I didn’t plan for this.  This is not at all what I wanted.

Who are any of you to decide if love is wrong?  I was stupid and I listened and you were wrong.  I was wrong.  I fought for it for so long, but I knew deep down that nobody would ever accept it.  I loved him though, and when a girl is in love how can you expect her to ignore it?

I didn’t fight hard enough.  Eventually, I gave in and I listened and I should have kept fighting.  I should have fought for him, but I didn’t and now he’s scared and he’s running.  He’s running from me.

He’s been through so much and it’s all because of me.  I could have saved him from this by staying away, but I just couldn’t.  When you have somebody like Jesse in your life, you just can’t let go.  

I thought I had; I couldn’t bring myself to see him when he was in the hospital, even though it was my fault he was there.   And now he’s gone and he’ll never know that, even then, I never stopped loving him.

Maybe it’s for the best though.  Jesse is better off without me around to destroy his life again.  Maybe everybody is.

I’m sorry.

A note left behind by Morgan Chase; Recipient, unknown

Several weeks had passed since Jamie and Collin met on the doorstep of Jamie’s favorite Tuesday night hunting ground.  They had connected on a level neither of them had ever experienced before and as a result, Jamie hadn’t felt the need to visit for her Tuesday night rendezvous’ with Megan.

Megan, for her part, was happy enough for her friend that she didn’t mind sitting on the back burner for a while in order to let Jamie enjoy her new relationship.  Tonight though, she was so excited at the prospect of seeing her best friend for the first time in weeks, she had arrived early and was practically giddy at the thought of meeting the new man in Jamie’s life.

By the time Collin and Jamie arrived, Megan was already a few drinks in on the night.  Seeing them enter together, the combination of alcohol and Megan’s excitement got the best of her and she almost knocked her stool over as she stood up and waved them over.  As they approached, Jamie picked up on her excitement and ran to embrace her friend with a girlish squeal that left the ears of several nearby patrons ringing as was Collin left behind looking playfully dejected.

As they stood and caught up with each other, Collin waited patiently, maintaining his mockingly hurt expression until Jamie realized she had left him behind.  Mistaking his look for genuine hurt, Jamie quickly waved him over saying, “Oh, God, Collin get over here!”  Pulling him over, she looked at him, genuinely concerned, and said, “Collin this is Megan.  Megan and I have been coming here for months and it’s sort of becoming our weekly little man-hating tradition.  Which…now that I say it, makes this slightly awkward for you,” she said laughing as she flirtatiously bumped into him.

“No worries,” Collin retorted with a smirk.  “I hate men too, so it works out.”

“This one speaks!” Megan shouted, just a little too loudly.  “He’s already a step up from the last guy!  And where did she manage to pick you up, kid?”

“About thirty feet away, actually,” Jamie interjected before Collin could answer.  “Right outside the bar, when you stood me up a few weeks ago,” she said playfully.  “He was a little creepy at first, but in a cute way, so I decided to give the poor guy a shot and we’ve been head over heals since that night.  Isn’t that right, my little pumpkin head?” she asked Collin, ruffling his hair, knowing it would irritate him a bit.

Collin had learned over the last few weeks that Jamie’s teasing was one of her odd little ways of showing affection, so he took it in stride and said, “Well, I’m definitely going to need a drink or two if I’m going to make it through the night.  Anyone else?”

Megan laughed in appreciation at his dry humor and said, “He’s going to be alright!  I’ve got the first round, kids.  What’ll it be?”  Megan waved the bartender over as she waited for the others to decide.

Collin took a moment to consider his limited options, knowing that no matter what he decided, Megan would most likely react the same way most people did when they learned he was a recovering alcoholic and prepared himself for the worst.  Still, he chose to maintain his sarcastic stance and smiled as he said, “I’ll just have a Coke, thanks.”

Megan’s initial reaction was not at all what Collin had expected.  She stopped, mid-order, and burst into near uncontrollable laughter.  Jamie, knowing that Megan had not picked up on Collin’s voluntary sobriety, waited nervously for the scene to play out while Collin simply waited patiently for Megan to compose herself.

“I’m sorry, kid,” Megan said as she managed to settle herself down.  “It’s just…we’re at a bar and two beautiful women are offering to buy you drinks, and you order a Coke?”  She almost lost control again but managed to reign herself in when she saw that Collin’s expression had turned somewhat serious.

Trying not to ruin the mood too badly, Collin responded with, “I suppose you could add a little kick to it if you insist, but it’s on you if you want to be responsible for helping a recovering alcoholic fall off the wagon.”

Megan’s laughter ended so abruptly, the sudden silence caught the attention of everybody within earshot.  “I’m sorry,” she said, feeling suddenly horrified by her own actions.  “I had no idea, I didn’t mean to-“

“I didn’t ask you to be sorry,” Collin said, pretending to be seriously offended.  The truth was, this was the reaction he had expected all along.  This, he knew how to deal with and if there was one thing he hated more than anything it was making others feel bad for his personal choice.  “You had no way of knowing,” he offered, trying to make her feel a bit better.  He just couldn’t help himself though.  The best way Collin knew to break tension was with sarcastic humor.  “Besides,” he said.  “The look on your face when I dropped that little bomb was priceless!”

Megan stopped short again as she realized that Collin had essentially led her into a trap for the sake of a joke at her expense.  ‘Actually,’ she thought to herself, ‘it was pretty funny.  This guy may be alright.’  Turning her attention back to Collin, Megan offered her approval of Jamie’s new relationship in the only way she knew how.  “You really are a creep, aren’t you?” she asked jokingly.  “Welcome aboard, kid!  I’m sure Jamie already knows your story, but I need to be filled in.  What exactly brings you here?”

Megan meant to ask, ‘what brings you to Omaha?’  However, Collin interpreted her question as ‘why are you here tonight, in this bar?’ and he responded as honestly as could be expected.  “I’m not entirely sure, to tell the truth.  It’s hard to explain really, but I guess you could say I’m looking for someone.”

“Hun,” Megan chuckled, “not exactly the best line to use in front of the girl you walked in here with, but I think you misunderstood the question.  What brings you to Omaha?  Would you like to try door number two?”

Realizing his misinterpretation, Collin was truly flustered.  “What, no!  I mean, yeah I came looking for someone, but not Jamie.”  Jamie raised her eyebrows at this and Collin realized he wasn’t helping himself.  “I mean, no.  Not that Jamie wasn’t  a nice surprise, but.  You know what?  I’m just going to shut up…”

Collin felt like a legitimate creep now and Jamie finally decided the time was right to rescue him.  “Oh, ignore her, Collin.  She loves making men squirm.  It’s okay, you can tell her your story.”

“Well,” Collin sighed, “to make a long story as short as possible, I had some pretty big dreams back in L.A.  The plan was to open a studio, find the next American music sensation and launch my own production company.  Everything was falling into place for a while.  I had a great studio space, had all the equipment lined up and had artists lined up around the corner to sign on.  Things were going well for a while and then the money started rolling in.  The thing about show business is, if you’re not careful, the wrong people will start to come around for the wrong reasons and I got caught up in the mess.”

As many times as Collin had explained his story, he still felt himself getting caught up in old feelings and he couldn’t help but hate the person he used to be, even just a little.  Still, he found the act of telling somewhat therapeutic and he was never one to turn down a willing audience.

“Before I knew it, the business I started in order to make music became a means to an end.  Every penny I made went right back to the people I got it from, or people connected to them, in order to fund my next drink or my next fix.  Funny thing about the entertainment industry, at least in my experience, is the biggest names in the game also happen to be the best drug dealers in town.  Basically, I had to get out of town as fast as possible or the life I was living was going to kill me.  So, I ended up here.”

“That’s all well and good, kid,” Megan’s curiosity was definitely piqued, “but that only explains why you left L.A.  Why here, of all places?  Why Omaha?”

“Well?  I’m sure you already know this town is sort of an unsung hero in the entertainment industry.  I figure, if I really want to start over and rebuild my dream, what better place to look than in a city where the performing underground is not just alive, but kicking?  The only catch is around here, you have to really hunt.  There aren’t exactly a lot of people looking for a big break in music.  I have to look for them; in places like this.”

The conversation continued in this fashion, each one taking time to share more about their past experiences than any of them had felt comfortable with doing in a long time.  Looking back on that night, they would each remember Megan’s introduction to Collin and Jamie’s relationship as a defining moment in their lives.  This night was the beginning of a bond that would shape who each of them were for the rest of their lives.

It’s an amazing thing to be able to reflect on the past and identify moments that would ultimately define you as a person.  What happened next though, nearly overshadowed the entire experience.  Had anybody involved made even slightly different choices that night, it might have altered the course of events to come.  While the events leading up to ‘The Miracle’ would become a set of special memories for all of them, the aftermath of their shared experiences is what truly shaped them as the people they would become.

‘The Miracle’ itself would be a devastating experience for all of them, yet it would ultimately lead them to an understanding that none could have imagined.  The thought of changing things to avoid the pain they would eventually endure together has never crossed any of their minds since they came to the shared revelation that they had each experienced life as they were meant to and, as a result, have become the people they were always meant to be.

None of the things to come however, would have been possible if Jesse had not entered their lives that night.  One seemingly insignificant choice would alter the course of destiny for all of them.  And none of them would choose to have done anything differently; not even, they all agreed, would Jesse.