You & Me by Stephanie Kepke

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  • Forty year old Alex Spencer has given up on love. Having escaped five years earlier from the verbally abusive and two decades older, Trent Peterson, her life revolves around her daughter, sixteen-year-old Josie, even if Josie wants nothing to do with her.

    But with Valentine’s Day looming, Alex’s high school sweetheart, Billy Leibowitz, whom she kicked out of her life twenty years earlier thanks to Trent’s demands, has been invading her thoughts. Alex searches for Billy in vain—it seems as if he’s simply disappeared. Suddenly, Candy Hearts, which Billy sent to Alex every Valentine’s Day, start arriving in the mail. Is Billy sending the Candy Hearts? Will this finally be her chance at happily ever after?


    She belonged in blossom pink or cerulean blue, sage green mixed with crisp white. But, all she wore was black or occasionally charcoal gray. On my single mom budget, I bought her skinny jeans at Target and cute cotton tops at Kohl’s. Still, she wore her baggy sweatpants and that black hoodie that hid her figure. Not that I wanted her to flaunt it, but I wanted her to own her beauty. Her glossy, raven hair was kept in a messy topknot at all times. Her stormy gray eyes, just like her father’s, almost blue, but not quite, were ringed in thick black liner. She was hiding. Better not to be noticed.

    I was the complete opposite at sixteen. I wore tight, faded jeans: bleached and frayed, the denim almost white; and fuzzy angora sweaters that hugged my curves. My hair was in wild curls, just as inky black as Josie’s, but never pulled into a bun. The higher my curls were, the better and I went through a bottle of hair spray a month. I may have hit my peak back then.

    My boyfriend, Billy, was crazy about me and we were kind of like a verse in a song, a song about longing and perfect love and innocence. We dated from the time we were fifteen until we were almost twenty. We were born three days apart and as we planned our yearly joint birthday party on the beach, I suddenly felt suffocated. I had celebrated my birthday the same way with the same people for four birthdays in a row and I just couldn’t do a fifth. I needed to break away and see what else was out in the world. But, I always wished I didn’t break Billy’s heart in the process. The song ended as I turned out of the parking lot and left me wondering what ever happened to Billy Leibowitz.

    I’ve searched for him everywhere I could think of—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. I even looked on MySpace. I Googled him every few months for years—nothing. I couldn’t understand how someone could just disappear off the face of the Earth. I would have heard if he died, God forbid. There was a Facebook page dedicated to all our high school classmates who passed away before their time. I checked it on a regular basis, morbid as that was.

    I dropped my keys in the holder by the front door and grabbed my laptop as soon as I got home. Once Billy entered my brain, it was tough to get him out, so I Googled him one more time before getting ready for work. Maybe I was just wistful for my own teenage years, since it seemed to me like my daughter was squandering hers. Or maybe, I was lonely. Or maybe being alone for so many years, I was ready to forget the verbally abusive bastard I left and try to reclaim a love that was pure. But, finding him remained elusive.


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You & Me

You & Me

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