Chapter 3: The Ghost of You
Updated: May 7, 2019
When the partying ends in Welch, you're left with a stomach full of alcohol and the option to spend the night with someone or spending it alone. Why do you think so many babies popped up every year? No one ever chose the latter. Even though Danny never crossed that line, we did spend the night together a few times.
When I let my tough exterior melt away, I was excited to spend another night talking until the sun came up. Tonight we decided to park in the wide spot on the bypass where you could look over the entire town. It mostly held empty buildings, as tall as the sky, with plywood covering the doors and windows that hadn't even been thought of in years. It was only a shell of what it used to be long before any of us were born, but it was one hell of a view.
I wandered around in the dark and hopped on the hood of his black 2001 Malibu as gracefully as I could. I was pretty skilled at not hobbling around like a baby taking their first few steps when I had a few drinks in my system. Not to mention, my good mood had me feeling pretty fucking fantastic. Being on cloud nine made you feel like you could do anything and I forgot how amazing it felt.
He shut the driver side door and walked around to lean against the hood next to me. We stared at the white and orange street lights that lit up between the abandoned buildings. Occasionally you'd see the flash of headlights creeping down the streets, but that was it. Nothing was ever open past nine o'clock so you never saw much activity unless there was a party or a football game that came to an end.
"You know I'm going to ask you about Dean, right?" he asked. Even in the dark, I could see him giving me the usual "spill your guts" look with the moonlight shining on him. "Yeah, I know. And you know that I'm not going to talk about it at first, but I'll eventually tell you." By eventually, that meant telling him after a few minutes of getting my thoughts together.
I took a deep breath, careful not to let my emotions get the best of me. Danny always said that the best way to feel better is to talk about what's bothering you. He never had a problem with speaking his mind and I envied him for that. My body was trembling and I didn't know if it was my nerves or if it was the cold breeze flying around us. "I've seen him around a time or two, but he stopped bothering me about two months ago. Ever since one of Reggie's parties back in May, he's probably keeping tabs on me, but he keeps his distance." I could tell that he was clenching his jaw.
"I still blame myself for a lot of what happened," I said, hoping he couldn't see the shame on my face. We'd done this same old song and dance time and time again and there was never anything he could do to convince me that I wasn't a basket case that was also a complete disaster magnet. He always got so frustrated when I voiced my guilt and I knew that it was because it felt like we were always back at square one. Danny always worked so hard to fix me in the past and I knew that every step of the way, he was doing it because he cared about me.
I could hear him huffing because he was getting angry. Any moment now, he was going to explode and I wouldn't know how to handle it. "You can't do that! I have told you time and time again that you can't blame yourself! You didn't even know you were pregnant!" he screamed, throwing his hands in the air. I froze for a second. My heart was pounding in my ears and I felt like I couldn't breathe.
"You said you'd never speak on it!" I yelled back at him. By this time, he was marching away from the car, but I didn't care. I didn't care how angry it made him, I just wanted to speak up and say what I was feeling. But he always said that he would never bring up my miscarriage. It was the main reason why I was so fucked up and I wanted so badly to forget about it. He had no right to bring it up. It was my body, my problem, and my life. He wasn't losing a constant battle with guilt. I was.
But I couldn't forget and it made me cower in fear every time I saw the color red. I could hardly handle my period every month because I was so shaken by the sight of blood. It almost felt like blood was my kryptonite.
I'll never forget the pain in my stomach and pelvis that woke me up at three in the morning on a Tuesday. Having to drag myself to the bathroom and trying to keep myself from screaming still haunts me. Most importantly, I'll never forget the pain subsiding only for me to find what I thought was just an unusually large blood clot. The little buds that would have been fingers and the small grey dots in the same spot on both sides that would have been a set of eyes will forever be etched in my mind no matter how hard I tried to forget about it.
It wasn't until I was holding what would have been my child that I realized I was going to be a mom. The very thought of having to take care of someone besides myself terrified me. I was horrified. Any other teenaged girl in my shoes might have been glad that one night of pleasure resulted in a pool of blood and a small piece of flesh instead of a full grown baby that they had to raise for the next eighteen years. I wasn't relieved. I was devastated. My heart broke into a million pieces and I wanted so badly to have someone to love me unconditionally, but all I ended up with was guilt.
Even when my mom stumbled upon me sobbing on the bathroom floor, comforting me and reassuring me that it wasn't my fault, I still blamed myself. When your diet only consisted of alcohol, you were bound to have something go wrong with your body. Unfortunately, it ended up hurting someone else.
"This is my life and you don't get to dictate my feelings," I finally said after a few minutes of silence. He was finally calmed down enough to walk back toward the car.
"But what if I want to be apart of it all?" he said softly. I was frozen and speechless. I knew where this was going and it was going to turn into the same conversation that we had before. A year had passed and it felt like we were right back where we were before. I was too fucked up to give him more than what he wanted. I couldn't love someone else until I loved myself. I would only end up hurting him and that wouldn't be fair at all.
But there was that thought in the back of my mind that wanted him to stay close to me. I felt like I wouldn't have another chance to keep him in my life if I just continued to push him away.
"I know you do, but I don't think you deserve my baggage. You were there for me, day and night, and you saved my life in the beginning of that whole mess. I know that I pushed you away, but I didn't want any of my past to cause you any pain." He took a few steps toward me and his expression softened. "I've told you so many times before that healing will take some time," he said. "Absolutely, but you have to let me do it at my own pace." He wasn't going to let me sulk about my sad life and sometimes I was grateful for that, but rushing things would only be a recipe for disaster.
"I just want you to be happy. I want to make you happy," he said, gently placing a hand on my hip. "Then let's do this my way. No rushing. No playing with each other's emotions. No more leaving." I wrapped my arms around his neck, rejoicing because our fight was over before it could ever start.
We went back to starting at the town below us and everything felt good. It felt perfect actually. "And before you ask, yes we're picking up where we left off and no, I haven't slept with anybody," I blurted out, beating him to the punch, but I already knew that he would know if I did. Word about something like that was sure to spread like a wild fire. He turned his head to look at me with a smirk on his face. I tried my best to put up a good front, but I was nervous about all of this. It was an impulsive decision to let him come back into my life and flip everything upside down and it wasn't a secret that my impulses usually landed me in deep shit.
I worked so hard to build a wall and regain my strength, but at this point I just felt like I was lying to myself. Would I be able to hold myself together and maintain my hard ass image?
"Holy shit! It's already 4 am!" he shouted, pulling me from my thoughts. By now, everyone would be wondering where I ventured off to. It was unusual for me even though I tried to isolate myself when everyone coupled off. "Yeah and there will be an APB out for my ass soon," I said, obviously annoyed that they treated me like a child sometimes.
He bent down in front of me, sweeping me off the ground, and threw me over his shoulder. "Nobody knows I'm home. Let the search begin!" And for the first time since he'd been gone, I giggled like a schoolgirl and played along as he tossed me into the passenger seat. I quickly buckled myself in with butterflies going ape shit in my stomach. Maybe this wasn't going to be such a bad idea after all.