Authors: Cindy Migeot
Back To You
A novel by
This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Darlene Mettler, an inspirational professor who went way above and beyond her duty. She held my hand, dried my tears, lifted me up and gave me the cou
rage to follow my dreams. There are no words to express my gratitude for the gifts she bestowed on me. May she look down on me with pride (and her red pen ready).
I had not seen him in a long time. The last time I saw him was the day before my daughter was born thirteen years ago. We left with a hug and a promise to see each other again. So what happened to that amazing relationship? I wish I knew. What I did know was that not one single person had affected my life as much as he had. I could still feel the power of his touch as my mind swirled with the memory of our first kiss. Sometimes I wondered if anyone could understand the connection we shared. I didn’t even understand it, I just knew it existed. It wasn’t anything I could explain. It was just something I felt deeper in my soul than any other emotion. Except for the love I had for my daughter.
I convinced him to come to the high school reunion. I wo
ndered if I would still feel that tingling sensation when I saw him again. Probably. Love like ours didn’t just fade away as easily as a crush does. Sure, everyone remembers their first love. The teenage crush. The crush that when it ended felt like the world was coming to an end. Well, at the time, we thought it was life-ending. After a few years, most people could look back and wonder why they ever thought they were in love in the first place. But this one was different. The emotion hadn’t faded into fond memories. Instead, it morphed throughout time and brought us together over and over again.
Some might call us soul mates. However, I believed that sometimes soul mates are not destined to be together forever as many fiction writers would have you believe. I also believe that does not diminish the power of knowing someone on such a deep level, you can actually feel their thoughts. This was how it was with him. I was still curious to know if that bond would last our lifetime.
I was a single mom with a decent career. I yearned to find someone to grow old with. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a woman with a few extra pounds that would never completely go away. That was okay though. I had learned to appreciate who I really was and not how I looked. My hair used to be light blonde, but had gotten darker with the years. Recently, I had noticed a few extremely blonde (white) hairs growing not just from my scalp, but my eyebrows too. The way I figured it, it will be naturally white again someday. My eyes had a glint in them that made people wonder what I was thinking. My skin was beautiful and ageless thanks to great genes and a little bit of bottled youth. But it was my smile that attracted people the most. It was big and genuine and spread to my entire face. I was not a tall woman and clocked in at 5’2”. I only grumbled about my lack of height when I had to haul out a stool or ladder to reach something in the top shelves of the kitchen or closets.
Most people did not think I had lived the life I had. Life had dealt some pretty nasty blows to me, but I always managed to pick myself up and move forward. Some days were harder than others, but I did it. Even at my worst, I found the strength to face my cha
llenges with my head held high and determination that would choke a mule. My dad once said to me, “God will never give you any more than you can handle.” Most of the time I just wished I had a lot less to handle, but I took it as a personal challenge. I took my blows and learned from them, hoping maybe I could help someone else with that knowledge.
There had been very few times in my life when I just wanted to curl up in someone’s arms and forget I had respons
ibilities. There had been even fewer people whose arms I wanted to lose myself in. And there had been only one that held me in a perfect fit. I longed for that feeling of being completely safe and loved, losing myself in the comfort of an embrace. Oh to be able to forget the world existed for just one moment. Yes, I had tried to find that in others. But the perfect fit belonged to only one man. And he was due to arrive soon.
High School. Ugh. Why on earth would people want to reminisce about the most awkward, horrible, acne-filled days of your life? OK, it was only the first day, but still. Ugh. Double ugh.
I woke up early that morning, thinking that if I could get a head start on getting ready for this momentous occasion, ma
ybe, just maybe, I would be ready to face it head on. I ate my cereal as my curling iron heated up, hoping and praying I could get my wild hair under control. Impossible, but I had to try. After carefully applying a rainbow of colors and black eyeliner to my eyes and being careful to ensure there was no make-up line on my jaw, I finally swept my hair up in a barrette, got the pouf just right, sprayed it like crazy and grabbed my backpack. One last look in the mirror confirmed that I would never truly be able to tame the crazy mass of blonde hair into anything like the popular girls were wearing. Short and spiky? Perms? Not with a million cowlicks and hair that hasn’t decided if it wants to be curly or not. My hair certainly didn’t lay straight and silky down my back. Just getting it to feather on the sides was a task in itself.
The only things I did like in my reflection were my eyes. I had this mixture of colors that changed with my mood or my outfit. Sometimes grey, sometimes blue, sometimes a little green (not enough for my taste). Most of the time they were just stuck som
ewhere in between. Kinda like me. I blew a kiss to myself for good luck. OK, enough mirror gazing! I had a bus to catch.
August in Southern Louisiana was not exactly my favo
rite place. The high was supposed to be ninety-eight degrees. I think it had already reached over eighty and the humidity was insane! It seemed like every time I would breathe in, I could feel the humidity condensing and dripping inside my lungs. I had lived there for two years and still hadn’t gotten used to it. Probably never would. Not that I planned to stay in that hellhole any longer than I had to.
I admit that there was something exciting about the first day of school. Maybe it sounded crazy, but I loved the smell of fresh loose-leaf paper and the sound of a new pack of pens ra
ttling around in my backpack. The fun of taking the tags off of a new set of clothes and breaking in new shoes all added to the early morning jitters of starting a new school year. But I felt dread as well. That gnawing pit in my stomach that beckoned me to fake a fever so I could stay home. Call it intuition. Call it learning from experience. Call it straight up fear and loathing. Call it whatever you want. I still felt sick to my stomach. This was high school.
In my short fourteen years, life had a way of doling out unpleasant surprises and forcing me to accept the inevitable. I wasn’t going down without a fight though. Not me. I didn’t give up easily. I had survived the mean and vengeful divorce of my parents, my dad moving back to California, my mom marr
ying a mean drunk and moving us to this God forsaken place, and cruel ridicule from my peers for whatever reason mean kids can find.
I didn’t think I would ever understand why some kids loved to hate me, but it was a curse that had followed me for a few years. I guess I was just a little too odd for others to allow me into the “clique’s”. I read too much. I thought too much. I was a little too smart and a little too goofy and maybe a little too nice. And a little too shy for my own good. I had never had money, never been the prettiest girl in class (especially before the braces) and certainly ne
ver had any self-esteem. Honestly, I had always enjoyed being around adults than I liked being around people my own age. I felt better about myself and could relate better to adults. People my age, especially girls, made me feel so inferior for some stupid reason. If I could have changed one thing about me, it would have been to make myself fit in better. Then again, as much as I wanted to fit in, I also wanted to be me and not some clone. It was a real struggle.
“Here comes the bus. Deep breath in. Don’t forget to breathe out. Put the smile in place. Fake it ‘til you make it baby. You can do this.” I told myself.
Hammond, Louisiana was not a very big city. In the two years I had been there, I had made some good friends. Reneigh was smart, nice, tall, blonde, green-eyed and beautiful. Donna was different. She wasn’t the top of the class, she didn’t have money, and she was really goofy and cute. She had brown hair and brown eyes and a laugh that came from deep inside. The three of us were inseparable in middle school. I didn’t know how I would have survived moving to a new place if I hadn’t met them! I had met a lot of people, but none of them were like Reneigh and Donna.
Neither Reneigh nor Donna rode my bus, but I knew a few girls I could talk to. The bus arrived and was loud and full of excited energy. This was an entirely different experience than middle school! I could tell the freshmen from the rest of the st
udents on the bus. We all had this excited but scared look on our faces. We embraced the smiles of those we knew on the bus like moths to flames. The girls were all worried about their makeup smearing in the heat. The guys were showing off and trying to look impressive. In the midst of all of this, my stomach still flipped as I nervously tapped my foot to a Culture Club song on the radio.
“Hey Suzy! So are you ready for Mrs. Laurent’s class? I heard she was really tough.” Tracy asked from across the aisle.
“I guess,” I replied. “I didn’t sign up for the college prep class because I heard she was a real bitch. But I got into her third period class anyway.”
Tracy was a friend from middle school. She had red hair and a million freckles. One of her good friends used to hate me. Su
pposedly she was jealous because I had bigger boobs and the guys looked at me more, but who knows? “I have her second period. Ugh! I will tell you how it goes when I see you in the hall.”
“Did you get Mrs. Cole for algebra?” I asked.
“Yep. I sure hope she is good at explaining like Mr. Hart was. He was tough, but at least he helped when I didn’t get it.”
My stomach flopped at the idea of “not getting it”. I had always been a good student. Too good according to some pe
ople. You might say I was a perfectionist. Understatement. I had this huge fear of failure. I couldn’t bear to miss a question on a test or feel lost when learning something new. Once, my elementary school teacher gave me a “minus” in handwriting. I freaked! I sat and practiced writing for hours at home after my homework was done. After that, I wrote pretty neatly for a left-hander. I blame my dad for the perfectionist part. He was as hard on himself as much as he was on us kids. My sisters Andrea and Kim were not quite as good in school as I was, but it still didn’t seem to be good enough for him. In eighth grade I got all A’s and one B on my report card, and do you know what he said?
“What class did you get the B in? Why did you get a B?”
My stepmother really fussed at him about that. But the damage was done, and I worked like crazy until I got the grade up to an A. My dad loved me, but sometimes I thought he expected too much. Which, of course, made me expect too much. And this didn’t apply to academics alone, but to everything in my life. Socially, intellectually, you name it, I wanted to be perfect. Because if I was perfect, then no one would have any reason to hate me or laugh at me or make me feel stupid and unwanted.
There it was. Hammond High School. The building was old. The students outgrew it so they added “the annex”. I wasn’t looking forward to the walk to my classes in the annex, especially in the rain. The walkway was covered, but it didn’t matter because when it rained, the rain came in sideways. It rained a lot in Ha
mmond. The building I dreaded the most was the gym. If a sport required a ball, I was NOT good at it. Period. Ice skating, gymnastics, maybe. But nothing with a ball.
Time to get off the bus and face the day. “Breathe, S
uzy,” I told myself. “In and out. Smile and pretend this doesn’t make you want to crawl back in bed.” And so it began.
He had finally made it to high school. There were so many people here that he had gone to school with his entire life, but at Hammond High, they weren’t in their Catholic school uniforms. It felt great to be there wearing blue jeans and a normal shirt. He just couldn’t believe how different everyone looked.
And look at how many new faces are here.
He didn’t know too many people outside of Holy Cross. He had always been too shy to get out and do much.
Maybe now . . . A new beginning. A chance to break out of my shell. A chance to meet people who went to other middle schools. A chance to play sports. A chance to have a girlfriend. A real girlfriend. A girl who “gets” me. Not that I even “get” me.
Jack was an only child to loving but suffocating parents. That didn’t help him much in the social department. He never had to share anything. He always got what he wanted. Life was easy, or it should have been. Unfortunately, so far he hadn’t been challenged enough to know. He honestly didn’t know who
he was because no one had made him take a long, hard look. Most people wouldn’t think that would bother him, but it did. Sure, he had friends, but he felt so different from them. Could he goof off and act like a total idiot like they did? Absolutely! But he also spent a lot of time to himself, thinking. The guys around there grew up breathing football, learning that being macho was superior to being sensitive.
What was wrong with being sensitive? Truthfully, it was a fast track ticket to getting the hell beaten out of you, to being teased incessantly, and to being left out.
Being sensitive was a huge part of who Jack was, but he couldn’t show that side of himself. So he withdrew and kept to himself a lot. And watched a lot of football.
Girls were just as bad as the guys were. Always gi
ggling and worrying about makeup and hair. They could be mean too. Middle school was torture when it came to trying to understand them. If they hit you, it meant they liked you. Or not. They stuck together like glue, but lamented about guys not asking them to “go out”. Yeah, like a guy was brave enough to approach one girl, let alone a whole gaggle of them! Jack prayed and prayed that high school would be different. Maybe someone who wasn’t so shallow and boy crazy would come along. Someone like Beth Anne McGee. He’d had a crush on her since seventh grade. She was beautiful. Curly black hair, chocolate brown eyes, and a cute mole on her left cheek near her mouth. Oh her mouth. He had dreamed many nights about kissing those lips. Her smile made him weak in the knees. She had never really looked at him. Not like she
him. She was kind and funny and sweet, but she didn’t know he existed beyond seeing him in class. Maybe things would be different in high school. Maybe she would finally notice him.
“Jack! What’s up?” Darrin snuck up behind him b
etween classes. “What did you do all summer? Didn’t see you much.”
“Hey Darrin. Didn’t do too much. Had a short vacation with my parents, but otherwise I just kinda hung out. How ‘bout you?”
“Jack, I worry about you, man. You should hang out more with the guys. Summer was awesome! Hey have you seen some of the new chicks? Hooooweee! This high school stuff might just be what we needed! See ya around!”
Had he seen some of the new chicks? He had. He was not impressed so far. It was only second period, so there was still hope. Right then, he was off to third period.
Donna and Reneigh finally caught up with me after s
econd period. Five minutes to get from one class to another, stopping off at your locker and figuring out where the hell to go next in the middle of chaos was insane for the first day. In a way I was feeling great. Energized by everyone talking all at once had certainly made the day more interesting. The fear wasn’t gone, but it was a relief to get a few minutes of giggles and chatting in between classes. I didn’t have one single class with Donna, but our lunch was the same period. Thankfully I was in a couple of classes with Reneigh.
“Hey I will see y’all at lunch!” I said over my shoulder as I headed toward Mrs. Laurent’s English class. Then, WHACK.
I had run into a poor guy who looked like he had tons of things he would rather be doing.
“Oops! Sorry!” I managed a big smile and moved around him. I couldn’t help thinking, “Now HE’s cute!” But he didn’t even really look at me. Was the flutter I felt when he glanced at me my nerves or something else? I didn’t have time to worry. I was about to face my destiny in English. But the image of a guy just under six feet tall, medium build, dark blonde hair and hazel eyes sort of stuck with me the rest of that class and the next. With my luck, he woul
dn't even remember me.
He didn’t see her coming. There were way too many people in the mad scramble to get to class. He was going to be late himself if he didn’t get moving. He turned too fast and totally collided with a girl he had never seen before. She was short with long crazy blonde hair and dressed in pink. It was almost like she was glowing. She exuded a massive personality. She looked up and smiled at him and, for just a moment, the world shifted. He lowered his gaze and looked away. His brain screaming that she probably smiled like that at everyone.