(Note: Keeping in celebration mode for 1000 likes, today we get another double dose. Here is the first half, a scene that is less than a 1000 words, but hopefully giving a little more insight into Matthew’s relationship with his brother. I’ll post the second half of our double shot shortly.)
Part 17: Damage
Summer and I rode in silence the rest of the way. We parked in the driveway beside the house, I was getting out when she touched my hand. “Matty,” she said. “I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.” I thought to myself, there it is, the death sentence of romance. If there’s one all-purpose excuse for ‘I don’t like you that way’, that was it. I nodded to let her know I understood.
She sat outside on the porch and smoked a cigarette, while I went in the house. Grabbing a root beer from the refrigerator, I retreated to my room. I sat on the edge of the bed and looked over at the closet where I knew my suitcase hid. Soon, she would be back on the road. She had only paid for three days. Tomorrow was the last day. Four days later, I would be leaving myself, going on to wherever, if anywhere at all. I don’t know what I had expected tonight. I knew I hadn’t been looking for romance when the evening began, but after being with her, I got caught up in the moment and forgot how unlikely a romance could ever exist between us. I shook my head, berating myself for letting my emotions, and need for companionship, to carry me away.
I walked over to the desk and retrieved my cellphone from where I had plugged it into the wall to charge. Looking at its face, I saw it was now fully charged and had at least one voicemail waiting. I accessed the service and put the phone to my ear. It was my brother.
“Matthew, hey it’s Eric. Listen, you seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Just wondering where you took off to. Look bro, I’m sorry if our last conversation ended a bit angry. I know I should have told you sooner that I had been in contact with Ashley. There’s nothing going on between us, she was just worried about you, and I was the only one she knew to call. Again, I’m sorry if you felt I was going behind your back after she walked. It’s not like that at all. And if she could, I’m sure she would tell you the same.” There was a very brief silence and before the voicemail could end on him, he spoke up again. “Hey, just so you know I think she feels very bad for leaving you like she did in front of all those people. She knows it’s the worst kind of breakup, but I think she just got cold feet because every time she calls, she asks about you. Wish I could tell her you are okay, but I know you’re not. Well anyway, when you get this message call me, alright? I just want to make sure you are okay and haven’t gone off to do anything stupid. See ya, bro.”
Gone off to do anything stupid. I don’t know what infuriated me more, the thought that he had talked to Ashley multiple times over since the wedding fiasco, or the fact she had the nerve to tell him it was just a case of cold feet. I disconnected the voicemail and flung the phone across the room, wishing it would explode into a thousand microscopic pieces. No one seemed to understand what had been done to me. Not Eric, not Ashley. Hell, I doubt even Summer could understand this penultimate form of rejection. Yeah, her father had walked out on her and her mother, but it was nothing like standing at an altar, looking out at all the glowing faces, anticipating your bride to be walking down the aisle to join you in matrimony for the rest of your life. Nobody understood the feeling of having my legs collapse out from under me when my best man whispered the dread news that my fiancée wouldn’t be coming. No one knew what it was like to break down completely in front of a hundred of your closest family and friends, to be so exposed to everyone you knew. To be the laughing stock of…
“Matthew,” a voice said from the doorway. It was soft and feminine, full of concern and compassion. I hung my head and closed my eyes. Even now, in this farmhouse out in the middle of the country, I was feeling humiliation in front of someone I cared about.
“Yes?” I asked, looking at the floor, so my feelings would not reveal my inner turmoil.
“Are you okay? I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to. I just don’t…”
“Don’t worry about it, Ashley,” I replied, interrupting her. “I just wish you’d told me sooner.”
It didn’t dawn on me until I heard her retreating footsteps going up the stairs that it wasn’t Ashley in my doorway, but Summer. By then it was too late, and I felt the damage was done.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.