"Oh wow, check out that ancient gaming console! What do you think it was used for?"
I giggled. "Pong, perhaps?"
We were at the Paul A. Wilkes Natural Museum, the first part of our Sunday. Is it bad that I didn't want the weekend to end? Nate and I were having so much fun and I knew Monday would come all too soon.
"Come on, Marilyn, we got more places to get to," said Nate.
We pulled up to the tiniest cabin in Hidden Springs. It was at the edge of the town, right before you get to the Beach.
"This is your place?" I asked.
"Uh, yeah," he said. "Follow me this way." It took him a moment to fumble with the keys. The cabin looked like an outhouse compared to my hole in the wall.
Inside wasn't much better.
Besides a few pieces of furniture, the room was practically bare. There was no sink or trash can. There wasn't even a stove or microwave! And it was so dark. I searched for a light switch and couldn't find one that worked.
"Err, I probably need to pay the electricity bill. Give me one moment?" he said, reaching for his phone. I took the opportunity to look around.
There was nothing but black mold in the refrigerator, as if it hadn't held food in a long time.
The bed felt like it had never been slept on.
And there was no water. The rusty pipes were bone dry like there hadn't been plumbing for awhile, either.
I sat at the kitchen table and considered the things I had seen. No electricity, no appliances, mold in the fridge, an unused bed, no water and rusty pipes. Bad thoughts started forming in my mind but I tried to push them away. I'm sure Nate had a reasonable explanation. Right? Either this wasn't his home or he was in worse shape than I was.
"Sorry about that. Utilities can be such a drag."
"Do you live here?" I asked quietly.
"What?" Nate laughed nervously.
I stood up to face him. Then, loudly, I asked again, "do you live here?"
We stared at each other for a moment. He seemed unsure of what to say next. I was hesitant to push him because if he was lying to me, then I really didn't know this man after all and wasn't about to trust a stranger.
Finally he spoke. His voice came out a whisper. "No, Marilyn, I don't live here. Truth is, this is the first time I've been inside this cabin." He turned away from me.
"Oh no you don't, mister! I'm still speaking to you!" I shouted, walking around to confront him. "Who the hell are you? Why did you lie to me? Is your name even Nate --", I hesitated. I didn't recall getting his last name.
"Yes, of course my name is Nate!"
"Well since I have to now double check everything you tell me, I had to make sure. What kind of guy brings someone to a cabin in the woods that they don't even own?! Tha-tha-that they can't even make someone THINK they live here? How did you even think you could pull this off? That I wouldn't eventually find out?"
Nate (or John or Claude or Damian) folded his hands. "Marilyn, please. Can we sit down and talk? I can explain everything."
My tone softened just the tiniest bit. "After Gregory spent my trust fund and Tad cheated on me, I figured I was done with the lies. I wanted to take care of myself and never open my heart up again. I got a job and I was making it. And then you come along with your cute little freckles, and your guitar and fishing pole. I ended up liking you."
"I liked you, too," Nate put his head in his hands.
"I liked you so much that and it scared me so bad. I just wanted to push you away so I could protect myself. I kept waiting for you to do something to make it easy for me to leave but you never did. You were the only constant thing in my life since Gregory died. The only thing that made sense. I felt like a real person around you and the entire time, you've just been lying to me."
"It was real," he mumbled.
"I don't believe you and it doesn't matter, anyway. Don't call me, don't come over and don't wait for me outside of my work. Leave me alone."
His eyes widened. "Mar..."
"I'm only going to say this once, so you better listen well. I.Don't.Want.Anything.To.Do.With.You."
"Fuck off." And with that, I turned on my heel and stomped out the door.
I didn't cry while I was screaming Nate's head off or in the taxi while it was driving me home. When I got in the door, the tears still would not fall.
But then I started thinking about how I now had no one left. No parents, no Tad, no Babe, no Carter and now, no Nate (or Luke or Shawn or Steve). Everyone I knew either died or betrayed me. I remembered the first couple of nights in this hole before I had gotten furniture. I was using a freaking sleeping bag and showering at the gym. Even when I had gotten furniture after the estate sale, things had still looked so bleak. Then I met Nate. And he showed me how to have fun, that some people can care about you without having their own agenda. And just when I had finally started to let my guard down, this happened.
Who do you call when the person who always fixes you is the one who hurt you the most? And to think, this weekend I had thought that maybe Nate was going to propose. Yeah we could have lived happily ever after in his tiny little shit shack. Just knowing that I had even hoped for such a thing told me how far I had really come. And that was what finally brought on the tears.
I was crying when I was getting ready for bed...
...and when I woke up the next morning.
* * * * * * *
After Marilyn had left, Nate drove to the Hidden Gardens to stand on their bridge. He had brought her here back when it was his bridge, his favorite spot, but along the way, what was his had become theirs. Nate wanted to share more than a bridge with Marilyn. This weekend, he had been planning on giving her a ring. He didn't know if it was too soon and he didn't care. He was so confident in his love for her that he didn't want to waste any more time being apart. And now this.
It was going to be almost impossible to get her back but Nate knew that their love was worth fighting for. And a great love is worth a great gesture.
He jumped in his car and got to the big mansion on the hill in five minutes flat where Sonia was waiting for him by the door. Nate hurried past her into the sitting room. Plopping down on the couch, there were still no plans that would form.