During the entire ride home from his parents’ house, Adam couldn’t stop thinking about his love life. About Brynne and their relationship. About Maggie and their lack of a relationship.
For some reason, Brynne was crazy about him. He knew that if he wanted, she could be his girlfriend, if she wasn’t already. But it was hard to make a decision to open up to someone like that, especially after pushing women away for so long.
As much as he tried to deny it, Adam knew that the real reason it was so difficult for him to think about committing to Brynne was Maggie. It was hard enough when Maggie was just a shadow in his past, but now that they were talking again... it was almost impossible. It wasn’t fair of her to monopolize his attention this way, especially if she had no intention of ever giving him a chance.
Of course, the key word here was: if.
Did Maggie ever intend to give him a chance? Was she ready for even the possibility of a relationship? He had to know, and he had to know right now. After all, he had waited for eleven years.
As soon as he got home, Adam made a beeline for the telephone. He dialed Maggie’s phone number with trepidation. He had something important to say to her and he had no idea how she was going to react. He was terrified to find out.
The phone rang and he hoped for a split second that she wouldn’t pick up and he could avoid the inevitable for a little while longer, but he heard her voice on the other line and a fist tightened around his chest. “Maggie? It’s Adam.”
“Hi Adam.” There was a strange sadness in her voice that hadn’t been there the other day.
“Maggie, there’s something I need to ask you,” Adam said. “I... I know I shouldn’t, but... I just have to know...”
He could almost hear the fear in her voice. “Adam, don’t...”
But there was no turning back now. “Is there any chance for us?” he blurted out. “I mean, am I ever going to see you again? Is there a chance that we might... I don’t know...” He knew the answer before he even finished the sentence. His throat closed up and he couldn’t continue speaking.
“I don’t think so,” Maggie said quietly.
Adam buried his face in his fists, choking back tears. It wasn’t fair. How could Maggie come back into his life this way just to taunt him? “Tell me why,” he demanded. “Is it because... because I’m in a wheelchair?”
There was only silence on the other line. Goddamn that Maggie, how could she do this to him? But it did make sense. She didn’t want him back in high school, back when he was normal. Why would she want him now? This whole renewed friendship was just a tease.
“I hope someday you can understand how much you hurt me,” Adam said to her and he hung up the phone.
Adam took a few deep breaths, trying to get control over himself. That was it, he had blown it with Maggie for good. He rubbed his paralyzed legs, thinking how if he could walk, he’d go out and track her down. But he couldn’t blame her for feeling the way she did. He just had to face the fact that Maggie McConnelly would never love him the way he loved her.
At least now he could move on with his life.
Maggie began sobbing uncontrollably when Adam hung up on her. She would have given anything in the world to be able to see him even one more time. She had been fantasizing about what it might be like to kiss Adam Harding. Really kiss him, not like the times when he had pressed his lips onto hers and she pulled away. But if he saw her now, he’d never want to kiss her. He’d be disgusted.
Adam probably hated her now, but there was nothing she could do about it. How could she tell him the truth? “Adam, I’m afraid I gained two-hundred pounds since high school.” She could imagine the change in his voice, the excuses he might make to avoid her. She didn’t mind being shunned by men, she was used to it by now, but not Adam. Every time she spoke to Adam, she heard the love and the lust in his voice. She couldn’t bear it if he started speaking to her like everyone else.
The phone began ringing again and Maggie backed away instinctively. Maybe it was Adam trying to apologize. Now that he hadn’t been able to talk her into a relationship, he wanted to try to preserve their friendship. Typical Adam, always wanting to be near her in any context he could find. And selfishly, she wanted the same thing. Maybe they could never meet, but she didn’t want to lose contact with him.
Maggie grabbed the phone off the hook. “Yes?”
“Maggie? Hey, it’s Roger.”
Maggie felt her stomach turn. “What do you want?”
“I was just curious how things were going with Adam. He called you, didn’t he?”
“Roger Jacobson, I want you to tell me the truth right now,” Maggie said tightly. “Why are you doing this?”
“What do you mean?” Roger asked innocently.
“You tracked me down,” Maggie said. “You gave Adam my phone number. What did you think was going to happen? Did you think we’re going to get together or something? Come on, Rog, you know the second he sees me it’s over. So why are you pushing for this? I want the truth.”
There was a long pause on the other line. “I need your help, Maggie,” Roger said quietly. “Adam is trying to destroy me.”
“Adam?” Maggie asked incredulously. “I find that very hard to believe. He was willing to go to jail for you ten years ago.”
“That’s why he hates me now,” Roger explained. “He went to the police and told them the truth about the accident. Now David Richards is after me and Adam is going to testify on his behalf.”
“That doesn’t sound like something Adam would do.”
“Please, Maggie...” She could hear the desperation in his voice. “You’ve got to talk Adam out of this. You’re the only one in the world that he’ll listen to.”
Maggie felt her anger rising. Roger wasn’t doing this out of some romantic notion, but just because he wanted to get something out of Adam. And he didn’t care if he wrecked both their lives. “I’m sorry,” Maggie said coldly. “I’m not as kind as Adam. If it had been up to me, you would have gone to jail ten years ago.”
“What happened to you, Maggie?” Roger said. “You used to be a sweet girl. I guess when you got fat, you became bitter.”
Maggie’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t believe Roger Jacobson was talking to her that way. “Fuck you, Roger,” she snapped. “You always were a slimy loser and it looks like nothing has changed. Don’t expect any favors from me and don’t call me ever again.”
“I won’t call you,” Roger said. “But maybe I’ll give Adam a call. Maybe I’ll tell him how you look a little different than you did back in high school.”
That son of a bitch! Maggie could almost hear the little wheels spinning in Roger’s brain. But she couldn’t let him have the satisfaction of knowing he had gotten to her. “Go ahead and tell him,” Maggie said. “That part of my life is over, anyway. The sooner I move on, the better.” She added: “And keep in mind, Adam isn’t the only one who was at that accident and can testify!”
Maggie slammed down the phone, shaking from the rush of adrenaline. She had never imagined Roger could act like that, but somehow it didn’t completely surprise her that he had it in him. After all, he was desperate.
Of course, she knew she wasn’t going to testify against Roger. The last thing she wanted was to get wrapped up again in the events from ten years ago. Still, it would have been nice to make Roger pay from what he had done to her and Adam.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit...
Roger was cursing to himself as he held the empty phone line in his hand. He should have known better than to try to intimidate Maggie McConnelly with his lawyer tactics. This was a woman who had nothing to lose, so what could he threaten her with? She already knew it would never work with Adam.
Still, it seemed like it was worth a shot.
I’m an awful person, Roger thought to himself. I deserve to lose Joy and all my money. I deserve to go to jail. I deserve to get raped in the ass on a daily basis.
Roger buried his face in his hands. It would have been so easy to give up right now. He was almost thirty years old and it was time to take his punishment like a man. It felt terrible to say those things to Maggie, but some unseen force was driving him forward. He was desperate.
He wondered if it was a mistake to start up with Maggie in the first place. Even back in high school, Maggie was the most unstable person he knew. They were good friends, but he learned that he could never count on her for anything (in contrast to Adam) and she always seemed so mysteriously troubled. The only thing you could be sure of with Maggie was that nothing she did made any sense.
No, it was better to appeal to Adam directly. Roger looked up Adam’s number again and dialed it with shaking fingers. He closed his eyes and psyched himself up for the conversation.
“Adam? It’s Roger.”
“What is it?” There was no affection in Adam’s voice. He just sounded tired and impatient.
“I’m just calling because...” Roger took a deep breath. “I wanted to invite you to have dinner with me and Joy. My treat.”
“Oh,” Adam hesitated for a few moments. “I guess so.”
Roger let out the breath. “Great! How about Saturday night?”
“Uh... that sounds okay,” Adam said. “Would you mind if I brought someone along?”
Adam laughed slightly. “She’s not exactly my girlfriend, but close enough.”
“So I guess you weren’t able to get together with Maggie...”
“No.” Adam’s voice lowered, “Hey Rog, lemme ask you something: did you actually see Maggie?”
“Um... yeah, sure. Why do you ask?”
“How does she look?”
Roger frowned at the question. How did Adam know? Had Maggie confessed to him herself? Well, he wasn’t going to be the one to burst Adam’s bubble. “She looks great. As usual, right? Why are you asking?”
“I don’t know... I just got this feeling.”
“I know you always said Maggie was the hottest girl you’d ever seen.”
“Well, she was,” Adam admitted. “But... it wasn’t about that. I mean, yeah, initially it was. But then... it stopped mattering as much how she looked...”
“Oh, right,” Roger laughed. “So you’re saying if I told you Maggie got horribly disfigured somehow, you’d still be into her?”
Adam paused. “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”
Roger laughed again. “Adam, you’re such a liar.”
But even as he made light of it, Roger sensed that Adam was earnest in his statement. If anybody had the ability to love Maggie the way she was, Adam did. But unfortunately for Maggie, she’d never let him get close enough to find out.
“Maggie? It’s Adam.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Look, I... I wanted to apologize for what I said earlier...”
“Yeah, I guess I... overreacted a little. I didn’t mean what I said. I still want to talk to you.”
“I don’t know, Adam. Maybe we shouldn’t be talking if there’s no chance of...”
“But I want to talk to you.”
“Maggie, come on. You even have to ask?”
“I don’t know anymore... it’s been a long time.”
“Even if we’re never going to see each other again, I still want to talk to you. If that’s all I can get, I’ll take it.”
“What is it, Maggie?”
“Sometimes I think you’re the sweetest guy in the world.”
“Yeah? If I’m the sweetest guy in the world, how come you won’t go out with me?”
“Because the sweet guys always finish last.”
To be continued....