For the first year or so, ‘torture’ would have been an understatement to describe how it felt to not reconnect with Molly at all. In the back of my head I knew that I could break and creep her Facebook profile or something, and in the first few weeks I broke a few times and looked her up, content at seeing her life going well and deeply saddened knowing I wasn’t in it anymore. Maybe her life was going so well because I wasn’t in it. But as time marched forward, so did I, and what once was a Herculean task that dragged my heart down, became instead an effortless part of my day. I didn’t document what day I started to not think of her daily, but as embarrassing as it is to admit, it probably came in around eight months or so.
But then more time passed, then even more, and I no longer saw myself as an extension of her. I was Aaron again, I was my own person, and felt comfortable being the only person attached to my destiny. I’d still think about her, maybe once a week, maybe once a month, but never associated her with my past sins nor hers. Just a general, ‘Oh yeah, her, I wonder how she’s doing?’ Me, I was doing fine. After finishing university, I quickly took up work as a sandwich artist, working in a sandwich shop by day, enjoying life by night. After a bit, I even began to write my own self-help book. I didn’t know what the hell I’d call it, but I didn’t need a title, even the fact that I’d turned my own experiences with people into a way to possibly help others was cool.
It wasn’t just my experiences with Molly. In fact, it was mostly my experiences with others. I began to learn to love people and talking to them and seeing the smiles on their faces when they talked about their lives. The sandwich shop had its fair share of regulars – there was this one guy that wore a wristband who insisted on ordering something different every time. He wanted to be an engineer. There was this cute hipster-ish looking couple that apparently met at the sandwich shop, then it turned out they were coworkers. They got married surprisingly quickly after, but I wasn’t there to judge, and they seemed really happy. There was this one mother who liked to have her kids order for her to give them ‘a feeling of responsibility.’ People were interesting, and turned a banal, meaningless job into one where every day was different.
A few years into the job came the most impactful day. It was the dead of winter, probably around mid-January, when she came in. I recognized her immediately, even though it was apparent she’d grown. She no longer had her reserved shyness around her, though she kept her shoulders hunched in, perhaps as a leftover quirk. She had on this cute little woolen hat to cover most of her red hair, and carried a little tote bag with her. Her face seemed to retain the youthful innocence I’d always known her for, and het her stare had the mature elegance of someone who knew how to handle their life. I definitely never saw it from Molly before, and I was overjoyed to see it now.
She studied the menu above my head for a few seconds, brow furrowed in concentration, before approaching me.
“Hi!” she began cheerfully. Politely.
I was grinning without any hope of stopping. “Yeah.” I replied quietly. She didn’t recognize me, but I didn’t mind.
“Could I get a meatball sub, or maybe a veggie… Hmm.” She pouted again. “Sorry, long day. I was never good with making decisions.” She laughed nervously at the scene she was making in front of a stranger.
“I guess some things never change, huh?” I asked, my grin not waning.
She gave me a confused expression, then her eyes went to my nametag. Her eyes flew back to my face as her own face lit up. “Oh my God! Aaron?!”
“Hey Molly, how’s it going?” I replied warmly, my grin only getting bigger.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!” she practically squealed. “How are you? It’s so good to see you! How’ve you been, what are you d- well, I guess working here, but, what’s, you know…”
I could only chuckle as she blabbered on. “It’s good to see you too.” I told her.
She grinned back at me. “Wow, this is really cool. So how’d you-” She stiffened, gazed behind her, and realized there was someone waiting behind her. She turned back around bitterly. “Oh, right. Guess you’re on the clock.”
“I am indeed.” I laughed, calm as ever.
“Well, whatever. Pick the better one. Meatball or veggie. Put Swiss and ranch on it. Maybe some lettuce. I’m good to go.” she flusteredly finished.
“One meatball, Swiss, ranch and maybe lettuce… What bread? Want it toasted?”
“Yes, toasted. Toast it before you put the lettuce on. And I dunno, white. Whatever the simplest bread is.” She flashed me a smile. “Thanks, Aaron.”
I completed her order and we moved to the end of the station so she could pay. “I hope it’s a good job.” she mumbled, trying to keep up the conversation.
“I love it, it’s really rewarding.” I told her.
She stared up at me. “You’ve changed.”
“In a few years? I freaking hope so.” I laughed. “Although some of this is just really enjoying seeing you again.”
Molly looked down and smiled. “Yeah, I’m glad it’s mutual.” she said.
“I don’t normally ask customers this, but I get off in about an hour. Would you be interested in hanging out after it’s over? No pressure, of course.” I felt bad asking her, just because of the dynamic of employee-customer, but I also knew I felt very ready to have this friend back in my life.
Molly’s mouth went to the side of her face in thought as she tapped her debit card. She opened her mouth to say something several times, and then eventually said, “Truthfully? I dunno.”
“I can accept that.” I replied. “Tell you what. Until you explicitly say yes, I’ll assume you’re busy or don’t want to or what-have-you. But the offer’s open, okay?”
“Okay.” She smiled. Her smile got bigger as my words sank in. “It’s really good to see you again, Aaron.”
“It’s really good to see you again too, Molly.” I told her as I went to help the next person in line. Over time, I forgot that Molly was still there, and after helping everyone else in line, I scanned the store. Molly wasn’t in sight. She had left.
I shrugged. A few years ago, that would have devastated me, but now, I could accept that. She was her own person now, and maybe me re-emerging into her life was too much. She didn’t owe me her time, I was just glad to see her again in the first place. The next hour was relatively quiet, and after it was over, I went about my duties and closed the shop, unsure of what to do with my night.
Good thing I didn’t have plans, because fate had made a reservation for me. As I locked up the shop, I heard rapid footsteps behind me. I quickly turned around to see Molly jogging back towards me.
She didn’t say a word until we were only a few feet apart. She met my gaze and then lost it, looking down at me feet, then looking back into my eyes confidently. “I was wondering if your offer was still on the table.”
I smiled. “Absolutely.” I replied.
Molly smiled in relief, almost as if she was expecting me to say no. “Okay, cool.” she replied, trying to let her casual tone balance the smile. “Do you have anywhere in particular you wanted to go?”
Seeing Molly again flooded me with memories, the good and the bad, and one memory stuck out to me. “Yeah, I think I actually do have a place in mind,” I told her, offering my hand to her. She gave me hers and I enthusiastically grabbed it. “You cool with taking a bus?”
“Uh… sure!” she replied hesitantly, and I smiled, beginning our journey. I had gotten to know the place pretty darn well, and as we rode on the bus, we just talked. About my job and how well I knew the city, how Molly was applying for a grant with some teaching project, how Daisy and her parents had a falling out and she moved out and didn’t communicate with them, and how beautiful the snowfall was. Eventually, we made it.
I smiled at the sight, and could feel Molly smiling beside me. The park. The cute little park with the skating rink. It looked as magical as I remembered – festive lights adorning the trees, charming little lampposts, little benches, little fences… I breathed it in.
“Wow.” Molly reacted to the sight. “I didn’t even know a place like this existed here.”
“I felt the same way when I first discovered this place.” I replied, looking around. “Wanna go skating? I think this place rents out skates. I’ll buy.”
Molly laughed. “I wasn’t prepared for this.” she said, then looked up at me slyly. “But if you’ll buy…” she trailed off and we laughed, hand in hand, making our way towards the rink. It was so nice to see her so relaxed, so stress-free, so willing to take on the world. The way she accepted this twist of fate, the way the did up her skates and was ready to take on the rink, even the way she skated. She was definitely a much better skater than I was, as evident by the fact that she nearly effortlessly skated around while I fell on my behind more than once.
She’d laugh every time, but she’d also help me up every time. The final time she helped me up, I nearly slipped again and held onto her shoulders, and she held onto my hips. We held each other for a bit like that and I coughed nervously before letting her go, looking away. I figured she would too.
Surprisingly, she didn’t. “Look me in the eye, you lily-liver.” she childishly challenged me. I laughed and looked her in the eye, just as she wanted, for a few more seconds. She simply smirked at me and skated away.
After a few more minutes, we retired and turned in our skates, resigning to just walking around the park, continuing to talk about our lives. After a couple minutes, I winced in pain.
“I think we should find a bench.” I complained. “That last bump hit me harder than expected.”
Molly nodded and we began to find our way to a bench, but not before my hobbling turned into tripping, unfortunately tripping some unfortunate guy in the process. I hit the snow first, before I heard the second guy call out, “Mercy!” as he hit the snow beside me.
I stood up and offered him a hand. Some admittedly good-looking European-looking guy of about our age, probably on vacation or something. “Sorry about that, I tripped.” I explained as I helped him up.
“Not to worry.” he told me in a gentle voice. He accepted my help, then stared into my eyes for a second, then looked at Molly. He smiled. “If I may say, you two are a very lovely couple.”
I was taken aback. That came out of nowhere. I awkwardly looked at Molly, stumbling over my words, trying to explain what in the hell we were.
Molly beat me to it. “Thanks.” she told him warmly, before helping me to a bench. We watched him walk off, then I turned to her.
“No ‘oh, we’re not a couple’? ‘Thanks’?” I challenged her.
“It was the easier answer.” she gave with a shrug. “What, did you want me to go over our entire history with him?”
I laughed. “Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing.”
“Looks like we’re on the same wavelength.” I teased.
“Quick, what color am I thinking of?” Molly asked with joking urgency, putting a finger to her head.
“Uh… green. No, purple. Seven. Shit.” I joked back, and we laughed together, easing back on to the bench. We let a comfortable silence envelope us for a few seconds.
“Hey Molly?” I eventually broke the silence.
I don’t know what possessed me to ask this. I wasn’t normally this brave, especially not with this much backstory, and it was really out of character for me, but I knew I had to ask. “Would you ever want to go on a date with me sometime?”
Molly could only chuckle in confusion. “What was this?” she gestured around her.
“Exactly what I promised it would be.” I told her. “This was two friends catching up. I don’t want to change the expectations after the fact. Now I’m asking you out on a formal date.”
Molly laughed, shaking her head and looking down. “Not bad, Aaron.” she mumbled, smiling. “Yeah, sure. I’ll go on a freaking date with you.”
I smiled, a really big smile, and looked away from her, fire in my lungs despite the cold winter air. “Wow…” I breathed. “Cool. Yeah.”
Molly snickered. “So bashful.”
“Do you think there’s a chance for us?” I blurted out. “After all this time.”
“I don’t know.” Molly replied, her smile not disappearing. “But if I wasn’t willing to take a chance, I wouldn’t have said yes. I guess it’s up to that date, and the future, to decide.” Her hand found mine, and we stared into each other’s eyes. “We’ll just have to see what the future holds.”
“Cool, let’s do that.” I replied, and we both looked off towards the rink, still holding hands. I was super nervous, nervous like I hadn’t been in a long time, but also very happy for the future. Nothing was defined, but that was a part of what made the future special. I had the rest of my life to live, and so did she.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this whole story, including the epilogue. Special thanks go out to readers who have followed this story since 2016. I hope you enjoyed the characters and the story.
This story deals with a lot of tough themes, morally questionable events, and downright evil actions. If I was trying to write this story as an example of what should happen in the real world, I would have ended this story halfway through chapter 8. In this story, someone ended up in a romantic partnership with someone who sexually assaulted them. It’s important to highlight that stories are stories, and while we all love a happy ending, sometimes we don’t get to have that in the real world, but when bad things happen, we can take steps to assure our own safety and comfort.
It’s important to make these decisions for yourself. If you have been the victim of sexual assault, it doesn’t matter whether the person was a stranger or a friend, your feelings matter, and what they did is not okay. Don’t let your own guilt or altruism stop you from pressing charges, or asking your friends for help, or confiding in a therapist. Therapy is not for the weak, it’s for people that want to help themselves get better and reach their potential. That, to me, is a strength.
Abuse can take many forms, and we’ve seen many of those forms in this story alone. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable or disrespected, you don’t owe them anything and you don’t have to be around them. Try to understand the situation from outside your own perspective, of course, but do not settle for less just because it makes things easier for people that hurt you. You deserve to feel okay too. This story was full of people that made questionable choices, as a cautionary tale, not as a recommendation. When in doubt, if you’re not feeling okay, confide in a friend who listens well, or a trained professional. They’re here to help.
Lastly, if things are getting toxic between you and a former friend or lover, don’t feel that you have to stay. It’s okay to need a break from people. Human beings are bad at waiting and seeing things long-term but if it’s meant to be, you’ll reconnect when it’s best and healthy. I used to not believe it myself, but since starting this story, I’ve lived through a couple of its themes. It wasn’t fun, but it’s helped me realize how much of a life we have to life, and how we can be the masters of our own destinies. This story was written in dedication to three people in my life – two of which wronged me, two of which I wronged. In all three cases we went our separate ways, and in one case we reconnected and were stronger friends than ever. All I ask from you, the reader, is to recognize the feelings of others in these situations, and remember your lifelines of therapy, finding your support network, and walking away from toxic influences. Thank you.
These stories are made possible by the generous patrons at my Patreon. If you enjoy reading these stories, please consider contributing to my Patreon to help keep me writing and get yourself a few perks along the way.