Chapter 24

With Cara in tow, we drove towards the restaurant Terri now, apparently, worked at. We talked on the way, of Evan, and of past friends. When Cara mentioned David, she had my full attention. But I played as if I weren't that interested.

"David? David Richen?" She nodded. "Wow… I haven't heard from him in a long while… What happened to him?"

"Same thing that happened to Betsy: His parents kicked him out when he turned 18. He's living with Chris Barker. You remember him, right?" This time, I nodded. "They have an apartment not too far away from…" Cara paused a little too long. "Well, not too far away, anyway."

I'd let it go, this time. As we approached the place, I snickered, "Should I look for the big golden arches? Is the extent of her job asking, 'Do you want fries with that?' "

"Actually," Cara said, not even noticing the jokes I'd just made and hurting my joke-telling pride, "It's really fancy! You remember The Box? It moved, and another place took over. This time, you can read the name!"

Now I knew where we were headed, and I spotted what used to be the old sign to The Box. Suddenly, I couldn't even remember that place's real name. Not that it mattered… Now, towering two stories, the building was painted black, with all kinds of plants growing on the sides and around the windows, vines that snaked up the light blue trellis' that were nailed to the walls. I saw the sign ahead, "Moonlight Café?"

"Yup!"

"Ooh… Sounds pretty." I uttered as I parked. Before we reached the door, I stopped Cara, "Don't call me Shana, okay? I wanna see if Terri recognizes me… Remember, I'm Kyle now…"

We approached the waitress beside the "Please Wait Here" sign. I could smell the money. Cara giggled a friendly greeting, evidently friends with her, and asked where Terri was. The girl left, going to fetch her. Soon, I spied the familiar face of my black-haired friend. Her hair was down, which I wasn't used to (as she'd always worn it up in pigtails). She wore a cloud blue flower in her short hair, the same that I'd spied on all the other female waitresses. Her hair was shoulder length, but it curled around her head and face, shining under the dim light of the entry hall. She was still as tall as I remembered, but her face seemed slightly different. I blamed it on time.

"Hey, Goldie!" she smiled, giving Cara a one-armed side hug. She then turned to face me, but before she could speak, Cara gave me away.

"Guess who's back in town!"

Any doubts as to who I was totally flew out the window. "Oh my God, Shana-girl?! Good Lord, what happened to your hair?!" She pulled at a few strands, and I pulled back reflectively.

"Hey, you hair isn't any better!" I poked playfully.

"That's not what I meant… Oh, you know what I meant! Good Lord… You've changed so much, damn you, why didn't you tell me you looked like this?"

"Maybe I never got the chance? Five minute phone calls?" I said, tone rising at the end of my sentences.

"Oh, right… What're you doing here, in Sunlight?"

"Thought I'd stop by and visit, see how things were. When do you get off?"

"In about ten minutes. My ride'll be here soon, but I'll just blow 'em off and go with you guys." Then, changing her tone to one more commanding, she growled, "I'm going with you guys."

We laughed and conceded easily. So while she worked her butt off, for some very good tips, Cara and I waited in the entry hall, on a very soft red couch, built into the wall. When her time was up, Terri came bouncing towards us, eagerly tearing the flower out of her hair and storing it in her purse. "So, Shana, you drive now?"

"Yeah… Um… You remember what I told you about my name?" I asked. I'd told her, over the phone several months back, about my name change. Terri recalled it immediately, and playfully whined, "Hey, sorry… But I just got so excited, you can't blame me!"

"Alright, you're forgiven. This time. So, you guys wanna fill me in on what the hotspots are around here?" I asked as we headed out towards my car. Seconds later, a dark green, almost black, car came speeding up infront of us, stopping abruptly. The window rolled down to reveal two ancient faces from the past.

The passenger was Chris, who I recognized immediately. He'd gotten a little larger, but he looked the same, overall. Still dressed in all black, still wore his hair in spikes. But the driver… He was the one who caught my attention. The once fairly short hair now fell down to about an inch abouve his shoulders, and was black where it used to be brown. Several strands fell over his face and infront of his cold, cloudy blue eyes. He was growing a mustache, but it was hard to see. It seemed as though it didn't want to come in, and was too light to really notice. But he had a fairly nice goatee growing in, with sideburns that fell to the top of his jaw, but went no further. No sign of a beard. The eyes landed on Terri with all the weight of a semi. The eyes that never failed to send a chill down my spine.

"You ready to go, Terri?" he asked in that deep, throaty voice.

"Actually, Ephraim… I'm gonna hang out with Cara and— Kyle today." Terri responded, fumbling over my name.

He turned to Cara, then to me, lingering. "Kyle?"

"Yeah, she's in town, visiting!" Terri said cheerfully. She must have felt she was playing a game, of trying to confuse him. I was never so thankful that she was so bouncy and playful.

"Have I seen you before?" he asked, staring long at me. My eyes wouldn't turn from his; He had me caught in his stare. And just before he could realize who I was, I shook my head.

Cara stepped in, "Kyle's my cousin. She lives over in River Moon, about three hours away. Unless you've been there, I doubt you've ever seen her."

Ephraim seemed to contemplate it, then shook his head, "Guess not. Anyway, nice to meet you." I could only nod my head in response, my words lost.

"And Terri," Ephraim started, "I want you to come with me today." He sounded insistent.

"Ephraim, I'd really like it if I could go hang out with Cara and Kylie, alright? I'm gonna go with them, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay? It's no big deal!"

"If it's no big deal, then why don't you come with me?" He stared hard, and I could almost see Terri's mind at word, fighting for her side.

"Because Kylie's only in town today, and I want to. I'll see you later, Eph. Bye." Terri then latched onto our arms and dragged us away quickly. "Which car's yours?" she asked hurriedly. "The copper town car…" I replied.

We piled in, and Terri finally relaxed. She sighed heavily, "He's being a pain in the ass, today… He has been, for the past few days… …but that brings to mind a new question. How long are you staying?"

"Well, I'm planning on just two days, maybe three. But I have enough clothes for a week." I replied.

"Cool! You're staying a month!" Terri laughed.

"Yeah right, I can't do that… I have to get my papers before my dad sees them, remember?" I'd explained that to her during one of our short calls, and she remembered my words. 'If he finds my letter in the mail, and finds out I took that course, he'll throw it all away. Mom's looking for them, as am I, but if he gets a hold of 'em, I'm pretty much screwed. And I know he'll do it! Anything to keep me in that damn house, under his damn rule! Well, I'll tell you this, I'm not gonna be stuck there the rest of my life!'

Terri then smirked, "What's this whole 'Kyle's my cousin' bit? I was just gonna make him guess who you are."

"Eh, I'd like to lay low while I'm here. Don't want too many people to know I'm here. Else I might run into an old enemy or something, ya know?" For being under pressure, I could make up some good replies, and quick!

Terri seemed to frown, but shook it away, "Alright! So… Where to, ladies?"

"Not sure. Any place you can think of?" I inquired.

"I don't think we really had any old hang outs, except that old ice rink, and ClearRiver Mall… You guys wanna head to one of those?" Terri asked. Cara and I both shrugged our shoulders, and Terri frowned, "Then you guys come up with something!"

"I know," I started, "Why don't we rent a movie and find a place to watch it?"

"What movie?"

I stared at them long, "Gee, what movie?"

In unison, Terri and Cara squealed, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail!" We began quoting lines, even when we rented it, up until the point where I found a motel with a VCR. Not too bad, not too bad… Two big comfy beds, TV suspended in the air, (aimed so you could fall asleep watching late night television). I'd enjoy this, I knew.

We pulled out the popcorn we'd purchased on the way, cokes, chips and cheese dip. The room was trashed by the time the movie ended, but we were too busy jumping on the beds like preteens. I had brought my CD player, so we jammed out for a while…

But the music changed, to soft, slow songs. I pulled out the vanilla candles I still had (thanking Ashley mentally), lit them around the room, and we pulled up our pillows to commence the "Pillow Talk."

"Terri?"

"Yeah, Kyle?"

"You're catching on…" I smirked, but then asked, "What's been happening with you and Ephraim?"

She knew it was coming, and she'd already changed her facial features to reflect the sorrow she felt. "I don't know, anymore. At first, it was little stuff… Like when he'd get mad 'cos I wasn't spending enough time with him. He accused me of cheating on him so many times, and broke up with me. But he always asked me to go back to him, apologizing.

"But some nights, I didn't even know why he was breaking up with me. He'd tell me that he was too philosophically advanced, more so that I was, and that he was higher than me, and all kinds of cruel shit, ya know? And I couldn't say anything, 'cos I didn't know how, and when I did, he told me I was just being stupid again.

"And last time, he told me that he never loved me, that he'd never really cared for me, that he'd always had his eyes set higher."

"Then why the hell did you go back to him?" I said, anger laced in my words.

"Because I'm an idiot?" she said, forcing a strained laugh. "He told me he was sorry, that he never meant to hurt me, that he was just getting scared because we'd been together so long, much longer than his previous relationships… He told me what I wanted to hear. That I was beautiful… That I was gorgeous, that he loved me… That he loved me more than anyone else. And that's all I really want…"

"But he doesn't love you!" I said, watching the tears fall down her cheeks. "He's told you over and over, and then came and lied to you, just because he's an ugly bastard and he knows no one else would have him. Terri, you've gotta believe me, and just break up with him for good."

"How am I supposed to do that?" she wept. "He's the only person who's ever told me they love me."

"But he doesn't mean it! He's just using you, making you feel bad to satisfy his own ego. He's a sadist, Terri, he loves to see other people hurt. Believe me, I know. I've known this for a long time, now."

Terri looked up, curious as to what I meant. Cara had a look that asked, "Are you gonna tell her now?"

"Terri, Ephraim cheated on you. Or, at least wanted to. He kissed a girl and then told the school he slept with her. She didn't want anything to do with him. So I stood up and yelled at him to take it back or else he'd be sorry. Ephraim swore he never said it, but I spoke with other, trustworthy people, and they told me he had. I spoke with Ephraim, and he swore to me that he would never cheat on you, that he loved you, all that crap. And I stupidly believed him."

Terri's eyes were wide. "When?"

"About a year ago, the month before I left."

"Why didn't you ever tell me…?" she said softly.

"Because you were happy, and I doubt you would have believed me. He told me a lot of things, but it looks as though he's done nothing good for you, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I know I should have, but I was scared to."

"Why were you scared? If you'd told me back then, I might have avoided all this!"

"Think about this, in your state of mind a year ago: Would you have believed anyone if they told you that loving, caring, sensitive Ephraim was wanting to cheat on you?"

Terri's prolonged silence answered my question, and I continued, giving her my half-truths. "I was scared that you wouldn't believe me and would shoot the messenger, to put it lightly. That you'd think I were trying to coax you away from him, just to make him available."

"Are you kidding?" Terri laughed. "Like you'd have wanted him to be available!"

"You're right about that, but… he would have made you think that, just t cover up his own ass."

If Terri ever thought deeply enough about everything I'd told her, she could have figured out the whole story. I wasn't hiding it to save my own ass, I was keeping it because I was ashamed. That I hadn't told her sooner, that I'd basically been the one to throw her into a year of emotional torture, when I'd been trying to do the exact opposite.

"I think I've just about had it with him…" Terri said, her words shaking. She was too damned self-conscious to think she could do better. But I remembered the day Ephraim took us out to find her a gift, and my thoughts. 'She could have any of the guys in that store she wanted. Instead, she got Ephraim.' "If he doesn't change—" "He's not going to." Cara interrupted. I nodded in agreement, "It's time, Terri."

Terri was quiet, hugging her pillow tightly. As her crystal tears dampened the pillow, she nodded. "I know, I know… It's over… It's finally over… I'm gonna call him and it'll all be over…"

Looking over, I noted the room had a phone. "You can call him from here." I offered, but she shook her head, "He'll come looking for me, and I don't want to be alone when he does."

"Then stay here tonight." My eyes glanced at the wall clock, ticking away, "It's only 8:00."

After a moment's thought, Terri caved in, happy I'd offered. But, to finish her part of the deal… She picked up the phone.