The Faithful Kiss
EXCERPT FROM THE FAITHFUL KISS
I ran through the dark, wet fog. The dampness clung to my silk ball gown and something was following me. Something else was out there in the night with me and it was evil. I was lost. I had never been to this part of town before; the panic continued to drive me even further into the dark night and I was discombobulated. I was never allowed outside alone in the daytime, and definitely never at night. Everything looked the same. Everything looked terrifying. The house where the party had been must be far away from here, but I had long since lost my sense of direction, so I followed the road ahead and soon I heard music and laughter. I had to make it to the building where the lights were shining and welcoming me in, before the stalker caught me. Light equaled safety, music and laughter equaled happiness. Surely I would be safe there.
The scene changed, more like fast forwarded. I was still in the same wet dress and I stood outside of the lit building, but now I felt myself being lifted up and I found myself sitting atop of a horse with a man holding me close to him, allowing me to absorb the warmth that his body offered. Peace filled me as the dream faded away.
I awoke and the peace that my dream had brought me disappeared. I held back a sob as I realized the dreams would continue to haunt me. I may have escaped home, but I could not escape the dreams.
I’ve had strange dreams most of my life, dreams that seemed more like memories than dreams, and they always took place during the antebellum era. The dreams had become more frequent since the night of my Senior Prom when my boyfriend, Tyler, and I had been in a car accident. Tyler had been thrown from the car and killed instantly and I had been in a coma for a week. These strange dreams plagued me the whole time that I was in the coma. The dreams were so vivid and all-consuming that I was very confused about who I was and where I was when I awoke.
I feared that I was cursed with the madness that plagued the females in my family. I was the only one that seemed to have these types of dreams about the past, though. My aunts, great grandmother, and others who had been admitted to asylums had visions about this demonic red – haired woman that threatened to harm them. In fact, the visions were so vivid that the women often had scratches, torn out hair, and other wounds that they obviously had inflicted upon themselves. Thankfully, I had never seen this woman in any of the dreams that I could remember. I found it strange that the madness was so similar throughout the generations; however I am sure that it was due to the fact that we had all been fed the same creepy legend about our family since childhood.
I thought a lot of things that were said about our family were pretty ridiculous; however, one thing was for sure, a lot of mishaps in my life were hard to explain. The truth of the matter was that the car accident was not my first brush with danger or death. I had more near death experiences in my eighteen years than I could count on both hands. My superstitious side of the family said it was just another part of the family curse because the visions or hallucinations of the past were a regular part of the danger and visions and accidents always seemed to come as a pair.
I used to tell my mother about the visions after near drownings, falls down the stairs, and mishaps in the kitchen, until the day that I overheard her on the phone contemplating sending me to an institution as she discussed the various options with my father on the other end. I stopped telling them about things after that and everyone assumed that I no longer had the dreams and that I had forgotten about them. I refused to fall to the madness and be locked in a padded cell like my predecessors. Being locked away and forgotten like that was my biggest fear, along with the idea that I would not be able to tell the difference between my dreams and reality.
With these nerve-racking thoughts on my mind I did my best to roll over and fall back to a fitful sleep. I didn’t want to be tired for my first day of college, but the sun had begun to crown before I fell back to sleep.
The first day of class was muggy and cloudy with the air as thick as a steam room. West Texas rarely experienced such weather and the uncomfortable humidity had me begging for rain as I contemplated my dream during my trudge to class. I walked along on the swarming sidewalk that wove its way across the Tulip Poplar-lined campus. Even though I wore Soffie shorts and an athletic top, like most of the other female members of the student population who were trying to survive the heat, I was sweating by the time I entered my first lecture. The air conditioner hit me as I walked in, the classroom felt like an icebox and provided welcomed relief.
Calculus was the one class that I had been dreading since I realized that I would have to take it. Math and I were mortal enemies. Whenever teachers passed out the student information papers at the beginning of the semester there was always the question ‘Is there any reason that you will have a difficult time in this class?’ my answer was always ‘Math is my evil nemesis.’ I thought it was funny, but I found the majority of math teachers did not have a sense of humor.
The Calculus Classroom was small and institutional. The walls were vacant and uninspiring with a large blackboard and projection screen in the front. There were about fifteen other students sitting at the long table desks arranged in tiers (or stadium seating) descending toward the lecture area. I recognized one face immediately.
Wesley was sitting at a table in the middle of the room. Despite the heat he still wore a grey long sleeved button down shirt, though he had rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. I sipped on my water bottle and walked down the stairs to set my backpack beside him. As I walked closer I saw that he wore Sperry’s and camo green khaki shorts. “Hey Wesley, do you mind if I sit here?” I asked casually with a flirtatious flip of my ponytail.
“Hi Katelee, sure, have a seat,” he acknowledged, barely looking up from the notebook that he was intensely writing in. The school girl within me giggled, He remembered my name! I saw little hearts and flowers floating around me. Okay, Katelynn, get a grip and calm down. You gotta play this cool.
Sitting down beside him, I placed my water bottle on the table, and pulled out my books and graphing calculator. I crossed my legs toward him and laid my head on my hand, resting my elbow on the desk embracing the cold that my body soaked up from the surface. As I looked at him I remembered something Bridget had said before; so I asked, “I thought you were a senior what are you doing in this class?”
The strange expression I had seen the couple times before, the one that made me feel self-conscious, was still plastered on his face as he answered reluctantly, “I changed my major so now I am basically starting over from scratch. I didn’t make a high enough grade in this class before, so I am retaking it.”
I admired him quietly and I hoped discreetly. Peeking out from where his rolled sleeve met his elbow I saw a sliver of a black ink tattoo. “What is your tattoo?”
He glanced down and adjusted his sleeve so that it covered the small portion of the mysterious tattoo. “It’s just some old family stuff. You know a crest or whatever you want to call it.”
The professor walked in then and started lecturing about his expectations for the semester. Wesley’s eyes never left the front and he had angled his back toward me. He barely even acknowledge me as he passed the outlines and syllabi to me that the professor had handed out. I hoped to get another chance to talk to him to try to dissect his strange personality, but he waved at me and bolted the minute the professor dismissed us.
Maybe, he has a class he doesn’t want to be late for, I thought to myself trying to justify his strange behavior once again. Along with the regular out on my own firsts, not being drooled over by a guy that I was somewhat into romantically was a first for me as well. Back home I was “The Girl.” Homecoming queen, head cheerleader, and prom queen were just a few of my accomplishments. Every guy wanted me. This guy was battering my ego.
The rest of the day past much the same way, I had two more classes that day: Chemistry and Composition, both of which the professors did the first day routine of passing out syllabi and explaining their expectations of us, grading, and attendance policies. There were a couple of DG girls that I knew in my Composition class, so we sat together and discussed our Rush experiences. Wesley was in both of my classes but he snuck in at the last minute, sat at the very back, and jetted the minute the professors dismissed the class, without having made conversation with anyone. Not that I was paying that close of attention to him, of course, just making a casual observation that he did not talk to anyone. These were my thoughts as my last class ended for the day. I walked out of Composition, still scribbling final notes about the copious amounts of reading and Calculus homework that lay ahead of me for the night, and stopped short when I saw that Wesley sat on a bench apparently waiting for me.
“So, Katelee how was your day?” He asked me as he grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the bench beside him with one of his uncharacteristic smiles. His hand was cold and smooth, but firm. The touch sent tingles through my body and started my pulse racing. I always did have a thing for the bad boys, and his moodiness constituted bad boy.
I unconsciously crossed my legs toward him and leaned in slightly. “It was alright. Calculus is gonna be my demise, though,” I told him, curious by the sudden attention. “I saw that you are in all of my classes. You should have come and sat by me. It would be nice to have a friend to bitch to about the assignments and make fun of the professors with.”
He squirmed and shifted away from me slightly. “Well, I came in late and I can’t have any distractions in class. Being that this is my fourth time to change majors I really need to buckle down this semester. I wouldn’t have been much company, though that does sound like fun. I saw that there were some friends of yours in Composition. It seemed like you all had plenty to talk about with them, so I imagine that I would just be a nuisance.”
I nodded and sat there awkwardly not knowing what else to say or why he had suddenly taken an interest in me or what he meant by not needing distractions. Is he saying I would be a distraction? And if so, is it in a good or bad way? He was making my head spin. I was just about to stand up and leave when he pointed outside. “It started to rain while we were in class. I noticed that you didn’t have a raincoat or umbrella. Thought we could share mine,” he explained as he pulled a black umbrella out of his messenger bag with a noncommittal shrug.
I looked out through the glass doors and saw that it was, indeed, pouring down silver torrents and the paths had already begun to flood. The trees were drooping under the onslaught. Even the incoming students who had remembered their umbrellas looked like they had gone for a swim in the creek with all their clothes on as they walked into the building and shook off like wet dogs. I stared dumbly at the rain in disbelief. It was beautiful to watch. Of course we had rain back home, but not like this, and if it ever did rain like this it was usually accompanied by vicious wind, lightening, and hail.
Wesley grabbed my hand and pulled me up with him as he stood, not waiting for a response and breaking me from my rain gazing. He held the door for me as we stepped outside onto the landing and he opened the umbrella with a shake. The air was cooled by the rain and no longer stuffy. We stepped under the umbrella together and began trekking through the puddles. “That was your last class for the day right?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I’m headed back to the DG house. Is that out of your way?” Please say no, please say no…
“No, actually I’m going there to talk to Bridget and Becca. We have to get the plans for the mixer worked out before Friday.”
“It’s a date party?” I asked, suddenly not as excited about the weekend. I don’t know anyone yet. Who would be my date? Why hasn’t anyone told me this little tidbit of info?
“All of you DG pledges are paired up with a Sigma Nu pledge. It’s just a way for people to get to know each other. It’s not really a party either, just a cocktail hour and dinner. Occasionally, some couples will do a little dancing. It’s really a little too high school prom-esque for me.”
It freaked me out a little that it again seemed that Wesley was aware of the thoughts that were running through my mind. We came to a street crossing and the water run-off was rushing like rapids. Wesley handed me the umbrella and swept me up in his arms before I realized what he was doing. I sat in his arms stiff, not knowing how to act, but realized I didn’t mind the closeness at all, actually, I enjoyed it. I let myself relax a little and breathe in his cologne. It was an intoxicating combination of earth and sea, and strangely familiar, but I couldn’t place the cologne. “Who says chivalry is dead?” I giggled nervously.
He crossed the street and put me back down. “Sorry about that. I, uh…Well I know Bridget and Elizabeth hate getting wet and since you were wearing flip-flops I didn’t want to lose them in the water or anything,” he said suddenly looking awkward and confused. I blushed and tried to hand him back the umbrella. “No, you hold it. I’m drenched now anyway.” He stuffed his hands in his pants’ pockets and didn’t step back under the umbrella with me. He stayed silent and looked at the ground as we finished walking to the house.
I turned to him and folded the umbrella back up when we were safely up on the Delta Gamma porch. “Thanks Wesley. You’re my hero. That walk would have been miserable without an umbrella.” I self-consciously handed him back the umbrella and stood there fidgeting.
“It was my pleasure. Will you go run up and get the girls for me? I don’t want to track water all through your house,” he motioned toward his soaked clothes.
Becca’s door was locked as usual when I knocked to tell her that Wesley was downstairs waiting for her. “Who is it?” I heard her call out. In the background I heard some soothing, meditation type music, possibly Celtic.
I told her it was me and the door unlocked. Becca sat crossed legged on the floor with a candle and a spiral notebook. She fiddled with the sunburst pendent. I was beginning to realize that this was a frequent habit of hers. She did not look up to acknowledge my entrance. “Wesley is downstairs.” How did she unlock the door and sit back down so fast?
Finally, after I stood awkwardly in her doorway for several seconds, I walked over to her and saw that the notebook was covered in spiraling curlicues and hard chicken scratch, which was not her typical style of handwriting. The words FEAR, MADNESS, ASYLUM, and DEATH screamed up at me. I backed away and Rebecca finally looked up. She smiled at me and extinguished the candle flame. Rising to her feet she thanked me and sent me to go get Bridget from our room.
Apparently I am not the only one around here with some deep-seated issues. Having been dismissed, I called for Bridget as I hurried up the stairs. “Your brother is on the porch waiting for you. I already told Rebecca.”
She was sitting at her desk with the books open in front of her. She glanced at the clock, “Oh, crap. Thanks.” She gathered a bunch of papers and stuffed them in a folder, before she dashed out the door hollering for Rebecca as she thundered down the stairs.
I changed into an old pair of my cheer sweatpants and a tee. As I cracked open my Calculus book I hoped that I could recall enough math from high school to manage the practice review problems that had been assigned to us as homework. An hour later, I realized that I was not getting anything accomplished and slammed the book closed as I threw myself across my bed. Brooding chocolate eyes penetrated my mind and I could still smell Wesley’s cologne. It was as if it lingered in my lungs from when I breathed him in and penetrated like a poisonous gas leaving me helpless to concentrate on anything else.
Frustrated, I grabbed my pack of cigarettes and lighter, opened the window out to the balcony and stepped out into the damp night air. The rain had stopped shortly after Wesley returned me to the sorority house. I lit a cigarette and took a long drag silently observing the activities in the quad below. Some guys were playing a very wet and muddy version of football and a few couples walked along hand in hand.
I took my cellphone out of my pocket and hit speed dial. “Hi parentals! It is me, just calling to check in and let you know I survived the first day of class. I’m guessing y’all are probably out at some function or dinner or whatever so I will call y’all again later. Love you.”
I sighed and took another drag. I wandered around the balcony to the backside of the house and leaned on the railing. I closed my eyes and just enjoyed the peace, since this side of the house backed up onto the forest; I figured I would have some privacy. Things had been hard for me since the accident, but I did my best to keep up appearances, especially for my parents. I didn’t want them to worry, but I took advantage of my solitude and let the silent stream of tears fall.
There was a loud whistle from down below and a nut flew up and hit me in the shoulder. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair!” I leaned over the railing and looked down below. “Alas it is the East and Juliet the sun.” Andrew and Jason waved up at me.
I laughed and waved back before trying to discreetly wipe away my tears. “What are you crazy guys doing down there? Were you out walking in the forest?”
“Yeah, we went and checked out the spot. Cleaned up some stuff and took a bunch of wood and put it into the cave to make sure that there would be dry wood for the bonfire. Come down and hang out with us,” Jason called back.
“I really need to do some homework. I have to work tomorrow night so I can’t allow myself to get behind. Y’all come see me at work tomorrow.”
“Alright, good night then.” They waved and continued walking on.
I went back inside and washed my face, which also helped to clear my head. Then, with a sigh and determination, sat back down at my desk and completed the calculus problems and a chapter of reading for Chemistry before we went to sleep.