This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
“You know, you don’t have to go,” Jamie says from the other side of the fire.
I keep my eyes on the water, on the lone wave heading for the shore. “Yeah, I do.”
“You could hide out in my basement. Let him go by himself. What’s so great about Sitka, Alaska, anyway?”
“His whole family lives there. It’s an entire continent away from my cheating mother and her boyfriend. And it snows there. Like, a lot.” This last fact isn’t an official reason why Dad and I are moving, but I’ve never seen snow before, so it’s been added to the list.
Jamie and I have this conversation practically scripted by now, so I expect him to respond like he always does, by avoiding my gaze and shrugging glumly.
But this time, he goes off-script.
“You want to go, don’t you?” he says/sighs.
I could lie. But I’ve never lied to Jamie. Ever. (Not even on the first day of kindergarten when he asked if I broke the green crayon. I lifted my little chin and told him that yes, in fact, I had. My honesty inspired him to admit that he had broken the blue one. We’ve been best friends ever since.)
“I want to go,” I admit. “My dad’s not the only one who needs some space from…everything. And besides, I’ll be back for Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And New Year’s. But I guess Christmas and New Year’s sort of go together, don’t they? I mean, it’s not like I’ll leave after Christmas and then fly back for New Year’s –”
“I’m gonna miss you too, Tess,” he says because he knows I’ll just keep rambling if he doesn’t cut me off. As he smiles a very Jamie smile at me – the smile that makes his eyes crinkle at the corners – it occurs to me that this is quite possibly the last time I’ll see that smile before I leave. So I dig deep inside myself for the courage to look into those bright eyes of his and say something to let him know just how much he means to me:
“I’m really going to miss you, Jamie.”
Okay, so this doesn’t sound like much. It’s exactly what he just said to me. And yet, Jamie’s eyebrows jump so far up on his forehead that they disappear beneath his curls. That’s because I don’t say things like ‘I’m going to miss you.’ I especially don’t say things like ‘I’m really going to miss you.’ I don’t like feelings. Neither do my parents. Dad’s promised that he and I will work on that in Alaska.
To his credit, Jamie recovers from my soul-bearing relatively quickly.
“I…never knew you were so mushy,” he says.
“Shut up, you idiot.”
“That’s more like it.” But he’s smiling again, so my humiliation is worth it.
“I have some of your things, by the way,” I say, turning to the backpack sitting on the sand beside me. It’s full of books, DVD’s, and more books that he’s lent me over the years. The backpack is also his, now that I think about it.
But when I try to hand it over to him, Jamie shakes his head.
“Keep it,” he says. “That way, you’ll have something to remember me by.”
I roll my eyes. Like I said, I’m not good with feelings.
“You’re being dramatic,” I tell him. Then, to emphasize: “DRAMATIC, I TELL YOU!”
I succeed in getting another smile, but it’s brief.
“This is an ending, isn’t it?” he says.
Another eye-roll. “It’s not an ending.”
“It is for me. For you, it’s a beginning.”
“I hate when people say that. A new beginning, like they can erase everything that’s happened to them. But even though I’d like to, I can’t erase what’s happened to me and my family.”
“Wow. Mushy and philosophical. Divorce has changed you.”
I shove his shoulder. Then I insist, “This isn’t an ending. Or a beginning. It’s…” I think for the right word. “It’s a continuation.”
“A continuation,” Jamie repeats. His mouth isn’t smiling, but his eyes are, if that makes sense. It’s something only Jamie is capable of. “I like that. I feel like we should stop talking now, or you might start crying.”
I shove him again, even though he’s right. Apparently, I’m turning into one of those people who feels things. So we sit in silence – the good kind of silence, the kind no one feels the need to fill – and just look out over the water together. By this time tomorrow, there will be miles of the stuff between us, but for now, there’s just the crackling fire. There’s no ending or beginning in sight. There’s only the continuation of us.