Bittersweet Reunion

This tale was originally written for my mailing list membership.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Marie Logan for the initial idea!


I parked on the curb and shut off the engine. As the metal under the hood pinged and cooled I remained still behind the steering wheel, scanning the well-established residential landscape before me.

Twilight dimmed the blue sky with impendent night. It hadn’t darkened enough to ignite streetlights, but lamps already twinkled inside nearby houses. A group of pre-adolescent children swept out into the street, returning to their game of whiffle ball now that my car no longer threatened to dismember them. A plastic bat hit a plastic white ball with a thwack, sending it sailing down the street, children chasing after it in the sweet late summer air. It was after quitting time and before dinner on a weeknight, an industrious time in a suburban household as parents took out the trash, prepared dinner for themselves and their two point five children and finished washing the car. In the distance I heard the growl of a lawnmower, the sound evoking youthful memories of freshly cut grass.

How long had it been since I’d visited this neighborhood? Or any middle-class community such as the one of my childhood? As much as I’d missed the familiarity, I’d long ago packed away the homesickness, guilt and relief that swelled once again in my heart. Upon initial impression nothing had changed. The same houses, the same children, the same parents. Vehicles had been upgraded, homes painted. The sycamore tree in the Wilson’s front yard had grown tall in my two decade absence, stretching for the darkening sky, grasping for the oncoming stars in an effort to uproot itself from its stagnant past. No, that was me–I was the uprooted one here, having never belonged in the first place.

“Are we going to get out of the car? The guy watering his lawn behind us is giving me the evil eye.”

Jason’s voice cut through my memories, a sharp and clean laceration through the fuzz of my teenage recollections. I glanced at my best friend and roommate, forcing my lips into a lopsided smile. He stared into the passenger side mirror, red-brown hair purposely askew in the manner befitting an aging Millenial caught up in his bachelorhood. Craning my head, I looked behind us at the individual in question. The lawn waterer nonchalantly studied my car as he dribbled water on the hydrangeas in the Foster’s front yard. He was too young to be Mr. Foster and too old to be Dale. Okay, maybe not the same parents. I guessed the Fosters had moved at some point over the decades to be replaced by their younger clone.

So many changes. Life here had gone on without me just as I’d predicted it would. I felt puzzlement crease my brow and drain the smile from my face. Why had they looked for me?

Jason turned back to me with a quizzical eyebrow. “We’ve come this far, Briggs. What’s another twenty feet?” He released the catch of his seatbelt and tilted his neck until his spine crackled. “Besides, nothing says we have to stay.”

Reluctant, I followed his lead and pushed the big red button at my side. The shoulder restraint hissed as it fled into the safe little cavern by my left ear. I wished I could do the same, but Jason was right. It had taken us four days of driving to get here; the least I could do is knock on the door before returning to the life I’d created for myself on the left coast. I ducked my head to peer through the windshield at the house on Jason’s side of the car.

My parents’ home was both familiar and alien. They’d painted it since I’d left though had only replaced the original blue with a deeper hue. The white trim around the porch no longer showed evidence of peeling. A new porch swing hung in place of the old-fashioned metal one where I’d whiled away my childhood, the upholstered pads bright with the yellows and reds of which my mother was fond. Two rolling trash cans sat at the end of the drive, the dented galvanized metal ones I recollected replaced by green high-grade plastic. Mom’s asters had hardly changed in appearance though it appeared she’d expanded her selection to include a yellow variety. It was the same house. A single level ranch-style dwelling with attached two car garage. A pickup truck was parked in the driveway, one of those small four-by-fours with all the redneck bells and whistles. I couldn’t imagine my father owning one and wondered who did. There was a light on in the kitchen, and I noted movement inside. No doubt my mother puttered over the kitchen sink, peeling vegetables or rinsing utensils as she cooked supper. Dad would be stretched out on the recliner, remote control in hand as he relaxed after a long day at the feedstore. But no, Dad had probably retired a couple of years ago. Maybe he was grilling burgers out back. Perhaps the truck belonged to a friend or former feedstore employee who’d stopped by for a visit. It would be easy to use their visitor as an excuse to turn tail and run…

“Briggs?”

Jason’s voice was soft this time, and I adjusted my gaze to look at him.

He’d leaned forward, brown eyes earnest in his tanned face as he studied mine. “We both know you don’t have to do this.” He cocked his head. “But if you don’t, we both know you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

I sighed, swallowing the desire to start the car, gun the engine and run down the little rugrats playing whiffle ball in the street as I fled a past I’d already abandoned, a past I thought had abandoned me long ago.

“Remember. They came looking for you. Besides,” and his voice became jovial as he opened the passenger door. “You’ve taken down meaner bastards than your family at the bar. If you can drop Rocko the Wrestler, you can handle this shit, easy.”

His words had the desired effect as a grin split my face. I stifled a laugh. “Good point.” Bracing myself with a deep breath, I blew it out and opened my door. “Let’s get this over with.” Warm mugginess slapped me as I climbed out of the vehicle, a furry heat that generated immediate prickles of sweat. It had been a long time since I’d been in the southern states. As the stickiness of a typical Georgia August invaded my senses, I wondered how a sensation so familiar could seem so alien.

I pondered as I made my way to the sidewalk, ruthlessly using the inane thoughts to distract my growing bout of nerves. That worked until my feet hit the walk leading to the front porch. An abrupt breathlessness invaded me until Jason’s hand gently patted my shoulder. His touch grounded me, and I discovered I could breath again. My next inhalation was shaky but solid. “Let’s do this,” I muttered, marching forward toward my past.

Despite my best attempt at focusing on the present, a cascade of images washed over me as I traversed the porch steps. The second step squeaked, reminding me of all the times I’d skipped it in the dead of night as I snuck back into the house, beer on my breath and weed in my pocket. And there was Grandma’s rocking chair, the one I loved sharing with my best friend Manda. We’d rock and rock, watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood, daydreaming of our futures. The plan had been to graduate high school and run away together. She wanted to join the circus, and I just wanted to be with her. Not for the first time I wondered what had happened to her when I bailed. And then I had no more time for introspection.

My feet adhered to the painted planks of the porch. I stared at the screen door two feet in front of me, mind completely seized up as panic urged me to turn tail and run. Voices drifted out through the open windows, gentle murmurings of conversation. Two women in the kitchen. Though I’d been away for twenty years, I recognized my mother’s voice. The recognition accompanied a flash of lightning through my soul. How was that even possible? I’d been away longer than I’d been in her presence. How could I remember her voice after all this time? Which then begged the question, How could I have forgotten?

Heart pounding I started to turn away. “They have company,” I whispered.

“Oh, no, chica.” Jason gently steered me back in place. “We’re doing this. I have a date next week with Ryan Petera and I’m not going to miss it because you’re having an existential crisis in Bumfuck, Georgia.”

Half of me wanted to plant myself on that porch until he realized the futility of the situation, but terror bubbled in my gut. The longer we stood here the sooner someone would think to step outside. At the very least, one of the nosy neighbors would call the house to inform Mom she had a couple of suspicious people loitering on her porch. Petulant, I crossed my arms over my chest and gave him my sternest glare.

Jason didn’t even flinch. Keeping one hand on my shoulder, he reach out and hit the doorbell.

The echoes of the bell tone faded and I heard the second woman tell my mother, “I’ll get it.” Fighting the urge to lose my lunch, I wondered who she was. Did my parents have another child after I left? There had certainly been plenty of time for them to rear my replacement. I unwillingly looked at the red truck in the driveway. It seemed a bit too butch for a daughter. I couldn’t imagine my father buying a vehicle like that for me. Maybe they’d had a son and the stranger approaching was his girlfriend? Before I had time to break away from Jason’s grip, the door flew open.

She looked at us with a welcome smile, a nest of dreadlocks framing her oval face. As her expressive brown eyes looked inquisitively at Jason, who stood closer to the door, my mouth dropped open and my heart pounded in my chest. What was my childhood friend doing at my parents’ house decades after I’d left town?

When Jason didn’t respond to Manda’s questioning gaze, her eyes flickered toward me and then to him. They shot back to me, the cordial expression fading to shock. Her chocolate skin seemed to slightly gray as she gaped at me.

Jason blinked, looking back and forth between us. “I take it you two have met?”

Manda seemed to have lost her voice and her breath. Her chest heaved as she panted, a round silver medallion at her throat catching the fading light from the setting sun. It was a silver dollar on a black beaded choker, my good luck piece. I’d given it to her as a birthday gift just before I’d left town.

“Who is it, Manda?” my mother called from the kitchen.

My childhood friend swallowed, unwillingly turning toward the interior of the house.

Impatient with the tableau, Jason gave Manda his brightest smile. “May we come in?”

Her eyes pierced him. Hesitant, she pushed the screen door open and stepped backward, holding a finger to her lips. “Stay here. I’ll come get you in a minute.” She pointed at me. “Especially you.”

I nodded, mute with the joy of seeing her again and the confused jumble of dread and expectation that seemed to assail me in equal amounts.

Manda didn’t take her eyes off me until she ducked into the kitchen. “Pearl, I need you to come to the living room and sit down with Roy.”

Pearl? Manda called my parents by their first names? They’d always been Mister and Missus B to her when we were kids. As I ruminated over the obvious change in their relationship, I heard Manda chivying my mother out of the kitchen and into the living room, utilizing the bedroom hallway rather than the one that would take them through the entry foyer. My father’s recognizable voice joined in the confusion and another bolt of electricity shot through me. His voice was deeper, than I remembered, gravelly with a slight tremor I hadn’t heard before.

Jason grasped my hand, bringing me to the present. Or had I grabbed his hand? Whatever the case, his touch anchored me in the storm of panic whirling through me. This trip had been entirely his idea, dreamed up when the private investigator showed up on our doorstep last month. I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for him and I wouldn’t be the person I was without his unconditional friendship. I squeezed his hand and he squeezed back.

Manda emerged from the living room, waving impatiently at the occupants behind her. “Just hold your horses.” Her eyes dropped to our joined hands before narrowing. “Come on.”

I thought I’d felt apprehension on the porch. Now it seemed all the air had been drawn out of the room. I couldn’t seem to breathe and I held tight to Jason’s hand, drowning in the sea of my past. Jason’s strong arms enveloped me, protected me, reminded me that I wasn’t alone. The anxiety attack lessened as I clung to him. Looking past his shoulder I saw Manda prudently studying the hall photos in an effort to give us some privacy. From here I saw the scar bisecting her right eyebrow, the one she’d received when we’d gotten into a rock fight with the local elementary school bullies.

The memory and Jason’s physical presence pushed the worst of the foreboding away. I pushed him away, patting his upper arms. “I’m okay.”

“You sure?” he murmured, ignoring our surroundings as he focused entirely on me. He answered my nod with one of his own. “We’re almost done. Whatever happens in the next ten minutes, I’m here for you.”

I huffed a snort of laughter. “What about what happens ten minutes after that?”

He gave me a half shrug and grinned. “Let me get back to you.”

Smacking his arm, I released him. I inhaled deeply and stepped past him toward Manda. We stared at each other for an eternity that lasted seconds. I wanted to pull her into my arms, hold and caress her as I’d always dreamed of doing, kiss her full lips. Instead I reached out and took her hands into mine. “Thank you.”

A tentative smile brightened her face, faltering only when she looked over my shoulder at Jason. “Come on.” She turned and led me into the living room. “You two still sitting down?”

“I never got up,” my father quipped. “Now what the sam hell is going on?”

Manda stepped aside, revealing me to the occupants of the living room. A gray man lay in the recliner, remote control in hand. His hair was thinning and he looked like he had more bones than meat. Wrinkles lined his face, bracketing the generous mouth so like mine and crinkling the corners of his eyes. On the couch beside him an old woman fiddled nervously with a kitchen towel, her dark hair shot through with liberal amounts of silver, the long tresses held together in a haphazard bun.

The old woman, my mother, gasped aloud, her towel flying to her face as she peered over the cloth. Dad grunted as if punched. The three of us stared at each other before Mom’s towel inched down to her chin. “Patrica?”

I heard Jason mutter behind me. “Patricia? Really?”

Struggling with the hysterical urge to both giggle and slap him silly, I fought with my voice. “Hi, Mom. Dad.”

Another long moment of silence. Dad pushed up from the recliner, collapsing it as he stood. He seemed shorter and he looked very much like his father. I remembered Grandpa when he got that look in his eye and gulped.

“That’s it? ‘Hi, Dad?’ After twenty years?” His hands found his hips as he glared.

Oh boy. The child inside me shriveled beneath his stern demand. I fumbled for something to say, having never learned how to be an adult around my parents.

“Where the hell did you go?” Dad gestured toward Mom. “We’ve been searching for you ever since you ran off. It’s been twenty god-damned years, Patty!”

“I know, Dad.” I swallowed against the lump in my throat. “I honestly didn’t think you’d care.”

“What…” Mom cleared her throat, eyes casting back and forth between my father and me. “But…why would you think that? We’re your parents. We love you.”

The bitterness of adolescent acrimony invaded my apprehension. “No, you love Patty, the sweet little girl who dated the captain of the football team and became Prom Queen. That’s not me. It never has been.” My words had devastating effect as my mother wrung the towel in her lap, tears in her eyes. I shook my head, instantly regretting my reversion into the past. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Damned right,” Dad muttered.

I felt Jason’s presence behind me, supporting me regardless of what happened here. “This was a bad idea,” I said.

“No! Honey!” Mom stood, reaching out to put a calming hand on Dad’s shoulder much as Jason had done with me.

“I had no idea you were looking for me until the investigator showed up at our door last week. I’m just here to let you know I’m fine. Don’t worry about me any more.”

As usual when I was defiant, Dad ignored me. He looked beyond me to Jason. “Who are you? Her husband? Boyfriend?”

“Roommate. Jason Neuworth.” Jason passed me, offering his hand to my father who took it. “We share an apartment in San Francisco.” They shook hands. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Briggs.”

So much for extricating myself. Now that Jason had introduced himself I doubt I’d be able to get out of the house before midnight. I glanced over my shoulder toward the hall, seeing Manda leaning against the wall with her arms over her chest, a second sentry between me and the front door. Longing surged against my childhood anger and insecurities. What is she doing here?

Dad grunted. “Just roommates, huh?”

Jason grinned. “Just roommates, sir. Scout’s honor.”

Exasperated with Dad’s fishing expedition, I focused once more on the conversation. “No, that hasn’t changed. I’m still a dyke.” Holding out my heavily tattooed arms before me, I turned them for better viewing. “A tattooed dyke who works as a bouncer in a dyke bar.”

Discomfort flickered across both my parents’ expressions. I refused to see how Manda was taking the news. I’d never told her how I’d felt, too terrified to face her rejection if she ever realized how much I truly loved her. Chances were good my parents had informed her if she was hanging out with them on the weekends though.

As I puzzled through that scenario, my father snorted. “I didn’t think it had, Patty. Your mother and I have had plenty of time to do some research.”

Manda broke into the conversation. “They started a chapter of PFLAG after you left.”

I blinked, uncertain what to say.

Dad found my startlement amusing. “Yep. We’ve marched in the Pride parade every year since too.”

“Really?” Jason laughed. “That’s great! Thank you so much for your support. So many parents drop their kids on the curb when they find out.” He smiled wide at me, eyes searching mine for a response.

“Not us,” Dad intoned, glaring at me from beneath bristling eyebrows.

“I…” I dropped my chin to stare at the floor, recognizing the rag rug my mother had acquired from her grandmother when I was a kindergartener. The fight had drained out of me, the lack of expected recriminations robbing me of the primary weapons I’d loaded for this confrontation. My parents had wanted nothing to do with me when I came out to them; it had never occurred to me that they’d changed their minds in the intervening years. “I don’t know what to say.” My throat clogged and my voice thickened. “You were so angry. I didn’t think you cared whether I lived or died.”

“Oh, honey.” I heard the rustle of clothing, the shuffle of footsteps. Bare feet entered my vision and for the first time in twenty years I felt my mother’s embrace. “We always cared. We were surprised, shocked and maybe a little angry. But you’ll always be our daughter, no matter who you love.”

Dad’s voice was gruff. “It’s our fault. We drove you away…I drove you away.” The smell of his aftershave grew stronger as he neared.

“No…” I started, raising my head to look at him.

Tears sparkled in his eyes. “Yes,” he insisted, and I knew better than to argue with that tone. He only used it when he was at his most stubborn.

My long-lost, long-abandoned parents held me and I basked in their acceptance and love. I’d been so wrong all those years ago, I’d wasted so much time. How could they ever forgive me for robbing them of my place in their lives? How could I ever forgive myself?


Night had long ago fallen. A nimbus hung around each streetlight, illuminating the humid air as I sat on the porch swing. A dog barked in the distance, and I heard the sounds of the neighbor’s television mingling with the conversation from the dining room window behind me. My mother didn’t speak as much. I knew if I looked over my shoulder she’d be staring at me, unwilling to let me out of her sight.

Jason and Dad had hit it off. Apparently Jason had worked at a feedstore in Wisconsin as a teenager, and the two of them chattered back and forth about the business. Seeing and hearing them together sparked a revelation with me. Jason was much like my father with the same general opinions and dry sense of humor. It seemed that I’d unconsciously kept my dad close despite the physical and emotional distance I’d put between us.

The screen door squeaked as it opened, and Manda appeared. She carefully let herself out of the house, not letting the screen slam behind her. “Room for one more?”

I scooted sideways a miniscule distance to indicate invitation, and she sank to her customary cusion on my right. A muggy summer night, my parents discussing things over the dinner table and me and Manda on the porch swing — the perfect snapshot of my childhood summers. The nostalgia wasn’t enough to blur the edge of my nervous tension. I’d have fidgeted, but the swing would shift and shiver, alerting Manda to my dismay. Several minutes passed without either of us speaking. My anxiety couldn’t hold up under the weight of time, slowly trickling away as silence blanketed us. Manda had always known how to handle me; I had no doubt she was doing so now. A smile teased the corners of my mouth as I realized what was happening.

Manda saw the grin. “How are you feeling?”

“Better, thank you.” The words came out stiff, but I couldn’t help them. I inhaled and released a deep breath, forcing myself to turn sideways on the swing, draping my left arm over the back. If I’d wanted to I could reach out and touch her dreadlocks without straining. I gripped the back of the swing instead. “How about you?”

She cocked her head. “Relieved, ecstatic, hurt, pissed off.” As the smile slid off my face, she also turned on the swing, pulling those dreads out of reach as she mirrored my pose. She propped her head on her right hand. “I understand why you left your parents, but why me? Did you think I’d react like them?”

The distress roared back. “No.” I didn’t meet her eyes, staring past her to the red truck in the driveway. Manda’s truck.

“Then why?”

I reminded myself that it had been twenty years since I’d seen her, twenty years of wild bar scenes, nameless lovers and failed relationships. It took effort to remind myself that two decades had passed since I slipped away in the middle of the night, running from my parents’ unrealistic expectations and, yes, running from my feelings for my best friend. I was no longer a mixed up teenager, and neither was Manda.

My eyes found hers. “Because I loved you and that scared the hell out of me more than my parents’ anger ever could.” She didn’t respond, and I barged onward. “Mom found a love letter that I’d written. It was pretty erotic. I hadn’t put any names but it was obvious that it was to a woman. She told Dad and we had a ‘family meeting’ after dinner.” I looked away, focusing on the streetlight. “That’s when I decided to leave.”

“I know. I came to pick you up for school the next morning. Your mom was a mess.”

A pang of guilt made me wince. “That wasn’t my aim. I just figured I wasn’t the daughter they wanted. Staying would only have made things worse. Some of the things Dad said…” I shook my head, remembering the horrible words. “They didn’t want me, they wanted someone else, someone I couldn’t be.”

Manda sighed. “You always were stubborn. They never told me the details, just that you’d come out to them and they’d handled it badly.”

The thought of my father admitting he was wrong in something baffled me. If he said the sky was green, nothing anyone said or did would change his mind.

“That still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me. You say you loved me. You shouldn’t treat people you love that way. I wouldn’t have abandoned you.”

Manda’s sorrowful words made me blink, forcing my memory to fast-forward that awful life-defining evening. “I–I tried.” I turned and pulled my legs up to sit Turkish style on the swing. Staring into my lap at my jittery fingers, I said, “When I snuck out of the house I went to your place. I stood outside for an hour or more, trying to work up the courage. I just couldn’t do it.”

We sat in silence again, the murmur from the dining room washing over us.

“Was the letter written for me?”

I swallowed against the lump in my throat. How could it be so difficult to say the words after so much time? That life, that teenager was long dead. The Briggs of today was a tough dyke who’d worked for years in a rough and tumble bar, dealing with obnoxious drunks of all genders and persuasions. Despite my small size, I was able to take down people twice my size. I’d perfected the art of convincing women to fall into my bed and enjoyed a level of notoriety among the regular crowd at the bar. Hell, I’m thirty-seven years old, not a high-school senior!

The mental reminder bolstered my hard-earned adult confidence. “Yes, it was.” She didn’t respond and my courage failed me. As much as I wanted to gauge her reaction, I couldn’t look at her for fear of the rejection in her eyes. “While I was outside your house I heard the freight train in the distance. That’s how I left town, hopping the freight when it came through the trainyard.” Still no response. I risked a peek to see her staring into space. “What about you? You were going to attend Stanford, right?”

She nodded, focusing on me once more. “I was. There were some last minute changes. The last couple of months of school were rough, but I scored a partial scholarship to Harvard.”

Glad to be off the topic of my desertion, I jumped on the conversation. “Marine biology?”

“No, I picked up a Business major.”

“What?” I stared at her. “But you always wanted to work with dolphins.” To be honest that had been part of my reason for setting roots in San Francisco. I’d hoped that sooner or later I’d accidentally run into Manda. All these years Jason thought I was fascinated by the ocean and its teeming life, but in reality I’d always been searching for my childhood crush.

Manda’s smile was nostalgic. “Yeah. My science scores weren’t that strong.”

“I’m sorry. That must have hurt.”

She snorted a laugh. “I’ve had worse.”

I had no illusions regarding her meaning. I’d caused her worse pain than not attaining her career plans. It was time to change the subject again. “So what do you do these days?” I jutted a chin at her truck in the driveway. “Whatever it is must pay well enough.”

Manda smiled, her dark eyes twinkling. Her expression was the one she’d always worn when she was prepared to drop a bomb on me — the ‘I’ve got a secret’ joy.

“Uh oh,” I intoned, bringing my hand up to my forehead. Her laughter uplifted my heart, and I peeked from under my hand at her with a smile.

“I came home and worked at the feedstore with Roy. I’ve been managing it since he retired two years ago.”

I gaped at her, recalling millions of conversations between us of getting out of our small town to see the world. Our imaginary adventures morphed from childishly running pirate ships in the Gulf to the more realistic vision of living in Hawaii near the Intitute of Marine Biology where she’d ply her trade as a scientist while I ran a deep-sea fishing charter. “Why would you come back here?” I blurted. “We couldn’t wait to leave!”

“We were supposed to leave together.” Her words were soft, filled with pain. “And your parents were in as much pain as I was. We sort of gravitated together.” Her gaze dropped to her lap where she picked at imaginary lint. “My folks died in a car accident a few years ago. Roy and Pearl sort of…filled in for them.”

Guilt loomed high in my heart. It was one thing to think that my parents had wanted nothing to do with me. I hadn’t expected my absence to have changed so many people. Manda had returned to the stifling small town life because of my disappearance. She must have suspected my reasons for leaving and felt at fault for my parents’ pain. She stayed to take care of them because their only daughter hadn’t. She’d stayed for me. I took her restless hand in mind. “I’m so very sorry.”

A flash of pain faded as a tremulous smile played across her lips. “Thank you. It’s okay though. It worked out well. They’ve been awesome for me, and I hope I’ve helped them deal with–” She rolled her eyes, fighting the words. “Deal with your loss.”

My loss. Though her comment hurt, I couldn’t argue the point. Apparently I’d done more damage than I’d ever thought in my effort to relieve everyone from the acrimony surrounding my presence in their lives. “Touche,” I murmured. Searching for another topic, I glanced at the hand I held. She wore a ring on her right hand, one that her parents had given her for her fourteenth birthday, but no others. “So you manage the feedstore. What about boyfriends? A husband?” I shook her hand with mine. “Last I heard you were hoping what-his-name, the captain of the basketball team would ask you to the prom. Did he?”

Manda laughed again, and I smiled in reaction. I’d always loved to hear her laughter. “To be honest, I don’t remember going to the prom.” She reached out and took my hand. “After you left I realized that there was one thing Daryl didn’t have going for him.”

A blurry image of a tall, lanky teenaged boy with shaggy dark hair filled my mind. “What was that?”

“He wasn’t you, Briggs.”

Her voice was soft and I unwillingly turned toward it, seeing an equally tender expression on her face.

With a soft snicker, Manda wiped a tear away from the corner of her eye. “You know what’s the worst thing about this situation, Briggs?”

I could only shake my head, mute.

“If you’d have had the courage to say something to me, I might have gone with you that night.”


November 18th, 2015