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The driver helpfully pulled in front of Paul’s dormitory. He stepped out only realizing how exhausted he was as he stretched. He forced himself to make the climb to his room. Each step seemed to be just an inch or so higher than the last.
He found his floor and started down the hallway, targeting his door like some sort of sleep-deprived missile. He decided to message Jordan and take a sick day just to regain his energy. He was about to do just that when he noticed a note tucked into the crack in his door.
He almost didn’t reading, supposing it would be Nobody, offering some vague connection that would only give him more to think about, but Nobody’s conversations and messages weren’t typically in public areas.
That’s why he used his thick fingers pluck the note out and read it.
“Paul,” It read. The handwriting was Stacy’s. “I never wanted this to happen. I certainly don’t want you to go to prison. Neither does Nathan.”
Paul supposed Nathan was the new boyfriend. He tamped down a surge of anger and resentment, forcing himself to continue reading the letter.
“I admit that it was wrong to cheat on you. I admit that I should have spoken to you or even just broken up with you, but when I’m with you, you’re just so powerful. You’re like some sort of vortex, and anyone near you just sort of gets caught up in whatever you’re doing. I think this can be a wonderful thing, but it’s scary, too. You terrified me tonight.”
And there it was, the condemnation that Paul’s mother refused to give. Just like his father, Paul was a bully. Maybe he was more polite in his posture at times, but deep down, Stacy sensed his rage. Paul shut his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. How could he get rid of that anger? Hiding it clearly didn’t work.
“I think you loved having me, but I don’t think you loved me. I know this hurts to hear, and I promise it hurts me to say it. I fell for the man you could be, and I think you can still be that man. I hope you will, at least. We don’t want you to get in trouble. We just want to go our separate ways. If you really want to make up for it, be the man I think you can be. That man is special. Never, EVER, be the man you were tonight again. That man is horrible and frightening. I’m writing this as a letter because I don’t want any electronic trace. Be happy for me. If I’m wrong, and you loved me, please be happy for me. Don’t hate Nathan, appreciate him because he makes me feel loved. Be the man I though you could be. Please.”
There was a curious amount of space before the next portion of the letter.
“I don’t actually know how to end this. I’ve thought about it for an hour. It’s me, Stacy, and I’m pretty sure you already know that. But, just to be sure.”
Paul’s hand trembled. A part of him wanted to crumble it up and burn it, but he couldn’t make his muscles obey the impulse. The letter was a perfect summary about how he’d felt his whole life. And the question terrified him. Even after what he’d done, Stacy was willing to give him a chance to be the man she thought he could be. Who was that man? Was it the same sort of person Bill would have wanted Paul to become?
Why did everyone seem to think a person could just say, “I want to be this sort of man,” and then suddenly become that man. Did people really become who they set their minds on becoming? Didn’t people just sort of be who they were and others would decide if they were good or bad? Maybe people tried their best, but they just were who they were.
That was the question Paul didn’t have any answers for. Did he ever really have a choice in who he could be, or was he destined to be just like his father?
He carefully folded the note back up and opened his door as softly as he could. Then he went inside, setting the letter on his study table before falling on his bed, still wearing all his clothes, and falling fast asleep.
… The end of Chapter fifteen …
… To be continued …