Don't Forget Me
I held on for too long, but I couldn't stop myself. It seemed like a dream, no a nightmare. Except, I never woke up from it. The end began after Sam had taken off for weeks, only to come back changed. He was a hardened, bitter shell of who he had once been. Sam no longer touched me and took off for days at a time. I tried to understand, to give him space, but it was difficult, because I loved him.
Then it got worse. Emily came to visit and Sam happened to drop by that day. He kept staring at her, but I didn't think anything of it until days later. Sam stopped coming by, and so did Emily. The one time I saw her at a family function, she seemed nervous and spent the whole time in the kitchen, avoiding me.
Two days later, Sam broke up with me. I still remembered it like it was yesterday, as it played in my mind over and over.
"Why? I don't understand? Did I do something? Am I nagging you too much? What, Sam?"
"It's nothing you did, Leah. It's me; it's all me." He was crying too. I wasn't sure if I had ever seen Sam cry before, and certainly, I hadn't thought this Sam was capable.
"Don't tell me that!" I screamed, pushing him away with my hands. "Don't give me stupid clichés! You can't tell me you don't want me anymore and not give a reason! People don't walk out on a relationship like ours without a reason!"
"Lee… please," he began, taking a step towards me.
"I've been patient, Sam, not asking about what's happened, what's made you change. I've given you your space, and now you're telling me I did the wrong thing? What should I have done, Sam? What?" I yelled, becoming hysterical.
Sam grabbed me, closing me into his embrace. With my face in his chest — breathing in the scent that emanated from him, feeling the warmth of his skin against mine — it was easy to forget what was happening.
"Shhh… It's going to be all right, Lee. It's going to be all right. You're strong, stronger than anyone else I know," he whispered into my hair, his breath moist against my neck.
"Please, Sam," I murmured back. "Wait, just wait. We can work this out; I know we can."
"Lee, this isn't something that can be 'worked out'. It's never going to change; I'm never going to be who I was — before," he replied, his voice laced with regret.
Sam pulled me away from his body, taking my face in his hands. He bent down, and kissed my forehead. That's what he always did before leaving. That was his goodbye to me, except this time, it was goodbye forever.
"No!" I shouted, clinging to him. "Don't leave! You can't… you can't break up with me!"
"Leah, please, don't make this harder than it already is," he pleaded, removing my hand from his arm.
He was going to do it. Sam was everything. He softened my hard edges and brought light to my pessimism. I couldn't lose him, because there could never be someone like him again, not for me. I did the only thing left for me to do. I dropped to my knees and held onto him.
"Please, Sam, give me one more chance," I begged shamelessly. "I promise, whatever I did, I'll take it back. Whatever you want, I'll give to you, please, Sam. Give us one more chance; give me one more chance."
Sam tried again to remove my hands, but every time he did, I reached out and grabbed something else, his arm, his shirt, his leg. I held on desperately, frantic with the inevitability of what I knew was to be, and yet unwilling to give up.
Finally, defeated, Sam knelt down next to me and stroked my hair.
"Lee, you're wonderful, and I loved you so much. You'll always be the best, most deserving girl I've ever known, but you're not the one I love anymore, and I never will again, not like I used to."
"No…" I sobbed, shaking my head in disbelief.
"I have to go now, Lee. I'm going to leave, and you're going to be okay," he stood up, let go of my hand and walked out the door.
I had thought that was the worst thing that could happen to me, until the rumors started.
Sam and Emily. I didn't believe it at first, but after a while, it was impossible not to. Now, there was talk that the two of them were moving in together, and had gotten engaged. Sam and I had only broken up a couple of months ago. It couldn't be true. How could I have meant so little to him, when he had meant so much to me?
That's what brought me here, hidden in the woods outside the house they were supposedly moving into. Maybe it was just Sam getting his own place? Maybe it was only Emily moving closer to him.
I saw his truck pull up, alongside another being driven by one of his friends. They stopped on the driveway and Emily hopped out. Both trucks were filled with boxes and furniture. I recognized a lot of Emily's things in the open bed, including her bed. I was cautiously hopeful, noting all the frilly, female items. That is, until Sam's disgusting beanbag chair got unloaded. That would never have left his room, unless his room had changed locations.
"Sam, do we have to have this in our new home? It takes up so much space, and it can only seat one!" Emily complained. I had never complained about petty things. I saved it up for what mattered.
"You don't like it, Em?" he asked, hurt. "We don't have to keep it, if you really hate it," Sam offered. What had happened to him? Had he suddenly lost his vertebrae?
"Oh… that… that's okay, Sam. We'll keep it," she answered in a distant, almost sad, voice. She turned her head, looking into the woods, and I saw the scars. They were swollen and red. She looked horrible, and she'd stay that way forever. Scars like those didn't go away. It made my heart sink. No man would stay with a girl that looked like that unless he truly loved her.
"Thanks, hon. I'll put it in a corner somewhere so it isn't in the way, okay?" he responded, giddy in an uncharacteristic, juvenile way.
"Sure, Sam, wherever," she replied, as she grabbed a box and made her way into the house.
"Em? Did you want the shelf in the living room or the bedroom?" Sam yelled after her.
"Put it in the living room," Emily shouted back, peeking her head out the door. "The bedroom's too small for much more than a bed and night table."
Sam was carrying the shelf by himself. He had always been a strong guy, and big too, but this was a solid wood shelf Emily's grandfather had made. I knew it was really heavy, but he carried it effortlessly.
Sam smiled as he crossed the path to the door then suddenly, he stopped mid-stride, looked around and… sniffed. A frown came onto his face.
"Hey, Sam? You need some help with that shelf after all?" his friend asked.
"Huh? Oh, no. I was just… er, resting, but I'm good," he responded, continuing along the path.
Sam's friend stayed to have a drink and snack in the yard with him, but left soon enough. Emily stayed inside the whole time. After his friend left, Sam got up and went in as well. I stayed, still watching. I didn't know why. What was a waiting for? Was I hoping to hear them have sex? But that's not what happened. Sam left the house and started trotting across the yard towards the line of trees that marked the beginning of the forest. He was headed directly for me!
There was no way he could know I was here. At first, I tried to stay as still as possible, so I wouldn't make any noise, but his course didn't change. He'd end up running into me if I didn't move. I got up and darted through the brush, trying to get away.
"Oof!" I let out, as a large, warm body grabbed me, pulling me backward.
I thought I was going to fall, but didn't. Sam made sure of that.
"Leah? What are you doing here?" he asked.
I couldn't look directly at him. It was too embarrassing. I knew my desperation, but he didn't need to.
"I wanted to know if it was true, about you and Emily moving in together," I muttered under my breath.
"You could have asked," he replied.
"Ask who? You? Emily? I don't talk to either of you anymore! Oh, let me correct that. Neither of you talk to me anymore!" I shouted, as anger took over.
"I'm sorry, Lee," he said, rubbing his hand up and down my arm.
I grabbed his wrist and pushed his arm away.
"Don't call me that, and don't touch me!" I hissed through clenched teeth. I turned to leave, but he stopped me. I tried to get past him, but he followed my steps, like a mirror image. When had he gotten so huge? Did guys still grow at his age?
"Leah, please don't go, not like this, all angry. I should have said something to you. This should have came from me," he pleaded, grabbing my shoulders.
"I told you not to touch me!"
"If you'll stay and listen, I'll let go."
"I don't owe you anything, Sam Uley!"
"I love you, Lee," he whispered.
I held my breath, afraid he'd take it back, but he didn't. He also didn't say anything else. There was nothing said about leaving Emily, or admissions of errors in judgment. My eyes narrowed.
"I told you not to call me that, and don't say things you don't mean!"
"I do mean it; I love you," he insisted.
"Then why are you living in that house, with her, my cousin!" I shrieked.
"Because… I… have to," he stuttered out hesitantly.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "Did… Is she… You knocked her up!" I spat out.
"No, she's not pregnant."
"Then why do you 'have to'?" I questioned, my voice dripping with resentment.
"I just… I can't be without her," he said with an audible sigh. "Look, Leah, just let me say a few things, then I'll let you leave, okay?"
I didn't answer, but I didn't try to leave, either. If I were honest, I'd have to admit that Sam's hands on me felt too nice, too familiar, to turn my back on. It filled me with desire and regret, all so bittersweet.
"What more do you need to say, Sam? What haven't you done yet to ruin my life?" My eyes welled with tears against my will. I hated it. I didn't want him to see me break down. I wanted to keep my broken heart hidden from him.
"I wish it could have been different, Leah. You don't know how much I wish none of this happened, that everything was still the way it used to be a few months ago — with you, me, getting ready to go to college, all of it. If I could have one wish, I would wish away everything that's happened to me in the past few months."
"Everything that's happened was caused by you, Sam. No one made you dump me and go shack up with my cousin!"
His head bent down as he took a deep breath. His hands felt hotter than usual, against my bare skin.
"Look, I don't want this to ruin your life, Lee– Leah. I want you to forget me, forget everything that's happened and find someone new, someone better than me, because you're better than me. I want you to know that none of this was about you. I loved you, actually I still love you, and…" His hands dropped to his sides in defeat.
"Don't say that, Sam," I said quietly. "Don't tell me things like that. I want to stop feeling like this," I continued, as the tears began to escape. I reached up to wipe them only to feel Sam's fingers wiping them away for me. "I thought we'd last forever."
"I thought so too, and I guess it might have if… Sometimes Leah, things happen that are… out of your control, things that make you hurt people you'd do anything not to."
He wasn't making sense. Every word he uttered made it worse. If he had called me pathetic, or demanded I leave, I could at least get angry, but he didn't. He told me he loved me. How could I let go when he did that?
"Why are you saying this, Sam?"
"I… I don't know. I just don't want you to waste your time with me anymore. I'm not worth it. You're beautiful, smart, and full of fire. You could have anyone, Lee."
"Not anyone," I murmured.
"I'm not good enough for you. Maybe once I was, or at least I had the potential to be, but not anymore."
I reached out and took his hands. He wrapped his fingers around mine, holding them tight. I still loved him, and maybe I always would, but something told me, it was over, that — despite all efforts and the passage of time —I would never have him again. It was difficult, but I buried the anger and bitterness, until there was just me, exposed, hurt, and vulnerable.
"Just… just, don't forget me, Sam," I asked. "Don't let me fade away into nothing."
"You could never be nothing," he replied, drawing me close and hugging me.
I sobbed on him, my body shaking, yet warm from his touch. His breath was moist on my neck, and his hands rubbed my back, the way they used to when we hugged.
"Sam…" I sighed.
I felt his lips on my neck, leaving a soft trail of heat. I tilted my head back, wanting more, while at the same time, knowing it would make it worse later.
His hands held me, as I leaned on him, supported by his strength. His lips reached mine and they pressed together, remembering what to do, how to please the other. I could taste the saltiness of our tears, his and mine, and smell the mossy rain of his scent.
His kiss became softer, lighter, until they were fluttery caresses on my face.
"I won't forget you, Lee, ever. Not for as long as I live," he whispered in my ear.
I wanted to say more, but didn't get a chance. Sam kissed my forehead and disappeared into the woods. He wasn't headed back to the house. He was running deep into the darkness of the forest.
I stood in that spot for some time, unable to move, barely breathing, until I heard a wolf howl in the distance. It woke me up from my reverie, and I left, determined never to let Sam Uley into my heart again. No matter how much I loved him, or for how long, I'd hide it until my dying day. It would remain myanguish, my pathetic weakness, not laid out for him, or anyone else, to see, ever. Just mine.