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One Last Gift (Chapter Five)

Almost two weeks passed since that night, and Chase’s coworkers filled him in on all that they knew about Sara. In the end, he decided against seeing her as he knew not many would probably approve of it. It’s not often that he lets the opinion of others dictate who he spends his time with. After all, there were a few who did not like Amy at first but she quickly won them over after meeting them. Yet the idea of connecting with someone certainly popped into his mind since that night out with his coworkers. Before Amy came along in his life, Chase struggled in finding the “right kind of girl”. No, he never pursued the ones who were clearly wrong for him. Rather it was always one common denominator that each of those wonderful femme fatales had in common: personality.

See Chase was a tall, handsome fella who was smart, but he never used it to take advantage like some of the other guys he knew would back in college. Those guys would barely get by in their classes, and not care about life after. They figured they would get some boring, office job that would pay well while they chased skirts. Not Chase. He had goals, and he wanted to become someone; for there was no one before in his family to make it. Some may call it a burden, while others motivation; both would be correct in his eyes. Before meeting Amy, Chase was so focused on school and his future career. He never thought about life of fun and adventure. To him, they were only dreams to be realized late in life. Of course, there were dates here and there, but again many weren’t his ideal match. And if it wasn’t a woman who wasn’t a good match, there were the 21 year old party girls trying to get him into trouble, the 40 and 50 year old women trying to feel young again, the recently divorced/still married women trying to find a guy who will show them attention, and the ones who had personal problems thinking a relationship would fix everything; all these Chase had to run away from. Whereas other guys may have jumped right into some of those beds, he knew it’s not who he was.

After getting stood up on a first date, one autumn Saturday afternoon, he finally did something one wouldn’t expect from him: he gave up hope. He truly thought he was cursed, that this is what is best for him. This was when he tried freezing that little heart of his. . . And then I came along. Amy laughed as she reflected back on how they first met, as she resumed keeping an eye on her former boyfriend after spending time seeing her family. He was at work, briefly chatting with Melanie at their desks. “I remember that look Chase, you dork.”, Amy said excitedly. Ah, the look as if you really, really, really enjoy seeing that person but you have to play it cool so you act dull to not give it away. That was the same look you gave me in our anatomy & physiology class.

It was in an auditorium-style room, and the room was empty except for a certain nerd who always gets to class early. He sat on one end of a row, because he hates feeling cramped in the middle and likes getting out without bumping into other classmates. I got to class early, because Lauren had to go to Financial Aid to take care of some paperwork and I had to go familiarize myself with the Science Hall. I hardly was ever in that building before, and I had a bad experience before getting lost on campus; only to arrive to class with only 15 minutes left. So I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again, and I’m glad I did. When I got there, I saw him by himself and yet I sat all the way across the row from him. I thought it would be weird to sit next to him, a stranger at the time, in a huge empty auditorium with so many other seats available. But before class, and during, I remember that same look as if it were yesterday. I thought he was cute, and it was about 6 months since my last boyfriend. At the time, I felt I just wanted to focus on school and not deal with relationships. Yet this guy had the “boy next door” vibe about him that made me feel I should at least talk to him, or I might end up regretting it.

So two days later, I had to tell Lauren that I couldn’t stay late at lunch with her and Sophie. “Seriously?! It’s the second day of class! It’s anatomy!!”, Lauren said as she tried convincing her friend to stay. “Yeah, but I have to get there early”, Amy responded. “There’s a guy in that class you like, isn’t there?”, Sophie chimed in, “You wouldn’t be going to class early for any other reason”. As Lauren gasped that her friend might be interested in a guy, Amy tried hiding a smile, grabbed her backpack and quickly said goodbye. When she arrived at the auditorium, there he was in his usual spot. He smiled at me when I walked in, thinking it would be a repeat of first class; not today sir. And as I started making my way down the row towards him, I could see him watching me in his peripheral view. He always told me he didn’t notice me coming to sit next to him, but he was so bad at lying about things like that. As I pulled out the chair next to him I said, “Hey! How are you today?”. And the rest was sort of history.

Given that this was around the time he gave up attempting dating and relationships, I knew what he was going through. And I couldn’t force him to go out with me, so we started out as friends. When I think about it, it probably was the best thing I ever did because I got to know him as a person first rather than just jump straight into intimacy. I got to see a lot of different sides to him, grow from there and soon I developed feelings for him. “You’re not the only one who missed those memories, Chase”, Amy thought to herself. But her flashback came to a pause, as she noticed him and Melanie chatting some more. “It’s been that long since you have gone?!”, the small town girl exclaimed, “That’s it, you have to join us!”. Chase laughed in embarrassment, “I’ll think about it! The last time I went swimming almost didn’t go so well”.

They were discussing going to the river, one town over, and relaxing there for a weekend afternoon. Melanie was telling Chase that her and some friends were going to swim and have some fun, since the weather’s been hot for some time. He told her that the last time he was near a body of water, he almost drowned and no one noticed it happening. “It won’t happen this time! I’ll keep a good eye on you”, she playfully suggested. “We’ll see. I might have to run a few errands beforehand, so if I go I might be a bit late”, he coyishly responded. “I know where you work, sir, so if you don’t go I will find you and make you pay”, Melanie tried saying in a serious manner as she kept a smile hidden. Later that day, before heading home, Chase noticed some of his paperwork fell to the floor. “Must’ve been the air conditioning, I guess”, he concluded. As he was picking up the papers, he came across a well-known sports ad that simply said “Just Do It.” and he couldn’t help but smile thinking maybe he should go out with Melanie and her friends. He’s been busy with this project at work, and so maybe a cool day by the river wouldn’t be so bad; by the river though, as he wasn’t sure he was ready to swim.

Saturday afternoon arrived, and Melanie was already at the river with Hailey, Carla, Shane, and Alexis; some of her other friends she has known for a while. “Hey, so is your friend from work coming?”, Carla asked. “I’m not sure. He said he would be late, as he had to tend to something first”, Melanie replied. “Well, Shane forgot some things as well so I think we might have enough time to make a quick run to the store!”, Hailey chimed in. Melanie agreed, and asked Shane, Hailey and Carla to pick up some extra things while they were out. “I’m going to go use the restroom and change Mel”, Alexis said, “Ugh, I wish they weren’t so far away from this river!” Melanie laughed in agreement, but told her friend that she would keep an eye on everyone’s belongings. As Alexis ran off, Melanie decided she would at least put the kayaks into the water. “I can’t wait to get this party started”, she said to herself, “Hopefully Chase can make it out here”. One kayak already in the water, she went and got the other one. But on her way back, Melanie slipped on a small puddle of water that made it’s way onto the boardwalk. As she fell into the river, the kayak she was bringing with her, slid into the water as well; hitting her head first. Passing out, Melanie couldn’t use her swimming expertise to crawl to the surface. She could feel herself falling further into the river, and drifting with it’s slow current. And then everything started fading into black. . .

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