A Charmed Life
Chapter 7: This Is The End, Beautiful Friend, The End
Copyright© 2016 by The Outsider
24 August 1986 - West Ware Road, Enfield, Massachusetts
Jeff and Pauline sat at the breakfast table, each lost in their thoughts while they ate. They were holding each other’s hand, desperate to maintain contact; they were willing to struggle through eating one-handed to do so. Today was the day that they would say goodbye to each other, ending their relationship of eighteen months. Neither was under the impression that the goodbye would be easy.
Pauline’s new environment at college would bring new opportunities and experiences. Jeff would share in none of those things since he would be a high school senior. They’d agreed to remain friends, but neither was taking any comfort in that today.
Marisa watched the young couple with sorrow. She was amazed that she’d allowed Pauline to sleep over for the couple’s final night together; Marisa knew full well what happened behind Jeff’s door last night. All four parents admitted to one another that the couple was being mature and thoughtful about the impending separation. Their request wasn’t that outrageous.
Pauline had been good for Jeff, a good first girlfriend. And good first, well, other experience. No parent wanted to think about that part of their child’s development, but she admitted that they’d handled being caught in flagrante delicto last year with maturity. Marisa worried about how her son would handle the coming days.
Breakfast ended all too soon. Pauline gathered her things; it was time for her to head home. She said goodbye to the rest of the Knox family before Jeff walked her out to her car; his family remained inside to give the teenagers some privacy. The couple walked out to her car. Pauline embraced Jeff and began sobbing; Jeff couldn’t keep a dry eye himself. They held their embrace for some time before either spoke.
“Thank you, Pauline,” Jeff whispered. “Thank you for letting me be your boyfriend. Thank you for giving me a chance.”
“Thank you, Jeff,” she sniffed. “Thank you for making my choice last year seem like a complete no-brainer. This past year and a half has been the best I ever could have asked for. I’ll compare how anyone else treats me from now on to how you treated me. Don’t become a recluse this year, okay? Have some fun, it’s your senior year.” She paused, the old, familiar twinkle of mischief returning to her sad eyes. “Don’t forget, I’ve got a very loyal spy in the Class of 1988 watching you.”
He had to chuckle. “Don’t hit my sister up for too much information,” he grinned despite the pain of impending loss.
Pauline nodded and her demeanor changed back to serious. “Be well, Jeff. I’ll never forget you.”
“Be well, Pauline.” The two kissed one last time. When the kiss ended, tears were streaking down Pauline’s face as she got into her car; Jeff forced back his own tears. Pauline backed her car down the driveway and Jeff walked down it as she did so. He watched her drive away with a hole in his heart. He stood looking after her for a long time. He turned when he felt his mother’s hand on his arm.
“Jeff? Are you going to be okay?” she asked.
“Eventually, Mom,” he said, turning back to the direction Pauline had gone. “I’m going to change and go for a run. Maybe channel these emotions into something useful today.” He made his way back to the house to get ready.
Jeff pushed himself hard during his run, trying to drive his sorrow away through hard work. It didn’t work; his emotions broke through the wall he’d tried to build with hard running. He sat down on the edge of a lawn. He hid his face in his hands. Grief was tearing his heart out through his throat. He’d barely gotten himself under control when he heard a familiar voice.
Turning, Jeff recognized Charlene Flaherty, or ‘Charlie’ as she preferred. She was in his sister’s class.
“Excuse me, but are you okay?”
“Hi, Charlie. Not really, no, not okay.”
“Jeff, what’s wrong?”
“Just trying to deal with some stuff, Charlie. It kinda got the best of me,” he explained. “Pauline and I said goodbye to each other about two hours ago.” He looked around to see where he was, now that his head was clearer. “Oh, I hadn’t noticed that I stopped in front of your house.”
Ignoring his comment about her house, Charlie sat down next to him and asked, “She’s starting college soon I gather?”
Jeff nodded. “She moves in at UMass tomorrow. I knew this was going to be tough, but I wasn’t ready for how much it hurts right now.”
“‘Time heals all wounds, ‘ Jeff, and you just said you’ve only had about two hours to let the healing begin. It’ll get better, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
“I know you’re right, Charlie, but my heart doesn’t agree.” Jeff stood up, wobbling. “Whoa. I guess I pushed a little too hard. If I give you my number, would you mind calling my house? Tell my family that I’m walking home from here so they don’t get worried?”
“Of course,” she said, hugging him while giving him a sympathetic smile. “Keep your head up, Jeff. You’re one of the good guys, and I think more than a few girls will be letting you know what they think of you this year.”
“Thanks, Charlie,” he said, giving her another weak smile in return. “I’ll see you tomorrow, for the start of this year’s double-session fun.” He gave her a little wave and started off towards home. Charlie watched him go, hoping that she’d given him some slight comfort because he was a good guy.
Chris Micklicz collapsed in the grass at the end of the run. The midfielders just ran “Indian Runs.” While players jogged around the lines of the field, the last runner sprinted for the front of the line, weaving between the others as they ran. One run was brutal, but they’d just run three. Chris didn’t mind working hard before the season but Jeff was going to work them to death.
The rest of the morning practice session was more of the same. Jeff ran the breakout portions for the midfielders with an intensity Chris never saw before. He knew the end of Jeff’s relationship with Pauline was behind this behavior; he’d tried to talk to Jeff about how he was doing on Monday but had been rebuffed. A full week of this intensity would burn out the midfield before the season even started.
“Coach?” Chris called from the doorway to his coach’s office. Peter Romanov looked up from his lunch and waved Chris in. Chris shut the door and sat down in front of his desk.
“What’s up, Chris?”
“Sir, it’s Jeff.”
“Jeff? What’s going on?”
“He’s gonna work us to death, Coach,” Chris warned. “You know I don’t mind hard work, but this is, well, I don’t know what this is.”
“What do you think the problem is?” the coach asked.