A/N: Okay so I decided to remove myself from the horror/mystery/supernaturalperspective from now and write about a current debatable topic amongst teens. Except I thought outside of the box and did this from a guy's PoV. Maybe he's a wuss... maybe he's a coward. I don't know. Maybe it's how guys really feel. Tell me what you think. :P
He stood silently at the oak doorway with the chipped red paint, staring in. It was a bleak, rainy day in late September, full of smog, disgruntled taxi drivers, and woolen scarves. Clad in his own black scarf, as the wind whipped his reddish-brown hair out of his handsome face, making him squint, the world at his back seemed to lose all sound, all color, and become a faded tint of gray that blended in perfectly with the dreary weather.
As he looked into the small quarters of the little building, his eyes passively brushed over the eight little children ranging from ages 1-10 until his gaze snagged on a particular little girl at about the age of 5, playing by herself in the corner. She wasn't anything very special, at first glance; her plain, brown hair was mussed, clinging to her pale face, and her fragile figure made her look emaciated. Her huge blue eyes, though the clearest shade of cerulean anyone could ever imagine, was dull, lifeless, and ringed with red, as if she'd been crying, focused only on the forlorn doll she was gripping. She certainly wouldn't be the pick of the litter if anyone felt like adopting any of these abandoned children.
Standing silently outside the agency, leaning on the red door, he wanted nothing more than to take her home with him immediately to his tenth story apartment and feed her, fondle her… love her. But, whatever the reason, be it the responsibilities he had ran away from once upon a time, or the fact that he had a struggling job at the local newspaper, his black Rockport shoes stayed planted firmly outside on the concrete.
His eyes followed the little girl as one of the agency volunteers, in a ghastly neon blue imitation of a nurse's outfit that blinded his grey eyes that were so used to the gray now, came in with a tray of milk and cookies. Most of the children immediately bounded towards her, their too-thin frames grabbing at the food anxiously.
The little girl with the brown hair and the blue eyes, however, didn't move. She didn't even seem to see the tray or acknowledge the existence of the plump blonde volunteer over her thirties. Her eyes stayed on the doll, and she dragged a dirty hand through its hair before brushing it smooth.
She, this little outcast, was so like her. Her.
His insides contracted at the faintest memory of her, and he thought with a pang of guilt that this little girl who he watched through the glass was probably God's punishment for him, that every time he saw the girl, he'd see the living imitation of her. And maybe that was why he couldn't take the little 3 year old, but pathetically sat outside the front stoop of the Red Cross staring in at her every day, like watching her would make up for his past mistakes.
But it was too late. And it wouldn't.
Leaf had met her during his senior year of high school. During then, he had been in the so-called popular crowd, being the President of the student body, the editor of the school newspaper, as well as on the soccer team that had won victory after victory mainly because of—even though nobody voiced this out of respect to the other players—him. And he wasn't bad looking, either. Unfortunately, the price to pay for all this popularity was an ego. And Leaf had a humongous one, maintaining the casual cool of one that everybody worships.
Nicole was almost the exact opposite. Although she wasn't unpopular, Nichole was shy and quiet, with a small group of unknown friends that he almost never saw her with anyway. He didn't even remember how or why something inside him decided to talk to her the one time he landed detention and she was the monitor… maybe it was something about her hair, the color of tarnished copper… or about her huge blue eyes, that reflected a deeper passion when he looked into them. Either way, she made Leaf feel giddy inside, and he made her laugh a lot, the sorrow in her eyes temporarily disappearing when she talked to him.
His friends made fair fun of him, telling him to ditch the weird girl who spent her weekends at the café reading rather than bar hopping like they did. Leaf didn't listen, and the only thing he seemed to understand was that he wanted to take away her pain, and he seemed to be able to do that one way or another. And he decided that he liked that, and he wasn't going to leave her alone.
Prom. After countless pressuring from his friends to take so-and-so cheerleader, or thus-and-thus part-time model, he asked Nicole. It wasn't anything romantic, either, just a simple drive over to her two-story green Victorian house on Radford Court, a detour to the local flower shop for white Easter lilies—her absolute favorite flowers—and to her front stoop to ring on the melodic chime of a doorbell and wait for her to answer.
She wasn't anxious to go at first. She never was. She never wanted to go anywhere involving masses of people. People who would shun her. But eventually, since Leaf could light up the life still left inside of her, she agreed to go with him as her frail hands gripped the lovely white flowers that made her look like an angel.
The day of. The passion and deep running emotions of it all scared him to this very day. When he had finally seen her, coming down the steps to the front door where he was waiting stiffly in his black tux, a corsage gripped firmly in his hands, he almost dropped the fragile white lilies in shock. Nicole was completely transformed in a white princess gown, her coppery hair twisted in an elegant French bun, a look of nervousness on her fair face.
That night, amidst all the emotions running deep and the tension clearly radiating off of their very souls, when Nicole was letting her fragile fingers carve their mark on a wooden angel bedpost after they wandered into the master bedroom of his friend's house, Leaf pulled Nicole down with trembling hands and rushed thoughts and there, with her fairy dress pressing against his boutonnière to emit the smell of crushed lilies, they did the unspeakable deed. There, Leaf was able to forget everything except the delicate smell of Nicole's hair, and the touch of her cold fingers on his skin, and his need to warm her up, from the inside out. He couldn't forget her smile, so genuine and so open for once, as she looked up at him, reaching one hand no longer cold to run it down his own bemused face.
Afterwards, as Leaf tenderly stroked Nicole's damp hair as she lay against him, feeling her warm breath tickle his neck, cooling it and yet heating it with an undying passion at the same time, he felt that there wasn't anything that he wouldn't do for her.
Oh, but that was before he anticipated the consequences. The deathly consequences that would bring wounding tears to his eyes, though Leaf was never that big of a crier.
He found out when he randomly drove to her house and decided to spend a Saturday afternoon with her watching old chick-flicks instead of going to the baseball game with the guys. When his car keys fell under the coffee table, and he pulled out the error-proof pregnancy test, his stomach seemed to rise up to his throat making him gag as the inscription on the empty pink box blurred in front of his eyes, and he had trouble breathing. And Nicole didn't even have to say anything. By the looks of her eyes, he knew that the results were positive.
Leaf didn't want to be a father now. Hell, he didn't even know if he ever wanted to be a father. He wouldn't be a good one, at any rate. Leaf numbly gripped the e.p.t. box tightly in his hands, so tightly that he crushed it, and he didn't even stay to hear if she was keeping it. On the way out, he threw the caved-in box across the room, surprisingly landing in the trash bin with a resounding thunk, the screen door slamming after him.
He knew that Nicole's worst fears had just been confirmed; that he was just another irresponsible guy who only saw, heard, and wanted sex. But he wasn't. He wasn't. Leaf was just scared, scared that she was going to keep the unwanted thing, scared that he was going to have to be the father that he never wanted to be and wasn't ready to be.
That summer, Leaf conveniently seemed to be too busy for Nicole, always out working or running errands or at the movies with friends. Once, lying on his bed and staring at his cell phone, he dully supposed that if she had tried harder to get him back, he might have caved in. But Nicole tried to call him a total of four pathetic times over the whole course of the summer. Leaf's pondering over whether her belly was growing bigger or whether she'd gotten the abortion yet were quelled when he bumped into one of her few friends at the bookstore and she bitterly told him that Nicole was pro-life.
Needless to say, that started a mixture of bipolar emotions within Leaf's scared mind. Hurt, angry, frustrated feelings of why she was making him face this responsibility mingled with the curiosity of what her baby… what her baby… would look like. Whether it would be a boy or a girl… whether Nicole would name it after him if it were a boy… if her baby would have the same, stunning blue eyes she possessed. He had no doubt in his mind it would.
Never once did Leaf consider it his baby. And after a while, he forcefully pushed these thoughts down to the very bottom of his being, these curious and almost affectionate emotions subsiding to those of fear, anger, and subdued rage against the baby, Nicole, and mostly himself. Who did Nicole think she was, anyway? What kind of life would this baby get if it were born? Why put her and him through all this pain? She was a stupid, idiotic bitch, that's what she was. She didn't even think about him.
But Leaf couldn't forget the brief time they shared together, so happy, as Leaf made Nicole giggle countless times with his silly antics. A few times he wondered what she must be going through, but always suppressed these feelings as well, telling himself that it was her own fault, she had forced this upon herself. It was none of his business.
But it was. He was responsible.
And so finally, six weeks, fifty beers, twenty-four sleepless nights, and the endless raging battle inside his throbbing head, Leaf decided that if only he didn't know about any of this, then nobody would be able to blame him for it. And eventually, somehow, through his crazed thoughts, he was able to somewhat make himself forget, even though he never fully could. But he was able to act like he knew nothing; that he was living in total ignorance, oblivious to Nicole's existence. A few times, his friends questioned him as to where she was these days, and he was always able to casually say that they had broken up.
Which was partially true.
Leaf knew in the bottom of his mind that no matter how hard he tried to forget, unless he suddenly received a bout of amnesia, then he would always know. Sometimes at night, he would suddenly cry out for her, and desperately wish to take her pain away with another one of his wisecracks, as he had always been able to do. He wanted to lift the what must be impossibly heavy weight from her shoulders, to take her burden and put it on himself. But he couldn't now. They were over… no, correction, she had made them be over because of her dumb choice. But he always repeated to himself, desperately and almost insanely, that he knew nothing, nothing, nothing. Nothing. And the fact that Nicole never tried to come looking for him made it all the easier for him to (try to) forget her.
Leaf went to college in late August, making sure he landed himself all the way across the U.K. in Wicklow, Ireland, willing himself not only to forget Nicole, but the whole of Surrey, the whole of England, his high school years, as well. There, he had a few girlfriends over the course of college and grad school, but never anything serious because he was afraid that he would have to be responsible for something he didn't want to be again.
As he watched the hopeless little girl through the glass refusing to take the snacks, suddenly another brightly clad volunteer walked in the room with a young couple beside him, in their late twenties perhaps. The volunteer was showing them around, and it suddenly struck Leaf that they were here to adopt a child.
As the couple's gaze lingered on that little girl, the young woman bent down to speak with the little girl after whispering a few words to her husband, who nodded.
A sudden cramped feeling in the pit of his stomach grabbed at Leaf. They couldn't—wouldn't!!—take her home! She wasn't theirs, and never would be! She was his, his and Nicole's, and no others.
As Leaf clenched his fists unconsciously, his face contorting slowly to one of anger, the young woman was already looking a bit unsure, the smile fading off her face as the little girl made no move to respond to her gentle questions. And when the little girl suddenly but clearly looked the young woman in the face and squarely told her, "I don't want you," the young woman briskly got up and walked away, looking flustered.
The little girl went back to staring at the floor while the ugly volunteer glared at her, turning on her heel, obviously thinking that the girl had made a bad impression on the couple. Leaf surreptitiously grinned, tension in his muscles relaxing.
Leaf always knew he was a coward. He always made petty, pathetic excuses for himself—he would be a bad father, she had trapped him in this situation, maybe it wasn't him that got her pregnant—but he truly knew that he was a coward. He had taken the fucking easy way out of the situation. He had run away. From everything. And there was no going back. He occasionally vaguely hoped she was faring well, but knew that he had no right to wonder. Nicole must really hate him. And he didn't blame her.
But he would always end these thoughts with the same thing: he didn't know anything. He didn't know a single fact with her being pregnant. It was her problem now.
Leaf somehow survived the college years, possibly the worst in his life, and came out with a job in the Dublin Courier, a newspaper famous for its talented writers, as a struggling journalist. After a few unsuccessful years, he was relocated to the London Times, managing a small column in the World Issues page and was housed in his own small little flat in the middle of the busy metropolis of London.
It was when he bumped into the same friend of Nicole's that told him of Nicole's news about keeping the baby in the same bookstore they'd met six years back that he finally crushed his ongoing denial when Nicole's friend glared at him with pure, bitter hatred and spitefully told him the news even when he was still trying to place who she was.
Nicole died in childbirth. After thirty-six agonizing hours, by the time they'd decided to do a serious C-Section, she had already suffered too much blood loss. She hadn't even lived to hold her little baby girl in her arms—only to name her and request a last wish.
Leaf went to go visit Nicole's grave a few weeks later, after restlessly pacing back and forth in his flat, holding in his hand the scrawled address of the cemetery that her friend had given him after he'd begged her on his knees. Nicole's tomb was small, piled with withered, sodden flowers that made the inscription hard to read. After he'd brushed away the dirt and grime, he read this:
NICOLE CAMBRIA ANDERSON
BELOVED FRIEND, DAUGHTER, SISTER AND MOTHER
After a confused second, it painfully registered in his mind.
Nicole didn't hate him. She had spent those nine months hoping he'd come back, praying that he would. She had the tombstone bear the inscription using his last name as hers as her last request. Nicole Anderson. No longer Nicole Cambria. He liked her as Nicole Cambria better, he pitifully decided, because Nicole Cambria was Leaf Anderson's girlfriend, a bit odd and too quiet, but untainted, innocent, and the best thing in his life. Nicole Anderson was a deserted woman, and dead now.
As Leaf devastatingly squeezed his eyes shut and slumped down against the towering oak tree that peacefully fluttered in the wind, shading her eternal resting place, the pangs of emotion tore at his insides, wrenching them out to lay them pathetically in front of her sleeping body. It would have been better if she hated him. He deserved it, coward as he was. Leaf had no idea how long he lay collapsed in the cemetery, only that when he finally got the sense in him to go home, it was dark and his body was complaining with aching fatigue. Whether that was still because of Nicole's unconscious punishment for him, or lack of movement and sleep these six years, he wasn't sure.
The Times located his daughter, Evangeline Adelaide Anderson, in a local Red Cross orphanage satirically close to his flat. She was five years old now.
From that time on, Leaf went to see Evangeline Adelaide every single day. He never talked, never introduced himself, never even went inside. He was afraid that, if he did, then he would finally have to acknowledge her as his own. And then he would have to face up to his horrible mistakes, and acknowledge those as his own as well.
The sky darkened slowly as the day passed and the time flew. The little girl never moved from her place, and neither did Leaf. As he stared at her forlornly, he suppressed the sudden crazed urge of wanting to take her home. Maybe that would make up for his past mistakes. And maybe he loved her, wanted her.
But he couldn't. Even now, he was making up excuses: he didn't have enough money to support her, enough love for her, enough time, attention, fatherly affection, resources.
But he knew that if he truly had the courage to take her home, he would, regardless of these stupid excuses that amounted to nothing anyways. The real issue was his cowardice that plagued him still. He wanted to take her, oh god, wanted to take her home and feed her until her thin little frame filled out, wanted to pamper her, hug her, kiss her, love her to death with the love he had felt for Nicole but had never gotten to give her to the fullest.
He couldn't. He didn't have enough courage to face up to all the monsters that would come with her if he were to take her home.
The neon-blue volunteer came back and took the children to another room. Her eyes lingered on his for a second, and he, startled that she'd seen him, cast his eyes down in shame for a second to focus on an ant scurrying along the chipping frame of the agency, his vision blurring for a fraction of a second of what might have been tears… or just lack of sleep. The ant disappeared, and he tugged his eyes back up to the window.
The room was empty.
A scattering of left-behind frayed stuffed animals and various other toys littered the small, unkempt room. But not even the shadows were visible. It was too late today.
He sighed, pulling his scarf around him tighter as the wind howled with the rage he had once felt inside him, and started the short walk back to his flat. He would come back tomorrow.
And like always, he would hope for the courage to finally take Evangeline Adelaide Anderson, his baby… home.
Tomorrow I will face my fears....
A/N: I may write a rather happy epilogue for this. Hehe.. we'll see.