At the Risk of Forgetting(3)

By: A.M. Wilson

“Law, I-ˮ

He cut me off to lean in and spit, “Lawrence.”

“L-Lawrence.” The tremble in my voice was audible. His name felt strange on my tongue. I hadn’t spoken it aloud in a decade and a half. “I’m sorry for what I did. But, I really have to go.”

As I pushed through the door I longed for him to chase after me, as stupid as that was. But he just stood there, the love of my past, glaring at me like he wished I was dead.

I felt dead.

So much so, even the rain slapping against my scalp when I forgot to open my umbrella did nothing to pull me out of my trance. I was halfway down the next block when I realized I was soaking wet and finally opened the stupid thing.

“Hey, where’s my coffee?” Kiersten asked, as I trudged soddenly into the office building where the meeting was scheduled.

I lifted my empty hands to my face, staring unseeingly past their wrinkled texture, and dropped them limply at my sides.

“Oh, shit, what happened?”

I opened my mouth, then cleared my throat before I could get the words to squeeze passed. Even then, they sounded hoarse. “I need you to drive me home. I’d walk, but I’m really cold. I can’t go to this meeting.”

Kiersten tilted her head, concerned. “I don’t think you should miss it. They might not give you a second chance to present the info again, and I know how hard you’ve worked on this.”

“They’ll eat me alive!” I screeched, and Kiersten took a step back. “Not like this, I can’t. I don’t have a chance,” I mumbled, the words not making sense. “You’re the only person I have that can take me home. If you won’t do it, I’ll walk, but it’s still pouring.” I rubbed a wet hand across my forehead as more tears clogged my throat. “I’d like to have some time alone because come four o’clock, my girl will be coming home from school, and I can’t let her see her momma like this.”

Kiersten gathered her coat and nabbed her keys from her top drawer. “Okay.” She pressed her keys into my palm and curled my fingers around them. “Go start the car, and I’ll call Mr. Ross to tell him you’re sick. You owe me. This means I have to miss my lunch break.”

My voice trembled when I replied, “Thank you.”

A fogginess settled over me as the strong emotions waned, and I walked in a daze to the parking lot, unlocked the car, and started it. Hot air blasted me, but I couldn’t feel anything. My mind was as blank as it was overwhelmingly full. I was just numb.

Thankfully, Kiersten kept her questions to herself on the ride back to my house. I thanked her for the ride and walked myself inside. After a long hot shower, I finally started to thaw, and that’s when the tears fell.

Loads of them.

I didn’t allow myself to break down when I left home all those years ago. There wasn’t any room to feel sorry for myself when the decision had been mine all along. Money may have been an incentive, but nobody forced me to go. I just didn’t know how to face Law with the magnitude of my mistakes. When he found out the truth, I was going to lose him either way, and that solidified my decision. In the end, I wanted it to be me walking away. Even if that made me a coward.

Seeing him again brought all those feelings rushing back to the surface. I made a game plan. I had six hours.

For the first time in fourteen years, I let myself cry for all that I’d lost. To remember the boy I’d loved.

And after I did that, I’d pull myself from my bed, clean myself up, and greet my baby girl when she got off the bus from school.

Because losing Law might have been a consequence of the greatest mistake of my life, but I could never bring myself to regret my daughter.

Seventeen years earlier...

“Hey! Wait up!”

I raced my bike through the cloud of dirt Law’s tires kicked up, attempting to catch him. Tall weeds and rogue tree branches whipped against my bare legs. Rain began to fall from the dark gray sky, and even though I was chilly and damp, a smile graced my face.

I laughed heartily while making my legs burn and following my best friend.

“You’ll have to catch up,” he shouted back before racing off again.

Pedaling uphill was hard enough, but the once-hard packed earth was quickly turning to mud beneath my tires. Not to mention we weren’t even on a real biking trail. The trail Law had chosen was in the middle of the forest. Powerlines ran overhead like trail markers, delineating the space that was usually overrun by four wheelers or snowmobiles, depending on the time of year.

This wasn’t the first time we’d been down this path, but it was always Law’s idea, and I was always stuck lagging behind.