It’s been about a week since Aaron and I reconnected. Every morning I’d get up and get dressed just to head out and be around him. It didn’t matter what we did, I was just glad that it felt like old times.
Just to be up under him, everything made sense.
I looked over my shoulder once I heard my mama clear her throat but I quickly turned back to the breakfast I was cooking. Grits, oatmeal for Daddy, sausage and bacon, homemade biscuits and eggs. I squeezed a few oranges for some fresh orange juice and cut up some fresh fruit for myself to snack on.
I wasn’t really hungry but I was certain they would be.
“I’ve never seen you cook before, what’s the special occasion?”
“There’s no special occasion Mama. I couldn’t sleep in so I figured I’d get up and give you a break for a change.”
I could feel her eyes burning a hole in the back of my head. The whole point of me coming home was to spend time with her and Daddy, and I’ll admit that I’ve purposely been avoiding them both. Just so I won’t have to hear speeches about doing and knowing better. In fact, she’s got an entire speech on not living in the past.
Mama was saying something but I decided to tune her out, staring out the window as I thought about one particular moment growing up. When I first met Aaron. Back when I was a freshman in high school, there were five other families living on this large amount of land my parents owned. There were already two house that had been abandoned so my parents rented them out and let three families park their trailers. The first family to move in was the Eckharts. Aaron, his mama, his sister, and one of their cousins. His cousin tried to step to me but it was only because he thought I was easy.
You know, a fat girl will gladly take any boy that came her way. That wasn’t the case with me and back then Aaron was the only boy who treated me with respect. He was my first real friend, my only friend for a long time.
I remember that day so clearly. I was standing right in the spot I’m standing in now, cooking myself breakfast when I heard a boy screaming outside of the window. Being as nosy as I was, I looked out the window and caught sight of him running around with his sister Carey. I guess even then I had this tendency to stare so hard that whoever I was watching would notice. He turned around and spotted me. He smiled but I quickly finished and moved away from the kitchen window.
Later that afternoon he came over and introduced himself and after that we were inseparable. I guess you could say he was a bit of a hometown hero. As long as he played sports everybody loved him, including my parents. But for some reason or another, they never felt he was great enough to date me. I used to say it was because they were making less money than we were but they denied it. We sneaked around for four years, stayed in trouble but it was worth it because I loved him.
“Marjorie, did you hear a single word I said?”
I cleared my throat and finally turned the stove off. I fixed my mama a plate and sat it in front of her before sitting down. “No, I didn’t hear anything you said.”
“Always daydreaming. Probably thinking about that no good Aaron Eckhart. Don’t think I don’t know you’ve been going around Memphis with him.”
“I’m grown, it’s not like there’s much you can say about it now.”
“You’re a super model now, what happiness could you honestly find with a washed up football player who works as an underpaid mechanic?”
“The same happiness you found with a man who took over his daddy’s farm. Mama I love you dearly and I thank you for raising me with good values, but letting go of real love and happiness for money and false security… that’s not of them. I know what I want, and whether you and Daddy like it or not I’m gonna make sure things are good between Aaron and me before I go back to New York.”
One again, wanting to avoid any arguments I walked out. Quickly grabbing my keys, I said goodbye to my daddy as he headed towards the kitchen and made my way to see Aaron.
He couldn’t get away from work just yet so I decided to stop in and see him, see if I could get that old feeling I used to get when I would watch him. It only took me about twenty minutes to get to his uncle’s shop, and I spoke to everyone. Hugging, laughing, and talking as if it hadn’t been years since we last saw one another.
I’m certainly not the baby-faced teen I used to be.
I gave Aaron a hug before sitting off to the side, watching as he worked on the engine of a Challenger. “You must have been real bored to come down here and watch me mess around with engines and carburetors.”
“You know I like watching you. You’re looking good in that white t-shirt, muscles out, all sweaty and what not.”
He smirked before pushing his glasses up on his face. I hadn’t even noticed them, so focused on every other part of his body. “Wanna wipe me off?”
“Don’t you start anything Aaron.”
He chuckled before standing up and kissing me. It was the sweetest; his lips were soft and gentle, and all I could do was lean into it, enjoying the warmth and tingles I felt as our tongues met and danced and a small moan escaped my lips. I didn’t want it to end, but his uncle cleared his throat. We parted, but not before Aaron gave me a quick peck before sitting back down. “I missed being able to do that.”
“You two are ridiculous.”
I laughed and said hello to Mr. Larry as he made his way to his office. “So are we going to be sitting here all day or will I get the chance to steal you away? It is my last night.”
“Yeah, I’ve got shows and photo shoots. The borings things that keep my bills paid.” He nodded slowly, keeping his eye on the engine sitting in front of him.
“So what happens with us. It’s only been a week but you know that I still love you.”
“I want us to work something out. I’m not a fan of long distance but if you’re willing to try it, I’m willing.”
“And how often would I get to see you? We’re living totally different lives. You’re in the spotlight and I’m just here.” If I had to be honest again, I’d rather be here.
“Believe me Aaron, if I hadn’t signed contracts I wouldn’t even bother going back right now. I spent so much time thinking that I would get used to living in different cities and having fame and all of that other stuff but I’m just over it all. I’m not happy.”
He cleared his throat, smiling a little as he stood up. “Give me a few minutes to put this engine back in and we’ll get out of here.”
“What are we gonna do?”
“See about doing something to make you happy before you go back.”
For hours after that, we just drove around the city, visiting our old high school and empty fair grounds thinking and talking about all of the mess we got ourselves into as teenagers. Let me tell you, finding trouble in a super small Tennessee town wasn’t as easy as you’d think.
Although I wish he hadn’t brought it up, he reminded me of our very first time. Yeah, he was my first and looking back on it now, thinking of how clumsy we both were, I couldn’t help but laugh. He was more scared than I was but in the end it was perfect. Not like in movies, of course, but it wasn’t as bad as the horror stories I’d heard from other girls.
He laughed at me as I sang along to Deborah Cox’s My First Night when it played on the radio but I didn’t care. He knew that song summed up the beginning of our relationship, in fact, it summed up our entire relationship. No matter how many times we did something, even things other would consider childish or corny, it always felt like the first time.
Parked in the driveway of his home, I rested my head against his shoulder as we waited for the sun to set. I’d been inside to speak to his mama, relieved to know that she’d been cancer free for about six months now and she was back to being her silly self.
One thing I could say about Ms. Beth, she’d always been one of the sweetest women I’d ever known and her demeanor hadn’t changed at all. Maybe it’s just me but when you break the heart of someone’s child, you tend to think that parent would hate you. That wasn’t the case. She hugged me tightly before heading into her room to watch her soap operas.
We were silent for a long time before he grabbed my hand.
“Would you marry me this time? Not right now, of course, but if I asked you again someday, would you say yes this time? I think your parents were right in saying that we were entirely too young the last time.”
“Seventeen, yeah, I guess. And yes Aaron, I would marry you. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted anyway. To marry you and raise kids, I just always held on to the thought that we’d be happy.”
“We will be.”
I smiled, taking a deep breath as my phone ring. It’d been so long since I had a decent signal out here I’d almost forgotten I had a cell phone. “Hello?”
“Where are you right now?”
“Nana? What’s wrong?”
“Your daddy collapsed while he was at work, get to Delta Medical as soon as you can.”
“Oh my God, okay. I’ll be there soon.”
“Aaron, please drive to the Delta Medical Center as fast as you can.”
He started up his truck and looked at me for a second before pulling off. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, something happened to my Daddy.”
I took a deep breath and prayed silently as I looked out the window, trying to think positive to keep myself from over worrying and crying.
You ever see your entire life with someone pass before your eyes once you’re forced to think about the possibility of them not being there?
That was my state of mind the entire time I paced back and forth. My grandma tried to reassure me that Daddy was just fine but I was just scared. I kept thinking about how I came here to make things right with everybody and so far that’d only gone right with two people. Aaron and my grandma, even though she was never mad at me.
I kept asking why I couldn’t go in and talk to him, why we couldn’t get information on my daddy’s condition but no one answered me. A majority of the nurses and other staff looked at me as if I was crazy. To keep myself from cursing somebody out, I did the one thing I should have done from the beginning.
“I love you.”
I guess she could sense my uneasiness, or maybe I had a worried look on my face. As light as I am, it’s not hard to tell when I’m embarrassed, sad, or feeling guilty. I wear my emotions on my face, my face often gets as red as a tomato when things aren’t right. “I love you too Marjorie but nothing is going to happen to your father. He just has these little episodes where he has seizures or passes out. He’ll be fine, he always is.”
I want to ask how long this has been happening, but I’m sure that if she didn’t tell me he didn’t want me to know. “He never wants me to worry but I don’t even know what’s going on.”
“He’ll be fine.” I hope so.
I must have paced back and forth for another hour or so before a doctor finally came out and a nurse followed, wheeling my father in with one of their wheelchairs. He looked so weak and defeated.
Without letting my emotions take over completely, I gently put my arms around him and hugged him. “I love you Daddy. And I’m sorry for everything.”
He pushed me back and smiled. “I have epilepsy, I’m not dying. And I love you too. I just wanna get in my bed and let this medicine take effect.”
“Come on Love, I’ll get you home.” Mama thanked the doctors and headed to the front desk to get Daddy signed out. I quickly gave my grandma a hug before she joined them, leaving me alone.
I turned to see Aaron coming from the opposite direction, wondering where he was coming from. “You know you didn’t have to leave, my mama wouldn’t have said anything.”
He smiled before hugging me tightly. “I’ve stood up to Ms. Evelyn before. I just wanted to give you all a little privacy. Come on, let me get you home before you curfew.”
“Boy, shut up.”
Walking into my parents’ home an hour later, it was nice to see my mama sitting in the living room staring at old pictures. She’s the type of person that doesn’t like to dwell on the past, no matter how happy or sad something had been.
She was looking over her wedding photos. I quietly sat beside her, taking her hand in mine as she began talking. “Your daddy is a very proud man. No matter what he’s going through he likes to hold his head up and give the appearance that everything is fine.”
“Daddy’s usually right though. Everything always works out.”
“But every time he has one of these seizures I fear losing him. And I don’t know what I’d do if he weren’t here. When they wouldn’t tell us anything, I couldn’t do anything but think. And I was thinking about what you were telling me, how all you ever wanted was something like what your daddy and I have. I think even I didn’t realize how great and beautiful and simple it is. There was a time when he and I had nothing, but we had one another and that always seemed to be enough.”
“Sometimes you can make it on nothing but love, because having that person there is what gets you through all of the hard times.” Mama started crying. I pulled her close to me, hugging her tightly as she pulled herself together. “I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you couldn’t or didn’t deserve to be happy. Because you do.”
“Thanks Mama.” She kissed my cheek before heading into the kitchen. She asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink but I declined, heading up to my bedroom to do some thinking of my own after I checked to make sure Daddy was okay.
Staring out my bedroom window, I had my eyes focused on the stars but I was lost in thought. An hour passed, and then another. And before I knew it, it was midnight. I was just about to go to bed when a rock hit my window.
Opening it, I looked down to see Aaron standing there with his hands in his pockets, looking like he was lost or confused. I cleared my throat, whispering even though I’m sure my parents wouldn’t care. “You couldn’t just knock on the door like a normal person?”
“Couldn’t call or text and ask me to come to the back door?”
“Nah. Come down, let’s spend the rest of the night together.”
I smiled, shaking my head as images of me climbing out of this window years ago played back in my mind. “Fine, I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“Wait, if I’m not being normal you can’t be normal. Climb down.”
“Let me guess, we’re gonna lie in the back of your pickup?”
“Nope. In the back of your daddy’s, like old times.” I rolled my eyes before stepping away from the window to put my shoes back on. I quickly pulled my hair into a ponytail and stuck one foot out of the window, making sure I stepped onto the ledge first before moving towards ladder that always stood next to my window. Aaron held the bottom of it and soon I was at the bottom, leaning against his check as we walked around to the back of the house.
I pulled the tailgate of my daddy’s black pickup down and climbed into the bunk before pushing some stuff over to make room for Aaron.
“Remember when we got caught drinking in the back of this truck.”
“Yeah, I did a lot of things I normally wouldn’t have because of you.”
“Heh. Like playing runaway, drinking, smoking, kissing…”
“Having sex. Now that I think about it, I’m not so sure we should start dating again. You’re nothing but trouble Aaron Eckhart.”
“But you loved it Marjorie Dawson.”
“Ugh. Why won’t y’all call me Malinda?”
He laughed before we finally sat down. He leaned back first against an old tire, quickly getting as comfortable as possible thanks to some old blankets, and I leaned against his chest, wrapped my arms around his waist. I missed moments like this the most. He and I would just stay outside all night, looking up at the stars and talking about anything and nothing at all. Making plans for our future.
“I’ve made a decision. I know a lot of people are going to think I’m crazy as hell but I just feel like I’ll be making the right choice.”
“What’d you decide on?”
“I’m moving back after I get through these last few shows I have. But I don’t wanna live in Ashland City again. I think I might like it with you in Memphis.”
“For real Aaron. I don’t wanna give up on us again and I just know that if I stay gone I will continue to be unhappy. I wanna be happy.”
“Wow. I just don’t want you to regret giving up whatever you like.”
“I’m sure there’s something I can do for work here, or I can start a business of my own. I do have a business degree that no one knows about. Either way, as long as I can lie under you and be with you, I’m good.”
I took his hand in mine and interlocked our fingers, finally feeling that wave of happiness I kept talking about to my mama.
For the first time all week, I’m actually glad I came back home.