Our Last Time

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Summary

Willow has to determine whether she should suppress the feelings she's afraid of reliving, or to let them be seen--with her heart wide open. 1997: Willow Monroe and Kennedy Danes have been best friends since drawings were assignments in school. They've been joined at the hip for years. They love riding bikes together, smiling for real, and laughing, even at the wrong times. Once their senior year of high school comes around, Kennedy becomes terminally ill. Though he has plans that don't involve sadness, he still needs to find a way to tell Willow he only has six more months to live. Willow and Kennedy can never say the word 'goodbye'. They have this agreement to say Hello up until their last time spent together. The sixteenth of August in the year of 1997 is when Willow and Kennedy say Hello for the last time. 2006: Nine years later finds Willow in the smallest hospital of Chicago, working as a registered nurse. There she meets Wyatt Blanquette, a curmudgeonly patient with untapped wisdom and heart, beneath a stony exterior. When they agree to be nice to each other instead of abundantly rude, Wyatt eventually shows that he sees a light in Willow that can't burn out. Everything changes once Wyatt reveals to Willow his heart-wrenching secret.

Status:
Complete
Chapters:
40
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

August 16th 1997 11:08p.m.

Willow:

We had been too drunk. Cheap wine he had stolen from the convenience store was what we drank too much of. What we did while intoxicated wasn’t a mistake. He was my best friend. I loved him and he needed his forever, though it would ruin me.

I remembered watching from the large window, nervously kicking at the bricked wall as my best friend did what I’d never have the guts to do. He was trying to live more freely while he could. I had tried to tell him it could ruin our plans. We hadn’t had many plans. We hadn’t had much time, either.

He casually stuffed the bottle inside of the inner pocket of the oversized jean jacket he had been wearing. He hadn’t gotten caught. He bought a small packet of gum before he sauntered out of the store, whistling a tune I’d heard plenty of times before.

"So, I did the thing that you said I wouldn’t do. You owe me, Will,” he told me.

His eyebrows were lifted victoriously as his long body towered over me. He was smiling.

He liked calling me Will. He had always liked calling me Will. Though I wasn’t fond of the nickname, I had let him call me Will anyway. He had me in a fatal tailspin and I loved him more than I loved myself. More than I loved my actual name. We were playing pretend.

I groaned as my eyes locked on the bulge in his jacket where the wine bottle was hidden. It was way too obvious.

Trying to mask my frustration, but slightly failing - I grabbed the open flaps of his jacket and held them tightly together. I started buttoning him up.

He looked down at me as I bit my bottom lip. I was trying to concentrate. He eyed me carefully before making double chins to stop me from buttoning the close button to his neck. I flared my nostrils at him. “Let me button the last button, Kennedy,” I mumbled.

"No,” he refused childishly.

“I have to button the last button, Kennedy,” I protested.

He smiled his smile as he grabbed my hands. He looked me in the eyes and my gaze softened. My head had stopped throbbing at that moment. He pulled on his collar after releasing my hands, unbuttoning one of the buttons.

“You ready to go home, now, Willow?” he asked softly.

“Kennedy,” I muttered. “I was ready before we got here.”

He leaned down to kiss my temple, grabbing ahold of my shoulder. I welcomely invaded his side as he whispered close to my ear, “Then let’s go home.”

My cold hand was slowly becoming warmer as it rested on his hip. We had been walking towards our bicycles that were laying on their sides a few roads ahead from the convenient store.

I couldn’t ever figure out how to be in the same mood as Kennedy. I hadn’t known how he did it. He was so mellow. I was so wired. Kennedy and I were too young and too abnormally close to understand goodbyes.

We hadn’t known what goodbye meant. I was moving to Chicago, Illinois. He was dying.

We promised each other that we would pretend we weren’t saying goodbye. We would live our lives together up until the day that would be the last day we said Hello.

We were cowards, but in the most understanding way possible.

We’d gotten on our bikes and rode down the sidewalk. I ignored the burn in my legs, because we were close. We were close to our home.

It wasn’t a tree house, because it wasn’t in a tree. It wasn’t a fort, because it wasn’t made out of chairs and blankets. It was this thing made out of giant toothpicks, which some people called them logs. We called it our home.

When Kennedy and I were fifteen, we made our home out of giant toothpicks in the woods. These woods were located between our real houses where our parents waited for us every night. The woods had been separating us, so we made it our retreat - our new home.

There was no electricity, heat, or even insulation, but we hadn’t cared. We had electric lanterns and extra batteries. Plenty of blankets. Two bean bags, one for each of us. We were spent.

We had used to wear plaid button-ups with denim and leather boots. So when we came home, it would be funny. We never stopped laughing.

When we cut through our woods and started bypassing branches and brown leaves as we pedaled more aggressively against the damp dirt, I’d actually smiled. I loved this place.

“The bottle has been rubbing up against my fat meat, Willow,” Kennedy panted. “I’m going to have baby rash.”

I smirked, because Kennedy wasn’t fat at all.

“I think you might be confused. You don’t have fat meat. Maybe some loose skin, but nothing plump,” I retorted in a breathy response. “And you’re not a baby.”

“Well, either way, I think I have a rash,” he exhaled, as we both came to an abrupt stop.

We dropped our bikes on the ground in unison and smiled lightly in each other’s direction.

“I’ll take care of you, hunny,” I teased, as I walked over to grab his side. His long arm draped over my shoulder as I neared.

We walked towards our open doorway as he leaned down to whisper in my ear, his dark brown mop of hair tickling my cheek. “You’ve always taken care of me, and I thank you. I thank you so hard, Willow Renee Monroe. I don’t deserve you.”

We were at a standstill as Kennedy made me blush with his kind words. I’d gotten on the tips of my toes so I could kiss his cheek. ”Whatever, Kennedy Aaron Danes,” I whispered close to his ear, smirking. “Give me that bottle.” I pointed to the bulge in his jacket, and he eagerly snapped all his buttons loose.

“Take it,” he said, before shoving the bottle in my direction. I grinned as I took it in my hands.

“I got the screw-off cap, because I knew you’d freak if it was corked,” he said, acknowledging my look of relief.

“You know me,” I said, as I screwed off the cap and threw it on the ground nearby in our home. Kennedy found a lantern at some point and flipped the dimmed light on.

I suddenly pressed the bottle to my lips, waiting. I hadn’t tipped the bottle up until Kennedy nodded, mouthing, “Chug it.”

It smelt like rubbing alcohol and the taste was nauseating. It was a surprise to me that so many people were okay with drinking something that kind of tasted like poison.

I gasped, jerking the bottle away from my mouth as some of the liquid drizzled down my chin and neck. I had thrust the bottle towards Kennedy’s outstretched hand as I wiped at the liquid running down my neck. He took it willingly and chugged, gulping more down than I did.

He came up for air and the bottle was about half empty. “Ugh. That doesn’t taste very good,” he said.

“It’s cheap wine,” I replied nonchalantly. I was half-smiling.

“True,” he chuckled. “You want some more?”

I crinkled my nose, holding up my finger. “Um, give me a minute. I need to sit,” I responded, looking for my bean bag.

I spotted it within the open squared space of our home, sitting in the corner. I walked over to it and plopped down. I took a deep breath as Kennedy plopped down onto his bean bag, which was right next to mine.

“You’re spinning,” he said, looking at me with his head tilted to the side. His blue eyes were moistened.

I nodded, tilting my head to the side like his. “You’re spinning, too,” I replied.

He took a sip from the bottle, and then burrowed his eyebrows together. “This is really cheap wine.”

I giggled before extending my arm, my hand open. “I’ll drink.”

He handed the bottle to me, and I drank. I paused, slightly shuddering before tipping the bottle back a second time to try and take the edge off. It hadn’t taken the edge off, so I let out an exasperated sigh. “I don’t think I can immune to this,” I commented, before handing the bottle back to Kennedy.

He hadn’t drank. He held the bottle by the base as he looked at me, swirling around little of what was left at the bottom. He smiled - only it was a different smile. One I’d never seen before. I studied him carefully, waiting for him to speak. “Have you ever thought about forever, Willow?” he asked me.

I shrugged. “It’s kind of hard to think about forever,” I answered. “Especially when you’re eighteen years old, and completely unsure of everything.” I knew my answer wasn’t what he wanted to hear. I’d pretend with him on the outside, but my words were always genuine with Kennedy. He knew that.

He nodded, his eyebrows coming together in thought. “I’ve been thinking about forever a lot, recently.” He hadn’t met my gaze, and my face fell a little.

“Damn, Kennedy...” I grumbled. “Why?” I whispered.

He shook his head a little, smiling half-heartedly. “Because it’s better to think about it than to not think about it at all,” he shrugged.

“I don’t know.” I wasn’t sure if he was right about that.

He looked at me then. We looked at each other for a while. I hadn’t wanted to let him go. I never wanted to go through a day in my life where he wouldn’t be there. It was impossible for me to think about forever. Because I wanted him to be a part of my forever - he was my best friend.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” he whispered, placing the bottle on the ground about a foot away. “Come here.”

I stumbled twice, trying to drag myself to his open arms. I buried my face in his hardly muscular chest, sighing. I threw an arm over his waist as he rested his chin on the top of my head. One of my arms had been wedged in between us, as was one of his. He found my hand and squeezed it.

“I’ll hold you while I’m warm, Willow,” he said softly, kissing my forehead. “When I’m cold, everything will be cold. I don’t want you around me when I’m like that,” he whispered. He looked down at me and our eyes locked. My breathing had changed, because I hadn’t wanted to hear him say that. It wasn’t pretend, it was real. And I was scared of what was real.

“You don’t want to die alone, Kennedy. You can’t. I won’t let you,” I whispered.

He wiped my sudden tears away. “I want you to remember me like this. Keeping you warm and protecting you. You can’t be around me when I feel and look like I’m dying, Willow. I am completely in love with you, and I can only show you that now.”

I sniffed, pushing his words away. “You’re drunk,” I muttered.

He shook his head and smiled. “I am completely in love with you when I’m sober, too.”

I wasn’t okay with hearing him say it. I was almost mad. “Why are you telling me this? I already knew. We knew it all. Why say it out loud now?” I questioned. Desperation was clear in my voice. “It’s not fair,” I whispered.

He grabbed me and pulled me tightly to him, because he could right now. He was strong enough to pull me to him right now. He wouldn’t be, later.

“Because I’d rather say I am completely in love with you now, than to not say it at all. This is my forever, Willow. Don’t you get it? You’re. My. Forever,” he tells me, breaking syllables, shaking me a little, and making serious eye contact with me so I’d snap out of it.

I did. I snapped out of it. I kissed my best friend on the lips for the first time. He kissed me back for the first time. We touched each other where we’d never touched each other before for the first time.

“I love you,” I told my best friend for the first time. I had spoken against his lips, and we were both breathing heavily.

I should have been thinking about his heart being fulfilled, not mine being broken. He’d have memories with me, and I’d be his forever. I owed that to him. I wanted to be his forever. More than anything.

We had fallen into his forever, and he had gotten his little oblivion with me. He deserved it. I’d be broken.

But I loved him more than I loved myself.

“You’re my first,” he had told me.

I nodded. “I know.” I smiled into his neck, and it was real at that moment. I was happy in that moment. “You’re my first, too.” And he knew he was.

We had plenty of blankets in our home, but we hadn’t gotten up to find any. We just lay there, wrapped up in each other.

“I would ask if you were okay, but wouldn’t that be stupid, knowing what you’d say?” he asked me, and I laughed.

“I’m okay, Kennedy.”

“I knew you would be.”

I kissed him again, and it was more than just right. It was perfect. His hands were soft, but they were warm. He was warm, and I loved that. I pressed my ear to his bare chest, listening to the beat of his heart.

I loved that sound.

My arm rested, slung over his slightly toned stomach as I just laid there, taking in the sound of his heartbeat. I couldn’t stop listening to it.

“We have to say it eventually, Willow,” he told me.

“Not yet,” I argued.

He was going to have his way in the end. It couldn’t be any other way. I couldn’t try to make it any other way. He gave me another hour, because he wanted to. He was stronger than I was.

“Hello,” he said.

I wasn’t ready. I never would’ve been. I said it for him, because he needed to hear it. “Hello,” I whispered. I had started crying after a few beats of silence, because I became so excruciatingly sad.

Silence was what I would hear. Silence would be everywhere after Kennedy. It made me sad.

He held me, my head still resting on his chest. I sobbed as his heartbeat quickened. I couldn’t stop crying.

He rubbed my back up until I was mildly sniffling. Tears were barely leaking then. I had been nearly dry at that point.

He hadn’t said anything.

I hadn’t said anything.

I curled up on the large bean bag as he got up to dress himself.

He had walked over to me and dressed me. He struggled with my bra, and I just shoved it off after his second try. I hadn’t had to wear a bra, and he silently agreed. He sighed, but he hadn’t said anything.

I was fully clothed, wearing my shirt and my cutoff shorts when he kissed me one last time on the lips, then on the forehead before walking out of our home without saying anything.

That was our last time saying Hello.

I couldn’t get up and convince him to stay. If he stayed any longer, he’d never want to leave. He’d eventually not have the strength to leave.

I knew Kennedy better than I knew anyone else.

He wanted me to remember him as Kennedy, not this dried up eighteen-year-old boy lying on his death bed. I understood his purpose, and I respected it.

I’d be broken in the end either way.

It had been better watching him willingly walk away, than to witness his soul being taken from him too soon.

I had to be as strong as he was and fight the urge to be weak.

I just loved him and it was hard.

It’d take me a while before I could grasp my own purpose, and he knew that. The fact that he believed in me was what would keep me going. I’d be okay again someday.

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