Reagan started her period the next day, thankfully before Dannie had a chance to make her pee on a stick. She figured that was part of what had made her sick at her stomach, along with the stress of Archer breaking up. The last three weeks of school were miserable regardless.
During those three weeks, she never saw or heard from Archer. Enid and the rest of his crew gave her the cold shoulder. Jerry actually started to yell at her and said it was her fault Archer got in trouble, until Enid made him stop.
So she sat with Ryan and Camden. She felt bad because she wasn’t good company, and the guys usually just talked to each other. She had zero friends now. Just Ryan and now sorta Camden, who was probably just being polite. At least he was nice to look at.
She knew Archer had managed to graduate, because his name was listed among the graduates. She checked. She was happy he at least got to do that, even though he had been suspended from coming to class.
Then, three days after school was out for the summer, she received a text from Archer that crashed her world even more. “I’m leaving town. I couldn’t leave without at least saying goodbye. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. Take care of yourself PR.”
Leaving town! She quickly texted back with shaky hands hoping he would get it before he blocked her again. “Please, can I see you before you go. I miss you so much. I know my dad threatened you.”
She waited and waited. Just as she was about to give up, her phone buzzed. She was afraid to look. “Meet me at the park in the hedge maze. An hour.”
She hurriedly texted back. “I’ll be there.” Relief flooded through her.
Reagan’s heart was beating out of her chest she was so nervous. She didn’t know what to expect. She hadn’t seen Archer or spoken to him since that horrible day at school.
She heard someone walking through the maze and held her breath. When she saw him her heart leapt into her throat. She wanted to throw herself into his arms but was afraid he would reject her. So she sat there nervously clenching and unclenching her fists.
When he looked at her, there were so many different emotions flickering across his face that it confused her. “Reagan…” was all he said.
“Archer…why?” she asked. She didn’t know what else to say.
He sat down next to her, careful not to touch her, when all she wanted was his touch. He looked at her over the top of his sunglasses. “I shouldn’t be here Reagan. But you deserve an explanation, especially since you already know part of what happened.”
“But, you’re leaving? Why?“
“I am,” he said and let out a heavy sigh. “You already know Daddy Murdick – that’s what I call him in my head – threatened me.” Archer nervously removed his glasses and looked at the ground while he continued. “Somehow, he found out about my asshole dad, my Juvie stints and the fact that I applied to the police academy in Brindleton Bay. He said he would file rape charges if I didn’t stay away from you.”
He looked up at Reagan, his eyes filled with pain. “Do you know what they do to rapists in prison?” He shook his head. “No…of course you don’t.”
“I would tell them! You didn’t do that! I wanted to be with you! You know that! God, I hate him!”
Archer shook his head again. “Nah, don’t hate him. No matter how much of a dick he is, he only did it because he loves you. And anyway, in a court of law, it doesn’t matter what you say. I knew better Reagan. I was playing with fire when I let myself begin to care for you, to fall in love with you.”
“It’s not fair!” Reagan knew she sounded whiny, but she couldn’t help it.
“It’s the law PR.”
Her heart melted at the use of his nickname for her. “But…”
“Listen to me,” he said frustrated, “I need to catch a flight, so I don’t have much time. I just need you to try and understand. You mean the world to me, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. You are beautiful and sweet and trusting. Innocent. And good. For someone like you to give me a chance…you made me feel like I could be better. Like I wasn’t destined to be like my old man. That I could actually have something good in my life. So, when the opportunity came a couple of months ago, I applied to the academy. I learned last week, that against all odds, I was accepted.”
“It doesn’t have to be over,” she said, “We can still be together. You can come back on vacation and we can text.” She instinctively put her hand on his arm and he flinched away from her and she knew. She was poison to him now.
“It IS over,” he said, his eyes hard now, confirming her suspicions. “You need to grow the fuck up Reagan. You still live in fairy-tale world where the princess kisses the frog and they live happily ever after. You kissed me, but sweetheart, I’m not a prince. I’m still a frog. You deserve better.”
Reagan had silent tears running down her face. “They thought I was pregnant. The day you….well…I was sick. I wished now that I was and then maybe you would take me with you. And you’re not a frog! You are a prince!”
He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “God, Reagan, listen to yourself now. Really listen baby. What you just said is ridiculous. It just shows how immature you still are. That would put me right back where I am now. Living in a run down apartment with a mother that drinks too much because she can’t deal with her reality. Divorced from my father, who’s in and out of jail for theft and drunk driving. I was going down that same path. But now I have a way out. I would never have forgiven myself if I got you pregnant. We would’ve eventually wound up hating each other.”
His words stung, but they hit home. Reagan put her head down and cried. She felt like she was being scolded and it made her feel stupid, small minded and incredibly selfish. She knew in her heart everything he said was true.
He reached over and touched her gently. “I need to go,” he said and stood up, “this was a bad idea.”
She quickly stood up too, barely able to see his handsome face for the tears that just wouldn’t stop. “I’m never going to see you again am I?” she cried.
“Honestly Reagan, I don’t know. I have no plans to come back to Willow Creek.”
When he turned to leave, Reagan’s heart dropped into her stomach. “Archer!” she cried out.
He turned and she ran into his arms. He held her until she calmed down. “I really do have a plane to catch,” he said as he peeled her off of him. “Go home. Try to repair your relationship with your family. He looked at her and grinned. “And tell Ryan – he needs to work on that right hook. Take care of yourself PR.”
“Bye,” she whispered through her tears, as she watched him walk out of her life forever.
By the time Reagan made her way home she was furious. How could her father threaten everything that Archer has worked so hard to obtain? She suddenly realized that Archer would have left her regardless. He had applied while they were still together. But how did her father find out something she didn’t even know?
At this point she didn’t care what kind of punishment she got. She was going to suck it up and give her father a piece of her mind. When she walked in she could hardly contain herself. She saw Taylor working on something in the kitchen. “Where is he?” she demanded.
Taylor jumped and tuned around. “Where is who?”
“Your father!” Reagan still couldn’t bring herself to say ‘our father’ and that hurt. Maybe it was a little childish. Archer said she needed to ‘grow the fuck up’. But that didn’t mean she had to embrace Taylor and Dannie taking over her father’s affection. If he loved her, he wouldn’t have done what he did. But Archer said he did. She didn’t know what to think anymore.
“You mean Daddy Cole?” Reagan just glared. “He’s outside with Connie…” she said pleasantly.
Reagan marched outside and right up to where her father was pushing Connie on the swing, like he was father of the year or something. It pissed her off more.
“Reagan?” He smiled, but when he saw her expression, his smile changed to concern.
“Daddy’s pushing me hiiiiiigh!” squealed Connie.
Reagan ignored Connie. “We need to talk. Now!” She spat the words at him then turned around and walked off. She heard him tell Connie he needed to go inside and she smiled triumphantly to herself.
“Reagan,” he called out from behind her, “what’s going on?”
She just kept walking and went into Dannie’s office and sat down.
Her dad sat across from her eyeing her suspiciously. “Reagan, what is all of this about? What’s the matter with you?”
“You tell me,” she shot back, “You threatened my boyfriend with a rape charge! How dare you. And how did you know he applied to the police academy? I didn’t even know that!”
“I…Reagan….” stuttered Cole and ran his hands through his hair.
“How Daddy? And why? He worked soooo hard for that and you would have taken it all away . . . just because we were dating? He’s good. I swear he is! He didn’t shoplift that bracelet. I know he didn’t.”
“I know,” admitted Cole, “But…baby…he has was involved and has been locked up before for other things. So you saw him? What else did he tell you?”
“You knew? And still….you threatened him? No. You tell me what you said to him. You scared him Daddy. How could you?”
“I can’t Reagan. I ….”
“Is everything okay?” asked Dannie as she looked at Cole, eyebrow arched in a warning. “I heard loud voices. Cole?”
“She knows I spoke to Archer and warned him to stay away from her,” he said as if that explained everything.
Dannie’s shoulder’s slumped just as Connie came running in. “Daddy! I want to swing.”
“Not now. Taylor!” he called out.
Taylor walked in. “What?” she asked as she looked back and forth between everyone.
“Take Connie outside for a few minutes,” instructed Cole.
Taylor looked relieved that she got to escape the drama. “Come on C. Let’s go swing.”
Reagan looked at Dannie and her father sitting together in unity. Now it was them against her. She thought maybe Dannie was gonna side with her, but now she wasn’t sure. Regardless, she couldn’t back down. She needed to make them both understand – Archer was good and they were wrong about him.
Reagan addressed Dannie after Taylor and Connie left the room. “Archer said Daddy threatened him with a rape charge if he didn’t stay away from me. Dannie – Archer worked very hard to bring up his grades and stay out of trouble. And Ryan started that fight. Not Archer. Ask him if you don’t believe me.”
“He what?” asked Cole his face turning red.
“Leave Ryan alone!” cried out Reagan, “Archer took the blame so Ryan wouldn’t get in trouble. But I got grounded for a month. And Archer got suspended from school for a week and then got threatened by my own father!”
“You got grounded for disobeying a rule,” he snarled.
“A stupid rule!” she snarled right back.
“Reagan!” warned Cole and Dannie put her hand on him to stop him from saying more.
“I’m sorry,” said Dannie. “Your father and I talked about what he did and he knows he owes both you and Archer an apology.” She looked pointedly at Cole. “Right?”
Her dad at least had the decency to look remorseful when confronted by his – what? – girlfriend. Common law wife. Why not just wife? At least then she would be her step-mother.
Dannie continued. “He also promised me he wouldn’t do anything more where Archer was concerned. So, Reagan, if you want to see him, you have our permission. With some conditions of course.”
“Sure….now that he’s gone! He left today for Brindleton Bay! So I guess you got your wish!”
“He was accepted?” asked Cole, seemingly surprised.
“I told you! He’s good!” exclaimed Reagan.
Cole Closed his eyes for a minute and Dannie looked like she wanted to strangle the man sitting next to her. Finally her father looked at her with a pained look on his face. “I made so many awful mistakes. I owe everyone an apology – you…” he glanced at Dannie, “your moth…Dannie… and Archer. Dannie didn’t know what I was doing. Going behind her back was wrong. I lied by omission, then I held you to a higher standard and that’s not fair to any of us. I knew what I was doing was wrong. Just like you also knew sneaking out and lying to us was wrong. We were both desperate and used that to justify our actions.”
“But you still wouldn’t have let me go out with him! He was my friend!”
“Reagan….you never even asked,” said Cole calmly. “We have to learn to talk to each other again. You can’t lie to me sweetheart. I don’t need intimate details, but I need to know where you are and who you are with. I want to meet your friends. Maybe if you would have asked for him to come meet us….given us a chance to know him.”
Reagan was confused and didn’t know what to say, so she said what was still foremost on her mind. “Apologize to Archer,” she demanded. “Tell him you won’t go after him. That it’s okay if we talk or see each other!”
Her dad looked sad. “I will,” he said quietly, “because I was wrong to have done that in the first place, not because you are demanding it. Reagan, I’m sorry for the pain I caused you with my actions. But you can’t lie to me. Because I didn’t know what was going on and you wouldn’t tell me, I jumped to conclusions……”
“Maybe, that’s enough for tonight,” interjected Dannie. “I do think, though, we should continue this dialogue. Reagan, we both love you very much. And maybe we need to step back a little and give you some freedom. But we have to discuss what that means. What is expected of you as well. It’s not a one-way street. But for now, you look wrecked. I assume you saw Archer before he left.”
Reagan nodded and the tears came again.
Dannie looked genuinely sad. “That’s rough. I’m sorry. Reagan, is there someone you want to go see or would like to spend time with…someone that you can talk to? Enid maybe?”
Reagan groaned. “She hates me.”
“Well, I’m here,” offered Dannie gently, “or Taylor, maybe Ami even?”
“Can I just go now?” asked Reagan. She got what she wanted, but she wasn’t gonna spill to Dannie or Taylor, but Ami … maybe.
Cole gave her a sad smile. “Hey, young lady, you’re the one that called this little meeting. Gutsy move by the way. So, if you want to end it, your call too. But before you go, remember, I’ve been honest and I expect the same in return. Don’t lie about what’s going on.”
“One more thing,” said Dannie, “In the spirit of talking to each other, maybe we should have a weekly ‘how are you doing this week’ meeting. Even going out to dinner, just the three of us.”
Reagan’s first reaction was not only no, but hell no. Then she thought about Archer and what he said about her father and repairing their relationship. But not Dannie too. That was too much. Maybe, just him. Or maybe just Dannie. She didn’t know. Things were getting too jumbled up in her mind. Then she thought, my mother. I want to see my mother.
“Earth to Reagan,” said her father.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” she said honestly.