Characters: Pup and Tiggy
Word Count: 1,774
Disclaimer: "Things People Say" is a song written by Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood and performed by Lady Antebellum on their album Lady Antebellum. The song was produced by Victoria Shaw and Paul Worley. All characters, plots and creative elements derived from the source material belong exclusively to their respective owners. I, the author of the fan fiction, do not, in any way, profit monetarily from the story.
It was her idea for us to get married on her birthday. Tiggy is a simple girl and doesn't make a big fuss over flowers and chocolates. She turns up her nose at sappy cards. She said the best gift I ever gave her was that day we spent out on the lake when she fell asleep in the back of that old Lund boat while I fished for trout over the side. Mama had fried up the fish the next day with a whole mess of grits after she got back from church. Tiggy said she still remembered my bronzed skin and sun-kissed hair while I sat laughing at my dad's dirty jokes in the back yard.
I'd told her that getting married on your birthday was bad luck, but she'd just shrugged her shoulders and pulled another tick off of my back with the tweezers that she used to pluck her eyebrows.
"Nevermind the old wives tales, Pup," she'd told me. "They're just things that people say."
This is what she told me on her 23rd birthday.
"I, Rachel Lynn Perry, do take you, Matthew Jayce Tucker, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part." When she was done she mouthed, "I love you, Pup." I heard her mom sniffling in the background.
They were the prettiest words I'd ever heard.
I still had to pause sometimes when I looked at our marriage certificate hanging on the wall. I'd known her a year before I ever found out her name was actually Rachel. Tiggy was a family nickname—she'd had a temper like tiger when she was little, her mom said, and, boy, had she had a stubborn streak.
Truth was, Tiggy still did.
She was lugging a really large suitcase out to the porch when I couldn't watch her struggle anymore.
"Here, let me," I'd said, and took it from her hands just as she was dragging it over the first step. She thought a second before she let go of the handle, but the day was too hot for her to hold on to her pride. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. "So you gonna let me take you?" I asked.
She was pretty reluctant. "I dunno," she answered without looking at me. She's really tiny, barely clears five feet. I'm something over six foot, though I can't remember how much now. Maybe that's why we weren't seeing eye to eye.
"It'll save you forty bucks," I reasoned. I guess she agreed. She walked over to the truck and jumped in shotgun while I loaded her large suitcase and backpack into the bed. A second later, we were off.
The bus station is a tiny one and there aren't any seats on the inside, only a counter a pop machine. I bought us two Cokes and took them outside, sitting next to her on the bench. She took a sip, and I did too, and squinted into the heat waves on the horizon.
I still wasn't sure how we'd got to this point. An argument about buying a new truck turned into this: seeing my wife off at the Greyhound station with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.
"I don't want you to go," I said to the side of her head. She froze, maybe a little startled by the confession. I reached out and put a hand on her knee. She looked at it a moment, then placed her own hand on top. "We can work it out. We can work this out," I pleaded.
"I'm not leaving you," she said, finally looking at me. "I just need a breather. I need to see what I can do. You understand that, don't you?"
That's what she kept saying. "See what I can do." She'd talked sometimes about maybe singing a little, and she could pick guitar. I wondered if that's what she was talking about.
"I'm afraid if you leave you might not come back," I said.
She didn't say anything. A moment later, the coach pulled up and I put her stuff under the bus. She dug her toes into the sand by the road.
We stood looking at each other. I bent down to kiss her, but something felt wrong, and I ended up stopping somewhere near her nose. We fumbled through an awkward hug.
"Bye, Pup," she said, and it felt more final that it should.
"I'll call you," I said. Then I watched as the bus rode off with her in it, and it kicked up dust as it went, speeding off into the horizon.
The first night was hard, and so was the second. Two weeks later and I still found myself staring at the clock at three in the morning, wondering what she was doing. If she had found someone else.
There was a knock on the door one Tuesday afternoon, and it was Pastor Mike. He didn't want anything, really, just to know if I was okay. Apparently I hadn't been looking all that great at church. I told him I was, but I don't know if he believed me or not. I swear I almost offered him a beer (my drink of choice these days) but ended up bringing him a glass of water.
"Don't have anything harder?" he said, looking at the glass sideways. The statement caught me by surprise. "Just kidding," he said, and chuckled a little, taking a deep gulp. I chuckled too.
I'd needed a laugh.
Tiggy used to make me fruit smoothies in the morning, and I hated it at the time, but I called her one night asking her what she'd put in them. "Peaches, mangos, strawberries and a tablespoon of honey," she said. I went down to the market to get some fruit but got the look I dreaded when I went to check out.
"You okay, Pup?" the cashier, April, asked. I nodded.
"Never better," I lied, and smiled as best I could
She gave me a sad nod anyway.
I was late coming to Skype. I'd never had much use for it before. Not until now.
We hadn't spoken in over a week and, three minutes in, Tiggy was already squirming to leave. She spent more time looking down than up. I wondered if this conversation would have been easier over the phone… for me at least.
"How's your mom?" she asked through a sigh.
I wasn't feeling particularly generous. "She cries a lot, to tell you the truth," I answered. Tiggy just rolled her eyes.
"Well, she'll have to get used to the idea I'm not around," she said, with more power than she'd said anything all night. "She'll get over me, and a lot sooner than you think." Then she looked up with a smirk on her lip. I failed to find the humor in the situation.
"Yeah, she probably will," I said. Still, the words "get over me" lingered in my mind. It was the first time she'd said anything like that. "What about me, Tiggy?" I asked. "What about us? I'm ready for you to come home."
She dropped her head, then looked off-screen, thumbing her bottom lip the way she did whenever she was thinking really hard. I'd seen that face a million times before, and suddenly I couldn't stand talking to her through a computer screen.
"When are you coming back, baby?" I asked.
There was something sad that came over her, but not sad enough. Like maybe she was sad for me, but not for herself.
"I'm not coming back, Pup," she said, just as plainly as if she were telling me we'd run out of milk.
I'd already known deep down that she was gone for good. I'd figured so anyway, but thought that maybe… I don't know what I'd thought. "Why not?" I asked.
"I can't…" She sighed deep, real deep, shaking her head. "I can't go backwards. There's a life for me out here. New experiences and new… just, a new life."
The implication was clear. "Without me in it," I said.
She didn't answer, just looked down and away.
"I could come out there," I said. "I don't know about much outside of Texas, but I could learn, right?"
"You should stay where you are," she said, matter-of-factly. For the first time I saw something cold in her eye.
"So that's just…" I shook my head, trying to wrap my mind around what she said so casually. "That's just it."
"I don't know what you want me to tell you, Pup," she said, weary.
And neither did I, at first. But then…
"I want you to explain how you could look me in my eye and lie to me for four years."
"I never lied to you," she said indignantly. "I always tried to be honest. I was honest."
"Like hell you were honest," I said tersely, not even realizing how angry I was getting. "What about the plans that you left behind, Tiggy? The little house you picked out by the train tracks? We even put pavement down. Remember that?"
"I know," she whispered, her eyes heavy.
"And what about your promises?"
"What promises?" she asked defensively. "I never made any promises, Pup. How could I—"
"You said you would be with me until the day you died!" I yelled. And I was yelling. I didn't mean to yell. I didn't mean to yell.
Her bottom lip began to quiver, and her breath caught and tears ran down her cheeks. She closed her eyes and pushed the hair out of her face. "I tried, Matt. I really did," and it was the first time she'd called me that in years. "You know I tried."
"I guess not hard enough," I replied.
She wiped her nose with the side of her hand. And then cleared her throat. She looked at me with a face that was determined, maybe stubborn, like that little girl her mom used to talk about.
"I'm not coming back."
I nodded; what else could I do? "You said you'd never go away, Tiggy," I reminded her. I shrugged a little, maybe laughed a little, too. "But I guess those're just things that people say, huh?"
She closed her eyes one final time, then closed her computer screen, and the conversation, and the hope, and the dreams—and all that we ever were—were over.
ENDNOTE: Thanks for reading!