I have to get out of Mr. Garcia’s study and get some fresh air, now. Composing myself, I exit the room and see Kate hugging Julie Adams in the front doorway. There’s no way I can go through the front door without any more uncomfortable contact. Kate has her back to me, which will allow me to sneak down the hallway and out through the patio door. Returning to the heart of the party, I’m having an out of body experience, as the past ten minutes replay in my head.
Did I do something to lead Charlie to think it was even remotely okay to do what he did? This ends my friendship with him. Period. I don’t care how many apologies he may offer, I don’t ever want to talk to him again.
And Kate? As if being around her wasn’t difficult enough already. I should have thanked her again, this time so she heard me. It’s just so awkward. She wants nothing to do with me. She made that clear by rushing out of the study.
I pass by people without acknowledging them. On my way out, I catch a glimpse of Brian out of the corner of my eye. He’s talking to Chris Mueller and doesn’t see me. Good. I’m not prepared to face him. A song by the glam metal band, Poison, is playing on the stereo. I step out the back door, into the yard, sucking in the night air. I feel like I can breathe again.
This is so messed up. Gwen would understand if I decided to go home right now.
A whiff of marijuana smoke floats my way. I’m not alone out here in the back yard. Ted and Pam, a couple of stoners, are standing off to my right. They are dressed in matching Rush concert T-shirts and ripped jeans. Ted has long hair that drapes over his right eye, except when Pam is running her hand through it.
“I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got,” Ted says.
“Allison, what’s up?” Pam asks.
“Just getting some air,” I reply. “What’s up with you guys?”
“We were just talking about Raising Arizona. Did you see it?”
“That’s the one with Nicolas Cage, right?”
They give me a confused look.
“The actor. He was also in Peggy Sue Got Married.”
Pam takes a hit of her joint and speaks while holding her breath in. “Oh my God!” Pam exclaims. “He was the dude with the big teeth!”
“That’s where I recognized him from.” Ted drawls. “Thought I wasn’t gonna like that one. Thought it was gonna be a rip-off of Back to the Future. It wasn’t.”
“You know, the fact that Kathleen Turner took him back in the end, well, that says it all.”
“It… does?” I ask.
“Allison, she altered the past. But she took him back. That means they were fated to be together.”
“She changed the past? Wasn’t it a dream?”
“The inscription? In the book?”
I must admit, I’m a little surprised that Pam and Ted would see a romantic comedy like Peggy Sue Got Married and still recall the details of how Peggy Sue may or may not have gone back in time after hitting her head, and changed her life. Pam’s got a point, though, that she wakes up with her philandering husband by her side could mean they were meant to be together. It also sends a message about forgiveness, doesn’t it?
“You really think it was fate?” I ask.
“I think that they’re being pulled together like, like, like…”
“Magnets!” Ted exclaims.
“One is positive,” Pam says.
“And the other is negative.” Ted says.
“And…” Pam concludes with a long pause, “they’ll always feel this pull until they connect. That’s why, even though their marriage was falling apart, she decides to continue the relationship to see what the future has in store.”
“It’s cause they’re soul mates.” Ted says.
“Exactly,” Pam says. “The two halves of the soul belong together. It’s just the way it works. No, seriously, it is.”
Ted and Pam share an intense, intimate look. Suddenly they’re making out right in front of me. Not just kissing, but sloppy, tongues all over the place dog type kissing. They break for air, and Pam stares at him with sleepy eyes full of love, or lust, it’s hard to tell in this light.
“You… you are…” she says.
“You are, too, Pam. Come on! Let’s go do it in the garden.”
The two lovebirds hold hands and lazily walk down the path that leads to Mr. Garcia’s vegetable garden. Their figures become blurs before disappearing into the darkness.
Fate? Soul mates? I like the sentiment. You can’t choose the person you feel a connection with, that’s for sure. When you’re around each other it’s electric. Both of you know it; it’s just a question of who’s going to act on the feelings first and how long you wait to act.
But then it comes down to choice, not fate. Acting upon those feelings is a choice. Or sometimes you want to act on those feelings, but the timing is inappropriate. Worse, sometimes you do act on those feelings, despite the inappropriateness, and everything falls apart, soul mates or not.
Is Brian my soul mate? Or were we just a couple of friends acting on long suppressed feelings?
My head is spinning.
Leaves crackle as someone approaches. It’s Gwen walking out from behind the woodpile, fastening her shorts.
“Oh, hey! I’ve been looking for you.”
“What were you doing back here? Is someone with you?”
“No. I had to pee.”
My jaw drops.
“What?” she says. “Guys do it all the time.”
“But… behind the woodpile? Did you have toilet paper?”
Gwen shrugs like it’s no big deal. I shove her and we laugh. This could be the party, just the two of us.
“Seriously,” she asks, “what’re you doin’ out here? And what’s with the sweatshirt?”
I explain the entire Charlie incident, from the stilted conversation to the kissing to the groping and the ripping of the shirt to Kate’s appearance and the sweatshirt. Gwen’s eyes become tiny slits.
“That little prick!” she hisses. “I’m gonna kill him!”
“Easy cheetah!” I place my hands on Gwen’s shoulders to calm her down. “It’s over now.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Look, I think I might go home.”
“What? No way.”
“Yeah, sure. I mean, nobody wants me here and…”
“I want you here. If anyone doesn’t like that, I’ll kick their butt.”
“Ally,” she starts, turning serious, “what you’ve been through this year…”
“Lost it? Had a breakdown? Gone loco? Had a brain hiccup?” I try to joke.
Gwen reaches over and touches my arm. “If I’d needed help, like you did, I wouldn’t have been strong enough. I would’ve collapsed into a pile of goo. Most of the jerk-offs in this house would have, too. But you persevered, Allison. That’s why you should be here. Everyone needs to see that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
We look at each other. “Thank you, Gwen,” I tell her, my voice a little phlegmy.
Never one to let emotions ruin a good time, Gwen groans, “I think I have to pee again. Stand watch!”
She runs back and kneels behind a wood pile, while Poison sings about never giving up on your dreams.
Today’s artwork was by Craig Simmons. Craig is an art director, development designer and background/color designer whose work has appeared on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. He is currently working as background painter in watercolor and Photoshop on “The Regular Show” at Cartoon Network. For more information, visit craigsimmonsartwork.blogspot.com
Poison’s song, “Cry Tough,” is found on their 1986 album, Look What the Cat Dragged In.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 19, Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 21 of Legendary.