Coming to Terms

Neon Scribe

Always think we'll get more time

Then you're flying through the air

With someone on your mind

-My Hit and Run, Third Eye Blind

It had been just under two weeks since John Fletcher had made his presence known in the Maguire household. Kale's resentment and anger towards himself had intensified to unreal levels, making him stew in his room for hours on end, not knowing how to back himself out of this web he had entwined. He was at the point of silent admission to himself that John was right; he was one sick piece of shit.

He should never have gotten himself into this situation in the first place; Kale knew he never should have made the bet with Mitch that day at school. It had been an egotistical, impulsive stunt to pull, something Kale was ashamed to say he took part in.

Kale's black eye had turned green, then yellow, and had been slowly disappearing these last few days. As he looked in the mirror above the desk in his room, Kale could see just the faint shadows of his run-in with Charlie's protective brother. If Kale had been in John's position, he would've beaten himself to a bloody pulp.

He saw the purple circles under his eyes from two weeks worth of getting little to no sleep; his tossing and turning every night didn't count. Every time Kale tried to fall asleep and put reality behind him for just moments, he could think of nothing but Charlie and how he brutally slaughtered their relationship. He had tried to call her and apologize on multiple occasions, just braving the courage days before. Now it seemed like that was all he could do; calling her seemed the only safe option at the moment. He had been a coward at school before the holiday break, unable to talk to her for fear of Charlie being devastatingly right about everything that happened between them.

At this point, Kale didn't know what to do, but sitting in his dark room on New Year's Eve hardly qualified as productive. He was trying to refrain from calling her ever hour or so, as that may have seemed neurotic and obsessive; Kale still seemed to be pushing the familiar keys every time the grandfather clock downstairs chimed another hour. It was almost midnight and Kale had called Charlie more times than was healthy.

Kale felt that something needed to be done, rather than just sitting home in his room while his family anticipated the New Year downstairs. Two weeks had been more than enough time for Kale to clear his head, he reasoned.

He pushed himself away from his desk, and the chair slid across the hardwood floor after he grabbed his jacket from its perch on the back. Kale was done with wallowing in his own guilt; it was time to take control of the mess he had gotten himself into. Trying to pump himself with adrenaline and courage, Kale descended the stairs before calling out to his parents, saying that he'd be back soon.

He had unfinished business to attend to.

Charlie descended the stairs before calling out to her parents, saying that she'd be back soon.

She had unfinished business to attend to.

The house had been stuffier than usual and it was driving Charlie absolutely mental. She was sick of being cooped up in her room, sick of crying, sick of John's constant looks of pity. Charlie just wanted to get away for a moment, to escape from this constant state of hopelessness that seemed to be following her as of late.

She grabbed the keys off the counter and let the December—soon to be January—air flood her senses with the utmost relief as it swirled her long red hair around her face.

Charlie drove mechanically to the marina, not even realizing where she was going until the sand was beneath her toes and sifted through her fingers. She lay down on the beach, not worrying that the sand would get in her hair; Charlie needed this alone time and openly welcomed whatever came with it. It seemed as though she had been in a lonely slump for the past couple weeks, this was the only true alone time Charlie could afford. Right here, right now, she was in her own little bubble, somewhere where the disappointment of the real world couldn't find her.

Charlie sighed as she suddenly heard a familiar ringing sound from her sweatshirt pocket; her cell phone had been ringing all day on the hour. It must be midnight, she mused.

"Happy New Year," Charlie whispered as she ignored Kale's call and shoved it back in her pocket.

She listened to the waves slapping against each other and rising over the delicate sand before they whished down and joined the ocean once more. Charlie propped herself up on her palms and looked out into the ocean; the light of the moon reflected off the water, shining brightly in the dead of night. When everything seemed so hectic this New Year's Eve, this beach seemed to be the only place Charlie could find tranquility and solitude amongst a mass of chaos.

She felt a stray tear crawl down her cheek and drip onto her jeans, leaving only the shadow of her sadness on the denim surface. It seemed like all she was doing lately was crying, wallowing in her depression and Kale's betrayal. There was still a part of Charlie that didn't accept the fact that he had taken advantage of her the way she knew it happened; she still wanted to believe it had meant as much to him as it had to her. Charlie knew Kale hadn't been a virgin that night, yet she thought she felt the raw emotion he held for her. Where did it all go?

It was that unspoken question that haunted her, kept her awake at night, kept the tears coming. How could she have let herself get so far? How could she have let Kale get so far? What happened to their relationship? The feelings? The emotion?

Where did it all go?

Charlie's father almost didn't hear the doorbell through the New Year's celebration on the television before them. His wife was curled against him with a glass of wine in her hand, running her fingers over his knee as they watched the festivities.

"John, get the door, will you?" He smiled fatherly at his son, who was sprawled across the loveseat, the back of which faced the front door.

John groaned while pushing himself off the couch and sauntering to the door, removing his eyes from the television. It was a family tradition to spend New Year's Eve together, which was why John was home with his parents instead of fornicating with his girlfriend at some party with drunken college students. While John was on strict orders to spend the night with his family, they had all granted Charlie a bit of leeway, given the circumstances this year.

He still hated to see her in such a funk, not knowing what to do or how to fix anything in her life. John knew she needed some alone time away from her alone time, a chance to work things out the only way she could.

John turned the doorknob and found himself face-to-face with the source of all the hype and drama.

"Oh, hello there, sprout. Care to apologize for bruising my knuckles with your face?"

Kale sighed, his brow furrowed in determination. "Look," he started, taking a deep breath. "I just need to talk to her, John. I need to fix this."

"I don't think she wants to see you at the moment, actually," he made to close the door, but Kale stopped John from pushing him away. He huffed and laughed cruelly. "She doesn't want to see you, dude. Give it a fucking rest, yeah?"

"I can't," Kale said. He shook his head and ran his fingers through his brown hair. John watched him warily. "I can't give her up."

"You're not trying to patch up this shit pile with a kiss on the boo-boo and a little chorus of 'I-love-you' to make her come back to you, are you?" John rolled his eyes. "She's not emotionally handicapped like the rest of the world, Kale. You can't fix this."

"I don't think you understand," Kale raised his voice. "I have to fix this. I have to fix this!"

"It's too late," John started closing the door, but stopped at Kale's defeated expression. He saw the determination draining from Kale's face, and as much as he hated it, John huffed and said, "But she's at the marina."

Kale smiled, finally given some hope of redemption. "Thank you, John. You don't even know. Thank you." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket on his way to his car, calling the only number he had dialed for days.

"Hey!" John called, stepping out of the house onto the front step. He could feel the prickly sensation from the doormat through his socks. "Just remember," he closed the door, leaving only a crack open. "You break her heart again, I'll break your face. Enjoy your nose while it's still straight."

Kale laughed for the first time in about two weeks. "I'll hold you to it."

"What the fuck do you want?" Charlie hissed into her cell phone, finally picking it up after screening Kale's calls for days. For one, she was tired of its constant ringing, but Charlie would never admit to anyone—barely even herself—that there was a large part of her that wanted to forgive him. She put her car into reverse and backed out of the marina parking lot before pulling out into traffic, her cell phone squeezed between her jaw and shoulder as she drove.

"You answered," Kale sighed amazedly, a slight smile in his voice.

"No shit," Charlie rolled her eyes in an attempt to keep the tears out of her tone. "Now what do you want, Kale?"

"I just want to talk to you, Cherry," he breathed his nickname for her, something that sent tears to her eyes. She blinked them back with stubborn determination. "I stopped by your house, but you weren't there. So I just…"

"I don't think you should expect me to give in to your every wish, Kale." She bravely kept all the hostility out of her voice, merely stating her thoughts in a monotone manner. "I've done that already, haven't I?"

It all happened in slow motion: Charlie's anticipation of his response, the blinding headlights to her right as she drove through the intersection; Charlie dropped the phone with a loud clatter.

It didn't happen like she had seen in movies. There was something still and serene about the moment while she watched the incomprehensive face of the driver before her. Seeing something on television is different than experiencing for oneself; this was something Charlie knew firsthand. Just like with Kale, romance wasn't the way she had always expected it; their relationship—as fleeting as it had been, only a few months—felt monumental against the fiction of the big screen.

Seeing the blinding light shining in her face, Charlie mused that this wasn't the way it was supposed to play out. Where was the screeching of tires, the remarkable crash?

Charlie and Kale's experiences came from different senses. For her, everything was visual; her hearing seemed to have gone numb as the headlights shone through the passenger window and collided with the side of her car. Kale couldn't see what was going on, and all he could hear was Charlie's agonizing scream and the crunch of metal…

…before the line silently died.

Author's Note: Wow, it's been so long since my last post. Hopefully you guys haven't given up on me. I also posted a new one-shot called New Girl in Town, for those of you who are interested.

This is the last chapter of Coming to Terms that is fully written, and I expect to have two more after this, though I might squeeze it into one if possible. Sorry to those of you who have been waiting, but I've just been exceptionally busy and haven't had a ton of inspiration. Hopefully I can pick up the pace here and get that last (or two) chapter(s) out as quickly as possible. Thanks for sticking with this story.

Love, Neon