Graduation Night, continued...
When Adam got home from his meeting with Roger, he was nearly shaking with anger. He had sometimes wondered what would happen if he ever saw Roger again, and now that he had, he found that it really hurt.
Initially, it had been kind of nice seeing Roger’s familiar face. He remembered all the fun they used to have back in high school and how close they had been. But every word Roger said was like being stabbed in the chest. Everything Roger had, he owed to Adam. And every misery in Adam’s life, he blamed on Roger.
Adam decided if he never saw Roger again, it would be too soon. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to call the police and retract his story.
As Adam wheeled into his apartment, he saw a letter on the floor of his living room, which someone had apparently slipped under the door. His heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t gotten any more threatening letters today and he had been hoping maybe his call to the police had put an end to it.
Adam bent down and picked the letter up off the floor. The outside of the envelope was completely blank. With trembling hands, he opened it up and removed the letter inside.
It was a rent notice.
His shoulders slumped in relief. Maybe it really was over.
The phone rang and Adam wheeled across the room to pick it up. He figured it was probably Kim. She had said she’d probably drop by late that night, but he was secretly hoping she’d decide against it. He was already bored with her. “Hello?”
It was a female voice. “Um, hi... is this Adam Harding?”
“Uh... yes. Who is this?”
“Hi, Adam. It’s Brynne!”
Adam gripped the phone tighter. Brynne, the gorgeous secretary? How’d she get this number? And why was she calling? “Oh, hi Brynne. Uh... what’s up?”
“I got your number out of the security database,” Brynne explained. “I hope you don’t mind. I was just kind of worried about you. You seemed like something was really bothering you the last few days...”
“Yeah, I had some... minor financial issues,” Adam said. He hoped that sounded benign enough. “But everything is fine now.”
“Well, that’s good,” Brynne said cheerfully. “I mean, you always smile at me in the morning, but this morning you didn’t. I thought maybe you didn’t like me anymore.”
“Not a chance,” Adam replied.
“Good,” Brynne said. “Hey listen, I don’t have plans tomorrow night. I was thinking maybe we could go get dinner together.”
Adam’s jaw dropped open. Was Brynne asking him out? This was almost too unbelievable for words. He thought he’d have to work on her for months before he even had a chance at a shot at a date with her. “Yeah, that would be great.”
Brynne gave him directions to a restaurant and they agreed to meet there. Adam hung up the phone feeling dazed but happy. A date with Brynne, how about that?
The phone rang again and Adam picked it up on the first ring. “Hello?”
“Adam? It’s Kim. Can I come over?”
Roger was pulled from sleep at five in the morning by the ringing of his telephone. He rolled over in bed and picked it up before it could wake Joy. “Yeah?” he said sleepily.
It was a man’s voice. “Roger Jacobson?”
“Uh huh,” Roger replied. There was something in the man’s tone that made him uneasy.
“Mr. Jacobson, this is David Richards.”
The man paused a long time, waiting for the name to sink in. David Richards, David Richards... who was David Richards? Then all of a sudden, Roger remembered and sat up straight in bed. “Mr. Richards... um, what can I do for you?”
“I just have one question for you, Jacobson,” Richards said. “Did you kill my wife?”
It was too early in the morning for this. Roger rubbed his eyes. “Mr. Richards, I swear to you... I... I wasn’t the one responsible for the accident... I...”
“It wasn’t a fucking accident!” Richards barked into the phone. “You were a bunch of drunk teenagers!”
“I know, I know,” Roger said in his most calming voice. “Listen, there was a trial, remember? I wasn’t the one driving. I mean, I’m very sorry for what happened, but—”
“If you weren’t the one driving,” Richards said in a low growl, “how come I got a call from the police yesterday, saying that the other kid lied and took the fall for you?”
“It was a long time ago,” Roger said. “Adam has... had a lot of psychological problems.”
“Oh, has he?” Richards said sarcastically. “He’s got a pretty good fucking programming job for a psychotic. And you aren’t doing too badly yourself, Jacobson.”
Roger felt his spine tingle. Adam had said someone was harassing him and now Roger had an inkling what he had been going through.
Richards laughed. “Oh? Are you surprised I know about you? I’ve been keeping tabs on you and Harding. See, I want you both to be as miserable as I’ve been since Shannon died. Harding, he’s got the wheelchair. But you, you’re doing pretty well for yourself.”
“I... I’m not doing that well...”
“And you were the one who was driving.”
Roger felt ill. “Listen, I wasn’t...”
“I don’t believe you, you lying sack of shit,” Richards snapped. “I don’t know what the police are going to do, but I’m going to take you to civil court and I’m going to take you for every penny you have or ever will have. And I’m sure your buddy Harding will be happy to testify for me.”
Roger closed his eyes. This couldn’t be happening. “Please, maybe we could work something out...”
But David Richards had already hung up.
Roger stared at Joy, who was sleeping peacefully next to him. She didn’t have an inkling of what was going on. Richards was right, he did have it pretty good, for the first time in his whole life. And now he stood to lose everything.
If Richards called Adam and asked him to testify, Roger thought he very well might do it. And their little reunion yesterday hadn’t made matters any better. Roger’s only chance was to get back in Adam’s good graces.
Roger knew there was only one thing in the world that could influence Adam and that was Maggie McConnelly.
Roger lost track of Maggie after they both headed out to college. He tried calling her a few times, but true to form, she never returned any of his calls. He never even heard any idle gossip about her. She wasn’t at the ten-year reunion last year and nobody seemed to know anything about her. He had tried to call her a few years ago on a whim and found that her number was unlisted. So there was no way to get in touch with Maggie. Except...
George Farrell was the alumni representative for their year. George had information on everyone in the class. If anyone knew where Maggie was, George would know.
Luckily, Roger had run into George during the reunion and wound up handling the legal details on the closing of his house, so he had George’s work number on hand. He didn’t want to call George from home because Joy might be suspicious, so he waited until he was in the office to make the call.
“George? It’s Roger Jacobson.”
“Rog! Great to hear from you! How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” Roger said, obliging with George’s small talk. “How is Lily?”
“She’s pregnant!” George said. “Can you believe it? I’m going to be a dad!”
“That’s wonderful!” Roger exclaimed. He thought of a time when he and Joy might have children together. That is, if he didn’t go to jail for the next ten years.
“Yeah, we’re really happy,” George said. “Anyway, what’s on your mind?”
Roger hesitated. “Do you remember Maggie McConnelly?”
George chuckled. “You kidding me? She was really something.”
“Have... have you seen her recently?”
“Unfortunately, no,” George replied. “I wouldn’t mind seeing her though, if you know what I mean. She used to go out with... with what was his name? Your buddy... Adam.”
“No, she didn’t,” Roger said.
“No?” George seemed surprised. “I thought they were. They were together every second. I remember I was so jealous of him. What’s Adam up to these days, anyway?”
“I’m not really sure,” Roger mumbled. “Listen, I was wondering if you have a phone number or something for Maggie...”
“Yeah, definitely,” George said. “I have numbers and addresses for everyone.”
Roger held his breath. “Do you know if she’s married?” Please say no.
“Well, she’s still listed under McConnelly, no other names. But it’s hard to say.”
It was a good sign at least. “Can I have her number and address?”
George read off her phone number and work address. “Why are you looking for Maggie, anyway?”
“Uh... I just realized I have something that belongs to her.”
Roger gripped Maggie’s gold bracelet in his pocket as he walked through the mall. He hated taking the afternoon off, but he knew Maggie didn’t respond well to confrontations, so he didn’t want to risk calling and scaring her away. The mall where she worked was an hour’s drive away from the law firm so there was no way he could get back in time.
The store was a small convenience store. He wondered what Maggie’s job was there. Manager? Attractive salesgirl? Knowing Maggie, neither job would have surprised him.
He walked into the store, hoping that Maggie’s beautiful figure would pop out at him so he wouldn’t have to search. No such luck. The only people in the store were a guy browsing through magazines and a morbidly obese woman working at the counter. Roger sighed and approached the counter.
“Hi,” he said to the woman, “I’m looking for—”
Roger’s jaw dropped open. “Maggie?”
Now that he knew it was her, he could see the resemblance between Maggie McConnelly and this monstrosity. She was 350 pounds if she was an ounce. He could see the folds of fat, even hidden behind the counter. She had three chins and her cheeks puffed out to distort her face. All her dark hair was cropped short so as to eliminate any semblance of femininity. But she still had same beautiful eyes and button nose.
“Hey,” she said.
Roger felt like he was choking. This couldn’t be Maggie. This couldn’t be the girl that every guy in high school had fantasized about. “Wow, it’s been a while, huh?”
“I know I gained a little weight...”
A little? “I guess we all look a little different,” Roger said, swallowing hard.
As Maggie smiled, the folds of fat deepened. “You look the same,” she said.
Roger cleared his throat. “Uh, thanks, I guess.”
“Except for that ridiculous beard,” she added.
Roger blushed, despite himself.
“Can I help you?”
“Well, I was, uh... I was looking for... do you want to go to lunch with me?” Roger’s voice squeaked. “I mean, we can catch up on old times and stuff...”
“I don’t think so,” Maggie said quietly.
“Aw, come on.”
“No, I think it’s not a good idea.”
Maggie hadn’t changed at all. Roger took a deep breath. “It would really mean a lot to me, Maggie.”
She must have heard the urgency in his voice, because she said, “Okay, fifteen minutes, that’s it.”
They got a table up in the food court. Maggie didn’t get anything because she was “on a diet” and Roger got a coffee because he was too nervous to eat. All he knew was that Maggie was the key to Adam, but if Adam took one look at her it would probably kill the fantasy forever.
Roger felt like he could barely look at Maggie. She wore a black shirt that stretched over her enormous bosom and folds of fat. Her ass was at least three times as wide as it was back in high school—just looking at it made him lose his appetite. How could this be the same girl that Roger thought about when her jerked off at least a couple hundred times?
“So what have you been up to for the last ten years?” Roger asked her.
Maggie ran a hand through her cropped hair. “I’ve been kind of bouncing around between odd jobs for a while now. I left college after two years... it just wasn’t for me.”
“Are you married?” Roger asked.
Maggie shook her head. “Oh, no. How about you?”
“I recently got engaged,” he said.
“That’s wonderful. Congratulations.”
“Thanks.” He paused. “I’m working at a law firm in the city now.”
“You’re a lawyer?” Maggie laughed.
“Uh, yeah... why is that funny?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Maggie smiled. “You don’t seem like a lawyer type. You’re more like an accountant or something.”
“Well, maybe I’ve changed too.”
Roger looked away. He wanted to ask what happened to her, why she had turned into this monster from the Maggie he knew. But he didn’t have the nerve to say it. “I didn’t see you at the reunion,” he said.
“Yeah, I didn’t go.”
Maggie smiled sadly. “Come on, Rog. If you had gained two-hundred pounds, would you have gone to the reunion?”
“People would have been glad to see you.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Maggie said. “I bet there are a few girls who would have been very glad to see me.” Back in high school, Maggie had been the envy of many popular girls whose boyfriends’ eyes had wandered.
“Almost everyone was there,” Roger told her.
Maggie raised an eyebrow. “Uh... how about Adam?”
Roger smiled to himself. She clearly still had feelings for him. “He wasn’t there, but I’ve seen him recently.”
“Oh? Uh, how is he doing?”
“Pretty good. He’s making a bundle of money as a computer programmer.” Roger saw the look in Maggie’s eyes and answered her next question: “He’s not seeing anybody right now.”
“Oh?” Maggie’s face flushed.
“Yeah... would you like his number? I know he’d like it if you called.”
“No, no,” Maggie said quickly. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Goddamn it, Maggie. “He was just talking about you the other day. He was telling me how much he misses you.”
Maggie smiled wistfully. “He misses the way I used to be. I... I don’t want him to see me like this.”
Neither did Roger. “Well, what if you just talked on the phone?”
Maggie shook her head. “You know how pushy Adam can be. He’d never be satisfied with a phone call.”
“I don’t know, Maggie. You’re not the only one who’s changed.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Adam’s still in a wheelchair,” Roger told her. “He’s got no confidence anymore with women. He told me he’s never been in a serious relationship with a woman.” It wasn’t entirely a lie. Adam never was in a serious relationship with a woman, but only because he deceived and manipulated them. But Maggie didn’t need to know that.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Maggie said softly. “I thought for sure that Adam would have found the right person by now.”
“He did. It was you.”
Maggie blushed. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, Roger. I’m not going to call him.”
“But you still care about him, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. I think about him every day. That’s why I’m not going to call him.”
Maggie’s words tugged at Roger’s conscience. Maggie and Adam were both happy with the memories of what the other person used to be. Why was he trying to ruin that fantasy for both of them?
Then again, he wasn’t going to go to jail. No way.
“You’re not being fair, Maggie,” Roger said. “Back in high school, he loved you more than anything and you rejected him. Then when he was injured and needed you the most, you abandoned him completely. Now I’m telling you that he needs you and you’re too... hung up on some superficial notion to be there for him.”
“You haven’t changed at all, Roger,” Maggie said quietly. “You just don’t understand.”
It was almost the exact same thing that Adam had said to him the other day. “What don’t I understand?”
Maggie struggled to her feet. “I have to get back to work,” she said.
Roger felt panic gripping him. “Maggie, wait!”
“Please, Roger,” she said quietly. “Just leave me alone.”
Roger stood up and reached into his pocket. “I have something for you.” He pulled out a gold bracelet and held it out to her.
Tears rose in Maggie’s eyes. “Oh my god… You…you saved it…”
“I told you,” Roger said. “Adam wanted you to have it.”
Maggie smiled through her tears. She held up her wide wrist. “I don’t think it’ll fit me anymore.”
Roger took her hand and pried apart her thick fingers. He placed the bracelet in her palm. “I’m giving this back to you,” he said. “I hope you’ll reconsider talking to Adam.”
Maggie stared down at the bracelet in her hand. “I… I’ll think about it.”
to be continued....