Chapter 8

Baylee wasn't surprised when Jack didn't show up at her door for his ride the next morning like he had been doing every day since school started in September. She knew it meant that Detective Anderson informed Jack and his parents that three juvenile delinquents were responsible for him losing his eye, including the girl that he had shared the night together with.

Baylee was too depressed and ashamed to go to school and she dragged herself back upstairs and spent most of the day comatose in her bed, too emotionally exhausted to cry and too emotionally distraught to function.

She realized that this was probably how Jack felt in the days following his injury when he learned that he had lost his eye and his life was changed forever.

Baylee's guilt and shame wouldn't be life-changing in such a pronounced way but that didn't mean that it didn't hurt any less in the moment. She knew her stupidity last summer would haunt her for years and that she deserved to be shunned by Jack and his family for her selfish and self-serving behavior.

In an ironic twist of fate, Baylee felt closer to her parents now more than ever before. They were forgiving and supportive in her crisis and they assured her that she could recover from the mistakes she made and become a stronger person because of it.

"I wish the pain would just go away now," Baylee sighed having spent a second day in bed, mostly in a fetal position.

"You're going to have to work through it," her mother replied. "You can let this defeat you or you can learn from it and move on."

"I'm feeling deep emotional wounds," Baylee said.

"You can only mope for so long," her mother warned. "Maybe now is the time to rediscover your Faith and learn the true meaning of humility and reconciliation."

"You make it sound so easy," Baylee sighed, allowing her mother to brush her hand through her hair as she sat on the edge of the bed and Baylee remained crumpled on the mattress.

"It won't be easy," her mother admitted. "What you did was foolish. But you need to forgive yourself. It's going to be a struggle but if you don't free yourself you'll carry the weight of your guilt like a ball and chain around your ankle for a very long time."

Baylee spent a third day in self-imposed solitary confinement, wondering how she could even finish the school year knowing what she had done to Jack.

She was half asleep when she heard movement downstairs, but it was too early for her mother to be home, especially because she had mentioned she had a late meeting to attend. Suddenly, she sensed a presence in her room. Baylee opened her eyes and saw Jack standing in the doorway, complete with cowboy hat.

"Don't you think three days is long enough?" He asked.

She burst into tears at the very sight of him. "I'm sorry!" She cried. "I'm so so terribly sorry."

"I know," he sighed.

"I didn't think it was possible to feel this much guilt and shame," Baylee said. "I feel like I killed someone."

"And now you've jumped down a deep black hole to try to escape," Jack remarked.

"I know you can never forgive me," Baylee sobbed.

"I already have," Jack let her know.

"What?" She asked, squinting at him through her tears.

"I gotta admit I was surprised to find out you were part of it," Jack said. "I forgot that you hung out with those two guys."

"I stopped that night," she sighed.

"I realize that it was a terrible, unfortunate and tragic accident," Jack said. "Sounds like that kid has a lot of problems."

"His family is pretty messed up," Baylee said, finally sitting up on the bed.

"I don't care about him," Jack said. "I care about us."

"You do?" Baylee asked, wiping the tears from her face.

"There's a connection between us, don't you think?" Jack asked.

"Like it was meant to be," Baylee agreed.

"You must have suffered a lot through all this," Jack said.

"Not like you," She sighed.

"I'm doing okay," he smiled. "Thanks to you."

"How can you be so forgiving?" Baylee asked with confusion.

"It doesn't do any good to be angry," Jack said, finally stepping into the room and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "I lost my soul after the accident but I don't want to go through that again."

"A day doesn't go by without me feeling your loss," Baylee let him know.

"Stop beating yourself up about this," Jack advised.

Baylee fell into him and began to cry.

"Me forgiving you only works if you forgive yourself," Jack said.

"Okay," she said, trying to wipe away the tears from her face as she broke the hug.

"Are you going to shower?" Jack wanted to know.

"Why? Do I stink?" Baylee asked.

"Yes," Jack smirked.

"Why don't you shower with me?" Baylee teased.

"Sure!" he said willingly. "But I'll have to take my eye patch off."

"Okay," she said, looking at him with determination.

Jack nodded and he removed his cowboy hat before slowly pulling the patch off of his head to reveal the sealed slot where his eyeball had once been.

"I'm a freak," Jack sighed.

"You're beautiful," Baylee assured him as she leaned in and kissed him.