Chapter 39 - Knox
Someone once said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. My intentions in coming here had been pure. But I ended up in hell, nonetheless.
I was lying on the bed in my old room in the house I grew up in. I was staring at the ceiling, not really seeing anything. It had been a day since I’d arrived, since I’d lost her.
I thought that it hurt to carry around that guilt inside of me for years. I thought it was hard to see pity in people’s eyes. But nothing - nothing compared to this feeling of desolation and loss that I felt right now.
It felt like I’d lost my soul, because I’d known for a while now that Snow owned it. But right now, it felt like my heart; my entire being had been sucked right out of my body. I felt hollow, but it hurt with an excruciating intensity at the same time.
How the hell did this even happen? How did we end up here?
Things were so good between us. It felt like I had everything, at last. As though I’d paid for all my sins and finally deserved to be happy again. But clearly, I was so damn focused on what was going on inside of me that I didn’t see what was happening right in front of me with Snow. I didn’t realize just how much she had been sacrificing to be with me. How much of herself she’d been giving this whole time, that I just took and took and took without stopping to think what she might need from me in return.
Bukowski said that if you’re losing your soul and you know it, it means you’ve still got a soul left to lose. And if there was one thing I was damn sure of right now, it was that I’d lost my soul when Snow sent me away. And as hard and torturous as it was, it meant that I still had one, that there was something left inside of me to try and save.
I got up with a sigh. I stared at my phone. I re-read the last text messages between Snow and I. Looked at the photos we took when she visited me in London. And then I broke, because it slammed into me exactly what I’d lost. And I knew I’d go to the ends of the earth if that was what it took to retrieve it again...
I’d come to realize that I had to make peace myself first. That I needed to find closure and accept my past, instead of raging against it and trying to run away from it. Because the fact was, my past made me who I was today. I might be far from perfect, but all of those wounds and scars I wore, were mine. And I had to stop trying to run away from everything, including myself, because it wasn’t getting me anywhere. If there was a part of me that was lost, I wouldn’t find it on the other side of the earth. I had to start looking closer to home.
I stopped in front of that old, familiar place. A sharp pain shot right through my chest. I almost couldn’t breathe again, but I knew I had to push through.
I’d called earlier that day, so they were expecting me. Perhaps I’d been a coward until now, not wanting to look my past right in the face, but that was stopping right now.
I pressed the doorbell, and my stomach turned. What kind of reception was I going to get? Would I be judged again? Would all of those old feelings of excruciating guilt come rushing back again?
The door opened, and for a moment, we just looked at each other, completely stunned. But then a smile formed on her face, and she held out her arms.
“Knox... it’s good to see you again after all these years,” she said softly as she embraced me for a moment before letting go again.
“Thank you, Mrs. Allen,” I said, my voice sounding unfamiliar in my ears.
“Come on inside, please.” She smiled again, and the expression in her eyes was soft and sincere.
She led me into the familiar-looking lounge room, and pain sliced right through me as I saw a photograph of Harlow on the mantelpiece. She was smiling; her face lit like the sun. She looked so alive...
“It’s been six years. Can you believe how fast and slow time can go at the same time?” She asked softly, watching me study the portrait.
I sighed, looking away, meeting Harlow’s mother’s gaze.
“It’s been... hard,” I tried to smile as well, because I knew that the woman in front of me’s pain was much bigger than my own.
“Can I get you anything to drink, Knox?” She asked kindly, but I could see the curiosity in her eyes. It was clear that she was wondering what the hell I was doing here, after six years.
“No, thank you. I won’t be staying long.”
She nodded and motioned for me to take a seat.
“You’ve grown up to be a very handsome young man,” she smiled, but I could see the pain inside her eyes. I knew what she was thinking right now. She was probably imagining what Harlow would’ve looked like right now, sitting next to me on that sofa.
“How is Mr. Allen?” I asked, my eyes darting around, because I’d been expecting both of them to be here when I pictured this scenario inside my mind.
She had a stricken expression on her face for a moment before her face softened again.
“We lost him a few years ago as well,” she simply said, but that emptiness inside her voice told me that there was more to that story as well.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry, I had no idea,” I apologized, and she nodded graciously.
“Of course, you didn’t. But Knox, lovely as it is to see you, something tells me that there’s a reason for your visit today,” she smiled encouragingly at me, and I took a deep breath then exhaled again.
“There is. I wanted to apologize. I wanted to say I’m so, so sorry about what happened to Harlow. I’m sorry I didn’t save her. I’m sorry I didn’t realize quickly enough what was happening...” the words tore from my throat, and then I could feel the warmth of tears prickle inside my eyes.
“It’s not your fault, dear child. I hope you haven’t been blaming yourself all these years?” She asked, an expression of devastation settling on her features, as she realized what this was about.
And then a tear streaked across her cheek as well. She stood up and held her arms open again.
“Come here. I’m sorry that I didn’t think of reaching out to you, but I was so consumed in my own guilt, in my own pain and heartbreak that quite frankly, I didn’t even consider that you might be carrying a burden too.”
Her body shook as she held onto me for a while.
“I’m here to ask for forgiveness. I’m sorry that Harlow isn’t here today...” I forced out the words, choking up with emotion.
“There’s absolutely nothing to forgive. It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident, Knox; nothing you could’ve done would’ve prevented it. She was doing something she loved. She chose to go out there that day, and as a parent, I let her. If anyone was to blame, it was me, because I knew the risks, and I indulged her. And hard as it is, things just happen sometimes.”
We just stood like that for a little while, before she let me go again. She looked at me, her eyes glistening with tears, but with a smile on her face.
“You have to live, Knox. You have to be happy. That’s what Harlow would’ve wanted. You have to let go of the guilt, because it wasn’t your fault. You’ve come here asking for my forgiveness, but forgiveness was never mine to give, because you have to forgive yourself.”
And as I drove away a short while later that day, I felt sad beyond words, but it also felt as though a weight had been lifted off my chest. Some of that heaviness that had been weighing me down, had lifted at last.
I stopped to buy a bouquet of yellow flowers. Yellow, like the sun, almost like her hair. I drove out to that beach, and I tossed that bouquet into the water, watching the ocean swallow it, like it swallowed her. Somehow, I just felt that she was there. That she was smiling at me, sending me warmth through the rays of the sun. And then, I just sat there, on the sand, alone, staring at the waves.
It was bittersweet, I was wrestling with myself inside again, but finally, it felt as though I was making peace and accepting that I couldn’t change the unchangeable. It was time to let go of the past. To realize that I couldn’t run from it, because it made me who I was. And somehow, it felt as though Harlow was there, trying to tell me it was time to forgive myself as well.
I sat there for at least an hour - I lost track of time. But when I finally got up again, I knew that I was ready to let go. That I was ready to forgive myself. That I was really ready to look the world in the eyes again. But most of all, to be the man that Snow deserved. Because she deserved to be loved without shadows, without the darkness that had been holding me back.
Every morning I woke up, I woke with hope in my heart. I hoped that Snow would change her mind and call. That I’d see her that day. But every day, that phone didn’t ring - it didn’t make a sound. As the days passed, I’d come to realize that she’d made up her mind. But she was wrong about one thing: I didn’t need two months to realize what I wanted out of life.
A few days later, I was on a plane to London again, but I knew that I’d be back. Every mile flown took me further away from her - from where I’d left my heart. And I knew I had one hell of a fight ahead of me to claw my way back.
But that was the thing about loving someone more than yourself. You’d go to the ends of the earth and back for them. And I already knew that I’d gladly walk to hell and back for Melody Davis. Because I’d never find another love like that. The kind of love that robbed you of your breath, your sanity, and your resistance just by looking at her. The kind of love that made you want to be a better person for her. The kind of love that had forever written all over it.