Chapter 5: Going Back
Jude Taylor looked down that path, with its overhanging branches. The leaves had just began to brown and little crunchies scattered themselves along the floor of the tunnel. The sun was just perching in the sky and peeked through a hole here and there to light up the path just enough to see a 30 yards into it.
It was nearing the half hour; there was no way he’d make it to Isabella. He imagined her sitting there alone, eating a turkey club and chatting with Martha. Martha had to be gossiping about the happenings in the small town, giving her an earful. And Jude, he was getting ready to take a path that he hadn’t taken alone in ten years by himself. He had left that place and decided to never set foot in it again, except for once a year, every year, with the others. Now, he had to go back on his decision.
He put a foot on one of the crunchy bits, then another. He felt a longing, a deeper purpose for this trip back into the mouth of Hell, like there was some cosmically imbalanced screw up that sent him here this very day. It could’ve been destiny. It could’ve been mother Universe. Or it could’ve been God telling him that he had to face this, and he had to do it alone, and he had to do it on a sunny day in October.
Another crunch. But why?
He ran through the scenarios in his head. There would be a couple cooped up in the there for a romantic weekend, and they would let him use their cell phone. There would be no couple there, and he would have to learn how to pick a lock, hope for a working phone, and pray that someone would pick him up. The former definitely outweighed the latter.
Another crunch. Another. Crunch. Crunch.
He picked up his steps as he made it farther into the darkness. Getting to Isabella Adriana Moretti-Jones was now his priority. Crunch, crunch. He could see the light, where the yard opens up past the dark driveway. He could see the faint image of the Tater Creek Cabin. It was almost sweet. It was almost breathtaking. But it was mostly heart-pounding and uncontrollable breathing, with the nervous look of a 13 year old boy making his move towards a first kiss, or a 14 year old moving his first hand between the area where fabric meets skin. Jude could sense all of those feeling coming back, the pain, the heartache, the joy, the pleasure.
Light. Crunch. Crunch.
The Tater Creek Cabin was still as beautiful as it had been last year, and every other year for the past 10 years. Most importantly, it was as awe-inspiring as it had been the day after his senior graduation party in the May of 1996. That was the last time he had ever set foot in that yard by himself, and there he was, looking up at all its beauty.
The cabin itself stood a might two stories, and had a basement underneath. It had been built in the late summer of 1945, by Marshall Creek returning from World War II. And Marshall was a master craftsman, by looking at the glorious carpentry he snapped together in this cubby hole beyond the darkness of the arching trees. The porch, lined with waist high railing, ran across the entirety of the front side of the cabin, with steps on the front and both sides. Four pillars held the ceiling overhead. The windows were carved symmetrically, two to a side of the door on the first and second floors. The roof of the front porch served as a balcony for the top floor, where many drunken teen boys had undoubtedly played out pissing competitions, probably not rallied on by the shocked ground floorers. Set behind the cabin itself was Tater Creek. The creek opening up in a small swimming hole just behind the northeast corner was shaded by the trees that hang low over it.
There were no cars parked in the driveway. What a waste of a walk. Why? On all days? He tried the front knob. Not even a centimeter loose to either side. He started down the porch to the side of the cabin. Maybe the back was unlocked. Turning the corner, he stopped. There it was, that spot. The pain and the heartache lie there. His confession of love died there.
Jude could remember the day after his love had been slain. He came back to that cabin for the last time he would ever come back to that cabin alone, and now he had to come back once more. He had to come back, even if he had promised himself that he couldn’t lay his eyes on that spot ever again. Some uncontrollable force had drove him there that day 10 years ago, and it was doing the same now.
That force took his hands ten years ago, stole away with the letters from Isabella Adriana Moretti, and took him here. Those letters were taken from his precious Skittles box, with its sharp corners and its bright colors, with its scent of the rainbow. Destiny took hold of him, a shovel, and one of his mother’s food containers. Jude Taylor’s arms dug a one foot deep hole and placed the letters, inside there plastic container, into it. Then, lighting a Marlboro, he finished the job. He covered up that part of his life, and told himself that he could never go back, even if he was still in love with her.
Now, standing over that spot, eight steps down the side of the house and three steps away from it, he was pondering digging them out. He had not thought of it since that day he buried them, not even on those once a year trips to the cabin with the others. He now had time to contemplate it. Why not do it? They mean nothing now. It’s all in the past. What could it hurt? He ran over the possibility again and again and again.
It was now 10:47. He was forty seven minutes late for his meeting, and he was about to dig out a piece of clear plastic with a red lid. Jude looked around for something to dig the dirt with, finding nothing. He had thought about it too much now; he had to get into that food storage unit. His tie quickly became loose as he ripped it from it neck. Sitting down on his knees, he began clawing at the grass that had grown over, clawing like a lunatic claws for things that aren’t actually there.
This was becoming a chore already. Jude had barely broke ground. Reaching into his pocket, he realized he had left them in the car. He had to get one. The nicotine craving had grown beyond just want, it had transformed into need. Getting up, the twenty seven year old took off running. He ran around the corner of the house, through the front yard, down the hanging arches (forgetting all about his previous fear of their gloom), all the way to his car.
It sat there, at the end of the driveway at an angle, just enough path left open for an incoming car. He reached into the glove compartment after swinging open the door with a madman’s fury, and grabbed the pack, and lit up. He was sweating now. He had forgotten all about making it to his meeting with Isabella. He had given up on the thought altogether, figuring he would end up walking home anyway.
Starting to walk back, he almost didn’t think of an obvious solution to his problem with dirt that had began to grow hard. That lug nut taking off thing, whatever it was called. He knew he could change tires with it. He quickly grabbed it from the trunk and headed back down that dark path blowing smoke back into its face.
The hole dug up easily enough, well, it came undone better than it would have had Jude been bare handing it. He reached into that incision and dusted the brown off the container. It seemed not to have aged; it was just dirty. He lit another cigarette before prying to lid off, and there it was right on top. He had left that letter there, purposely, for the person who happened to find this one day in the far off future. He left it there to let them know he had once been loved. A girl once loved him, and he screwed it up.
He peeled back the browning paper and began to reminisce.
I have to talk to you, mostly about us. Trust me, you and Angela will not work out. I know this because I know you belong with me. You always have. I never realized it before. I thought you just had an infatuation with me, and I denied you, I denied us love. The other night at Tim’s party my eyes finally opened up and realized that you are the one.
The guy I was looking for wasn’t Joey, Derrick, or whoever else I thought I belonged with before. Jude I know that deep down in my heart it’s you that I’m looking for. And I think somewhere inside of you, you have the same feelings for me. I also know that you really like Angela, but I know you don’t love her, and she’s really not your type. After the party, when we sat on the porch swing together, that’s where I want to be in 50 years. I want to sit on a swing, like that, with you watching our grandchildren grow up. If you don’t think that I’m the one for you, then you’ll see one day and I just hope it’s not too late.
With Angela, to her you’re just a crush. She enjoys the attention of an older guy. But, I don’t see you that way, for obvious reasons, we are the same age, but also for more than that. When I look at you, I see us. You probably think this letter means nothing, but I’m serious when I say that we belong together.
I want you to be the one I grow old with. I want you to be the father of my children. No other girl knows you as I do. I just wanted to let you know how I really felt.
I Will Always Love You,
He laughed at the letter. Only a year later, he professed his undying love and she denied him. High school girls, there feelings changed like the weather. He thought it was too bad he never really took her up on her offer. Things could have been so different. Life could have been very different. Why couldn’t he see it then? Why had he been so blind to her love? That high school girl’s feelings did not change overnight. He knew she cried when he told her that he was with Angela at the moment. He knew she wrapped her face in her pillow at home and screamed with pain. She had poured her heart out to him, and he did not accept it.
Her feelings had not changed that year because that is what high school girl’s feeling done, she could not love him. Or she refused to love him. Or did she really not know what love meant? Or didn’t know it’s meaning anymore? Had he been the true cause of her not knowing the meaning of love? He ran through the questions. They had never talked about it, not truly talked. They made references to the letter and his confession of the following year over coffee during their yearly meetings. However, they never touched on the subject fully. They both thought it was too touchy of a subject to bring up. Therefore, they never did.
He crushed his Marlboro into the dirt beside the freshly dug hole. Reaching into his pocket and pulling out the pack, another was lit. Running his hand to the bottom of the container, he grabbed a random piece of paper and began to read.