“Your parents should be on their way… In fact,” Dr. Anderson checked his watch; “They should be here any moment now. Congratulations, Declan. I’m incredibly proud of you.” He stood up and shook his hand.
Declan beamed with excitement; gone was the gaunt and frail appearance that gymnastics and bulimia he’d arrived here with. Although he understood that recovery was going to be a lifetime process, he felt as though he finally knew how to take responsibility for his actions, he felt healthy, and happy… At peace with all he’d been through.
“Thank you... I really can’t say that enough; you saved my life.” Declan’s eyes began to water, “I’m not going to cry,” he chuckled, “Promise!”
They both shared a laugh, and said their goodbyes. Declan proceeded to finish the check out process, including getting weighed for the last time, and returned to his room to pack.
Upon arrival, he opened his door to find Dr. Anderson, his other therapy group members, and his family all there waiting for him. They cheered and began exchanging hugs and pleasantries for the last time.
It was evident that they’d all bonded through their struggles and were excited to see someone reach a level of recovery satisfactory enough to return to the “real world”, as they so often put it during group.
Karen was the last to give Declan her blessing and a heartfelt goodbye.
“Don’t cry!” Declan pleaded.
“I promise,” she exclaimed, “don’t be a stranger. You have all my contact information. Call me every five seconds. Don’t forget to write to me, alright? Promise? PROMISE?!”
“Promise!” Declan wiped his tears.” They hugged fiercely one last time, before Declan walked out with his family and got into their car.
As they rode off, he looked back at the facility. Six months. Six months of undergoing psychoanalysis and personal growth. Six months without having to worry about getting a new skill down, or having to ice. Six months without having to deal with Gable’s bullshit. Sox months of not dealing with anything in the life that almost killed him.
“Mami, creo que voy a ir a Rio Rojo, hoy.” Declan said to his mom.
“I think I’m going to go to Rio Rojo today, Mom.”
She looked up from the meal she was cooking, and turned to face him.
“Estas seguro que puedes ir? Has hablado con el entrenador?” She asked, naturally worried.
“Are you sure you can go? Have you talked to coach?”
Declan shrugged and looked out the window, he hadn’t contacted any of his teammates, since he’d gotten out of rehab. How would he even go about it? It’s not like any of them had even bothered to visit him in rehab. Then again, how could he blame them; they’d probably been far too busy with Nationals.
“No, pero estoy seguro que le daría gusto verme, a mis compañeros. Digo, yo quiero verlos.” He smiled at her.
“No, but I’m sure they’d like to see me. I mean, I want to see them.”
His mom seemed hesitant, but eventually obliged to let him embark on the trip. He didn’t bother to explore the hesitation in her voice, and readied his belongings. Within the hour, he was ready to make the journey he’d made a thousand times before.
The trip took shorter than he remembered, and as he took the exit towards the gym, he saw something that, even in his worst nightmares, he never imagined would happen.
Declan pulled into an empty parking lot. A parking lot that, while not packed, always had a few cars. He got out and looked up at the sign that once bared the name of his home. His playground. His sanctuary. Long gone was the “West Texas Gymnast Academy” sign. It was replaced with a sign that read ‘for sale’.
He leaned up against his car and sighed. It was gone. The gym he had given up his life for was gone. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. He searched for the spare key, but it too was gone. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now; it was too late.
He pulled out his phone and dialed Coach Johnson’s phone. It rang twice, and then the automated message reached his ear.
“The number you are trying to reach has been changed, or is no longer in service. Please check the number, and dial again.” His face fell. How could he have changed his number?
It hit him, like a bright yellow bus; those five months he was gone must have changed everything.
His eyes began to swell in frustration. It was an innate feeling of desolation. Not only had none of his teammates bothered to visit him, what hurt him the most is the fact that Coach Johnson, after having convinced and put so much faith in him, had disappeared without even telling him a single word.
He tried to dial Tommy’s number, but he didn’t know it. The only numbed he had from the gym was Skylar, and he was long gone. The longer he sat there, the more he was enveloped by austerity.
He climbed into his car and drove away. It was the only thing that kept him from trying to break into the abandoned building. He drove to their sister gym to see it, too, was gone.
While it was still a gymnastics gym, it had changed ownership. He tried to obtain Coach Johnson’s number, or perhaps Jessica’s, but they failed to oblige. His stomach was beyond earth deep by the time he got back on the road. Life, as he knew it was over.
As he neared a stop light before getting onto the highway that lead back home, he pulled out his phone and went through his phonebook. After not being able to find a single person he could call, he snapped it close.
The more he drove back towards his home, the more he thought about calling someone… He knew he shouldn’t, especially after their last conversation, but he dialed Gable’s number verbatim.
Again, he was greeted with the same message as before… His number had been changed.
That was it. That was enough to break him. He pulled to the side of the road and broke down. So many countless memories had been made on this stretch of land between Bethlam, Crest and Rio Rojo. He didn’t want to accept it, but this chapter of his life had come to an abrupt end.
He must’ve spent about an hour crying, because when he looked up, his face burned, the sun had set, and the West Texas sky gleamed with the twinkle of a billion stars like the night he and Gable had laid atop his Oldsmobile. He sat up, regained his composure, and started back the journey towards Crest.
Those past two years continued to flash before his eyes, as he pulled into his driveway. His obesity. Meeting Gable. Getting back into gymnastics. Losing all the weight. Befriending Skylar. Betraying Gable. Skylar’s openheartedness. Competing. Gable’s infidelity. Skylar’s unrequited love. Coach Johnson’s broken promises. Gable’s family. Steffy. Mary. Lissie. Gable’s betrayal. Skylar’s death. His own injury. Rehab.
If he survived all that, he knew he’d be able to survive whatever came his way. In that moment, he knew that Dr. Anderson was right… He’d overcome all he’d gone through, and became a stronger person because of it.
He had finally accepted that, in the words of Jonathan Lockwood Huie: he had to forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because he deserved peace.
As he walked into his home, his mom came up to him and hugged him.
“Ya sabias, verdad?” He asked her, between tears.
“You knew, didn’t you?”
She didn’t respond, but he knew the answer, and he was surprisingly okay with it. This is how it should end. A clean cut. It was painful, but yet bittersweet.