Sam sat on the church bench stoically as he stared at the priest preaching his sermon at the podium. He wanted to give the impression that he was listening to the priest even though he found it hard to concentrate. On the outside, he looked calm, collected, although sombre. On his insides, his heart pounded in his chest as every inch of his soul was in a panic mode. The incense scent wafting through the church did not do much to calm his nerves as the smell of cheap perfume lingered around him.
Whimpers and silent cries surrounded Sam. Occasionally, he heard a sob. But the loudest of them all was Megan who cried bitterly next to him. Sam was embarrassed by her hysterics but there was not much he could do. Megan promised she would control herself but she broke down the moment the sermon started. Sam looked at the bench in the front of the church and found Benjamin’s parents and girlfriend. They were not crying at all as they put on a brave face for the attendees’. Sam wanted to leave; to walk away from Megan and abandon her to herself. Although it would draw more attention to them and Megan’s cries were already doing that. He felt the stares from people so as angry as Sam was at Megan, he had to hold it in. He grabbed the bench tightly to release some of the pent up aggression he was feeling.
Sam appeared to play the role of a good boyfriend from thereon. He let Megan lean on him as they walked out of the church and to the graveyard. He hugged her during the burial and soothed her as he stroked her long brown hair. He asked Megan to stay as he went to Benjamin’s parents and offered them his condolences. He apologized for Megan and told them she was good friends with Benjamin and was utterly distraught. They understood and thanked Sam for being there to show his support.
Sam and Megan stayed by the grave for a long time because she did not want to move. In the end, the only others in the graveyard were Benjamin’s family so Sam led Megan out the gates towards the parking lot, thankful he had to keep this façade for a few more moments.
Sam clicked the button on the key to unlock his car. He looked at the front and it was clean and clear of any dents. He sighed in relief even though he knew he was being paranoid. He opened the car door and sat in the driver’s seat and slammed the door behind him. The car rattled and Megan, who was opening the door, flinched. She opened the door and quickly sat on the passenger’s side while still crying.
“Can you stop it!” Sam exclaimed as he slammed his hand on the corner of the steering wheel.
“I’m sorry,” Megan said as fresh tears streamed down her face. Her normally pretty features were now ugly as her skin around her eyes were red and swollen, stained with black from smudged mascara. Some of the mascara smeared on her cheeks and forehead because of how much she wiped her face. Strands of hair fell out of her ponytail making her look frazzled. Sam could not believe he was dating someone as pathetic as her.
“I feel so awful,” Megan cried.
“I can see that,” Sam replied bitterly.
“What do you mean?” Megan turned to look at him, looking disoriented and hysterical.
“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror at all?” Sam said. “Do you have any idea how badly you embarrassed me in front of everyone? We shouldn’t have come at all but you wanted to. We barely knew Benjamin, no one would have thought it was weird if we didn’t show up. But you wanted to come and you made a scene.”
“How did I embarrass you?” She screamed at Sam. “Do you not feel bad at all? Of course, you don’t.”
“I feel terrible, I’m not a monster,” Sam yelled. “Do you know how much attention you brought to us? We barely know the guy, people will be talking about us for weeks. I never should have listened to you.”
“And I never should have listened to you,” Megan screamed. “I told you I was too drunk to drive, I told you we should call a taxi.”
“Then why didn’t you?” Sam said. “Don’t turn this around on me, I was too far gone to realize you were drunk too. If you knew you were drunk, why didn’t you call the taxi.”
“If you blame me for what happened then why not go to the police?” Megan said, her jaw clenched as her nostrils flared.
“Because you drove my car,” Sam screamed at her. “How do I prove it was not me behind the wheel. You can say you did not drive and they will believe you. I will be stuck in prison, fined, and kicked out of university. My life will be ruined not yours.”
Megan buried her hands in her face and began sobbing again. Sam got tired of looking at her and set the car to drive. He accelerated out of the parking lot in seconds.
“Doesn’t look like she’s taking the break up well,” Sam looked up from his book to see who Ian was whispering about. They were seated in the back of the library as they worked on a group assignment. Megan passed by them in a distance, looking like a disaster. Her long brown hair was tied up in a messy bun as she wore stained sweatpants and an oversized sweater. She lost a lot of weight in two months, the hollows of her cheeks were prominent. The bags under her eyes were dark and swollen. She looked pale, malnourished. Sam felt a stab of guilt for a moment but this was not his fault, he reminded himself. He saw students at the other tables stare at her as they whispered.
“Yeah,” Sam replied to Ian’s statement.
“Why did you guys break up anyway?” Jessica asked from across the table. Her curious blue eyes fixated in Sam.
Sam did not know Jessica well but Ian was a friend. He would not tell the truth regardless but he needed people to be sympathetic towards him.
“We were not working out,” Sam replied. “She became distant and I could not make time for her. I want to focus on applying for internships before graduating from uni.”
“You don’t have to be so diplomatic,” Ian scoffed then looked at Jessica. “She was clingy and a complete trainwreck. No offence, bro, but her crying at Benji’s funeral was cringy.”
Sam flinched a little like he had been stung by a bee.
“It was Megan who made a scene at the funeral?” Jessica asked as she moved closer to the table from her previously relaxed position.
Sam stared at Jessica, not knowing how to reply.
Ian laughed loudly, then snickered to lower his volume. “It was Megan. I felt so bad for Sam sitting next to her. If I were him I would have left. She looked like a mess that day, although like a pretty mess. Glad you got rid of her.”
Jessica frowned at Ian. “Maybe she was sad; people react weirdly to death. Some of my friends at the funeral were shit-talking her. Looks like she’s going through a lot.”
“Yeah, she is,” Sam replied as he looked away and hoped to move past this topic.
“She had a mental breakdown in some class after the breakup,” Ian said. “She’s totally out of her mind.”
“It was before,” Sam added. “We broke up a few days after the incident.”
Jessica pushed her lips together and frowned. “It’s none of my business, but perhaps you should have been kinder to her if she’s going through mental health problems.”
You’re right, it’s none of your business, Sam wanted to scream at her. But he clenched his fist and stopped himself. He was unbelievably angry at Megan. They were broken up, the deed was done, why was she so determined to drag him down. He left her alone. Why can’t she do the same and move on? Somehow whatever she did came back to him.
“I broke up with her because she was cheating on me with Benjamin,” Sam said the moment the idea popped in his mind.
Jessica gasped and Ian stumbled on his chair. He managed to catch himself in time and drag his chair closer to the table and towards Sam. “What the hell, why didn’t you tell me before. Spill everything.”
Sam sighed for dramatic effect. “After her behaviour at the funeral, I was sympathetic and tried to support her. We did not know Benjamin, at least I didn’t but she insisted on going to his funeral so I drove her there and stayed with her while she cried. Then the mental breakdown happened. I did not doubt her at all but in a moment of weakness, she confessed. They were sleeping together for weeks.”
“That’s awful, I’m so sorry,” Jessica said. “Does Benjamin’s girlfriend know?”
Sam shook his head, “I don’t think so and I don’t plan on telling her. She’s too hurt and I don’t want to ruin his image in her mind. She deserves to move on peacefully.”
“You’re such a nice guy,” Jessica said as she placed her palm on his and squeezed gently. Sam awkwardly smiled at her.
“That’s why she was screeching like a banshee at the funeral,” Ian said.
Sam nodded, “looks like it. Listen can we return to the assignment. I don’t want to talk about Megan anymore. I want to move on with my life.”
“Of course,” Jessica replied.
“Why do you want to see me?” Sam asked, grinding his teeth. Megan looked as miserable as she did when he saw her a few days ago.
“I can’t do this anymore, I’m sorry,” she said, then burst into tears.
Megan stepped towards him like she wanted him to hug and comfort her but Sam backed away. He had no obligation to her anymore. He should not have come at all, even after she ambushed him between classes earlier that afternoon. She begged him to meet her at the pond late at night to talk. It was her attempt to manipulate him since the pond was their special place. But he would not fall for her tricks anymore. It had rained earlier in the evening, the scent of rain over mud was fresh in the air. He hated that she ruined this moment for him.
“I don’t care how you handle yourself, but leave me out of it,” Sam replied. He turned around and stomped away from her, tracking mud on his clean shoes.
“Wait,” she said in a shaky voice and grabbed his arm. “Please, we have to do this, we have to tell them.”
“We are not together anymore. There is no we” Sam replied, he air quoted the last ‘we’.
“Please,” Megan said as tears streamed down her face. “I hear everyone talk about me. Why did you tell them I was sleeping with him? I did not even know him.”
“I did not lie to anyone about you,” Sam lied. “I would never.”
“They said you told Jessica and she told everyone else,” Megan said between sobs. “Why would you do this to me?”
“Exactly, why would I do that to you,” Sam said, he softened his expression for her. “Jessica is trying to stir drama. Ian and Jessica were gossiping about you and your behaviour at Benjamin’s funeral. I think it’s why she started the rumour. I should have stopped them. I’m sorry.”
“But you see,” Megan said, “they’re saying all these lies about me. If we tell them the truth everything will be fine.”
“You want to squash the rumour about your cheating by telling them you killed him?” Sam said as he tried hard to not scream at her. He balled his fist tightly and concentrated on breathing as his entire body grew stiff. “You will ruin both our futures. If you want to ruin yours, I’m not stopping you but I plan to live my life to the fullest.”
“I don’t want to ruin anything,” Megan sobbed. She wiped away her tears and continued, “but I can’t live with what I did. I… I will tell them it was only me. I stole your car or something. I’ll tell them you never knew.”
“People at the party saw us leave together,” Sam said. “They won’t believe you for a moment. And you’re too unstable right now; they will force you to tell them I was there.”
Megan covered her face with her hands and sobbed. She was being delusional and Sam knew in time she would confess. He could not trust her but he felt awful for her. The hit-and-run incident impacted her greatly and she was not coping well. He did love her at some point, and like every other relationship, they had their ups and downs. Sam would not have broken up with her at all if she had not been so unstable about it. So he understood how she felt. He knew what he had to do.
“I’m sorry, come here,” Sam said as he extended his arms. Megan threw her hands around his waist without hesitation and pulled him closer to her. “Everything will be fine, I promise.”
Megan sobbed as she buried her face in his chest as he stroked her back. For a moment, their closeness felt comforting and intimate.
“We have to tell them what I did,” Megan’s sobs became quieter.
“We will,” Sam replied.
“Really?” Megan asked.
Sam nodded. He grabbed her by her shoulder and threw her on the ground. Megan fell face first in the mud and used her arms to push herself off the ground but Sam was instantly on her. Sam dragged her a few feet towards the pond by the collar of her hoodie as she screamed. He grabbed her by her hair and dunked her face in the pond water. She used her hands to push his away, but Sam was too strong and the angle worked against her. Megan hit him, she dug her nails in his arm, she kicked her feet on the ground, but nothing worked. Sam could feel her get tired and moments later, she grew completely limp. Just to be safe, Sam held her head underwater for a while longer, his heart raced the entire time. After what felt like an eternity to Sam, but in reality, was two minutes, Sam was sure she was gone. He checked her wrist and found no pulse. He pushed her body into the pond and left her there.
His heart rate had not returned to normal but by the time he walked away from the pond, it started raining again. Sam felt the cool water on his face and knew he did the right thing. He had to save his own future. He did not feel guilty at all, since Megan was determined to destroy her future. He did her a favour. He stomped over his old footprints to disorient them a little; the rain would do the rest. He walked back to his dorm stiffly and made sure no one saw him. As his roommate headed out to a party, Sam told him he would be studying in their room all night, so he was safe there. If the police come to talk to him, he could tell them she was distraught over the cheating and Benjamin’s death. Their secret would be safe with him.