“John, I just learned Brian Ottomas has left town,” it was Glenn on the phone, “Is everything okay with Lori? I also just found out from Gareth who heard through the high school grapevine that Lori saw Brian a couple more times after that first time.”
“I know. Melora had a long talk with her Friday night and I talked with her Saturday morning; evidently this Ottomas clown told her to stay away on Friday. She’s okay, she’s grounded for a while except to go out with her mother, but Melora has talked with her quite a bit. Evidently he was content to see her and not touch her.” John paused significantly, “Or he’d be dead by now.”
“I understand. I’m sorry I didn’t discover she was seeing him earlier, John. I just didn’t think it was necessary to follow him. I was wrong. Anyway, he must have left right after he said goodbye to Lori. His sister came home around 10 pm and he was already gone.”
“It’s okay, Slats. From what I can tell he’s not really a pervert and had no criminal intentions, he just showed really poor judgment in my opinion. I don’t know if I should tell her or not. She just got calmed down,” John debated.
“She’ll find out anyway, John. In this small town today’s news is tomorrow’s gossip. Maybe it’s better if it’s you who tells her.”
“Guess you’re right.”
He told Melora and they called Lori down to the library so they could tell her privately. She took it quite well, John thought. Tears sprang to her eyes, but she wiped them away. She asked if they knew where he went and they said no. They were glad that they did not know--they didn’t have to lie.
“I have to finish my homework,” she murmured quietly and they understood she wanted to be alone. There is some pain from which you cannot shield your child.
Up in her bedroom, Lori wrote in her diary that her beloved Brian was gone and she did not know where. She called Melanie.
“He’s a guitar player; naturally he’d have to leave. Didn’t you say he was joining a new group?” Melanie pointed out.
“Yes, that’s true.”
“I don’t suppose you got the name of the band?”
“No, he never said what the name was. Mel, do you think he left on account of me?”
“Hmmmm,” she thought it over, “Well, at least partly. I mean he did tell you he didn’t like you and all that stuff but, of course, what a lie that was.”
“What do you mean?”
“Lori, even though I never met him up close and in person, I saw his texts to you; you told me every little word he ever said to you; I know he called you up to the Arcades.”
“He didn’t call me up there, he just said that’s where he was,” Lori pointed out.
“Please! He knew you’d come up there if he was there.”
“Do you think so?”
“Okay, let’s look at the facts: 1. First time: the man meets you and asks for your cell phone number, then calls you and texts you for a week, just to talk about music and what you’re doing 2. Next, he calls and asks you to come over to his house and have dinner a week later and meet his sister. 3. He continues to text and phone you all week. 4. You have dinner there and when you leave he wants to know if you have a boyfriend. Hello? 5. the day after that he goes up to Arcades and just happens to call you, (because he knows you will come up there)," Melanie was ticking these points off on her fingers, “5. Then there are two days of silence and then he calls you again, this time to say he doesn’t want to see you anymore. 7. You go to his house to talk to him and he sends you away.”
“So what do you think it means?”
“Duuuhhhhhh! I can’t believe you are giving up so easily after you were so sure a couple days ago that he wanted you. ”
“Melanie, please tell me what you mean. I can’t tell if you’re for it or against it.”
“Look I know you love this guy, Lori. I'm sorry I can’t fall in love with him to keep you company but I just can’t think that way about someone over 21 I guess. I can see he’s seriously cute (for an old guy) with that bad-boy look he’s got going on, but for me? No. Here’s the thing; I knew it was dangerous for you and for him so I didn’t want to promote it after the first week or two. Now that he’s gone, I guess I can be more open.”
“Here goes. I think he was crazy about you. I think it scared the heck out of him—you’re jailbait remember? There are probably other things going on his head that we don’t know about, but I would say he left so he could be sure he didn’t involve you in something that would be bad for you and put him in jail. And, of course, he had this job as a guitar-player that would take him on the road; an easy out.”
Lori laughed in delight. Brian loved her. At least in Melanie's opinion.
“Now that you know that I think he has a real thing for you,” Melanie continued, “That doesn’t get rid of the fact that he is too old for you. Or more to the point, you are too young for him. Right now. But think about it; when you’re 21, he’ll be 37. Thirty-seven sounds old to me, but I bet it doesn’t sound old to you. And it definitely is legal. So you just have to last 5 years.”
“Five years! Why not when I'm 18? I'll 18 right after we graduate!”
“Because you have to get through 4 years of college, too. What, are you going to give up all your dreams? But don’t worry; you’ll have plenty to do.”
“That’s what Mom says,” Lori slumped, then she brightened, “So you really think he loved me? You’re not just saying it because you know that’s what I want to hear?”
“I’m going to be so sorry I told you that, because I can see that you’ll make me tell you twenty times,” Melanie laughed, “Yes! Again, I never saw him with you in person--but everything he did toward you, everything he said to you—and the fact that he did NOT touch you, seems to me that it shows he was, yes, I hate to say it, ‘in love’ with you. I don’t think he wanted to be and that surely made it worse for him.”
Lori danced around the room and said into the phone, “Melanie, you are my bestest, sweetest, and most intelligent friend!”
“Lori,” Melanie grew serious, “Promise me that you’ll try to think about other things for a while. Five years is a long time. You have to find a secret drawer in your mind and heart and shut him up in there while we finish high school and college. Can you do that?”
Lori nodded, “I know. I can do it now, I know I can.”
There was a silence. Finally Melanie spoke,
“What about Harvey?”
“What about him?”
“If you are so crazy about Brian that you can’t be a real girlfriend to Harvey shouldn’t you reconsider things?”
“Oh. But I really like Harvey a lot! He’s so sweet and he has those beautiful eyes,” Lori said, “Can’t I just love him until we graduate?”
Melanie sighed, “I guess so.”
“Well if you think I should break it off I will. I don’t want to be mean to Harvey. I did used to kiss him and pretend he was Brian; that was bad. Well, sometimes I forgot to pretend. Just kissing Harvey for Harvey was pretty nice, too.” She laughed.
Melanie didn’t reply.
“Okay, maybe I should break up with him,” Lori said, finally ashamed. She was a terrible person. First she loved a man she shouldn’t love and lied to her parents; then she kissed someone else and maybe made him think she loved him. She did love Harvey in a way, just not the way she loved Brian.
“I’m not saying to do that necessarily,” Melanie said softly, “Just make up your mind how you feel about Harvey. If you don’t think you care for him as much as he cares for you, then maybe you should let him know.”
Listening carefully to her, Lori was struck. She’d never realized it before but Melanie cared a lot about Harvey. In fact, Lori guessed that Melanie wanted to go with him and never said anything because of her. Of course I never realized it; I’m always too busy with my own emotions to ever notice anyone else’s. Shame lashed her again, but she did not say anything to Melanie who obviously wanted no one to know her secret. Lori knew she would definitely have to rethink a lot of things in her life.
“Hey, want to come over tomorrow after school and lay out by the pool?” she asked.
“Sure, we need to get started on our summer tans!”
The next night, after her bath, Lori sat at her desk. It was funny, once she knew that there was a good chance Brian DID care deeply for her and that he was gone from town, it became easier to keep him in the back of her mind. She had not thought of him all day since they went swimming. As long as people were around it wasn’t too bad, as soon as she was alone, it came back to her.
Looking in one of the cubbyholes in her desk, Lori pulled out the drawer and removed the photo of him that she took with her phone at the Arcades. She had downloaded it to her computer and printed it. He wouldn’t smile, that day, he hadn’t really wanted his picture taken but he did it for her. He looked so solemn and his arms were crossed in a typical male posture. Lori looked at it for a while, remembering that day and thinking of things in a different light since Melanie talked to her. His black hair and gray eyes were the same and really she did not need a photo to help her remember. Still, it was all she had of him now. She put it in a small envelope and taped the envelope underneath the drawer. Then she returned the drawer to its safe and secret cubbyhole. Telling herself that she was putting away his memory, too, but only for a while, she made a vow. She would never forget Brian, even if she didn’t talk about him. Someday, some way he would come back to her and they would be together forever.
“Brian, wait for me. I promise I'll grow up just as fast as I can,” she whispered.
Next installment of the Lassiter Family HERE
If you haven't already done so; read Brian's continuing story HERE