The night was brisk; a cold so penetrating that it makes its way to your bones and sends shivers through your entire body. It was mid-October, and I found myself fiddling with my jacket trying to wrap it tighter against my slender figure. I was walking with no real destination in mind; I only knew I had to get out of there. That house was consuming me, taking every inch of strength that I had until I thought I could never again be free. Well, it wasn’t so much the house as it was the people who resided there.
I never felt like I fit in there. I was an outcast lurking in the shadows; always watching but never engaging. They mocked me for it, like children who had not yet matured although they resembled adults. I tried not to let it get to me, but the taunting words were turning into physical threats and abuse. I could take the words but not the fits of rage that had become painful and torturous. My last memories of that house were slowly fading the further away I got, and I felt I was finally able to find peace again. I did not know where I was going to go, or how I would get there but I still felt a rush of relief flow through me. I would think anywhere would be better than where I was.
I slowed and glared into the darkness as a bright light rounded the corner in the distance. I put my head down to try and shield my eyes from the blinding headlights of the oncoming vehicle. They were approaching slowly, and I know that they had seen me as I had seen them. I imagine they were curious as to why someone would be out walking at this hour, with the constant dropping temperatures. I tried to keep my head down, but I suddenly felt the urge to look up, as the car; almost at a snail’s pace was creeping past me. I caught a glimpse of the driver and gasped. It was a face I had not seen in a long time; one I had never dreamed I would see again. It was Daniel.
Was he coming for me? Why else would he be driving in the middle of nowhere so late at night? I held my breath waiting for the car to come to a stop. I stopped walking and stood there with my eyes closed, breathing heavily, waiting. I was expecting to hear him call out my name “Deana, ” but instead, all I heard was the gravel crushing under the weight of the tires as he continued to drive away. I was confused, why didn’t he stop? Didn’t he know who I was? Of course, he must have.
I don’t understand; I was sure he would stop and try to convince me to go back with him to England. I must admit, I would trade everything I left behind for just one night with Daniel. I could walk no more, my motivation to get as far away as I could from that house disappeared as Daniel had into the distance. I sat on the curb with my head in my hands. It was cold and hard sitting there on the side of the road, the sensation was intense, like fire dancing on my inner thighs. But I did not move; I could not move. Oh, Daniel.
We were high school sweethearts, Daniel and I. He was madly in love with me, and though I wanted so badly to feel about him even half of what he thought of me, I couldn’t. I was, and still am, a tortured soul. The shattered pieces of my broken life remain untouched, untended. I was hurt in my youth so many times that I find myself running away; from everything. I struggle to maintain friendships, employment, relationships; I don’t even speak to my parents. Although, truth told my parents played a huge part in the making of this meek and fragile woman that I have become.
I have tried so hard to escape my past, but no matter where I run to the memories are always right there with me; reminding me of what I was trying to leave behind. I know now that running is not the answer but I have been doing it for so long now, that is all I know how to do. I need to be strong and focus on my future, but first I need to confront my past as scary as it might seem, but it is the only way for me to be free and move on with my life already. I know what I need to do now. I need to go home, to England.
I am starting to regret my decision for leaving in the middle of the night. The dim street lamps are casting long dark, eerie shadows that seem to dance around me; gracefully in a way; but haunting all at the same time. I closed my eyes again and let out a slow deep breath. I could feel the cold air filling my lungs as I inhaled sending another violent shiver through my body. I exhaled again, slowly and opened my eyes watching the steam from my hot breath rise into the air and then vanishing. I envisioned my soul detaching from my body and escaping as my breath had into the night shouting “I’m free, I’m finally free,” and for a moment I almost felt as if it could be true.
A little humming noise in the distance broke through my illusion, and I looked up; struggling to see under the dim glow of the street lamp above my head. I squinted hard, listening. The hum was getting closer, and I saw another set of headlights now, coming from the direction I had been walking. I panicked a little inside thinking it was my roommates searching for me. I know they would have eventually figured out that I was missing, I was just praying it would not be this soon after. My heart was beginning to race; beating faster with each passing second.
The anticipation was rising inside of me, and although it was reaching almost below zero temperatures, I felt the sweat tingling in the palms of my hands. The car came to a stop a few feet in front of me, but I could not see inside past the glare of the headlights. I swallowed hard, trying to force down the lump that was creeping up inside my throat making it difficult to breathe. The driver’s side door opened and a tall, dark figure emerged. I thought about running, but my legs felt like heavy cement posts holding me firmly in place. All I could do was stand there, waiting.
“Deana?” A familiar voice called out, and I almost burst into tears.
“Daniel!” I called back. The massive posts that held me where I stood released me suddenly and I ran to him.
“I’m glad I found you. It’s freezing out here. Come on; you can warm up in the car.” He said holding his hand out for me.
I reached out and took his hand. It was warm against my cold, numb skin. He led me to the car and opened the passenger side door for me and closed it behind me. I sat there shivering, trying to calm the spasms shaking through me. He got in, took off his brown suede jacket and draped it over my shoulders.
“Thank you.” I smiled at him.
Daniel was a gentleman. One of few in this world these days. I used to think of him as an old soul in our high school years. We were silent for a few moments. I wasn’t looking at him, but I could feel his eyes on me. I shifted uncomfortably on the cold, smooth leather seat. I turned to look out the window hoping he wouldn’t sense my nervousness. I have known Daniel for a long time now, but he still makes me feel like a sixteen-year-old girl with a crush. He reached out and put his hand on my shoulder; I pretended not to notice, but his touch sent a wave of emotions through me; as if it were like I had never left our England flat some fours years ago.
“Deana?” His voice was soft, soothing, yet there was a hint of anguish in his tone.
I turned to look at him but did not speak. He took my acknowledgment as a sign to continue.
“There has been not one day that I haven’t thought about you, about us. I tried to give you the space you requested, to respect your wishes but I had to see you. It has been four years Deana, and I have loved you with each passing day. I love you still, won’t you please come home to me?”
I said nothing and stared at the floor twisting my birthstone ring; that I have had for as long as I could remember; around my finger. I have been lost for so long; running for so many years that I haven’t given it much thought. Did I love Daniel? I wasn’t even sure how I felt about myself so how could I know my feelings for another? My silence offended him. It frustrated him not knowing what was going through my mind. He poured his heart out to me, and I gave him nothing.
“Deana, look at me. Say something, anything!” He demanded.
I jerked my head up defensively.
“What do you want from me?” I snapped.
His head dropped instinctively at my tone. His gaze turned to the floor now; hiding the tears that were forming in his eyes.
“Do you love me?” He asked quietly not taking his eyes off the floor.
I sighed. I hurt him. He can’t help the way he feels about me; and although I do not understand, he loves me, and I yelled at him for it. I inhaled slowly trying to control my frustration before responding. I turned to look at him exposing tears that were trying so hard to escape.
“I care for you, a lot, but I’m not sure I am capable of loving you the way that you want me to. I am struggling Daniel, with everything. Most days I don’t even know if I like myself. I have spent forever it seems trying to find myself, trying to heal from the pain of my past but I have only made things worse. The pain still surrounds me, no matter where I go, I can not get away from it. I realize now that I have been going about this all wrong, running is not the answer. I need to go home, to my parents and confront the things that have been stopping me from living my life. I need to set myself free; to learn to love myself first before I can move on. You understand, don’t you?”
I finally finished exhaling loudly.
Daniel was not satisfied with my response; it was not the answer he was hoping to hear, but it was the truth. Although he was hurting inside, he could not bear to see me upset. That was the kind of person he was; compassionate, kind and caring.
“Deana, I hate seeing you this way, so distraught, It’s not how I remember you. Let me help you, please. We can go to England together; I am willing to help in any way I can; to help you move past this.” He replied. I could hear the sincerity in his voice. I know he has good intentions, he has a good heart, but at the same time I can’t help but feel like he has some deeper agenda. Maybe he thinks if he saves this damsel in distress that I will one day love him like he’s always wanted.
“Thank you, Daniel, for your offer. I appreciate it, I do, but I feel this is something I need to do on my own to be truly free of this. I need to grow as an individual; I need to be strong and learn to fight my own battles for once.” I admitted.
“I admire you for wanting to do this on your own but at least let me come with you. I can act as a barrier or a buffer against your parents; or offer my support whenever you may need it.” He pressed.
“Daniel please, I need you to trust me that I can do this on my own. I am going to my parents in hopes of breaking down the existing barriers, not to create new ones. I will be fine; they are still my parents after all. They love me.” I assured him.
He finally agreed to stand back and let me stand on my own two feet. He did, however, offer to at least give me a ride home, which I accepted. England, I will see you again.