That night, Georgie sits in his room, writing.
My parents did their best trying to raise a kid like me. I’m a weirdo. A freak. I’m a real challenge. So I can’t blame them if they didn’t always succeed. If things didn’t always work out right . . .
There’s a knock on the door. Georgie opens it.
Claudia stands in the hall.
He stares silently at her.
“Can I come in?” Claudia says, shifting uneasily. “Please.”
Georgie opens the door wider. She enters the room and notices he’s been working at the computer.
“Oh, you’re busy. I’m sorry,” she says. She turns to leave; Georgie tugs her back.
“No, it’s fine. Come here.”
“You’re writing?” She peers at the monitor. “What is it?”
“My memoirs, sort of,” Georgie shrugs. “Jibber-jabber. Trying to sort things out in writing. For the Winterbourne.”
“I’m tying it into what Heidi told us about bad faith. Remember?”
Claudia glances down at her shoes. “About lying to ourselves?” she asks quietly.
Georgie nods. “Yeah. Heidi thinks I could win.”
“That’s great,” Claudia says sadly.
“It would pay for college, you know. All four years.”
He stares at her. “It’s my dream.”
“That and becoming a rich, famous writer,” Claudia teases. She stands on tiptoe, kisses him, and heads towards the door.
“Wait! What’s up? What do you want?”
“Nothing important. It was my dad’s birthday today, I wanted to tell you.”
Georgie grins. “Halfway to hell,” he says.
Claudia smiles back. “You remembered.”
“That was it, though. To tell you about my dad. To say hello, goodbye. Nothing important.” She blows him a kiss. “Bye, Georgie.”
Claudia closes the door quietly behind her. Georgie turns to his writing, smiling slightly still.
Georgie continues to work at the computer late into the evening. At one point, he stops and looks around as if he hears something distant, water crashing against rocks, he frowns. Then he returns to writing.
I don’t think I am crazy. However, I do think I am creatively insane!
A Twisted Tree
The next morning, Georgie walks across campus to class. Students are gathered around the entrance to the academic building, talking excitedly.
Susan catches his eye and, for once, she actually looks happy to see him. She rushes up.
“Have you seen Claudia? She’s gone,” Susan pleads.
“Gone?” Georgie echoes.
“Gone,” Susan repeats, irritated. “We can’t find her.”
“Can’t find her?”
“What are you, deaf? I said Claudia’s gone. As in, nobody knows where she is. Have you seen her?”
Georgie feels a faint dawn of understanding. He shudders.
“Last night I did.”
“What time?” Susan presses.
“Eight? Nine? I don’t remember.”
Susan rolls her eyes in frustration and walks on. “Shite, what kind of help is that?” she mutters.
Georgie thinks. Then he turns to Susan, who’s hurrying away from him. “Did anyone check the bluff?” he calls.
Susan keeps walking. She doesn’t appear to hear him.
Georgie turns around and strides quickly to the woods. He hurries up the path, glancing all around for Claudia, desperately hoping to find her. When he reaches the bluff, it’s completely deserted.
“Claudia!” he yells. All he hears is his own echo.
He searches every inch of the bluff, calling. On the ground at his feet, he finds the freak coin and starts to get frantic.
“Claudia?” His voice squeaks. He looks to the edge of the bluff, sees the waves rolling out to sea.
Finally, he makes himself go to the edge of the bluff and forces himself to look down.
He sees . . .
. . . Nothing.
Georgie sinks to the ground, relieved, laughing at himself for worrying, sighing with relief.
He stretches out flat on his back and cradles his hands under his head, still laughing.
That’s when he sees:
Her crooked, bent body hangs in the bough of the tree, caught in broken branches.
Sadly enough, the most painful goodbyes are the ones that are left unsaid and never explained.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014