Monday, April 29, 2013

TRULY by Summer Day (chapter ten "a bad ending")

Chapter Ten
A Bad Ending
How do I describe the part where it all went wrong?... Confessions of a Post-teenage Hermit
    It’s a long story, the part where it ended. It was a slow ending, yet it was fast. In retrospect our whole teenage relationship seems like an ending in disguise. The end began about a year after we’d started dating. I’d turned sixteen and took Ben home with me for dinner one weekend. To say he was not made to feel part of the family is an understatement. 
    The evening began with a few unwelcoming words from my father and some hostile looks from Melissa. Liz had also changed sides. I am ashamed to repeat how badly my family looked down on him and how powerless I was to prevent it. Ben left early.
   When we met back at school the following Monday, something had changed. Deep down, both of us knew my family would be a problem in relation to our future happiness. I resolved not to take Ben to my home again until my family learned to “behave” themselves. But I wondered how many years it would take for them to change their attitudes. They were just snobs, plain and simple.     
    “That boy isn’t good enough for you,” my father had whispered as I cleared away dessert. Ben was standing at the door to the kitchen just about to ask me if I needed any help. He could not have mistaken my father’s meaning or the look of horror on my face.
    I took my coat and announced that I was going back to school.
     My father just said, “not if you want me to pay your tuition,” under his breath.
    “I have to go, Jane.” Ben said. “We’ll talk on Monday.”
     I didn’t blame him. I ran to the door but his car had already sped off.
     “And there he goes,” Elizabeth said, “out with the trash.”
     I threw my drink at her. Elizabeth’s shocked expression was nearly worth the face slap I received from my father after he walked back into the dining room.  It was the first and last time he would ever hit me. After that, he apologised but was secretly quite pleased with himself, I think.    
    Back at school, I asked Ben to forgive me.
    “There is nothing to forgive,” he replied. “I love you, your family hate me. It’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet.”
    “Don’t say that. We both know what happened to them.” 
     Then, of course, there was the night of the bachelor auction that ended like a Greek tragedy.
     Harley won. Ben arrived late from a debate night at another school. He stood in the corner with me and laughed as Harley was crowned “Bachelor of the Year.”
     The next part was everyone’s idea. We decided to pile into the car after lights out and everything had closed down, all the teachers and other students were in bed. Ben, Jenny, Harley, Liz and Tom Winchester (his personality had improved under my sister’s influence – according to Liz) and I, drove to Wentworth Canyon, an area we knew. None of us were drinking. We made a bonfire; we were hiding out from the school, just relaxing and having fun.  Nobody expected Jenny to go off and look for firewood with Liz and me trailing behind. No one could have known she would walk too close to a ledge that would, in a freak moment, collapse and drag her down with it.
    What followed was the worst night and morning of our lives.
   The searchers didn’t find Jenny for a long time. She fell so far into a ravine and our only comfort was that she had not suffered and was killed instantly.
   After statements had been taken by police and investigations underway, we were all suspended. The school couldn’t expel us for drinking but a shadow fell over us anyway, since none of us were supposed to be out of school grounds. We had acted recklessly and there was talk of the school being sued for negligence - as if that would bring Jenny back. I already knew just how dangerous that ravine was. We had behaved badly. A part of me felt we were all somehow complicit in the whole horrible tragedy. We should never have been at Wentworth Canyon in that place, on that night.
    And maybe if we hadn’t, Jenny would still be alive.
    Afterwards, we said goodbye to her in our own ways. The Socials and all of her real friends including Ben and of course Harley, went to her favorite place on the beach with items we knew she’d love. Harley placed notes from all of us in a bottle and threw it out to sea. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t enough and none of us, especially Harley, knew how to get on with our lives.
    In the end, the brothers both won a sports scholarship to various prestigious universities. Ben didn’t go. I applied and was accepted into a liberal arts degree (though I don’t know how since I could barely study for exams or concentrate during my final semester). In any case, I dropped out of college during first semester. I couldn’t study; it just seemed pointless. Elizabeth got accepted into her finance degree but lost some of her drive to finish and instead accepted modelling assignments that took her far from Bel Air.
    Ben, who had already been scouted by colleges, joined the Air Force. By then, everything had changed. A soberness had fallen over our small world and even, it seemed, the town where our school was situated.  Wentworth felt darker. It didn’t matter that they’d remade the boulevard and put extra lights along the pier. I missed my friend every day.
   A year passed in a blur. Everything between Ben and me did too. Our relationship changed once we were no longer together. Ben was in college, I’d transferred to a local day school to finish high school. After the seniors graduated, there was no reason for me to stay and be reminded every day of the best friend I’d lost and I couldn’t help but blame myself.
   People who knew Jenny tried to move on. Her family moved away but I was comforted by the ocean and the coffee shops we’d visited on the rare occasions we’d managed to ditch school and run away to the sea.  
   Ben came home for my graduation. It meant a lot to have him there but the ceremony itself didn’t mean that much to me. I was valedictorian of my new senior class. I’d had nothing to do but study. Without my sisters or Jenny there to be part of the ceremony, it was all pretty empty. Then Ben showed up unexpectedly. He’d talked about coming but wasn’t sure if he could take the weekend off.
   Ben waved to me from the crowd and took a photograph. I was ecstatic. My father glowered at us. Now that Harley was somehow seen to have been involved with Jenny, “to have failed to protect her” according to my father, Ben was even more under the microscope.
    He was going to take the high road, going to go over to my father and shake his hand, but I warned him against it. I was surprised that Dad had even showed up at my “second class high school graduation” as he put it. Though, I’m fairly sure, deep down, he was impressed I’d saved on school fees.
    I didn’t care what dad thought. His true selfishness made me wonder if he was my biological father until I’d seen my birth certificate (aged eight) which confirmed it. 
    That day, I headed straight towards Ben. I wanted to run away with him and would have, if he’d asked. He was not impulsive. Ben liked to think things through. He slipped a note into the picket of my robe. 
    The proposal had been swift and to the point.
     Dear Jane
    Sometimes good comes from bad, don’t forget it. Jenny would have wanted to see you smile today just like I did.
    I have to go now, but I will see you again, soon.
    I love you, I’ll always love you. You are the only person I want to dance with, be with, love with. Even though we are young and your family clearly hate me (and it’s a long time to wait, I know)… after I graduate from officer training, will you marry me?   
    Ben xo.