Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fortress


Mindy’s stomach dropped as she watched Kevin pace the room. She knew what was coming; it was only a matter time. It was always just a matter of time.

“I love you, Mindy,” he started. “I think you should move with me.”

Mindy felt a smile spread across her face, and then wiped it away before Kevin could see. He turned and she raised an eyebrow.

Kevin held up his hands. “Just listen, it makes sense. You’re over here most of the time, anyway, and we are so good together. We can save on rent, and I have that big walk-in closet that I barely use. All this furniture is rented, so there’s plenty of room for your stuff. I love waking up with you in my arms. I want to do it every morning.” He reached out for her. “What do you think?”

“No,” Mindy said, her voice barely a whisper.

“What?” asked Kevin.

Mindy silently scolded herself then raised her gaze to meet Kevin’s eyes. “I said, no. I can't believe you had the nerve to ask."

"Why wouldn't I ask? I love you."

"Honestly, honey, women like me don't live with boys like you.” She glanced at her fingernails. “This ‘thing’ between us was never serious. On your income you can't afford serious."

Kevin shook his head. "I don't understand."

Mindy ruffled Kevin’s hair. "Oh, you silly thing, you were just something to pass the time, like a card game. Why would I want to live with a pathetic excuse like you?" She shrugged and stood.

"So why go out with me at all?" yelled Kevin.

"Because you’re good in the sack," she said laughing. "By the way, good doesn't mean great, Kevin. You might want to work on that."

Mindy gathered her purse and coat, keeping her head down so she wouldn't see Kevin's desperate face and change her mind. She exited his apartment and swallowed the vomit that threatened to take over. She had let Kevin get too close -- that was her mistake.

Rushing out to the sidewalk, Mindy buttoned her coat and lifted her collar to guard against the cold. She knew it wouldn’t do any good. The chill she felt was from inside, not from the bone-chilling wind.

“Just keep walking, Mindy,” she said to herself. “You knew this would happen. You let him get too close. You’ve got to be more careful, or you’ll get hurt again.”
She felt a twinge in her heart as she crossed the street and stopped at the corner.

Maybe it was already too late?

No, she thought, shaking her head. He’ll be like the others.

Mindy let her mind scan back to her mother. She remembered the scene vividly – her mother clinging to her father’s pant leg, pleading with him not to leave. Other scenes flashed through her mind. Her mother passed out on the sofa after sobbing herself to sleep – and the worst one, her mother’s face red, eyes igniting with rage as she screamed, “It’s your fault! He left me because of you! God, I wish you’d never been born!”

On the day Mindy graduated from high school, she came home to find her belongings on the front porch, the door locked. Two weeks later, a policeman showed up at her door to tell her that her mother had committed suicide. They’d given her the note she’d left behind. “If only he hadn’t left.”

Mindy jerked her head up high and advanced another couple of steps before the pain crept back into her heart. She stopped. “Maybe Kevin is different,” she whispered.

An image of Bryan flooded her mind -- tall, dark, handsome, Bryan. He’d shown her so much sympathy during her mother’s passing. Holding her at night, on her tiny dorm bed, he’d rubbed her back gently as he promised to always be there. He’d continued to make that promise as she gave in to his intimate advances in the back of his Ford Focus. After all, he loved her, that’s what he’d said – that’s what she’d believed. After the “deed” was done, he took her back to the dorm, did an exaggerated yawn, kissed her on the forehead, and told her he’d call her in the morning. The call never came.

The next evening, Mindy went to his dorm room. Door ajar she pushed it open just in time to see him removing another girl’s bra. She left his dorm in a run. When she returned to her own room there was a simple message on her voicemail, “It was fun. But I’m too young to have a girlfriend. No hard feelings, k? See ya around.”

But Kevin wasn’t pushing her away, he was pulling her forward. She pictured his outstretched hand as he’d asked her to move in. He wanted her to stay forever, he loved her. She looked over her shoulder, toward his apartment. The stoop was empty.
You gave him an out and he took it, Mindy thought. Just like David.

She’d met David her junior year of college. After three years of dating, he took her to a lavish restaurant and placed a two-carat solitaire in her bubbly. She said yes without hesitation. A few nights before the big day, David sat on the couch watching TV, as Mindy hustled through the house they shared tidying up.

Grabbing a pair of his socks, she shook them at him. “David, I’ve been cleaning all day. Could you at least put your socks in the hamper? Your family will be here tomorrow.”

“Woman,” he whined. “I’m a grown man. If I want to leave my socks in the living room, kitchen table, or in the microwave, I will. Get off my case.”

Mindy smiled and jumped into his lap, shoving the dirty socks in his face. “Listen, mister, as your wife, it’ll be my duty to get on your case about leaving your socks in the living room, kitchen table, or in the microwave. If you don’t want me griping at you, then don’t marry me. But you better get out now while you still can. Once we’re married, it’s forever.” She pecked him on the cheek.

The look on David’s face caused Mindy’s smile to fade. “Okay, David, I can tell you’ve had a long day. I’ll stop messing with you. All I’m asking for is a little help. Love you.”

That look was all Mindy could think of as the pastor told her David wasn’t coming. He didn’t even have the decency to tell her -- he’d just walked out to his car, got in, and left, cans trailing behind. It took her years to get over the embarrassment -- the heartbreak. She vowed her heart would never be hurt again. She had left every man after before they could get serious.

“Mindy!”

Snapping out of her trance, she turned around. Kevin ran down the sidewalk toward her.

“Mindy, don’t go!” he yelled, running into the street. “I love you. We can make this work. You don’t have to move in, we’ll take it slow.”

Her heart filled with joy. No man had ever put his pride aside to come after her. They’d just let her leave, every time.

Mindy opened her mouth to speak, to tell him she loved him too. A flash of yellow caught her eye. Her outburst of love, turned to horror as the taxi hit Kevin, sending him over the top of the car and into a following SUV.

A crowd surged around Kevin, as people dialed 911 from their cell phones. Mindy couldn’t move. She wanted to go to him, to hold him, but her feet remained rooted.
The police and EMT arrived on scene and placed a single yellow sheet over Kevin’s broken body. Mindy averted her eyes and slowly turned back around.

“Excuse me, Miss,” an officer yelled.

Mindy glanced over her shoulder and turned. “Yes, officer?” she said with a sad smile.

“Witnesses say you saw the accident. Anything you can tell us?”

“I believe the man came out of the third building on the right. He didn’t look before he crossed the street.” Mindy lowered her eyes. “I think he was trying to get someone’s attention.”

“Did you know the man that was hit by the car?” the officer asked. “There’s no I.D. on him, and we need to notify next of kin.”

Mindy raised her head and looked the officer in the eyes. “No sir, I didn’t know him. I didn’t know him at all.”

“Ok.” The officer tipped his hat and started back towards the accident. “Thanks for your time.”

Mindy straightened her coat and adjusted her gloves as she started back home. No man would ever hurt her again. She was a single woman and her fortress was strong.