1 - Reminiscing
I’m running, I’m out of breath but I know I can’t stop. He’s so close I can hear as the dehydrated twigs snap beneath his heavy feet. I must keep going, breathless or not, I can’t let him win. Suddenly I stumble and the dry cracked ground grazes my knees as I slid along like I’m auditioning for a Hip Hop dance. “Owwww,” I shout.
Then he stops to a halt. “Tag you’re it,” he beams as he tags my shoulder and runs off into the trees.
I always remember this but I can never remember who the kid I’m playing with is, I know we were inseparable but his darn name never comes, it’s like there’s a block.
"Mum, remember that boy I used to be best friends with in Texas?” I look around, she’s uninterested as she sits on her phone scrolling tinder.
“MUM,” I yell.
She lifts her pretty face slightly, but her eyes remain on her phone. “Come, tell me what you think of this guy?” She says, ignoring my last question.
“What’s the point? He’ll be a jerk anyway.”
“Sophie, not all men are jerks. You need to get over your daddy issues and find yourself a nice boy.”
I shake my head. “Mum, your track record is enough to put anyone off men. I mean look where love got us. Stranded in freezing gloomy England.”
“Hey, Jeremy was nice. He gave you a good life here and still checks in on you.”
“I would much rather you just stayed in Texas and met a local man like a normal woman, but no, you had to be all crazy and choose one thousand miles away, uproot me from school and move us here. All on a whim.”
Her eyes finally leave the phone screen as she sucks her bottom lip in and shakes her head. “You’re never going to forgive me are you?” She awaits my response with anticipation.
“No mum, I don’t think I will. I can’t help thinking what would have been. I never had friends here, I always felt odd. The only person I ever remember connecting with was that boy back in Texas and you can’t even remember his name.”
She stands from the sofa and slides her fluffy slippers along the wooden floor. “He was your best friend apparently, why can’t you remember his goddamn name?”
“I was eight. It was seventeen years ago,” I yell after her.
As she leaves the room she shouts back. “Well, go track him down if he's that important to you.”
The old lady has given me an idea, I guess it wouldn’t be impossible to find him with today's technology. He didn’t live in the same town as me, I have a vague memory of him visiting his aunts a lot and for a short time, he lived with her. I’m sure that would narrow it down, not many kids lived with their aunts in that small town.
I go to bed that night feeling hopeful, it sounds crazy and I know, if I did ever speak to him again he would be a completely different person now, he wouldn’t be that seven-year-old kid I used to squeal with, or the boy who gave the best hugs that I always felt a strange connection to. I have thought about him for seventeen years but I still see him as that boy, never a man. He might not even be alive now for all I know or married and moved away. All the thoughts whizz around my head as I try to sleep. “Sod it,” I say to myself as I push my quilt from over me. I pull open my laptop and start my search. I figure the first place to start is social media, Facebook and Instagram. I search for hours looking at the men who have the small town as their location.
“It’s useless,” I say as my eyes glaze over and I slam my laptop shut. How will I ever find him when I have no clue what he even looks like.
I’m woken by mum giggling in the kitchen, I take it she’s found a nice tinder man to be romanced by. My mother is the original romantic, always searching for that one soul mate. Always thinks she’s found him until the novelty wears off and she can’t stand to be around them. Yep! Her relationships turn toxic pretty quick.
“Sophie,” mum shouts. “I’m going out so get your arse up.”
I slide out of bed and lean out of my bedroom door. “Where are you going this early?”
“I’m going for breakfast with Jim.”
“Jim, Jim. He’s a guy I’ve been talking to for a while.”
I roll my eyes back as I shut the door, I can’t take listening to her drone on about another idiot that will leave as fast as he arrives. “I’ll be at work until late,” I shout back as I climb back into bed.
My life is so mundane, I often think what else there is. This surely cannot be it. I wasn’t born to work and pay bills. I know I play a part in my dull life, I choose not to socialise with anyone, I choose not to go out with the guys after work and I choose to sit in the library alone, reading and fantasising about places beyond home. I guess I just never felt like I fitted with anyone, I had friends but they were always so different to me, I kept myself on the outside and eventually, they all moved on from me. Now my only link with the outside world is work, I work in the local cinema and try my best to get myself in the projector room during my shifts, in there I can take my book and read with my feet up. Occasionally I will watch the film if it’s anything decent.
As I don’t start my shift until the afternoon today I decide to continue my search for my Texas boy, I still don’t know what I’m looking for but I know I have to give it my best shot.
Wilmington, Texas is a small town but I find a Facebook page, luckily they are big on rodeo there so a lot of people visit and pass through for the shows. I read through the comments and find a couple of regular commenters, if these guys are not him, they may know him. I hesitantly message a couple of them, it’s a needle in a haystack but I got to start somewhere plus mum was always saying people in the small towns get stuck there and live their life there so hopefully, he’s not moved on.
It’s late when I finish work, I’m so tired I head straight up to my bedroom with my popcorn stench uniform and naff unattractive cap. I don’t hear my mum but it's not unusual for her to never return from breakfast, lunch or dinner with these guys. In the past, she’s been gone for days. Yeah, I stopped calling the police after the second time that happened.
After my shower, I open my laptop and to my surprise, I have a message.
I open it before I can talk myself out of it. It’s from a guy called Liam from Wilmington, he says he has lived there all his life and is happy to answer any questions I might have, I smile as I re-read his response, he’s a good-looking guy with his short dark hair and tanned muscular body, I start to fantasise about him being my mystery boy.