“You look amazing, baby,” Zack looked mesmerized at Paige.
“Thank you, so do you,” Paige smiled.
“Thanks. How are you doing today?”
“I’m doing great. A lot of school work is tiring me out. Can’t wait to go to the pep rally that’s coming up. The prom and graduation are almost here. I’m going to need a date.”
Zack nodded. “I’m doing much better than before. I feel you on the school work.”
“How is rehab? Is it working out okay?”
“It is. It’s a unique experience. I’ve never been to rehab before. The old me is coming back. My family and friends have been supportive. I’ll be finished with rehab soon. Cain’s dad is awesome. I’m happy that I’m getting counseling.”
“That’s nice, Zack. I wanted to tell you something. I want to apologize for what happened. My memory from that night—the night that we had sex—was coming back to me in pieces over the past weeks but last night the entire memory came back to me. I don’t know if I had blocked out what happened or the alcohol clouded my memory and made me forget that night.”
“I forgive you, Paige. I want to apologize too for the way that I reacted. I shouldn’t have pressured you to drink the whiskey when you didn’t want to. I was high too and wasn’t thinking clearly. I would have never done that if I was sober. I wish I can take it back. I shouldn’t have had sex with you when you were intoxicated. I shouldn’t have had sex when I was intoxicated either. I fucked up,” Zack’s eyes became teary-eyed.
He kissed her and she gave in to it. Paige started crying.
“Babe, don’t cry. It’s going to be alright,” Zack hugged Paige, wiping away her tears.
“You’re crying too, honey. My parents don’t want us to be together anymore. First, they had told me to give you time to get better but they changed their mind after I told them I wanted to be with you when you are better.”
“Oh no, Paige we must be together. I’m crazy about you and I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Zack. What are we going to do?”
“Let’s run away together. After graduation, we’ll go to another town and live our lives there. No one would know us. We’ll get to know new people and make new friends. We’ll get married and I’ll take care of you and our babies. You wouldn’t have to work. All you have to do is be my wife and I’ll be your husband. Our lives will be wonderful together.”
“My father will hunt both of us down and murder us. I can’t leave my family and friends, Zack. You would leave your family and friends?”
“I don’t know. If I had to I would. There’s something else about that night too. I’ve been debating whether or not to tell you, Paige.”
“What is it?”
“Juan, Satin, and their friends came up to my room that night. They wanted me to let them have sex with you too.”
“Oh my God! You didn’t let them, did you?”
“Hell no! I wasn’t that drunk. I wouldn’t have allowed them to do that. I couldn’t hurt my sweetheart. I told them that I didn’t get down like that. It wasn’t going to happen.”
“I’m glad that you didn’t allow them to rape me.”
They were silent for a moment. They both sighed and look relaxed.
“I took a pregnancy test too but the results were negative. I kept that a secret from everybody. I didn’t allow the doctors to give me a rape exam because I was scared and nervous.”
“Yeah, I see.”
“I’m going to drop the rape charges, Zack. I’m sorry for putting you through that. My rape accusation and the other things in your life instigated your breakdown.”
“It wasn’t just that, Paige. As you mentioned, it was one of several things. My parents’ altercation, I hadn’t yet got over Camille’s passing, my aunt’s passing, the fallout with my friends. I am to blame for my shortcomings. I shouldn’t have pressured you to drink the whiskey, shouldn’t have sex with you, going off on you and my boys…” Zack’s words trailed off.
Paige nodded. “I understand.”
“Are y’all back in the old house or still living in the new one?” Zack asked.
“We went back to our old house a couple of days ago.”
“I found out that I have a long-lost uncle that I didn’t know existed.”
“Wow, that is something. Are you going to meet him or is he coming to visit your family?”
“He made an appointment to visit us tomorrow afternoon. My family and their lawyer are going to be there to ask questions and take a DNA test to prove it again. They already analyzed his DNA to my grandparents in the system and it matched three times but they are going to do it again in person.”
“Amazing. How did y’all not know he existed before now?”
“It’s a long story. There was a mix-up at the hospital years ago. There was a teenage girl that gave birth at the same time that my grandmother did. Her baby boy died and the doctors gave my grandparents her baby, the wrong baby. Then she was given my grandparents’ baby, my uncle. My grandparents were told that their baby died when they saw the baby. Our lawyers investigated and spoke to my uncle and they piece together what happened by interviewing people from back then, hospital records, evidence. All of this incompetence should be ripe for a lawsuit but too much time has past and the main doctors are deceased, so nothing like that is going to happen. The news is already creating negative publicity for the hospital. Their reputation is getting jacked up. This story has already gone viral across the globe.”
“That’s crazy. It’s a good thing that they found out even though it’s been decades later.”
“Yea, I know right. I’m going to Howard in the fall. I decided to enroll there. Howard and Harvard were contemplating over my enrollment when the rape allegations went viral and my dad spoke with the deans at the schools and it worked.”
“That’s great! I decided to attend Emille University. I like the sound of that. People can talk about Emille University all they want to but Emille is coming up in the world!” Paige laughed.
“We are going to be far away from each other. I will be visiting regularly. Ain’t Crystal going to Emille University too?”
“Yep, and Danielle going to the University of Chicago.”
“All my friends are going ivy league and top HBCU. Howard, Spelman, Yale, Princeton, etc.”
Paige saw her mother pull up in the parking lot and she stepped out. Zack got out too and French-kissed her in front of her mother and his friends.
“Goodness, Zack! You do know that I’m shy, right? Bye!” Paige jogged to her mother’s ride.
“Yeah, I couldn’t help myself!” Zack joked.
Paige and her mother took off. Cain, Noah, Tristan, and DaShawn stared at them as they approach Zack.
“What in the hell, Zack?” Tristan shook his head.
“What do you mean?” Zack looked at him.
“He means that you and Paige were kissing. Are y’all getting back together? Bro, you should focus on you, your mental health. This girl almost ran you crazy,” DaShawn replied.
Zack nodded and said passionately, “I love Paige. I’m in love with her!”
“Brotha, you told us this before. Are you sure that you are ready to dive back into a relationship?” Noah looked concerned.
“Yes, I am. I’m lonely and I want her.”
“I believe if Zack takes it slow and they can gradually build a friendship then that can blossom into love,” Cain defended him.
“Paige accused him of rape, he could have got into serious trouble, he suffered a mental breakdown that he is still recovering from. I think he should get to know another girl and leave this Paige alone. She ain’t loyal!” Tristan reminded them.
“Preach, brotha, I agree with all of that!” DaShawn nodded.
“Me too, you can do better, Zack. She has already shown her true colors. She might do it again,” Noah said.
“Fellas, it’s Zack’s decision…” Cain started.
DaShawn interrupted. “But it’s the wrong decision. Cain, come on! What if Shanice did some shit like that? Would you stay with her?”
“I would if she was genuinely remorseful. Paige made a mistake. She was a virgin and intoxicated and things can happen before you know it. I spoke with her and she seemed nice and sweet. She always seemed like a great person even when Zack first introduce her to us,” Cain remarked.
“Cain’s right. We had a long and honest conversation. We talked about a lot of things and our relationship. She told me that she made a mistake and apologized. She didn’t mean it. I apologized for pressuring her to drink, having sex with her when she was drunk, going off on her. We love each other and we want to get back together.”
“Brotha, we want you to get better! We want to see the old Zack again! We missed him!” Tristan said.
“I understand that. He’s back. I’m here talking to you right now, man! Have any of you ever been in love before? I have now twice!” Zack defiantly said, looking at each of his friends.
Cain and Noah nodded. Cain touched his shoulder.
“I don’t care if you like her or not but you will respect my girlfriend. If you want me to continue to get better and for us to remain friends then you will support my decision.”
Zack saw tears form in Tristan’s eyes and DaShawn eye’s glistened too. They looked to be struggling to hold back their emotions. It was the first time that he has seen them cry. Noah nodded. Cain smiled at him.
“Thank you,” Zack said to Cain.
The others remained silent and watched him.
Paige and Jude made it to the house. Jude wanted to know more about Paige and Zack’s patched-up relationship.
Jude told Edward what happened between Paige and Zack. Steven eavesdropped on their conversation again.
“Paige, you did what? I can’t believe this,” Edward shook his head.
“I made a mistake. Zack didn’t rape me.”
“You lied?” Steven looked up.
“No, I made a mistake. I couldn’t remember at the time but my memory came back to me. It was the alcohol that made my memory fuzzy. I apologized to Zack and I’m going to drop the charges. He apologized too.”
“I can’t believe this mess. You shouldn’t have been intoxicated and alone with this boy. Then all of this wouldn’t have happened,” Edward sighed.
“Yeah, Paige. Mom and dad told you to leave this little boy alone but you didn’t listen. We had to move out of our house because his crazy supporters were harassing and threatening you,” Steven sat down.
“Paige understands that now. Let’s give her some space and let her think. Your father and I told you that this Zack shouldn’t be in your life. We wanted you to give him time to heal before you two date again but your father convinced me that maybe you all shouldn’t be together at all.”
“I agree with that too. I wanted to whup Zack’s ass. I still do. I never like Zack or those damn Go-Getters. Something ain’t right about them. The community lost its damn minds about supporting them,” Steven said.
“I know you are angry but watch that foul mouth,” Jude scolded him.
“I’m an adult and I hear what y’all are saying but I’m going to make my own decision.” Paige jogged up the stairs to her room.
“We get that, dear. This is still our house and we pay all the bills. Don’t get that tone with us because we are only trying to give you advice,” Edward replied.
Paige listened and said nothing. She continued to jog to her bedroom and closed the door.