn't really understand either, but I wasn't about to question my luck. If only I had seen it coming. The lake was only the beginning.
As time went on, I tried so hard to make you happy. I did everything I could because I didn't want to lose you. I listened to everything you told me to do. During those eight months, my control over my actions was taken away. You controlled everything I did.
It seemed to work for a while, but you kept growing more and more distant, more and more demanding. People had warned me that it would happen, but I had been so stupid. I brushed them off, thinking that maybe we could last forever, that maybe you were the one. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I wipe the tears from my cheeks. It's been ten years, and you wouldn't even know me now, but I can't get over you. I've gone through college, I've made new friends, but I've never found another girl who even comes close to you. I can't forget you. I wish I could, but I can't.
I can still see in perfect detail when you started to ignore me. We'd been together for a few months, and you kept changing me whenever you felt I didn't measure up to your standards. You'd say things like, "You know, you should fix your hair. That went out of style in the 80s," and "You're too shy. I think you'd better try out for the drama club to try to become more outgoing." So, even though I liked my hair and hated acting, I did what you said. You were the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I did whatever I could so I wouldn't lose you.
I tried so hard. I ended up being a different person because of you, but in the end, it didn't matter. You still broke up with me and left me behind without a second glance, ditching me for Andy Susa. Andy Susa. He was the most popular guy in school, the one everybody said was the perfect match for you. You went to prom with him while I stood in the corner, watching and wishing that I was still the one holding you close. You treated me terribly, but my love never ceased.
I flip the page again, and a new wave of tears starts as I see another picture, one that I took myself. I kept it in my locker until we broke up. In it, you're asleep on my couch, curled up in a ball, covered by a blue blanket. We had been watching a movie, and I took it when I got up to get a drink. Your beautiful hair is spread perfectly around your beautiful face, and you're smiling. I laugh a little when I remember how I imagined that you were dreaming about me. In slumber you look so peaceful, so innocent, so unguarded. If only you had been that way in real life.
It was that night, about five months into our relationship, that we had our first major fight. You'd already been shaping me to fit your tastes, but we hadn't had a huge argument yet - I always listened to you, and so there was nothing to fight over. But that night, after you woke up, we fought.
I can see it in my mind. You were yelling, saying that I never did anything you said and that I should at least try to be a good boyfriend. I was yelling back, trying to make you see all the sacrifices I had made for you, but you didn't listen. The whole time we were screaming at each other, I kept thinking how ironic the words you chose were. You claimed I didn't pay attention to you when all I did was think about and try to satisfy you. You said I didn't care about "us," even though everything I did was in an attempt to keep our relationship going.
You stormed out of my house at three in the morning, leaving me crying and panicked that you wouldn't come around, and that we were over. It was one of the worst nights of my life.
The next morning, I swore that I would have the strength to break it off with you. I could tell that you only saw what you wanted to see, and that I didn't really mean anything to you. I was going to end things, but then when you came back, I just couldn't. I could only stare at your gorgeous green eyes and listen to your lovely voice and think how much I loved you.
A few hours later, we were back together, and I regretted nothing. I felt so grateful to have you in my arms again. And I continued to feel that way throughout the months we were dating, even though you put me through hell. All the pain you caused and all the torture I dealt with seemed to vanish the moment you smiled at me.
I was so weak, Katherine. You made my heart race and my worries melt. You made me miserable, and yet you made me happy at the same time. Eight months I spent trying to be enough for you, hoping that if I obeyed every order, you would fall in love with me as deeply as I had with you.
You never did, and when you broke up with me it felt like my life had ended. I don't know how I continued on. I remember how I had to see a therapist, and was forced to sit through hours of "What are you feeling right now?" I could barely function. All I could think was that you had meant the world to me, and that I had become an entirely different person for you, but it hadn't changed your mind.
I throw the book to the side and curl up on my bed, silent tears finding their way down my already wet face. It's so hard. Every year I go through this because of you and everything you did.
If I ever see you again, I may break down, or maybe I'll start babbling, trying to make the silence less awkward. All I know is that I would make a fool of myself, just like I did in high school. The one thing I would be proud to tell you is that I have fixed everything you changed. I am my own person now, and not so submissive. I've learned how to stand up for myself so that no one else will ever make me feel like their slave. Once was enough.
More and more memories begin to find their way back to me, slowly at first but then coming in a flood. I've been laying here all day, and it looks like I'm not going to be getting up for a while. Sure enough, it's not very long before I've cried myself to sleep.
I wake up to sunlight streaming in through my apartment window. Dried tears still cover my cheeks, but I feel relieved. I made it.
The memories are still there, but now I can push them to the back of my mind for another year. I can be free for another three hundred and sixty five days before you come back to haunt me. Most people would say that's a long time, but to me it seems too short. My days are a countdown to our anniversary, which always gets here too quickly.
I throw on a sweatshirt and jeans and head out to the park, the one place I can calm down. It's a short walk, and five minutes later I'm there. I take a deep breath and look around at the lush green trees towering above my head. They are so thick I couldn't wrap my arms around them if I tried, and they are beautiful.
I feel a pang of sadness looking at the one gnarled tree. It reminds me of the place I had picked out to propose to you, had we made it that far. I planned to kneel in the twisted roots and....no. I shake my head. I can't think of you now, or else I'll start sobbing again, in the middle of the park.
I turn onto a small rocky path mostly hidden behind bushes. As far as I know, I'm the only one who knows that it's here. I've never seen anyone else using it, and it's became a sacred place to me. It's blocked by the outside world, a private piece of the universe just for me, a haven. As soon as I step onto it, I feel freer, lighter than before. It's as if all the sadness and anger of my past just melts away, and I can think clearly.
I wander down the path, loving the sound of pebbles crunching beneath my shoes. I'm so focused on it that it takes a minute to register the person standing near a rosebush with their back to me. When I do, I stumble backward and almost fall over in shock. Although I can only see her back, this girl has hair identical to yours, chocolate-colored and long and wavy. She has the same body type as well, and my breath comes faster when I realize that you may be no longer just in my memories, but right in front of me.
I make a noise like a cat being strangled. I've imagined the meeting countless times, how you wouldn't remember me, and I would avoid your eyes like a coward, but I never thought it would actually happen. The only way I've even survived the past ten years is by knowing that you were out of my life forever. Now, I'm not so sure.
I try and get away quietly, but the girl, who may be you, hears me and turns around. I squeeze my eyes shut and back up, and before I know what's happened I'm on the ground, my left knee wet and sticky. Suddenly there's a warm hand on my arm, comforting me.
"Are you okay?" I gingerly open my eyes, ready to close them again, but the face that greets me is not yours. This girl's eyes are blue, the shade of a sky at midnight, and they sparkle like stars. I almost feel disloyal when I think she is more gorgeous than you, if it's possible.
"Are you okay?" she repeats. "You're bleeding."
"I-I'm fine," I stutter, caught up in her gaze.
She smiles at me and sits down on the leaf-covered ground. "I'm Miranda. I'm so sorry about you getting hurt. Want to go out for coffee?"
"Sounds like just what I need," I say, and stand up, pulling her hand into mine. "Let's go."
She looks down at our entwined hands and grins. "Do you believe in love at first sight? Because I think I do."
I think back to the first time I saw you, when you glided into our biology class as if walking on water. It was love at first sight, for me at least. You looked like an angel, and I knew right then that I wanted to be your boyfriend. I fell under your spell, and until just a few minutes ago, thought I would never be released. But now, after ten years of remembering and wishing, maybe I can finally move on with the help of this girl.
"Yes, I do," I say sincerely, and we walk off still holding hands, leaving the trees and all my memories of you behind us.