Soundtrack: "Runaway Train" - Soul Asylum
Cory wasn't sure how long he'd been walking. A few minutes? An hour? Maybe longer. Time didn't seem to matter so much any more, unless you count the time between drinks.
She told him that she was there to say goodbye to him, and that she wouldn't be coming back.
Afraid that someone might come home, they'd gone to the little park down the road to talk. And that was where she'd tried to convince him to go back to Richmond.
"Cory, this is crazy!" She said. "You can't throw away your whole life because of one kiss... "
"That's not the point... "
"I'm leaving now... it doesn't matter what you think you feel, I won't be there anyway."
"That's not the point, either."
"Then what is the point?!"
"The point is, I - " he broke off suddenly. "I can't talk about this with you... "
"You need to talk to someone about it. I know why you're making such a big deal out of this, your father told me about your mother. He told me what happened - "
"You don't know anything about what happened with my mother... "
"I know what she did, I know that you've never been able to forgive her for it, but - "
"Samantha, don't... "
"No, hear me out. I get that you think that what she did was unforgivable. I get that you think you're unforgivable, because you did something similar... but maybe it's not like that. I mean... not saying that what you mother did was right, but it doesn't have to mean that she was a bad person. Maybe she wasn't, maybe she was just lonely and mixed up and trying to survive, just like the rest of us..."
Without replying, he got up and walked across the park. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, when she came up behind him.
"Because if you can forgive her, maybe you can forgive yourself, too."
He spun around. "Samantha, just stop it!" People were staring at them now. He took a breath, tried to calm himself. "I mean, you said you've got - what - an hour until your train? I don't want to waste our last hour together talking about my mother."
"But - "
"No, Samantha... tell me... tell me about you. Tell me where you're planning to go from here... "
He led her back to a seat, and they talked about everything except the things that really needed to be said. They talked for so long, that they lost track of time, and had to hurry to make Samantha's train.
On the way to the station, they passed the building where he was staying. He stopped suddenly. "I have to get something from the apartment," he said.
"We don't have time," Samantha reminded him. "The train goes soon, I've already bought the ticket, and I still have to get my suitcase out of the locker, and - "
"You go ahead," said Cory. "I'll meet you there."
"But, if you don't get there in time - "
"I'll get there," he said. "I can run faster than you. Go on, I'll be there," he said again, when she hesitated. He ran towards the building, leaving her no choice but to keep going to the station.
He wasn't going to make it, Samantha thought, looking around the platform.
She was starting to wonder if Cory had been pretending to want something from the apartment, just because he couldn't face saying goodbye. Well, if he had, then it wasn't fair. She needed the goodbye.
Then she saw him, running towards her, a cigarette in one hand and some kind of picture in the other. "I told you I'd be here," he gasped, out of breath, when he finally reached her.
"Only just," she said, looking up at the clock.
"I wanted to give you this," he said, handing her the picture he was carrying. "I brought it with me because... I don't know why I brought it... but I think you should have it."
She turned it over, a copy of the photo of herself, Cory and Kyle, the day Kyle had come back to the shop. "Cory, are you sure... "
"Good memories... " he said, looking over her shoulder as he stamped out the remainder of the cigarette.
"What about you?"
"I don't need any more memories..."
"You really are going, aren't you?" he whispered into her shoulder.
"Yes, I am," she said
"I just thought... I thought whatever happened, I'd still have you."
"You never 'had' me, Cory." she said, gently moving away from him. "You know that."
"As a friend, I thought I did," he said.
"As a friend, you still do," she said. "I'm leaving, as a friend."
They held onto each other, until the train pulled into the platform behind them. "Go back to Richmond, Cory," Samantha said, as she climbed on board. "You belong there."
Then the train doors closed, and it pulled slowly out of the station.
And then she was gone. And that was when it struck Cory how truly alone he was, and how he had no idea of how to change that, or if he ever could.
He had no idea of the future at all.
In a kind of panic, he'd ran back to the apartment. He finished the bottle while he threw his things in his suitcase, then he scribbled a note to his brother. He really had meant to go back to Richmond like he said, but in the end, he just couldn't face it. He couldn't face his wife, his family, he couldn't face another rejection or another reminder of how he'd destroyed everything that was of value to him, again.
What he really wanted, was a safe place. Somewhere in the past, long before Samantha, or Rose, even before Sharla, and Dustin... right back, when his parents still loved each other and his mother still cared, back when everyone was happy, and there were no secrets to keep.
He knew that such a place hadn't existed in a long time, if it had ever existed at all. So, instead, he'd found himself back here.
A long time ago, he'd felt like he belonged here. In a way, back then he'd been freer than he'd ever been in his life. There were no expectations, no judgements, nothing mattered except getting through today. And even that didn't seem all that important at times. Under any other circumstances, it would have almost been funny - drunken oblivian wasn't what came to mind when most people talked about inner peace, but it was the closest Cory had ever come.
Samantha thought she knew what was wrong, but she didn't know anything. She'd been right about just one thing, though. April hadn't been a bad person.
He'd clung to the illusion that she was, for most of his life. He still dreamed of her, arguing with his father, angry at him and his brothers, ignoring them to spend time with her lover. Scenes from his childhood, replayed night after night down through the years, to reinforce what he wanted to believe.
He'd needed to hate her, but that had become impossible now that he'd been there himself, and the reality was even harder to deal with than the anger he'd felt towards her all these years. She didn't deserve his anger, and she hadn't deserved to lose her family, just for being lonely and mixed up and too weak to do anything more than just give in. She certainly hadn't deserved to die.
Maybe it was harsh, blaming a seven year old for the consequences of the secret he'd kept, and maybe the outcome would have been the same if he'd told his dad, anyway. Or, maybe not. He couldn't remember how much time passed between the day he'd seen his mother with her lover, and the day his father had caught them together, but he knew that April had barely been pregnant when she left. Hadn't Dad always said that they might have worked it out, if she hadn't had her lover's child? Maybe, if Dad had known sooner, maybe...
He'd never know, but the possibility was enough. He'd lived with that possibility his whole life.
"If you can forgive her, maybe you can forgive yourself..."
Forgive himself? Forgive April? Why should he even think about forgiving her, when she'd gone before she could offer him the same courtesy?
Her infidelity was one thing, but to leave him there, with his guilt and no chance of absolution... that was something he could never forgive her for.