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Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Clean up wasn't going to be as easy as it looked on television. The magic of Bob Vila, a
small army of a work crew, and time-stop photography. Scrubbing the caked-on tar of the walls
was perhaps the most challenging part of the job, toxic fumes welling up in the room until it
became impossible to breathe. Pulling all of his grandmother's old furniture out of the rooms
was no walk in the park either. Muscles aching from a full day's physical labor, the young man
decided to call it quits for the night and retire to the bathroom.

Lounging in the quiet serenity of the warm soapy bath water, he began thinking about
Danielle again. It seemed to be all he thought about lately. He thought about the times that
he and Danielle used to shower together after they had made love, gently washing each other's
soapy bodies, kissing passionately in the warm mist. Afterwards, they would lie in bed, gently
caressing one another, talking about how wonderful life was going to be once they were married,
peppering their statements with "I love you's". That was one of the things that the young man
missed the most, those long, cold nights, huddled together, keeping warm in each other's

Even with all of this considered, the young man scolded himself for being foolish. The
whole idea was ridiculous. After all, he only worked part time, had no money to speak of, no
car (none that ran properly, anyway), no formal educational degrees that could secure him a
future. What could he possibly have to offer her? Why would she want to be with him? He
suddenly felt very alone in the old house, all by himself.

Loneliness was not a feeling with which the young man was unaccustomed. Thinking back to
his childhood, he sat to contemplate what had made him the man he was. On the surface,
everything seemed to be relatively normal. He was the oldest of five children, born at the
very tail end of Generation X, living with his mother and step-father in a modest income
community. His natural father had passed away when the child was a fairly young age, so in
growing up, his step-father was really the only paternal influence he had known. He was given
everything that his heart desired: television, music, games, clothes, comic books (a fetish
which would follow him through into adulthood). Again, on the surface, everything appeared to
be normal.

Appearances can be deceiving, however. In elementary school, and throughout most of his
educational career, he was shunned and not accepted by his peers. His teachers all knew that
he possessed an extremely high intellect, and enrolled him into all types of specialized
programs and extra-curricular education. This seemed to distance him from the other children,
as though they all thought that he felt he was better that they were. The fact that he was
very introverted and shy surely didn't help matters. Horrible names were called, that if one
wasn't in the situation, you could almost swear were nicknames that his buddies had made up.
Because of the constant teasing and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of his classmates,,
his school work began to suffer, and by the time he reached Junior High, his normal straight
"A" report cards were replaced with pale imitations containing mostly "B's and C's", a few
"D's", and the occasional "F". He simply stopped caring about his grades; the only thing that
seemed important was gaining the trust and friendship of his classmates.

By the time that High School rolled around something had changed in the youth.
Insecurity had been replaced with a sense of self-deprecating cynicism, a sad plea for
friendship replaced with a knowing smirk and a witty remark. He had simply stopped caring if
everyone loved or accepted him. He had come to accept himself for who he was, and to hell
with everyone else. Strangely enough, this side of his personality, so long hidden by fear of
ridicule, attracted some of those whose attention he had been seeking all along. Finally he
had been accepted, part of the 'in crowd', now when he couldn't honestly care less. So it
went as the young man moved on to college. There, in a strange new world, filled with people
who knew as much of him as they did of any others, saw in him a great degree of self assurance
and courage, and many came to see him as a source of sage advice on the ways of college life.
He was known throughout the campus (and the surrounding town) as someone that you could go to
with your problems, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and the young man embraced
his new found place in life. And his new personality was not without its attractiveness to
young ladies. He had had two very strong relationships while he was there, one with a woman
named Glenda, to whom he was engaged for a short time. Glenda was older and more experienced
that he was, and she was also terrified of being alone for the rest of her life. She was
totally focused on her career, and her future, and in hindsight, the young man realized that
to her, a husband was only one more possession for her to flash around, as a symbol of her
success. She also needed him for the security of knowing that he would always be there when
she wanted him, and he would always love her, even when no one else did. His friends all
tried their best to show him that he was being played a puppet on a string by her, but as is
usually the case, he ignored them, believing that they were speaking out of jealousy.

The truth hit him like a twenty-two pound sledgehammer during the summer recess. Glenda
wanted badly for him to come and stay with her in Arizona with her over the break, a desire which
she expressed every single day, but the young man realized that it was not within his expenses
to do so. So upon his return the following fall, he was shocked to discover that she had
taken another man, a close friend of his, as her lover. The young man fell into the greatest
depression of his life, placated slightly by the fact that all of his friends ran to support
him now, in his time of need. In the midst of all of his sadness, a glimmer of light came
blazing through and took brought him back to life. Her name was Nicole, Nikki for short, and
he quickly fell desperately in love with her.

The young man had finished his bath, and had moved into his bed for the night. Taking
his final smoke of the night, he started to think about the time he spent with Nikki, which he
always recanted as his greatest relationship of all time. He laughed at himself, noticing the
sad paradox of a lover scorned, how every relationship seemed to be the best you've ever had
once it's over, and how you will never find anyone as good as that person ever again. Until
the next one comes along, that is. But with Nikki, he felt that there was a bit of truth to
the claim. Even to this day, Nikki was the standard by which he judged all of his potential
girlfriends. She was the greatest of them all, and he noticed that every time he found himself
out of a relationship, he thought of her, and wondered what she was doing, if she was happy,
if she had found someone else, and if she still thought about him as much as he thought about
her. In fact, the young man realized, he was doing it now.

He stretched out and thought back to the first time he had let her know of his feelings
for her, and found himself smiling for what felt like the first time in months. He had invited
her over to his dorm room to watch the night's episode of his favorite television program. He
was a 'Doctor Who' fanatic, which was an old British Science Fiction Series, which Star Trek
loosely based itself on, one which was hardly known in the states. He and his roommate,
Curt, usually made it a weekly thing to watch the show and laugh about how bad the special
effects of the 1960's and 70's were. As the program played on, Nikki sprawled herself out
onto the laps of the two men, Curt rubbing her feet, while he, himself, played with her hair.
At first, he became apprehensive about his feelings for her, worried that Curt might have the
same feelings for her as he did. As strongly as he felt, he would not allow a woman to
jeopardize his friendship. However, when Curt left for the bathroom, the truth played itself
out. He looked down at her and noticed that she had been staring at him for quite some time.
Gently, she raised herself up and pressed her lips against his, a warm inviting kiss that would
last until Curt returned from the bathroom. After the show, the three of them, along with the
young man's best friend, Doug, decided that a trip to Wal-Mart was in order so that they could
pick up a few supplies that they had been to lazy to get during the day. While Curt and Doug
went shopping, the young man and Nikki stayed in the back seat of Curt's car, and passionately
kissed as it began to rain. He felt so alive with her, like he had been dead all his life up
to that point, and this beautiful angel had revived him.

Everyone noticed the change. All of his friends, once so critical of the women he liked,
and rightfully so after the Glenda fiasco, instantly loved Nikki. It was an impossible enigma
to him that a woman as wonderfully compassionate and beautiful as she was could love him so
much, and he desired to prove himself worthy of her love. They had shared so many memories in
such a short amount of time: taking many walks around the nearby lake, sharing meals, going to
concerts together. He remembered all those stupid school concerts, and how he made her laugh
uncontrollably, a laugh that made you believe that she really was an angel sent down from
Heaven. It truly was the happiest he had ever been in his adult life to date.

Unfortunately, in his happiness, he had failed to realize the blunder that he had
perpetrated upon himself, one that would haunt him to this very day. Youth and stupidity,
though they may make for lame excuses, do cause a person to do some irrational things. The
young man had allowed his grades to slip badly in all of his class work, feeling that spending
time with his friends was more important to him. Some classes he simply stopped attending
altogether. Being able to now take himself out of the situation and reflect on what he had
done, the man realized that it was the stupidest thing he had ever done. Over the Christmas
break, he received a letter from the college, informing him that he had been academically
suspended and would not be allowed to return the following semester. His entire world, the
one he had adjusted himself to, the one he felt most comfortable in, was no more. He could
hardly bear to tell her the awful news. Nikki, to her credit, seemed to take the news
incredibly well. She remained so optimistic about the situation, comforting him by saying
that there was a purpose and a reason that it had happened, and that no matter what, she still
loved him, and that she would wait for him for as long as it took. He wondered now, how much
of that strength and confidence was put on for his sake.

As he had predicted, that following spring was Hell on Earth. He constantly thought
about her, wanted her in his arms again. He called her just about every night, and usually
they didn't talk about anything of importance, but just the sound of her voice was comforting
to him and made the experience of being separated bearable. During Spring Break, they found
each other again. She came to stay with him and his family for the week, and suddenly it was
like old times again; he was the "King", and his "Queen" had returned.

But this was not to last forever, as much as either of them would have wanted it to.
Separated by such a long distance for such a long time, eventually they each met new people,
and as anyone who's ever been in a long distance relationship can tell you, things kind of
fizzled out. But he never forgot her, never forgot the things they had shared, never forgot
how happy she had made him, and to a degree he was scared to admit even to himself, never
stopped loving her.

Realizing that he was still grinning from ear to ear, the young man extinguished his
cigarette and flipped off the light.

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