Chapter 4: Changes
Carrie’s family had taken the offer. They left Brook Falls the following week, and because of all the struggles that Ashley and Mark had trying to make things work, her and Larry decided that it was best if they broke things off.
Even though Ashley still saw Carrie in Port City, Carrie’s days in Brook Falls had come to an end.
The others moved on without Carrie easily, even Larry wasn’t too bothered by her leaving. This worried Mark, with Carrie was gone, would Larry fall back to old ways and dedicate his life to making things worse for him and Ashley.
Though, that was happening all on its own. With Carrie’s family giving into the offer on their land, it meant that Todd had thirty days to accept the offer for his station. After that, the government would do all it could to force them into leaving with no compensation at all.
With the feud between Becky and Ashley, Mark knew that Mr. Hicks would not hesitate to do so. The thing was, no matter if Todd sold the land or it was taken from him, he wouldn’t be staying in Brook Falls either. Therefore, Ashley’s days in Brook Falls would also be limited.
This put yet another strain on their relationship which, despite having just gotten back together yet again, was wearing pretty thin.
“Graduation is only a few months away.” Matt said, “If you guys can get through until then, and get married then you’ll never be separated after that.” Mark nodded.
“Yeah,” He said, “But what about till then? That’s going to be a large gap between now and graduation. It’s not looking good for us.”
“Leave school, and get married now,” Matt suggested, and Mark smiled.
“I’d do that in a second,” He said, “I’ve tried it a few times already. Yet, she’d never agreed. She feels we have to finish school before we jump into any of that.”
“Then what are you going to do?” Matt asked, and Mark shrugged.
“It’s so unfair,” Mark said, glancing out the window to the Carson house. “It’s like destiny keeps toying with us, showing us a life together and then ripping away that possibility.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Matt said, “You always do. You love each other, ten years from now we’ll all be sitting around your table at Thanksgiving, laughing about all these close calls, while your and Ashley’s kids are running around laughing, together.” Mark pressed his lips together.
“I don’t know Matt,” He said, “This is probably the worst problem we’ve had to face. Ashley’s getting more distant every visit. I’m not sure we’re going to last through this.”
“You will,” Matt said, “You have to, Ashley promised me. If my friendship means anything to her, she won’t hurt you again.” Mark sighed.
“You’re not really going to hold her to that are you?” He asked, “If this is what tears us apart for good, it’s no more her fault than it is mine. It’s just our cruel fate.”
“Then don’t let fate win,” Matt said, “Fight it. Stand against it.”
“It’s not the same as anything else we’ve had to face.” He said, “If Todd sells his station, he sells his house, and Ashley will leave Brook Falls the same as Carrie. She won’t be returning this time. If he loses his station, it’s the same end result. There is no happy medium.”
“What if you bought the Carson house?” Matt asked, and Mark glared at his brother and laughed.
“How do you suppose I manage that?” He asked, Matt, pushed his glasses up his nose and licked his lips.
“You’ve been saving all those pays from working. Between the station and that roofing job, you have a lot of money in the bank.” He suggested. Mark sighed and shook his head.
“I have a few thousand,” He answered, “Nowhere near enough to buy a house.”
“There has to be something that can be done so that she doesn’t leave for good.” He answered, and Mark shook his head.
“Unless a miracle happens,” He said frowning. “She’s going to be leaving Brook Falls for good. It’s only a matter of time.”
Mark hated hearing the words come out of his mouth, but he knew it was true. He tried to ignore the thoughts but they sprung up all the time. It probably didn’t help much that Becky brought it up every time she saw him.
He knew what she was trying to do and he did his best to ignore it. Yet, she’d make herself heard, planting seeds of doubt in his ear, reminding him that his relationship was doomed and its clock was ticking away fast.
“You have to ignore her,” Lori said, “She’s trying to get into your head. She’s just waiting for the moment you two split up, so she can try to weasel her way back in.”
“I know that.” Mark said, and sighed, “But she’s right. There is nothing we can do this time, it’s going to happen.”
“My father’s on the fence about selling the house. He want’s it kept in the family. Even if he sells the station, or loses it whichever comes first. He might not actually sell the house.” Randy said, and Mark nodded.
“But, you’ll still leave Brook Falls. No more weekend visits, it all stops. I understand that you’re all trying to give me hope but guys face it, its false hope. My days with Ashley is numbered and there is nothing any of us can do about it.” He said and walked away from the group. Mark just wanted to be alone, with his thoughts.
When she arrived that Friday, things were different. The decision was happening that Saturday and they all knew that whatever that decision might be, everything would change for them, forever and there was no going back from it.
Naturally, that Friday night Ashley wanted it to be just them. They were sitting on the bed in Mark’s room, silence looming as he held her. She sighed, snuggling in close to him.
“We both know what’s coming,” She said, “After tomorrow everything changes.” Mark nodded.
“I know,” He answered, and she sighed again.
“It’s so unfair,” She replied, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“We’re still going to get married,” He said, “I promise you as soon as school is over, I’m coming to find you.”
“What until then though?” She asked, and he narrowed his eyes.
“We wait for each other.” He said, and she sighed.
“I won’t keep you from being happy without me.” She said, “We’re talking months apart Mark. I don’t expect you not to date.”
“Ash,” He said, “Let’s not cross that bridge until it happens. We don’t know yet, what’s going to happen.”
“Either way, my families leaving Brook Falls. What else is there to know.” She said.
“I don’t want anyone else,” Mark insisted, “I want you.”
“And I want you,” She said, “But what if something changes your mind. Promise me that you won’t hold back on something because you’re holding onto me.”
“I’m not promising that.” Mark said, “We’ve been down that road before, it never ends well.”
“We’re in an open relationship now,” She said, “It’s working.”
“Yes,” He said, “But either of us has dated anyone either.”
“Well, even if we don’t I think the option should stay open. It’s only fair.” She said, and Mark sighed.
“You know we don’t have to be separated at all.” He said, “I can leave school and come be with you in Port City, you can graduate and we can return to Brook Falls.” Ashley was already shaking her head.
“Absolutely not,” She replied and Mark sighed.
“Why not?” He asked, and she sighed.
“I’m not going to allow you to throw away your education for me.” She said and Mark laughed.
“My education?” He asked, “Ash, I’m a farmers son, you know damn well my future is running this farm. I don’t need education for that.”
“And what if something happens that your family loses the farm?” She asked, “What then? Nothing is guaranteed Mark, my dad’s proof of that.”
“Love, things would have to be extremely bad for my family to lose the farm.” He said, “And I don’t care, if that happens I’ll manage. I just want to be with you.” She shook her head.
“It’s not a solution Mark,” She said, “I’m sorry.” He sighed again.
“So you’re just going to give up on us?” He asked, and she sighed.
“Of course not,” She replied, “I believe we can get through this Mark. Just like we’ve gotten through everything else.” Mark kissed the top of her head.
“Let’s not think about it now.” He said, “Not when we still have today.” He wanted to believe her. However, they been through many things in their relationship, but nothing like this. He wasn’t sure that the future held for them, and he didn’t want to think about it. Not until they are made to.
Mark had trouble sleeping that night, he’d been plagued with nightmares he couldn’t escape. He spent most of the night lying awake, watching her sleep.
The next morning was a quiet one, the gang decided to have breakfast together that morning, after all, it might be their last. They sit in a lingering and somehow uncomfortable silence that they never had before. Their group had already lost one member, and whatever the outcome on this day, it would lose two more.
Nothing would ever be the same and the worst of it was yet to come.
After they finished eating, they headed to the Town Hall, they wanted to be there, together for this, and Mark knew it was going to be emotional. Especially, for Ashley. Yet, he agreed to go because she would have gone even if he hadn’t and at least with him there if she lost it again, he’d be able to calm her down.
When they arrived, it was still early. Barely anyone was around, Becky however, was setting up the refreshment stand. When she saw them coming, she glanced at Ashley and rolled her eyes.
“I hope you’re not planning another pathetic outburst.” She said, crossing her arms. “My father won’t think twice about having you arrested this time.”
“I have just as much right to be here as you do.” She replied, and Becky sighed.
“Not really,” She replied, “I live in Brook Falls, where do you live again, oh, that’s right you ran away to Port City, after taking a fit because daddy didn’t want you as a daughter anymore. He replaced you with a better version.” Becky placed a finger on her cheek. “Come to think of it, didn’t your boyfriend do the same thing until you pitched another fit? You sure don’t like sharing do you?” Ashley’s fists clenched and she took a step forward, but Mark grabbed her wrist and pulled her back.
“Ignore her,” He said, “She’s just trying to provoke you.” Becky smiled and flashed him a wink.
“You’re so smart Mark,” She chimed, “Our future children are going to be geniuses.” Mark glared at her.
“I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last woman on earth.” He said, and she giggled.
“Never say never, Mark.” She said, a grin crossing her lips. “Whose to say how the chips will fall, once Brook Falls is rid of your spoiled rotten girlfriend.” Ashley attempted to pull free but Mark tightened his grip.
“Calm down, love.” He whispered in her ear. “She’s just trying to upset you.” Ashley calmed instantly and they went to take their seats.
The meeting lasted for over an hour before the decision was made. Todd Carson decided to sell the service station, and be done with it. Though it was exactly what they expected, it hit the group hard. Ashley leaned into Mark.
“I need to leave.” She whispered, and so they left.
Things were quiet that night, even during their usual game night and the bonfire that followed after. Mark held Ashley tightly in his arms, but it was as if she wasn’t even there. As they walked home, Mark glanced at her and swallowed.
“Come with me?” He asked, and a silence surrounded them that he didn’t like.
“To your house?” She asked, and he nodded.
“Yeah,” He said, swallowing again. “Spend the night with me.” She looked at him with tears in her eyes and swallowed.
“No,” She finally said, and her response surprised him.
“No?” He asked, unable to understood what she just said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” She replied, and he glared at her, with confusion beneath his eyes.
“Why not?” He asked, and she shook her head.
“Why drag it out?” She asked, “We know where this relationship is headed, Mark. We are presently moving down a dead-end road. It’s time to rip the band-aid off.” He narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
“What are you talking about?” He asked, and she sighed.
“We need to end things, here, now.” She said, “I’m leaving for Brook Falls in the morning, I won’t be coming back. This is goodbye Mark, maybe forever.”
“What? Wait, No!” He said shaking his head, “This doesn’t have to be goodbye, we can make it work... what about our plans for the future? Ash, don’t give up on us!” Tears filled his eyes.
“You’re not making this easy!” She cried, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Then don’t do this!” He cried back, “We can figure this out, we can be together.”
“If we belong together,” She said, “We’ll find our way back to each other.”
“Ash!” He shouted, but she turned and ran into the house. He stood in shock, as the tears flowed down his cheeks. He knew that she loved him, she was just scared. He also knew that she’d stick to her promise, she’d go home tomorrow, she wouldn’t come back. If he couldn’t catch her before she left, this would be the last time he ever saw her.
Mark was angry after everything they’d been through this was how it was going to end? All because of Mr. Hicks and his stupid highway. Mark shook his head as his fists flexed. He ran to his house and up the stairs his feet like booming thunder. Matt glared at him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, Mark, grabbed a backpack and threw it open.
“She’s right,” He said, “All of our problems started with that damn Hicks family. They caused all of this.” He said, running into the bathroom and throwing two rolls of toilet paper inside. Matt’s eyes grew wide.
“Whoa, what are you going to do?” He asked as Mark grabbed the backpack, and a baseball bat on the way out the bedroom door, he ignored Matt and ran back down the stairs. His brother quickly followed. Mark opened the fridge and grabbed two dozen eggs, and wrapped them in some paper towel.
“Mark,” Matt said, his mouth dropped. “What are you doing?” Mark glared at him.
“They’re going to pay for this.” He shouted, closed the book bag and grabbed a handful of plastic bags. Matt’s mouth dropped, as Mark threw the pack onto his back, and walked out the back door. Matt followed behind him as they made their way to the barn.
“Mark,” Matt hissed, “I know you’re upset, angry even I get it, but dude you’re gonna get in a heck of a lot of trouble. This isn’t the way,” Mark bent down and started filling the bags with cow dung. He turned back to his brother.
“I don’t give a shit!” He shouted, “They can throw me in jail for the rest of my life for all I care. They did this, they started all of this. I’m going to make it clear they aren’t welcome in this town.”
“Mark, this isn’t the way!” Matt insisted, but Mark shook his head.
“It’s the only way.” He said, pushing past his brother and marching over to his bike. Matt chased after him and pulled his brother back. Mark glared steadily at him.
“Let me go.” He shouted, and Matt shook his head.
“You’re not thinking clearly.” He said, and Mark glared at him.
“I’ve never thought more clearly in my life!” He shouted, “Now let me go!” He pushed Matt away, kick-started his bike and Sped off.
“Mark!” Matt shouted after him, before running back into the house. Mark knew he’d call the others and they’d try everything they could to stop him. Mark just had to act faster.
When Mark arrived outside of Town Hall, he was even angrier than he had been since he left the house. This was where all the plans were for the cursed highway that was ruining everything. This was where Becky’s father came every single day to ruin his life. Mark pulled out a dozen eggs and started pitching. A few of them exploded on the wall and the door. A few exploded against the windows, and one or two even broke some of the windows. He really didn’t care.
He threw toilet paper all about, and he mixed water with dirt and painted on the front in huge letters:
Hicks Get Out!
When he was done here, he sped off, but not towards home. He stopped his bike a bit down the road from the Hicks house and walked up on foot. Mark set the bags of cow dung on the doorstep and lit them on fire. Immediately, throwing the eggs at the house, and the toilet paper. In no time, Mr. Hicks was outside stomping on the bags of flaming dung and screaming at Mrs. Hicks to call the cops. Mark continued throwing the eggs, smashing one on Mr. Hicks forehead.
Once he was out of eggs, Mark pulled out his baseball bat and started swinging it at Mr. Hicks Mercedes Benz. Headlights and windows were smashing out, Mr. Hicks was cursing, as the sirens got closer.
Mr. Hicks came down the steps shaking his fist at Mark.
“You little delinquent, what in blazes do you think you’re doing?” He shouted.
“Hicks, get out of Brook Falls!” Mark shouted, “You’ve ruined this town!” Mark took one final blow to the car as the police cars swerved into the yard. Four cops jumped out and raised their guns. Just as the others arrived on the road.
“Drop the weapon!” One cop shouted, and Mark dropped the bat. The cops ran forward and tackled Mark to the ground. They put the cuffs on him and pulled him toward the back of the car.
“Mark!” Randy shouted, “What were you thinking?” Mr. Hicks came down to the cars, he was furious.
“I want that Thomas boy charged! He destroyed my house and my car,” He started, Mark laughed.
“And your work,” He shouted, “How does it feel having your life destroyed!”
“Sir,” The cop said, “I can understand your frustration. However, Mark Thomas is a minor, what would you like us to do? Send the boy to Juvenile hall a few weeks? I’m sure his dad will pay for everything, aside from that there really isn’t anything we can do. The boy has never been in trouble before.”
“So, he just gets away with it?” Mr. Hicks shouted.
“I doubt he’ll get away with it.” The officer answered, “Have you met Mr. Thomas? I’m sure the boy would prefer prison over facing his father.” Mr. Hicks threw his hands up in the air.
“Just get him the hell out of here! I at least want a restraining order.” He said and the officer nodded.
“That we can do,” He replied, “Just stop by the station, tomorrow.” Mr. Hicks nodded, and the cops got ready to leave.
“Take my bike home,” Mark shouted to Matt, and Matt nodded. Mr. Hicks turned back to his daughter Becky.
“I don’t want you anywhere near that Thomas boy, he’s unstable!” He shouted, and Matt laughed.
“Well, at least one good thing came out of Mark losing his damn mind, one less stalker.” Mr. Hicks glared at them.
“Y’all get out of here. This ain’t no peep show!” At these words, the cars pulled out and drove away toward the station.
A few minutes later, Mark was being booked and fingerprinted, before he was locked in a jail cell. His parents were away until Sunday night, so he figured he’d be in jail until at least then, if his father didn’t leave him in there for a few days, as further punishment.
It came as a surprise to him when, not even an hour later, the officer came and informed him he’d been bailed out. Had Matt called his father?
However, when Mark walked out front, it hadn’t been Mr. Thomas standing there waiting for him, it was someone he least expected to bail him out of anything.
It was Todd Carson.
They walked out of the station together, and not a word was spoken until they were in the car. Todd sighed and turned to him.
“She doesn’t know about this one. Not completely. She knows something happened, but the others thought it was best not to tell her what you did.” He said, “She’s probably better off not knowing, but I’m sure she’s going to find out.”
“I’m sure she won’t even care,” Mark mumbled, and Todd nodded, as he drove.
“May I ask what you were thinking?” He asked, “Attacking Mr. Hicks the way you did, it’s not going to change anything Mark, we settled. It’s happening.”
“I know,” Mark replied, “That’s one good thing for you isn’t it Mr. Carson? It keeps me from your daughter.” Todd sighed, glanced at Mark and shook his head.
“I’ll admit,” He said, “Over the years, there were times that I hated you. I tried everything I could think of to keep you from my daughter. However, I never really hated you, Mark, I was scared. I saw the way she looked at you and I knew, he’s the one. When you have daughter’s of your own you’ll understand, for a father that’s terrifying.” Mark nodded and Todd smiled. “However, kid, I’ve known you since the day you were born, and over the years I’ve also seen the way you’ve looked at my daughter, the way you protect her, I know that you love her with every fiber of your being. I don’t know any more than you do about what the future holds for you and my daughter now. But, I can tell you one thing. There isn’t anyone I’d rather have as a son in law.” Mark glanced at Mr. Carson with surprise.
“You mean that sir?” He asked, and Mr. Carson nodded.
“Every last word.” He replied, and Mark sighed.
“That’s comforting,” He said, “But, it doesn’t matter now. Any future, I would have had with Ashley died the moment you settled on that land. She left me, sir, she’s leaving tomorrow and she’s not coming back. It’s over this time.”
“The future isn’t set in stone Mark,” Todd said, “Does it feel over for you?” Mark shook his head.
“No,” He replied, and Todd nodded.
“Then maybe,” Todd said, “This isn’t the ending of your story.”
“Do you think there is hope for us still, sir?” Mark asked, and Todd nodded.
“That’s one thing about life Mark,” He said, “You know the song, The Gambler?” Mark nodded.
“Isn’t that the song by Kenny Rogers, the one about playing poker?” He asked, and Mr. Carson laughed.
“That’s an assumption many people make,” He said, “But, it’s not really about poker, and the moment you understand the true meaning of that song, that’s the moment you’ll gain control of your life.”
It took Mark, many years to figure out what the song meant, and he learned the answer from the one person he’d least expect. He couldn’t help but wonder, if he had of known its meaning at this point in his life, how would his life have unfolded?
She left without saying goodbye, she told Randy that goodbye would be much too hard for her, but Mark knew the truth. She said everything she had to say the night before and didn’t want to face him because she was scared that she’d change her mind.
Christmas came and passed without so much as a phone call, she really was staying away, and Mark wasn’t sure if that made him sad or relieved that she was making it easier for him to let go. The Carson’s were packing up the house, their leaving was very real and Randy hated it.
He chose not to leave Brook Falls when his mother and sister left, because it was the only home he ever knew, and now he had no choice but to go.
“Are you going to go with your dad? Or are you going to move in with your mom?” Lori asked, and Randy shook his head.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to decide. If I move into my mom’s now, I’ll feel like I’m imposing on her and Ashley. I chose to stay with my dad. So, maybe that means I have to stay with my dad.” He said, and Lori nodded.
“How is Ashley doing anyway?” She asked, “I know this has been hard on her.” Her eyes met Mark’s and he knew that she was really talking about Ashley being away from Mark. Randy sighed.
“Not good,” He answered, flashing a look at Mark. “She barely comes out of her room at all these days, and when she does she barely talks at all, but will not under any circumstance talk about Brook Falls or... anyone here.” Mark fought back tears and swallowed.
“Does she know?” He asked, “What I did?” Randy sighed and nodded.
“My mom stopped for gas at my dad’s station, Becky was there and told her everything.” He admitted, “She was worried about you, but my dad assured her you weren’t going to jail or anything.”
“Nah,” Matt laughed, “He’s just grounded until he’s forty.” Mark rolled his eyes.
“Shut up!” He replied, and Matt laughed.
“It’s not that big of an exaggeration. Dad’s pretty mad at you.” He said, and Mark nodded.
“Well, I was pretty mad at Mr. Hicks.” He said and Lori shook her head.
“You’re lucky he didn’t force your dad to sell the farm.” She said.
“No,” He said, “Instead, I gotta help build this stupid highway.”
“It could be worse,” Larry said, and Mark glared at him.
“How could things get any worse for me?” He asked, and Larry shook his head.
“You’re not the only one who lost a girlfriend because of this highway you know.” He said, and Mark rolled his eyes.
“You and Carrie didn’t have to end things, you chose too. Ashley and I were forced into this.” He said, and he could feel the anger building again. Mark sighed, “I better go and cool off.” The others nodded, and he walked away.
It was something his anger management, told him to do when he could feel the fire bubble, remove himself from the situation. He lost his cool once, took one violent outburst, and his parents force him to take anger management. How nice of them.
Yet, these days anger wasn’t his biggest problem, He missed her, he missed her a lot and no matter what he did he just couldn’t stop thinking about her. The others didn’t know about it, he hid it the best he could, he had to, it was the only way he could function at all.
Yet, at times when he was alone, he was an empty shell. The worst part is, it killed him whenever he heard how badly she was taking it as well. He hated hearing that she was in pain, but at the same time, it was comforting to know that despite everything, she still loved him.
Mark glanced over into the Carson’s yard and narrowed his eyes, was that Ashley’s aunt Cheryl’s car? She hadn’t been around in a while, he wondered why she was there. Mark took a walk up the road, all he could do these days was take a walk. His parent’s had taken his bike away as punishment.
As he was walking, he was thinking, he found himself thinking a lot lately.
He wasn’t watching where he was going and ran into something solid.
“Hey, watch where you’re going.” A voice said, Mark rubbed his head, and glanced at what he ran into, he rolled his eyes.
“Oh, it’s you.” He spat and made to walk around them and continue walking.
“Well, that’s not very nice!” They spat, and Mark glared at them.
“Do you expect me to be nice to you?” He asked, and they shrugged.
“I get your bitter because your girlfriend’s gone, so I’ll let that slide.” They said, and Mark rolled his eyes.
“I’d still be bitter, even if she wasn’t.” He replied, “Why are you even talking to me? Are you trying to have me committed now?”
“Don’t be silly Mark,” They chuckled, “Why would I want to do that?”
“Did you not see what I did to the Town Hall? Your dad’s car? Your house?” He asked, and she laughed again.
“Well, it’s not like it was an attack on me,” She said, “You were upset with my father because the Carson’s settled on the offer.” Mark decided not to tell her that she was very much a part of his decision to act that night, and narrowed his eyes.
“You’re not scared of me?” He asked, and she laughed again.
“Mark,” She said, “Why would I be scared of my future husband?”
“Becky,” He said, “I’m never getting married let alone to you, besides, your dad hates me. He’d never allow you to marry me, in fact, I’m pretty sure you’re not even allowed to be around me.” She frowned.
“Since when did that stop you?” She asked, “If I recall, you and Ashley were sneaking around for months behind her dad’s back before you got caught in the church storage closet.”
“Yeah,” He said, “That didn’t turn out so well, did it?”
“That’s not the point,” She said, “You don’t let things like that stop you.” Mark rolled his eyes.
“Oh my god, Becky, look,” He said sighing. “I’m not in the mood right now to date anyone, I might never date anyone else. It is taking everything I have not to drop out of school and chase after her right now. I’m not interested in anything else.” She sighed.
“You really have it bad for this girl, don’t you?” She asked, and Mark sighed.
“It’s more than that,” He said, “I know you’ve had a hard time to understand it, but I’m in love with her. I’ve been in love with her since I was a little kid, and nothing... not even this will ever change that.”
“She’s gone Mark,” Becky said, “She;s not coming back this time.”
“But she’s still out there,” He said, “She’s not even fifty miles away if I fight for her, I know I can make it work.”
“How are you going to fight for her? What are you going to do Mark, hitchhike all the way to Port City and talk sense into her?” She asked and Mark grinned.
“Becky,” He said, “You’re a genius!” Her mouth dropped.
“I wasn’t serious Mark,” She bellowed, “You can’t hitchhike all the way to Port City!” His grin grew.
“No?” He asked, “Whose going to stop me, Becky, you?” Without waiting for an answer he ran. He was running for the end of the road, where it met in a crossroad with the main stretch between Brook Falls and Port City, if he played his cards right, he’d be in Port City before nightfall.
Mark was wrong about when he’d arrive in Port City, it was after ten when they trucker dropped him off in front of Ashley’s place.
As he stood out front of the house, Mark thought of something he’d seen in thousands of movies. Something that he always wanted to do. Because he’d been here before, he knew exactly where her bedroom window was. Her light was still on, she was still up, that was good. Mark climbed the tree next to her window and tapped on the window.
Of course, Ashley seeing someone lurking outside her bedroom window in the dead of the night, didn’t give the results he’d been hoping for. She started to scream, and her mom came bursting into the room. Thankfully, before Ashley could finish dialing 911, her mother recognized Mark and opened the window.
“Mark Thomas, what on earth were you thinking!” Mrs. Carson screamed at him, “Get in this house right now before you fall and break your damn neck!” Mark climbed in the window, Ashley stood with her mouth gaping open and the woman glared at him. “I’m guessing your parents have no idea where you are?” Mark shook his head.
“Not exactly,” He said, and Mrs. Carson shook her head.
“I’ll give them a call, and let them know where you are.” She said, glancing between her daughter and Mark. “I’ll make the call downstairs, and let the two of you talk.” She walked out of the room and closed the door. Ashley was still gaping at him. Mark hadn’t felt so nervous in his life, he attempted to smile.
“Hi,” He said, and that at least broke the ice.
“Mark,” She said, shaking her head. “What are you doing here?”
“I can’t-do it Ashley,” He said, “I can’t go on living there without you. I love you, I need to be with you.” She shook her head.
“Unbelievable.” She muttered, “Mark, we can’t be together anymore, it isn’t possible!”
“It’s not possible because you won’t let it be possible.” He insisted. She just laughed.
“Mark, things have changed, my family is leaving Brook Falls. My life is here in Port City now, yours is in Brook Falls, how is it going to work?” She asked, and Mark shook his head.
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” He said, “We can make this work.”
“How Mark?” She cried, “How can it possibly work?”
“Marry me,” He said, “You’ve said before that you want to spend the rest of your life with me. We planned on getting married after graduation. That’s just a few months from now. I’ll leave school, I’ll get a job and a place right here in Port City, we can be together and after you graduate, we can get married just like we planned.” She shook her head.
“I can’t let you just leave school and throw away your life for me, that isn’t fair.” She said, and Mark shook his head.
“I’ll transfer, or I’ll get my GED here.” He said, “Ash, I’m a farmer. I don’t plan on going further than high school anyway, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, all I want is to be with you.”
“Mark,” She sighed, “You’re not thinking clearly.”
“Your wrong Ash,” He said, “My thoughts have never been clearer. I love you, and being with you is the only thing that makes sense to me.”
“Mark,” She sighed, “I love you too, but that’s why I can’t allow you to do this, not even for me.”
“Ash,” He said, “If you love me, marry me. Let me do this, I don’t want to lose you!” Ashley shook her head.
“Mark,” She said, “If we are meant to be it’s not really goodbye. There’s time for us to find each other again.” But Mark shook his head.
“Why wait?” He said, “Unless you’re not sure if you want to spend the rest of your life with me.” She glared at him.
“If I wasn’t sure, I’d never have suggested marriage.” She said. Mark rolled his eyes.
“So what makes a few months from now any different than right now?” He asked, and she rolled her eyes.
“Our parent’s permission, that’s the difference.” She said. Mark rolled his eyes now.
“My parents love you, do you really think they’d object to me marrying you? They’d be thrilled.” He said, and she sighed.
“I’m more worried about my father.” She said, and Mark pressed his lips together and shook his head.
“Your dad wouldn’t have a problem with it either.” He said, and she narrowed her eyes.
“You seem sure of that.” She replied, and he exhaled.
“Because he told me,” He said, “The night I got arrested, your father told me that there was no one he’d rather have as a son in law. We could get married, right now, tonight and they wouldn’t care.” Ashley shook her head.
“Getting married on impulse like that isn’t a good idea Mark, we just can’t.” She replied and he sighed.
“Why does everything have to be black or white with you?” He shouted, “You’d rather not be with me at all than get married a few months early or let me leave school. Does that make any sense to you whatsoever? My god, Ash, you’re so stubborn.”
“Well, that’s calling the kettle black isn’t it?” She snapped.
“I know I’m stubborn Ash, I’m not denying that. However, I’m doing everything I can to try to keep us together, and you’re doing everything you can to keep us apart. We’ve come to a point in our relationship Ashley that there is no ‘maybe tomorrow’, it’s now or never. Why are you choosing never, do you not love me enough to choose now.”
“It’s not that.” She shouted, and he threw his hands out to his sides.
“Then what is it?” He asked.
“Look at what happened to my parents Mark, they moved too fast and look at them.” She shouted, and Mark’s mouth snapped shut.
“You’re scared,” He said, and tears filled her eyes. “After all this time, you’re still that kid running away. That’s what it has been all along. From the beginning, way back with Becky, you’ve been looking for a way out, because you’ve been terrified it’s never going to work.” She didn’t say anything and turned away from him. “Ash, we’re not your parents, we’re nothing like them. We’ve loved each other since long before we even knew what love was. If anyone can stay together it’s us.”
“Are you sure about that Mark?” She asked, “Because we have a very long track record, saying otherwise. Do you even know how many times we’ve broken up because I’ve lost count.”
“I’m not saying things won’t be rough between us, and I can’t promise you we won’t fight. It will be far from perfect but don’t you think we owe it to each other to try?” He asked, and she shrugged.
“Why try something, you already know is doomed. It’s better to suffer the pain now than years from now.” She said.
“So that’s it?” He asked, “You just want to give up?” Tears formed in his eyes.
“Unless we get a sign telling us it isn’t over,” She said, “Yeah.” She nodded, as tears flowed out of her eyes. The bedroom door opened slowly, as a knock came upon it.
“I’m sorry to interrupt.” Mrs. Carson said, there was no doubt in Mark’s mind that she heard everything.
“I’ve called your parents and they know where you are, but you’ll have to stay the night. I can make up the couch if you want.”
“It’s fine mom, he can sleep in here,” Ashley said through her tears, and her mother looked at her in concern.
“You sure, Ash?” She asked, Ashley, sniffled and nodded her head. Her mother, nodded and walked out of the room and closed the door. Ashley pulled her arms tightly around her own waist.
“Um, I’ll make up the window seat, and you can have the bed.”She said walking toward the window seat.
“I’m not taking your bed, I’ll take the window seat.” He said as she fumbled clumsily with the blankets. Mark, swallowed, and walked over and stopped her shaky hands, taking the blanket from her. “I’ll do it.” She nodded, and he made up the bed. When he was done, they both climbed into their beds, and she turned out the light.
Yet, they did not sleep. He lay with his head braced on his arm as she laid feet from him in pain, her sobbing echoed around the room and pulled at his heart. He sighed, and got up from the window seat, crossed the room in the dark, climbed up on the bed and pulled her into his arms, and held her as she sobbed. Surprisingly, she did not push him away but snuggled into him as she sobbed.
Suddenly, her sobs began to slow, and Mark was sure she’d fallen asleep, but she rolled over, facing him. She gazed into his eyes for a moment in silence, before she kissed him, he kissed her back and the kissing grew more intense, as their fingers laced together, and she rolled onto her back.