By: Tim Stevens
Song: Second Chances
Artist: Peter, Bjorn, and John
Album: Gimme Some
(Picture taken from http://www.123rf.com/)
Mackenzie sat on the bench and turned the bouquet of flowers from one hand to the next. She knew when she left that note, it was a shot in the dark, but she had to try. If anything could bring Claudia back into her life, this was it.
But she knew the meeting time she suggested was more than an hour ago. She ignored the clock now, but she knew it had come and gone without any sign of Claudia. Not that Mackenzie could blame her. What she had done…god, was it already over two years ago had been…It had been just terrible.
“I can’t believe you did this to me!” Claudia had shouted, face nearly scarlet with anger and sadness.
Mackenzie scrambled for excuses, for explanations, for anything to make it okay again, “Look, it was just a fling. She’s not important to me.”
“And that’s supposed to, what, make this easier? Because you chose to have sex with someone else who meant nothing to you?”
“We’re young,” Mackenzie began, changing tactics, “Twenty-two is really young. Too young to settle down.”
“Really?! Because I was all set to,” Claudia shot back incredulously.
“I think we both know that our window to experience other people and things is pretty brief and we should take advantage of that. But, you know, still be together. Like an open thing?”
“Well, that maybe could’ve been a great idea. Except you never talked to me about it! You decided to have an open relationship, if that is in fact what happened here and I doubt it was, all on your goddamn own! We didn’t talk about it and sure as hell didn’t know I was free to go whoring—”
“Hey!” Mackenzie cut her off, her panic suddenly turning to anger, “Don’t you ever call me a whore!”
Realization crossed Claudia’s face and it drooped for a moment. She too was disappointed in herself. Maybe this was the moment they both needed to be adults. But Mackenzie was right, about herself at least. She was far too young to settle down and she was also far too young to take the high road.
So she pressed on, snarling, “Maybe if you didn’t have the sex drive of a grandmother we wouldn’t be in this position!”
The guilt leapt off Claudia’s face and she recalled that she, not Mackenzie, was the one who had been cheated on. “Oh, I’m sorry that I’m tired after working doubles to keep us in an apartment while you try to be an ‘artist,” she countered, voice filled to the brim with scornful sarcasm, “I didn’t realize that spending some time with girlfriend that didn’t involve sex was such a horrible thing. Or that saying no to—”
“This is SOOOO not about that!”
“Are you sure? Because the timing’s a little suspicious. I say no to your, let’s be honest here, disgusting request. You mope for a week. Then I get home to find you buried face first in some bohemian type. Seems to fit to me!”
And it had gone on from there. Mackenzie would take offense and dig herself deeper. Claudia would get more wounded and sad and lash out to protect herself. It lasted nearly an hour. An hour of raised voices, sniping derision, and slammed doors before Claudia grabbed an overnight bag, shoved it full of random clothes, and stormed out.
A week later, Mackenzie returned to the apartment to find it significantly less filled with furniture and a note letting her know that Claudia had paid up the place for the next two months. After that, Mackenzie needed a roommate or a new place to live.
And that was it. Mackenzie shrugged it off and pushed forward. These were going to be her golden days of sex a-plenty, of living a life without rules or restrictions, or being young. And for months, it was great. Grand! Or so she kept telling herself. Then, one night, eight months later, she gave it up. She was crashing on a friend of some guy she barely knew’s couch, she was exhausted and uncomfortable. She hadn’t done any art in at least three months. She was nearly out of money. She tossed her hands in the air, admitted she missed Claudia, admitted cheating was a mistake, a selfish thing, and wept hard and long.
She got her shit together when she stopped crying and resolved to be an adult. She got a “straight” job doing graphic design, her own place, and started to go on “real” dates not just look for another person to leave before they woke up. It was better, but she still was not happy. She still missed Claudia. So she tried an old phone number, emails, facebook messages…anything she could think of. But no response.
In desperation, she swung by Claudia’s old gym and found out from a clerk who probably should’ve known better that it was actually also Claudia’s current gym. Mackenzie gave her the note and asked that the clerk pass it along.
Which all led to this. Mackenzie sitting on a train station bench, rapidly wilting bouquet in hand. An hour past meeting time. Hoping against hope that this will work, certain that it would not. She tortured herself with memories of how it was and how it ended. She asked herself if it had been worth it.
Finally, she gave up. She had suggested they meet at 4, it was now 5:30. It was over. The quest was done. She had screwed up those years ago and there would be no redemption from that.
She stood up straight and hard, barely suppressing her desire to scream. Tears began flowing, unbidden, but she would not acknowledge them to brush them aside, would not make a sound that would betray she was crying. She stalked across the platform towards the exit. It was the disaster of disasters but at least, she told herself, at least she knew now that there was no going back. None.
The flowers went in the rubbish can near the revolving glass doors. She was already on to imagining what liquor she’d buy on the way home. How it’d feel sliding down her throat and setting her insides a-flame. She could not wait to get there, to grab that bottle, to drink until absolutely blotto and forget this whole damn, stupid idea and move on to whatever might be ne—
“Kenz? Kenz?!” a voice said behind her. Clear, warm, familiar. Mackenzie contemplated, for just a moment, breaking for the doors and never looking back.
Instead, she turned on her heels and raised her eyes from the floor. She knew she had mascara stained tears running down her face, that her eyes were no doubt a delicate dance of angry capillary veins. She wanted to make excuses, to explain her appearance. She needed to say all she should have said before. About being afraid. About not knowing what it meant to be faithful. About being so fucking sorry.
All she could muster though, through hiccupping sobs was, “I had flowers for you. I lost them.”
Maybe…hopefully…that was enough to build on this time. Maybe…hopefully…that was a first step.
Tim Stevens wants you to know how excellent he thinks Valentine’s Day is. He may be sarcastic a lot, but he’s serious on this one. Also, he is the creator of this contest and The January Project. His writing can be found all over the web including Marvel Comics website, The Living Room Times, and New Paris Press. He can be found on Twitter @UnGajje where he talks about Val Kilmer, Nic Cage, comics, movies, TV, politics, and his family just the right amount. And seriously… Happy Valentine’s Day!