Run, Girl (If You Can) - Chapter 54 - This Was Where Their Paths Diverged[Updated at: 2021-01-11 19:15:00]
Keeley was about to usher her father away so they could go to their celebratory dinner when he turned to Aaron. "Where are your parents, son?"
He shrugged before coolly replying, "They aren\'t here."
Robert frowned but didn\'t want to offend him by insulting his parents. It was ridiculous that neither one of them had shown up for their child\'s high school graduation. Who did that?
"We\'re about to go out to eat to celebrate, why don\'t you join us?"
She gaped at him. That traitor! He knew she didn\'t like Aaron and still went out of his way to include him? Whose side was he on?
She was about to open her mouth to protest when Aaron spoke up.
"Thank you for the offer Mr. Hall but I don\'t want to intrude on a family gathering."
Keeley\'s back muscles, which had tensed up, relaxed. Good. He\'d finally given up on her. A couple months ago he would have done anything to weasel his way into her life.
"It\'s just the two of us. The more the merrier! I insist," her father said jovially, making her heart sink.
"Alright, if you\'re sure. I would be happy to join you," Aaron said with yet another indecipherable expression on his face.
So much for that picture they took together being the last she saw of him. Keeley wanted to protest but her father shot her a quelling look.
It was just a dinner. She had been through much worse. It could be a sort of last hurrah for them before they went their separate ways permanently.
Robert actually drove to the school for the event so they all piled into his 1997 Chevrolet Impala, which was likely the oldest car Aaron had ever stepped foot into in his entire life.
The ride over was pretty quiet because Keeley had nothing to say and Aaron was naturally quiet. The awkwardness was stifling so it was a relief when they exited the car in the parking lot of a popular buffet chain.
The slight hint of astonishment and distaste on Aaron\'s face was both hilarious and sobering at the same time. She wanted to laugh, thinking that tonight might be the first time he truly went slumming but it died in her throat when she remembered the class difference between them.
This was a special treat for her family. He never would have dreamed about eating at such a lowly place.
It reminded her of the way she had to change all of her restaurant preferences after they got married because Aaron refused to go anywhere that didn\'t have at least one Michelin star. There was nothing wrong with restaurant chains, okay?
She never truly belonged in the world of the rich, no matter how much she practiced in an effort to fit in.
Feeling bitter, she decided to give him a hard time about it. "Haven\'t you ever been to a buffet before?"
"Yes…inside Caesar\'s Palace in Las Vegas." That was supposedly one of the top ten buffets in the country.
She looked at him funny. When had he ever gone to Las Vegas?
In her first life, she mentioned something about wanting to go see the Grand Canyon and check out what all the fuss was about in Las Vegas but Aaron refused as a matter of principle.
He had never traveled farther west than the Mississippi River within the United States because he thought the east coast was more civilized. Apparently some Hollywood types from California had left a bad impression on him while visiting his company so they never went.
"I found us a table," her father called, derailing her train of thought.
Keeley went to all of the different food stations, getting some of nearly everything except salad.
She never liked the stuff in the first place—why should people eat leaves?—but after eight years of having to eat them at lunch with other socialites because it was the thing to do, she truly loathed it. There were much better ways to eat vegetables. Like in soup.
She decided to get two types before grabbing a loaded baked potato, some pasta, fruit chunks, and a few different slices of meat at the carving station.
Robert also got a bit of everything but Aaron settled for a salad and a few tiny slices of meat.
Of course. He looked down on this establishment; why would he eat more than necessary? Keeley got second helpings of a few things just to spite him.
As the meal went on, her father asked Aaron questions about Harvard: when he was going, whether he had been to the campus yet, what he looked forward to about it.
His answers were perfunctory and concise. He always managed to get things out in the fewest amount of words possible.
Back in the day, Keeley felt proud every time she pulled more than a few sentences at a time out of him. How pathetic.
"Boston is a nice city but I look forward to when I\'ll be able to return to New York. It is my home, after all," Aaron finished after giving the rest of his answers.
Keeley finally bothered to speak up. "That\'s why I\'m not leaving."
His lips twitched when he looked at her. "I know."
What did he know? He shouldn\'t act like he knew her well; they could hardly be counted as friends. She had never told him about her deep love of New York City.
Although she supposed it wasn\'t an unreasonable assumption to make since she wasn\'t going away for college like most of their graduating class.
The programs for the graduation ceremony listed where everyone would be attending. A lot of them went Ivy League or wanted to give the west coast a try. Only two other classmates would be attending NYU with her.
"Well, it is the greatest city in the world," she said somewhat tetchily before digging into her roast beef.
She avoided further comment by getting an entire plate full of desserts and overstuffing herself, which she would come to regret later when she had to deal with the stomach cramps.
After dinner, they dropped Aaron off at his house and he asked if he could speak to Keeley outside for a moment.
She agreed because she thought it might offer some closure to their rocky relationship. The final goodbye.
"Well, it\'s been…interesting…knowing you. Have fun at Harvard." She stuck her hand out to shake. The businesslike action seemed a fitting ending for such a dead relationship.
He accepted it but didn\'t shake, holding it briefly before crushing her to his chest in a hug.
"Just let me hold you for a moment."
It was so unexpected that she didn\'t push away. She may as well let him have it. People hugged goodbye all the time.
When he let go, he gently cupped her cheek in his hand and stroked it. Keeley froze in place. He better not try and kiss her again. That was where she drew the line.
Thankfully, he stepped back. His half-smile was almost wistful. "Take care of yourself, Keeley."
"Uh, you too. Bye."
As Keeley walked back to her car, she looked over her shoulder one last time. Aaron stood there watching her go but when he noticed her turn, he headed toward his front door.
Thirteen years of love and pain were behind her. This was where their paths diverged the way they were always meant to.