The Eternal Sunset

Qualified Entry: Fiction Category

By: Matt Peszek

Glenford Hills, Indiana

“To Whoever Reads This,

I guess I should start from the beginning. My name is Brendan Calder. I’m eighteen years old and just graduated from Glenford Hills High School this past May. I never thought my life would turn out the way it did. It was like a dream come true until I managed to royally screw things up.

I’ve never considered myself special or unique in any real way. Sure…I had talents, hopes, and dreams but I’ve always considered myself to be a realist. I never saw much point in being an idealist but maybe I should’ve been? Maybe my life would’ve turned out differently. It doesn’t matter anymore though.

After I graduated, I was planning on attending Glenford Hills College with my girlfriend, Lindsay. Of course, life has a way of throwing curve balls when you least expect it. Sometimes that can be a good thing while other times it can be less than helpful. I guess it just depends on the circumstance and one’s perspective. All I can tell you is that I never expected what life had in store for me. In case you’re curious and wondering what happened, here’s the story.

As I said before, I was nothing special in high school. Lots of people liked me but I wasn’t liked enough by anyone to be considered part of any real group. Maybe ‘well-liked loner’ would fit my description better? Unlike those gothic type weirdoes who wore nothing but black and complained about how miserable and painful life is, people found me quite amiable. Plus, I was never a trouble maker. I attended class diligently, studied hard, and obeyed the rules.

As far as my parents are concerned…well…they’re good people. They’re pretty strict though. In fact, if you looked up the word ‘strict’ in the dictionary, their pictures would probably come up. Plus, sometimes I feel like they care more about their work than me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe they truly love me. They just have a unique non-demonstrable way of showing it.

Due to my parents’ strictness, a life of strict regularity has always been the order of the day. Wake up, shower, go to school, attend classes, come home, study, and go to bed. My parents never let me go out. They were firm believers all teenagers my age drank, smoked, and had unprotected sex. Of course, they were fearful I’d do the same. Yet, despite the regimented lifestyle imposed at home, they could’ve cared less about what I did under their roof. Kind of ironic I know.

Until I met Lindsay I thought my life was going nowhere. We had technically known each other since elementary school but we didn’t really know each other except each other’s names. We had been in some of the same classes over the years but we never talked or hung out. However, we were always friendly and cordial when we ran into each other.

I had always liked her but my feelings for her really intensified around the beginning of our senior year in high school. Unfortunately, I only could admire her from afar. Not only was she dating someone else but due to my ‘unique’ social standing among our classmates, I was not in her circle of friends. Come to think of it…I wasn’t really in any social circle to speak of.

As I said before, we never hung out but we did have some of the same classes together. Luckily, we usually sat pretty close to one another. We would even make occasional small talk. She always responded positively to me but we were never able to get a chance to talk about anything substantial.

As you might expect, the more I was around Lindsay, the more I began to really want her. It didn’t matter to me that she was already seeing someone. Yet, despite the rare instance of idealism, I knew we would never work out. I didn’t know squat about her and vice versa. I didn’t know what her favorite food was, what her favorite movie of all time was, or even what her hobbies were. I didn’t even know her birthday. The only thing I knew was that she was a girl who went to the same high school, was in the same grade, and in some of the same classes as me.

Yet, despite the lack of knowledge about her, whenever we crossed paths at school I saw nothing but perfection. In my mind, I knew I was infatuated but my heart was telling me otherwise. When I was around her, things felt absolutely perfect. I truly believed deep down that Fate would let us be together one day. I had to just be patient and let it happen on it’s own time.

I’m sure when you were younger you experienced these same types of feelings. I think all people my age get these types of feelings but few openly admit it out of fear of ridicule. It was no different with me.

In a way, these feelings really sucked. My heart was telling me one thing and my mind was telling me something else. It was genuinely difficult to make sense of it. I spent countless nights lying awake in my bed thinking of the possibility of a future between the two of us. How many kids would we have? Would we be the perfect example of a 1950s ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family? These were all thoughts that went through my mind on a constant basis.

Of course…that was wishful thinking on my part. I knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell for something like that to happen between us. We didn’t know each other at all. However, many times did I get through the night thinking that if Fate wanted us to be together we would. It would just take time.

One of the classes we had together was study hall. Even though we weren’t particularly tight, we usually sat next to each other. Luckily, we sat far enough away from the monitoring teacher to talk softly to each other.

I remember she came in one day looking upset and distraught. Despite my best efforts to find out what was wrong by asking gentle probing questions, she remained tightlipped. She immediately left once the bell rang.

I later found out through word-of-mouth that her boyfriend had cheated on her repeatedly with a couple different girls. He then broke things off with her without any warning. Naturally, Lindsay was devastated. Hell, I’d be too if that type of thing happened to me. I swore to myself that I’d never do anything like that to her. While I did feel sad for her, news of this breakup meant she was now single. However, I had to tread carefully lest I overplay my hand. Coming off as an insensitive ass was last on my ‘to do list.’ Therefore, I made sure to give her plenty of space.

No real progress was made the rest of the final semester except that we were talking a bit more but it was nothing groundbreaking. I had been trying to show I was interested in her without being blatantly obvious. I wasn’t entirely sure at the time but she seemed a bit more receptive to my ‘advances’ than she had been previously.

When school ended in early May, I didn’t see her a whole lot. Since we were now high school graduates, I had no idea if I would ever see her again. Maybe ten years later at the class reunion?

By mid June, I was still living my usual dull life. I was never invited to parties and therefore didn’t attend any. Not that it would’ve mattered. My parents wouldn’t have let me go.

Usually when evening came, I adopted the ‘old person’ approach to life. I’d take a walk at sunset to the elementary school I had attended when I was younger. I would go to the playground, sit on the swings, and just look up at the early evening sky thinking about life.

It was something I genuinely enjoyed. The experience let me think and try to make sense of things. Yet, there was always a depressing aspect to it. I was probably the only teenager in Glenford Hills who had nothing to do during summer vacation except sit on a swing at sunset reflecting on life. That was something only old people did. While some people might see that as deep and profound, to an eighteen year old who should be partying it up, it’s pretty sad.

I remember doing my usual sunset walk to the elementary school playground one day. Someone was sitting on the swings. My heart sped up. It was Lindsay. She was in ‘my spot.’ This was the first time I had seen her since graduation. I had been thinking about her almost everyday wondering what she was up to. Since I didn’t know her phone number and wasn’t close to any of her friends, I had been in the dark.

As I approached her, I was thinking she would probably say a quick ‘hi’ and rush off or make small talk before leaving. For a moment, I hesitated on going up to her but I ultimately decided to grow a pair and continued walking up to her. She didn’t notice me at first but looked up when she saw someone approach. I could see her face brighten.

She greeted me enthusiastically and gave me a big hug. She had never done that before. I asked her if I could sit next to her and she said ‘yes.’ When I asked what she was doing, she told me she often liked to come here, step back from the daily grind, and just think about life in general. When I told I did the same, she looked at me incredulously then smiled and said softly that we must be one of a kind.

My heart immediately lit up when I heard her say that. Intellectually, I knew I was reading way too deep into what she said but my heart was telling me otherwise. Anyhow, we started talking about life, the future, and when it got to relationships, I knew it was now or never.

To the best of my limited knowledge, she was still single. There was only one way to find out. I had waited throughout high school for this moment. Now was my chance. This would either succeed or fail. There was going to be no middle ground and there was certainly not going to be any second chances. I’m not sure how I did it but I did.

In the smoothest and simplest manner possible, I told her I had always liked her and thought she was really beautiful. It wasn’t the most poetic or romantic thing imaginable but short and to the point. Much to my surprise, Lindsay didn’t give a weirded out look or end the conversation quickly. Instead, she said she had always liked me as well and wondered why I had never approached her in school. Sheepishly, I said I was afraid she would reject me since we just seemed so different. That was by far the most difficult thing I ever had to say but once I got it off my chest, I felt a lot better.

Lindsay looked at me with doe eyes as I continued to pour my heart out to her. I don’t know how it happened but I just remember the both of us moving in. Before I knew it we were kissing. I had been dreaming about this day and now it was finally coming true on a warm June evening at sunset. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment. The kiss started out as a closed-mouth one but I soon felt her open her mouth and move her tongue slowly into mine.

Now, I had never given a girl an open-mouthed kiss before. Admittedly, I was a bit ignorant on what to do and how to do it properly. Needless to say I was worried. However, I managed to push my intellect out and let my body’s natural instincts take over. My tongue met hers and it wasn’t long before we were in the middle of a full-blown open-mouthed kiss. It felt odd but strangely pleasurable.

I can’t remember how long we kissed but the whole thing seemed to last for an eternity. After kissing for a bit more, she took herself away. Lindsay then looked at me, gave a soft smile, took my hand, and together we left the playground.

I won’t bore you with all the dirty details but that was the absolute best night of my life. To be honest…I was really nervous throughout the whole thing. I was a virgin. Since Lindsay had had a boyfriend, I knew she couldn’t possibly be one. It definitely showed. She handled me like a pro yet was gentle, considerate, and patient.

I think she could tell it was my first time and didn’t want to be too rough with me. That was probably for the better. Even though I felt like a little bit of a wuss at my inexperience, the moment was perfect and everything was slow and sensual. Of course, since it was my first time, I didn’t last long and the experience wasn’t quite like what happens in the movies but everyone has to learn sometime. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit but its true. Luckily, Lindsay didn’t mind too much.

Regardless of how my first time went, the emotional connection felt between the two of us was an unbelievably great feeling. I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world. On that warm June evening at sunset, I had finally gotten the girl I had been desiring for so long. The fact she really liked me had made the feeling even more special. That evening, I hoped and prayed that magical moment would never end.

It wasn’t long after that we became boyfriend and girlfriend. At first, her friends were shocked that I of all people was now her boyfriend. It didn’t bother me though. She was with me and I was with her. Nothing else mattered. I could’ve cared less about what people thought.

As boyfriend and girlfriend, my previously dull and monotonous routine changed for the better. For the first time, I actually felt like I had a real life and was actually living. It was no longer the same old grind. I was experiencing the joys of what life had to offer. It felt really good to say the least.

One of the many benefits of being Lindsay’s boyfriend was that my social life improved immensely. My nights alone became a thing of the past. Previously, my days were spent working at my less-than-stellar summer job at a concession stand while my nights were spent waiting for the next day to arrive.

After Lindsay and I became an item, that was no longer the case. However, my parents were still determined to keep me grounded in my previous life. We found ways around their rules though.

It used to be typical for me to sequester myself in my room in the early evening and not come downstairs until the next morning. That gave me the perfect time to leave the house unnoticed. I’d sneak out of my bedroom window and meet Lindsay. The two of us would then go off and do activities just like the average teenage couple. In most cases though, I didn’t even have to bother sneaking around my parents. They were never at home enough to notice anyway.

Of course, being teenagers in love, we had raging hormones and we often ended up in bed together. Since my parents were never around it was usually mine. There were only sporadic times we would be in hers.

You must believe me on this. Lindsay certainly wasn’t shy. In fact, she was usually the one who initiated things. It was a side of her I had never known or expected. She always seemed to be nothing like that. Lindsay later told me that after we became a couple, she felt as if she had been liberated and could finally be herself without worry about what others thought. It was strange. I felt the same way. A match made in heaven?

We seemed to be the absolutely perfect couple. There were many times we made both little and big promises to each other. It was quite obvious we were young and in love but I guess the old saying is true. The hearts of the young frequently make naïve promises without having the wisdom to know better. I’ll admit it…I was naïve. Extremely naïve.

However, things started to change. When we first became a couple, we were like two peas in a pod. The two of us were almost inseparable. Gradually though, we stopped seeing each other as much and whenever I called she never answered her phone. In the rare times she did, she only stayed on the line for a little bit before saying she had to go and hang up. An explanation was rarely given. At first, I thought she simply wanted space and refused to believe something else was afoot.

While I liked being around her, I understood that people need space. I felt like I was giving it to her. You know the old saying…’all things in moderation’ right? However, whenever I did see her, she seemed more distant and not as interested in me. Every time I tried to probe for answers, she always said everything was great but I didn’t really believe her. It just didn’t seem right. Eventually, I got word of what I had been suspecting and fearing.

She was two-timing me. She was seeing another guy we had met at a party back in late July. I didn’t know the guy personally but I knew his reputation as a ‘ladies man.’ I was told by a couple acquaintances that the two had been hooking up with each other behind my back for about two weeks.

I felt like my heart had just been ripped from my chest and stomped on. In all honesty, I can’t remember exactly how I reacted at first. I just know I was filled with uncontrollable rage and immense hurt. It began to hurt even more when I got word they were currently together in Glenford Woods. I knew exactly where they would be. We had spent many intimate moments there many times before. I still don’t know why I did what I did but I was blinded by my extreme anger enough to go home and get my father’s gun from the hallway closet.

I didn’t live that far from the woods. I tucked the gun into my pants, pulled my shirt over it, and walked about ten minutes to my destination. When I reached the edge of the woods, I slowed down and tried to walk carefully but it was extremely difficult. Part of me wanted to rush in there and beat the hell out of the guy who dared to take my girl but I kept my cool.

I was able to hear soft pants and moans as I approached ‘our special place.’ The closer I got, the louder the noises became. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on. Eventually, I was far enough to not be seen but close enough to see them. Lindsay was arching her back toward the sky. Seeing my girlfriend in the throes of passion with another guy sent my anger rising to an uncontrollable level.

I approached them slowly. I didn’t want to interrupt. Eventually, I was able to get close enough for a clear shot at both of them. I knew the gun was loaded. My father always kept it loaded due to his paranoid fear of burglars.

When I was within striking distance, I walked up to them nonchalantly with a strange sense of calm. The guy was the first to see me. When Lindsay turned and saw me, our eyes met. I couldn’t make out any remorse. Instead, I only saw the hazy and relaxed look she always gave me after we had been together. That made me even angrier and blinded me with rage. I thought that look was only reserved for me. I took the gun out of my pants, pointed it at both of them, and fired twice. I can’t even recall hearing a sound from either of them.

The second everything was silent, it became clear what I had just done. My life as I had always known it was over the second I fired those two shots. I single-handedly managed to change the course of my life forever in the course of a minute.

I never intended my life to turn out this way. If I could go back in time and stop myself from doing what I did…well…I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. I might as well face it, my life is over.

Whatever happens…this summer was, without a doubt, one of the best times of my life yet one of the worst. If I leave with anything, I hope to leave with that magical moment with Lindsay at the playground. Never in my life did I feel so happy and fulfilled.

For many people, that simple early summer evening was just a typical sunset. There would be billions more just like it all over the world. Most people won’t even think twice about its beauty. For me though…the entire event was a lot different.

It was the perfect ending. While the sun might have set in the real world, in my memory, it never ended. I always want my final memory to be of that eternal sunset on that warm June evening. It was at that very moment when two kindred spirits, who were just trying to make sense of life, finally found each other.

Best Regards,

Brendan Calder”

“Sir, is everything alright?”

A grizzled middle-aged man of fifty-five looked up from the bloodstained letter. A fresh-faced young police officer was looking at him expectantly for an answer. The man cleared his throat and spoke.

“Yeah…just readin’ the letter found on the perpetrator’s body. I’ll take it back to the station myself. How is everything progressing here?”

“They’re about ready to transport the three bodies to the morgue sir. We’ll continue sweeping the area for anything else and keep you updated on any developments.”

The man said nothing but nodded. The officer saluted and returned to the crime scene. The older man walked out of Glenford Woods to his car parked at the edge of the forest. Nearby, he saw a couple of paramedics loading a covered body into the ambulance. The sheet had a large bloodstain over the head area. Further inside the vehicle, he could see two additional covered bodies.

The man shook his head and got into his car. He placed the bloody letter next to his badge, Sergeant Felix Calder, Glenford Hills Police Department. The car was silent save for the sound of the man’s sobbing.