Chapter 36: Libby
I don’t know Bentley is sick until the day I say goodbye.
“You’re leaving?” he asks, his gray eyes full of loss and heartbreak already.
My heart lurches at the sight, but I nod, glancing at the taxi waiting for me outside the music shop. This is my last goodbye.
He sighs, looking down at the white linoleum floors and folding his arms across his chest. He’s wearing the same Smith’s t-shirt he was wearing the first day I met him. Tears pool at my eyes, reminding me that I may never see this old man again.
“I s’pose you were gonna have to go back someday,” he mutters, but his white eyebrows are furrowed as if deep in thought. “I just wasn’t prepared, is all.”
I force myself to crack a grin. “Don’t tell me you’re in love with me, Bentley,” I kid, but the joke isn’t convincing.
Bentley forces a smile as well, but doesn’t look up from the floor quite yet. “Nah, that’s Nottes’ job.”
The sound of my first love’s name causes one of the tears to spill over. “Shit,” I mumble mostly to myself, but Bentley catches the word and gives me an empathetic, sad smile. I wipe the tear with the back of my hand, only to feel another tumble down the other cheek.
“I miss him, too. But it’ll pass,” he tries to comfort me, but it’s like he’s trying to convince himself as well. He meets my eyes. “But he won’t be the same after this. You’ve changed him, y’know.”
“I- uh...” I’m speechless, and my voice is choking as I try to speak. “I have to go.”
I can’t listen to anymore speeches about me leaving this place, this city, these people I’d fallen in love instantly.
Bentley sighs, grumbling something to himself, and then he smiles at me like he’s trying to keep the tears from falling. Oh, Bentley... no. “One more thing,” he says, and he motions me towards him. I walk forward and he grabs my hand, leading me to the storage closet that Liam still hasn’t cleaned up.
A small laugh bubbles from me when Bentley opens the door and rolls his eyes at the mess, but he lets go of my hand as he leans down and fishes a vinyl out from the mountain of shit.
When he finds it, he groans as he stands back up in a cry of extreme pain. “Bentley?” I ask in alarm, but he just chuckles and waves me off as if this isn’t a big deal. “Don’t you dare tell me nothing’s wrong.”
“But nothing is, my girl,” he sighs once more, patting my shoulder and sliding something thin into my hands.
I look down and gasp.
The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.
The same one with Here Comes the Sun on it - the same one Liam and I danced to all these months ago in this very shop; the same one he tried to teach me on the guitar; the same one I use to hum daily, when things were okay.
But now they’re not. And I don’t think that will ever change if I stay.
“I can’t accept this.” I try to hand it back to him, but his hands are locked behind his back as if he knew I was going to say that.
“Consider it a part of my will,” he tries to joke, but this only alarms me even more.
“Bentley...” I don’t know how to ask this without being blunt. “Are you dying?”
He waves me off once more, trying to slip away from the subject. “My time’s coming, Libby, but this isn’t the time to talk about this. Call, write, e-mail- wait, I don’t have one of those. I’ll have Nottes help me out on that.”
I try to ignore the last bit and just nod. “Sounds good,” I whisper. “But promise me you’ll explain soon.”
He nods. “Soon.”
And with that, he reaches for me in a side hug and pats me on the back, murmuring a goodbye.
Giving him one last smile, I turn around, album in hand, and walk out of the shop and into the cab.
“JFK airport, please,” I say to the driver. Hesitating, I ask one more thing of him: “Can I borrow your phone?” It’s time to tell Mom I’m coming home.
I didn’t get to finish Liv’s bucket list.
Out of forty-nine things to check off, I had sixteen left over - one of them including “Do Something That Scares Me.”
But as I’m on the plane, staring down at the list, I realize that what I’m doing now - going home to a family that I’ve known all of my life, but has less love in it than the one I’m leaving behind in New York - is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Mom answered the phone on the first ring, her voice breathless as if in disbelief that I’ve finally called, saying the words that she’s probably dreamed of over the course of these past three months. But when the words came out of my mouth, tears spilled over to my cheeks once again and the taxi driver asked if I was okay, staring at me in concern in the rearview mirror.
I gave him a thumbs up, but never have I lied so badly - not even to a stranger.
As the plane lowers and finally touches the ground, my mind goes back to when the plane lowered all those months ago when I landed in New York. Memories of saying goodbye arise, but I wave them off with a small shake of my head, folding Liv’s paper up carefully before stuffing it in my carry-on.
The seatbelt light goes off and I know that I have to face reality now.