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Authors: marian gard

To See You Again

BOOK: To See You Again
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To See You Again

 

marian gard

 

Copyright © 2016

Marian Gard

 

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the
written permission of the author, except where permitted by law. The only
exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and
incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.

 

Cover Image Copyright: gpointstudio

 

Used under license from Shutterstock.com

 

Cover Design by Marian Gard

 

eBook Formatting by BookConversions.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To
know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in
spite of distances or thoughts expressed –

That can make life a
garden.  ~  Goethe

*** *** ***

Chapter 1

 

 

(Raven -- 2000)

 

"I think Red Delicious must've had some good
marketing." I take a final bite of my apple and then chuck it in the direction
of the water flowing downhill from us. It smacks into a large rock and then
continues tumbling through grass, dirt and smaller rocks, until it rolls to a
stop just short of the riverbank.

"What're you talking about?" Collin raises his
head off the ground where he's lounging, and watches the now mud and grass
covered apple lodge itself between a large slate rock and a mound of dirt.
We've been hanging out in a quiet swatch of land by the riverside. One of our
many "hideouts," as Collin calls them, off campus. He's been taking photos,
mostly of nature and occasionally of me, for the past few hours. I've been
playing guitar and singing, trying to practice a new song I wrote.

"Apples. Red Delicious are like the least
delicious of all the apples. In fact, usually they're disgusting. So the only
rational reason for them to have a name like Red Delicious is good marketing.
It certainly isn't an accurate description. Well, except for the red part, I
guess. We all buy them, hoping for something more, but they're consistently gross."

Collin props his head up on one arm and eyes me.
"An apple conspiracy?"

"Totally," I deadpan.

"You're so strange." He pulls himself up and
extracts a cigarette from his pocket. It dangles from his lips as he glances
over at me. "Do you mind?"

"Do you care if I do?" I roll my eyes. I have no
idea why he asks me that nearly every time he lights up. He's gonna smoke it no
matter what I say.

"I'm trying to be polite." Collin almost sounds
offended, but I know he isn't. I know him better than anyone.

"Since when?" Collin grins and carefully exhales
smoke away from me. Faking a stern expression, I ease myself back down into the
grass and place an arm over my eyes, shielding them from the blazing sun. The
grass is the early spring kind—a beautiful, deep green all soft and new. In
just a few months most of it'll be brown and yellow and way too scratchy to lie
down on without a blanket.

I should probably be studying. Finals are right
around the corner, but it was unseasonably warm this afternoon and it didn't
take much coaxing on Collin's part to get me to the river. Most people from our
school go to a spot about twenty minutes from here. It's crowded and loud
there. I hate it.  While the stretch of river we frequent is a lot rougher and
definitely more of a hike to any sort of parking, it's totally worth it. There
are plenty of trees for shade and it feels untouched and private. Also, Collin
sometimes gets weirdly talkative when we're here, and I always enjoy those
moments when they come along.

 I peek over at him through the crook of my arm. I've
never met anyone more contradictory. He looks like he was torn from the pages
of some celebrity magazine. He's rugged and has strong, angled facial features
that make him look older than he is, but in a good way. When my stoic
stepmother met him for the first time, she actually blushed and became
uncharacteristically flustered. It was both amusing and awkward. Collin
pretended not to notice, but my dad definitely did. My younger half-sister
Mindy and I giggled about it later, making fun of our dad's childish scowl. On
his mother's side he comes from a
ton
of money and a very long line of
good-looking overachievers.

There's a lot more to him than just his pretty
face, though.  The Mr. Team Captain looks are just that, looks. Beneath his
sculpted features and perfectly (and naturally) highlighted blonde hair is a
total loner. He wants nothing to do with frats or organized sports or even
college, half the time. Unless he's drinking, he'll rarely talk to someone he
doesn't know. His aloofness can come off as rude and unfriendly, and it bums me
out that he doesn't get along well with most of my friends, but I also kind of
selfishly love how he'll open up just with me.

The other contradictory part is almost no one
knows he's loaded. Even though I'm sure he doesn't need to, he has always
worked some low-paying, crappy, part-time job and he rarely spends money on
anything apart from food and cigarettes. Part of that's because he doesn't have
access to most of his funds, but his checking account still exceeds that of
most working people in their thirties.

My understanding of what stands in between Collin,
and truly serious cash, is meeting his stepdad's stipulations—namely, a
dramatic improvement in his GPA and what Victor refers to as an attitude
adjustment—but it's too late for one of those and the other I don't see
happening anytime soon.

Despite his abysmal grades, Collin is hands-down
the smartest person I've ever met. Had he tried
at all
in high school he
probably could've earned admission to an Ivy League school, but instead he's
slumming it with kids like me at state school. He could kick my butt in just
about any class we've taken together, and probably any one offered at this
school, but he's always sabotaging himself. He doesn't show up to class half
the time, fails to complete assignments, or just does things half-assed. This
infuriates his family and has isolated him from most of the kids he grew up
with. It ticks me off sometimes, too. If I had a brain like that, I wouldn't
waste it. Amazingly, in spite of his best efforts to the contrary, he's
scheduled to graduate on time with me in a little less than two weeks.

"You almost ready to go?" I roll on to my side,
watching him stomp out his cigarette on a nearby rock. "Don't you dare throw
that cigarette butt on the ground!" I'm practically shouting, and a smile works
its way across Collin's face. I know he was thinking about it, and he loves
that he has just gotten a rise out of me without having done anything at all.

"Says the girl that just tossed an apple down the
hill, because she proclaimed it disgusting." He looks over at me and his blue
eyes seem to dance with the river reflected in them.

"Um, that apple is one hundred percent
biodegradable, unlike that death stick of yours that's filled with toxins." I
point an accusing finger in his direction.

Collin raises his hand holding the cigarette butt
like a mini-missile and points it at the river. He revels in my predictable
response, as I leap to a stand and begin jumping around trying to grab it from
his hands as though we're playing a childish game of keep-away.

"Don't worry, Raven, I'm not going to do it." At
his words, I put my hands to my hips and wait for proof. He drops the remains
of the cigarette into his plastic water bottle and seals the lid.

I glare at him. "You'd better clean that out and
recycle it when we get home!" I found a collection of cigarette-filled water
bottles outside the apartment last week and gave him an earful about it.

He bows toward me and performs an exaggerated hand
roll. "But of course, Madame Earth, anything for you." He grins.

"Madame Earth?" I giggle. "What the hell is that
about, Collin?"

"I don't know. You're the one tossing out edicts
and giving commands. I'm just trying to follow orders." He shrugs and gives me
a faked look of confusion, but I can see the smirk he's suppressing. "I didn't
think you'd prefer the more maternal title of Mother Earth. I thought maybe it
wasn't feminist enough. I was trying to be respectful."

"Yep. That sounds like you—Mr. Respectful."

I bend down and rip a clump of grass with my hand
and then toss it in his direction. I aim for his face, but the grass is limp
and a somewhat damp and it ends up just falling between us. Collin bursts out
laughing. "What was that?"

"That was me having enough of you!" I peel wet
grass off of my hand and fling it onto the ground between us.

He rolls down his lower lip and replies
sarcastically. "I didn't know there was such a thing as too much of me. This
has to be the first time you've said that."

More like the hundredth.

"Oh, that's a good one. Is that what you tell all
your little girlfriends?" I quip. Much to my total shock, Collin looks
temporarily stunned. He didn't see that jab coming. He recovers quickly and
returns to teasing me about trying to assault him with blades of grass. I'm
laughing and joking in return, but I can't help thinking about the look of
surprise (or was it hurt?) that swept across his face when I referenced his
reputation with women.

 He's been known to date lots of women.
Date
is a kind term to describe what I'm referring to, actually. He picks up women,
has sex, and moves on. I'd feel bad for the girls, but I mean, really? What do
they expect when they give it up to him immediately like that?

My roommate, Tabby, finds his behavior to be reprehensible
and thinks that my friendship with him represents an all-out affront to
progressive, independent women everywhere. I guess I should be more appalled,
but I can't seem to bring myself to be. He's careful to separate these
activities from the time he spends with me, and I'm pretty sure I know exactly
why he acts like he does. Although, one time I asked him how many women it'd
been, knowing that as dim as Collin wants everyone to think he is, not a single
detail is ever lost on him. "Let's not go there, Raven," he'd said, and
something in his tone told me it wasn't the time for pushing.

 

Collin

 

"C'mon, get your shit. Let's go. We'd better get
out of here before you discover actual weapons like rocks and sticks." I'm kidding,
but I realize too late the contrast between my joking words and my irritable
tone. If Raven's sideways look of disappointment is any indication—she's
noticed. I'm just acting like a dick because I don't want our time by this
river to end. It just means that we're one day closer to
everything
ending. In spite of my shitty attitude, I would never do anything to purposely
hurt her feelings. The few times I've suspected that I have, I bumbled around
trying to make it right with her as fast as possible. She means more to me than
anyone, even if I have no clue how to show her that.

Raven jokes that I'm an asshole. She calls me one
just about every other day, and she's right. I am an asshole. I'm that guy at
the end of the bar that people watch, thinking, "No, she isn't really going to
go home with that douchebag". Sorry, ladies and dudes, she is, and she will
like it. She won't like me too much or for too long afterward, but please,
let's not pretend we didn't all know what this was about from the beginning. I
don't think she was fascinated by
my mind
, either. If my stepsister Reba
were here, she'd offer up her five-semesters-toward-a-psychology-degree
explanation and tell you that I have "daddy issues
"
. Reba isn't often
right, but I know when it comes to this, she isn't completely wrong either. I've
got plenty of issues, and that's why I prefer to be alone most of the time, but
I'm too selfish for that shit to matter when it comes to Raven. Her boyfriend
openly hates me, most of her friends do too—all signs point to leaving this
girl the hell alone, and yet she's the person I want to be around the most. When
I'm with her I feel like I could share anything about myself, even if I rarely
do. Some days seeing her is literally the only thing I look forward to.

I feel like a ridiculous cliché even thinking
this, but she's totally different from any other girl I've ever known. I know
stuff like that has been said about girls a thousand times before, but when it
comes to her, it's true. She cuts through all of my bullshit. She doesn't take
crap from anyone, least of all me, and yet when I look at her it's the only
time I see myself and don't have the desire to erase everything.

Raven collects her things and then shoves all of
it, except her guitar case, into my arms. Case in point: she doesn't put up
with me. We hike back up the hill to where her little Honda Civic is parked.
She gestures for me to throw the stuff in the trunk and I do, and then I slip
in beside her in the front seat. As I flip through pictures I took today on the
new digital camera in my lap, Raven's eyes fall to it for a brief moment before
she turns to back her car out. "Anything good?"

I tilt the camera toward me and zoom in on a photo
I took of her looking down while she wades into the water, calf deep. Her dark
hair is waving in the wind, curtaining the soft features of her face. Gorgeous.
I click the screen off. "Hard to tell; I'll have to see how they look thrown up
on a monitor." I'm not going to tell her that most of the nature shots I took
today were filler, just to get to a few, sure to be incredible, pictures of
her.

I'm not as voyeuristic as I make it sound. Raven
has posed for me a number of times and has always been surprisingly natural and
calm about everything. It's usually my idea to take pictures of her, but during
our sophomore year spring break, the tables turned. We went to the beach with a
group of her friends. One night, after everyone else was in bed, we stayed up
drinking and talking. She still had her swimwear on underneath a sundress and out
of nowhere she asks me if I would take some photos of her in her bikini. I was
worried at first, because we were definitely drunk, and a request like this
from her was surprising, to say the least. She was emphatic that she could
"handle it" and wouldn't be pissed at me for it later. She'd argued that
college was the only time in her life she'd actually like photos of herself in
swimwear. I doubted that, but when a hot girl is begging you to take pictures
of her, it's a pretty tough thing to refuse. I made sure all of the angles were
shot well, so she wasn't exposed in any way that made her feel uncomfortable or
"too sexual," as she put it, and she had all the important stuff covered up.
She has copies of all of them. I just take pictures for fun, so I don't really
know if I can justify sentences like, "It's the best work I've done," but if I
could get away with a comment like that, it's what I would say about those
photos of her. What makes them so great is how confident and secure she was in
each of them. For just a few minutes she let go of all her insecurities and was
completely natural. I'm just the lucky idiot who got to be on the other end of
the camera lens. We don't talk about that night, or those pictures, but I'll
never forget what it was like to see her just own her beauty like that. Raven
keeps encouraging me to do more about what she refers to as my artistic
inclinations. She's the only person who really understands why being creative
wasn't exactly welcomed in the household where I grew up.

BOOK: To See You Again
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