Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 28: Trenton, North Carolina - November 16, 2017

Cory left shortly after Sarah returned with wine and snacks, telling me he didn’t want to interrupt our girl time. I was pretty sure he was a bit scared of Sarah. Most men are. She says it’s her lesbian side that freaks them out. More like her not so subtle behavior. We changed into some comfy clothes and curled up on the couch to drink and eat. I put a scary movie in even though I knew we weren’t going to be watching it. The second I sat down with my glass of wine, she turned and looked at me. “Spill.” She demanded. I groaned

“Why?”

“Cause I have been waiting all damn day. Give me the complete story. Don’t leave a detail out. I mean it.” Sighing, I dove into the story of how I met Cory. I told her about his foster parents, the abuse and the hidden friendship we had. About the police getting involved. How he went to live with Cindy. How we started to develop feelings for each other. As the story got closer to us getting involved, I couldn’t help the smile that kept crossing my face. I enjoyed talking about the past, bringing back old memories. It reminded me of all the fun we used to have and how trivial it all seemed now.

“And then on my sixteenth birthday, we went camping and…” I trialed off.

“And?” She asked, intrigued by my story.

“He told me he loved me and took my virginity.” She smiled, giving off a heavy sigh.

“That’s so sweet! So, what happened? Why didn’t you end up together?” I shrugged.

“Cory never asked me to be his girlfriend after that. Then my Mom died and Mike moved here. He asked me out when Cory didn’t. I figured he had moved on so I did too.” She looked at me shocked.

“He never asked you? But why? After everything you two have been through, he just gave up like that?” She eyed me suspiciously as if I was leaving something out of my story.

“Well, not exactly. It’s a long story. Once I started dating Mike, things got so complicated.”

“Well, does he know about what really happened to Mike?” I nodded, taking a big gulp of wine. “What did he say?”

“Nothing really. Just that I deserved better and that Mike was an idiot. A general consensus I believe. Why?”

“Could there be a chance that he still has feelings for you?” She asked. I scoffed, shaking my head.

“Yeah, okay. I highly doubt that. I’m sure after seven years, those feelings are as dead as my husband.”

“Jesus, Abby. Little dark, aren’t we?” She said, sipping her wine.

“Doesn’t make it any less true. I got some of his insurance policy today. Not quite sure what I’m going to do with it though.”

“What about real estate?” Sarah asked. I smirked, drinking from my glass. “I mean it. You could buy some real estate and become a landlord. Get a real nice place in the city when you come back.” I bit my lip, gazing into the white wine. “You are coming back, right?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been having some second thoughts about it.” I confessed, nervously looking at her. “Besides you and the company, the rest of my life is down here in Trenton. I missed this all so much while I was up there. I just didn’t realize it until I was back here.” Sighing, I tucked my legs underneath me. They sunk into the couch.

“Abby, you need to do what’s best for you. I’ll completely understand if you want to stay here. Your family is here. It’s your hometown. You can still be a part of the firm from here. Maybe we could branch out and open another office around here. In a major city of course but closer to here so you could stay around here.”

“I don’t want to just up and leave you though. We worked so hard to make this all work. I feel like I just gave up on the firm when the going was good.” Reaching over, she gripped my hand.

“You’re not giving up on it. You are working on yourself. That’s all that matters. If you decide to come back, great. If you decide to stay here, that’s great too. I just want you to be happy.”

“Thank, Sarah. You’re such a good friend.” I smiled at her, picking up the bottle of wine from the floor. I refilled our glasses and set it back down.

“I try. And as your good friend, I need to tell you that Cory is quite the yummy looking man. Well, as yummy as a lesbian can see a guy.” She said, shoving popcorn into her mouth. I laughed, shaking my head.

“I don’t think he’s your type.”

“I didn’t say he was. I just think he’s cute. What’s the deal between you guys? Do you still like him?”

“Huh?” I asked, looking at her confused.

“Do you still have feelings for Cory?”

“Sarah…” I warned, climbing off the couch. I carried my glass with me as I walked towards the kitchen.

“What? It’s a simple question.”

“My husband just died.” I replied. “How could you ask me that?”

“Because it’s perfectly normal to have emotions and feelings, regardless of what’s happened.” She responded. “And Cory was before Michael. Your feeling might have just been hidden while you were with him.”

“I’m not having this conversation with you. How I feel for Cory isn’t important. We’re friends. That’s all we’ve ever been and that’s all we’re going to be. End of discussion.” With that, I shot her a glare and stormed up the steps to the loft.

I apologized to Sarah the next morning for blowing up at her. She said it was fine and apologized for pressing me so hard. We cleaned up our sleep over mess and started planning our day. As much as she loved our little town, she didn’t much appreciate the fact there was no real places to shop or eat around here. Her face lit up when I told her about the mall half an hour away. So, we walked to the garage where Daddy worked to get the keys to his truck. He laughed as she practically dragged me out of the office, talking about shoes and what she would wear tonight.

We drove towards the Hartford Mall, a tiny mall compared to the shopping in New York. It had about thirty stores total in the entire building and most of them were overpriced clothes and electronics. Sarah was in her glory though as she hopped from store to store, making me try on different outfits like I was her life-size doll. We ended up at a small little department store at the south end of the mall. It wasn’t as crowded as the rest of them, a few people lingering in the clothes racks. Sarah fished through the discounted clothes, delighted by the prices. She had never been in a store like this before.

“Look at this!” She exclaimed, holding up a little black dress. It was made out cotton material and was very short. I made a face, shaking my head.

“It’s a Tavern. Not a night club. I’d dress a little warmer too. We’ll probably end up out by the bonfire.” I replied.

“The bonfire? I thought this was a bar.”

“It is. The bonfire is outside.”

“This town just gets cuter and cuter by the second.” I laughed at her amazement, shifting some sweaters on the rack. She decided on a pair of black leggings and a long sleeved grey tunic, already trying to figure out how to do her hair, make-up and what shoes to wear. I bought a pair of new silver earrings that were shaped like a cascading swirl. They were very pretty and had stars and moons cut into them. Sarah and I had lunch in the food court, stocking up on some more junk food and wine before heading back to our “house.”

“This is the life.” Sarah said, taking a sip of wine while she curled her hair. I smirked over at her from my spot on the toilet. I was perched on the back of it, shaving my legs. I winced as I nicked my ankle slightly. I ripped off a little piece of toilet paper and stuck it on there. “Anyone in this little redneck town that walks on my side of the fence?”

“I’m not sure. I know there were a few ‘adventurous’ girls when I was in high school. You looking for some love tonight?” I asked. She shrugged, unplugging the curling iron.

“Maybe. It’s just been awhile.”

“Just remember that we’re sharing this little house. I don’t want to hear your wild noises all night.” I joked, causing her cheeks to flush a light pink.

“I’ll try my best. So, what are your other friends like?”

“Well, there’s Angie. She’s a bit dramatic but nice. I’ve known her since the seventh grade. She tends to lie a lot as well. Overall, she’s a good person. Then there’s Marie. She was my friend before I moved to Trenton. She’s married with a baby girl. She loves to draw and paint and pretty much any kind of art there is. Her and Angie both work at the call center nearby. Marie is married to Pat who will be there too. He’s a dick though. Everyone knows it but no one tells him about it.”

“He sounds charming. I’m kinda nervous about meeting your friends. What if they think I’m moving in on their territory?” I laughed, washing the extra shaving cream off my legs. Standing, I wiped my hands off on the towel hanging off the towel rack.

“Their territory? I’m not a toy to fight over. They will love you. If not, you’ll scare them into liking them like you did me.”

“Oh, ha ha.” She responded, rolling her eyes. She finished applying her make-up while I pulled on my skinny blue jeans and red and white flannel shirt. She waved for me to sit on the toilet again so she could fight with my hair. She combed the top part back into a pony tail and curled the bottom with the cooling curling iron. It gave it some wave and she gave me a quick light layer of make-up. It felt like nothing was no my face as I glanced at my reflection. I loved when Sarah did my make-up because she was talented at doing it and made me look like almost a completely different person. She made my eyes dark and my lips a light shade of red. I smiled, observing her work.

“You should have been a make-up artist.” I said as she shoved her cosmetics into her travel bag.

“Too bad there’s no money in that business. I would love to be one. My father on the other hand was very much against that lifestyle. Well, that and the gay thing as well. Guess he was striking out when he came to me.” She winked at me as a knock on the door caught our attention.

“Ladies?” Cory’s voice called as we emerged from the bathroom. He glanced around the house, looking for us. When his eyes landed on me, he gave me a huge smile. He was dressed in a pair of his nicest blue jeans, a white t-shirt and denim button up which he left undone. “You look beautiful.” He said. “You both do.”

“Thank you. You clean up well yourself.” I said, pulling on my calf-high brown boots. Sarah shoved her feet into her black ankle booties and zipped them up.

“You two about ready? Pat and Marie are already at the bar. I’m sure Angie is flapping around there somewhere too.” I shot Cory a glare as he hinted that Angie was a bat. He always referred to her as that because of her ears when we were kids.

“You need to behave yourself. One mean comment towards her and I will kick your ass.” I warned, grabbing my coat from the back of the couch.

“Do we not like Angie?” Sarah asked.

“Not one bit.” Cory replied.

“Him and Angie have a bit of hostile history which he is going to leave in the past.” I said, shutting off the lights in the kitchen. The three of us walked out the door and up the drive way where his jeep was waiting. He opened the door for the both of us, Sarah climbing in the back seat while I took the passenger one. He brought it to life, pulling out of my drive and heading towards Randy’s. On the way, we told Sarah stories about Randy’s from when we were kids. She laughed as we joked about the bar catching fire from the bonfire being a bit too big one night. It was great having Sarah here because I could relive old memories and stories with her since she didn’t know any of them. It was like writing a novel and reading it to someone who had never read it before.

Pulling into the parking lot, I saw Marie and Pat standing off to the side of the building. I knew they were fighting from the look on her face. Cory parked and we both glanced at each other before climbing out, unsure about what we were walking into. Sarah followed behind us as we approached the dueling couple. Marie was standing with her arms crossed, her red sweater dress and black leggings filling out her figure nicely as she glared at her husband. Pat was off to the side, not seeming to care about what she was saying. He was dressed in a brown hoodie and a pair of jeans, his usual attire. He said something to Marie that made her growl in frustration as we stopped behind them.

“You know what, Pat? I’m so sick of your shit! I do everything for you and Meadow and all I ask if for you to do something with me once and while. You act like I’m killing you because you aren’t at home playing video games!” She exclaimed. He rolled his eyes, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Hey guys.” I said, awkwardly trying to let them know they weren’t alone. Marie turned in our direction, not even bothering to smile.

“Hey. Glad you’re here. I need a drink.” She shot Pat a death glare before grabbing my arm and walking towards the front door of the tavern. Sarah ran behind us, trying to keep up.

“What’s going on?” I asked. She was fuming, heat almost coming off of her as she shoved the door open. A blast of music and warm air hit us as we walked in. People lined the bar like before, ordering drinks. Randy waved when he saw me, pointing at an empty pitcher. I nodded, knowing he meant a pitcher of whiskey sours. Marie dragged me over to a table where Angie was sitting. She smiled at me when she realized I was there and at Sarah politely.

“Is Pat dead?” Angie asked. I shook my head, sitting on the empty side of the booth. Sarah sat next to me while Marie tossed herself next to Angie.

“No. What did he do?”

“He wanted to know if he could just go home since Meadow is at the sitters and Marie is here.” Angie said, taking a sip from the drink in front of her. I scoffed.

“Oh for fuck’s sake. You gotta be kidding me! Did he honestly think you’d just let him go?” I asked. A waitress brought over our pitcher, putting four plastic cups on the table with it. Marie poured herself one and tossed it back, draining the glass as fast as she filled it.

“I’m so done. I can’t take it anymore. He’s lazy. He won’t get a job. He refuses to clean when I’m at work and he barely watches the baby when he needs to. I feel like I have two kids instead of one.” Marie said, pouring more into her cup. This time she poured some for all of us.

“You need to leave him. Tell her, Abby!” Angie said, pointing at Marie. “He’s been doing this crap for almost a year now. You need to give him the boot.”

“It’s not that easy when you’re married. I don’t want to be a divorced single mother at the age of 25.”

“Better than a widow at 24.” I said. The two turned and looked at me, obviously not enjoying my joke. “What?”

“Sorry. That’s her new dark since of humor. I’m Sarah by the way.” Sarah said, shooting me a look. She smiled at my two friends who shook her hand.

“You must be here friend from the city she was telling us about. Nice to meet you. I’m Marie. Sorry about my bitching. Men. Can’t live with them and you can’t shoot them. I knew I should have stayed with Brianna back in our junior year.” Marie said. Angie rolled her eyes.

“Oh, god no. That little bitch was a certified psycho.”

“Better than Pat.” I piped in. Before Marie had met Pat, she had experimented with her sexuality. She never knew what it was exactly and she tried dating a couple of girls during our sophomore and junior years. It was nothing serious but none of it seemed to matter once she met Pat.

“Believe me, boys are so not worth it. That’s why I’m a lesbian.” Sarah said, holding up her glass. The three of us did the same, holding them together.

“Fuck men!” Marie said, her version of a toast. I smirked to myself as I saw Sarah play with her necklace, a common move she does when she is checking someone out. Her eyes were all over Marie.

“Well that’s not very nice.” Cory said, walking over to our table. Pat was not with him, suggesting to me that he had run home to do exactly what he wanted to do.

“Not all men are like you, Cory.” Marie said. “You’re one in a million, really. It still blows my mind that Hannah dumped you.”

“Who?” I asked, looking at her confused. Cory glared at Marie who realized she had said something she wasn’t supposed to.

“I feel like dancing! Who wants to dance with me?” She asked, jumping up from the both. Angie and Sarah quickly followed her towards the other room where everyone else was dancing. Cory slid into the both across from me, playing with his hands.

“Who is Hannah?” I asked.

“She was a girl I met a year or so after you left. We dated for a while but things just didn’t work. That’s all.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me about her?” He shrugged.

“I didn’t think it was worth mentioning. It was a fling really. I wanted more and she didn’t. After she left, I decided to focus on other things besides love. I obviously struck out in both aspects.” Silence fell over us, the sounds of the bar filling in the space. He played with the label on his beer bottle, peeling it off at the corner instead of looking at me.

“You wanna dance with me?” I asked. He peaked up at me, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

“What about my two left feet?”

“They’ll match my two right ones. C’mon.” I slid out of the booth and we walked over to where the girls were dancing. Sarah and Marie were dancing awfully close together while Angie was talking to a guy off in the corner. I took Cory’s hand and moved to the faster beat of the music, smiling up at him as he finally started to move along with me. His hands found my hips as I turned my back to him. We moved together with the beat, the country song having a good rhythm to it. As it ended, we stopped. I was out of breath from dancing and he was the same way. A wide smile crossed his lips as I wiped the sweat off my brow. He went to saw something but was cut off by the screech of a microphone.

“Attention everyone!” Randy called, cutting the music. “The bonfire has been lit. You have to get your drinks from in here but everyone is welcome to join us outside for some more fun!” He turned the music back on and propped open the back door. The glow from the flames was bright enough to shine on the inside of the door.

“I’ll get us more drinks and meet you outside.” Cory said, leaning down close to my ear. I nodded, noticing his fingers lingered on my hand longer than before. Angie wrapped her arm around my, pulling me towards the back door. Sarah and Marie were ahead of us, deep in conversation.

“They seem to be hitting it off.” I said. Angie chuckled, shaking her head.

“Right? I’m thinking Pat is going to be real upset when he finds out he missed his chance for a threesome.”

“I feel like they wouldn’t invite him though.” I replied. Angie and I both laughed as we approached the fire. Pallets were stacked three across and seven high, fueling the flames that were warm compared to the November air. Embers flared up into the ink black sky, looking like shooting stars as they did. Sarah and Marie walked over to a bench on the other side of the clearing, sitting down and talking. The boy that Angie had been talking to waved her over to meet his friends. This left me alone, staring at the large fire in front of me.

“Here.” Cory said, holding out my plastic cup from before. It had been refilled and he had a new beer in hand. “Where did everyone go?” He asked.

“Angie made a new friend and Sarah and Marie are getting to know each other over there.” I pointed where they were sitting. He turned, a snicker coming from him when he saw them together.

“Oh. Well, that makes things a tad bit interesting.”

“Yup. So, I guess it’s just you and me now.”

“Cool. Wanna walk?” He asked. I nodded, turning with him to walk towards the dirt path on the right side of the clearing. It didn’t lead far, just to the edge of the trees where the tail end of Getman’s Park was. He stopped there, sitting on a large rock. I sat next to him, our hips touching. The glow of the fire was bright enough to see from here but the warmth was gone. Sighing, I looked up at the night sky. It was filled with what seemed like a million stars, all twinkling down on us.

“You know, to this day, I still have no clue which star you bought me.” I said, glancing over at him. He laughed, shaking his head.

“Well, I’m sure the scam artist who sold it to me can tell you. That’s if you can find him. Oh, the things teenagers do.” He replied. He took a sip off his beer, growing quiet. “Do you ever think about what would have happened if we hadn’t of met all those years ago?” His question threw me off a bit. What did he mean? I don’t think I could even imagine my childhood without him in it. He had such a huge presence in it that was a foreign thought to me.

“Like if we had never become friends?” He nodded. “I don’t know. I don’t like to think about that.”

“I don’t either. Sometimes it just comes to mind. I think if I hadn’t have met you, I’d be dead.” I shifted so I was facing him.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that if you hadn’t come along, I would have still been with Vicky. Sooner or later, she would have found a reason to do me in. If it wasn’t for you being in my life, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. And she probably would have gotten away with it too knowing my luck.”

“Cory, if I hadn’t of met you, I probably would be dead right now too.” I whispered, glancing down at my lap. “After my mom died, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. For a while, I thought she had the right idea. I coasted through life, thinking about the right way to just end things. If it wasn’t for you being there for me though, I probably would have gone through with my plan to kill myself when we were kids. Same for after Mike died. You’re such a good friend to me. One I probably don’t deserve but thank you so much.”

“What would have happened if I had asked you out before Mike did?” The question hung heavy in the air as I lifted my head to look at him.

“I would have said yes.” I said softly. “I waited for you to do it but then you never did. I figured you had changed your mind after the camping trip.”

“Changed my mind? Hell, it made me realize just how much you meant to me. I was just worried that you weren’t ready yet. I didn’t want you to think you had to simply because we had talked about it. Then everything with your mother happened. I wanted to give you some time and space before bringing it up again. I was so worried about you at that time that I didn’t want to put any more pressure on you. But then Mike came around and you two ended up dating so fast, I never had a chance to tell you.” He leaned closer to me, our shoulders touching.

“I only agreed to go out with Mike because I thought for sure you had gotten over the idea of us ever happening.” Letting out a soft chuckle, he shook his head.

“Cory, the great fuck up, strikes again.” He muttered.

“Hey, you’re not a fuck up. We were only teenagers. How were we supposed to know anything about what we wanted in life? Most kids at that age still think they are going to grow up to be rich and famous but yet, they still live in the middle of nowhere land Trenton.” Standing, I shoved my hands into my back pockets and looked up at the night sky. The moon was full and bright, lighting up the area around us. In the distance, the sound of an owl could be heard and the music softly drifted over to us. People were dancing by the fire and the sound of laughing echoed off the trees. “Believe me. I had no clue what I really wanted at that age. All I knew was that I wanted out of here in the worst way. And I got it, even if it meant living the last seven years of my life with a man who could care less about me.”

“I thought about coming to find you. All the time. Pat and Marie invited me along a few years ago when she came up to see you. She offered to sneak me somewhere so I could talk to you. I couldn’t bring myself to barge back into your life. It was bad enough that things between us ended the way they did. I didn’t want to rip open old wounds.” Kicking the ground with my boot, I faced him again. He pulled his frame off the rock, setting the now empty beer bottle on the rock.

“I kind of wish you did.” I peeked up at him through my eyelashes and saw he was watching me with those hazel eyes. “I never stopped thinking about you. We were supposed to be in each other’s lives forever. You were going to be there when I made it big. When I got married. Each time something happened, you were always the first person I thought of calling to tell the good news to. It’s my fault our friendship ended the way it did and I’ve kicked myself this whole time for it. What I did to you was so uncalled for. I hate myself for it.”

“Hey. Stop it.” He stepped forward, wrapping me in a hug. “I didn’t do much to stop it from happening either. I saw it coming. I just thought for sure some higher power would stop it from happening.” Pulling away, he tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear. His fingers lingered on my cheek, the soft but callous feel of them making me want to close my eyes. He stroked my cheek bone with his thumb, a small smile on his lips.

“Yeah but I was the one with the power to stop it. If I had, we would have had the chance to be together like we always wanted to be. I wouldn’t have gone to New York and none of this would have happened-.” My rambling was cut short when his lips suddenly pressed against mine in a kiss that made my eyes widen. He wrapped his arms around me, pulling my body flush against his. It felt so right to be there as my eyes closed, my hand traveling to his head to get lost in his hair. All I wanted to do was get lost in the moment, pretend nothing had happened and that we were on a camping trip the weekend I turned sixteen. He ran his tongue across my bottom lips, asking me for permission. I opened my mouth, allowing his access. Like when we were kids, he kissed me in a way that was assertive but not over powering. It was sweet but possessive at the same time. Like he was letting me know I was his without having to say it. The kissing slowed as he pulled away, his breathing heavy. He pressed his forehead against mine, looking into my eyes.

“It’s not too late.”

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