Mark must find a way to forgive Sarah. Sarah must find a way to get rid of a tragic past.
|Chapter One: Mark|
Strumming the tips of his fingertips on the top of the dark wooden table, nervously. Mark adjusts the clip on tie, it seems more heavy then usual, and is crushing his neck. He pushes his glasses up over his nose and looks over at the entrance to the fine dining restaurant his best friend Maddison recommended earlier.
Earlier he was worried he will be running late as he got off work ten minutes after five. He had exactly ten minutes to get ready by calculation according to his watch. He got inside his apartment and threw on some dark navy slacks, pulled out a blue tie and clipped it on. He ran to the bathroom and hurriedly ran a comb through his thick curly, short brown hair. He sprayed on cologne.
Tonight was the night!
Maddison will be waiting there and he will confess his feelings. He will look into those beautiful blue eyes in which remind him of the ocean, and tell her his intentions. He could feel his heart pounding, his stomach fluttering, and sweat collecting on his brow.
He jolted out the door and began walking briskly a block away to the French bistro that Maddison said she wanted to greet him at. She said it was close to the bar where she bartended at.
Now Mark was waiting..a half an hour has already passed.
Just then this frenzied blonde burst into the door chaotic and unassuming. He watches as she pins back a long trail of hair back into her messy bun, fix her skirt. A sudden sensation of warmth and calmness overcomes him.
She notices him and bites her lower lip with a grimace look of guilt upon her porcelain face.
She pulls up a chair and sits across from him.
“I’m so sorry Mark, I had a hectic day. First Fran spilled drinks all over me because she can’t serve worth a damn..” Mark can tell she’s flustered and gently places his hand on top of hers reassuringly.
“Maddy, it’s okay. You never need to apologize to me.” He smiles
“You’re always so sweet Mark, god! It’s a wonder why you’re still single.”
She took a sip of water, the waitress hands them both menus.
“Oh, um I can’t stay I have to be somewhere else tonight.” She interjects by pushing the menu back at the waitress. The waitress rolls her eyes and walks away.
The fluttering in Marks stomach felt now like a sharp Jab to the gut.
He tried his best to hide his disappointment but his voice quivers as he speaks
“Where do you have to be?” He cleared his throat to make his tone sound more even.
“I’m such as asshole!” Maddison covered her face with her hands then took Marks hands into hers.
“I keep you waiting, then I have to bail.” She apologizes.
“Look Mark, you’ve been single a really long time. So i’m going to cut to the chase.”
Marks ears perk up and hope starts to settle.
Can it be Maddison feels the same?
He notices his left hand start to tremor slightly as it does when he gets overly anxious.
Maddison didn’t seem to notice. He couldn't let her be the first to let her intentions be known. He had to ‘man’ up as his mother says.
“Maddy..I understand, it’s time for me to find someone and settle down.” Mark reassuringly vocalized.
Maddison looked confused.
“Wait, You do?” She scrunches up her nose in disbelief.
“I honestly thought you will be offended.” She sighed
“Offended?” Mark asks “no way!”
“I’m the luckiest guy to have a girl like you telling me how you feel.” He gleams
“That’s what friends do.” Maddison proclaimed.
“I honestly wanted to ask you, if you wanted to go on a first official date Friday night?” Mark asked
“I can’t, I have a date that…” She stopped watching as his face fell.
“Wait?” “A date?” She looks at him furrowing her brow in confusion.
“Maddison I love you.” Mark blurts out.
Maddison covers her face with both hands “oh no… no.” She repeated
Mark studies her facial expression as she looks up at him.
“Mark, I love you to the ends of the earth as a friend.” She responds
Mark feels the tears sting the corners of his eyes, but he can’t let them fall. His images of walking holding her hand, kissing her lips and smelling her vanilla scent as he held her tight up against him, consumed him. It overwhelms him. He stands up abruptly.
“No Mark!” She pleads, he turns around, she motions him with her hands to sit down.
He saw the single rows of tears stream down her face.
“I’m sorry, I know it’s not what you want to hear.” She soothes
She then opens the clasp on her dainty black purse and rummages for a brief second inside. She pulls out a folded up piece of paper and hands it to him.
“What’s this?” He asks taking the paper.
“ I have a friend for you.” She says quietly. “ She’s nice, she has bad luck finding quality dates like you do. I feel in my gut you two are perfect for each other. She’s a teacher.” Maddison looks at her watch.
“ I have to go. Hon please just think about calling her.” Maddison asks.
Mark nods and watches as his hope for love walks out the door.
Back at his apartment, Mark sits on the sofa with one lit lamp the rest of the place dark. He crumples up the piece of paper Maddison gave to him. He rubs his eyes rubbing the tears away, no matter how hard he wipes them away it doesn’t make the pain any less strong. Maddison is his future, the love and reason he wakes up every morning. He looks forward to their phone conversations and weekend brunches. Without Maddison he’s stuck in Stonesbrook Connecticut. A small, boring drab town. Alone.
Facing the long works weeks grueling away typing away as a writer for the local newspaper. Wondering why he spent thousands on University on a degree in Journalism. Only to find he’s withering away tediously writing the same subject matter on advertisement ads.
Without Madison he has no life. He sits there contemplating going to bed when it strikes him. Maddison is his way ‘out’ of having to face his loneliness. She’s not so much a good match as she is a good companion. Still his heart broken, rejected and tattered now.
The next morning Mark was typing up something at his cubicle on the latest fashion trend of ripped jeans when his boss taps him on the shoulder. He stops and turns around. “Hello Mrs. Chambers.” She nods in acknowledgment. “ Mark I have a new assignment for you.” Mark perks up at the word “new”.
“ It’s on a hot topic of conversation. A conversation Teachers are having to face daily at Savers Elementary school. I want you to go to Savers and talk to the students about any past experience you had or someone else had with being bullied.” She then hands him the outline of what to write but Marks frozen staring into space.
“Mark” she insists holding out the piece of paper. Mark takes it concerned.
“ So what do you think of the assignment?” She asks.
“Can someone else cover this?” Mark asks candidly.
“ why?” Mrs. Chambers furrows her brow in a scowl. “ I’m counting on you Mark.” She assures him.
But Mrs. Cham..” Mark starts to refuse but Mrs Chambers holds her palm out to stop him. “ End of discussion.”
He watches as she walks away feeling beside himself.
A moment of his youth then unveils itself flashing before his eyes.
He sees Nine year old Mark on the ground stomach flat on the pavement. Kids surrounding him after the little girl with dark brown pigtails had pushed him. The kids are laughing as she chants over and over “loser.”
The Image fades
Mark takes his thick rimmed glasses off and rubs his eyes, his body tense.
Savers Elementary being one of the largest Elementary Schools in Stonebrook Connecticut has students gathered in the Auditorium. All the students are younger ranging from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade. Mark walks through the entrance taking in a deep breath. He tries to push down the not so subtle ache, of a reminder ,of a past he chooses to now ignore.
The principal a tall, lanky looking hispanic man bald in his late forties approached the podium set up in the middle of the Auditorium. He tapped on it slightly to see if the microphone was on. The kids chatter shortly fell silent as he began to speak in a rich deep voice. His tone commanding.
"Good morning Students of Savers Elementary, Principal Rodney here, as you all know its anti bullying week here and its a very important topic of conversation and of interest here at the school. We all know what a bully is?" He looked around at the children’s faces. A lot of the kids whispered amongst each other and shrugged.
"Im sure we all know what a bully is." He assumed and continued.
" A bully is someone who will make you a victim of harmful words or physical abuse. Which is not tolerated at this school." Principal Rodney looked firmly into the crowd of students his tone sharp emphasizing on not tolerated! Mark began to feel queasy deep in his gut he knew his speech was coming soon. His palms sweating and his legs shaking. He suffers anxiety and the fear of public speaking he always has. HIs thoughts of focus drowned out the Principal and the rest of the Principals speech. "You can do this." He mutters under his breath over and over. A young woman’s voice then startles him out of his deep focus and he jumps slightly. He looks at her and sees she has a kind face and beautiful smile. Her short brown hair to her chin in a bob and sparkling blue eyes. "Hi Mr. Grohs, I'm Ms. Anderson the third grade teacher here" She introduces herself shaking his hand. "Ill be announcing you here shortly." Mark just nods feeling at any moment he could vomit. Ms.Anderson easily picking up on his demeanor, Smiles kindly at him. "Im sure you will do fine. You have a story to tell, nothing can go wrong with that right?" Mark looks into her blue eyes feeling more at ease and surprising at how intuitive she is. He watches as she walks over to the podium.
"Hi everybody." She says in a melodic tune. Mark feels suddenly enamored by this young woman. He kept now repeating the words she has just spoken only moments ago in his mind. "You have a story to tell."
"Here is a young man who once went here his name Mr. Gross, who will now tell you his story." The students snickered at the mention of his last name. She had mispronounced his last name. Mark turning all shades of red, walked shyly up to the podium and Ms. Anderson smiles apologetically at him. He smiles back at her in reassurance.
He looks out to all the faces sitting in the bleachers. All the young kids looking in anticipation of what he will say, well the younger children did. The older children looked bored, some looking away, others fidgeting in their seats. They look at him impatiently. He decides to focus on the young Kindergartners sitting in the very front row. The small kids, the youngest kids. He felt safer telling his story to them.
"Hi I'm Mark Grohs" correcting the annunciation that had just been butchered. "You know how everyone in the movies has a nemesis?" He saw some of the children nod. "You know Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker?. I had a nemesis and she was a bully to me." Like any story to tell a good one always starts at the beginning. So that's what Mark did he began at the very beginning.
It was all about Sarah the prettiest girl in the Third grade class. Mark didn't have any friends and sat every day alone in the cafeteria. He noticed Sarah was surrounded by many of his peers. She would occasionally toss behind her shoulder a dark braided pigtail.Her brown eyes sparkling each time she laughed. Her ears pierced with Teddy bear earrings and her cool arm bracelets of glitter. She was very popular, the most popular girl in his class. Mark wondered what it will be like to have that many friends sitting beside him. He felt the deep pit of loneliness tugging at his heart. He wanted to be the reason Sarah laughed.
Each day Mark sat alone eating his lunch out of his batman lunch box just staring at Sarahs table. It was the same routine Kids all sitting together and Sarah the center of it all. He started envisioning his place at the table beside Sarah. He pictured a world where he was included.
His mother a strong Christian woman cried every night after she thought Mark had gone to bed. Mark would lie awake listening to her sobs. The air was always so chilly in the house that not even his down comforter can keep him warm. His father had left years ago.
He started to only be able to drift to sleep if he shut his eyes and create a world. A world where Sarah and He would swing on the swings and will tell her one joke after the other making her double over in fits of laughter. In this world Sarah played Tetherball with him and Kickball in the street after school. She listened intently as he shared his bravery. How he fought off his alcoholic Father and told him to leave. She always loved the ending to how his now Cowardly father left the house with his suitcase packed. She also shows empathy as Mark tells her his mother's heart is broken because of it.
Mark felt comfort in his thoughts of escapism. In the world he has created the scenery takes on a different image. The walls in his house no longer drab but a more lighter off white that glistens in the suns rays. The house brighter and welcoming. With fresh flowers in a vase on the oak wood table in the kitchen. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.
This house is old but friendly inside. A house where He and Sarah can come and go as they please. Sarah no longer has to knock as the front door is always open.
One day reality struck Mark down back to the hard cold existence he is living in.
It was a typical Friday and at lunch Mark was sitting in his usual spot but something in him changed. Being no longer timid and shy he got up from the table and sat right down across from Sarah. He closed his eyes for a brief moment reveling in the fact his boldness just gave him the life he always dreamed about. That is until Sarah spoke. He looked at her moving her lips, gritting her teeth. The words came out slow as she snarled.
"No room for freaks!" She clambered. She then pushed his Batman lunch box off of the table, he watched as everything suddenly went into slow motion. The box along with its contents which is his food all fell onto the tiled floor. The thermos rolling around. He then hears the kids laughter as he bends down to pick it up.
Flabbergasted and beet red from embarrassment. Mark quickly picked up the lunchbox off of the floor. He then hurried away from the table where the kids were still laughing at him.
The rest of the day was a bad accident set in motion since lunch time. The kids snickered amongst themselves. Sarah Would glare at him if he snuck a glance over in her direction even sticking her tongue out.
On the car ride home Mark sat in the passenger seat quietly while his mom chattered
on about her trip to the beauty salon. How Nancy never could manage her tangled blonde curls. Mark didn’t care about Nancy about anything!
Reality was a cold fish slapping him dead in the face. Sarah would never be a buddy someone to escape reality with. Marks routine of coming home and microwaving himself a TV dinner while watching the five pm news after homework was all he had. Mark didn’t want to go outside and ride his bike if there was nobody to ride bikes with. Who would he play with outside? An imaginary friend he invented, even then those get boring. Your just basically talking to yourself.
Tears stung his eyes as he climbed into bed. He has hope maybe tomorrow will be better.
The problem with waiting for tomorrow to be better Mark soon realizes is it’s wishful thinking. Marks days at Safe Haven elementary were reserved for torment and ridicule.
Mark finished his story of why Sarah was trouble for him to the vast majority of the students listening.
“To put it simple Sarah was horrible, she was mean spirited, selfish, stuck up. Someone you didn’t want to be and yet felt sorry for. Thank you for listening.” The students gave a half enthusiastic applause. The principal Mr. Rodney took back the podium.
“Thank you Mark. I hope you all learned something today.”
Mark walked away in a daze of thoughts of a sunken nostalgia feeling of his youth leaving him bitter in the mouth.
This was a bad idea!
It has taken Mark so many years to forget about Sarah. Now she is brought back into his life. An apparition he hopes fades fast and soon.
He got home and sat at the kitchen table with a beer. A celebratory beer for speaking up about his awful childhood.
At work the next morning he stares at a blank word document on his computer. He starts typing away, in a moment of inspiration that suddenly takes over him. His fingers are flying as they barely touch the letters on the keyboard. He writes, every nitty gritty detail of the events that had occurred. He leaves out the pain and frustration. He leaves out the anger and the rage that rattles his bones growing up with the memories. How each moment of his soul chained to each event gnawing at his brain. Twisted, distorted rage fueled kept inside thoughts he never could unleash. No, he stays silent as if he’s third party not victim. The article comes out informative, it depicts what bullies do looking at it from an outside perspective. The article is crap! He knows though he can’t open the flood gates because once he opens them there’s no going back.
He puts the article on his bosses desk. At home opens up a celebratory beer. Just a child still, he feels as if he never truly grew up. He’s repressed and stunted as if he’s back to being nine years old. He never did get closure on that chapter of his life. So he is still there, trapped in that period of time, even now, in the present.
He hates with such a burning. The hatred feeds his fire, he hates Sarah, her long dark hair, puppy dog brown eyes, her skinny frame, pale skin, her voice. He hates nine year old Sarah. What she’s like today? He has no clue.