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    MJTay3
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Reasons - 1. Chapter 1

Chapter 1

November 2013

Matt looked around his messy office. "What the hell is going on with me today?" he wondered, and tried to clear a path to the hardwood underneath -- in other words, Freedom. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he had a four-hour drive that was getting longer by the minute (damn traffic), and he could not un-fog his mind enough to get simple things done and get on the road.

Matthew James Taylor III, so his nameplate said, was an ill-fit for a big law firm. His parents were both mixed-race immigrants, but he looked more generic white with a healthy almost-tan than anything else. His father, when he came to this country, felt like he was judged by his ethnic name -- so he insisted that everyone call him "Sam." Right before Matt was born, Sam had his name legally changed to Sam Cook Taylor-- but his wife, Matt's mom, refused. It was an odd household growing up.

Sam didn't want his little boy (or girl) to face the same discrimination he thought he felt, so he gave them what he felt were very generic names -- that he stole from very famous musicians. And then to add a bit of gravitas, he added "third" to his only son's name -- ignoring the fact that there was no Matthew James Taylor Sr., Jr. or otherwise. Again, an odd upbringing. Matt felt like he got a better deal than his only sibling -- his older sister Janis Taylor -- but he still went by nicknames most of the time; either his initials (MJ) or something else. In high school though, it was always "Matty."

By the time he got married at 24, though, Matthew was his professional nom de guerre. It didn't really stick -- Matt didn't respond well to Matthew and most people who knew him called him MJ anyway. Except his wife, Christie. She insisted on calling him Matthew, or worse -- "Matthew James!" -- and he couldn't stand it. They were in the middle of a relatively amicable, if painfully slow, divorce. "Irreconcilable differences," they say. Most of the friends (on both sides) say it less politely.

Matt's assistant, Melissa Cohen -- Cohen, to those who wanted to annoy her, and Matt always did -- came into the office and was surprised at the lack of progress.

"It's almost noon, MJ! Unless you want to hit a parking lot all the way to North Jersey, you better shake it and move along. I am *not* hosting you if you don't make it up there."

"A Cohen Thanksgiving!" Matt snort-laughed. "Well, I would hate to miss that. Can you just put all this stuff in a box? I'll do it when I get up to the Taylor compound."

"Sure thing, MJ. Also, Christie called three times to remind you that her mother's birthday is Nov. 30, and you promised to call her."

They had agreed to pretend like everything was fine until right before the divorce was finalized, so MJ resigned himself to an awkward-as-hell call on the 30th. He was sure Christie had already told her parents -- he damn sure had already told his family, and they were... not sad.

"It's a date, Cohen. Put it into my Outlook for 3 p.m., and put a few reminders in there. I will try to forget."

---

Matt was somewhat surprised at the not-terrible traffic, and let his mind drift a bit while he took stock of his life.

At 29, he had put in five years at a big law firm. He didn't love it, but he didn't hate it -- but he couldn't think of anything better to do, so inertia as much as anything else kept him there. Also, another two or three years, and he would be up for partner. Christie was so looking forward to being a law-firm-partner's wife, Matt laughed. She had grand visions of retiring (from her very stressful job as a PR coordinator for a publishing company owned by -- wait for it -- her father) and throwing lavish parties on her yacht. "Fuck her," Matt thought. He hadn't done that recently anyway.

They met in college. Matt was sort of a loner, though he had a lot of friends -- just a lot of past issues haunting him. Christie was serious and understanding, made him laugh and kept him from crying. They married right after he graduated from law school, and both families approved wholeheartedly (after he signed a prenup, of course). Matt laughed ruefully -- it was that prenup that ended up protecting *him.* Christie made so little that he would have ended up paying a fat alimony check if not for Christie's family money and their insistence on outsiders "signing into" the family.

Their marriage wasn't doomed, at first. They were both settling into DC nicely -- but then, as his work increased and her desire to have kids immediately if not sooner became more apparent, they realized they were on very separate tracks. They didn't cheat on each other -- they each had too much morality and pride for that -- but they hadn't really been a married couple for at least a year. "Thank heavens there are no kids," Matt thought. Both of them would have stayed in it if there were.

He'll be free soon, he thought. Just a few more months. Maybe a year? And it will be over. And he'll be 30. And starting over.

---

Thanksgiving was such a big holiday in MJ's family. This year, the house was bursting with 33 relatives and friends -- but his mom always reminds people that during the 1992 winter, she hosted more than 50 people -- she thinks.

Matt genuinely enjoyed himself, catching up with the cousins. His parents hadn't held the gossip back -- no one asked, "Where's Christie?" -- so it was less awkward than he expected.

Matt was going to drive back to DC on Saturday, but he spent the Friday after Thanksgiving catching up with a few friends who were also back in town. They swung by their old high school, Ridgewood High (go Rebels!), and generally shot the shit about their classmates. There was little new gossip that hadn't filtered out through Facebook, so the catch-ups were quick.

On his way home, Matt was instructed by his mom to pick up some Italian food from the family's favorite restaurant. Dutifully, he arrived at Mino's at 7 p.m. -- and found them way behind.

"Ah, Matty! So lovely to see you! Please, have a seat! Talk to us!" Mama Mino bellowed form behind the counter.

"Mama, that can only mean I'm going to be waiting a while!" Matt smiled. She returned his smile, dropped a diet coke on the counter, and then went to prepare the forgotten order. It was a small restaurant, only 40 seats or so, so Matt stood to the side by the door so as to not block anything. He pulled out his phone to check his work e-mail -- 107 new messages, not bad.

Halfway through a Monday scheduling update, Matt saw a figure come fast through the door -- not realizing that Matt would be next to it, and the next thing he knew, Matt was on the floor. Luckily, no diet coke was hurt during the episode.

Dazed, Matt accepted the outstretched hand from the cyclone that knocked him down, as well as some bellowed "Sorry!"s. Matt noticed the hand was huge, and belonged to an equally large dude -- easily 6'3" or more. Matt felt an immediate pang of jealousy (he hated being short) -- he looked above the cyclone's hand and arm, to his face and eyes, and was about to say something snide when he stopped. He recognized something -- no, someone? -- in the eyes. They looked almost like...

"Matty? Matty Taylor?"

Before Matt could respond, he felt himself engulfed in a huge bearhug. Matt felt the breath rush out of him, partly because of the force of the hug, but mostly because of who was hugging him. Michael Burke, his best friend Rachel's younger brother. Man, Mike had certainly grown -- the last time Matt saw him, Mike was probably 5'4" tall -- and 14 years old. It was the day of Rachel's funeral.

---

Matt will never forget the day he met Rachel Burke. She was his "buddy" -- he was in 8th grade, about to transition to high school, and she was the cool freshman girl who was supposed to show him around for a day. Except, she was only three days older than him and reminded him at least twice that "I was *supposed* to be in your year, but the school let me skip a year because I was so advanced!" Matt decided he hated her.

They actually lived nearby, so Rachel suggested that they walk home together after the 8th grade assembly. On the walk, Matt realized she was just a ridiculous person.

As she kicked a few pebbles on the walk home, Rachel said, "I only act like that at school because it keeps the super popular girls from taking any interest. It's better that way. They're so self-centered. I can't handle their noise." Matt looked at her with a cock-eyed face, because he couldn't even keep up. But he was amused, so he decided to go with it.

"Stick with me," she said. "It'll be fine."

And it was.

---

Everyone assumed they were dating, even when they were dating other people. At the end of the day though, it was always Matty and Rachel, or vice versa. You get one, you get the other one, a package deal. And they both found that arrangement fantastic -- as did their respective families. When she was home from school, Matty's older sister Jen (Janis was not going to fly at Northwestern, sorry) bonded with Rachel like none other. And Matt had a shadow whenever he was at Rachel's -- in fact, that's how Matt got his high school nickname. Everyone called Rachel's younger brother "Mikey," and at 8 years old he announced he HATED the name. He wanted to be "Mike," if Matt was "Matt." Matt, ever the devil's advocate, said "I like Mikey! It makes you sound like a lot of fun." So Mikey said -- "I'll be Mikey if you'll be Matty." And Mikey and Matty were born.

---

Rachel graduated a year earlier than Matty did, and she decided to defer her admission to college and work in their hometown for a year. That was one of the few things they ever fought about.

On Matt's graduation day, he remembers them fighting, but he's blocked a lot of the details out. He knows that they fought at the beginning of the year, but the really big fight was at the end of the year. Rachel was off to Brown, and Matt decided to forgo Brown and go to Stanford instead. They were supposed to go to college together, and she yelled at him bitterly for welching on their agreement. Matt said his scholarship was too good to pass up (it was), but that really wasn't it. He needed the space. From his hometown, from his hometown life, and sadly, from her. Matt remembers one of the last fights they had on the subject, where he told her just that.

Matt was pissing her off, but he didn't really see another way out other than pleading his case. "It's ALWAYS been the two of us you say-- but really, it's only been four years. We weren't made for each other, forever! You'll fucking survive without me! You will! And I will survive without you. We have phones, we have IM. We will talk." The moment he said that, everything changed. Her whole entire demeanor changed, from confident, strong-willed to emotionally vulnerable. They both started to cry, and Matt blocked out the rest. He knows what happened, but he just can't bear it.

---

They both went off to college, and it was fine -- they did talk, but it was never the same. She was doing lots of theater, and he pledged a fraternity -- between that and the time difference, there was almost no talking. When they were home, they seemed to pick up as before, and even put on a good front for their families -- Jen was the first person that Rachel called when she had a pregnancy scare, and Mikey called or e-mailed Matty every time he won a tennis tournament. But both Rachel and Matt knew their friendship, their bond, was broken. And it wasn't the distance. There are some things you say that you just can't take back.

---

On September 20, 2004, Matty got a phone call from his mother, which was not surprising. He was in the Library, but he ignored it anyway as he had her last few phone calls, as well as his dad's. Sorry parents, getting 3 a.m. wings *was*, indeed, the type of emergency for which the family credit card was appropriate.

Then she called again. And again once more, in rapid succession. Matt got this terrible feeling -- his relatives were aging, and every time the phone rang like this when he was a kid, it was terrible news. He answered. "Mom?"

"Matthew, baby, uh, you need to come home. Are you alone right now?"

His mom's voice freaked him the f out. She was always so calm. "No Mom," Matt said. "I'm in the Library -- what's up? Is everything OK? Are you and Dad OK?" He was beginning to hyperventilate a bit, and his friends around were concerned.

"We're fine, sweetheart. I'm so sorry, Matthew, I don't know... Rachel was in a car accident. Her brother was also in the car. He's at the hospital now, and Dad is on his way there, but Rachel... I'm so sorry."

Matt put down the phone. His mom was crying, and in the quiet of the library, Matt's friend and roommate Jeff could hear it. Jeff picked up the phone, and got the news. He assured Matt's mother that they would get him to the airport and on the next flight out.

Matt just kept repeating, "No. No. No, this isn't happening." He didn't yell, or sob. He quietly cried, and repeated those words, over and over.

 

Copyright © 2014 MJTay3; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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So, so sad. I'm so sorry for Matt, his family, and Rachel's family. What a horrible thing to happen to someone so young.

 

You mentioned Ridgewood High School and northern NJ. Did Matty go to Ridgewood H.S. in Ridgewood, NJ?

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What a great start to what I'm certain will be a great story! I liked the way you handled the time jumps, and the concise, yet emotional telling of the story.

You did well!

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Great start. So much happened in this chapter. and then it ended on a sad note. Ok, I'm hooked.

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