2005 by Greg Dollarhide
Jack figured Cheryl would always be there. They grew up together. They went to school together. Cheryl was Jack’s first playmate. Cheryl was Jack’s first kiss. Cheryl was even Jack’s first awkward sexual adventure. They seemed to always be together. Even their families bought cabins at the lake, and spent summer vacations together.
It was late in Jack’s senior year in high school that Cheryl started talking about moving to New York after graduation. Where else could I continue acting on stage she told him. Jack never believed she would. However, in early September after graduation, it became obvious to Jack that Cheryl had not been kidding. Cheryl was serious, and Jack was heartbroken.
Jack didn’t date during his first two years in college. Hoping Cheryl would return, and they could be together again. It was not until he hadn’t heard from her for nearly nine months that he even noticed there were girls on campus.
There was one girl in particular on campus that kept Jack’s head turning. A pretty brunet, with a warm smile named Becky that seemed to be in the library as much as he was. It was not until an accident in the library, that they even said two words too each other.
Jack rounded the corner into the library, when all of a sudden. Whack! Jack’s head collided with hers. They both rounded a blind corner at the same time, and books, pencils, and paper, scattered on the floor. Jack looked down, and Becky sat on the floor holding her head. She was laughing to hide her embarrassment.
“I’m so sorry.” Jack said.
Becky looked up, realizing it was Jack. She saw the pain on Jack’s face, not realizing however that it was not from the blow to the head.
“Are you alright?” Jack asked.
“I think so.” Becky replied.
Jack extended his hand to help her to her feet, and then quickly started gathering up their things.
“Jack? Right?” Becky asked
“I thought so.” Becky said hiding the fact that she also was well aware of who he was. “Do you have a study partner for the anthropology exam coming up?”
“Nope.” Jack replied.
“Well, how about we work together?” Becky asked.
“That would be great.” Jack replied.
Becky grabbed Jack’s hand, and quickly scribbled her phone number onto his sweaty palm.
“I will be home at seven.” Becky said over her shoulder as she walked away.
That was nine years ago.
Within a year of Jack, and Becky’s graduation, Becky became Mrs. Learner- O’Brian. Life was good. Jack wanted to write, but when that didn’t happen he was content on teaching college level English. Becky worked with at risk children, and taught grade school. They were happy, and had no problems, until the e-mails started coming.
It took nine years, but Cheryl was finally home sick. The e-mails were innocent enough, but Becky couldn’t help herself. She was jealous, and didn’t like the e-mails one bit. She tried biting her tongue, but she was unsuccessful, she made it clear to Jack how she felt. Jack knew he had to do something, so his last e-mail was to let Cheryl know that they could no longer communicate.
“Today is my day to stay after, and watch the kids until their parents pick them up.” Becky said as she laid the news paper down, and stood up.
“That’s okay. I have to stay late at the university anyway.”
Becky kissed Jack, and said she loved him before leaving the house. Jack finished his breakfast, and went to his study to grade papers, and read his mail.
Jack shuffled through the mail separating bills from junk, until he came across a big manila envelope. The name didn’t seem familiar on the return address. Who is Ralph Crance? Jack thought to himself. He opened the envelope, and started reading the letter inside.
“No, no. This all wrong.” Jack spoke out loud as he started reading the clippings from the New York news paper.
Jack slammed the letter down on his desk, and went out to his truck. With his eyes vacant, and distant he pulled down the driveway, and onto the road. Completely oblivious to the passing of time. It was only when Jack passed a sign that read Blake’s Creek population 798, he realized how far he had come. As he passed the sign, the road turned sharply, but Jack did not. The truck hit loose gravel, and slid through a ditch, and then a fence. The truck came to a halt, and Jack felt odd. Disconnected as if he was standing back watching it all happen. He got out of the truck, and surveyed for damage. Then he returned to the truck, and eased back onto the highway.
As Jack arrived home, he saw an ominous orange glow becoming brighter. It was not until he hit the foot of his long winding driveway, he realized the orange glow was his house.
“Holy shit!” Jack yelled seeing his house fully a blaze.
“Becky!” Jack screamed as he tried to enter the house through the burning garage.
No use. He tried the front the door. He tried the back door, but the fire was too much. Jack continued screaming for Becky until the fire department showed up. All was lost. House, car, and Becky....
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