Authors note: Um...hi. LightPrevails here. I know it's been awhile. Like a long while. Like…more than a year. To say I had writers block would be an understatement. But I honestly did. I didn't know what it was about this chapter but I just couldn't put anything on paper…or word document, to be precise. I've also been pretty discouraged with my writing for reasons I've decided not to bother you with. But I am finally here! And I've missed you all so much. I've looked through my reviews lately and seen so many people I've missed hearing from and it's just…so bittersweet. I'm planning (hoping) to actually post some new stories this summer, believe it or not? Whether I have an audience or not or whether I see some past reviewers or not, I think it's time. I'm ready to be back. And hopefully people will see that my writing has improved over a year. Specifically regarding this story, I hope you enjoy the conclusion and perhaps a rewrite will be in order sometime in the near future.
I think it's possible.
Yeah, I really do.
I think it's possible to live one's whole life and never truly quite understand who you are. Realize who you are.
Realization holds so much meaning and knowledge. And I don't think many people have that.
I don't think many people can look in the mirror and be more than just be honest with themselves, which is a very difficult task within itself.
No, but even more than just be honest, I think many people don't know what that honesty entails. Even if they do force themselves to be truthful with their innermost being, that doesn't mean they know what that explains about their past or how that affects their future. They don't know what that says about whom they choose to care about or what ideas or views they choose to value.
See, you can tell yourself you like something and know it's true. But on the very same hand, you still might not understand what that says about you or if it's good or bad or neither.
I'm in that boat. That sorry, lost boat that's forever lost at sea.
I know truths about myself but I don't' know my true self.
I don't know if there's even a "true self" to know.
Maybe I was destined to just be superficial in nature. Maybe I'm not intelligent enough to know myself.
And that worries me.
Because if I never know myself, who else possibly could?
Six months after the initial arrest in the bedroom and three months after he and Oliver skipped out on bail, Mr. Wheeler was found in a house in Arizona with a bullet between his eyes.
Nothing pointed to anything dirty, as much as they could tell.
Not much suspicion was left to fall.
Most supposed he had committed suicide about three days before one his neighbors had decided to scout out the scent of fermented blood, maggots, and downright death.
They searched the whole house, down to even a tiny storage cupboard not big enough for even a toddler to fit in.
And they didn't find anything or, more correctly, anyone.
Oliver Wheeler was nowhere to be found.
My first semester at Columbia started without a hitch. I got through the first semester with a 3.95 GPA, joined two sororities, three organizations, and even decided on my major—computer engineering.
Things were manageable in my life for once in a long time.
Then in my second semester, I got a call from my mother.
They had found Oliver.
At that point, I asked them to not press charges, ready and willing to be done with that chapter of my life, if it could be called a chapter at all. My mom wouldn't have any of it. I didn't know my father's view on the whole matter. We didn't speak. We haven't for a while.
I was bagged up and flown out on plane the very next morning to Colorado after the phone call was made.
Before I could even set my feet soundly on the Centennial State, I was whisked off to my local police station. There, I was positioned in front of a line up window. They told me to wait for the inmate to walk in.
I don't remember waiting so long.
When I at last thought to look away, a figure entered the room.
Oliver it wasn't.
My mother felt bad for bringing me so far for nothing. I told her not to feel bad but to also never ask me to come back for this reason.
After my return to New York, I received three, maybe four more phone calls from her and the police that they had Oliver. I told them I would not seem him. I would not come.
Whether it had been him or not, I didn't want to know.
I knew for certain I never wanted to see Oliver Wheeler again.
It was the only way I could see to move on from the situation
And if I couldn't move on, than I couldn't forget
And I had to forget.
"Tyler called again…you ever going to call him back?"
"Finals are coming, Hannah. I don't have time for Tyler. Doesn't he have like a serious economics exam anyway?"
"I don't know. He's your friend, not mine. Though you guys look like certainly more than friends…"
"Don't start that today. I've got way too much on my mind. The only thing I've really got time for is stuffing horrible, high fructose corn syrup infused fast food down my throat."
Flitting the pencil through her right forefingers, Juniper took a quick glance at the next page of her two hundred level English class textbook and groaned softly. If she was planning to at least finish half the writing assignments due the day after tomorrow, she was destined to pull an all-nighter.
"Hey, can you get me some fries? From Wendy's. The Mickey D here sucks."
Pulling her black flats over her heels, Juniper sighed. "Don't I know it? Be back in a few." She pulled the door to dorm room 274 of the Roosevelt building open, turning to give a last look to Hannah. "Hey, you'd better finish that essay for Hester. He's not going to give you another extension."
Hannah smirked. "Don't I know it."
Walking with purpose down the flight of stairs leading from the second floor the first, Juniper headed down the right hand corridor that would lead to the exit closest to the student center where her offensively high caloric valued meal could be found.
Contrary to most of the student body, Juniper felt safest at night while walking the campus only lit by scattered street lights. All alone with no one by her side was when her heartbeat was most steady. When no one, not even Hannah, was by her side was when she was never calmer.
She never knew for certain what it was about the dark that made her feel so serene. She assumed it was perhaps the fact that no one could see her—that no one was watching her. But she knew that wasn't really fact. The real fact was that mindset was truly quite childish.
She just liked the idea of no one seeing her. She held onto thinking she was invisible.
The student center always remained open three more hours than the other buildings and for good reason. It's where both the midnight hour studiers and partiers came to fulfill their munchies.
"Hi, welcome to Wendy's. What can I get for ya?"
Digging through the black hole that was her purse, Juniper searched for her wallet to no avail while glancing at the menu above her.
"I'd like…um…I'd like…" she said in soft, slightly confused tone.
She could hear low chattering behind her and consciously glanced over her shoulder. Two girls were peering at an iPhone screen while giggling in what they supposed were hushed tones.
"Excuse me, what do you want?" the redheaded employee said, unenthused.
Juniper turned her head back to the counter, then back to the girls who were giggling, then to the person standing behind the girls who was actually sighing and mumbling with impatience, and then back to the employee.
"Um…they…they can go first," she said, motioning to the girls, "I can't find my wallet and I'm not ready to order…sorry."
With a role of the eyes, the redhead gestured for the two adolescents standing behind Juniper to come forward as Juniper stumbled to the side.
I don't know why I always do this. My mom would always tell me to figure out what I want before leaving home. Course my mom would never condone me eating fast food.
But how can improve my freaking fast food ordering? The rest of my life is like this. All the time.
"You ready to order now?"
Juniper knew the question was being aimed at her even though her back was to the Wendy's.
"Not just yet," she said, glimpsing back around with a small smile.
Eyeing the rest of the sizable student center, she considered leaving the Wendy's all together, hitting up the Taco Bell, and forgetting this semi-embarrassing event all together.
"Miss? Excuse me, Miss?" Juniper said, waving her hand at the counter, "I'm actually good. I mean, I…I'm not going to order anything so you can take the next person in—"
"She probably just wants a frosty. And maybe a small fry…or medium, depending on how hungry she is. About right?"
Juniper's hand on her purse strap tightened.
I know that voice…
Whirling around in hurry, she faced the direction in which the last statement had come.
"Tyler, I'm surprised to see you here," Juniper began as she sauntered up to the Hershey bar hair colored guy in line.
He gave her simper before ducking out behind everyone one and meeting her at the left side of the counter.
"Fancy meeting you here too," Tyler said, his large hands dug deep into his large pant pockets. "Don't you have mountain of writing assignments to finish?"
Juniper gasped, beaming. "You remember. Yeah , I'm working on it. Hannah and I were just kind of starving after—I mean, ugh, you want to sit down?"
Tyler nodded and then added, "But you should order first. The fries and the frosty?"
Juniper's mouth parted a little before she giggled again. Somewhat less flustered, at least with holding up the line and frustrating the redheaded employee, she quickly ordered and ushered her tray and Tyler over to one of the tables in the far right hand corner of the building.
"Didn't you want anything?" she said, feeling a little self-conscious as she stuffed several fries into her mouth.
Tyler shook his head. "No. I've been studying up stairs and came down. Noticed you in line and just came over to see you."
Juniper eyes shifted from left to write, as she foolishly tried to disguise her reddened cheeks by eating my fries.
"How's shudding for thaw esham goshing?" she said, taking a bite of her small frosty.
"What?" Tyler said with a snicker.
Juniper cleared her throat with an embarrassed stare. "Sorry, I meant to say how's studying for the exam going? For economics?"
"Ugh…it's going. I'm probably going to get a B which will bring my course grade down to an A- which means I'll have to get at least a low A to get an A in the class. Not too excited about this. I was hoping to get all A's for classes in my major."
"An A- isn't the bad…" Juniper said, barely able to follow Tyler's "grade talk".
"How would you know?" Tyler said, nudging Juniper's elbow from across the table, "You've never gotten an A- before."
"Yes, I did! In French, last semester."
Tyler shook his head with a scoff. "You had that jackas—I mean, that jerk Zerelli. That doesn't count."
"Fine…whatever. Whatever makes you happiest about stressing over grades," Juniper said with a teasing sneer. "You could be stressing over a lot more important and meaningful things but…I guess not."
"Like what things?"
Juniper was currently stirring her plastic spoon around in the melted frosty. She hoped it look like she was focusing on this too much to look up because she wasn't going to. She knew if she looked up Tyler would be observing her that same way he had been so many times before.
And she was tired of looking away, even though she knew she had to.
"If I still make you uncomfortable, I'll leave," he said to her after a while.
Juniper pursed her lips.
Crap. My discontent with content is too obvious.
"No," she replied quickly, "It's not that…it's…"
She didn't finish her sentence as he expected she wouldn't. Soon, a silence began to persist. Juniper watched as her frosty was reduced to chocolate milk. She frowned.
Biting the right inside of her mouth, Juniper shot a glance Tyler's way. He was scrolling through his phone with an uninterested expression. Appearing to be fed up with something on par with a Facebook newsfeed, he looked over at her.
"…Yes, Miss Davis?" he said in a playfully snide tone.
"Nothing, nothing. I was just-just wondering how…how did you know what I wanted?"
Tyler, taken aback some, raised his right eyebrow. "Knew you wanted what?"
Juniper pointed to the fries, then the frosty, and then folded her arms.
"Not really. Easy guess is more like it."
Juniper pursed her lips. "How did you know? I didn't even know."
Tyler looked as if he was initially about to blurt something out but then held his tongue. He hesitated for a couple seconds before raising his index finger and pointing over Juniper's shoulder with smirk.
There had been a pit in Juniper's stomach all day and it wasn't from the lumpy oatmeal she had eaten that morning. But something had been bothering her, antagonizing her all day.
She had thought it might be all of her coursework's looming due dates. And it was. Partially.
But perhaps it was foolish—nay, hopeless for her to think it wasn't this.
That's what she called it when she discussed it with her mother. That's how she referred to it when she deliberated it in her mind.
It had always been this.
And this was here.
"That guy over there. You know him. Tom, right?"
Juniper gave no reply. Tyler averted his gaze from the figure he was pointing to back to Juniper and then back to the figure.
"He's in your bio class?"
Juniper was still before she quietly answered, "No. I don't know him."
Tyler edged closer to Juniper from across the table with a laugh. "That's weird. Cause he knows you. I was, ugh, walking down the stairs and I got in line. I saw you and was going to walk over when he asked if I knew you. I said yeah and then he said he wanted to buy you the frosty and the fries cause he noticed you got out of line or something. Couldn't make up your mind, he said. Said he knew you from bio. I thought it'd be funny so I did. Said his name was Tom. Look, if you don't know him, that's pretty creepy. I wouldn't have done all that if—"
"It's fine," Juniper interrupted, her stiff back slowly easing up against the back of her chair. She was still turned though so that her eyes were directly focused on the figure.
She refused to move them.
"Juniper…are you-are you alright?"
Juniper didn't say anything to affirm her emotional standing nor did she nod her head.
She remained frozen upright and continued to give the figure her full attention.
He, the figure, stared back as his previously tense shoulders now hung low and exhausted. His breaths weren't stifled anymore yet they weren't peaceful either. They were in this complex in-between that made him look no more relaxed than he had before.
"Juniper?" Tyler called from across the table, now actually sounding worried.
And as she heard him call out for her, Juniper knew it would require much more than just turning around.
Turning around met goodbye, for good. She knew he would find her once more for she knew enough about him to ascertain that. But it would be just this once. She knew him well enough to know that as well.
She'd been telling herself for so long that to move on was to forget. That to ignore the existence of "this" would mean she would be freed from it.
And yet looking at him here, once more, proved all that wrong. Her heart fell to the bottom of her stomach when she realized that a theory she had built up in year had been debunked in just one gaze.
But she couldn't be surprised. She wasn't surprised.
It only showed how much she still had to learn, if she even could.
Perhaps moving on doesn't help me to forget. Perhaps forgetting and moving on aren't related.
The question is will I ever be able to forget?
"Juniper? Juniper, what's going on?" Tyler said, now gently shaking Juniper's arm. She could hear the apprehension in his voice and knew she would see it on his face if she looked away.
Looking away meant goodbye. Goodbye meant moving on. But moving on didn't mean forgetting.
That was the scariest part.
"Juniper, look at me. Look at me."
His voice called to her and yet his very being called to her.
Juniper breathed in slowly through the noise. Juniper bit her lower lip through the pain.
And Juniper listened to her own voice. Juniper followed her own being.
Goodbye, Oliver. I will never forget you.
"Juniper, are you—"
"Sorry about that," Juniper said, as she adjusted herself in her seat. She turned around and didn't look back. "I thought I knew him from somewhere and was trying to place my finger on it. I…I couldn't."
"Oh…okay. You sure you're alright?"
A small smile spread across Juniper's face. Though tempted to turn back, she remained still.
"Yeah. I think so."
Tyler nodded, yet looking unsure. He seemed to settle down for the most part when Juniper placed her hand upon his open left palm.
"So, you want to walk me back to my dorm? I was going to get Hannah something but I figure she's asleep by now."
Crumbling her cup and fries holder, Juniper discarded her trash in the nearest garbage can. Tyler stood behind her, his arms folded as he peered down at her.
"Are you su—?"
"Yes," Juniper said, without a hint of a frown or a smile. "I'm going to be okay."
"Alright," Tyler said, throwing his hands up in surrender as the two made their way to the exit of the student center and out in to the cool of night.
Juniper didn't feel any safer than she had when she was walking alone. But she did feel more content. And she didn't feel any less safe.
Perhaps, she thought, she was already making progress.
Or continuing to make progress, as it were.
I don't think we ever forget even when we say goodbye.
I don't think we even forget when we move on.
I think the only thing we can do is choose to learn.
Learn from our mistakes or learn from the mistakes of others.
Maybe, if we are smart enough, even learn about ourselves.
Because that year will always be a part of me and shape who I am now.
And if I try to forget it, I'll be a slave to it. It will keep scraping and clawing at me everywhere I go.
But by not forgetting, I will only be bond to it. It will be a part of me.
Maybe it will show me who I am.
Not slavery but a bond.
A bond to those two men who changed me.
For better or for worse?
That's what I aim to discover, what I hope to find out.
I am Juniper Davis.
Myself is somewhere out there, waiting for me.
Waiting for me.
Authors note: Perhaps this isn't the ending everyone wanted but I kind of like to leave things on loose ends. If you're wondering at all where Oliver is or what he's going to do, I don't have answer for that. At least not right now. However, he is alive as is Liam. I hope you all enjoyed this story and thank you for being so patient for the last chapter. Hopefully you'll stay tuned for some new stories I'll be posting and I'll see you around. Thanks for the ride. You're Writer, LightPrevails.