Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 21

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"I was thinking what if you kissed me," Dawn said. She was breathless now, whirling downstream on a dark, fast current.

Justin sat back down on the log, a slight crease between his eyebrows. "I ... don't know if that's a good idea," he said, and Dawn's dark current became a whirlpool of shame, but then he leaned over and kissed her. His lips were chapped, and she didn't feel anything at first. Then he licked her bottom lip and her mouth opened. His tongue lapped against hers and heat went through her, softening her arms, which opened on their own accord. She put her hand on the back of his neck, where it was warm and damp, and he put his hand over her breast. She felt her nipples harden against the inside of her T-s.h.i.+rt. He took her other hand and pressed it between his legs. He pushed her off the log into the soft earth and began kissing her throat while his fingers pulled at the zipper of her jeans. She struggled to help him. He pulled up her T-s.h.i.+rt and squeezed one breast while his tongue circled her other nipple. She gasped. "I love you, Justin," she said.

"I love you too," he said automatically. "Lift your legs."

But then he stopped and pushed himself up. "Shh! Listen!"

Krista was calling her. Suddenly, Justin was standing above her. "Get up," he hissed. She scrambled up and did up her jeans, her fingers stiff and trembling with cold. Justin brushed off her back.



"Dawn?" Krista called.

"It's okay," Justin told her. "You're fine. Just go."

"But-" She was desperate for a better ending, anything but "Just go."

"We'll talk about it later," he said, and gave her a gentle push.

Krista was waiting for her on the front porch. "Dawn! Where were you?"

"I was helping Justin chop wood," she said. Her voice sounded odd in her head, like she had a cold. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and pulled uselessly at her T-s.h.i.+rt.

"Tonight is your closed-door with Andre! Isn't that wonderful?"

Dawn gulped in air and said it was. Krista told her to go and help carry pamphlets to the van.

Dawn looked back towards the barn. "Should I go get Justin?"

"No," Krista said. "He has work to do here."

"I-I was just talking to him and he's feeling much stronger in his commitment. He-"

"Never mind Justin," Krista said curtly. "Just go."

All day on Yonge Street, she replayed it, from the beginning of the kiss to his declaration. At last, she thought. At last, at last: she had a boyfriend. Not some pimply, wheezing debate team co-captain, either, but Justin, who was twenty-two and looked like a movie star and loved her. She remembered every time he had touched her, from the first day. This was the real reason she had found her way to Lighthouse. The only thing that worried her was the way he had said, "We'll talk about it later." She didn't like the "it" part. But he had also said, "I love you too." Would he have said that if he hadn't meant it? If Krista hadn't called her, they would have had s.e.x right there behind the barn.

When they got back to the farmhouse in the evening, Krista was waiting to take her to Andre. "Now?" Dawn said. "But I just got back. I-"

"Now," Krista said firmly, and led her upstairs.

The session was not what she had expected. Neither was Andre. She had had only glimpses of him, usually getting in or out of a turquoise Oldsmobile in the evenings. Up close, he was short and slight, with thin, greying hair and gla.s.ses and a spotless white s.h.i.+rt tucked into jeans. Sitting at a wooden desk with a pad of paper, pencils, a calculator, he looked like a high-school princ.i.p.al. Dawn sat in a folding chair across from Andre. Krista angled her chair so that she could see them both.

"Welcome, Dawn," Andre said. "Krista tells me you have remarkable potential."

Dawn dipped her head and tried to arrange her features into an expression of humility.

Andre said he and Krista wanted to talk about her future with Lighthouse, where she saw herself in five years. They wanted to know about her commitment. Did she see herself travelling along the path at higher and higher levels? Dawn said she did.

"Excellent. Now, I understand you haven't yet paid your fee."

Dawn looked at Krista for help. Before they'd left Sault Ste. Marie, she had explained to Krista about her university fund, and Krista had told her not to worry, they would work it out after the retreat. But now, Krista was looking at her the same way Andre was: expectantly. Dawn explained again that she had no way of getting the money because it was in an account her mother had set up for her.

Andre said, "Is the money in your name?" Dawn thought it was. "And you're eighteen?" Dawn said, "Seventeen." Andre asked if she knew the account number, but Dawn only knew the bank name. Andre said they had someone at a branch in Toronto who could look into it. If Dawn had proper ID, something could probably be done. Tomorrow, when they went into the city, Krista would take Dawn to the bank. Dawn could pay all the money she owed at once: the retreat money, plus all the members.h.i.+p and meeting fees Krista had kindly deferred.

That was the end of her session. "Be a beacon," Andre said.

Dawn went to sit on the wooden bench on the porch. It had happened so fast she hadn't had time to protest. No, that wasn't true. She wouldn't have protested even if it had gone slowly, because even after all the weekly meetings and the closed-doors and the open floors, she was still bound by fear. She was afraid that Andre and Krista would be disappointed. Worse than disappointed. But she was also afraid to go to the bank in the city tomorrow. Even if the money was in her name, it hadn't actually been given to her. Even if it had been given to her, it was for university. And if she failed math and didn't graduate, it wasn't right to use it for something else. She didn't want to be arrested for whatever you got arrested for when you took money that was in your name but wasn't technically yours.

But if it was? If it turned out to be hers technically and legally and completely?

She didn't want to give it to them. Her head was full of murk and sludge, but that one thought was clear. She didn't want to give them the money, and she didn't have to, and that's all there was to it. She didn't have to be afraid of Krista's disappointment or Andre's judgment. No judgment, no fear. That was the message of UC, and finally, finally it had sunk in!

She got up and went inside to tell Krista that she had solved her own blockage.

Krista was going over a column of figures at the kitchen table. She didn't even look up when Dawn told her. "I understand," she said.

Dawn said, "I knew you would! After all this time, I finally-"

But Krista went on. "I understand your fear. But you've already committed that money to Andre."

"But it's not my money to commit."

"If it's in your name-"

"But it's still not exactly mine."

Krista said, "Technicalities. You're obscuring the real issue with technicalities."

"The real issue?"

Krista threw down her pencil and folded her arms. Her eyes were cold and narrow. "Your commitment. Is extremely weak."

"But-"

"No. No buts. No excuses, Dawn. Either you're with us or you're gone. You commit fully or you leave."

"Leave?"

"Yes, leave. I'm tired of having to carry people who can't carry themselves."

"You mean-leave the retreat? Or leave Lighthouse?"

"They're the same thing."

Dawn said, "But I have no way of getting home."

"Well, then, stay and honour your commitments," Krista said coldly. Then she sighed. "Look, Dawn, I don't want to lose another of my pract.i.tioners."

"Another?"

"Justin left this afternoon."

"What?" Dawn gasped. "Where-where did he go?"

"He couldn't honour his commitments. He was warned. A number of times. He was given the option of staying or going, and he chose to go." Her voice softened. "Oh, Dawn. Don't let yourself be led astray. I know you had a crush on him. But you're worth five Justins." She got up and stroked Dawn's arm. "Listen. You've come too far to fall off the path now. You have more potential than any other pract.i.tioner I've ever met. Stay and honour your commitments, Dawn. To us and most importantly, to yourself."

"Okay."

"Okay what?"

"Okay, I'll stay. I'll honour my commitments." Dawn was surprised at how easily it came out. She was surprised Krista believed her. She was surprised she wasn't crying. She didn't feel at all like crying. She was burning with a deep, cold wrath, like she had been on the night she pounded on Laura's door. No judgment, no fear. Just ferocious G.o.dd.a.m.n fury.

"Good." Krista beamed at her. "I knew you would."

Dawn walked down the driveway to the rough road. She didn't look back to see if anyone was watching her. She didn't care if they were. Anyone could be free. Anyone could choose to f.u.c.k you over anytime they wanted, and you were free to let them or stop them. She had had enough. f.u.c.k you, Krista, she thought. f.u.c.k you, Andre. If they tried to come after her, she would scratch out their eyes. They were liars. The whole thing was a lie. It was all judgment and fear.

Under the pines, the shadows were growing dense. The rough road seemed to be running parallel to the highway; she could hear cars somewhere through the trees. She guessed it was around seven o'clock. The light would not last much longer. She would have to walk quickly.

Justin, she thought. How could you leave me like this?

He had promised to stay. Then he had left. What was wrong with her that he wouldn't take her with him? She began to run. If she cut through the woods, she could get to the highway before it got too dark.

The earth was soft and springy under her feet. It's fine, it's fine, she told herself. Just walk straight. You'll hit the highway and you'll get a ride.

The earth began to slant up, and she was breathing heavily. Mosquitoes whined in her ears. She focused on the ground, stepping over logs and roots and rocks. Then the earth fell away into a deep ravine and she had to stop. Below, in the last of the light, she could see withered trees poking up out of a black swamp. There was no way across it.

Out of breath, she slumped down at the base of a tree and pulled her jacket up around her head against the dive-bombing bugs. Maybe Justin was out looking for her. She let that thought grow into a movie in her head. He had come back for her and Krista had told him, "She's gone. She just walked off." Justin was furious. "You let her go? By herself? On foot? You f.u.c.king b.i.t.c.h." He stormed over to his car. He had to find her. She couldn't have gone far. He was driving up and down that rough road, and any minute now, he would get out and begin calling. He would have a flashlight. When he heard her voice, he would say, "Don't move, Dawn. Just keep talking. I'll come to you." A beam of light would flicker and disappear, then reappear, growing brighter and brighter, and then Justin would wrap his arms around her and say, "Dawn! I thought I'd lost you."

She opened her eyes. It was completely dark now, except for the car lights across the ravine. Maybe Justin was driving up and down the rough road. Or maybe her father had called home and Vera had said, "Oh, thank G.o.d. Dawn's run away," and Dean had said, "I'll find her." Or maybe her mother had called the millionaire with the helicopter and they were flying over the farmhouse right now. She could sit here all night thinking up ways everyone could come back and realize their mistake and fall in love with her and never let her go. But a voice in her head said, You have no time for that nonsense now. It sounded a lot like Vera.

And she had to agree. She had to rescue herself.

She stood up.

Turn around and walk back, the voice said.

She had to test each step with her foot, groping at the s.p.a.ce in front of her, clutching at p.r.i.c.kly striplings to keep from falling.

She stumbled onto the road and skinned one palm on gravel. Even on the road she had to go slowly because it was so dark she could barely see her feet. She walked until the road curved and went over a wooden bridge and ended at tarmac under a streetlight: the highway.

It began to rain, and a car stopped instantly. It contained an elderly couple, the Hendersons, they said, and they were appalled to see a young girl walking along the highway in the dark. Whatever was she thinking? She said she had gone for a walk and lost track of time. "I'm going to call my dad," she said. "He'll come and get me." They let her off at a gas station. Inside, she asked for a phone book and found the number right away, between Turner, C.K., and Turner, Donald. Turner, D.

As easy as that. All this time. He had been in the phone book.

The phone rang. A man answered.

"Dad?"

"Yeah?" But it didn't sound like him, so she hesitated.

The man cleared his throat and said, "Did you say Dad or Dan?"

"Dad."

"Thought so. Wrong number."

"Oh. Sorry."

"That's okay."

Dawn hung up. She would have to call her mother or her grandparents next. Then she dialled D. Turner's number again. Before he could say h.e.l.lo, she asked, "Is your mother's name Grace Turner?"

ONCE REMOVED.

Rain ran down the window in rivulets. Inside the gas station, Dawn followed their progress, remembering how she and Jimmy had tried to use telekinesis to move water droplets after seeing a man on TV bend spoons with his mind. Jimmy gave up quickly, but Dawn concentrated until her head hurt. None of the drops had even quivered. She had been so certain she could do it, right up until the moment she was certain of the exact opposite. How was it possible, she wondered, for something to be right and true one minute and impossible and a pipe dream the next? This morning, she had been the most advanced-for-her-age Lighthouse pract.i.tioner on the path to freedom and truth, and Justin had loved her. Now she was standing in a gas station, Justin was gone, and the only path she wanted to be on was the one that took her home to her math textbook and bed.

The man behind the counter said, "There are your people." Dawn watched them getting out of the taxi. The bell above the door rang, and they walked straight to her, smiling. Grace was small and bird-like, with bright dark eyes and a wide forehead and short, rusty-coloured hair shot through with grey.

Dawn said, "You-you look like my grandpa."

Grace hugged her and then the man hugged her. "h.e.l.lo, Dawn," he said. He was tall, with longish dark blond hair. "It's nice to meet a relative at last."

She hadn't told Dan much on the phone, only that she was Frank Turner's granddaughter and she was stranded in Toronto and couldn't find her dad. That seemed to be enough explanation for him. He told her to stay where she was, they were on their way. "This is very nice of you," she said to Grace. "To come and get me."

"Of course we would come and get you," Grace said.

In the taxi, they gave her a can of orange juice. She watched the city grow denser and taller from the window. The taxi pulled up in front of a red brick house on a street of squeezed-together houses. Some had stores downstairs, but Grace's house had a greying front porch and a green lawn. They ushered her in and sat her in an armchair. A purring cat immediately jumped on her lap. "Dawn, you must be hungry," Grace said. "I'll warm you up some soup."

"Ma," Dan said, "I don't think we should inflict that soup on relatives we're just meeting for the first time."

Grace looked surprised. "Why? Theresa made it when she was here yesterday. It's full of vitamins."

"So is pizza," Dan said, picking up the phone. "And it has the added advantage of not tasting like dishwater."

Another cat climbed up and was negotiating for s.p.a.ce beside Dawn. She stroked the cats and looked around. The furniture looked old, the wooden floor was bare, and none of the lamps or end tables matched. On the mantel above a white brick fireplace was a rather ugly stone carving of a huge-hipped woman, next to a bra.s.s plaque that said, KNOCK AND THE DOOR SHALL BE OPENED. She wondered if Grace was poor or if she just liked things that were old and odd and didn't match. There were also plants everywhere, in pots and trays on the windowsills and tab-letops, and a row of photographs on a wooden desk. She got up to look at them: a round-cheeked boy sitting on top of a pile of clothes in a wagon; the boy holding on to a wriggling puppy; the boy being swung by his hands between two women-Grace, obviously, with cropped dark hair, the other with loose curls and freckles; the boy in a baseball uniform; in shorts and a white s.h.i.+rt and a tie; with a cat and a dog; with his arms around the neck of the freckled woman, who was laughing. In each photo, he got closer to the grown-up Dan.

Dan said he was going upstairs to put sheets on the bed in his old room, and Grace brought Dawn another can of juice. "Dan doesn't live here?" Dawn asked. She wasn't sure yet whether Grace was her great-aunt or her grandmother. Most likely her great-aunt, given the fact that Dan called her Ma, but with this family, it was best not to jump to conclusions.

"No," Grace said. "He has his own apartment near the restaurant. He's a chef."

"Really? Do you-do you work at a restaurant too?" It was a ridiculous question, but Grace didn't seem to mind.

"No. I sold my business a couple of years ago. I had a little cleaning company. Now I grow herbs for Dan's restaurant and a few other places."

The doorbell rang. "Pizza's here," Dan called. "I got it." Grace went into the kitchen to get plates.

At the window, Dan pulled a few leaves off a plant. "Fresh basil?" he asked Dawn, who said, "Sure." He tucked three tiny leaves onto a pizza slice and handed her the plate.

Grace shooed the cats off Dawn's lap, then sat on the sofa and accepted a plate of pizza from Dan. "Now, Dawn, how did you come to be stranded in the city?"

Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 21

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Every Time We Say Goodbye Part 21 summary

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