I WALKED INTO my childhood home knowing that no one would be there. It was lonely and silent as I turned the entryway switch to turn on the lights to the living room. Looking ahead I saw an old picture of my mom holding me on her lap in a field of wildflowers before she died. You could just see the bump in her stomach that should have been my little sister… That one always made me sad. I couldn’t help but miss her, even all these years later - and I would have given anything for a hug from her right then.
I walked upstairs to my room carrying the suitcase I had brought with things to get me through the break, sitting it down inside the bedroom I’d slept in since I was a baby. I sighed as I dug out a pair of pajamas and began emptying out my pockets. Emerson ID/Wallet, car key fob, house key, cell phone, and a jewelry box that I sat down gently and tapped before wiping tears from my eyes.
I pulled my shirt off, followed by the slacks I was wearing. Two AM clicked over on the digital clock, and I knew I probably should have just stayed in my dorm for the night. I couldn’t stand the thought of being there though since all of my friends had either left already, or been adopted now…
I pulled on a soft pajama shirt, pulled on my pajama bottoms, and retied my hair behind my head.
I nearly went for the scissors right then, but decided it was too late that night.
I could tell that Dad had washed my bedding before he left on his trip, since I could still smell the scent of a dryer sheet on them. Pulling the covers over my body, I felt myself cry even more at the hurt.
“I’m sorry Cameron,” she said. “I didn’t want… I don’t want…” Tears streamed down her face as she took a breath and said, “Look, I do love you more than you can know, but…” She practically screamed, “I… I can’t marry you. My family will disown me! And my mom… This week Mom… Mom made me promise to break it off with you before I came home for Christmas…”
She pushed the box gently back into my hands, kissed me on the top of my head, and said, “I can’t, Cameron. I don’t think that there will ever be another man in my life because I love you so dearly. But clearly, I can’t keep leading you on with false promises of a future together… I’ll always love you Cameron, but… but we can’t do this anymore.”
She had turned and left me standing there with the box still in my hand and tears running down my face. Wordlessly I cleaned up the mess of my attempt to be romantic, walked back to my dorm, packed my suitcase, and set the car to begin driving back home on the dark roads.
‘This sucks…’ I thought through the broken heart that I felt.
I tossed and turned for a while before giving up and going downstairs to turn on the TV. I tried reading a book, found a snack, and then tried again. I finally must have fallen asleep about eight that morning, and the next thing I knew it was close to six in the evening.
Dad wasn’t due home until the next afternoon from his business trip. I decided to take a shower before dressing in some fresh comfortable pajamas and checking my phone.
Cameron, I really am so very sorry about everything… I will always love you, but I think you’ll understand when I say that I don’t think I can even see you to send home your things you had at my apartment. I placed everything in some boxes and sent them this morning to your dad’s house… you should get them Monday.
Good luck in the future,
She hadn’t even signed her name Addy… that’s how far I had fallen. I felt the tears at my eyes again as my phone rang. Meg’s photo showed, “Hey Cameron! Are you okay? I thought you were coming over to hang out at Stacy’s today?”
I saw Stacy standing there too as the video feature went live. “Oh Cameron, what’s wrong?” Stacy asked.
“She said… She… No.”
“Oh Cameron! I’m so sorry!” Stacy and Meg said in near unison.
Megan suddenly came into view, “Where are you?”
“I packed up my stuff from my dorm last night and just came home…”
“Didn’t you say your dad is out of town?” Meg asked.
I nodded, “He’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”
“Are you okay? You need us to come there and hang out?” Megan asked.
I hesitated for a moment, but shook my head, “No, I’m not okay… but I’m guessing I will be after some time. Honestly, I just want some time to try and process everything. I mean… what do I even do with the ring I bought?”
Megan frowned, “Hang onto it for now. After break maybe Amanda and I can take you to return it? I have a feeling if you try and do it by yourself it won’t end well…”
I nodded at that, thinking that a Mid that had a failed engagement ring wouldn’t be safe returning it…
“Yeah… that’s probably a good idea.”
“Look, if you change your mind and want us to come over let me know! Or if you just need to talk! I hate to see you alone right now, but I can understand you wanting that.”
“Thanks Megan. Thanks Stacy, Meg, sorry about bailing without letting you know…”
“Understandable Cameron!” Meg said.
I sighed as I hung up the phone and decided I needed something to eat. Dad didn’t have much in the kitchen, so I went out to my car and drove to a fast-food place nearby. I placed an order for a hamburger combo and took it back home to eat.
Through the evening I found myself curled up underneath a blanket on the couch in the living room, watching some of my favorite movies. The phone rang when my favorite part was coming on one. I felt guilty and embarrassed again as I saw dad’s face. I paused the movie, and turned on the video feature for the call like we normally did.
“Hi Cameron… are you home already? Weren’t you planning on doing something today with Meg and Stacy?”
I sighed; I hadn’t been able to bring myself to call him. I was so mortified! “Last night I asked Addy to marry me…”
Dad knew me well enough, “I take it she didn’t answer the way you wanted…?”
I shook my head and wiped a tear from my eye, “No, she told me her family had given her an ultimatum to break up with me by yesterday… It’s not fair! I love her, Dad!”
We talked for a while, with tears shed on his side too it looked like, before he said, “Look Cameron, I’ll be home in the morning. Maybe we’ll go pick up a six-pack of beer or something and drink it together? Or go out somewhere?”
I looked at him in surprise, “What?”
“You’re twenty-one, right? With your birthday being after school started we never got a chance to go out for the beer a father owes his son?”
I nodded at that, “Okay… that sounds good Dad.”
When he hung up, the living room felt emptier. I looked up at the picture of Mom again and sighed, “I really wish you were here…”
I curled back up under the blanket and found myself on the two social media sites I used. I felt a knife in my gut when I saw that Addy had changed her relationship status and unfriended me in the past half-hour. Friends of mine had already sent me messages asking what happened.
I mostly ignored them, but answered a few, before throwing the phone on the counter and ignoring it the rest of the night.
DAD MADE IT home about three in the afternoon and immediately wrapped me in a hug. “I’m so sorry Cam,” he told me.
I felt some more tears trickle at my face and let them flow for a few minutes before he released me. “I know it seems impossible right now, but I promise you that you’ll find someone even better for you than Addy.”
I shrugged, “Maybe…”
“You will… Now, why don’t you go take a shower, put on some nice clothes, and we’ll go out to dinner and for some drinks.”
“Is that safe?” I asked him nervously.
He laughed, “As long as you’re with me you’re fine. Besides, we’ll go to Midtown – you probably won’t even be the shortest person there!”
I nodded at that. I had never been there, but I had heard that it was a club that catered to Mids and Littles, that had a height limit of nine-feet enforced by bouncers at the door. They also intentionally only installed short nine-foot door frames and low ceilings that were supposed to be a physical deterrent. I hopped into the shower and thought that it was odd that I still hadn’t needed to shave again after all of these years. The hair removal stuff from my freshman year was still in full effect.
I was annoyed with the long hair as I dried it, but even though I’d grown it out for Addy… I kind of liked the way I looked still. ‘Maybe I can dye it gray and look like an old barrister…’ I forced a quiet laugh and sighed.
I dressed in the suit that I normally went out with Addy in. After deciding to go without a tie, I put on my lifted dress shoes. It brought me nearly to seven-feet in height when I wore them. ‘Maybe I’ll find someone who isn’t so tall…’
It hurt though, and twisted in my guts like a knife thinking that the relationship I’d had for over three years was now gone just when I thought it was going to continue forever!
Dad was dressed nicely and had his beard combed straight. With the gray in it, he really could have done the Santa gig if he wanted it! We called a cab to come get us. Walking outside to it, “Excuse me, just give me a minute so I can get a car seat out for your young man,” he insisted.
“I’m tall enough…”
“You might be, but I don’t want to have the death of some kid on my hands because they weren’t properly restrained!” He said tersely.
“It’ll be fine Cameron,” Dad said to me.
The man put a front facing car seat in place that looked like it had seen better days. The faded pink color and unnamable stains on it failed to make it any better. Dad didn’t get off the hook either though as the man installed a backless booster, “I need you to sit on that sir,” he told him.
He just sighed, “Of course…”
The ride to the restaurant wasn’t long, and it was thankfully within walking distance of the club, but I flushed as the door opened at the restaurant and I was picked up out of the seat by a valet. “Welcome young miss…”
“I’m a guy, that’s a cab, and I don’t normally sit in a car seat,” I said a bit tersely to the giant.
They looked like they were going to be offended, but dad grabbed my shoulder and said, “Let’s go get something to eat.”
Over dinner we enjoyed a glass of wine with the meal. He told me about some things with his job, funny stories and such. He worked as one of the chief technicians on a crew that made repairs to some of the independent portals like Diamond Tours and PR, Inc. His understanding of the technical workings of the portals meant he was in high demand - and paid pretty well. It also meant he got stuck dealing with some of the most idiotic Little crazy Bigs out there... He was well practiced with it though, and usually dealt with them quite easily!
By the end of a very good meal of filet mignon, I was feeling the effects of the alcohol, but was certainly not drunk yet.
“Let’s hit the gents and then head over to the club,” Dad said after he paid.
“Good idea,” I said. ‘The last thing I want to do is have a drunken accident like my old roommate…’
We finished up there and walked down the block to the club. As we walked, I watched a number of other couples and people out for a night on the town. Every time I saw that they held hands or kissed, it was like the knife in my gut twisted some more. This seemed to be a popular area that had grown a lot in the past few years since I went off to college. There were a few Bigs around, but it really was mostly Mids and a few Littles wandered from place to place.
“Bigs don’t come down here?” I asked Dad as I could see the sign of the club.
He shook his head, “A bunch of Mids and Littles got together and bought up this block. They built everything smaller than the Bigs like, so it keeps mostly them all away. There’s also a volunteer group of security that wander the streets to help dissuade anyone from adopting shorter folks.”
“Huh…” I said aloud. “Too bad we don’t have a part of town like this near Emerson…”
“It’s been so successful here that they’re talking about putting one in a few miles from the university actually,” he told me.
“Just in time for me to graduate,” I noted.
“That’s the way it works,” he agreed.
“ID?” the bouncer asked me as I came up. I presented my limited license and he motioned for us to go on through without even asking my dad for his.
Dad must have picked up on my thoughts, “Enjoy that they ask for it. You’ll be old like me someday and you’ll wish they did!”
“I guess,” I said.
I had never been inside a bar that was my size, and only once to a Big’s with Addy when I turned twenty-one early in the fall. We walked up to the counter and I was able to get on a bar stool with much less effort! “What can I get you?” she asked.
I looked at Dad, “This is your idea…”
“Let’s have a Jack and Coke, and a shot of tequila apiece,” Dad told the bartender.
“Any preferences?” He asked motioning towards the tequila.
“An Extra Anejo,” he said.
“Just a minute,” he said. I watched as he poured a finger of jack in two glasses and topped it with coke from a fountain nozzle.
Two shot glasses joined them in front of me and dad raised the larger drink to me, “Cheers,” he said.
We talked for a couple hours, and more drinks, about how it might have been better this way. “You were worried about picking a school near her, right? Now you can just worry about taking the best offer!”
That thought didn’t make me feel better, but as the tequila was sipped slowly after the cokes, it didn’t feel so bad. After a short while, I could definitely feel the alcohol affecting my brain chemistry! I was most definitely drunk by the time we hopped into another cab to go home. I was able to stumble upstairs, use the restroom, and made it into bed all on my own though.
The next day I had a hangover the likes of nothing I could have imagined! It meant I hardly registered the four boxes that arrived from Addy’s apartment for me.
Well I should have just posted two chapters and made you wait for this one... This work is far from over here, and I hope you're enjoying it. Please let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!
NxK · Jan 5, 2022I'm saddened by the outcome of Chapter 17! I like how we found out about Meg from Stacey's story. Curious how this story will take a turn now. Slightly saddened by the lack of a date for the next release of chapters as I'm really enjoying this work! I'm shocked about Cam's Dad's profession, but $ talks all else walks. Thanks for writing this and posting it. Waiting patiently for more chapters.