His name was Matthew Kauffman. He was 20 years old and I loved him. I still remember the first time we met. He was working at the movie theater in the local mall. There was this foreign film that I had been dying to see. None of my friends wanted to come because they hated movies with subtitles so I ended up going alone. I didn't mind. I loved being by myself. After I had bought my ticket, I walked up to the usher so he could rip the ticket and direct me to the appropriate theater. He took my ticket and started at it for what seemed like a really long time. I started to think that something was wrong.
"You like foreign films?" he asked.
Normally, I would've been startled by this but his warm smile and eyes made everything feel natural.
"Yeah, I'm totally into them. I'm hoping to become a film maker some day. I absolutely love anything by Hans Vanderhoff," I replied. For some reason, I felt very comfortable talking to this guy that I didn't even know.
"Really? Me too. My favourite is "Lonely Moon"," he said. "I'm sorry. I haven't introduced myself. My name's Matthew Kauffman."
"Christine Cox. Nice to meet you," I said and shook his hand.
We continued talking and I learned a lot about Matthew. He was an aspiring actor, determined to make it to Hollywood. It was a struggle for him. He didn't have much money. One thing that he said was, "I doubt anything will happen to me. Anybody who lives in Darby is stuck here for good. It's their destiny." In a way, he was right. Darby was a small boring town in Ontario. Nothing ever happened to anybody. Even I, the optimist, didn't expect to become a famous film maker. But, I knew that Matthew was special and he would make it somehow. We talked about other things, school being one of them. I was in my last year at Darby High. Matthew had graduated 2 years ago. It was not surprising that we hadn't known each other at school. Even though Darby High was not a big school, kids usually hung out with others who were the same age as them.
Our conversation had lasted the entire length of the movie. I hadn't even noticed until the people started leaving the theater.
I glanced at my watch. "Wow, it's already 9:45. I should get going," I said. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to talk more with Matthew.
"Well, I'm off in 5 minutes. If you don't mind waiting, we can go for coffee," Matthew said.
"That would be great. I'll be outside," I said and made my way out of the theater. I found a bench right outside the exit and sat down.
While I waited for Matthew to come out, all these thoughts rushed through my head. I knew, without a doubt, that Matthew was my soul mate. I had never felt like this about anyone in my entire life. But there was just one problem: I didn't know if Matthew felt the same way toward me.
I was so deep in thought, I didn't even hear Matthew come up to me.
"Christine?" he said.
I turned to him and smiled. He smiled back.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
We took the bus to The Cup since neither of us owned a car. It was a popular coffeehouse, but the place was never loud for some reason. We ordered our drinks and took a table near the back where it was more quiet so we could talk and have some privacy.
We discussed anything and everything, from food to music. I was especially interested when Matthew mentioned a play that he wanted to audition for. It was called "A Rose for Helen".
"Matthew, you have to audition. I know you'll get the part and do a great job," I said excitedly.
"I'm not sure. The part requires a bit of singing ability and I have the worst voice you've ever heard," he replied modestly.
After a long time, I finally convinced Matthew to go for it. He was almost as excited about the audition as I was when we left The Cup.
Matthew was so sweet. He held my hand as he walked me to my house. At the doorstop, he lightly kissed me on the cheek. I felt like I was in a fairytale. Everything seemed so perfect.
"Good-night, Christine," he said softly.
I tried to say something but my voice had disappeared. All I could do was wave back at Matthew who was already at the end of my driveway.
The next 3 months flew by. Matthew auditioned for the play and got the part, just like I knew he would. We saw more and more of each other and became inseparable. I told my friend, Elizabeth Springer, about Matthew. She was my only friend who really understood me. She was dying to meet this guy that I couldn't stop talking about, but Matthew was constantly busy with rehearsals.
"Tonight is the opening night of Matthew's play. Come with me and you'll get to meet him for sure," I told Liz.
The theater was packed. Luckily, Matthew was able to get me 2 front row tickets. At 8pm sharp, the lights dimmed and the curtain rose. Matthew was the only person on stage.
"That's Matthew," I said to Liz and neither of us said another word until the end.
It was a brilliant play and Matthew was fantastic. There even was a standing ovation. I was so proud of Matthew.
I quickly pulled Liz from her seat and rushed backstage to congratulate Matthew.
"Christine!" he shouted.
I turned to my right and saw Matthew. I gave him a hug and a kiss.
"You were great! I knew you would be!" I exclaimed.
"Thanks to you," he said. "If it wasn't for your support, I probably never would have made it. I love you, Christine."
It was the first time Matthew had ever said that to me and I was overwhelmed. I finally knew that he felt the same way as I had felt toward him.
"I love you too," I said without a doubt in my heart.
I totally forgot that Liz was with me so I quickly introduced them.
"It's nice to finally meet you," Liz said. "I've just been hearing so much about you from Christine."
"All good I hope," Matthew said jokingly.
"Why don't we all go out to celebrate?" I suggested.
"Great idea, just let me - " Matthew said, but before he could finish his sentence, a man interrupted him.
"Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt but I've got an offer for you. My name is Richard Baskin and I'm an agent for actors. I saw you out there and you've got some real potential. I can take you to Hollywood and make a star out of you."
Matthew was speechless.
"I know this is a hard decision for you to make," Mr. Baskin said, "so I'll give you some time to think about it. Here's my card. I'll be leaving town in a week so please call me before then." And with that, the man left.
I was going to tell Matthew right then and there to take it, but he must have sensed I was going to because he said, "Let's talk about it after I get my stuff, OK?"
Liz started to feel out of place so she told me that she had to go home to finish some homework. I told her that I would see her tomorrow in class.
Matthew and I went to Ernie's. We ordered desert and ate in silence. I wanted to say something, but I knew it would be better to wait for Matthew to say something first.
Finally after what seemed like hours, Matthew spoke. He said, "I know what you're going to say but I'm not going to take the offer. I can't just up and leave. I would miss you too much and I wouldn't be able to make it without you there by my side."
I was surprised. I knew Matthew was going to say something, but this was not what I had expected.
"As much as I don't want you to go, it wouldn't be fair to you. Telling you to stay would be selfish and it isn't everyday that something like this happens. You should be happy. Your dreams are coming true."
"Christine, I just don't know if I can," Matthew said uncertainly.
"You can and you will. If you don't, you'll regret it for the rest of your life and you might even blame me for keeping you back. I'd never be able to live with that feeling," I said.
"You know I love you and always will. I'll come back for you, I promise," he said.
A week later, Matthew left with Mr. Baskin to go to California. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I thought I'd be able to handle it, but I just couldn't. For the next 2 weeks, I couldn't eat or sleep. All I could do was think of Matthew and how much I missed him.
There was only 1 month of school left. Somehow, I managed to graduate with honours even though I was hardly able to concentrate on my school work.
That summer, I went to Europe with Liz. It really helped me feel better because it took my mind off Matthew. I wrote letters to Matthew and he would write back, but as time passed by, his responses became less frequent. I wasn't mad because I knew he was busy. He was in the process of filming a small budget movie which would hopefully give his career a boost.
When I returned home, I received a letter from Matthew. He had gotten a part in a big blockbuster movie and he would be starring opposite of Meryl Streep. I was so happy for him. I was even happier to hear that he would be returning to Darby for a few days before he started filming.
Excitement filled my days as I waited for Matthew to arrive. I made lots of plans for us. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible before he had to leave again. If only I knew what was to happen, I wouldn't have wasted my time.
I met Matthew at the airport. It was hard to recognize him because he looked totally different. His hair was bleached, an extreme difference from his usual brown, and he was wearing a fancy suit. I gave him a hug and though he hugged back, it felt strange. It was as if Matthew felt it was an awkward position to be in. I should have known that something was wrong right then and there, but I was naive and foolish. The joy of having Matthew with me took over my ability to think reasonably.
"Matthew! I've missed you so much! I can't believe you're actually here. I've got everything planned for the next 4 days." Words rushed out of my mouth. I didn't even hear half the things I was saying.
"Um, Christine. This isn't exactly what I meant when I said I'd be coming to Darby. I won't have much time to spend with you. I'll be really busy promoting the new movie," Matthew said coolly. It was like he didn't feel guilty for what he was saying. In fact, that's exactly what it was. He didn't feel guilty at all.
I couldn't believe what just happened. I stood there thinking of something to say. Nothing.
"I think it's time we moved on. It's pretty obvious that it won't work out. I'll be in L.A. filming movies and you'll be here attending university. It's best if we just end it now, save us some trouble," Matthew said.
'You mean, save you some trouble,' I thought.
"You've found someone else, haven't you?" I asked.
"I'm not going to lie to you," he said.
I felt so used. I had supported him and I had cared for him more than I had ever cared for anyone in my life. All of a sudden, I felt so empty inside.
"Christine, I hope there's no hard feelings and I still want to be friends," Matthew said.
Lies, they were all lies. He had never cared for me. He wasn't sorry for finding someone new.
I started running. I didn't know where I was going. I just ran and ran until I found myself at Liz's front door. I knocked and prayed that someone was home.
Liz opened the door and immediately knew something was wrong. "What happened, Christine?!" she asked in a panic.
I was sobbing and unable to talk. Liz took me inside and to her room. The tears finally stopped and I told her everything. Though the pain was still there, Liz helped to ease it. We watched movies and ate popcorn that night to help me get my mind off of Matthew.
* * *
I will never forget Liz. She was the best friend I ever had. She was always there for me and I will be forever grateful to her. I just wish she was still here with me. In our 3rd year of university, Liz had died. She was in a convenient store when some robbers came in with guns. They shot 3 people. Liz was one of them.
Two years after I graduated from university, I married David. I had met him in one of my classes and we had been dating for 3 years. I love David and we are happily married with 2 beautiful children, but the love I have for David is still not the same as the love I had for Matthew.
Matthew became a huge celebrity. He was the next Brad Pitt. He was starring in move after movie with all the biggest stars.
Last year, he called me up and apologized for what he had done to me. He wanted me to forgive him and take him back. He realized that we were soul mates. He told me he would never love someone as much as he loved me. He called himself stupid for throwing our love away. If I had not been married, I might have said yes. I told him that I had my own family now and getting back together was not a possibility. Matthew cried. He begged and pleaded me to give "us" another chance. I could feel the tears roll down my cheeks. I had spent an awful long time getting over Matthew and here he was, practically on his hands and knees begging me to come back. All the old feelings that I had suppressed came rushing back.
"I love you, Christine," Matthew said. "All this fame and fortune does not make me happy. You make me happy. My world is nothing without you."
"I can't," I whispered and hung up the phone.
The next day when I woke, I glanced at the newspaper. The front page headline read, "Actor Matthew Kauffman overdoses on pills".
back to the Short Story Page.No Second Chances, 19 April 1997