I’ve never truly felt time go quicker than when I needed it to freeze. There was plenty of ways I could decide to handle this, but I knew that one way or the other I was going to be down a path that had pain in it. My heart told me that I should just come fully clean and tell Ariel about what happened with Lisa. Honestly, she’s so understanding that she may end up forgiving me and understanding my side. That said, what exactly was going on with me and Lisa? If I just now discovered this spark of attraction, would it be foolish of me to throw it away?
The clock reminded me every second that it would not await my decision. This would have to be something I figured out on my own. In the end, I knew that I would not be making a choice without hearing what Ariel had to say. Truth was the only viable escape for my morality here.
I told Ariel we should talk after school. She grew nervous as most people might when they think about what comes after.
When we met, I could see she was visibly shaken. Part of me wondered if John had already told her of if she caught on intuitively. I brushed that aside. My heart was in my throat as we came close.
As I began to disclose everything that had happened, I saw a light drain from her eyes. To be hurt in this way was something she was unable to be prepared for. Tears welled up as she silently took in everything I was saying. Deep down, I knew how my actions were despicable. I’d be lying if that wasn’t part of the fuel in my desire. Yet that’s all it was, deep down. Lust.
Without reserve, I let her know that it was a pleasurable sensation to physically be with her. I also let her know that John was planning to tell her I was over there. I unloaded every piece of heartbreaking truth I could muster because she needed to hear it from me.
After my words had finally ceased, she slowly started to cry. I would not have blamed her if she just left, but she didn’t. She leaned on me and let out the most heart wrenching cries I’ve ever heard. My very soul was burning with self condemnation as this poor innocent high school girl bared her sadness and betrayal to me. What exactly had I become? In my own timeline, I broke up with this very girl for allegedly cheating on me. My own insecurities built a void between us and we would never speak again. Yet here I was with a second chance and I commit the crime which I accused her of.
“I understand if you never want to talk to me again,” I whispered, knowing that my fate was no longer something I had the privilege to control.
“Erich…” she muttered between sobs. “I like you so much. That’s why this hurts so much.” I was a bit flabbergasted. I had just admitted to this girl that I had betrayed her physically, and she still was able to say that.
“I’m just an absolute idiot. My own desires got in the way of decency.”
“You know, my father never admitted any fault when he cheated on my mother. She found out the hard way and even still he insisted it was in some part her own fault. I’m too young to claim I know what love means, but what you just did today made me believe I have an idea. Sure John was going to tell me, but you could have left some of this out. You could have threatened John or just broken up with me for some crappy reason. Yet you told me the truth.”
I was stunned. Ariel’s emotional strength was absolutely beyond mine and I fully believe she’s the best person I’ve ever met. Forgiveness on this level is something no person could wish for. I couldn’t even forgive myself to the level she was willing to.
After many hours of emotional cuddling, I took her to the place I first asked her to be my girlfriend. I was an antsy seventh grader and thought my idea to ask her was the best romantic gesture alive. At the local roller blade ring, I won a large stuffed bear. She told me how much she had wanted one, and I said that if she would date me there would be many more wishes fulfilled. Cheesy, but effective.
That night, I decided it would take another world of effort to please this amazing girl. I was no where near as good as I used to be at skeet ball, but after a few hours I was able to win her another bear.
As I handed it to her, I sincerely said, “If you take this bear, I vow that I’ll make your wishes come true.” Ariel’s eyes filled with a thankful glow as she hugged the bear as tight as a mother does her child. I knew that my mistakes were awful, but I would have the rest of the time she would have me to make up for it.
We were making our way home when I got a message from Lisa. She wanted me to come visit again that night. I showed Ariel and she decided she wanted to confront Lisa herself. I decided I would tag along but hang back to make sure things didn’t escalate.
Ariel was standing outside when Lisa opened her window in nothing but her underwear. I admit it was quite the sight to behold, but she was more than a bit shocked to see her there. Ariel started to confront her calmly when I suddenly felt a force grab me from behind. Without much time to react, I quickly engaged my sub-doer and grappled with him to the ground. Before I started to throw punches, I saw that it was John.
“What in the hell are you doing here, man?”
“You were going to Lisa’s house again, weren’t you? You sick bastard.”
“John. Use your damn eyes. Look who’s over there.” I allowed him to sit up a bit until he caught sight of Ariel bickering with Lisa, who was now covering up with a blanket.
“You brought her here? To what end?”
“She wanted to ask Lisa why she was doing this. I didn’t plan on getting involved.”
John sat up and rubbed his head. “You told her everything, right? She won’t be surprised if I confront her?”
I sighed. “Yes, John. I told her everything. I’m honestly an asshole for putting everyone here in this situation with my own sick desires. Trust me when I say this won’t happen any more.”
Suddenly, Ariel and Lisa hugged. It seemed as if both girls were in tears, but they hugged. Suddenly John tugged me away from the moment as he gets low to the ground.
“Do you see that?” he said in a panicked tone. My eyes adjusted in the darkness before I could see hooded figured encircling John’s house. They were meticulously circling the house trying to peer inside. My gut screamed to me that we needed to get out of sight if they were coming to Lisa’s house.
John and I rushed over to the girls. Lisa gave a gasp as she was still standing in her bra and panties, but at that moment I knew we needed to go. I grabbed their hands and we rushed towards the woods behind Lisa’s house. Ariel knew instinctively that this was a dangerous situation and kept up while Lisa was terrified of what I was planning. I slipped off my shirt and shoes as we got to the tree line.
“I don’t have any time to explain but I want you to be calm and collected so wear these.” She gave me a slanted look as she put my stuff on. We turned back to the house and watched as the hooded figures appeared there as well. There were three of them and they seemed to know the lay of her yard oddly well.
“Do you think they’d be here?” one of them said in a hushed tone.
“I have no idea. It’s been too long.”
“Let’s try Erich’s place. Should be back there now.”
As they left, we looked around the group in horror. Whoever these people were, they were looking for us specifically. They knew our yards, names, and didn’t want to be seen. I couldn’t help but feel responsible.
“We can’t go back to our homes,” I whispered as the group gathered around me. “They’re likely going to be making their way around and god knows we can’t be caught by them.” Everyone silently nodded and looked to me. I knew that this called for desperate measures so I showed them the way to the stumps John and I would frequent. It was just the right level of hidden.
“We’ll have to try our luck here. There’s no way they’d check outside,” I said, motioning to the glory of our spot. We all gathered into a group as we laid down. The plan was to get everyone home before parents started to wake up, but not soon enough for the hooded figures to have time to find us alone.
That night Ariel and I embraced each other as we dozed off. It was a cathartic gesture that showed her level of commitment to me. It may take the rest of my life, but I’d have to work every day to show her the same level of respect. I am genuinely curious how she went from extremely angry to hugging a girl who was clearly ready to romantically be with me. Questions for another time.
As my eyes were finally closing, I heard the footsteps for the first time…