I tried to forgive them. After all, you can’t help who you fall in love with. It was years ago anyway, and it wasn’t their love that hurt the most. It was the indifference, the exclusion.
Our senior class had been on a field trip that day. Jimmy had played it cool, not sitting with me or making eye contact. But I understood that was because he wanted to keep our growing love secret. That’s what I believed at the time. When our class returned to school, a few of the kids said they were heading over to the Mansion for a bit of fun. Jimmy was going, too. I had nothing else to do, so I followed them.
The Mansion is a big, old house at the side of the main road, just where the train tracks cross. The forest has all but swallowed the tracks now, but you can still see the tops of them poking up through the asphalt. Back then, the house was newly vacant and still up for sale. Only the most daring among us would chance getting caught hanging out there.
It was early October and already almost sunset when we reached the property. A few of the kids let themselves into the house. They crept through the hallways, making ghostly sounds and trying to scare each other. I stayed outside, behind the house. For a while, I stood with my back to the swimming pool, looking into the forest. I wasn’t deep in thought. I was nervous. I was hoping Jimmy would see me and come stand with me. I was imagining the feeling of his arm around my shoulders. I waited a long time, until it was quite dark and I was cold, but he never came.
When I turned to leave, my foot caught on something and I tripped. I hadn’t realized how close I was to the edge of the pool.
The others were still running around trying to scare each other in the darkness. They mustn’t have seen me fall. I hit the frigid water and sank into the murk. It was so dark above and below that I couldn’t work out which way was which. I guess I passed out in my panic because I didn’t suffer for very long.
I’m not sure how much time I spent drifting in oblivion before the rumbling of a train passing on the nearby tracks dislodged me from my unconsciousness. As I came to and pulled myself out of the water, I noted that the grounds were still and quiet. Everyone must have gone home. I felt numb; no cold, no pain, despite being wet and out in the chilly evening air. I thought I was probably in shock.
There was a pinprick of light coming from inside the house. Trying not to make a sound, I pushed the front door open and made my way along the hallway. A soft glow spilled through a crack in a door up ahead. Approaching, I heard voices — two voices. The way they spoke, they sounded as though they were trading intimate confidences.
I paused at the door and peered in. Too horrified to move, I stayed watching the two of them together for a while. Finally recovering myself, I cleared my throat and stepped over the threshold into the light. Jimmy looked up from Nancy, looked right at me and frowned. My heart skipped. I had loved him from the moment I saw him. He seemed the typical summery, sun-kissed boy, with his blond hair and blue eyes. All the girls liked him. But there was a darkness about him, too. I could see it but I don’t think any of the others could. I knew it was something we shared, the reason we were meant to be together.
I was angry as I stood there looking at the two of them, but I still loved him. I still thought there was hope for us. I thought he might be embarrassed or mad that I was there, but I would be able to win him back. I began to speak, my words slow at first, then picking up speed, but soon realized he wasn’t listening. I stopped dead. He shook his head and the two of them went back to their quiet talking.