Authors: Alan Weisz
I can see your reasoning for wanting to quit,” I said, pretending as though I hadn’t heard her last somber remark. “It was a tough year with Harvey’s death and Brent getting killed. I know that probably wasn’t easy for you since you two were close.”
That situation was upsetting because Brent and I had become good friends. He was there for me when I needed him. I desperately wanted to solve his murder because we were so close, and for his sake, I wanted his soul to find peace knowing his killer was behind bars. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to do so,” she said, her warm smile still nowhere to be found.
After the “good friends” line, I zoned out thinking only about what that line meant. Maybe they were like Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon, spending countless hours in one another’s company laughing and joking around, but at the end of the day, you knew sexual fireworks weren’t going to be ignited. Jack was too good for Lemon, like I imagined Hayley was too good for Brent. Then again, maybe good friends meant they fucked on a regular basis. I hoped that wasn’t what good friends meant, but there was only one way to find out.
Good friends, huh?”
My skepticism of
was evident in my sarcastic tone.
I know what people have said about us, but we were only friends, nothing more. It wasn’t like anything with you,” she said, her last three words barely audible.
Hayley sat still for a moment, then pushing her blonde bangs over to the side, her lips curved ever so slightly.
You know, the other day I was on the fourth floor of Franz Hall trying to find a clue that might suggest Harvey’s death wasn’t accidental. I knew it was a long shot but I had half an hour before class, so I thought I would look. As I assumed, I did not find anything to help my cause. I assume the police took what little evidence they had with them, if they found anything substantial at all. I plopped down into one of those comfy chairs frustrated by the lack of results. When my feet scraped the carpet, I felt a little something underneath my flats. When I looked down, I saw three partly crushed orange Tic-Tacs. I couldn’t help but reminisce about those good times on Yale Street and your stash of Tic-Tacs you always had sitting on your nightstand. I miss that.”
It was mine turn for silence, after her unexpected, rather forward remark. I was tempted to blurt out, “You could still have that, if you hadn’t of fucked it all up!” On the other hand, the feeble romantic weakling inside of me wanted to say, “I forgive you! Let’s start over, forget about the past, and share even more wonderful times together.” Since those two responses weren’t suitable, I was left with only one thing to say.
We did have some good times together
Wayne, you of all people are aware of my ambitious nature, and my desire to succeed. As you know, sometimes that means volunteering to read a ridiculous article or staying up until four in the morning to get a paper in on time,” she said, letting out a cheery Hayley laugh. “Sometimes, in this pursuit, instead of looking at the wonderful things I currently have in my life, I constantly look towards the future, towards my aspirations. In doing so, I take for granted aspects of my life that I shouldn’t. Brent’s death took a toll on me, like I’m sure it did for you, and in the aftermath of his death, and Harvey’s, I felt like I had the opportunity to solve these crimes and make a name for myself. I know it sounds ridiculous but that’s how I felt. Now, looking back on this year, I feel so foolish for being single-minded when I used to have something so special and instead of trying to reclaim it, I absentmindedly disregarded it. ”
If I wasn’t dumbfounded before, then I definitely was now. This was the closest Hayley had ever come to apologizing to me, and despite the blithe smirk on her face, her penetrating blue eyes told me she meant every word that had escaped from her lips. Some serious contemplation occurred during the next ten seconds, as my muddled mind tried to determine the appropriate course to take.
You can’t live for the future, nor can you correct the past, but what we do have is the present.” To coincide with the cheese-ball statement I had just spouted off, making this Hallmark moment complete, I reached my arm across the table, placing my hand in hers.
I’m not sure how long we sat there silently, staring at one another as if we were the only two people in that crowded Starbucks. It felt like we were Hayley and Wayne once again, the dynamic loving couple we had been before the heartbreak. I couldn’t describe it, but it felt right. It felt wonderful. I would even dare to say that at that precise moment, it felt like love.
Once the wave of nostalgia passed, and I noticed the baristas behind the counter were eyeballing us as though we were rehearsing a scene from a Woody Allen movie, I removed my entangled fingers from Hayley’s.
Hey, how about we get out of here?”
Before she had a chance to answer, my chair was pushed back and I was on my feet. Hayley was taken aback by my sudden desire to leave, the confusion clear on her face. Quietly she followed me out the door, maintaining what was arguably the longest amount of time she had ever gone without talking.
When we were outside, to dispel any notion that she might have of my hesitancy toward public displays of affection, I swung my arm around her and grabbed her hip. She slid in close to me and as if by habit, reciprocated my offering by placing her arm snuggly around my waist, nestling herself against me as the sweet scent of her Burberry perfume filled my nostrils.
To a stranger unfamiliar with our Ross/Rachel melodrama, Hayley and I would have appeared as nothing more than a carefree couple enraptured by a young love and the delightful spring day.
I wasn’t thinking about the past, the agonizing torment she’d put me through, or the sleepless nights I’d spent dreaming about her. For once, I was living in the moment. I had this beautiful, perky blonde girl clutched by my side so what was there to complain about? It sounds dumb to say, but I was truly happy walking alongside Hayley as we made our way back to the cars. If I was ever found out as Brent and Harvey’s killer and was sentenced to lethal injection, if I had to pick one memory to choose from before the poison coursed through my veins, this would be it. To me there are few perfect instances in one’s life, but in my mind, this was as close to perfection as I could get.
Back at our cars, we disassembled, both knowing this coffee date was drawing to a close. Hayley looked up at me, her lips quivering.
Wayne, I…” Hayley started, but I placed my hand over her mouth. I didn’t care if she was about to apologize or tell me things between us could never work out.
Shhh,” I said, gently guiding her golden bangs back in place. Slowing hugging her waist, I pulled her near me and leaned down placing my lips softly against hers. The kiss was brief, and it wasn’t sloppy or nasty; it didn’t have too much tongue or too little, it was in a word, perfect.
Standing upright once again, Hayley slowing caressed my arm, an act of affection she only performed while dating, while we waited to say our goodbyes. With one last brush down my arm, her fingers tickling my hairs, a faint “Bye,” escaped as she turned back toward her car. I moved around to the driver’s side door, watching as my ex put her car in reverse and slowly started to back out of the lot.
I smiled, extending a short wave as our eyes meet. The infamous beam of Hayley’s shimmering white teeth radiated from her Volvo as she gave an abrupt toot of her horn before turning back towards campus.
rapped lightly on the door before the cougar granted me permission to enter her den. Quinn sat dressed in a slim Ann Taylor suit with a white blouse hidden underneath, reading one of her students’ latest essays. Judging from her quizzical expression, she was curious as to why I was standing before her rather than the miniature blonde she had expected to see.
Hello, Professor Quinn. My name is Wayne York. I’m a reporter at
. I know Miss Summers was supposed to meet you, but unfortunately she’s indisposed at the moment,” I said, answering the question that was likely on the tip of her tongue.
Seeming to accept my vaguely unoriginal excuse for Hayley’s absence, she placed the essay on her desk and directed me towards one of the two empty chairs.
Now granting me her undivided attention, Quinn asked me a few general questions about my major, my classes and my position at
. I answered her questions politely, then in order to get on her good side, I decided to kiss ass as our initial pleasantries continued. What was the harm? Sure, in a few minutes I would begin assaulting her about her unsavory teaching practices, but until that point I could at least butter her up a tad.
It’s really a privilege to meet a prominent professor such as yourself, especially given all of Hayley’s remarks. I’m glad I’m finally able to meet this eminent figure at St. Elizabeth that she continuously praises,” I said, trying to sound genuine.
Not surprisingly, the old bat absorbed my compliment without a speck of humility, as if a toll was necessary in order to be in the company of such an esteemed individual. Seemingly disregarding my accolades, Quinn followed my statement by rattling off Hayley’s “promising attributes” as if Hayley Summers was the only part of the conversation she had heard. I sat and nodded at the appropriate instances as Quinn addressed her adoration towards her former pupil. As much as I cared for Hayley, hearing the same old song about how exceptional she was got old fast and this was no exception.
After the session of idiotic flattery and ego massaging, we got down to business. “In accordance with Miss Summers’s email, she stated she wished to ask various questions relating to the campus events that transpired this year, is that not correct?” Quinn asked, her hawk-like eyes focused squarely on me.
That’s correct,” I replied, taking a small notepad from my front pocket. “To begin, I would like it if you could give me your general opinions about this year. To be more specific, if you could comment on Brent Crane’s death as well as Harvey Cho’s and address the influence these deaths may have had on students or campus morale, that would be great.”
No campus is immune from tragedy, Mr. York. Every year there’s an unforeseen accident that causes turmoil. There is simply the matter of judging the magnitude of the event to see how far the ripples will stretch. It’s not uncommon to see a student get injured in an alcohol-related incident or become diagnosed with a fatal disease. In rare occurrences, a suicide might take place within the school year. What makes Brent Crane’s death different from the norm is the amount of third party interaction. In most instances, the campus mourns the dearly departed with a funeral service and a small piece in the university paper. In the case of Brent Crane’s death, the police came on the scene, escalating the scope of the tragedy, and the additional media coverage brought about more attention from outsiders.”
I pretended to write down notes in my miniature notepad, while I doodled in cursive, glancing up at Quinn every few seconds as she continued to enlighten me with her esteemed opinion.
I would even venture to postulate that Crane’s death influenced the acceptance of Harvey Cho’s death. You see Mr. York, most students, especially students in a position of seniority such as yourself, are often under the impression that they are impenetrable to life’s everyday travesties. For instance, one death might occur during the year and the students will weep for their departed colleague, but rarely do they think something that horrendous could happen to them. However, a second death brings about more uncertainty, illuminating the reality that death is inescapable. I noticed in my classes that after Mr. Cho’s untimely death, my students seemed less lively, and more unsure of themselves. The seniors in my classes particularly acted more grief-stricken by this event.”
Well, they might have known Harvey,” I said, keeping my eyes locked on my notepad as I continued scribbling nonsense.
It is possible, but I believe the issue stems from Crane’s death. The compounding of death can have a resounding
on the morale of an individual. Having two deaths in such a small timeframe is bound to manufacture a touch of bleakness or depression.”
Hastily I flipped the page of my pad to avoid Quinn sneaking a peek at my artistic scribbles. Honestly, I didn’t give two licks about Quinn’s opinion, since hearing her babble wasn’t really the point of my trek to her office, but her words did seem to ring true in many respects. Sure, I wasn’t one of Harvey’s mourners nor was I questioning the unruly behavior of death, but my friends had acted differently after Harvey keeled over.
Despite her label as an ice queen, Quinn did know a thing or two about the human mind and the general tendencies and behaviors of society’s individuals. For shits and giggles, I wrote, “Touch of bleakness”
in my finest cursive, just to give the old bat some credit before I started in on my next line of questioning.