That summer, Mac and I got jobs together at a fast food joint. We needed cash.
Abby was hard into the college search already, plus she was getting two allowances, one from each parent, at this point. So she would hang out at the restaurant, and we would eat or hang out with her on breaks and when it was really slow. It was a pretty idyllic summer.
I wasn’t really friends with Luke and those guys much by this point. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them; I actually missed them a lot. But they still didn’t really like Mac, and I was spending so much time with him. I was one of the best kids on our basketball team, so I was still fairly popular, and Abby won homecoming queen every year so she always had those friends. But we spent a huge chunk of time just the three of us.
We would spend the evenings fishing at this pond I’d found a couple years back, and we would lay on the bank and watch the stars. Abby was always beautiful, but she was something else in the moonlight laying in the grass like that.
We went to the state fair that summer, and the county fair.
Sometimes I had to tactfully tell Mac that me and Abby were going to go on a date, just the two of us, or else he would just tag along. We got really used to him being there, but we needed our space sometimes. He really didn’t have any other friends that I knew of.
Things stayed pretty much the same once the school year started. Abby helped us with college applications, and we all applied early decision to the same school. It was kind of sad, really, because we knew we would all get in but Mac couldn’t afford it. His parents wouldn’t pay for it, and he didn’t want to take out a loan and knew he didn’t have the grades for a scholarship. But Abby told him he had to at least apply and he could figure it out when he heard back, so he did.
We found out in December; all three of us got in. So did a lot of kids from school. We were all pretty excited about it.
I got really stressed out around this time, because Christmas, me and Abby’s two-year anniversary, and Valentine’s Day were all coming up, one after the other, and I had really bad anxiety about gift giving. Mac had told me to make her something for Christmas since that was supposed to be more heartfelt, so I’d decided to go to one of those paint-your-own-pottery places and make her a mug. She was really getting into tea at this point, so I thought she would like it.
It wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. I had always been fairly good at drawing, and it turned out I wasn’t half bad at painting either. You have to leave the pottery there for a few days or so to get fired in the kiln, so I left it and headed to Abby’s. The three of us were supposed to be going to a movie that night as a Christmas Break celebration, but I was early. I had told Abby that I was covering a shift for someone at work so she didn’t get suspicious, but I headed there anyways because I didn’t feel like going home first.
Mac’s car was in the driveway, which was weird. As close as the three of us were, Abby was fiercely private about her family since the divorce, and Mac had never been inside Abby’s house as far as I knew. I knocked on the door and Abby answered. She was thrown off because I was early. It felt like I was in the way, and I assumed they were making something for me for Christmas and I’d intruded.
We went to the movie, but Abby was really tired after, so I took her home and Mac and I went back to my place and played video games. He slept over that night.
It all went down two nights later. Christmas Eve eve. I was at a dinner at my Aunt Kim’s with my family since we usually go up to my grandparents’ for Christmas Day.
I called Abby per usual when I got home that night, but she didn’t answer. It was pretty late, so I assumed she was already in bed and left a message.
I texted her when I woke up the next morning. I was supposed to go over there that night for Christmas Eve at her dad’s. My mom was downstairs doing last minute wrapping for our cousins, so I went down and helped her. Abby hadn’t answered me by two that afternoon, so I called to try to figure out plans. She didn’t answer; I left a message and called Mac to see if he had heard from her. He didn’t answer either.
I called her several more times that afternoon. At six, I finally just went over to her house. At that point, I was mostly worried that her family would think I was standing them up, but I also was pretty concerned about why she wasn’t answering my calls. I started thinking through every reason she could be mad at me.
Nobody answered my knock immediately, and I got really nervous, thinking how presumptuous it was to interrupt a family’s Christmas Eve when I hadn’t been officially invited, even though I had. Abby’s dad eventually answered. He seemed really relieved to see me, and let me in. It was really quiet in the house, and none of the Christmas lights were on, I remember that really distinctly.
I asked if Abby was around and he looked at me kind of strangely, then sat me down in the living room.
“Where were you last night, buddy?” Her dad had always liked me, I think, because I took good care of her when he was getting divorced. It was a lighthearted question, and I wasn’t sure what his tone was, but I got really nervous then. I told him and he just looked at me really sadly for a long time.
“Something happened last night, Wells. Abby’s not feeling so great right now. I think it might be better if you waited until she was ready to talk.”
My whole world was spinning. I didn’t know what he meant, what was going on, but for a second I had thought that Abby might be dead so I was immensely relieved, too.
I don’t even think I said anything back, just stood up and left. I was really confused and concerned. I wanted to see Abby, but I couldn’t process that until I had already left. I called her again, but then thought I shouldn’t so hung up mid-ring.
I called Mac, hoping he might know something, but he didn’t answer again.
I went home. My mom was a little surprised to see me back so soon, but we went on and had family Christmas Eve and I kind of forgot about it, but I kept checking my phone.
Abby finally texted me the next morning. Really short, just: “Merry Christmas. I’ll call you tomorrow. Don’t worry.”
She never called, but she did text me and tell me to come over. It was the 26th of December.
I showed up at her house, and her dad let me in again. He was really sad.
I went upstairs to Abby’s room. All that time I’d been dating her, and I’d only been in her room a handful of times. She was in bed, just a blur under the covers. I sat down by her feet.
She didn’t answer, but all of the sudden I could hear her crying.
“Abby? What’s wrong? What’s going on?” I was getting choked up. I just didn’t understand what was happening at all. “Abby?”
I said her name probably four hundred times, but she just kept crying, real quiet. I got closer and closer to her, finally reaching through the covers to pull her hair back from her eyes. She squeezed her eyelids shut, the tears eking out beneath them.
“Abby, please,” I whispered, my face mere inches from hers.
She opened her eyes and looked me dead in mine. She mouthed it, “He raped me,” no sound at all escaping, shut her eyes and pulled away from my hand on her cheek.
I froze, in shock, mouth opening and closing like a fish. I finally felt her dad’s presence in the doorway and looked at him. He was watching me, but watching Abby mostly. He tilted his head to indicate to come out into the hallway, so I did, leaving Abby, numb.
“I’ll keep you updated, Wells, but I think you should go home now. We’ve got this under control. Abby will let you know if she wants you.”
About two weeks later, her dad called me and told me to come over. School had started back up again, but Abby hadn’t been back.
I knocked; her dad let me in. Abby was sitting on the couch in the living room, wrapped in a blanket. I didn’t know what to do or say or where to sit. I sat in the chair opposite her.
Methodical, like a robot, with no introduction or segue or “how have you been?” she launched into the story. How the night I’d painted the mug, he’d shown up unexpected and been pretty forceful but I’d shown up and diffused the situation and she hadn’t said anything because she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and she knew we were good friends, but then he’d shown up that night, Christmas Eve eve, and there had been no one to interrupt and by the time her dad got home from work late that night it was too late.
When she was done, her dad left the room and I moved over on to the couch, scared to get too close but wanting desperately for her to smile at me or let me hold her hand or anything.
She looked at me for a split second then looked away. “I’m going to go to my aunt’s in Oregon.” Her voice was so flat.
“Okay,” I said lamely. She didn’t say anything for a long time, so I finally said, “What should I do, Abby? What do you want me to do?”
Her lower lip trembled. “Go home,” she whispered so quietly I had to read her lips.
It felt like my whole world was falling apart all over again and I was desperately trying to stick the pieces back together but they were crumbling like sand in my fingers. “So that’s it? Just go home?” I didn’t want to get angry but I heard it creeping into my voice, masking my complete confusion, incomprehension, desperation, frustration, that huge empty feeling that was welling up inside me.
She just closed her eyes.
I got up and walked towards the door. “I love you, Abby,” I said to her before I left.
I went immediately to Mac’s. I banged on his door for a full five minutes before his brother finally opened it, half naked and piss angry. He said Mac wasn’t there but wouldn’t say where he was so I left, drove way too fast home, went up to my room and flung the mug at the wall, feeling my diaphragm finally release as the pieces shattered.
My mom came in, scared by the noise, but I calmed her and shut the door and cried and screamed into my pillow and just didn’t know what to do.
I graduated that June without either of them.
Abby wrote me a letter after she’d been in Oregon for a while and said basically that she was sorry, she knew it wasn’t my fault, but she just couldn’t be in a relationship right now. She said even thinking of my face made her think of Mac’s and she just couldn’t handle it, not then.
I never saw Mac again. I don’t know where he went, and I don’t really care.
I had a lot of anger that semester. I channeled it into the back end of basketball season and ended up getting a scholarship. I wrote Abby and told her I was transferring schools to play and didn’t hear back.
We met up over freshman year winter break. In a moment of rare courage, I texted her and she agreed to meet me at a coffee shop.
She was a different person. A little quieter, but still beautiful, still kind, still Abby. Maybe it was me who was different. We spent a lot of time just looking at each other, shared all of the small talk about how college was going so far, yada yada. She smiled at me over her coffee and her smile was honest and raw and sad and proud. She was proud of me.
“I love you, Abby,” I said, right before we left. She just smiled, waved, got in her car, and drove off.
I went home and took a box off of the top shelf of my closet. Carefully, I sifted through all of the pieces, delicately gluing them back together, until the shape of a mug emerged, riddled with tiny holes of missing shards that made it effectively useless.
I got in my car and took it out to the pond we spent so much time at that summer, where Abby’s face was everywhere, in the trees and the moon and the grass and the water, threw it as hard as could into the center of the pond, and watched the ripples until the sun went down.