1 That Summer
The sun beat down its powerful rays, lighting up the land for all to see. The trees swayed to the beat of the wind, as if it were a slow, sad song playing for them to dance to. Once strong green leaves now turned into bright colors and are starting to weaken. They fell from their homes and laid dormant on the ground, signifying the coming of autumn.
All these beauties used to give Jim a feeling of peace. It was a welcome sight compared to the mean streets of the city. Standing here in the middle of nature’s beauty, with the girl he loved, was all he ever wanted. It was a drug that healed the soul.
He met Stacy when she came to the city to visit her uncle. There was no doubt, the moment he saw her he knew she had to be his. They met in front of an all night dinner and fell in love.
An unlikely pair, they filled a void that plagued their souls. He grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, and was in a gang. She was a rich girl who was against violence. He would resort to his fists to solve a problem. She would find another way. What seemed like perfect opposites, made a perfect pair. She taught him to find peace in his heart and he taught her how to be strong. Neither one fit in each other’s world so they built their own.
But their world wasn’t strong enough to survive the outside forces. They were too young to withstand the powerful attack that threatened their world. In a world so cold it is hard to keep young love strong.
Stacy’s parents were completely against the idea of their only daughter with someone with Jim’s type of stature. It never stopped her from seeing him anyway. She saw a part of him that no one could dream was there. She could see how gentle and kind he was, and how he stuck with what he felt was right. She could see just how strong he was, not just with his fists. His mind was quick and sure. But when Jim was sent to prison for a year for assault, the outside forces came down with a vengeance - destroying their world.
There was no way for them to stay in contact. While Jim was in prison, Stacy’s mom introduced her to David. At first she avoided him like the plague, but he won her heart. Abstinence can make the heart stronger or go astray. David was so persistent and charming that he swept her off her feet, though she never stopped thinking about Jim.
Jim, meanwhile, changed in prison. He took what Stacy had taught him and used it by taking classes. Working hard, he began to build a real life for himself. Before he was released, he got his high school diploma.
When he got out of jail, he found out that Stacy was in love with another man. He saw red. Peace flowed out of his heart and mind and was replaced with hate and pain. So much rage filled his heart he rushed right down to destroy David.
Now, standing in a field that made him feel at peace, Jim could find none. He could not see any beauty, just wrath. Everything he once loved was now filled with anger. He was going to let loose on the source of his anger.
He stood there, completely unaware of his surroundings. People were standing there, waiting for the fight to begin. Most of the people there were only spectators, but Jim also brought a number of his friends. He made it clear to them that no matter how the fight turned out, they were to stay out of it. They were only there in case David’s friends got any ideas.
“You don’t have to do this,” Tony said in a calm steady voice. “You could just walk away.” Tony was Jim’s closest friend. He was the only one that stood by him while he was in jail. He was the one that encouraged Jim to take classes while in prison.
Jim usually respected and listened to Tony’s advice. Not this time. This time it was only Jim’s choice and nothing else mattered. He didn’t even realize Tony was there, he was blinded by rage. Fire flew through his veins and he wanted blood. David was going to pay for what he had done. He took Stacy away from him and he was going to pay for it in his dear blood.
The waiting was over. David was walking toward him with a couple of his friends. David stood a whole foot bigger than Jim, and, from the looks of things, he was a lot stronger. But that did not matter. Jim had what David lacked, experience.
David started to say something, but Jim didn’t give him a chance. There was a loud cracking sound - almost like thunder - as Jim delivered a strong blow to David’s head. Stunned, David took a couple of steps back - trying to recover. Jim wasn’t going to give David that chance.
Jim released three more shots, the next more powerful than the previous. With each connection it felt like a heavy weight lifted from his chest. David stumbled but his knees wouldn’t fail him. It was then that Jim made a mistake, and the change of power switched hands.
Jim miscalculated one of his discharges and missed David by a mile. David was able to move quickly and grab onto Jim’s arm. Forcing him to turn, David bore a strong blow to the back of Jim’s head. Jim stumbled and almost lost his balance. Before he could regain control, David landed another series of hits, all landing on the back of Jim’s skull.
Jim fell. David jumped up onto a tree stump and made a flying motion to land on Jim. He obviously watches too much wrestling, Jim thought before bringing his knees to his chest. He hurled his legs straight into the air. David only had time to realize his mistake before he met Jim’s boots. David flew backward and landed on his back.
Jim was back on his feet. Now the real pain begins, Jim thought to himself. David was kneeling on the floor, totally disorientated. Jim slowly walked over to the dazed giant and kicked him in the face. David fell over, as fresh blood flew from his mouth. He tried to get up again but was greeted with another foot to the face. He flew back down.
There was a part of Jim that sort of admired the giant. To take such a beating and still try to get up. It would be easy to curl up into a ball and pray for it to end, but no . . . he kept trying to get up. He had heart, but he was also a fool.
For such a giant to be beaten so easily made Jim want to start laughing. The fool never had a chance. He wished Stacy could see David now. He wished she could see how pathetic this fool was. The giant wasn’t standing so tall now. He was nothing more than a bloody pulp. A mere shadow compared to Jim. He wished she could see it.
Jim should have been careful about what he wished for. It was then that Jim saw Stacy in the crowd. She was looking at David, full of concern. Seeing her look so sad made his heart melt. It was then that it dawned on him. By beating on David, he was not hurting him . . . he was hurting her. That tore him up inside. He never intended or wanted to hurt her, but he was.
Jim looked at David, who was almost fully on his feet, and he knew what he had to do. He lowered his defenses and allowed David to take advantage. He took the fall for her.
The fight was soon broken up, with David declared the winner and Jim the loser. The way Jim thought about it, no matter how the fight turned out, Jim would have still been the loser. If he had destroyed David, it wouldn’t make things different. David would still have Stacy by his side and Jim would go home alone.
After ducking the cops, Jim and his friends got on the train and headed back to Brooklyn. Jim decided that it was time to forget her. She was happier without him, and it would be better for her if he just left. Her happiness was all he ever wanted and he wasn’t going to ruin it for her. It was time to forget about her and pick up the pieces of their failed love.
Little did Jim know that Stacy came into the train station just as the train pulled out. She saw him in the window, though he never saw her. She watched as the train rode into the distance. “What have I done,” she whispered to herself. She decided that Jim must have hated her and lowered her head. She figured it would be better for him if she just left him alone. He would be better off without her.
“I love you, Jim,” she said as tears flowed down her face. She turned around and walked out of the station. It was time to forget.
But she would never forget him, nor him her. This is not the final chapter of their love.
In fact, it is only the beginning.
2 Getting up
Jim woke to the sound of music. He turned and looked at the clock, which stated it was 6:00 A.M.. “One more month of school left,” he said groggily to himself. After taking a deep breath, he sat up and stretched. He looked around his destroyed room and made the same mental note he makes every morning, I’ve got to clean this place up later.
He examined his floor and picked up a dirty sock. “Hey, Tony,” Jim said as he threw his sock at his roommate’s head, “wake up. We got to meet the girls before class.”
Four years have passed since the fight in the field and many things have changed. Tony and Jim enrolled in New York University and were about to get their bachelor’s degrees. Their school times have brought them closer as they both fought to forget the old ways of the gang.
Jim started to date Amanda three years ago and things have been great for them. Though his love for her would never compare to what he felt for Stacy, he was happy. They spent a lot of time together except for the times she spent with her friends - which was more often than Jim prefers. Amanda stayed strong with friendship. Whichever one of her friends needed her, she was there. Which sometimes got in the way of Jim and Amanda’s time. Jim was able to accept that.
Tony started to date Amanda’s sister, Christine, two years ago. They had a very strange relationship. If anyone ever saw them together, they would swear that they hated each other, which wasn’t the case. The truth of the matter was that they loved to fight just to make up. Tony jokes by saying that make up sex was the best sex of all.
Tony took one good sniff of Jim’s sock and threw it away from him, screaming in disgust. “Geez,” he said rubbing his head, “who needs coffee when you got that stench.”
“Very funny,” Jim sarcastically said. He opened his drawer and picked out some clean clothes.
Tony sat up and grabbed his morning cigarette. After it was lit and he had the first drag of the day, he said, “You better marry Amanda. Someone has to clean up after you.”
“Look who’s talking,” Jim said in the same tone. “Come on and get up. We got to meet the girls in the cafeteria.”
“You’re right,” Tony said, standing up. “I’ve got to talk to Christine. I feel a fight coming on.”
3 Plans for the weekend
An hour and plenty of insults later, Jim and Tony walked into the cafeteria. Amanda met Jim halfway across the room. They wrapped their arms around each other and began to kiss.
Tony sat next to Christine and put his hand up. “Don’t even think about it,” he said as he opened up the lid to his coffee, “the taste of coffee is the first taste I need this morning.”
Christine just rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you wouldn’t want it to be toothpaste or anything like that,” she said plainly, not looking at him.
“Oh come here,” he said as he pulled her closer and gave her a kiss hello. When their lips parted, he said, “Now that better hold you until I’m done.”
“Actually, Tony, as usual your kisses don’t do anything for me.”
Tony shot her a look that plainly said, “Yeah right.” At that moment Jim and Amanda sat down. “It’s about time, I thought you guys were going to suffocate or something.”
“Shut up, Tony,” Amanda said bluntly. Tony grabbed his chest as if her words hurt him.
“Okay,” Jim said holding his hands up, “let’s leave this fighting behind for now and talk about the matter at hand: There are only two days left before the weekend.”
Tony’s eyes lit up, and he suddenly looked wide awake. “This is going to rock.” He turned toward Christine. “Imagine what kind of spooky things that can happen when we have a room all to ourselves for a weekend.”
“Oh the horror,” Christine said as if she was frightened.
“Well,” Amanda said, ignoring her sister, “I for one can’t wait to see this place. It’s supposed to be THE most romantic place in all of Up State.”
“It better be good,” Jim said, shaking his head, “after all the money we’ve put into it.”
“It will be,” Amanda whispered in Jim’s ear, “that’s a promise.” She then raised her voice to normal levels. “This place was designed for couples only, though sometimes families go up there.”
“How can anything be romantic when you have kids running around?” Tony asked, a little disappointed.
“Just make sure you guys don’t start a family of your own up there,” Jim said as he pointed to Tony then Christine.
“No promises,” Tony stated with a devilish grin on his face.
“Hey,” Amanda said, curiously looking around, “where’s John and Linda?”
“Probably fighting again,” Jim said under his breath.
“Those guys are always fighting,” Tony said in disgust. “They’re like cats and dogs.”
“You guys fight all the time,” Amanda said in a matter of fact tone.
“Yeah, but the difference is, we love each other,” Tony admitted then looked at Christine. “Don’t let that go to your head.” Christine sighed. “Well, anyway, I think John should just leave the little hoe.”
“I would have to give you an amen on that,” Jim said as if he was a preacher.
“Oh stop,” Amanda said, disgusted, as she gave Jim a little elbow to his ribs. “If anyone is the asshole it would have to be John.”
“I say it’s both of them, break up with me.”
Tony gave Jim a look that said, “Oh please.” He decided to keep his mouth shut on that subject. “I got to get to class,” he said as he stood up.
Jim looked at his watch. “Yeah, me too.” He turned toward Amanda. “I’ll see you after school?”
“I’ll be there,” she said as she went to kiss him. Linda started to weep louder when she saw this. Instead, Amanda put her finger to his lips. “You better save that for me.”
Jim nodded and got up as Linda quickly took his place. “I’ll see you in Psychology class,” Jim said to Tony as he turned around and walked for the door. Something tells me this is going to be a long day, he thought to himself.
4 Times never forgotten
Jim and Tony took their usual seats at the back of the room. Neither of them liked the class but since it was a requirement they had to take it. The class might have been interesting if it wasn’t for the teacher. The teacher talked in a slow relaxing voice, as if she was on Valiums. It was enough to even put the Psychology majors to sleep.
“So,” Tony whispered, “do you really think this is the end of the John and Linda’s saga?”
“Yeah right,” Jim sarcastically said. “If I had a penny for every time they said they were through, I’d be rich.”
“Normally I would agree with you, but I saw John earlier. He’s really fed up. He’s tired of that girl sleeping with anyone in sight.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Jim said with a sigh. “I mean that girl’s sex drive is scary.”
“It’s not her sex drive that’s scary, it’s the fact that she wants to lay anything that has a prick. She even tried to get me in bed a couple of times.”
“I’m surprised you said no,” Jim said, jokingly.
“Hey,” Tony said, slightly offended, “even I know not to sleep with someone that has more partners than a porn star. Besides, I got something good going with Christine. I wouldn’t throw that away for anything or anyone.”
“I hear that.”
“What would you do if Amanda was like that?”
“I don’t even want to think about it. I think I would drop her like a bad habit.”
“Don’t kid me,” Tony said soberly, “she has you wrapped around her finger.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jim asked.
“You know what I mean,” Tony said slightly annoyed. “It makes me sick to see how she treats you sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, she’s cool some of the times. But when it comes to her friends . . . well, you got to draw the line somewhere.”
“She’s very close with her friends and I can respect that,” Jim explained.
“I could too, but when she’s closer to her friends than her boyfriend of three years, there’s something wrong. I’m telling you for your own good.”
“Well thanks for the advice, shrink.”
“Come on,” Tony said, sounding a little desperate. “I’m not telling you to break up with her. I’m telling you, you should have a talk with her and don’t let her push you around. What happened to your backbone man? I mean, ever since that Stacy incident you got weak.”
Jim felt the old memories of Stacy creep into his mind. A sudden emptiness filled his heart as he recalled the events that had happened. He thought about what use to be and what could have been if he had not messed up and ended up jail. Most of all he started to wonder about Stacy and what she was doing now.
Tony saw the pain in his friend’s eyes and realized he had just opened up an old wound that hasn’t quite healed yet. He sighed and tried to think of something to say to ease his friend’s pain. He knew there was nothing he could say. “You still think about her, don’t you?” he asked gently.
“Sometimes,” Jim said, plainly. “She’s kind of hard to . . . forget.”
Tony nodded. “I know. Things don’t exactly work out the way we plan.”
Tony gave him a little nudge. “Come on, cheer up. Tomorrow night we’re going to be in a fancy hotel Upstate with our girlfriends . . .” Tony got quiet for a second as if thinking about what he had said. “On second thought maybe I’ll be depressed with you.”
Jim smiled and tried to hold in his laughter.
“See that’s the spirit. We’re going to have A GREAT TIME!”
“MR. RUSSO!” the teacher said in a loud voice.
“Oh shit,” Tony whispered under his breath.
“Would you mind telling the class why we can’t read in our dreams?”
Tony looked around for a couple of seconds, hoping someone else would answer. No such luck. He was alone in a boat that was sinking fast. “Well,” Tony said, trying to think of a good answer. “We can’t read in our dreams because . . . um . . . because we’re sleeping?”
“See me after class,” the teacher said in her usual low tone.
Jim lowered his head and started to laugh. “Very funny,” Tony whispered, “jerk head.”