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One Fall in New Hampshire (A Buzby Beach Novella) Chapter 07

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

one-fall-in-new-hampshire-a-buzby-beach-short-story-chapter-06

Good-bye Piano Girl

Something on the table next to the chair in which Leslie had been sitting glinted. Stepping closer to see what it was, I saw the glint came from the small diamond in Leslie's engagement ring. My eyes began to burn, and I felt like I was going to be sick. Too much had happened to me for one eighteen-year-old boy to deal with on one single day.

Heaving a deep sigh, I picked up the ring and put it in my pocket. I considered going to Leslie's dorm and knocking on her door to beg her to take the ring back. I didn't want to believe she'd break our engagement wordlessly by leaving the ring on a table and just walking away.

I swallowed hard against the bile rising in my throat. A voice in the back of my head told me to take the ring, go back to my room, and wait until morning to talk to Leslie. I listened to the voice in my head, at least as far as taking the ring and going back to my room was concerned.

The walk across campus to my dorm was a blur. When my vision cleared, I was standing in the elevator staring out at the fifth floor. Taylor was standing in front of me


one-fall-in-new-hampshire-a-buzby-beach-short-story-chapter-06

Showing up at Taylor's Door

"Ren, are you all right? You look like you've been crying."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the ring. Wordlessly, I showed it to Taylor.

"Is that Leslie's engagement ring? Oh, Ren. Don't tell me she broke off your engagement? Was it because of that business at the Student Union today? Leslie doesn't think that girl was actually pregnant with your baby, does she?"

I stuffed the ring back in my pocket. I shook my head and shrugged. A muffled sob escaped my throat.

"Poor Ren. Come with Taylor. I know just what you need."

Late the next morning, sunlight streaming through the dorm room window woke me up. My throat was dry, my head ached, and I was afraid to open my eyes. I wasn't alone in the narrow bunk bed.

"I know you're awake, Ren," Taylor said. "I can tell by the change in your breathing. This isn't the first time I woke up in bed with you, remember?"

I tried to take a mental inventory before I opened my eyes. As near as I could tell, I was still wearing the shirt and pants I had on when I got to the dorm the night before.

"You're still dressed, Ren. I didn't take advantage of your delicate condition last night. Though I admit, it was tempting."

It was eerie how Taylor seemed to read my mind.

Keeping my eyes closed, I asked, "What time is it?"

Taylor moved on the bed and then said, "Ten past ten. Why? Do you have to be someplace?"

"Not anymore," I said resignedly. "I was supposed to meet Leslie for breakfast at the dining hall at eight o'clock."

"You were going to meet her for breakfast after she broke off your engagement? What on earth for?"

"Leslie never actually said she was calling off our engagement," I said. "After Beverly left, Leslie told me I should go back to my dorm, and she'd see me in the morning for breakfast."

"Whoa! Hold on a minute. Open your eyes, Ren. You're freaking me out talking with them closed."

I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling.

"Beverly slapped me and stormed off. Then, Leslie jumped up, and she left, too.

Taylor moved under the covers until she was lying half on top of me and could look me right in the eyes. A glance told me she wasn't as dressed as I was. Taylor noticed me noticing.

"I said I didn't undress you," Taylor said. "A girl's got to be comfortable when she sleeps. If you're done looking, please go on with your story."

I told Taylor everything I remembered from the moment Leslie walked away, and I found her ring on the table.

"Then, this morning, you woke up in my bed," Taylor finished for me, "after a glass or two of wine, too many."

I huffed. "I don't even like wine."

"I don't think you tasted it last night," Taylor said. "What are you going to do now?"

"Now I'm going to go downstairs, get a shower, put on some clean clothes, probably take an aspirin or two, and maybe go for a drive," I told her.

Slowly, so as not to upset my aching head, I rose to a sitting position. Taylor put her arms around me from behind and hugged me.

"If you want some company on your drive, just let me know," Taylor said as she rested her chin on my shoulder. "I'll be glad to go."

I leaned my head back and rested it against hers. "Thanks, Taylor. Thanks for last night, too."

Taylor kissed my cheek. "I'd say it was my pleasure, but since we didn't, it wasn't as pleasant as it might have been."

one-fall-in-new-hampshire-a-buzby-beach-short-story-chapter-06

Having it out with Leslie

Back on the fourth floor, I trudged down the hall to my room. I wasn't expecting the storm that hit me when I opened my door.

"Where in the hell have you been?" Leslie demanded as the door opened. "I waited and waited for you at the dining hall, and you never showed up. Then, I came up here, and Mick tells me you never returned to the room last night. So, do you want to tell me where you've been all night?"

Finding Leslie in my room in a state of fury was the last thing I needed right then, and my answer was not well thought out, though it was honest. I reached into my pocket and pulled out her ring.

"Since you took this off and left it on the table in the Student Union, the way I see it, where I was last night is none of your damn business."

Whatever Leslie was about to say next caught in her throat. She stared at the ring I held.

"I ... I was going to ask you for my ring back at breakfast this morning," she said. "I got to my room and realized I should never have taken it off. When I got back to the Union, you and the ring were both gone."

"Did you ever consider coming after me and telling me you were sorry you took the ring off?" I sneered.

"Did you ever consider coming to my dorm and asking me why I took it off?" Leslie countered.

"As a matter of fact, I did," I retorted. "I thought long and hard about it before I decided there would be no point and left. You took the ring off because you don't want to marry me anymore if you ever really did. After everything with Beverly, you decided I wasn't the man for you, so you took off my ring and left it sitting there on the table."

"Yes, all right," Leslie snapped. "I was upset about what happened with Beverly. Yes, in the heat of the moment, I decided maybe I was making a mistake marrying you. After I got to my room and calmed down, I realized the only mistake I'd made was taking off your ring and letting you think I wanted to break up."

I didn't even try to hide the disdain from my voice as I said, "So you took off your ring and left it behind as your way of telling me you didn't want to break up with me?"

"I started having doubts, yeah, I'll admit it. I began to wonder if I knew you at all; if I know you well enough to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you. The thought of having to wonder when another woman from your past might show up started eating at me. How many were there, Ren? Will you tell me that?"

"You know about Beverly, my high school girlfriend. There were a couple of other girls, but we never got serious. Then, there was an older woman. My next-door neighbor Mary Ann. Mary Ann was my first lover. She taught me how to please a woman."

Leslie shivered, and her face puckered like she'd sucked a lemon. "How old were you when you and Mary Ann, when she first-?"

"It was near the end of the ninth grade. I was fourteen."

Another shudder shook Leslie. "When did you and Beverly start...doing it?"

"The night of our Junior Prom," I replied.

Leslie got up off my bed and started pacing the room. Her fingers moved as she walked. She stopped pacing and spun on me.

"Your affair with the older women lasted almost three years, Ren? You carried on with her even while you were dating Beverly?"

"Mary Ann knew I was seeing Beverly. She didn't care."

Leslie slapped me across the face. "You lying bastard! How could I ever have thought I loved you?"

I pressed my hand against my face where she'd slapped me. I was growing tired of getting smacked.

Leslie shoved past me and opened the door. "Tell me one more thing, Ren. Where did you spend the night?"

"I spent it with a friend," I replied.

"A lady friend?" Leslie spat at me.

Lying would have been pointless, so I told the truth. "Yes, with a lady friend. Whether you believe me or not, all I did was get drunk and pass out. Nothing happened between us."

"I don't care if anything happened or not," Leslie hissed. "I don't know whether I can believe you are not about whether it did or not."

She walked out the door and slammed it behind her.

I stood next to my bunk and stared at the door for a long time. I was still standing there when Mick and Laurie came by so Mick could trade his heavier jacket for a lighter one.

Facing Mick and Laurie

"Here you are," Mick said. "Leslie was looking for you. Where were you, by the way?"

After blinking several times and coughing to clear my throat, I said, "Leslie broke off our engagement last night."

"We know," Laurie said, putting an arm around me. "She told us. She also told us she didn't mean it and came to ask you to let her wear your ring again."

"She said so when I got here, too," I told my friends.

"Leslie was still here when you got here?" Mick asked. "What time did you get here?"

"Sometime after ten, I guess. Taylor said it was ten past ten when I woke up."

Laurie bristled. "Why was Taylor there when you woke up?"

My reply came out more harshly than I meant it to. "Because I woke up in Taylor's bed this morning after getting drunk at a party on the fifth floor last night."

"No, you didn't!" Laurie snapped.

Mick stared at me, wide-eyed.

"Nothing happened!" I insisted. "I tried to tell Leslie nothing happened, but she refused to believe me."

Laurie shook her head. "You told Leslie you spent the night with Taylor and expected her to believe nothing happened." Behind her, the door opened. "I'm not sure I believe nothing happened," Laurie continued.

"You can believe nothing happened," Taylor said from the open doorway. "Even I wouldn't take advantage of Ren in the condition he was in last night."

We all turned to look at Taylor.

"I know what you're thinking, Laurie, but you're wrong. Ren is the only guy I've been with since I got here, and he's the only guy I want to be with, but last night he was hurt and confused. I let him stay because I care about him and because he needed to be with a friend instead of alone."

I looked at Taylor, and it seemed like I was seeing her differently than I had before.

Taylor looked at me and wrinkled her nose. "You still need a shower, Ren, and a change of clothes. Those are the same clothes you slept in last night."

I sighed. "Yes, they are, and I do. If you would all excuse me."

"Laurie and I are going to the matinee at the theater," Mick informed me. "Are you sure you're going to be all right? We can hang around if you want us to."

I smiled for the first time all day. "You guys go on. I'll be fine."

"I'll keep an eye on him," Taylor assured them.

"I'm sure you will," Laurie said snidely. Then to me, she added, "Ren, we don't have to go to the movie."

"Don't be silly," I insisted. "You guys go on and see your show. I'm going to take a shower and then get something to eat. Maybe I'll go for a drive. I'll see you at dinner."

"You better show up," Mick said. "I don't want to have to come looking for you."

"Don't worry," I said. "I'll be there."

Ren's story continues in Chapter 8

© 2020 DW Davis

Comments

DW Davis (author) from Eastern NC on December 19, 2020:

I remember when I was at that age, having friends falling in and out of love over the course of a weekend.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 19, 2020:

Oh dear, young love gets very complicated. Come to think of it, love at older ages can be complicated too!

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