WHAT ABOUT US?
Author’s note: This
story may seem a bit dry and not really AWTR related at the beginning, but
please read on. It gets better (I hope).
“Alright, time’s up.
Stop writing and hand in your blue books.”
Landon blew out a long,
tense sigh and flipped his blue book shut. He checked one more time
to make sure his name was on the front, and walked up to hand his exam to
“Thank you, Mr. Carter.
Have a nice weekend,” Professor Paulsen said to him.
“You too, Professor
As Landon walked into
the hallway, he heard many of his classmates talking to each other about
their exams. As much as he would have liked to discuss his pharmacology
exam with his buddies though, Landon was in a hurry because the exam had
dragged slightly into the time he usually used to walk to his physiology
lab. He picked up his pace a little, not wanting to be late for lab.
Landon arrived a few
moments before his instructor began class. As he took his seat, he
slipped his wedding ring off his left hand and tucked it securely in the
pocket of his pants. Physiology lab could get a little… messy sometimes,
and even though he wore gloves the ring still got caught sometimes when he
was trying to work his hand into small spaces. It took Landon quite
a bit of effort to keep himself focused while his lab instructor explained
what they were doing that day in lab. Even though it was already his
third year of medical school, he still couldn’t figure out a way to get more
sleep when exams rolled around. He had been up late the past few days,
studying hard for things like neurobiology, pharmacology, and biophysics,
and he was more than just a little tired and depressed. He just wanted
the lab to be over so he could get his weekend started.
“All right people, let’s
get to work.” His lab instructor’s voice snapped him out of his near-sleeping
state. ‘It’s going to be a long lab…’ Landon thought to himself as
he put on his gloves.
When Landon finally
got out of lab, he checked his watch again. ‘4:00P.M.,’ he noted.
Just in time for him to get home, get a nap, grab a bite and then head back
to the library to do some research with his friends. ‘This week just
doesn’t want to end….’
Landon had no sooner
kicked his shoes off after getting into his apartment when the phone rang.
He grabbed the phone off the base and held it up to his ear.
“Hello?” he responded,
“Hey Landon, it’s Angela.”
Landon had met Angela
his first year in medical school. They’d been in a few classes together,
and they lived in the same residence hall too. He had his suspicions
that Angela had a bit of a crush on him. Actually it was a little bit
more than suspicions. She had asked him several times in the past three
years to study at the café or to do research together. Landon
usually turned her down because he was pretty good about making his own plans
and typically had something already worked out. It wasn’t that he didn’t
think Angela was attractive. She had blonde hair that fell just below
her shoulders and a body most of the other guys in his classes could only
stare at. But Landon usually kept himself too buried in his schoolwork
to really take too much notice. He just considered Angela a good friend.
When he realized it
was Angela who had called him, Landon had a pretty good idea what she was
going to ask.
“Yeah, what’s up Angela?”
“Ummm… some friends
of mine and I are heading to Club Zero tonight, ya know, just to let out
some exam stress. Do you want to come along?”
Landon wasn’t really
sure he wanted to go, so he tried to come up with the best excuse he could
find without lying.
“Well James and I are
going to be doing some research in the library this evening….”
“Oh but we don’t have
to go until about nine or so. That’s plenty of time right?”
As much as he didn’t
want to admit it, it was probably an hour too much time. He didn’t
really have any other honest excuses. Before he could think of something
to say, Angela broke the silence on the line.
“Oh come on, Landon.
It’ll be fun. You’re always cooped up there in your apartment by yourself,
all my girlfriends think you’re some sort of hermit! It’s a Friday
Landon could’ve sworn
she was grinning (even though he couldn’t see her) when she added, “It’s
not like you have any exams next week anyways.”
‘She’s right, ya know,’
that little voice in the back of Landon’s head told him. ‘What are
you going to do here anyways? Watch some lame TV re-runs, check your
e-mail ten times in an hour, and then crash. Not very fun.’
“Landon? Are you
“Huh, yeah Angela.
Actually you know what? Let’s go a bit earlier. People tell me
that Zero picks up pretty fast on Fridays. How’s eight o’clock sound
“Sounds great, Landon!
This’ll be fun, I promise.”
“Okay… oh! I forgot
- I uh, don’t have a car.”
Since he got into a
medical school north a ways on the East Coast, Landon had decided not to
take his car along with him. The drive was too long to go back to Beaufort
every weekend anyways, and he really couldn’t afford classes and the gas
at the same time.
“That’s no problem,
I can pick you up and we’ll meet Jen and Ashley there.”
I’ll see you at my place around eight then?”
“You bet. Talk
to you then Landon.”
Landon looked at his
watch again. It was only about 4:30, still enough time for that nap.
Besides, if he was going to be at a club he’d want to have a little more
energy than he had in lab. He fell asleep almost upon hitting the pillow.
The next thing he knew,
his alarm clock was waking him up with that annoying buzz. 5:30P.M.
Time to eat and head for the library. He grabbed a microwave burrito
out of the freezer and nuked it. Usually he ate better, but he wasn’t
really feeling up to cooking. He checked to make sure his hair was
still presentable, then grabbed his books and started out for the library
to meet James.
After spending a good
amount of time reading through experiment publications and medical journals,
Landon glanced up at the clock on the wall. It read 7:40PM. He
looked at his watch, just to make sure it was the correct time. It
“Oh shoot James, I totally
lost track of time. I gotta go, man.”
“It’s cool Landon, we
can finish this up some other time.”
“Alright, see you in
class on Monday.”
This time Landon half-ran
to his apartment. He threw off his clothes pretty quickly, tossing
them all on his office chair as he made an attempt at one of the world’s
quickest showers. People at Club Zero usually dressed themselves up
a little bit, so Landon found a nice collared shirt he hadn’t worn in awhile
and one of his newer pairs of khakis in the closet. He sprayed some
cologne and put some gel into his hair. As he was tying the laces to
his shoes, there was a knock at his door. Angela.
He grabbed his keys
and opened the door. When he did, he blinked and looked again at what
he saw. He knew Angela was attractive, but he hadn’t expected to see
her the way she was at that time. She wore a white top that tied around
her neck and showed a small amount of her stomach. She had paired that
up with a tight, short skirt and a pair of heels. Her blonde hair was
curled slightly, and her eyes reflected the sparkle of glittered eye shadow.
Quite different from the girl Landon was used to seeing with little to no
make-up on, jeans, and a T-shirt.
“Hey Landon, ready to
“Uh, yeah. Let’s
Landon was quiet most
of the drive to Club Zero, feeling in a pretty bad position. She had
probably tailored her outfit to the fact that he would be coming along, but
he knew he shouldn’t be doing anything with her. Or with any other
girl, for that matter. Jamie was his wife, and he was perfectly happy
When they reached Club
Zero, Jen and Ashley were waiting by the entrance. They had dressed
up a bit, but not as much as Angela had. This confirmed Landon’s previous
thoughts and made him feel even more like just disappearing. He didn’t
want to lead Angela on. As they walked through the double doors, Angela
got some whistles and comments from the guys crowding the walls. They
gave Landon a few jealous looks too, and all he could do was turn and shrug
as if saying ‘No really, she’s not mine.’
Landon tried to
spend as much time sitting at the bar as he could. However, he couldn’t
help noticing that while Jen and Ashley were busy on the dance floor socializing
with the other men at the club, Angela stayed in her seat next to Landon
at the bar. Part of him wished she would go and find some other guys
to dance with or talk to, but he wasn’t sure how to tell her without hurting
her feelings. While he was deep in his thoughts, he felt a tap on his
“Here, have this,” Angela
said to him when he turned his head. She held a glass up to him.
“What is it?”
Landon couldn’t help smiling. Jamie used to say that all the time when
he tried to give her things.
Angela smiled back,
probably misinterpreting his facial expression as a lame attempt at flirtation
“It’s a Corona,” she
replied. “I thought you’d be thirsty by now.”
He gave her one of his
“What are you doing?” looks.
“Come on Landon, I thought
you came here to have fun. Lighten up!”
Landon cringed, not
visibly he hoped, as he remembered the first time Jamie had said that to
him. He sighed.
“Landon, you’re totally
turning into a depressed stress ball. I know you don’t usually drink,
but try it out okay? You really need to loosen up. Just once,”
Angela told him.
Landon wasn’t sure what
prompted him to take a sip. Maybe he was feeling bad for being so anti-social
when he had agreed to go to the party. Maybe he was just depressed
and needed to drink something. Whatever the reason, he soon found himself
sipping regularly from the glass. Strangely, it never really went empty.
He suspected that the bar-tender might have been re-filling it when he was
The fast-paced music
died down, and the DJ put on a slower song. Angela grabbed Landon by
“Come on Landon, let’s
“I dunno, I uh… kinda
can’t dance.” It was a lie, but oh well. He really didn’t feel
like dancing, even though he could.
“Oh Landon, you’re such
a bad liar. Don’t tell me you come from a small town and don’t know
how to dance.”
“What in the world does
“You know, how in the
movies everyone in those small towns always gets together and dances,” Angela
said with a giggle.
Landon didn’t want to
embarrass them by making a big scene in the middle of a club, so he capitulated.
He played along with
his “I can’t dance” excuse on the floor though, not making too much of an
effort to actually dance. Angela didn’t seem to mind. She was
a bit too busy trying to press herself up against him.
‘She’s not going to
stop just because I don’t try,’ Landon thought to himself. He started
putting a little bit more thought into dancing, though not by much.
Angela put her arms around his neck and pulled him just a bit closer.
He caught the scent of her perfume, a strong blend with a hint of spice thrown
in. He was starting to get more uncomfortable with his position, but
he decided not to ruin Angela’s fun by walking away. He had been enough
of a wallflower most of the night.
After they left the
club that night, Angela dropped Landon off outside his apartment. Having
put the car into park, Angela sat for a moment as if trying to say something.
Landon looked at her, waiting for some words to come out of her mouth.
Instead of saying anything though, she leaned in and kissed him. He
was initially caught off-guard, but whether because of the alcohol, his slight
depression, his sleep deprivation, or a combination of all three, he didn’t
fight her off. Instead, he let her kiss him. After she broke
the kiss, she said to him, “Landon, I really like you. I guess I just
didn’t have the guts to say it before.”
He looked at her, unsure
of what to say. It was strange, but when she was kissing him he felt
something that he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was almost like the
loneliness he had been feeling had somehow weakened. Part of him really
wanted to feel that sense of companionship again. But Landon was too
torn to say anything at the moment. All he could stammer out was, “I
need to get going.”
Angela’s smile dropped
a little, and she shifted a bit. The little maneuver also caused her
skirt to ride a bit farther up her leg. She looked at him and flashed
what to any other guy would have been considered a sexy look.
“Okay, but if you need
anything … you know my number.”
“Uh, yeah, thanks.
Good night Angela.”
Landon turned around
and walked toward his apartment building as Angela drove off. He wasn’t
really sure what to do. Being kissed again had been strange in one
way, but wonderful in another. It hadn’t been easy for him to go seven
years without a steady romantic relationship. It was already starting
to show in his depression and his slight aversion to social events.
He sometimes questioned how long he could keep going the way he was.
He was actually contemplating asking Angela out the next week. At this
point, with the tough days and the stress of school, he just really wanted
to relieve the aching in his heart. No sooner had the thought
come to his mind though, when rain started to fall.
‘That’s odd,’ Landon
thought to himself. ‘It didn’t feel like a rainy night earlier.
Oh well. You’d think that having grown up in Beaufort I’d know that
the East Coast has some pretty weird weather.’
By the time Landon got
up the stairs to his apartment, the rain had turned into a pretty powerful
storm. He could hear it splattering against all his windows at full
force. He sat around on his couch for awhile, with the portable phone
in his hand. He was busy trying to figure out what he wanted to say
to Angela. He stood up and stuck his hands in his pocket, depressed
again by his own inability to think up some words.
It was then that he
realized something wasn’t right. Just his luck, that’s when the power
went out. Landon stumbled in the dark.
“Damn!” he cursed, partially
angry at his own clumsiness.
His mind wandered back
to trying to figure out what wasn’t right. He put his hand in his pocket
again, then held his left hand up close to his face so he could see it.
His ring. It wasn’t there. And it wasn’t in his pocket either.
“Landon, how could you
be so stupid?”
He traveled as quickly
as he could in the darkness into his bathroom. He felt along the tile
counter, wondering if he had left it there when he took a shower. Then
he remembered that he wasn’t wearing the same pants he was wearing earlier.
He bumped and tripped his way into his bedroom, stepping over piles of books
and notes. When he reached his jeans, he was once again met with disappointment.
When he had tossed his clothes all on his office chair, his jeans had fallen
with the pockets opening down. The pockets were empty.
Angrily, Landon tossed
shook his clothes and then tossed them onto his bed. He tried looking
for the ring on the ground, but he couldn’t see anything in the pitch black
and he had no clue where his flashlight was. Dejected, he sat down
on the foot of his bed with his head in his hands. Tears were welling
up in his eyes.
“Landon, look at you.
You’re such a wreck. Can’t even keep your wedding ring safe.”
He looked up, ready
to cry openly. A blast of lightning tore across the sky, and as a tear
rolled down his cheek he also noticed a glimmer of light somewhere under
his desk, toward the back wall. He wiped his eyes dry, and when the
lightning flashed again he saw it again too. Landon almost dove for
the opening under his desk, feeling his way along the carpet until he felt
the cool gold of his ring in the palm of his hand.
He sat back up on his
knees, holding the ring up to the window to look at it.
“Thanks for the light,
God,” he said out loud.
He looked up at the
rain streaking down the window again, listened to it hitting the glass.
Almost as if in a trance, Landon got up and opened the window. He was
almost instantly struck by a million droplets of cold water, but he welcomed
it. He felt refreshed as the raindrops rolled down his skin.
Then he felt the wind that followed the rain. It blew through his damp
hair and pressed his shirt up against his chest. Behind him, stacks
of old notes and papers fluttered across the room.
he said slowly and quietly.
Landon opened his eyes.
“I’m sorry for making
you cry, Jamie,” he spoke out his window. “I know that this storm,
the wind and the rain, it’s you. I’m sorry if I made you angry or if
I hurt you. Thanks for not letting me off easy. I still love
The wind slowed a bit,
as did the rain. The storm seemed to have passed its peak. Landon
felt the wind whisper across his skin again, almost as if Jamie were responding
“It’s like the wind,”
he remembered her saying. “I can’t see it but I feel it.”
“What do you feel?”
he had asked.
“I feel wonder and beauty;
joy, love…” she had told him.
Bringing himself back
from that night on the pier, Landon smiled.
“Wonder and beauty;
joy, love… and Jamie” he finished for himself.
With a new sense of
understanding, Landon shut the window. He put his wedding ring back
on, picked up the phone and pressed the “Talk” button. The dial tone
was there. He dialed Angela’s number. This time he knew exactly
what to say to her.
“Landon! I’m so
glad you called! I was getting all lonely by myself here in the dark…”
Angela said when she answered, in a pretty seductive tone of voice.
“Look Angela, what happened
tonight in the car… that was a mistake. I shouldn’t have let it happen.”
“Landon, I thought…
what about us?”
“Angela, I’m not looking
for romance with you. There is no ‘us.’ There never was.
Just you. And just me. And me and Jamie.”
voice had gotten louder, angrier. “Is this still about Jamie?
For Heaven’s sakes Landon, it’s been seven years! Let it go!”
“I can’t Angela.
I made a vow to Jamie.”
“I know, I know, blah
blah blah… the sacred vows of marriage, all that stuff. Look Landon,
‘til death do us part.’ She’s dead. Vows are null. End
“You’re wrong Angela.
You weren’t there.”
“I DIDN’T NEED TO BE
THERE LANDON, IT’S THE SAME OLD THING!!!!!”
“It wasn’t ‘til death
do us part.’ It was ‘for all the days of my life.’ I think this
conversation is over.”
And then he hung up
Landon spent the rest
of the night looking through pictures of him and Jamie by candlelight in
his kitchen. He also read some of the letters she had written to him
in high school when they were in different classes. He smiled, and
he cried. He didn’t get all that much sleep.
The next weekend, Landon
decided to pay a visit to Beaufort.
After catching up with
his mom, he picked up the phone and dialed a number.
When someone picked
up on the other line, Landon thought to himself briefly that it was nice
to hear a southern accent after being up north for so long.
after seven years he hadn’t often called his father-in-law anything but “sir”
“Landon! How are
“Well to be honest sir,
I need your help.”
“Are you ready Landon?”
“I’m ready, sir.”
“Love is always patient
and kind,” Reverend Sullivan began to read. The two of them were standing
under the shade of the large tree that overlooked Jamie’s grave. The
sun had just begun to set.
“It is never jealous.
Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish.
It does not take offense. It is not resentful. Love takes no
pleasure in other people’s sins, but delights in the truth. It is always
ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”
After Reverend Sullivan
had concluded, it was Landon’s turn to speak. Turning to Jamie’s grave,
“I, Landon Rollins Carter,
do solemnly swear to take Jamie Elizabeth Sullivan as my lawfully wedded
wife; to honor and to cherish her for all the days of my life.”
A gentle ocean breeze
blew through the cemetery. Deep in his heart, Landon knew what Jamie