She’s my best friend, my prom date (which was just really a dance in our high school gym), and the only girl who talked to me when we first moved in. She loves coffee but only because it gives her frenetic energy. Physics is her favorite subject, but she’s a klutz when it comes to handling tools in the laboratory. See that three-inched scar running down her left leg? She got it on a bike ride with me. She snores when she sleeps, and it may be annoying for her mother, but it’s the best music for me. Her eyes are the color of the ocean, and her lips are the loveliest thing I’d never get to kiss.
But that’s okay. The last part, I mean. It doesn’t really matter now if she’s my best friend and that I’m in love with her and I always have been.
She’s packing her bags, you see?
She’s leaving me.
“You sure about this?” I ask her again.
“Small town girl with big city dreams. I’m off to be Einstein.”
I scoff. She tries, too. But it’s empty.
I go through it all again in my head as she folds her gray pullover. She’s only leaving for college. She just doesn’t want to box herself in this town with broken streetlights and kids that go to school only to end up in their father’s bakeries or continue their mother’s wickerworks. She can’t stay in this place of bungalows and pine trees and ratty movie theaters with tattered seats. She’s been wanting to escape the simplicity of it all for years.
I watch her stack one clothing after the other, emptying her drawers in pensive silence. With my head hung low, I notice that her hands are cranky on the edges, the way they are when she can’t solve an equation.
After a minute, she tears through the quiet.
“Oh my gosh!” she yelps. “It’s my wedding dress! I’ve been looking for this for ages!”
I look up at the little white dress she’s holding and scan it with nostalgia washing over me. It has a tear on a sleeve, but it sure still smells like homemade cakes and innocence. “You remember our wedding?”
She rolls her eyes then chuckles. “Of course. Fifteenth of June on the playground. We were, uhm….seven.” Her eyes go somber. “I was so happy when you gave me the ring.”
“But you were so mad when I didn’t kiss the bride. I didn’t know how to do it.” I shake my head, smiling. “You didn’t talk to me for like a week.”
She beams at the memory.
Tears spring. I can’t help it. I know that if I lose her tonight, I’m gonna lose her completely.
“Okay!” She places it neatly inside and zips up the suitcase. “We’re all set. I’ll call my dad so he can–”
She stops when she sees me. Then she ambles closer, wraps her arms around my neck, and buries her nose in it.
I can feel her heart against her shirt. I wonder if she hears mine protesting.
“I’m going to miss you,” she whispers. “I’ll call you every week, I promise. I’ll tell you everything.”
“I’ll be here when you need me.”
The second the storms in our eyes subside, the second she untangles her arms from mine, she’s going to call her dad to put her things in the trunk of the car, then she will be gone.
She will go to college and maybe wait tables during summer. She will live in an apartment right next to clustered skyscrapers. She will fall in love with the city more than she will ever be with me. She will be drawn to the stark lights, will walk herself through wild parties, learn how not to trip wearing high heels, and rock heavy eyeliners.
And when fate calls, maybe she will find the person she finally deserves. Someone better — and braver — than I am.
And I will always just be here, hoping that I won’t be forgotten — a ghost on the foggy windowpanes of her memory, a thousand miles away from monster-eyed buildings, on a slumberous side of the country, a voicemail on her phone. I’ll always be waiting for her call, for her letters, for her heart to remember its own way home.
I break away first. “Okay,” I tell her, curling up my lips, “you go.”
I don’t move an inch. I drink it all in: her tawny hair, her eyes bluer than ever, her lips, the crook of her nose.
I can say something. To at least let her know.
But I don’t.
I take her hand for a moment, and my heart jostles. I squeeze it as she looks at me with wonder and what seems like hope, and then I let go.
Fransivan MacKenzie is a tiger princess who swallows words for a living. Just kidding! F. MacKenzie is a poet, a storyteller, and an aspiring novelist who has been playing the games of rhymes and deadly metaphors since she was six. She always scribbles poems in the margins of her essays, cries over medical dramas, and drowns her veins in coffee. She’s also a former thespian, a mental health advocate, and a bookworm who’s always torn between fiction and reality. More than anything else, she loves the sky, the rain, the open sea, and the magic of tales trapped in pages and ink.