Chapter 41 - Please Forgive Me
“Please forgive me, I know not what I do / Please forgive me, I can’t stop loving you / Don’t deny me, this pain I’m going through / Please forgive me, if I need you like I do / Please believe me, every word / I say is true / Please forgive me, I can’t stop loving you” – Please Forgive Me, Bryan Adams
I look straight ahead to where Mrs. Slughorn is typing away at her computer behind the front desk. I’m sitting on one edge of the three-person burgundy couch while James is on the other, waiting for the principal to call us to her office. Mr. Quirrel has gone to the principal’s office and come back, passing by us both without saying a word. The only sound is Mrs. Slughorn’s fingers on her computer keys.
“Arya,” James whispers to me. I can’t bear to look at him. He knows now. He said it and now Henri thinks I told him. He overheard my conversation with Henri. How could I be so stupid? Henri just gets me so worked up so easily. He’s the one guy that can do that without even saying a word. And now James has planted himself in the mess I was trying to keep him out of. “Arya, please look at me.”
I turn to him slowly, looking at those eyes that just want to understand. “Do you understand now why I couldn’t tell you anything?”
“I do.” James says, “I’m sorry.”
“Henri now thinks I am the one who told you.” I say, “I was trying to keep you out of this mess but here you are.”
“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” James says, trying to make me smile.
“Don’t use that with me,” I say, but it works.
“He hurt your sister,” James says and it brings back the memories of last semester. The memories I’ve been trying to push down so that they couldn’t resurface. “I heard what he said. He hurt her, and you were protecting her.”
I look at James, his face understanding. “I’d do anything to protect my family. It was never about not trusting you, James.”
“I know that now,” James says, “I was an idiot to ever let you go.”
“You were.” I joke with him and he smiles at me. “But I don’t blame you for being mad at me, I don’t know what I would have done in your position.”
“Ms. Secord, Mr. Fox.” Our principal, Ms. Sinistra, says stepping out of her office to call us. We both get up and follow her to her office. We sit in the two chairs in front of her desk as she closes the door and returns to her chair. “So, Mr. Quirrel told me about what happened outside. Mr. Fox, you know that violence is not tolerated in this school.”
“Yes, Ms. Sinistra,” James says.
“He was defending me…” I start.
“Mr. Quirrel told me everything already.” Ms. Sinistra says, “And although violence is not tolerated, this boy from West Side Academy sounds like a fairly awful individual.” Ms. Sinistra smiles at us. “It is your first offense, Mr. Fox, so I will let you off with a warning, but please don’t let me see you here again.”
“Yes, Ms. Sinistra,” James says.
“You may leave, Mr. Fox.” Ms. Sinistra says.
James stands up, “But what about Arya, Ms. Sinistra? She didn’t do anything wrong. She was just a victim.”
“I said leave, Mr. Fox.” Ms. Sinistra says more sternly, and James reluctantly leaves the room, closing the door behind him.
“There have been rumours circulating about you Arya.” Ms. Sinistra says, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”
“No, Ms. Sinistra,” I say.
“If someone has hurt you and tried to keep you quiet, you can tell me, Arya.” Ms. Sinistra says, “I very well know what men are capable of and the destruction they cause. You can’t take it lying down.” Do you know what’s happened in your own school, Ms. Sinistra? Do you know that a boy pushed me into a bathroom to sexually assault me while your students stood by and did nothing? Do you know the culture of your school? No, of course not. Neither did Principal Filch.
“Thank you, Ms. Sinistra.” I say, “But I am not in that situation. May I please leave?”
“Of course, Arya.” She says, “But my door is available whenever you do want to talk about the situation you are in.”
When I walked out of the office, past Mrs. Slughorn still at her desk, he is there, leaning up against one of the lockers, waiting for me.
“Arya,” James says when he sees me and comes right up to me, making sure not to touch me. James had been everything to me, and then, when everything went south, it felt like he abandoned me. But James was fighting his own demons as well during this time we spent apart, trying to understand why the girl he had shared everything with had not done the same with him. All I wanted was to be back with him and let him in. He wants to be a part of everything, even if some parts of my past are ugly. I go up to him and wrap my arms around his neck. He wraps his arms around me completely, holding me as close to him as he possibly can. “Forgive me, Arya.” He whispers in my ear.
“Always,” I say. We slowly release each other and then look into each other’s eyes.
“There’s somewhere I want to take you.” James says, “Get changed and we’ll go.”
We both sub out our soccer clothes for something more comfortable. Me, in jeans shorts and a loose black t-shirt, and James, in dark jeans and dark blue polo.
“Where are we going?” I ask him in the car as he’s driving.
“You’re still as impatient as you were on our first date,” James says. “We’re almost there.” And then James turns into a parking lot by the docks overlooking the river, nearby a park. He shuts off the engine. “Let’s go.”
When we get out, he comes around to my side and grabs my hand, leading me away from the docks and the park. We walk up a grassed hill covered with trees that block the destination of where James is taking me. We reach an old black gate and I realize at once where he has taken me. He opens the gate slowly and we both walk in through the overgrown grass, James never letting go of my hand. When we walk in further, I can see the tombstones of different people scattered across the small encloser. Inside, the place is well kept, there are probably about fifty tombstones here. There is a single willow tree with a bench underneath and the tombstones are ordered neatly to make passing through easy, with a single dirt path running down the center. James takes me to the second last row to the tombstone closest to the fence on the right side. When we stop in front of it, I read it.
Charles Stuart Fox
Loving Husband to Carol Lynn Fox and Father to James, Rachel, and Grace
Beloved by Family, Cherished by Friends
I read the dates which confirm December 29th, over two years ago, like James told me. “He would have loved you,” James says, staring at the grave.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him,” I say, looking at James, leaning up against him, and wrapping my arm around his.
“I used to come here a lot.” James says, “It was the only way I could feel close to him. That and soccer, he loved soccer.” James just continues to stare at his father’s tombstone.
“What about now?” I ask, “How do you feel close to him now?”
“When I finally started enjoying life.” James says, “When I started to live the life I know he would have wanted for me, I started to feel close to him again.” James finally looks at me, “When you came into my life, Arya, and I started to be myself again. That’s when I felt close to him again without having to come here all the time.”
“I missed you, James,” I say.
“Not as much as I missed you,” James says.
“Tell me something about him.” I say, “Your favourite memory.”
James smiles. “In the summer, whenever he was free, he would take me out fishing. Just me. It was our time together. Sometimes we would spend the whole time talking and laughing, sometimes barely a word would pass between us. But no matter what happened, good day or bad, we would always stop by my mom’s favourite bakery on the way back and buy these pretzel buns. They were delicious, but the bakery is actually way out of town in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t drive out there a lot. My mom would always be so surprised and happy when we came home with them, even though we did it every time we went fishing. Regardless, she was just as appreciative as the first time we brought them back.”
“Your parents really loved each other,” I say.
“My dad treated my mom like a queen,” James says. “It’s the little things I miss about him. I can’t tell him if I won a soccer game, he’s not around to make fun of me, he’s not around to yell at me either.”
“I cannot even begin to understand what you are going through, James.” I say, “But you know I’m always here, right?”
“I do,” James says. “but I think that’s enough for one day.” I can see James getting slightly emotional. He doesn’t talk about his father a lot. “Let’s go back to the park and you can tell me everything.”
We slowly make our way back to the park, retracing the steps we took, and find a bench shaded by a tree looking over the water. There are some people in the park, but not many, giving us the illusion as if we are the only ones there. Sitting on the bench, I rest my head against James’ shoulder, and he wraps his arm around me. We stay like this for a while, in comfortable silence overlooking the water. There’s something about water, it just calms you, it has healing powers that you cannot even fathom. “I don’t know where to start,” I say.
“Just start from the beginning,” James says softly.