Franklin (Part 2)

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Haley and I first met in freshman year at Franklin High School. I was moving up with the rest of my grade, so I knew a lot of my classmates already, but Haley didn’t. She moved around the hallways like a fish out of water.

“So, what’s her story?” Jared asked me, as we walked past her down the corridor.

“Who?”

“The new girl.”

“How should I know?” I shrugged.

Jared gave me a look. “She looks kind of cool, though.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I like her style,” I agreed, thinking about how girls always dyed their hair peroxide blonde and wore tight jeans all the time. Haley didn’t seem to follow that trend. “I overheard her saying to Miss Williamson that she moved down from Indianapolis when her Mom got remarried.”

“See,” Jared grinned, and shoved me playfully. “I knew you’d hear something.”

“Are you coming to check out the music room?” I deflected, feeling the tips of my ears go hot. “I hear they’ve got six string basses.”

“Nah, I need to go ask Vanessa to Winter Formal. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Alright, later,” I said, ducking into the music room and picking up one the guitars on a stand. I sat down on a nearby chair and gave it a strum. When I looked up, Haley was standing in the doorway wearing an oversized Phil Collins t-shirt and her trademark frizzy hair. We were a mess of acne, bad haircuts and thick eyeliner back then, but I still thought she was cute.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I smiled, strumming a few chords again. I really hoped she hadn’t overheard mine and Jared’s conversation.

“You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” I stuttered.

She shuffled through the doorway and sat down on a chair opposite me.

“I’m Haley.”

“Taylor.”

“That’s a nice name.”

I had never heard my name be described as nice before. I shrugged. “It’s alright.”

“You’re really good,” she said again, looking down at the guitar I was playing.

My words stuck in my throat. “Thanks. Can you play?”

“Not really. I sing and write songs but they usually suck.”

I shrugged again. “I’m sure they’re alright.”

She smirked at me, but I wasn’t sure why, and I could feel my ears going hot again.

I cleared my throat. “So… the Alaskas are playing in Nashville on Saturday,” I said. “Do you know them?”

“Are they from Alaska?”

“No,” I laughed. “They’re Swedish.”

“They sound cool though.”

“Well they have this album coming out; it’s called We’re Not Actually from Alaska.” Haley snorted. “I know,” I laughed with her. “But they’re really good… and I was thinking of going…”

“Is this a really long winded way of asking me out?” She asked.

“No. I mean – yes. I mean.” I could feel myself sweating. “Do you wanna go? I mean, with me – to see the show. If you want to…”

Haley looked at me, her eyes big and blue, and her goofy smile showing the gap between her front teeth. She had a nice accent, and suddenly I found myself smiling.

“Alright.”

Taylor – Taylor!” I shook the thoughts from my mind. Back in the coffee shop, Tim was waving his hand in front of my face with a sympathetic smile.

~

The next day, I was still thinking about Haley and me, as I lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling, admiring the poster for The Alaskas I bought at their concert. I suppose it was mine and Haley’s first date. I don’t remember if The Alaskas were any good or not, but I’ve had the poster ever since.

Mom knocked on my bedroom door. “Are you alright, honey?” She asked, pushing it open.

I sat up, leaning on my elbows. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Mum stood in the doorway clutching our home phone. “We had a strange voicemail from Haley this morning. Maybe you should give her a call?”

“Okay. Yeah – maybe,” I nodded.

Mom smiled and closed the door again. I looked towards my phone on my bedside table, which hadn’t vibrated since earlier that morning. Thirteen missed calls. I knew Haley would want an explanation from me but she must have guessed where I was.

I thought about her finding my empty room, all the clothes gone from the wardrobe, my truck gone from the parking lot. I hadn’t left a note but there were still books on my shelf, which I thought made it clear I would return at some point. I just didn’t know when. There was so much I had to do, get over what happened to my Dad, finish college… put things right with Haley… continue with my life. It all seemed so impossible.

I got up off my bed and headed downstairs for some milk. As I got to the stairs, I overheard my Mom on phone in the hall. I sat down at the top of the staircase and listened in, resting my forehead on the banister, like I used to do when Mom and Dad would argue.

“… I just feel like he gets mad at me every time I try and make sure he’s alright.” Mom said into the phone. “Of course, he isn’t alright, his father is…” She sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to help him, Tim. I know he’s gone back to college since but that doesn’t change anything. I’m glad he’s home, at least I can keep and eye on him here… I’ll talk to him, I will… what? Come on… Tim, tell me… they broke up?”

My Mom started to cry. A wave of crashing disappointment washed over me. Everything flashed into the forefront of my mind. Haley and I. Running, laughing, drinking, crying, shouting. They had been talking about me. My Mom was crying and they were talking about me and me and Haley had broken up and my Mom was crying.

“He just doesn’t need this right now,” she choked out as the doorbell rang. “I’m sorry, honey. I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Mom put the receiver back on its holder and opened the door. “Oh my God,” she said, as Haley stepped in out of the rain.

“I’m sorry,” Haley said, and then looked up at me. “But I didn’t know what else to do.”

Franklin (Part 1)

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Franklin was originally a short story I wrote in my second year of university, and was my first assignment to achieve a First class mark. It’s a piece I am immensely proud of, and wanted to share it here in a serialised form for my readers to enjoy.

Franklin

by Clare Holman-Hobbs

My Mom always used to say “if you ever feel afraid, all you have do is come home.” I thought about her words long and hard as I stifled a yawn, the sun rising over the dusty hills of my hometown. Franklin wasn’t far now that I was seeing signs for Nashville. My cell phone vibrated on the passenger seat next to me but I ignored it, and kept my eyes on the road.

The UNC campus had been dark when I left, probably around midnight. I would be lying if I said I had made the decision to come home rationally, but I couldn’t sit in the four walls of my dorm room any longer. As I headed out towards my car with my heavy duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I glanced up at Haley’s window. I knew she’d worry about me, about where I’d gone when she knocked for me in the morning for breakfast like usual. I considered going back for that reason alone, but I didn’t want another argument.

I shook the thought from my mind, realising I had almost passed the turning. People were stirring on the streets of Franklin as I turned down Main Street, commuters passing by on their way into the city and shops owners unlocking their doors. I drove further into the suburbs, passing house after house until I got to mine. It hadn’t changed a bit since I left; only this time, the driveway was empty. I pulled in, taking the space where my father’s car used to be and shut off the engine. I sighed, looking at the worn out wood of the porch, the swing swaying slightly in the breeze.

I got out of my truck, slamming the door behind me and checking my watch. After composing myself, I rang the doorbell, reminding myself to breathe. After about a minute, the front door creaked open, and my mother emerged from around the dark oak that separated us. Her face was pale.

“Taylor. I heard your truck. I thought it was you,” she said quietly. “What are you doing here?”

In the shadow of the cold, empty house that I had fled from months ago, I asked myself the same question.

~

After I got back, my brother Tim and I met at the coffee shop in town. I had spent a lot of time in the basement; trying to make my fingers move coherently enough to play a decent song on my guitar, but it all came out in fragments of an un-tuned mess. Tim took one look at me and knew I needed a break, practically marching me out of the front door and into his car. In the café, he sat across from me, shaking the sugar packet between his thumb and forefinger.

“I couldn’t believe it when Mom called,” he said, breaking off the top of the packet and pouring the sugar into his coffee.

“I know,” I agreed, forcing a weak smile and picking up a packet of sugar from the bowl on the table.

“Little bro – back in town,” Tim muttered, sipping from the steaming mug.

I poured the sugar into the coffee and stirred it, taking a sip; beautiful and bitter, just how I liked it. I sighed and tried to relax.

Tim noticed my posture. “You didn’t bring Haley back with you?”

“Not this time.”

“How come?”

I inhaled deeply, trying to begin. Tim raised his eyebrows at me.

“We’re not together anymore; she doesn’t know I’m here.”

Tim’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.”

“Taylor and Haley. Like Lennon and McCartney. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“I know,” I sighed. “I can barely believe it myself.”

“What happened, man?”

“Well, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac anymore.”

Over his shoulder, I saw a girl with deep chestnut curls. My breath caught, heart hammered against my chest, eyes transfixed on her as she turned her head. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.

I looked back to Tim and opened my mouth, but I couldn’t find the words, or the strength to begin to tell him of our downfall, of how everything had changed, and how I had lost the best thing to ever have happened to me. I had lost Haley. I may as well have lost a limb too.