I took Valentine's Day off and told nobody of my plans. I considered buying a bag of pot off the Johnny C's dishwasher but thought better of it – who knew if Dylan even smoked anymore, especially if he was on medication from his accident.
I went to Fontaine's Family Grocery Store instead of got what I needed for a breakfast.
I drove to Dylan's house at just after 8:00, assuming his parents would be gone by then. I parked in the driveway and used the outside stairs just as I had done in high school and I knocked on the second floor door when I reached the landing.
I'm sure Dylan was surprised to hear somebody knocking on that door, especially at 8:00 in the morning. Maybe he was sleeping? Maybe he was living downstairs? But then the door opened and there he stood – I hadn't seen him since the wedding.
He was wearing a pair of gray sweats that hung loosely on his thin body and I could tell he had lost a lot of weight. His hair was long and unkempt. He hadn't shaved in a while. His face looked drawn and white. He stared blankly at me with awkward confusion and he didn't say anything so I brushed past him without saying anything either and once I was inside, he closed the door behind me.
"Do you have home care or visiting nurses or anything?" I asked as I walked into the kitchen carrying the grocery bag which I began to unload onto the counter top.
The kitchen was rarely used for official purposes but I remember as kids Donna making cookies in there and she and Dylan made us home made pizza so I knew the appliances worked even if the cupboards didn't have that many dishes or pots and pans.
Dylan walked slowly and cautiously as he followed me and he stood in the kitchen doorway watching as I placed a dozen eggs, a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, some bananas, a quart of orange juice, and a slab of bacon on the counter, along with some paper plates and cups and some plastic utensils.
I turned and faced him. "I'll cook you breakfast," I offered. "Sit."
Dylan didn't bother arguing with me. He took a seat at one of the metal folding chairs at the old card table that had been there for years and he watched as I scrambled some eggs, cooked the bacon, toasted the bread, and poured him a glass of OJ. Luckily, there were pans to do the job.
When I was done with the preps, I placed the plate of breakfast in front of him along with the glass of orange juice. I took a seat across from him and watched him eat.
"Doesn't look like you've been eating," I remarked.
When he cleaned the plate of the last remnants of food, I washed the pans and put them away and bagged up the rubbish..
"You look like you could use a nap," I determined, a strange thing to be saying at 8:45 in the morning. "Come with me," I instructed, taking him by the elbow and lifting him from the chair.
He allowed me to slowly lead him into the bedroom (he walked like an old man) and I literally pushed him onto the unmade bed, pulling the comforter up over his prone body.
"Go to sleep," I ordered.
Dylan closed his eyes and I was surprised to realize that he was drifting off to sleep. I noticed that the room hadn't changed that much but in a strange way it also felt like I had never been here before.
I sat and watched him sleep wondering if I should just leave – letting the past stay where it was now that I saw he was doing reasonably okay all things considered – but something prevented me from getting up and walking out.
He slept for about ninety minutes and he appeared surprised when he opened his eyes and saw me sitting in the arm chair in the corner of the room.
"You feel a little better?" I asked hopefully.
Dylan shrugged but he didn't answer the question, probably because he didn't know what to say or how he was even supposed to react.
"You're depressed," I realized. "Are you in therapy or counseling?"
He shook his head no.
"Are you getting out at all?" I asked. "You can't hibernate forever."
He looked away and sighed.
"You've been through a lot of trauma," I reasoned. "Of course you're going to be depressed. "But it's been a year - to the day."
Apparently Dylan wasn't even aware that it was the one year anniversary judging from his reaction. I stepped to the bed, leaned in close to his face, lifted my hand up and turned his chin so he was looking at me.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Dylan," I told him..
He swallowed hard. "What are you doing here?" He asked, speaking for the first time since my arrival.
"I didn't want you to be alone on this of all days," I answered.
Struggling not to break down and collapse on the floor in a fetal position, I stared at him for the longest time.
"I'm sorry about what happened to you and Johanna," I told him. "But you can't keep hiding out and not functioning or you'll die too." I felt my heart skip a beat. "It will be okay, Dylan," I said with encouragement. "Let me help you."
"I don't think you can," Dylan admitted.
"Let me try," I pleaded.
"I already used you enough," he sighed.
I almost fell from my haunches by that remark, him finally owning up to the wrongness of our high school affair.
"It's different now," I said quietly, getting up and setting on the edge of the bed. "It will be okay."
"How do you know?" His voice was full of doubt.
"Because what choice do you have?" I said.
"I'm a basket case," Dylan confessed with defeat.
"Not forever," I suggested, cupping his face in my hand. "You can do this."
"Why did this happen?" He sighed.
"I'm thinking Johanna would have told us it was God's way," I said. "That's what she told me after Samantha Kerry got hit and killed by that car in eighth grade. That God works in mysterious ways that we can't comprehend but that we must accept."
"Never," Dylan said. "I'll never accept it."
"Never is a long time, Dylan," I said.
"This has been brutal," he complained. "I worshipped her."
"I miss her."
"It haunts me too," I admitted, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze.
He looked at me, almost as if he was seeing me for the first time. "Why do you come here, Brenna ?"
"You know why."
We stared at each other for a long time, quiet.
"Johanna believed in God," I finally said. "She believed she was saved by her baptism in Christ. That helps me let go of her, knowing she believed in a better place."
He released my hand and I missed the feeling immediately.
"You can't hide in this house," I said.
Tilting his head, he whispered with shame: "I used you."
"No, you didn't," I said. "I knew what I was doing."
"Why do you come here, Brenna ?" he asked again.
"So many times, I wanted to visit you," I admitted as I sat next to him on the bed. "To comfort you but I was afraid of invading your privacy and violating your grief." I hesitated for a moment. "I was afraid you'd kick me out."
The silence that followed was awkward as I waited for what he might say next.
"Did you go to her funeral?" Dylan finally asked.
"Yes, with Donna," I answered. "It was…tough."
"That's right, she told me," Dylan recalled. "I was pretty drugged up those first few weeks. I missed all of it. I never got closure. I never grieved publicly with everybody else."
"Life is filled with tragedy and loss and pain, Dylan," I said. "Bad things happen to good people. I miss Johanna and I don't want to lose you."
He reached out his hand and rested it on top of mine where I had it resting against my thigh.
"Thanks for coming," he said.
I heard my breath catch in my throat and an escaping gasp followed. I nodded and things got blurry as my eyes filled with tears.
Leaning into me, Dylan brushed his lips over he wiped away my tears that were rolling down my cheeks. "It's going to be okay," He said.
I took off my clothes and fell back on the bed and he did the same before crawling between my legs and he giving me as much pleasure as I could take. We didn't talk because we didn't have to and after all the pleasure was sapped from my body, we took a nap, him beside me.
I know what you're thinking but please don't judge me. I don't know if I loved him first. I don't know if I loved him more. I don't know if I loved him best. And I don't know if he loved her first. Or if he loved her more. Or if he loved her best. All I knew that we were together again now, for whatever reason.
Wouldn't Johanna want us to be happy? Didn't we deserve a second chance? I would miss and grieve Johanna forever but she had given me a gift and I wasn't going to let it slip through my fingers.
I got to know Dylan long enough to know that I loved him and wanted to be with him. I'd marry him as soon as he asked. Wouldn't Johanna want that for us if she had it taken away from her?
Later, when we awoke, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Happy Valentine's Day," I said.
He was my second chance Valentine and I wasn't going to lose him again.