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Authors: marian gard

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BOOK: To See You Again
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"Yes!" I exclaim in a chipper voice that is as
foreign to me as the smile that Collin wears. "We
go to school
together. What a surprise! Collin, it's…well, it's nice to see you again. I
apologize for earlier, for being so out of sorts." I glance around nervously,
and notice Tim, who is now also out on the patio, observing us. He gives me a
not-so-subtle thumbs-up and it's all I can do not to just turn and run away and
seek refuge, for the second time tonight, in the stall of a public bathroom.

Beckett pulls me close, as if to protect me. He
definitely knows something is up, but what—he has no idea. "Collin, it's great
to meet you. Were you two close in college? You'll have to forgive me, because I'm
terrible with names, but I don't remember Rachel talking about you." Beck's
voice is smooth and light, you'd have to know him as well as do to pick up on
the trace of defensiveness in it. Beck always wants to be in the inner circle
of whatever is going on.

Before Collin can answer, Leighton steps forward.
"I said the same thing to Collin. He hadn't mentioned Rachel either, but
admittedly I haven't met
of his college friends." She looks adoringly
at him and gives him a playful nudge. "I'm trying to get Collin here to be a
little less anti-social." Collin smiles at Leighton in an almost guarded way
and then shifts his eyes to mine, and we lock in on each other for the first
time tonight. I feel my forehead crease and I lose track of the conversation
for a moment trying to read into his eyes, the way I used to. Leighton is now
pulling Beckett away and they begin walking toward the makeshift outdoor bar. She
twists back in our direction and waves a hand over her shoulder. "You two catch

We break our eye contact to watch her and then
simultaneously swing our focus back to each other.

"I'm sorry, Rachel," he says too quickly, before I
can even think to speak.  "She wanted to know why I just stood there staring at
you instead of helping, and I'm sorry about that, too, by the way." He puts a
hand to his head briefly, like the whole situation has given him a headache. "So,
I just told her you were someone I knew in college and I hadn't seen in years,
and it caught me off guard." He takes a tentative step toward me. "I didn't
mean to bother you, though. Leighton is on this whole kick to get me to
socialize more and when I told her we used to be friends she insisted I come
over here to talk to you."

My emotions are sloshing around inside of me, colliding
and crashing into one another, most of them at odds. I don't know what I'm
feeling. I don't know what I
to feel.

"I was shocked, too. I should've said something,
but I…uh, I didn't know what to say, plus I was dripping with your – what was
it – gin and tonic?"   He nods and then laughs, and a little relief pulsates
through my system, and I laugh too.

He runs a hand through his hair and looks away
again, clearly uncomfortable. Then I surprise us both by saying, "you look
good, Collin."

He doesn't miss a beat. "You do too."

The awkward tension between us shifts and morphs
into something else and I feel like I can't keep up so I say, "Leighton seems

"Yeah." His hand is in his hair again. "She's a
force to be reckoned with."

"I can tell." I smile at him, feeling almost dizzy
with all the questions I have, and all the things I feel too unsure to say or

"And Beckett, was it?" He turns and looks over at
Beck and Leighton who seem to have fallen into a comfortable, animated
conversation. Leighton is gesturing wildly and Beckett is laughing as they make
their way back to us. Time is running out.

"Yeah, Beck. He's a great guy. You'd like him," I
say, not sure at all if that's true.

He takes another step toward me and then looks
into my eyes earnestly. "Good." It comes out a breathy whisper.

"Collin, I…" Leighton reappears with Beckett at
her side, still laughing.

"Tell me you got her number so you two can properly
catch up sometime soon." Leighton looks back and forth between us. Collin gives
me a raised brow, apologetic smile.

Beckett reaches into his suit coat pocket and
retrieves my phone, handing it to me. All traces of his former protectiveness
gone, Leighton must've convinced him I wasn't in any imminent danger.

"Here." Collin extends his palm. "Give me yours
and I'll put my number in it." We exchange phones and suddenly I'm all-thumbs,
nearly dropping his the moment he hands it to me. He's typing away into my
phone, and I can't help briefly contemplating if the number he's giving me is a
legitimate one. Our two-minute conversation hasn't brought me any closer to
determining where we stand.




Rachel is just as beautiful as I remember, more so
maybe, than she was before. I'm still reeling from tonight. It was like being
emotionally ambushed or hijacked. I spent most of the night with a dizzying
sensation like when you stand up after having a few too many and realize for
the first time that you're completely wasted. It's been ages since I've felt
emotional or drunk. I'm praying Leighton doesn't put two and two together. It's
true I've never told her about Rachel, or talked about her in any way other
than abstract terms, like:
I went there with a friend of mine in college
That doesn't mean however, that Leighton hasn't
Rachel before,
because she has. I nearly choked on my salad tonight when she insisted she was
familiar or that maybe she had met her before. The basement walls of my
townhome are covered in large framed photographs that I've taken. Most of them
are ones that I used in my business, but there's one of Rachel, taken on the
last day we spent together, by the river. Her hair is obscuring a fair amount
of her face, but if you knew Rachel, you'd know it was her. Leighton loves that
photo and has no idea it was taken of someone I knew personally.  She thinks it's
a model, and has never understood why I have refused to put it upstairs in a
more prominent place. Now I may have to consider how to remove it altogether without
raising her suspicions.

Leighton is snuggled next to me on the cab ride
home, looking like she will be asleep inside of five minutes, and I'm thankful
she seems too tired for much conversation. My head is swimming with thoughts of
Rachel, and what little I've learned about her life now, during our encounter
tonight. She isn't married. I made sure to check out her ring finger, and Leighton
had unwittingly reported back to me that Beckett said they had been together
less than two years. Until tonight I would've bet big bucks she was married
with kids by now, and I honestly expected her husband to have been Spencer. I
can't decide how I feel about the fact that she didn't marry the guy she
rejected me for.

I would love to say that the day after our night
together, and subsequent fight, I'd had some kind of epiphany, became
determined to be a better person; someone worthy of Raven. That is a romantic
notion, I suppose; the idea that we can change ourselves, become better, in the
pure pursuit of someone else's happiness. I think people attempt it all the
time, but in reality, that's a load of crap. We can't hinge our happiness on
others. It might feel good for a while, watching someone we love feel happy,
but it isn't sustainable. I used to think focusing on overcoming my depression
was selfish, like
wasn't worth my
time. Eventually, I
learned it's all really the opposite of that. Focusing inward makes all the
outward connections possible, though I still struggle with that part. I would
give anything to go back in time and give my teenage self this bit of advice,
but what would be the point? I wouldn't have listened anyway.

Back when college ended I was light years away
from discovering these concepts. I didn't spend any time trying to get better
or be better, for myself or anyone else. Instead, I disappointed my mother and
stepfather for the umpteenth time by disappearing before the commencement
ceremony. I accessed my inheritance, all I had left from my father, which
became available to me in full upon graduation, and left for Europe, backpacking
for months. I'd hoped the distance and time would make me think of her less,
miss her less. It didn't.

The devastation I felt by her rejection of me was
nothing compared to the loneliness I felt when I lost her friendship. She
reached out to me in emails and said she'd been searching for me. The ache to
be with her was overwhelming, but I didn't respond, because how could I? I'd
put everything I had on the line and she told me unequivocally, no. The funny
thing about having your worst fears realized is that if you're lucky enough to
survive it – that's what you do – you survive.  My world had crashed down
around me, and yet I was still standing, whether I liked it or not.

In the end I couldn't be angry with her. What did
I have to offer her? I was purposefully going nowhere, squandering everything I
had available to me, and she knew that better than just about anyone. How could
I have thought who I was at the time would've appealed to her? As vapid as
Spencer was, he was—at least outwardly— far more in line with everything she'd
been working for in her life. I made myself say goodbye to her, always
picturing her happy in the life she'd relentlessly pursued since I met her.

Tonight I was face to face with her again, and the
pull I felt for her was terrifyingly parallel to what I had felt all those
years ago. She was feeling something too, that much was clear, but what it was,
I couldn't tell.

The cab pulls up to my home, I pay the fare and
then Leighton and I slip inside. While getting ready for bed she suggests
having dinner with Beckett and Rachel sometime. I'm noncommittal in my

"No matter what, you should at least buy that woman
coffee sometime, and make up for standing around like an idiot while she was
drenched in your cocktail." She yawns.       

Thinking back on all the ways Rachel has impacted
my life, even after she was gone from it, I reply, "You're right. I do owe

"Good," she murmurs into my chest as she rolls on
top of me. "As much as I love having you to myself, I think you'd be happier if
you had people to connect with from your past." She sounds like she's quoting a
textbook. She probably is. I kiss her neck, distracting her; I don't want to have
this conversation. Her answering moan is muffled and I can tell that her fatigue
will dominate over her desire. I feel relieved to avoid intimacy with her
tonight. It isn't long before her breathing turns deeper and rhythmic, and I
roll over, gently moving her to her side of the bed. I close my eyes, and drift
off to sleep with thoughts of Raven saturating my mind.

Chapter 10


The text that comes from Collin is both expected
and surprising, if the two can coexist. I knew there was a chance of this after
the whole exchanging of cell phone numbers routine, but mostly I doubted he'd
bother, especially after a few weeks passed. He'd made it pretty clear he
wanted our connection to one another severed. I don't think my re-entrance into
his life was a welcomed one.

I'm leaning against the kitchen counter this
morning, staring at my phone, when Beckett strolls in and accuses me of looking
perplexed. Panicked or stricken might have been my chosen adjectives, but will
go with Beckett's interpretation because I'm not up for explaining any of this
to him, at least not right now.

"Seriously baby, what's with the look? Another
cryptic text from Tim?" He takes a lock of my hair and tucks it behind my ear as
he leans in closer and glances at my phone. "Rachel? Hello? Anybody in there?"

I look up at him as I click off my phone and set
it on the counter. "Um, yeah, sorry. I'm out of it this morning."

Beckett stares into my eyes for a beat. "Well, are
you going to tell me what's wrong or not?"

"Nothing is wrong. I'm just thinking. I got a text
from that guy, Collin, from the charity thing. He wants to meet me for lunch. I
guess our offices aren't far from one another," I say. I'm curious how he came to
know that. Perhaps he google-stalked me, as I did him, after seeing one
another, or maybe his energetic blonde sidekick did all the work…Hard to tell.

Beckett's features shift from concerned-curiosity
to arrogant problem-solver. He takes a bite of his breakfast bar. "No brainer.
Have lunch, do a little catching up, and then casually pump him for as much
info as you can get. Tim will be drooling at anything you can give him that
might be insider info, I'm sure."

I don't respond to him, instead I just stare at
the TV, which is muted on the morning news. I hate the news, but Beck insists
on it. As much as I resent having it on, I always end up reading the closed
captioning. I can't resist. A young woman was murdered in a home invasion last
night. The thought of something that awful happening to someone should ground
me, but it doesn't. I'm still stuck in a worry cycle about this text.

"When does he want to meet?" Beckett asks, while
he sips his coffee and stares at me.

"Today," I say, returning my gaze to his.

"Do it," Beckett replies, kissing my cheek. "Are
you sure nothing's wrong?" He leans backward and appraises me once more.

I sweep my hair up into a bun and walk down the
hall toward the front door to check it in the mirror. "Yes. I'm fine. Just a
lot on my mind. I think you're right, though. I'll text him back and tell him
yes." I lean down and grab my messenger bag. "See you tonight, then?"

Beckett strolls down the hall with his bag slung
across his shoulder. "Looking forward to it." He leans in and kisses me lightly
on the lips and then swats my bottom. "Go get ‘em tiger." I laugh and look away
in attempt to mask my feelings of confusion and guilt. Why am I making my
history with Collin a secret?




Today is a down day. It took me years to admit I
even have these. I lived in fear for so long that someday the wild tumultuous
wave of mania would sweep me away—like it had my father—that I failed to notice
depression had been drowning me for years. I tried to explain it once to my
mother when I had a really tentative conversation with her about Dad's illness,
but she was of no help. "I'm sorry you're so sad, dear." She'd touched my cheek
gently and then turned away, as though I was a scary part in a thriller film
that she didn't want to watch. Close your eyes and it's not real.

The thing is that I'm
sad. I'm not
happy or sad. In fact, most of the time I'm nothing at all. I feel
disconnected, as though someone has pulled the plug on me. Or just turned my
emotion dial all the way down. Yes, there's a sadness that surrounds existing
this way, and it can be painful at times, but mostly I just feel like I'm floating
in space while everyone else is on earth, running around.

On days like this getting up and out of bed is
incredibly difficult. As I've learned about my illness, I've realized that
letting the call of sleep suck me back in is about the worst thing I could do,
though my body seems to work against me, ceaselessly trying to pull me back
under. When I'm at my lowest, no amount of sleep feels like enough. I could
sleep twelve hours a day or more and still feel like I‘ve had no rest at all. I
run my own business, so I could just not show up today and face no scrutiny for
it—but that isn't who I want to be, and I'm through with letting depression win.

Exercise helps, so I get up and run on the
treadmill for twenty minutes and then have a kale smoothie for breakfast. I'm
sitting at my kitchen table checking email and sipping my one cup of coffee
that I allot myself a day, when a text buzzes through on my cell phone. It's
Rachel. I'd texted her last night asking her to a last-minute lunch and then
spent an hour regretting it. Her reply: "sounds good. what time?"

The thought of her is like a light at the end of a
long dark tunnel. I almost hate how wonderful the idea of her is to me. When
she and I were close, I didn't understand that the emptiness I felt had a name.
I would never say she was a cure for my depression—that would be both
melodramatic and ridiculous, because I was still plenty depressed then— but her
presence in my life was like a life raft. When it ended I spent a lot of time
drifting out at sea before I realized the answer was not to find a way to keep
floating, it was to learn to swim. Still, there's quality about her, or at
least there was, that ignites something in me; and when it's lit, I feel alive.

BOOK: To See You Again
5.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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