Lindsay, a Notre Dame University graduate, drags along three of her friends for a fun, end-of-the-year journey. She forgets to mention that she is trying to dig up the mysteries of her past. Oh well. They'll get with the program soon enough.


4. Chapter 3


            Jack awoke three hours later to silence; the long hours in the car had resulted to many a nostalgic thought. Looking out the window, he saw the rolling hills of Nebraska, a sea of warm grain. And tears welled in his eyes; he was not prepared to come back here. Lindsay was lucky, that she couldn’t remember. Sometimes you don’t want to look at the past. But coming back here… it was like his memories slapping him in the face; you can’t ignore it for long.

            “Are you okay?” Tommy looked at him, surprisingly, with concern in his eyes. A side Jack hadn’t known.

            “Yeah, I-I’m fine.” But he wasn’t, and Tommy knew this. The façade that was life was one Jack had never taken off in presence of others. But that didn’t mean his mind hadn’t stripped himself behind it.

            He had grown up here, in Nebraska, a hick of a child. He was the brother of eleven, eight boys and three girls, for a total of twelve squirming children for two stern parents to take care of. His mother, Arlene, refused for her children to call her “Mom”. It was Arlene, or the cane, this obstinacy applied to many other things. His father, Walter, was a former Commander of the naval forces, and had seen far too much to care about the likes of whiny babies. A binge drinker. They were raised like cattle: they ate, slept, did what was asked of them, and if not, there was a cane or hand to beat it out of them. He ran away from this all, his family, his suffering. And never wanted to come back. Never.

            The roar of the engine eased his mind of the memories, whittled them slowly away, like water to rock. And his thoughts were replaced with the warming conversation that began. 

            “I feel like time goes so fast, like I was a freshman yesterday,” said Tommy.  

            “Time goes by when you’re having fun.” Lindsay added in.

            “Awwwww! You mean with us!” Jack laughed, earning an eye-roll from Lindsay.

            “I think we should have some story-time!” Laurence said.

            “OOoooh of what?” Tommy snickered.

            “Of the first time we met each other. Anyone in this car…but we all need to tell a story.” Laurence said. “And I’ll begin.”

            “Oh lord. Laurence don’t…” Lindsay knew what he was going to say.

            “So,” Laurence said, ignoring Lindsay, “it was the first week of college, and I was going to my first football practice, and just, you know, walking across the grass. And because, I’m just so gorgeous, all the girls were following me around.”

            “Improv not included.” Tommy said, grinning. 

             Laurence groaned. “Okay, okay. So I was just walking to practice and I see this girl, a blondie, running around campus. She was stunningly beautiful,” Lindsay tried to smack him but they almost swerved off the road, “and I knew I wasn’t the only one staring. And because I forgot that I was walking, and am a terrible multi-tasker, I tumbled off the curb. I kinda hurt myself, cuz the road was really rough, but here’s the funny part. She just ran right by me! She didn’t stop, or anything! And I just sat there, looking at my bloody palms, wondering who the hell is this girl!” Laurence finished, laughing along with Jack and Tommy. Lindsay blushed a deep pink, but kept her eyes firmly on the toad.

            Tommy made his voice a dramatically deep. “Lindsay! It’s your turn now. Don’t wimp out on us!” 

            “You guys are crazy. I met Jack in track. There. Done.” She said, earning whiny groans from everyone. She didn’t feel like talking. Because Laurence’s story was fiction, and he knew it. But she also knew why he didn’t tell them the real story.

            Laurence glanced at Lindsay, ignoring the dramatic antics of Tommy’s story(about wrestling with Jack during class). Did she remember, he thought, when we really met? It was not as brief as his other work of fiction, nor made him look quite as love-sick.

           They were in their first year of college. Lindsay was shorter and had dyed her hair brown. Laurence was the same, hair, height and all. It wasn’t a good day; he had received a low grade on a major test and the dark weather wasn’t doing much to brighten his spirits, as his football practice was canceled. He was walking across the grass, on the way back to his dorms after classes, when he saw a small crowd of people in an alley a few blocks away, a little off-campus. Wanting a closer look to what was happening, he made his way over.

          What he saw made him run.

          A girl, one he vaguely recognized from some of his classes, Lindsay, was collapsed unconscious on the ground, her face disfigured with multiple cuts and bruises. Her first white shirt was now grey with the sewage on the earth. Her jeans were torn and there were places where you could see blood leaking through the fabric. In her hands was a cross, covered in her blood. There was a circle of people around her, hidden in the shadows of the alleyway, taking turns kicking her in the stomach. When Laurence came by, however, they stopped.

          Some walked away, trying not to be associated with the group. Others stayed, still staring at the girl with mixtures of pity or hatred glowing in their eyes.

          This was wrong, he knew. There is nothing someone can do to deserve a beating like this.

          One of the younger men, with black-cropped hair, deep eyes, and a pierced nose, walked over, stumbling a bit. He gave a small sneer, eyes sharpening to slits. The tattoos on his arms bulged, a skull, a bull’s head in a star. Symbols of the devil. “She messed with the wrong group. She insulted our beliefs and now, she’s gettin’ what she deserves. Well?” He looked at Laurence.  “What’re you gonna do ‘bout it?” he said eloquently.

           When Laurence didn’t move from his spot, the man suddenly jumped up, bringing his fist up, preparing to strike.

           It happened in an instant. The punch reached only the air, as Laurence sidestepped, thrusting his knuckles into the boy’s side. And, if that wasn’t enough, he gave a sharp jab to his lower back and the boy tumbled to the floor. He sucked in his breath, clearly winded.

           “This isn’t over!” was the most convincing phrase he could come up with before shuffling to his knees and running lopsidedly away.

            To the people remaining, Laurence gave a cold stare and said, “This is far from over.” He mustered every bit of disgust and contempt he could into those five words. And with that, the rest remaining scampered off into the shadows from whenst they came. Before leaving, another girl, with jet-black hair and a leather jacket, looked at him, almost wanting to say something. The call of one of her friends resolved her inner turmoil, choosing to follow them away from the scene.

            With a tender touch, careful not to hurt her further, he slid her into his arms and lifted her up. If I tell the authorities about this, they’ll question me about attacking other students, he thought bitterly, as I probably should have just told them to go away first. Why did I have to hit him? So stupid! Where do I put her? I don’t know where her dorm is and if I take her to a nurse, they’ll ask how this happened. There aren’t people falling out of windows in universities.

           With these thoughts, his mind was made up. And carrying her gently in her arms, he carried her to his dormitory.

           His room was pretty filthy, even though he didn’t have a roommate. It was a small area, with the ground littered with papers and the shelves overflowing with textbooks. Balancing her shakily in one hand, he swept his bed clear and laid her limp body on the mattress. He brushed her golden brown hair out of her face and rushed to the bathroom, coming back with a wet cloth and some bandages. He set to work, cleaning the blood off of her face, arms, and lower legs, trying to respect her privacy. After he finished, he grabbed his blanket and drew it over her body. As he stroked the side of her flawed face, her eyes opened up a small fraction. They sparkled in a way he recognized dimly.

           “Where am I?” Her voice was the quavering note at the end of a song.

           “Somewhere safe.” 

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