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Heart’s Fall

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Author’s Note


For me, autumn has always been about nostalgia, melancholy, and love. That’s what this story is truly about. I hope that you enjoy it.

This version has been edited to correct continuity mistakes and other embarassing errors. I apologize that these made it in. I do my own editing so this is entirely my fault. Other small changes to sentence structure and text flow have been made, but none that impact the story.

Special thanks to MakeMeRealAgain from Reddit for ensuring that I stayed true to my subject and providing vital criticism and feedback.

This is dedicated to NightFawn, my little succubus. May she always find joy in her endeavors.


Now – Lost in the River


“What?” I said, disbelieving.

“We’re…we’re seeing each other…” Shanon said, stumbling through her confession while awkwardly holding Gary’s hand. Sorry, awkwardly holding my “friend” Gary’s hand.

“Seeing each other, or fucking?” I felt the old coldness take me. I didn’t get mad like other people, but I could be cruel.

“Jesus Christ, James,” Gary started. I didn’t let him finish.

“No one’s talking to you, Gary,” I said, “In fact, I’m a little insulted that you’re here. I’d have thought that Shanon would have had the decency to break up with me face to face, alone. I’ve never hurt or threatened you. I cannot believe you’re telling me like this. Ganging up on me.”

“We’re not ganging up on you!” she said, almost desperately, “Yes, we slept together, ok? Just once. And we didn’t plan this. It just kind of happened. You were out of town and Gary came over looking for you and we started talking and…well then we started hanging out…and then…then we kissed…and touched each other…”

There wasn’t any shame on Gary’s face, in fact I wasn’t even sure he was capable of it, but I could read it on Shanon’s. Who would ever have expected that smart, honest Shanon would have done this. Not me, and probably not her. Well, people never failed to disappoint.

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t plan it, Shanon. Can’t really say the same about him.” He’d always had a thing for her, but lots of people have crushes and don’t act on them. I guess it was too much to ask of him.

“I resent that, James.”

“Resent it if you want, Gary. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

“What?” he said, actually looking stunned. It was hilarious, like a cartoon. I ignored him.

Shanon cleared her throat.

“Look,” she said, trying to put on what I always thought of as her ‘lets be reasonable’ voice, “that’s why we’re here. I’ve felt like we’ve drifted apart, and I want to know if something is still here. Gary has been really supportive when you haven’t been, and I…we…I don’t know. I didn’t think there was anything to save here, James, I truly didn’t. If…if we can make it work still. I…I’m willing to try, ok? I’m sorry about what happened. We’re here to be honest. This isn’t me breaking up with you, its me trying…trying to make things right. If we can’t, then… Look, just…just tell me what you want me to do.”

This was a very Shanon way to do things. I would never have expected her to cheat, or to fall for another guy, but if she had, she would totally confess it and try to make everything ok again. Naturally, she would bring the other party because then we could all be honest with each other and ‘clear the air’ as she would put it. It would never occur to her that Gary might not be as honest as her or I might be so hurt as to not behave rationally. Or that this would make the hurt even worse. Fuck her for being so naive. A breakup text would have been better than this.

The sad thing was that I could believe that she would agree to never see Gary again. I could believe that she would do anything she could to earn my forgiveness. I could believe these things, but whatever trust I had in her was dead. And besides, she had hurt me. She had hurt me so fucking badly and I wanted her to hurt at least as much.

“What you can do,” I said, calmly, looking her in the eyes, “is get out of my apartment. Forget my name, or my number, or that we were ever a couple. In fact don’t even think of me. It makes me nauseous to think that I was looking forward to cooking for you and then making love with you tonight. How easily you took advantage of my trust. It must be hilarious to you that I was shopping for rings last week while you were fucking my best friend. I can’t even imagine how stupid you must think me. So, please just get out and stop pretending you’re here for anything but your stained conscience. You never fucking loved me, you just loved how I paid attention to you. Now you have someone who does that better, so it’s time for you to move on.”

Shanon turned completely pale and looked like van escort I’d hit her. That probably would have been kinder. I was the aggrieved party here but every word I had said was chosen with the intent of causing maximum harm to her. If you know how someone thinks of themselves, and you know what they aspire to be, you can really cause a lot of emotional damage. She opened her mouth again. I didn’t let her speak.

“Get out. Take your trash with you,” I said, making the barest of nods towards Gary. He had a huge ego so I knew that being dismissive would bother him as much as anything would. He would probably forget about it tomorrow. I knew Shanon well enough to know that she would be crying over the things I said for months.

They stood up, and walked quickly to the door. They left, and she closed it so gently you could barely hear the click which signaled the end of my only serious adult relationship.

Yeah, so, maybe I was kind of a dick, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time. It didn’t make me happier, but it did fill me with a cold satisfaction. Later I’d wonder where this kind of thought came from, and I had to assume it was from my father.

The only other thing I could think of was that Kerry wouldn’t have done this to me.

* * *

I boxed up the few things Shanon had around my house and then put the box outside on the porch. I texted her and told her where she could get them. I told her not to bring her new boyfriend anywhere near my house, as I didn’t trust him not to key my car or some other nonsense. Then I blocked her number and deleted her from my phone and social media. I was in a slash and burn kind of mood. I didn’t want to be tempted to cross any old bridges so I demolished them.

I went to my home office. God I wished I had some liquor in the house. Shanon didn’t like me to drink it because it made me depressed. Well, no alcohol had ever crushed my mood like she had today.

I wrote an email to my boss. She was always trying to get me to take time off, and I had a ton of vacation time built up. I told her that my personal life had collapsed so I’d like to leave the city for a bit, and go back home. I also asked if I could work remotely from there through the holidays. If she said no, that was fine, but I hadn’t seen my mom in months, and I knew she was still mourning my dad.

I checked plane tickets but in the end just decided to drive. It would help me clear my head a bit before I got home.

I took a shower and tried not to think about the woman I loved sleeping with another man.

I went to bed, cried silently for a while, then slept like the dead. I knew that I was nose-diving into a new depression, but there wasn’t really anything to be done.

* * *

I called my mom and asked her if it was a good time for a long visit. Unsurprisingly, she agreed. I really did feel bad about not visiting enough, and with Shanon out of my life there was no real need to worry about leaving the city for a good long while.

It took me a good eight hours to drive home. Cider Tree, Population 10,383. Just on the middle class side of poor, formerly a self-contained town with jobs, now mostly a bedroom community for the city about an hour away. Lots of parks and a quaint little downtown. The local private college, while tiny, was also pretty good.

I thought I hadn’t missed it. The last time I’d been here had been nearly a year prior when my dad had died, and I suppose it had been a bit of a blur. I’d made most of the arrangements, bought the coffin, all that awful stuff. By the time it was all over, the idea of spending another minute in that town made me sick. I loved my mother, but I was constantly busy with work and the town held a lot of conflicting memories for me. Rather than visit her I had invited her up to see me for a few weekends. That seemed to cheer her up, and I called her weekly, but really, it probably wasn’t enough.

The funeral was also the last time that I’d seen Kerry. She had spoken with Shanon, and expressed her condolences to me and then hugged me. But she’d been pretty cold to me other than that, and left before I could speak with her further.

I don’t know what was wrong with me that led the women I loved to reject me, but I was pretty sure that I was done with dating for a while.

At the time it had been in the coldest part of winter. Now it was fall, of course. And fall in Cider Tree was nearly always gorgeous. I’d left early in the morning, so when I hit the city limits the late afternoon light was perfect and I was immediately struck by the oranges and reds of the trees. I rolled down my windows and let the cold air blow over me, smelling the leaves and a faint hint of smoke from people who were burning them in their backyards. I heard children yelling at each other and saw a couple, probably teens, sitting on a bench and making out but in a fairly pg-13 way.

And, naturally, van escort bayan with the sights and smells and sounds, memories took me.

Rather than drive straight home. I took a moment and parked in the nearly empty downtown district. It was after the main businesses closed but before the few restaurants and bars picked up for Friday night. I walked down past them, down to the park by the river. I stopped a moment, nostalgia taking hold.

Here it was. The bench, and just behind it…yes. The trees were there, still thick. From the outside it looked impenetrable, but if you were an adventurous child, you might try to crawl in and find a small empty space inside, maybe fifteen feet across, covered in soft grass and moss, well shaded in the summer. Then you could lead your best friend here and share it with her, this secret and magical place. If you did, then it would become your secret headquarters in the long summers.

It was even secluded enough that, if you were two teenagers in desperate, heedless love for each other, you might come here, to quietly make love and spoon in the evening, talking about futures that would never come to pass while learning how to pleasure one another. You still might dream of it to this day, waking up, raging hard and her scent alive in your memory.

I stood outside our grove, but I didn’t go in. To go alone, now, as an adult felt like sacrilege to me. There were few places or people that I still found sacred, but this was one of them, and Kerry another.

Of course, no pleasant memories could exist without unpleasant ones. I looked up to the bridge that ran over the thin strip of wooded parkland and the river itself. It was covered in corrosion, but strong, and I still felt a shudder of fear at it. I was always a sensitive child, but was fearless in the face of violence, or the threat of it. Heights, though? They got me. The floor of the bridge was basically a thick metal grate, and the pedestrian walkway, added much later, was much thinner. You could see straight through it to the river below, and it shook and trembled as you walked across it. The railing was just under waist height on me today, and even as a small child it seemed unsafe, low, as if you could just tumble over it and fall the fifty or more feet to the water, rocks, and death.

If it weren’t for following Kerry, I’d never have crossed. If I was doing something for her, it seemed like I possessed an endless reserve of courage. Today, I decided to walk across, just to prove that I still could.

I got about halfway and then looked down, testing myself, perhaps foolishly. The walkway creaked and shuddered and whined in protest of this outrage of a person walking upon it. I saw the river through it, relatively low after a dry year, although still deep. It would fill back up with the fall rains and the spring thaws. For now, it ran slowly, its surface barely disturbed by motion.

My mind wandered. I saw myself going off the bridge. Not in a tumble, like an accident, but purposefully. I saw the river’s water rushing up to meet me. I felt the cold shock of the water and then the impact of the landing on hidden rocks. In my imagination a strange and unsettling peace came over me. I came back to myself with a jolt.

I finished and walked back across the bridge. That was enough fear to face for one day.

Kerry and I had broken up on a day like this, but it wasn’t like with me and Shanon. It was quiet and sad and we’d made love for the last time, long and slow, and then we’d gone back to our different colleges. For that matter, it was kind of a secret that we were even together, but that didn’t make it ache less.

We’d kept in touch after that, always hanging out when both of us were in town. After we both were done with college, she’d even visit me regularly in the city and I would go see her on the east coast. Things changed when I started to see Shanon, though.

Kerry was still polite and answered emails, but it was all pretty formal, almost professional. This was a weird shift from the friendly girl who always had time to talk me or who called me any time she needed someone to listen or to share good news.

I don’t know why her attitude changed. We hadn’t been even slightly romantic or fooled around in years, not since she met and then married her husband, Bill. I thought that he was the wrong kind of guy for her but they both seemed happy and he was a decent person who loved her by all accounts, so I kept my opinion to myself. There was some jealousy there, but it was more of a nostaligic thing then something serious. She visited me in the city both with and without her husband with some regularity.

But, like I said, all that ended when I met Shanon. I guess we got serious with each other pretty quickly, finding kindred spirits and all that. What a joke that turned out to be.

I could lie to everyone else, but deep in my heart I knew that there escort van was something wrong with me. Something that wasn’t seen easily, but after being with me long enough, any woman became aware of. I mean, I had depression, but I stayed on top of my treatments and managed it well. I wondered if women sensed it somehow, saw that I was defective on the inside. It was weird. I never really had problems meeting or talking with women, or even too much difficulty finding a partner for sex. I wasn’t ugly, and I could be funny. But commitment? I didn’t fear it as some people did, but it always seemed to backfire on me, ending poorly, leaving me feel broken or worthless.

I guess maybe it was for the best that Shanon had cheated. She probably would have regretted it dearly if she had married me.

I was not really in a good place at that moment, and was fairly certain that I would not have any romantic success in my future. What should have really worried me at that moment, but didn’t, was that the idea of dying alone was starting to feel like a certainty, and perhaps sooner rather than later.


Then – First Kiss


A lot of people can remember when they met their first love, but I can’t. Not because she wasn’t memorable. Far from it, I’ve always thought she was at least pretty. Instead it is because we grew up together. I think we really started playing with each other in kindergarten but we probably ‘met’ when we were toddlers at church. It’s just that kind of small community.

So, from almost as far as I can remember up to when I left for college, she was my best friend. She was definitely a bit of a tomboy but I also didn’t have a lot of hang ups about doing shit boys weren’t supposed to do, like share emotions or talk about clothes. I just couldn’t be bothered wondering if something was masculine or not. It helped that I’d always been a little bigger than most of my classmates. Bullies tended to shy away from you the first time you beat them up.

Kerry was tough and adventurous and never gave up. She was about a year older than I was but we ended up in the same year. Throughout our time together she kept her light brown hair short, either something like a bob or in a ponytail. She wore a ton of baseball hats because she didn’t like spending any time on styling it and her mom wouldn’t let her cut it any shorter.

Her mom was kind of something else, too. If Kerry was a tomboy growing up, then her mother was kind of the epitome of professional femininity. She worked in sales, not the small time local stuff, but as a traveling dealmaker for a paper and office supply company. She signed huge contracts and was pretty busy. Kerry didn’t have a father.

To be more specific, Kerry’s mom got pregnant, and since she never discussed the father, it was just assumed that it was the result of a one-night stand on the road somewhere. She always acted like Kerry was planned. The town’s gossip mongers were pretty brutal, however. Even in the nineties you could still be considered “immoral” as a single mother in a small town.

Naturally this blew back on Kerry. I’m sure the bullies made her cry but she never showed it. For my part I wasn’t all that big on fighting on my own behalf but I was more than willing to back her up on the few occasions that she threw down. Most of the time, she was beating up a mouthy girl who didn’t expect trouble. Once or twice I may have thrown punches on her behalf when a boy tried to get on her case.

So we grew up together. Best friends. We watched the same cartoons, played Yu-Gi-Oh, beat each other up in fighting games, and generally were just kind of there for one another. It was just a friendship though, until high school. I think everyone, both of our mom’s included, expected us to start dating once we hit puberty but we never did. This relieved her mother a great deal, who was very kind to me, but seemed to think that I was not a good romantic match for her girl. We each had our crushes, but on other people. It was a little weird for our various girl/boy friends at first, but it became clear to each of them in turn that we were, in fact, only friends.

Besides, I don’t think I’d ever cheat, although I’d been tempted before. I know Kerry wouldn’t. She’d had plenty of opportunities that I knew of, lots of handsome guys hit on her once she hit high school. When I asked if she was tempted, she just said, “Sure, but tempted to fuck isn’t the same as fucking.”

I should probably mention that she was (and still can be) as foul-mouthed as any ten sailors combined, but you just kind of got used to it. You have to understand that at this point in my life I almost never swore. It was something that Kerry teased me mercilessly about, but my mom would never have permitted it and it was easier to be on my best behavior all the time then risk her wrath. Dad was big and yeah he could be scary but I’d take him over an angry church mom any day of the week.

The first time I really noticed her romantically was when we were in middle school, in early spring. We were playing Street Fighter 3 (3rd Strike, of course) and I was beating her ass, as was typical. She dominated me in Mortal Kombat, though.

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