Chapter 2: The Ultimatum
He was standing in the Carson yard, Friday afternoon. He was supposed to be there with Misty, but he was waiting. She was due to arrive at five. Over the last few weeks, Misty was growing more and more upset that he was still spending a tremendous amount of his time with Ashley. She was still trying to drill him about where they disappeared to during the wagon ride and what they were up to. That evening, he was supposed to go to the movies with Misty, Becky and Kyle. They were just waiting for Kyle to arrive.
Ashley arrived first and the moment the car pulled into the driveway, Mark went over to greet her. He knew he’d never hear the end of it later, but frankly, he didn’t care. When Ashley got out of the car, he was the first to give her a hug.
He wasn’t happy that Ashley had chosen to move to Port City, nor that she decided to stay there. He’d missed her terribly. It was also because of this that had gotten him in over his head again. At least this time wasn’t like the last time, at least he still had a chance to make things right. During his short time in Port City, he and Ashley made an agreement, sort of a pact. That nothing would ever change between them, no matter what. They’d see other people, but when they were together it would always just be them.
Now, Mark had agreed that this agreement would take full effect after things ended between him and Misty and Ashley and Jordan. Yet, Mark really didn’t care, when Ashley was in Brook Falls he’d much rather spend his time with her, over Misty. It wasn’t as if he hid this from anyone, everyone knew including Ashley and Misty.
As the hug broke, Mark gazed into Ashley’s eyes.
“I missed you.” He said, and Ashley smiled in response.
“I missed you too.” She said as she walked passed him. Randy walked up to his side and smirked.
“So, Jordan’s history, by the way?” He said, and Mark’s eyes popped.
“Why what happened?” He asked, and Randy shook his head.
“I don’t exactly know, she’s being really vague.” He said, “Apparently, he caught a rumor that she was kissing some mystery man or something. It doesn’t sound like something Ashley would do.” Mark nodded, but a smirk curled on his lips.
“Yeah,” He said, “That doesn’t sound like Ashley at all.” He turned back and noticed that Ashley and Misty looked to be in a heated argument. Mark narrowed his eyes and walked toward where they were standing.
“You just know that when push comes to shove, he’ll choose his girlfriend.” Misty spat. Ashley smiled at Misty and shook her head.
“I respect your level of confidence,” Ashley replied, and Misty rolled her eyes.
“You don’t expect him to choose you, do you? After all, you left him, again.” She said, and Ashley shook her head.
“I’m not sure who’d he choose and frankly, I don’t even care.” Ashley said, “I’m not about to force him to choose between us. That’s stupid.”
“So now I’m stupid?” Misty asked.
“I never said you were stupid,” Ashley said rolling her eyes. “I said forcing him to choose between us was stupid.”
“What’s going on over here?” Mark asked, and Ashley glanced at him and shook her head.
“Nothing,” She said, “I’m going inside.” Ashley stormed into the house slamming the screen door. Mark glanced at Misty.
“I’m getting so tired of princess Ashley and her spoiled brat syndrome,” she said and Becky laughed, “Come on, Kyle’s finally here, let’s get out of here before I lose it.” The girl’s started walking toward Kyle’s car. Mark glanced back at the house. Misty hesitated.
“You coming, Mark?” She asked, and he shook his head.
“Actually, I think I’m just going to hang here tonight.” He said, and Misty’s mouth dropped. Her eye’s pierced him like daggers before narrowing to slits.
“Figures,” She spat, “Do what you want then, see if I care.” She walked away dramatically, climbed in the car and slammed the door. Randy came up beside Mark, put an arm around his shoulders.
“That girl is nothing but a drama queen.” He said and Mark nodded.
That evening they played games in the Coates Kitchen, everything was calm and at ease. After a while they went outside and lit a fire, Ashley even settled into his arms, and he held her tight, he could smell the strawberry scent of her shampoo. Remembering times of the past before she had even thought of ever leaving Brook Falls, he smiled to himself.
Mark wanted it to be the way it used to be, just him and her, together with the way it should be. Yet, so much had changed in so little time. He leaned in close and whispered in her ear.
“Come home with me tonight?” Ashley turned to face him and her eyes met his, she didn’t have to say anything, he knew what the answer would be. As long as he continued dating Misty, that kind of closeness was off the table. It still hadn’t stopped him from asking, and it wouldn’t. Getting rid of Misty, wasn’t as easy as it sounded. It’s not like he hasn’t tried, she just won’t take no for an answer and as long as she continued to push, Ashley would think that they were together. Mark wasn’t sure what to do but knew he had to do something. He missed this and wanted so much more again. He wanted things that Ashley just wouldn’t give him in the current situation. Mark sighed heavily.
“I’m sorry,” She said, and he nodded.
“I know,” He answered. If he was ever going to have things even close to the way they were before, he would have to figure out a way to get rid of Misty. He wasn’t sure how, but he’d make it happen. Now that Ashley was free of Jordan, sooner would be better than later. He sighed again, “What happened with you and Jordan?” She glanced at him and narrowed her eyes.
“How’d you even know about that?” She asked, and he sighed again.
“A little birdie told me,” He answered, and she exhaled with a chuckle.
“Randy,” She said, pursing her lips, “I should have known.”
“What happened?” He asked again, and she shrugged her shoulders.
“Remember when you were at the school and we ended up kissing?” She asked and he nodded.
“Yeah,” He replied, and she shook her head.
“Someone saw us kissing and told him. So, he accused me of cheating on him and we broke up.” She said, and Mark nodded.
“In a way, you did didn’t you?” He asked, and she shook her head.
“I don’t really know,” She answered, “Can you cheat on someone you don’t even love? I mean I only started dating him, because you were with Misty. I didn’t have any feelings for him or anything.” Mark nodded.
“I guess it’s a gray area.” He answered. “But it’s the same with Misty you know, I don’t actually love her and if you and I were to..”
“Mark,” Ashley said, shaking her head again. “It’s not quite the same thing. What happened between you and me in Port City was spur of the moment. It just happened because we’re in love with each other, and in that moment our love took over. We can’t plan a moment like that, sneak around and not classify it as cheating. As much as I hate Misty, that’s not fair to her.”
He nodded in defeat, it looked as if he really did have to figure this all out before anything could happen.
Saturday morning he spent an hour and a half on the phone listening to Misty rant about his choice the night before. About ten times during that conversation, Mark mentioned breaking up, but Misty wouldn’t hear of it, even after he told her outright he did not want to be with her. Frustrated, he hung up the phone.
Misty wanted him to hang out with her that day, but again he’d rather be with Ashley, so when he told her no, she rolled her eyes and it started another argument.
“You’re my boyfriend!” She shouted, and he shook his head.
“Am I?” He shouted back, “Because I seem to remember repetitively telling you that I didn’t want to be with you.”
“Well, we’re not ending pour relationship because your stupid ex-girlfriend refuses to let go. We belong together, and I’m willing to work through our problems, why aren’t you?” Mark rolled his eyes again.
“I don’t know,” He answered, “Maybe because I don’t want to be with you?” She shook her head.
“Don’t be silly of course you do.” Misty said, “Don’t let that witch brainwash you.” Mark shook his head.
“It’s not Ashley,” He shouted, “I don’t like you Misty!” She shook her head.
“Stop talking like that love,” She said, “One of these days you’re going to actually believe it.”
“Look,” Mark said, “Just go hang out with your snobby friends. I’m hanging out with mine today, understand?” With that Mark walked away, leaving Misty standing with her mouth dropped. He didn’t care, maybe if she got mad at him enough she’d go away. He didn’t look back until he arrived at the apple trees where Ashley sat once again writing peacefully. He sighed softly.
“Penny for your thoughts?” He asked, and she glanced up and smiled, but at the same time, she shook her head.
“Nice try.” She replied, and he smirked.
“Well, at least I try.” He replied, and took a seat next to her. She closed the book and put it away in her bag, he watched her curiously.
“Aren’t you supposed to be doing something with Misty today?” She asked, and he laughed.
“I was,” He replied, “But the last thing I want to spend my Saturday doing is walking around town, laughing at people.”
“She sounds charming,” Ashley smirked, and Mark shrugged.
“So charming, that she won’t take no for an answer.” He said, playing with a blade of grass between his fingers. Ashley narrowed her eyes and glanced at him.
“She still giving you a hard time?” She asked, and he shrugged.
“I’ve probably attempted to break up with her about fifty different ways just this morning alone.” He answered, “She doesn’t believe that I don’t want to be with her and it’s highly annoying.”
“Wow,” Ashley stated, “I knew she was unstable but that’s just crazy.”
“I’m trying Ash,” He said, “I really am, but she won’t pull her claws back no matter what.”
“I know you are.” She said, and he shook his head.
“So, why can’t you and I be together like we want to be?” He asked, and she sighed.
“You know why ” She answered. “We’ve been over this.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over between her and me,” He said, “She might have this delusion that we are together, but that’s all it is.” Ashley sighed and stood up.
“Still,” She told him, “It’s not right.”
“What am I supposed to do?” He asked, “She’s like a fungus that won’t go away.”
“You’ll figure it out Mark,” Ashley replied, “You always do.” Mark sighed and threw the blade of grass down.
“Yeah,” He said, “And in the meantime, I’m being kept away from you.”
“I’m right here.” She laughed, and he shook his head.
“That’s not what I meant.” He said, and she nodded.
“I know what you meant,” She giggled, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. We have the rest of our lives for things like that, don’t we?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He answered. Mark’s father walked as far as the snake fence and glared at him.
“Mark,” He shouted, “I need you and your brother to do your chores right now.” Mark rolled his eyes.
“Yeah,” He replied, “Be right there.” He turned back to Ashley.
“You going to be at Larry’s later?” He asked, and she nodded.
“I usually am.” She replied, and he nodded his head.
“Alright,” He answered, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Later,” She answered, and he ran home to start his chores.
As he was cleaning the barn with Matt, he made the mistake of mentioning his troubles with Misty. Matt, who usually always had his brothers back, no matter what. Peered at Mark over the rim of his glasses and shook his head.
“Well,” Matt said, “If you ask me, you kind of deserve it.” Mark narrowed his eyes and glared at his brother.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He demanded, and Matt sighed.
“Before you even got with Ashley, you had this inflated head because all the girls at school wanted a chance with you. Somehow, I think you figured, your way of thinking wouldn’t matter if you picked a girl like Ashley.” Matt said, and Mark threw the rake to the ground.
“And just what is wrong with Ashley?” He asked annoyed.
“Nothing,” Matt said, “But even Ashley wouldn’t deny that she is average. Ever since you started dating her, you keep making these dumb mistakes with other girls. First Becky and now Misty. In a way, Larry is right about you. You seem to think, you have a right because it’s you. Becky fighting with Ashley, Misty with Ashley, Misty, and Becky will be next. Now you even think Ashley should be with you even though you’re with other girls!”
“That was her idea!” Mark shouted, and Matt shook his head.
“How thick can you be?” He asked, “Yeah, it was her idea because she didn’t want to tie you down. Yet, if you cared about her, even half as much as you claim to, it would never have happened! Just because the option is there doesn’t mean you have to use it, good god!” Mark glared at him.
“What’s it to you anyway?” Mark asked, “Why do you care so much?” Matt just glared at him, unable to speak. He swallowed hard and nodded.
“I thought you were over that.” He said, and Matt laughed and shook his head.
“You can’t just turn off how you feel about someone.” He said, “I accepted she wanted to be with you. I never said my feelings for her went away.”
“So what,” Mark said, “You’re going to fight me for her now?” Matt laughed again and shook his head.
“At the rate, you’re going, I won’t have to.” Matt said, “Wake up before you’re hurting her in a way that you will never be able to erase.” Mark pushed his tongue along his inner bottom lip, laughed and then without warning, he pounced on his brother and started beating on him.
The scuffling brothers, made so much noise in the barn that Mr. Thomas ran in and pulled them apart.
“What in the hell has gotten into the two of you!” He shouted. Mark glared at his father.
“He can’t mind his own business!” He said, then glanced back at Matt, “Stay out of my life and stay the hell away from Ashley!” Mark marched out of the barn, jumped on his bike and took off down the road to cool off.
Mark wasn’t sure if he was angry with his brother or just frustrated with the situation. It took him a while to cool down, and it was nearly sunset by the time he headed to the Coates place. The moment he walked into the house, all the anger came flooding back, as Matt was sitting close to Ashley and was making her laugh. Mark glared at Matt, sprung across the room and seized Matt by the throat.
“I thought I told you to leave her alone!” He shouted, as Ashley gasped and glared at him. The phone rang, and Lori answered it. Mark glared into Matt’s eyes and Matt glared back. The tension in the room thick, as Ashley watched them curiously.
“Mark, it’s for you,” Lori said, and Mark glared at Matt for another minute.
“Who is it?” He asked.
“It’s Misty.” She said, and Mark nodded.
“Put it on speaker phone.” He said, and Lori did. Mark let go of Matt though never took his eyes off him. “What?”
“Mark, I’m getting really tired of the way you’ve been acting. You are my boyfriend and it’s about damn time you started acting like it. I tried to be nice but that isn’t working. From this moment on I forbid you to spend anytime what so ever with Ashley.”
“What?” He shouted, and there was whispering on the other end.
“Yes, you heard me right. From this moment on I don’t want you near her for any reason, or I leave you, do you understand. It’s her or me end of story.” There was a silence around the room now, and every pair of eyes glared at the phone. Mark swallowed hard.
“Well, there’s only one thing left for me to say,” Mark said.
“What’s that?” Misty asked, and Mark smirked.
“Misty... it’s been nice knowing you.” And with that Mark hung up the phone, his eyes met Ashley’s she glared at him, her lips pressed together, she shook her head and walked out the door.
The door slammed, and Mark hesitated for a moment, held out his hands and shook his head.
“What did I do?” He said out loud, and Lori glared at him shaking her head.
“You’re pathetic if you can’t even realize where you went wrong.” She said, and Mark looked to Randy, who shook his head, Carrie who looked down at the wood grain, Matt who stretched his lips and shook his head, Mark even glanced to Larry who shrugged his shoulders and refused to look him in the eye.
“Fine then,” Mark groaned, “Be like that.” He followed Ashley out the door. She stood against the railing of the porch, gazing up at the stars above.
Penny for your thoughts?” He asked, and she laughed, an angry laugh that gave Mark goosebumps.
“You don’t want to know what I’m thinking.” She replied, and Mark nodded his head.
“Yes, I do,” He said, “Because I can tell by the way you’re acting that I’ve done something wrong, I just don’t know what.” She shook her head and laughed again.
“You know,” She said, crossing her arms in front of her. “I really thought we were passed this jealousy you have toward your brother. I thought I made myself very clear that I didn’t think of him in that way. Yet here you are, when we aren’t even together, trying to murder him for being my friend.” Mark shook his head as he pushed his tongue along the inside of his mouth. He placed his hands on his hips and let out a sigh.
“So, this is all about him?” He asked, and Ashley glared at him and shook her head.
“No,” She answered, “This is about you. Need I remind you that it was your issues with your brother that started all of this. Me, you, Becky, Misty. This entire mess started because somewhere inside that thick skull of yours you think that Matt and I have feelings for each other.”
“Matt does have feelings for you!” Mark shouted, and Ashley shook her head.
“So what,” She said, “It doesn’t mean I want to be with him. Larry has feelings for me too, do I want him? No.” Mark narrowed his eyes and swallowed.
“And I fight with Larry over it constantly.” He answered, and Ashley shook her head.
“No,” She said, “You fight with Larry because he keeps trying to break us up, and pushes your buttons. Your brother has never done that to us.”
“Yes, he has,” Mark shouted, “He just hides it from you. Like today in the barn he..”
“He wouldn’t help you with the problem you created.” She answered, and shook her head. “That’s not the same thing Mark. Your brother was trying to help you and you blew up at him.”
“Help?” Mark laughed, “He basically told me to go eff my self. How is that helping me?”
“He told you to figure it out on your own, this time.” She answered, and Mark nodded.
“And I have,” He answered, “Misty’s finally gone, we can be together again.” Ashley laughed and shook her head.
“You might have gotten rid of Misty,” Ashley said, “But we can’t be together, not now. Not until you fix this problem you have with Matt once and for all.” With that, she walked away leaving Mark in total shock. In about half a second he just made things worse between them. Matt was right, he just kept messing things up with Ashley. It was as if everything he attempted to do, blew up in his face. Would he ever be able to make things right? Or would he just continue messing up until he destroyed everything?
Instead of rejoining his friends that night, Mark walked off the porch, climbed onto his bike and drove it home. When he got to his garage, he totally lost it, trashed his bike and the entire room. Flipped the car bench over, and a silver flask fell out of the bottom. He glared at it for a few minutes before he snapped it up into his hand and screwed off the cap. He swallowed and tipped the flask to his lips.
Cheers, he thought to himself and it was the last thought he had that night.
“Mark,” A voice echoed loudly in his head. “Hey Mark, have you been here all night?” Mark slowly opened his eyes and though his vision was blurry the face was slowly coming into focus. He put a hand on the top of his head.
“Damn, is the room spinning or is that my head?” He asked.
“What the heck happened here last night? Earthquake?” The person asked.
“No,” Mark answered. “More like Hurricane Mark.”
“I don’t get it,” The voice said, “If you’re this upset about losing Misty. Why did you leave her?” Mark laughed.
“This tantrum had nothing to do with Misty,” He replied, “Ashley’s angry at me again.” They rolled their eyes.
“No offense, but when isn’t she?” They replied, “I don’t know Mark, but I think it’s time you faced the facts. The way the two of you fight, do you really believe that you belong together?” Mark glared at them.
“It’s a disagreement,” He said, “Everyone has disagreements.”
“Everything you do is never good enough for her.” They pressed, “All she does is remind you that you mess up, is that really love?”
“I think you better leave.” He said, and she pulled a face.
“You know it’s true.” She pressed again, “I was the better girlfriend for you, I love you.”
“Get out Becky,” Mark said, “She gets mad at me because I always do mess up and I’m not going to make the same mistake. Ashley might be angry but it won’t last forever, you being here will prolong it. So get out of here.”
“Fine,” Becky laughed, “But when you’re tired of the shit she puts you through, look me up.” Mark glared at her and she walked out the door. Mark started cleaning up his garage, and he kicked a bucket across the garage and smashed the window. Mark shook his head and sighed helplessly.
“Damn,” He muttered and sprinted over to the broken glass to clean it up. He glanced down at the broken shards of glass and couldn’t help but think that it resembled the mess his life was in at that moment. He felt as if he’d been down this road before, and he remembered that he was. It was this exact situation that started this whole mess. Why did he have to attack his brother again? He should have known it would upset her.
That was the difference between this time and last. He wasn’t about to blame this on Matt, for Mark knew it was his doing. He wasn’t about to prolong the talk with his brother to work this out, either. He’d like to fix the problem quickly, fix things with Ashley and get back to where things should be with them. He’d already missed church but if he hurried he could catch lunch at the Coates place. He decided he’d clean the garage later and ran into the house to get cleaned up.
He grabbed a shower and changed his clothes. Because he trashed his bike, he’d have to walk, but it really wasn’t that far. He ran across the yard, jumped the snake fence into Ashley and Randy’s and was stopped by Misty.
“Off,” she said. Mark glared at her.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
“Get off my property, you’re no longer welcome around here.” She said, and Mark narrowed his eyes.
“You just can’t-do that. This is Ashley and Randy’s yard more than yours and they are still my friends. I’ve been cutting through here before I could even talk.” He said.
“I don’t care, leave now, you’re trespassing.” She said, Mark, sighed and shook his head.
“Fine,” He answered and walked out the driveway, and continued down the road to Larry and Lori’s house. He didn’t know what he was expecting, but he took a deep breath and walked into the house.
Mark decided that the best way to fix things with Ashley this time was to fix things with Matt first. The problem was that he wasn’t exactly sure what was broken between them. At least not what could be fixed. Matt had feelings for the same girl that Mark did, it wasn’t as if Matt could shut that off. Nor could Mark shut off any jealousy he might feel when he saw Matt and Ashley getting close. However, maybe if he could at least control it, she wouldn’t be angry with him.
With Mark attacking Matt every time this happened, it was like telling Ashley she was causing problems between them, and at the same time telling her that Mark couldn’t trust her.
So, Mark’s plan was easy, spend as much time with Matt as possible to show Ashley she wasn’t really causing any issues between them. The problem was that Matt wasn’t really the close-knit type and he was viewing Mark’s attempts as creepy and disturbing. Which was having the opposite effect than what Mark initially intended?
When Ashley left that evening, Mark glared at Matt.
“You bonehead, I’m trying to prove to Ashley she’s not causing an issue with us.” He said as they walked the road together.
“Did you think that would work?” He asked, glancing around, “Wait a minute, why are we walking the road?” Mark sighed.
“Because, apparently, I’m not allowed on the Carson property anymore.” He replied, and Matt glared at him, his eyes squinted into slits.
“Who in the heck told you that bullshit?” He asked, and Mark shook his head.
“Misty,” He said and Matt laughed.
“Well, she’s lived there like what, two seconds?” He asked, “Randy and Ashley have lived there all their lives, it’s their father’s house. I think they have more say on who crosses that land then she does.” Mark glared at Matt out of the corner of his eye.
“Todd is Misty’s father too, remember?” He asked, and Matt shook his head.
“She still has no right telling you that you’re not allowed to cross that land.” He said, and Mark shrugged.
“But she did, and what else can I do but stay off of it?” He asked, and Matt rolled his eyes.
“You do realize that she’s just trying to bully you right?” He asked, “I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was some way she thinks she can use to force you back into her life.”
“I think I made myself very clear,” Mark stated.
“Like that matters!” Matt exclaimed as they climbed the steps of the porch. “The girl is unstable Mark, actually that’s being a bit too nice- the girl is totally batshit crazy!” Mark laughed.
“She can try her schemes all she wants they aren’t going to work on me.” He said glancing at his brother. “At least not this time.” Matt grinned.
“Hey look at us, we’re getting along!” He exclaimed, Mark, laughed and nodded his head.
“Yeah, It’s too bad Ashley can’t see us right now.” He said, and Matt nodded.
“If you want, I could try to talk to her about it.” Matt said, “Let her know that things are good between us and there is no reason for her to continue to shut her out.”
“That would be great if you could do that,” Mark said, and Matt nodded.
“I’ll try my best, but if it doesn’t work you can’t blame me. Ashley is stubborn after all.” He answered and Mark laughed.
“Tell me about it.” He answered and they walked inside.
The following Friday afternoon, the friends gathered at the Coates house, waiting for Ashley to arrive. Mark was getting nervous as he continued to glance up the road. What if she didn’t show up this weekend? What if she didn’t take Matt at his word? Would she ever be able to forgive him? Before he knew what he was doing, Mark stood, crossed his arms behind his back and paced the kitchen.
It was probably the only time he’d been this nervous in his life, he was sure there would be sometime in his life where he’d be just as nervous or more nervous than he was at this moment. However, he had not experienced this level of nervousness until now. That included the day he first kissed Ashley. That day seemed like a million years ago, now. He exhaled and glanced out the window. Still no sign of her though. That was it, she wasn’t coming, he might never see her again.
“Dude, sit down, you’re making me nervous,” Randy said, breaking his train of thought. Mark glanced at him absentmindedly.
“What?” He asked, stunned. “Oh.. yeah of course sorry.” Mark sat back down at the table, folding his hands and twirling his thumbs. “I don’t think she’s coming.” He said, but Randy shook his head.
“She’s coming, I can promise you that.” He said, “My dad wouldn’t have driven all the way to Port City if she wasn’t going to come this weekend.”
“You need to relax Mark,” Lori said, narrowing her eyes. “You’re acting like a bit of a fool.” Mark glared at her.
“Considering my situation, do you even blame me?” He asked, “I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a nervous wreck, but at least there is a reason, she’s angry with me to remember?”
“She’s been angry with you before,” Carrie said, and Mark glared at her and sighed.
“Not like this.” He said, just as a car pulled into the Carson driveway. “Finally!” Mark shouted, but then hesitated as not only did Ashley get out of the car, but a boy as well. Lori squinted her eyes and smiled.
“Hey, who is that with her?” She asked, and Mark swallowed.
“Jordan.” He said, clenching his jaw, “That’s her ex-boyfriend Jordan.”
“Why would she bring her ex-boyfriend to Brook Falls?” Larry asked, and just at that moment, Ashley and Jordan kissed as they stood against the car.
“Something tells me he’s not her ex-boyfriend anymore,” Matt said, but Mark swallowed again.
“I can’t believe she’d do this.” He said, “We had a plan and it almost came true. I knew she was mad at me, but...” Mark couldn’t even finish what he started to say, he swallowed again. “I’m out guys, I’ll see ya all later.”
At that moment he turned and walked out of the house. He was just heading down the stairs, when Ashley and Jordan came toward him, holding hands.
“Mark?” She asked, “Where are you going.”
“Home,” He replied, in a low tone. “I have a lot of homework.”
“But it’s Friday,” She said, and Mark nodded.
“Yeah,” He said, “It is.” He couldn’t hide the hurt in his voice, and he swallowed again and walked toward his bike.
“Will I see you again this weekend?” She asked, and he narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
“Probably not,” He answered, climbed on his bike and drove away. He jumped off his bike in his driveway and ran into the garage. He reached up under the workbench and pulled out a silver flask. He twisted off the cork and tipped the flask to his lips. When he was down he put the cork back on. Placed the flask in the pocket of his plaid shirt, and walked back out of the garage.
She made herself perfectly clear this time.
It was really over between them, they’d never be together again. He jumped back on his bike and took off down the road, as he passed the Coates house, he sped up, allowing his tires to spin and cause a cloud of thick dust.
Ashley glanced up from the porch and Mark smiled. It was the only way he knew how to make his feelings known.
Mark drove his bike down to the lake that night, sat on the rocks, looking out over the water. When did everything go so wrong? He thought about not so long ago when they were still together. Things were going fine and then out of nowhere suddenly things went to shit.
He knew that part was his fault. Ashley hadn’t even been gone a week and he started dating her sister. The same sister that purposely destroyed Ashley’s family, forcing Ashley to move to Port City with her mom. So, he could understand her upset with that, it was a stupid mistake on his part.
Yet, they were able to remain friends through it all and the feelings were still there. They wanted to be with each other, regardless of what happened. They’d even made plans to make it happen, all Mark had to do was get rid of Misty which he had finally been able to do.
But, Mark had gotten into a fight with his brother Matt because Matt still had feelings for Ashley, and she didn’t like that. She became angry with Mark and told him that they couldn’t be together until he fixed that. He even understood that!
Only a week later, she shows up in Brook Falls clearly back with her ex-boyfriend and even rubs it in his face, what was up with that? Had Becky been right?
Mark took another drink from his flask and shook his head.
It seemed as if lately, all they were doing was playing games with each other. Did they even love each other anymore? Or were they addicted to the games they were playing with each other? Mark didn’t know anymore, maybe it was time to give up. He tipped the flask again, as a deer came out to the edge of the lake for a drink.
“Cheers,” Mark said and downed the remainder of the flask.
He wasn’t even sure what happened when he came to a few hours later. He growled, and sat up, placing a hand on his throbbing head. He was no longer at the lake he was- well he wasn’t sure where he was anymore. He was laying on his back, in a foot of running ice cold water. He glanced to his left to find his bike, upside down a few feet from him.
“Shit.” He muttered, attempting to get up, his leg screamed in pain. “Are you freaking kidding me?” He glanced down finding it broken and bleeding. He tore the sleeve off of his plaid shirt and tied it around the wound as best he could. It was at this moment that he first saw her. Sitting a few feet from him, she had a smile on her face as she watched what he was doing.
“That’s not good enough, you have to do better than that.” She said, and Mark sighed.
“What do you care.” He mumbled.
He was unsure what happened, unsure of his surroundings and unsure what time it was. Come to think of it, he couldn’t even remember what day it was. He glanced around, if he didn’t know where he was, did anyone know where he was? He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, no one would have any idea where to even look for him.
“I know where you are.” She said, and Mark rolled his eyes.
“Even if that’s true, I’m sure you don’t give a damn.” He answered.
He had no food, and only dirty water near him, his leg was busted and bleeding, even with his make-shift bandage. Blood drew animals, and he had no shelter from the elements. He was sure he was going to die in this spot. He messed up again, and there was no coming back from this one. He’d die here before anyone even would find him.
“What else is new?” She asked, glaring at him, “When don’t you screw up Mark?”
He ignored this and soon drifted back off.
He woke hours later if he had to guess it was mid-afternoon. It certainly wasn’t Friday anymore. He propped himself up on his elbows to check his leg, it didn’t look good, and it was still bleeding some. The sleeve was drenched in blood. Mark removed it, cleaned it off in the water the best he could and tied it back around the leg.
“You’re going to get an infection you know?” She said, a grin on her lips. “If the elements or animals don’t kill you first, that legs getting infected and it will kill you quickly.”
Mark swallowed hard. His mouth was dry, he was thirsty. Very thirsty, didn’t they learn in school that you could live longer without food than without water.
“What do you care?” He shouted, “You made it perfectly clear that I mean nothing to you. Let me die!”
He looked down at the murky water flowing around him. He was pretty sure he was going to die out here, drinking it really wouldn’t matter, would it?
“If you don’t die of exposure or infection or get eaten by animals. You will die of hunger and dehydration. Unless you drink that dirty water beneath you.” She said.
He scooped up some of the water and brought it to his lips. It was refreshing, he didn’t know how thirsty he really was until the icy water touched his lips. He scooped up more in his hands and drank.
“That’s pretty disgusting. Do you even know how long you’ve been laying there? You’re probably drinking your own urine.” She said.
He laid his head back again, as he began to cough.
“You’ve been in the water too long, it’s making you sick.” She said.
“I know that!” He shouted, and she shook her head.
“So do something about it!” She shouted.
He knew he had to pull himself out of the water, and onto dry land, but not too far from the water. He looked to his right and saw raspberry bushes. That’s where he wanted to go. On that chunk of land between the water and the raspberries.
Food and water might keep him alive for a little while. Probably not long enough for anyone to find him, but he had to hope this wasn’t the way he’d go out.
Mark sighed and rolled himself over on his Stomach. With the use of his elbows, he pulled himself toward the berries, moving only half an inch, and screaming in pain.
“Well, that’s effective.” She laughed.
“Shut up!” Mark muttered.
He pulled himself forward a few more inches and screamed out again. He dropped his head, he couldn’t do this.
“Get your ass up, and keep moving!” She shouted, “Don’t you dare give up, don’t you choose to leave me like this.”
“Like you left me?” He asked, and she glared at him.
“Since when did you give up so easily?” She asked, “Find your will to live, live for me.” He glanced at her right now, focusing on her eyes, the golden hair.
He pulled himself forward a few more inches and screamed in pain.
“All you have to do is make it to those berries. Those berries are your salvation. You get yourself to those berries and you’ll see me again Mark.” She said, his leg was throbbing, but he drew a deep breath and pulled himself forward. The pain shot up his leg like a bolt of jolting lightening and tears filled his eyes as he cried out. His cries echo around him, making him understand how bad his situation really was.
“Keep going,” She said, “You can do it.” He grunted and his eyes narrowed into slits as he pulled himself forward again, screaming out again as he rolled back over onto his back. He’d made it out of the water, he exhaled and passed out again.
Mark wasn’t sure how long he’d been out, only that he’d woken up in pitch darkness. The sky above was clear, with twinkling stars and a full moon. The trees around Mark cast shadows on the ground, and he could hear an owl in the distance.
He had spent a few days in the woods like this before. Thinking back a few years. Yet, Randy had been with him and he hadn’t been injured as badly as he was now. He glanced around, unsure if he’d been here before. Nothing looked familiar anyways.
He could hear branches and twigs snapping nearby.
“It’s an animal probably a bear or a wolf. It’s coming to eat you. This is how you’ll die.” She said.
Mark held his breath as the sound came near. He saw the glowing eyes first and sighed in relief when he saw it was only a deer.
The deer took a drink of the water near Mark, and he watched it curiously.
“I’ve gotten myself into a pickle this time, haven’t I.” The deer, glanced at him, its eyes meeting his, and at that moment the deer came to his side and began to smell him. Mark chuckled a bit, reached his hand out slowly and patted the deer’s muzzle.
“Only a pickle?” She asked.
There was a distant howl that startled the deer and it ran off into the woods nearby.
Mark sighed and reached out plucking some berries off the bush. He began to eat and as he did, he thought about the situation he was in. He began laughing to himself, as he thought only he could get himself into a mess like this.
“What’s so funny?” She asked, “Are you laughing off your looming death?”
His laughter became hysterical and he continued to laugh until his leg began to hurt again. Mark groaned grabbing onto his leg, he narrowed his eyes.
“Shit,” He muttered again and continued to eat the berries.
“No one even knows I’m missing.” He said, and she narrowed her eyes.
“I know you’re missing.” She said.
“You’re not even real.” Mark sighed, “Ashley doesn’t care if I live or die.”
“Why would you even think that?” She asked, and Mark shook his head.
“She has Jordan now, what does she need me for.” He said and she glared at him.
“Well, that’s a stupid thing to think.”She said, and Mark shrugged.
“Becky was right, it’s time I just give up. There’s no point to this anymore.” She raised an eyebrow and glared at him.
“You’re going to just give up on the love of your life?” She asked.
“Does she even love me anymore?” He shouted, “I’m not so sure. Not anymore! Maybe we’re just not meant to be together!” Even as he said the words he knew they weren’t true.
“You know that it’s because you’re meant to be with her that all these bad things continue to happen. If it wasn’t meant why would so many forces work so hard to rip you apart? You share a connection with her, a deep connection.” She sighed, “Don’t be stupid and throw that away, especially when you need to believe in that connection the most right now.”
“I don’t even know if the connection is even still there! No one has even found me yet! If she can feel me why hasn’t she found me yet?”
“They have been looking for you! It takes time!” She yelled back.
“Don’t be stupid,” He muttered. “She doesn’t give a damn about me though. No one’s looking for me, she probably hasn’t bothered to tell anyone, she’s too busy sucking face with Jordan.”
He knew he was sounding bitter about it, but he couldn’t help it. He knew it was probably true, that was how much he meant to her now. He laughed, closed his eyes, and started drifting off again.