‘Caroline Hearts Toby’- a gripping short story

This might be the most important stories I’ve ever written, and one that I believe everyone should read.  I don’t really know what to say about it other than I hope that you can see yourself through Caroline’s eyes, even if it’s only for a moment, and go out into the world with a new outlook.

You can read the beginning of this gut wrenching story here but to find out how it all ends pick up a copy of ‘Everyone Dies: Tales from a Morbid Author’ which includes 21 pieces of short fiction in which someone either physically, emotionally, or spiritually dies including never before published pieces like ‘After The Fire’ and fan favorites like ‘The Silencer’.  The collection is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Trigger Warning: This story includes violence and it’s aftermath through the lens of a teenage girl.  

 

Caroline Hearts Toby 

by Melissa Algood

“When I saw this, I thought of you,” the most perfect boy said.       
I remembered the first night we spoke, at a party, a week after I turned fourteen.  
It was a humid Saturday night, and an ex had decided to start a fight with me.  I turned into a full-fledged drama queen and ran crying to the solace of a wooden gazebo on the edge of the woods behind the party house.  The tip of his long shadow touched the steps of my fortress before Toby did.     
“Are you okay?”  he asked.      
“Yeah,” I said between racking sobs.      
“You want to talk?”      
“Yeah.”  I went on for what felt like years but was actually a few hours without taking a breath.  “He’s just such an asshole you know, I could do so much better than him.”     
“You could do a lot better, like me.”     
For the first time that night, I burst out laughing.     
The side of his mouth turned up in a half smile.  “What’s funny about being my girlfriend?”     
“You don’t want to date me, I’m like, totally crazy.”     
“Maybe.” His light eyes enveloped me. 
“But your laugh is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever  heard.”     
Before I could decide if he was serious or not, a group of boys with baggy jeans, flannel shirts, and backwards baseball caps called out, “Hey!  We’re leaving, man.  You coming?”     
He stood up.  The eaves of the rotted wood sighed beneath his lanky frame.  “I gotta go, see you around.”     
“See you around.”      
* * *
That Monday, Margo and I strolled up to the side entrance of the two-story brick prison called high school, and there he was.  His eyes were half closed as he sat on the steps playing an acoustic guitar the color of wheat.  The scene was more fantastic than an E.E. Cummings poem.  My heart stopped beating in my chest as I followed the trajectory of his skinny left arm  strumming, and the fingers of his right hand caressing the neck of the guitar.  
Even though he was fully clothed, a hundred feet away from me, and so into the song he didn’t know I was staring at him, it was the most erotic event of my life until that point.      
Margo, my best friend since forever, nudged me.  “Gawk much?”     
I took a breath, not realizing I’d been holding it the entire time, and shook my head.  “No way.  Total waste of time.  It’s not as if he likes me, or whatever.”     
“He totally likes you, Caroline.”     
“How do you know?  Are you psychic?”     
“I have eyes.”  A smirk stretched over Margo’s tan skin.  “Every time you speak, he looks over at you and smiles like a little kid.  I’m afraid he’s gonna pull on one of your pigtails during recess, or something.”  
My pulse sped up.  “Really?” 
“Watch him for yourself if you’re so interested.”       
I did.  
Our eyes met for the briefest of moments and it made me feel as if I’d been shot out of a cannon.  I turned back to my notebook and started to write, secretly wishing my Mom would give in and buy me a cell phone.  The best idea for expressing my undying love to him was to pass him a note after class, and that’s exactly what I did.  The rest of the day proved supremely agonizing.  As I walked out the front door to my bus, he stopped me, and handed me a note of his own.      
I wrote him a note every day for the next two years.    
* * *
Now, he stood before me with the gift.  
I believed it was a second chance when Toby handed me a magazine with my favorite singer, Lily Allen, on the cover.  It had been months since we’d spoken, but it only took me the summer to figure out I’d made a mistake by breaking up with him for a guy with a better car.  But I was too late.  Toby already had a new girlfriend, Sara.  Yet there he was, standing in front of me, in the alcove between our respective English classes, with the magazine I’d later cut out all the pictures from to tape above my bed.       
I smiled.  “Whenever I hear Imagine Dragons, I think of you.”
“You still like her, right?”  His green eyes twinkled. 
“Always and forever, Toby.”  I hoped that he knew I was referring to him, and not the British songbird.     
His smile widened and warmed my heart, “Apparently, she’s coming out with a new album.”    
“Yeah, it’s gonna be epic.”   That was the moment I should have told him I still loved him and wanted to have a hundred babies with him.  Instead, I bit my bottom lip and added, “Thanks.”     
“Always and forever, Caroline.”  My heart skipped a beat when he said my name.     
I didn’t know it then, but that was the last time he’d see me, the girl he loved a million years ago.       
* * *
I went home that night and wrote a dozen love letters to Toby as Lily Allen gazed down at me.  
A multitude of handwritten apologizes, in various colors of ink for emphasis, explaining why I was the worst seventeen-year-old to breathe air.  I knew putting pen to paper was archaic, but my thoughts could not be contained in a mere text.  Besides, it worked once before, maybe it would work again. Even if we didn’t end up behind a white picket fence, I needed him to know that I was sorry.  Sorry for every dumb choice I’d made.  Sorry for hurting him.  Sorry for believing that there was another man that could match him, much less that one existed that was superior.       
For weeks I contemplated how I’d maneuver past his new girlfriend, that emo bitch, and give them to him. 
Sara would often pass me in the halls in school and call out over a horde of underclassmen.  “He says I give better blow jobs, whore!”  A few students laughed, but most of them continued en masse through the crowded hallway. 
I’d grit my teeth and avoid her line of sight.  Not entirely because I was afraid of her, but because I didn’t want to get into a physical fight with my ex’s new girlfriend.  Even I was above that.     
Margo turned to me.  “What the fuck is wrong with that cunt?”    
I shrugged.  “She’s totally fucking insane, like, even more than me.” 
“I just can’t believe she says stuff like that.”    
“Told you, she’s crazy.”     
Margo pushed her long dark hair behind her ears.  “Besides, Sara probably has a punch card for Planned Parenthood.”     
“She acts like a porn star.”  
The whole time I’d known the pixie cut tall blonde ,she’d been more than forthcoming with every sexual act one could imagine.  And although it made my stomach turn, I knew that must be the reason Toby liked her.  It wasn’t as if she were smarter or prettier than me, but she was sluttier.  
Then I recalled that I couldn’t feel too saintly, due to an evening in close proximity to a church with Toby.  To celebrate passing his driving test we drove to the most secluded part of town and I gave him a pair of oversize fuzzy dice to hang from his rear-view mirror.  We spent the rest of the night being the only two people in the universe.  
“I mean I’m not like, perfect, but I’m not like, telling everyone about it.”     
Margo’s dark eyes grinned.  “Yeah, not everyone.”     
I punched her in the arm, then told her in a quick hushed voice, “I think I’m gonna give him the letters.”     
“I told you I can get Jason to give him one.”     
“No, I can’t have my best friend’s boyfriend give a guy a love letter.  Besides, we work together at the grill.  That’s too weird.”     
“Whatever.  Then how are you going to get past her?”  Margo gestured down the hall Sara had just tromped through.     
“I’ll meet him outside of English, or put one on his car, or something.”  The thought of doing any of those things seemed exceedingly desperate, but I needed him to know that if I could, I’d build a time machine.  
* * *
The day before my plan would come to fruition, I pictured his big light eyes scanning the notebook paper, and a toothy grin that would be sure to follow.  Cool air wrapped around me, the leaves on all the trees seemed technicolor bright in shades of yellow, orange, and red matching my mood.  The black asphalt I walked on seemed to be reflected in the overcast sky that would hover above town for months.  
I didn’t hear footsteps, but a waiter at the restaurant materialized next to me as I put the key into the door of my car.     
“You’re looking pretty sexy today.”      
I rolled my eyes at what I took as a joke since I was still in my waitress get-up.  I knew him from school, we’d even had a class together junior year.  Years later, after copious amounts of alcohol had been consumed, I’d remember him staring at me in class.  But I’d always thought he was harmless.      
Besides, at seventeen, I caught a lot of guys staring at me.  It was just something guys did.      
He moved closer, tilted his head to the side, and smirked at me.  “I had a dream about you last night, Caroline.”     
The way my name rolled off his tongue made the hair on the back of my neck rise.  Instead of running, I asked, “Really?  That’s weird.”     
He was inches away from me.  “Why?”     
I laughed, then opened the car door.  “Cause I never had a dream about you.”     
He shut the door with his elbow and leaned on it.  “You know, you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”  He was close enough that I could feel his breath on my cheek.         
Before I could respond, he pulled on my long brown ponytail and tossed me to the ground.  
The Earth stopped rotating.  
I didn’t feel his grip on my wrists, the pavement on the back of my head, or hear the metallic clink his belt buckle made.  But I did feel when he tore me in half as if I were no stronger than a piece of paper.  In my head I was clawing, crying, and screaming, but all that came forth was a whisper.  I lay in the gutter next to my car, with him on top of me, as if I’d invited him and he hadn’t shoved me to the dirt.  

 

Caroline’s story isn’t over yet-to read the rest of her wild night download ‘Everyone Dies: Tales from a Morbid Author’ on Amazon here

-If you or anyone you know is a survivor of any sexual crime then please know you’re not alone.  Please get help and/or donate to RAINN-Rape And Incest National Network

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