Authors: Jade Goodmore
Forget Me Not
Forget Me Not, Copyright © 2013 Jade Goodmore
All rights reserved.
For Those Fighting
Against The Odds
he pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.
Fairview High's Graduating Class Of 2002 Invites
Ms Michaela Cole
To Our 10 Year Reunion
June 8th 2012 at 7:00pm
The Worcester Hotel and Bar.
This pearlescent slip of paper in my hand threatens to steal my already diminishing youth. I’ve been fooling myself for too long that I am fresh out of school, but in reality it has been ten years.
. At twenty-seven years old I’m hardly applying for my bus pass, but I can’t help feel like my best years are behind me.
At the time, I detested school. What teenager doesn’t? But looking back through my thick-rimmed, rose-tinted glasses, they really were the best years of my life. I have never had it as easy as I did then. My only money issues were when I was wavering between spending my pocket money on Hoobastank’s new album or a trip to the cinema. I was responsible for nobody but myself and the only time I fretted about a future career was when it became clear that Aerosmith were not looking to hire roadies in the near future.
I was happy, easily so.
After high school, my life got turned upside down, and although I’ll forever be sensitive to the events that broke me, I am
on my way to being happy again. I’m stronger than I have been in years, but in truth, my strength hasn’t truly been tested until now.
Filing my thoughts away to be scrutinized later, I stick the invite under my Rolling Stones tongue magnet on the fridge and return to cooking breakfast. Unless I like my eggs smoking and black - I don't - then it's ruined, so I join Benjamin at the kitchen table and pour myself a bowl of cereal. As we eat in rare silence I bask in the youth radiating from my beautiful son, Benjamin. His pure skin exudes freshness and frequent freckles kiss his button nose. Six years worth of unruly hair hangs too long above eyes the color of rich chocolate, the only feature I can recognize as my own.
I manage half of my cereal before Benji is asking me to tie his laces.
"Why don't you try them first, sweetheart?" I ask gently, trying not to push it. We’ve had this conversation daily for weeks.
"I’ve already tried. Look!" Benji whines as he thrusts his foot onto my lap. On closer inspection his laces are twisted around each other and tucked into the side of his sneakers.
"Oh. Okay." I take his laces and tie them into a neat bow. "One loop, two loop, round and through,” I sing. “See?"
He says nothing but simply swaps feet to allow me to correct the other one. He mutters some variation of thanks and jumps to the floor to run and collect his bag from his bedroom upstairs. He has to hop over his toys that are scattered along the floor of our living room and he makes it seem like they’re much bigger than they actually are. I smile, briefly, before remembering my earlier woe.
I know who it is before I even pick up the phone.
"Emma," I answer.
"Mickey, how did you know it was me? Did you get it? Are you excited?" Emma squeals her assault of questions, way too many for this early in the morning. Her voice is too high and I wonder if that’s down to her usual caffeine overload or the sheer joy of our impending reunion.
"Yes, I got it," I sigh, before turning to look at the invite on the fridge. "It can't have been ten years already, Em. I feel old."
"Mickey, you're not even twenty-eight yet."
"Not far off. Feel free to get me Botox for my birthday," I suggest, only half joking.
"Oh, I should probably cancel the slippers and knitting needles I ordered then?" she asks, possibly only half joking too.
"Yes! I assume you’re going?"
Benjamin appears in the kitchen wearing his bicycle helmet and knee pads. Has he even looked outside? Our little town is being thoroughly watered and I am in no mood for a soggy bike ride to school. I shake my head and mouth "no" as Emma takes my invitation to chat about the reunion and runs with it. Benjamin stomps off to his room, much louder than necessary, and slams the door. I hope he doesn't change into his Power Rangers costume like last week.
"Tell me you’re going,” she demands.
I mutter a negative of sorts.
“Michaela Louise Cole! I thought we’d already agreed that we were going to go and it was going to be fabulous?" She's right. We already received a ‘save the date’ card a couple of months ago and talked about how nice it would be to catch up with everyone. Since the initial excitement, it’s fair to say that my enthusiasm has waned.
"Yeah, I know, but…I have a lot on with work, and leaving Benji with my parents, it's...it’s…"
. Emma has sifted through the bullshit and found my truth.
“I’m your best friend. Now spill.”
“It's just that, well, I haven't allowed myself to think about him for so long, and it’s easier that way. Seeing him again..." My breath catches at the thought of being in his presence and I bite my lower lip to subdue the panic.
"I know, but listen to your bestest. It’s time for some tough love.” She pauses and clears her throat, milking the drama for as much as she can. “
. It’s been so long. Too long. You’re a totally different person now and I’m sure that he is too. It’ll probably be like meeting a complete stranger.” She must sense my doubt, even over the phone, because she hurriedly tries a different tactic. “Besides, you don't even know if he’ll turn up, right?"
Her words invoke a wave of hope. He may not turn up. It’s completely conceivable that he won't. I’ve got no idea where in the world he is and it’s likely that neither does anyone else. He may not have even received the invite. My stomach knots at this realization and I can’t quite fathom out why. I don’t want to see him. I
want to see him.
"I guess," I lie, knowing that she won’t leave it until she hears some acceptance. She can't possibly understand the mess that tangles my mind, so it’s just easier to feign belief in her words.
Emma is just about to scrutinize the situation further when Benji appears by my side in his Batman cape and mask.
"Oh, Em, I’ve got to run. I’ll talk to you later."
"Okay, just think about it. See you."
think about it. Nothing but it.
I’m grateful to be dropping Benji off for his last day of school before they break for summer. He’s been a ball of energy in anticipation of beginning all of the activities we’ve organized for him with local clubs and friends. Thankfully, my parents are able to occupy a little of Benji’s time while I’m at work. They’re teachers at a school outside of town so they’re free and happy to help out with childcare when school’s out. In my job, I’m fortunate enough to be able to work around Benji so I’ve managed to set aside a little time off in a few weeks to enjoy my son.
The rain lessens to a drizzle as I backtrack home to collect my forgotten work bag before heading to the office. I park directly outside my house and step out of my little VW Golf and onto the busy, wet sidewalk. It's always so chaotic at this time in the morning, so much so that I wonder why I insisted on living in the centre of town.
Our middle of the terrace townhouse sits in the heart of Starling, a beautiful place outlining the edge of Connecticut. It’s a typical coastal town that at its core is thriving with new developments and expansion, but thankfully, the further you travel away from the epicenter, the greener the hills get and the sandier the beaches become.
I unlock the door to our cozy home and give it a generous bump with my shoulder, stepping immediately into our living room and wiping the soles of my wet boots on the mat. Our living room and kitchen are all part of one moderately sized space, separated by a breakfast bar on one side and the stairs to the two bedrooms and bathroom on the opposite. It’s petite in size and mature in age, but I love every bit of it because it is all mine. I worked damn hard to be able to put a roof over mine and Benji’s head rather than having to rely on my parent’s kind hearts, and even though it’s not where I plan on seeing out the rest of our lives, or the not so distant future for that matter, I am more than happy here right now.
My Dad and I spent weeks before I moved in painting and decorating every wall in bright, airy colors and I’ve worked hard to make it both practical and homely. My attempts at restoring furniture lie evident around me with shabby chic pieces and my own artwork adorning the walls. Floral fabrics line the windows injecting some femininity into my little fortress, but little light enters through the glass, especially not on a miserable day like today.
I head to the kitchen to collect my laptop from the table but get sidetracked by the offering of fruit at its center. I sit and pick at some grapes, hoping that I can fill a little bit of the hole that my half eaten breakfast left. They don’t. I try a banana. Nope.
After I finish the grapes, banana, and an apple it dawns on me that I’m procrastinating with food. I’m stuffing my face as my subconscious continues to reflect on today’s mail. At least it’s not crap I’m shoveling into my mouth. I’m not sure how long I’ve been sitting here staring vacantly at the fridge, or more specifically, the invitation, but I somehow feel calmer. It’s as if having a stare-off with this overly fancy, flimsy piece of paper has restored my prospective. This shouldn’t be a big deal.
It isn’t a big deal
The woman sitting here isn’t so different to the young girl that left Fairview High ten years ago. My dark titian hair hasn’t changed, but it’s now longer and I’ve finally learnt how to tame the rich, auburn curls. My nose and cheeks are dusted with light freckles that I’ve slowly grown to accept. My eyes are still the same rich brown, albeit with newly owned laughter lines and my nose bares a faint scar on my right nostril where it was once pierced. I regretted this act of rebellion almost immediately. It looked less punk rock and more Rudolph when it swelled up to twice its normal size and it had to be removed by medical professionals. Nevertheless, my aspirations of achieving a punk rock look haven’t left me. Its effect on my wardrobe selection is evident in my array of skinny jeans and boots, but the intensity is toned down nowadays as I welcome the touch of taste that comes with age.
After establishing that I am not so far removed from the girl in her senior year, I resolve that with the help of a highly trained beautician and a new dress, I shall indeed go to the ball…or the reunion. I send Emma a text message with the good news and only have time to get out of the door and lock it before my phone alerts me to her response.
You won't regret it! So excited! Can you book us in at Gina's for the full works? xxx
Of course, I’ll need it! Speak later xxx
The rain has calmed so I pull up the hood of my black bomber jacket and decide to walk the short distance to work. The fresh, damp air will do my muddled mind some good. It only takes ten minutes to walk to my office, fifteen when I stop for a coffee, which I do.
Warming my hands, I clutch the drink close to me and turn onto the main High Street. Buildings run parallel to each other on either side of a road that stretches for at least half a mile. Each store has its business name stenciled against its window in a variety of colors, and you can hear the sound of bells as doors open in turn up and down the sidewalk. If you ignore the cars and the traffic lights then this area of town looks almost unchanged from sixty years ago.
The front of
Gina's Hair and Beauty Salon
stands out with a neon pink sign and silver italic lettering that adorns the window. As well as my hairdressers of choice it’s also where I work. Not as a hairdresser, though. I rent a room upstairs and have done since my career as a local photographer took off and my little home became overrun with albums and equipment.
Opening the door, I say hello to Gina and one of the new stylists who I’ve yet to have learn her name. I remember to book an appointment for myself and Emma for next Friday, the morning of the reunion and will myself to actually look forward to the pampering as I make my way up the rickety stairs to my humble work space. My room here is of modest size and then once you factor in my desk and the wall of shelves buckling from the weight of my inventory, it can get quite claustrophobic.
After hanging my wet jacket on the back of my chair I start up my computer. I fetch my camera from my bag and begin working on transferring the images from last night’s gig so they can be sifted through and cleaned.
Waiting rather impatiently for technology to do its thing, my mind begins to wander and I somehow find myself back at home staring at the invitation on the fridge door. It really shouldn't be such a big deal. Half of my class mates still live in the area and the rest are on Facebook. I know what they are doing with their lives, along with what they had for dinner and what their children’s birth weights were.
The thought of seeing my classmates rather than reading their status updates is clearly not the reason for my biting nerves, but this gives me an idea so I excitedly log on to my business account on Facebook. Ignoring the messages and notifications, I click on the search bar and type in, JESSE JENNER. This isn’t the first time I’ve looked for him, not by a long way, but I’ve yet to unearth any sign of him on any of the social networking sites or through any search engines, and I’ve been
Several profiles are listed but none are my Jesse. Pah
Jesse. He hasn't been
Jesse for ten years. I have undeniably remained his though. I’ve kidded myself in the past that I am over him and I’ve even adopted the role of the loving girlfriend in a couple of other relationships, but none could ever compare to my first love.
With Sebastian, Benjamin's father, it was as close to real as it could ever have been. We met at college after I’d spent the last couple of months mourning the death of mine and Jesse’s relationship. We became good friends and eventually I found that through Sebastian I could see a way out of the darkness.
I was studying photography and business and Seb was a major in music when we met. He was an amazing musician and we bonded over our shared tastes. There was no specific moment where we shifted from friends to something more. It was gradual and somewhat inevitable.
We never spoke about Jesse, I couldn't. If I did then I’d have had to admit that I wasn't over him, and where would that leave us? While I had strong feelings for Sebastian, he was essentially my way of getting over Jesse. When he graduated I quit college and followed him to New York, investing in an idealistic dream of being an artist in the city. I fooled myself into believing that I loved him for years, but when we found out I was pregnant and we split up, I felt nothing. Sure, I cried, but only because of circumstance. The thought of being a single mother devastated me enough to have me running home to the sanctuary of my parent’s arms, but I felt no gaping holes in my heart for the loss of Sebastian’s love. None that weren’t pre-existing.
The computer notifies me that the images have been transferred and I begin sifting through a catalog of photographs. I identify my favorites and begin editing, nothing drastic, just cropping and adjusting the contrast on a few. They were taken at a local gig in The Cellars. It's a busy place with minimal lighting so the photos are hit and miss, but I’ve worked there regularly and really enjoy it.
I’ve travelled far and wide for my combined love of music and photography. Documenting live music is what I’m most passionate about in relation to my work and so working within that industry is my ultimate dream. My pursuit of said dream is currently at a standstill and my only hopes seem to lie outside of Starling. I mean, it’s hardly the epicenter of rock and roll. My hesitance to move can be blamed on the idyllic childhood I want for Benjamin. I want him to grow up surrounded by the space and sea air of Starling and with the love of his family around him. Thus, my dream’s on hold. In the meantime I’m enjoying other aspects of photography, mostly weddings and freelance work for the local paper.
Once the images have been sifted through and burned onto a disk, I spend the rest of the day catching up with clients, one of which wants to cancel their booking for tomorrow’s engagement party. For reasons unknown, the engagement has been terminated. Is there no such thing as ‘happy ever after’ anymore? This news threatens to ignite my earlier melancholy but I persevere with positivity. I have a free Saturday to find
for the reunion.
The weekend is upon us and on the first day of his summer off from school Benji is already fed up. Boredom has replaced my six year old son with a sulky teenager.
"I'm bored," he whines, while skipping through the channels on the TV. It’s not even lunchtime yet and we’ve already painted enough pictures to rival the Met’s inventory and our living room floor is home to the aftermath of a Lego apocalypse.
After turning down my proposition to come clothes shopping with me Benji has accepted an invitation to the cinema from a friend, so after seeing him off with money to feed his sugar addiction I walk down the High Street with at least two hours uninterrupted shopping time.
Ten minutes in and I’m already flustered. Emma is much more knowledgeable in this area so I give her a call.
“Help,” I wail, dramatically.
“Okay, firstly, step away from the music store and find a
store.” She’s joking but I still look around to see if she can see me and the new albums I’m clutching guiltily. “Secondly, try
. There’s loads of nice stuff there. Just not the navy, wrap dress, that's mine. We don't need a fashion faux pas to add to the excuses for you not to go."
I laugh at how well she knows me. “No excuses, I promise. Even if I have to go in a pant suit!” She gasps in mock horror at the thought of a pant suit. “But seriously, my fashion forward friend, I thank you.”
We noisily air kiss down the phone before I’m left to my own devices. Under Emma’s advice I head for
with an air of negativity hanging heavily over my head. The pressure to find a knock out dress is immense. Thankfully, my mood lifts when I enter the crimson comfort of
and the opening chords of
Sex On Fire
by Kings of Leon play out from the speakers. I find myself humming along and the task at hand begins to seem less harrowing.
After trying on a million or more dresses I finally settle on a little black number made entirely of lace. There’s a black slip underneath so it’s not completely transparent, but the way that the lace carries on across the shoulders and down to the elbows gives that very illusion. It comes to just below the knee and I already have the perfect pair of shoes and jewelry to compliment it. With this in mind I allow myself to buy some new perfume and black underwear.
I refuse to consider why.
Laden with shopping bags, I realize that I still have over an hour before I need to pick up Benji. I wonder whether I should head to the office and do an hour’s work, God knows I need to. Next week I have my first exhibition being held in New York. It’ll be my third ever, but the other two have been local and the attendance consisted primarily of my supportive family and friends. In the city, it will just be me. I reject the option to work through my first Saturday off in a long time, knowing how little ‘me’ time I’ll find next week.
As my mind wanders my feet play catch up, and I somehow find myself stood outside Mo's Diner. Just when I assume I can have one moment without succumbing to thoughts of Jesse it turns out my subconscious has been betraying me all along. Mo’s Diner is burdened by memories of my youth, of Jesse, and so I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid this place in the ten year long journey to forget about him.
I hesitate at the door but eventually find the courage to walk in. The decor has changed. All signs of the Mo’s I remember have been replaced with shiny surfaces and a pastel palette that adorns the walls. It’s every bit the Fifties diner that this town suits, right down to the black and white checked floor tiles. The style may have changed but the layout has not, and so I find
seat and stare out of
window as the waiter comes to take my order.
I order tea with milk and shuffle out of my coat, settling to survey the diner. The window looks out onto the High Street, as does every other building along this street, but it also overlooks the footbridge that once upon a time Jesse would use to walk home. His curfew would come far too soon and I remember the aching disappointment I would feel when he left. We were part of a small group of friends, but when Jesse and I were together we were in our own little world, the bubble only dispersing when he would get up to leave. His absence would normally incur my leave, and as I made my way home I would pray that he would sneak into my room, just like he did whenever it was possible for him to escape unseen from his prison of a home. I could never sleep until I was sure that I wasn't going to hear the sound of stones hitting my bedroom window.
"Here's your tea, ma’am," the waiter says, reaching down to place my drink on a napkin. I smile politely through the annoyance at being called ma’am.
Am I that old?
As I sip on the lip scolding tea, I allow myself to continue in the exploration of my Jesse fuelled memories. It’s been a very long time since I’ve allowed these memories to play out uninterrupted. Normally, as soon as I sense his presence in my mind I shut it down, drown it out, but knowing that I may see him very soon I begin my mental preparation. It will be a shock to the system if I don't.
The last time he climbed through my window was the night that we’d been out celebrating my acceptance letter to NYU. Everyone was so proud of me, none more so than myself. I’d managed good grades considering how little I’d studied. Any available time was spent with Jesse, and it wasn't until my parents restricted our time together that I was able to knuckle down. He was planning on going to a community college, but he always remained vague about where or what he was studying. I never investigated further. I guess I’d never had reason to doubt him.
That particular night, he climbed the trellis that lead to my bedroom and crept through the open window to slip into my bed. This was nothing new. It was a long walk from his house and he was usually freezing by the time he got to mine. Of course, my parents were oblivious to our night time encounters. Even so, there was never any cause for their concern. Our embraces were innocent and Jesse never wanted anything more than my company and warmth. We would just lay there in a sweet embrace, exploring each other with curious eyes, and very occasionally, inexperienced hands.
He had ebony hair that was layered to his ears and when he was nervous he would tuck his hair behind them. I always found it endearing. He had full lips and a wide smile that curved up at the ends and on either side of his mouth were the most delectable dimples. At the time, he had desperately been trying to grow a beard. What he actually managed was long sideburns and some patchy stubble, but Jesse being Jesse, he pulled it off. He was stunning, worthy of any fashion campaign or blockbuster movie. What he was doing with me, I’d never know.
The feature that captivated me the most was his enigmatic eyes. They were varying shades of blue that seemed to alter according to the weather or lighting. They could go from a piercing aqua to deep denim several times a day. He always said that I was silly and that nobody had ever mentioned this before, but I knew that was only because nobody else cared enough to notice.
Jesse’s mom loved him, but was stuck in a relationship with a man who did not, Dale. He was a difficult man, who, after spending half of his life in the army, couldn’t disarm his need to control and overpower. He came into their lives when Jesse and his brother were just children and immediately made his family’s life hell. Jesse’s mom continued to allow him to stay, knowing that it was only due to his payout from the forces after an accident that they had a roof over their head and food on the table. Over matters involving either Jesse or his brother, Ted, she tended to side with Dale for an easy life. Ted was the only other person who loved him, but he enrolled in the army as soon as he left school, replacing one battlefield with another, leaving Jesse to survive on his own.