The Lonely is from the “way back” archives. It’s based on my all-time favorite song, Thunder Road, by Bruce Springsteen, which, to me, defines freedom.
The Lonely is rated PG-13, based on my standards.
The Lonely, by Deanna Schrayer
Mary jumped when the screen door slammed behind her. The family left three days ago and the quiet was enough to make every noise deafening. She tuned the radio propped on the window sill to a scratchy AM station, the only one that still played her favorite music. Now Roy Orbison was crooning for the lonely, as if he could read her mind.
She would not feel lonely.
She sauntered to the porch swing, and adjusted the pillows, squirming like a cat, her battered dress slipping up her thighs.
The jar flies stopped singing just before a boom of thunder rocked the porch, sending Mary bolt upright. She saw the downpour coming, and sucked in the humid air. Oh how she loved a good thunderstorm!
The wind picked up and Mary rushed to go inside. But she stopped cold when she saw him. Frankie stood at the edge of the porch steps.
“Are you ready?” he smiled, that same demure smile that unraveled her like a ripe peach so many years ago. Now.
“I, uh,” Mary stumbled, “How did you get here?”
“Never mind that,” he said, risking a boot on the first step, “just come with me.”
“Come with you where exactly?”
“Mary, don’t turn me away again. You know why I’m here, let’s go.”
“Frankie, I can’t.” She felt her voice crack, her heart rise to her temples. She refused to let him see her cry, to let him make her cry. She turned to run inside.
Faster than the lightning that bounced around his feet, he was against her. She could feel the heat vibrating off his chest. Her legs trembled. But she didn’t try to run as he pulled her auburn curls from her collarbone where they’d melted, nor as he placed his hot lips on her shoulder. Mary wondered how she could be frozen and melting at once. This is what he’d always done to her.
“Mary,” he whispered as he brushed her cheek, “I know you’re scared, but you can’t run anymore. You can’t hide from me, you know that. I will not leave without you.”
“Frankie, I….I can’t.” She pushed off him and fled straight into the rain, now hammering the earth with a vengeance.
As the mud splashed her bare feet Mary gulped down the cries. Why wouldn’t he leave her alone? Twenty years he’d been gone, then all of a sudden he was here, demanding she leave the life she’d grown accustomed to, just to be with him.
She glimpsed the dilapidated covered bridge through the haze. A faint light shining through the overgrowth halted her. There sat the Camaro, the same brilliant cherry red it was the last time she’d been in it. And there was Frankie, leaning against the grille, strumming his guitar.
That night replayed itself with vivid clarity.
Prom night. Frankie had asked Mary to be his wife in front of the whole class, just after they were crowned king and queen. How could she say no in front of all those people? She let him slip the ring on her shaking finger as she nodded her head yes.
But she couldn’t let him think she meant it.
There was no question she loved him. Still, she didn’t want to be the reason his dream of becoming a rock star faded to nothing. He was driving her home when she asked him to pull over. Of course he obliged – he’d thought she wanted to show him just how much she loved him.
Frankie pulled Mary to him and kissed her for a long time. “God, Mary, I love you so much.” He freed her long curls from the silver barrette and smothered her neck with kisses as his fingers loosened the spaghetti strap of her emerald gown.
“Frankie…” With effort, Mary pulled away from him, “I need to talk to you.” She hung her head, couldn’t look in his eyes.
“What is it? Are you okay?” Mary felt his eyes move to her stomach and knew he was afraid she was pregnant.
She pulled the ring from her finger and held it out to him, “We can’t get married Frankie. I want you to chase your dreams, to play your music.” Her breath came in quick, heavy gasps, but she’d said it, she’d told him the truth as she’d promised herself she would.
The ring sat in her hand between them like a hot potato.
“Mary, I love you. You are my dream.” He slammed his fists on the steering wheel and held tight to it, his arms stretched taut. He didn’t look at her, just sat staring through the windshield. “My music means nothing if you aren’t there to share it,” he said.
“I love you too Frankie, I love you with all my heart. I just can’t marry you. It…it doesn’t feel right.” Mary leaned towards him as if trying to get him to look at her.
Without a word Frankie jerked the car into gear and spun the tires through the mud as he pulled into the pounding rain.
The ring bounced out of Mary’s hand and hit the dashboard, landing on the console with a raucous ping!
“Frankie! Slow down! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” She held onto the door handle, and grabbed the dashboard with her other hand.
He was up to fourth gear already, the engine screaming.
“Slow down!” She was sobbing now. “Frankie, you’re going too fast! I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry!”
His eyes did not meet hers. They didn’t seem to meet anything.
Now Mary stood staring at Frankie leaning against the car, playing his guitar. Smiling. And she remembered.
All these years she’d been running to that bridge when he showed up, running away from him, and she never saw it. She couldn’t get past the point where she’d looked over and saw Frankie’s forehead cracked open, fresh blood streaming down his nose, his eyes fixed open.
That’s as far as her memory had taken her.
But now she saw it all.
She’d tried to open her door, but it was no use. She was stuck. She caught a glimpse of her face in the cracked rear view mirror that had twisted toward the passenger side. In one jagged piece of glass she saw her own head bleeding, in another, her own eyes open.
She knew now, and she flew to Frankie’s open arms where, once again, he took her breath away.
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