1- There’s Always The Past
The past never truly stays behind. It re-emerges as memories, smells, sounds, lessons, a touch, a feeling. When I ran across a picture of my boyfriend and me with bright smiles, it bought up a gentle reminder of something passed, something disconnected from the present. The deepest spark of nostalgia flooded my thoughts, and I craved to be that girl in that picture again. Deep in love, happy, oblivious, and without a care in the world.
As I stared at that photo, I remembered the first time I laid eyes on Anderson William Clarke. I thought he was cute, but that was pretty much it. Just another cute guy at Rolling Hills High. Another cute guy that wouldn't notice me. If they did either I wasn't the right color, right size, or my parents weren't in the right tax bracket.
My parents aren't poor but nowhere near rich. We just happen to live in a rich neighborhood. My mom, Rose, grew up well off. Her parents gave the house, that we currently live in, to her when she married my father, Philip, as a wedding gift.
Unfortunately, she died three weeks after giving birth to me at the young age of 24. I believe the actual cause was from an embolism or blood clot that went undetected. I never got a chance to even know her, but I knew she loved me. She wrote a diary about me during her entire pregnancy and up until the day she died. My father loved her so much and told me all about her.
My father remarried when I turned six to a woman named Violet. My stepmother is honestly the sweetest person and a great mom. She's never lived up to the evil stepmother stereotype. Trust me, my six-year-old self was freaking out when my dad told me he was getting married. She took me in and treated me like her own. Even when they had a child of their own. My little brother, Aster, is eight years younger than me. He's the best brother in the world.
With that picture still in hand, I recalled the morning I was fated to meet Anderson like it was yesterday. Eight years ago to be exact. At that time, my little 8-year-old brother was sick with the flu and mum begged me to stay home with him, so she didn't have to close her flower shop for the day. Dad was busy dealing with a crisis at work and couldn't get off. I had an AP Physics exam that I couldn't miss either. I compromised and told mum that I'd do a half-day and be home by lunch. She reluctantly agreed and told me to pick up Aster at her shop at noon sharp.
I was in Homeroom, feeling a little guilty about disappointing my mum. Then walked in this tall guy with mesmerizing blue eyes, dark brown hair, naturally tan skin, and a muscular athletic build. I had to take a double look to make sure he was real and not a figment of my imagination. After a few seconds of staring at him, I went back to my study notes for my exam.
"Paisley Rose?" Mr. Chavez asked, trying to get my attention.
"Yes, sir," I said as I looked up at him.
I didn't realize Mr. Chavez moved that quickly from his desk to mine.
"This is Anderson Clarke, a new student from Rancho Prep. You two seem to have a lot of the same classes. Do you mind showing him around?" he said.
Private school? What made him come to a public school?
"Sure, but I'm doing a half-day today. I hope that's not a problem, Mr. Chavez," I responded.
"No problem at all," he said, walking back to his desk.
I quickly went back to reading over my notes. Anderson sat down next to me. I could almost feel his gaze on my face. I did my best to ignore him and continued to focus on my notes.
"Paisley Rose. Such a pretty name. I've never met anyone with that name," Anderson said, interrupting my thoughts.
Without looking at him I just said, "thanks".
"You are quiet, huh?" he asked.
I just nodded my head.
"Well, I talk enough for the both of us... As you know, I'm new. I was kicked out of my last school for doing this kick-ass prank on the principal. I filled his car with red paint. That was the final straw, I guess," he said with a chuckle
I turned to look at him to see if he was serious. He couldn't possibly think that was cool or funny.
"Good that you faced some type of consequences for your actions. Now you're here, interrupting me while I am trying to study," I said sternly.
His jaw dropped. I guess he was hoping I would think what he did was cool or something. Being a "bad boy" is not cute or attractive. Well, at least not to me.
"I guess I did deserve it... Look, I'm new to this school and I was hoping I could make some new friends. You seem like the kind of person I need to keep me on the straight and narrow."
"I don't have time to look after 16-year-old boys. I'm not your momma. I bet my little 8-year-old brother is more mature than you are," I said harshly.
I normally wasn't this rude but today just wasn't my day. My lack of sleep, being unprepared for the exam, and worrying about my little brother and mum wasn't helping. The bell rang and I quickly grabbed my bag and dashed out of the room before he could reply. Eventually, Anderson caught up to me. I was a bit irritated by him. He didn't seem to get that I didn't want to be bothered.
"Hey, Paisley. I thought you were going to show me around?"
"I am. You just can't keep up," I said sarcastically.
"I don't know what I did to you, but I'm sorry."
I sighed, realizing I was taking all of my frustrations out on him. He didn't do anything to me. That wasn't right and it wasn't me. I'm not confrontational.
"You know what? I am the one that should be sorry. I'm just not having a good day. And I'm just not used to people talking to me this much. I usually keep to myself," I said.
"You keep to yourself? I don't believe that. You are the prettiest girl in this school. Well, I'm sorry you are having a bad day. How about we ditch and get something to eat?" he said with a bright smile.
"I can't ditch, but I need to go to my mum's flower shop to get my baby brother. He's sick and she's probably swamped with work and is stressed," I explained.
"I'll take you to your mom then," he offered.
"I have a car."
"I'll accompany you. They say you shouldn't drive sleepy, stressed, or unhappy. You, my dear Rose, are all three. I'll have my driver take us. When you feel better, I'll come with you to get your car later," he said as he grabbed my hand.
I was quite hesitant, but his eyes seemed warm and genuine. I started to like him. He wasn't so bad.
"Sure. After my exam. I'll meet you by the office," I said.
"Awesome." He smiled.
I showed him to his next class and then I went to mine. I took the test. Then I made my way to the front of the office and waited. I had a note to leave school early. Anderson somehow had one too. I guess his driver wrote it for him. We went to the black SUV and headed to my mum's flower shop in Rancho Palos Verdes, the next city over from Rolling Hills. We picked up my little brother. Anderson introduced himself to my mum. She seemed to like him also.
His driver took us to our house, one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood. We live in a one-story bungalow. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a bonus room my dad once used as his office. Now it's his man cave.
"Cute place," he commented as we pulled into the driveway.
Aster was asleep. I struggled as I tried to pick him up. Aster must have gained about 40 pounds since the last time I picked him up.
"I got him," he said.
He easily picked up Aster as if he was a feather and walked with me to the front door. I unlocked the door and had him follow me to Aster's room. I tucked my baby brother in and went back to the living room.
"I thought we could hang out in your room," he said.
"I don't know what the other girls let you do, but no. I barely know you. Actually, you shouldn't be here right now. My dad would freak out if he saw a boy in my room... Thanks for the ride and for helping me with my brother. See you at school tomorrow."
I dismissed him. He stood up and I walked him to the door.
"It was nothing. For the record, I would never take advantage of you. You're sweet and nice. I can tell we are going to be in each other's lives for a very long time. Get some rest, Paisley Rose. See you later," he said with a wink.
"Oh, crap! My car!"
"Don't worry, Rose. I'll have it here in less than an hour."
"Thanks," I said, handing him my car keys.
"No problem. It's official. We're best friends now."
I smiled as he walked away. I liked the thought of having a guy as a best friend.
After that day, Anderson and I were inseparable. Just as he said, he became my best friend. As we got to know each other better, I noticed that he loved to party. He had a reputation for being a bad boy because of his outlandish behavior and the wild parties that he threw. At school, he was on his best behavior. I honestly never saw him like that. Just a guy with not a lot of structure since his parents pretty much let him do whatever he wanted. Only at parties, he was wild, justifiable to get arrested wild. During high school, I thought it was cute and fun. Just Anderson being a typical American boy.
Despite his partying ways, he was always sweet to me. The rich snobbish girls hated me because of our friendship. I didn't care. I knew they were more bark than bite. I'm not as passive as people thought I was and I'm still not. Anderson always had my back. He defended me and was there for me no matter what.
I guess that's why I eventually fell for him. Prom night I fell in love with him. I turned him down several times prior, but he put so much effort into making our night special. I finally gave in. I always feared that taking our relationship to the next level would ruin what we had. Anderson vowed to never hurt me. I trusted him with my heart. We became a couple that summer.
We decided to go to UC Santa Barbara together, even though he got into Stanford and Harvard. I got into Stanford too, but I couldn't afford the tuition. My parents were considered too rich to qualify for help but in actuality, we were too poor to outright pay for an Ivy League education. My grandparents had money, but I never received a dime from them. They distanced themselves from me when my real mother died. I don't even know how they look. To this day, I never understood why they didn't want anything to do with me.
Even though Anderson's parents offered to pay for me to attend Stanford, I refused. Though a nice gesture, I just could not accept that amount of money from anyone. I knew his parents just wanted to thank me but that was too grand of an offer. They accredited his friendship and relationship with me as the major change in him. The change that got him on the right track.
Everything still worked out for me anyway. I received a free ride to any UC of my choice. I chose UC Santa Barbara for its excellent programs and scenic location. It was not too far from home but far enough that I felt independent. Just a short three-hour drive, well two with no traffic.
While Anderson majored in Economics and Accounting, I majored in Art History. We lived on campus, of course not together. My roommate Carmen became my new best friend. We had so much in common that we are still best friends, six years later. College life was fun and amazing. Anderson and I were quite happy and in love for those four years together.
Anderson partied a lot. I didn't mind because I figured that's what all college kids did. I did a little partying myself too. Things were good between us, until these last two years. I don't know what went wrong. I can't seem to pinpoint that exact moment. Lately, we don't spend any time together. I feel as if I'm losing him and all my efforts are wasted. I feel alone in this and I'm not even sure what we are doing anymore.
My daddy always said, "when the present isn't going right there's always the past to help you figure it out". I never understood that until now. I often found myself reflecting on my past trying to see what went wrong. I've been searching for any clues on how to fix us. I'm so conflicted. I don't want to throw away our friendship of eight years or our relationship of almost six years. I love Anderson, but I'm not happy anymore. I just wish he would grow up and be the man I know can be.