Tales of You and I: A Collection of Short Stories

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I Have To Go

Axelle

I have to go.

I have to go.

I have to go.

He has to go!

I open my eyes with a start, sweat beading my forehead. Bits and pieces of the dream I had last night swarm into my head. Lyle, he’s leaving. The only friend I’ve ever had is leaving.

And he’s leaving today, at noon. My stomach feels queasy as I remember reading the note he gave me. I have to go, he had written. I’m going to Italy tomorrow at noon. Not sure if I can say goodbye. Paper not big enough.

He wasn’t lying. The paper was very small, it was probably his last piece. But he didn’t even say goodbye at the end. He just signed it with an L, like he always does.

I heave myself out of bed and gaze at the alarm clock on my bedside table.

11:30. Oh no.

My eyes widen in shock. How in heaven’s name did I manage to sleep that long? Probably because I stayed up so late last night, crying about Lyle.

Oh, Lyle.

I don’t even bother to take off my pajamas. I just throw on a sweater and some jeans over them. I look lumpy, but that doesn’t matter. I need to say goodbye to him.

I don’t run a brush through my short brown hair. I don’t eat breakfast. I don’t even brush my teeth. There’s no time.

If I don’t say goodbye, I will lose everything.

Lyle

I wish we would just leave already. It’s torture waiting.

And it’s torture knowing that Axelle isn’t coming.

Axelle and I met by Elle’s Pond. It’s a beautiful place, with clear cool waters and lily pads that float lazily as if life’s just a breeze for them. It probably is. I wish it were that way for me.

But I don’t think life’s really a breeze for anyone. Except for lily pads.

We were twelve. She told me she goes to a real school, and I was fascinated. I had never gone to school. I only know how to read and write because of Axelle--she was the one who taught me. My parents didn’t care enough to send me anywhere.

And so we became friends. Best friends.

But then my parents wanted a “fresh start.” Just out of nowhere, they decided to pack up and go to Italy, where pizza was invented. I hate pizza. It’s basically bread with sauce, and I tried dipping bread in sauce once. It got all soggy and gross.

I hope I won’t be forced to eat pizza.

Axelle was the only thing that kept me going. Without her, I would have faded away into nothing. No friends, no caring parents...

I’m sitting in front of our broken-down house now. The windows are cracked, and the paint is chipped. Shingles are missing from the roof, and our backyard is so overgrown it’s like walking in a jungle if you bother to try.

I glance at my watch. It’s 11:30. I wonder if Axelle got my note, or if she’s going to come and say goodbye. I wanted to go to her, but my dad wouldn’t let me. He doesn’t even know she exists, so what was I supposed to say?

I can’t afford leaving without saying anything to her. I get up from the front steps, and, after making sure my parents aren’t looking, cross the road and start walking to her house.

Axelle

“I’m going out!” I call to my mom as I run down the stairs three at a time, trying not to trip.

“Where? It’s almost lunch time, you have to set the table.” My mother comes out from the the kitchen and frowns at me. “Your clothes look awfully lump--”

“I don’t have time!” I cry, and lace my sneakers at top speed before realizing I’m still wearing my slippers. Ugh. Take them off, throw them into the porch--

“Axe, what’s the rush? Come and set the table.”

“I can’t! I have to--”

“What? Where is it you are going?”

Why do mothers have to pry so much? I tense slightly, still tying my shoelaces. Mother doesn’t know about Lyle. I know she wouldn’t have minded if I told her in the first place, but I met him two years ago and for some reason was hesitant to introduce him. Maybe it was because I wanted a secret, something to keep to myself. Mother sticks her nose into everything I do, even homework. It gets tiring.

“A walk,” I say quickly. “I’m going on a walk.”

“A walk can wait. Come set the table.”

“But--”

“Now!”

I heave a gusty sigh, then run to the kitchen and start taking plates from the cabinet and banging them on the table with unnecessary force. One for me, Mom, Dad... that’s it. Now forks, cups, spoons, bowls, water! The salad, get the salad...

I don’t know how much time I’ve wasted by the time I finish, but the moment I do I run out the door and slam it shut before Mother can call me in to do something else.

I start to run with all my might towards Lyle’s house.

Lyle

I can hear my dad calling me, but I ignore it. The only thing on my mind is Axelle. Memories of our times together flash through my brain in a flood as I wait impatiently for the light to turn green so I can cross the road. Why do cars have to exist? I mean--

It’s green now. Finally.

I jog across the street when I hear someone say, “hello! You there, with the shiny hair!” I stop in my tracks, right in the middle of the road.

Do I have shiny hair?

“Dear, would you come and help me?” It’s an old woman with crutches. “Just across the street, please.”

I grit my teeth and walk towards her. I can’t just leave her here on her own.

But just before I reach the lady, the light turns red. A truck comes out of nowhere. I just have enough time to spin around in shock as the vehicle knocks me to the ground.

Axelle

I’ve finally reached Lyle’s house. It looks worse than the last time I was here, six months ago. More paint has fallen off and one window has been completely shattered.

I dive behind a bush as I see Lyle’s dad come out holding a box and storing it in a moving van out front.

But where’s Lyle? Probably in the house.

I can’t just sneak in there and look for him. What if his mother sees me? I step up to his father and clear my throat. He looks slightly alarmed.

“What is it?” He asks, sounding slightly annoyed.

“I--you have a son, right?” I ask nervously. “Lyle?”

“Yes, I do. He took off five minutes ago.”

My heart sinks. He left already. “He left?” I say, heartbroken.

“Yep. Ran over that way. Why? Who are you?” He was pointing in the direction I came from.

That’s where my house is. He went to me! He probably wanted to come and say goodbye himself, but why didn’t I pass by him?

“Thank you,” I say to Lyle’s father. “Bye!” I speed off back to my house, praying that he’s there, praying that he’ll be waiting for me...

I run and run. Tears cloud my eyes as the full realization hits me in the stomach. Lyle is leaving forever, and I’ll be friendless. I won’t have anyone to talk to when I feel down, or when Mom is being especially nosy and I can’t take it.

What will I do without him?

I reach the road close to my house.

My heart stops beating.

I scream.

Lyle is lying on the road, under a truck’s wheels.

Lyle is not waking up.

Lyle

Ow. Ow. Ow...

I open my eyes sluggishly. I’m laying in a hospital bed. I can’t move, I’m in so much pain, it’s like fire and ice and knives all at once.

Someone is sitting beside me. With all the force I can muster, I turn my head to see who it is.

Axelle.

She sees I’m awake. “Hi,” she whispers. Her face is red and blotchy from crying. She has a sopping wet tissue in her hand, and I wonder how many tears she’s shed.

“What happened?” I ask, my throat dry.

Axelle breaks out into fresh tears. “You got hit by a truck,” she sobbed. “And it’s my fault! You came over to me to say goodbye, and then you got hit, because of me! If we never met, you would be fine. Everything would be fine!”

It hurts me that she blames herself. “No, Axelle,” I say softly. “It’s not your fault. I’m glad we met.”

She nods and wipes at her eyes with her already soaking wet tissue. “Me too,” she croaks.

“I guess we can say our proper goodbyes now,” I say with a dry laugh. She looks at me in alarm.

“What?”

“I have to go,” I say. I can feel it. It’s like a darkness creeping around the edges of my sight. I can’t see Axelle anymore. I can only see a bit of the mint green wall of my room in front of me.

I’m afraid.

“Go? Go where? Lyle!” Axelle touches my arm, but I can barely feel it.

“Goodbye, Axelle,” I whisper. “Thank you.”

Axelle

I’ve stopped crying. Lyle’s eye’s are turning glossy, as if he’s not really looking at anything in this world. I take his hand and squeeze it. If only he had stayed, if only he hadn’t been hit...

“Goodbye, Lyle,” I say, though I’m not sure if he can hear me. “You’re my best friend. You always will be. I’ll miss you.”

I hope he’ll miss me too.

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