“We’ll keep this love in a photograph”
“Now boarding all passengers heading to Paris, France. Economy passengers are now welcome. Flight number BA2490. BA2490,” The overhead voice announces; her robotic monotone voice is doing a number on the butterflies filling my stomach right now.
I look over at Alice for a slice of comfort, her smile wavers. Red alert. Red alert.
This is concerning because she’s the only person keeping me sane right now. If she’s doubting us right now— I’m doubting us right now.
We are both pretty nervous flyers; I guess you kinda have to be if you’ve never flown in the air before. All my life, I’ve lived in the suburbs of suburbs in Seattle. And my first flight wasn’t to my extended family in Wisconsin or to the west coast.
No, the first time I go on a plane is to Paris. Without my parents. With my best friend. And with nerves overflowing in my body. It’s pretty much a dream but also a nightmare.
A true best friend is like a sister, and I’ve always lived by this but more of a variation of the expression.
Alice is like an older sister to me. She stands up for me, rips off the crusts on my PB&J’s (seriously, who invented crusts?) and holds me when I cry about the everyday meaningless teenage girl problems (‘meaningless’ explicitly excludes when I sob for weeks over my longtime crush asking out and falling in love my lab partner and me having to be civil with her during the rest of the year in chem labs).
We grab our passports and get them scanned. I can’t tell if the lady knows we’ve never done this before. Everyone else here looks like seasoned flyers, with the headphones in and passports in their pockets, looking like they don’t give a damn if they miss their flights.
We soon enter on the flight and find our seats, the easy part. And of course, the seats are all the way in the back, literally right next to the bathroom. Isn’t that fun? I didn’t even realize someone would be sitting next to us either. Whoever it is, has gone to the bathroom because their stuff is on the seat.
I inhale the stale air and look around at my new neighbors for the next 11 hours. There’s an old man with a beret on (I wish I were kidding) and a chaotic Parisian family cursing each other out.
Thankfully, they took the aisle seat so Alice and I can sit next to each other. I’m not in the mood for drooling on a stranger. I didn’t think about it a lot but this flight might be a trip to hell. I can so see myself not getting an ounce of sleep and being on edge the entire time in case I fall asleep on the passenger next to me.
I can’t complain though, this is a free flight.
The school funds of Seattle pay for dozens of seniors to go abroad for a week each year. We are of course required to visit at least one university. Luckily for us, we both have always dreamt to go to the American University of Paris.
It’s cliche but how amazing would it be to fly out of the boring hometown you’ve always known to get to go to the city of love… or is it lights? Either one is perfect.
I struggle to put my bag in the overhead department. I’m too proud to ask Alice who is taller than me so I continue to try and shove it. Some asshole has taken up two bag spaces. I understand the struggle of flying now. I can finally relate.
All of those BuzzFeed articles and tweets about flying struggles are coming to real life. Somehow, they’re not as glamorous as one would’ve thought.
Alice sits quietly in her seat, reading a Paris guidebook. Not only is she my mom, but she is the prepared mom in our friend group. She’s the one who always makes sure we eat all our vegetables and have a good amount of sleep.
Without her, I’d probably not even be here. I would’ve forgotten my passport and left behind all of my socks.
“Hey, Alice. A little help?” I whisper to her, attempting to not attract attention. Her headphones stay in, not hearing me.
“Need some help?” Too late, I’ve attracted someone’s attention. I am about to gracefully decline before I see his face. I think I almost recognize him. I’m not sure where from though, Seattle is big. From his ear length flowy brown hair with mini curls to the matching hazel eyes, I can’t help but get lost in my nonexistent thoughts.
Oh wow. Just cue the slow-motion running on a beach because that’s what he deserves. Hm. No. Maybe more of a guy who’s a literature major studying in the library sipping on a black coffee.
There are so many cute scenarios I could place him in right now and he’d fit right in. But I realize maybe this is the perfect place right now. Cute guy offering equally cute girl out with her luggage on her first flight? And, action!
“Oh, yeah, that’d be great. Some jerk took up two spots in the compartment.” I roll my eyes and smile. Is this flirting? I couldn’t be sure, the only time I’ve ever gotten close to dating a guy was sophomore year when I got asked to the dance. When he went in for a kiss during a slow dance, I dodged it and gave him a hug. I will never live that down.
His face turns red, it seems unnatural on his honey skin. “Oh, uh, let me just move that.” He hastily takes one of the big bags out and moves it under his seat. right. next. to. mine. I think he then realizes that we are sitting right next to each other. This will be a fun 11 hours.
“Well, this is awkward,” I say and want to pinch myself. How to make something even more awkward? Say out loud that the situation you are currently in is awkward.
“Sorry about that…” He avoids eye contact with me and continues to shift things over for my bag. I probably seem like such a drama queen. Why do I do this to myself? I glance over at Alice who is facing her phone at me, hiding it slightly from view. She’s definitely filming this whole ordeal. I swear to god if I ever see that video anywhere…
“Oh. That’s no problem. Honestly. I swear. I don’t care…” I spit out words, not realizing how much I’m talking. My face is probably mirroring his, horrified and red.
He’s sporting a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie. He has a Polaroid camera strap hanging on his shoulder. Yeah, so what if his outfit resembles every other teen guy on planet Earth, somehow he spices up the look, making it seem as if it was made for him. He eventually fits my bag in and gives me one last smile before blurting out, “Uh, you want to get in first? I have the aisle…”
I look at him for a couple of clueless seconds before comprehending what he’s saying. He wants me to go in first so I don’t have to jump over him, which will surely result in me falling on him or something even worse. This is the worst possible situation. Alice gives me a thumbs up before putting her phone away. I sit in my middle seat, scooching as close to her as possible. I feel the weight of his body sit down in the seat quickly after. It’s like I can feel his presence around me.
Alice very obviously whispers in my ear “He’s hot, Mands!” She fans herself with her hand. Can my face go any redder? I don’t think it is possible. I mouth “Cut it out!” to her. She ignores this and leans over me and sticks out her hand to the mystery boy.
“I’m Alice.” She warmly says, “I just think we should know each other since this is going to be a hell of a long flight.”
He laughs, the redness has died down. Wish I could say the same about mine. I can practically feel the heat radiating off of me. “Henry.” He shakes back and their hands almost touch my stomach. I’m going to explode right here, right now.
“This is Amanda,” Alice says for me, realizing I am stunned speechless.
“And…... I’m the jerk who took up too much room in the overhead compartment. Sorry about that, again.” He scratches at his head, the curls looking smoother than ever.
“Honestly, it’s fine.” I manage to squeak out before adding, “I’m the short one who couldn’t even figure out how to put a bag in there.”
He grins and waves off my apology. I feel tempted to carry on the conversation but decide against it. He’s probably annoyed by me. Henry fiddles with his TV remote and I take the cue and get out my phone.
Alice once again whispers into my ear, “You want dibs?”
I look shocked. “Dibs? We don’t even know who he is.”
“His name is Henry! It’s either you or me. I think you should get him. There’s definitely some chemistry there,” I nudge her, unapologetically, she can be so forward sometimes.
I can’t help but look over at him though, maybe there’s no future for the two of us but I do like dreaming.
“We are first going to start by introducing yourselves. Let’s start over on this end.” The man in his late forties, in charge of the tours, is overly excited. Not to be some angsty american teen but it’s kinda creepy.
I stand there swaying until I realize everyone is waiting for me to speak. Crap, ok, what am I even meant to say? Was I meant to be listening? “Uh, Hi, everyone! I’m Henry and I’m from Seattle and in my free time I-”
The guide, Tommy, in the button down blurts out, “Thank you, Henry, great to meet you but we need to get through these rather briskly.” I look over at the rest of the crowd here, a ton of rich white kids who are coming here to get a different experience and trying to become cultured. Little do they know, you could not be in more of an elite club by going to the American University of Paris. There are, of course, the people who look like they’re in freshman year with preppy school jackets. Then, the Mom standing anxiously close to her son who has an inhaler in his jacket pocket. Did I miss the memo; is it black tie?
The other kids continue to introduce myself and I notice Tommy doesn’t cut a lot of them off even though they speak at snail speed. What did I do that was so wrong? Before the girl with the bob and glasses can speak, a loud interruption comes from behind me.
I turn around and see two girls hop out of a taxi, running at full speed towards us. We are all watching them. It’s them.
The girls from the airplane.
I literally spent 11 hours with them and exchanged a couple of sentences. At one point I wanted to take a picture of the airplane window but didn’t want to reach over them. Missed opportunity because of one awkward guy.
That one girl, Amanda, has a scarf thrown around her neck and more shopping bags on her arm than she can handle. Her rosy cheeks make a reappearance and her nose compliments the look.
Her expression must be as confused as mine because she looks a mix of happy and confused.
Definitely, a chance I am just hyping this girl up way too much for myself. There’s a possibility she doesn’t even like me, like at all. Maybe she doesn’t even like guys. Maybe she is married. Maybe she is dating someone.
Or the worst possible option; she doesn’t even remember me. No, that’s not possible. I watch as she and her friend, I think it was Alice, introduce themselves to him.
I see the disdain in his face. Maybe I’ve been boosted to third most disliked.
That’s surely a promotion.
“Alllllllright, folks, we have a couple of extra passengers-late comers nonetheless- on our voyage across the beautiful sea of this University.” Tommy the Button-down-man then proceeds to laugh at his own joke. The nerve of this guy.
Somehow the other kids, as suckup-y as they are, don’t laugh at his horrible joke. I am pleased with this. He straightens down his shirt and pulls out a clipboard out of his messenger bag and then looks up at all of us with obvious excitement displayed on his shiny face.
“Would you girls like to introduce yourselves?” He asks, giving them a thumbs up of encouragement. Where was this joy during my turn? Just a minute ago, he was angry that they were late. This guy has some issues.
“Yes! Totally. Bonjour! I am Alice, originally from California and moved to Seattle when I was eight.” Alice has an aura about her where she just seems like she would have a crowd of admirers surrounding her.
But then it’s Amanda’s turn and I get a vibe that she doesn’t know her effect on people. She doesn’t know she makes people’s eyes turn when she walks by.
“Leggo! Starting off at the library. WORLD RENOWNED prestigious library, built in the 1700s. Yes, you heard me right. About 300 years ago this bad boy was built.” Tommy does a little twirl around the entrance, showing it off or something. This guy is the most cheeseball of cheeseballs. I take a glimpse over at Amanda and Alice and accidentally make eye contact at the wrong time.
Amanda is staring right at me.
She then pretends as if she is looking at something above me and taps Alice who continues to play this act as if they were looking at a landmark when all there is is a park and a couple benches.
I make my way, subtly, across the group of us, passing Ms. Blonde-Bob glares sharply at me. The preppy school guys don’t notice my transition, too focused on the prestigious pins on their shirt.
I’m eventually standing practically elbow to elbow with her. This is the best time, I guess, to say hi. Maybe reintroduce myself.
“Oh. Harry, right?” She turns to me, acting as if she is recalling my name, which isn’t even my name, from years back. She is a good actress.
“And… it’s Stacey, right?” I respond, playing into her game.
“Can’t believe you remembered!” She grins and keeps walking, we’ve fallen behind.
Alice looks back about to tell her to hurry up then her eyes widen and she smiles, a look of encouragement. I wonder if it will ever not be awkward for me and Amanda.
“So you like Paris so far?” I ask, motioning to her excessive amounts of shopping bags.
“You could say I got a little…. carried away. I mean it’s Paris, of course, I went overboard. All the shops smell like perfume and there are roses and macaroons and antiques and-” Her eyes close, reminiscing in the shopping this morning.
“Did you say… macaroons?” I egg her on, looking at her laduree bag. My night consisted of strolling around abandoned streets trying to get good photographs. For as beautiful as this city was, it just isn’t the same when you explore it alone.
“I might’ve, but who says I want to share?” Her eyes toy with mine before I think she gives in and takes out the beautifully packaged macarons. With a teal box and white ribbon. “I can’t believe I’m sharing this delicacy with a stranger.”
“Wait, can we sit down a second? My legs are killing me.” Her floral dress floats in the wind, If I didn’t know I was right in front of her, I’d think I was watching a movie. As I follow behind her, I make sure she can’t see and sneak out my camera to take a quick Polaroid. Click. Ah, the sound of a vintage camera.
Not so subtle.
She turns around in shock and I conceal my camera not very well.
“Did you just take a picture of me?” She doesn’t seem angry. Just doubtful, like why I would possibly take a picture of the most photogenic girl in the most photogenic city.
“When you see it, you won’t blame me.” I fish it out of the camera as it is being developed. The colors transform from white to a motley array of colors. It seems like I just recreated Marilyn Monroe’s famous photo, but somehow better. With all the elements like the vibrant colors toned down through the old film and her floral dress being held down slightly by her dainty fingers.
I hand it to her and our hand’s touch for a split second, I pull away, leaving her with the polaroid.
Either at a loss for words or she is embarrassed; I’m not sure.
“This is beautiful. I didn’t know you’re a photographer.”
“Aspiring,” I interject, not wanting a compliment where one isn’t deserved.
“That’s what all the greats used to say,” She grins, handing it back to me.
We sit on one of the abundances of Parisian benches. The tour has gone inside the library, we have a solid five minutes until Tommy barks another command at me. “So, there’s Caramel salé which means Salted Caramel.” She enunciates every syllable, it’s pretty obvious she’s not a French native.
I take an obvious liking to this flavor and she accordingly passes me one, eying me as I eat it. It’s like a cloud in my mouth.
She pulls out her phone and snaps a photo of the macron, I almost want the photo for the memory.
Is it too bold to ask for her instagram? Like ‘heyyyy girl. I really want to repost that picture. Is it on your story?’ Or I could go for a softer approach like ‘do you wanna send me that pic? Oh wait. My phone number doesn’t work in paris. DM it maybe?’
I decide neither of the options are worth attempting.
“Paris does just about everything right, can I take this to go? I never want to live another day, not tasting this.” I say while savoring every bite of it. She laughs and offers me another one. Yeah, they’re good but I bet they’re also super expensive.
“So do you want to go here?” She asks me.
“Yeah, basically all my life I’ve wanted to live in Europe. Something about it, maybe it’s the appeal of being light years away from my family or just how amazing this school is. I plan on being a photographer, doing that whole artsy route in college.”
Since my mind has been practically magnetized towards Amanda this whole time, I’ve barely gotten a chance to take it all in. The dew dripping off the trees, old cathedrals sprawled throughout campus and acclaimed halls. There are some really good shots here. “What about you?”
“Same, I’m doing that whole artsy thing too. I’m on a scholarship trip from the Seattle state district to visit some schools and if I like one enough, the board will pay for part of it. So I picked Paris because I mean, who wouldn’t, it’s the city of love, of fashion, of macrons. Of everything. I want to be an art major and I can’t think of a more inspiring place.” We mutually breathe in the fresh air, the daisies and sequoias surrounding us.
“A scholarship, huh? Didn’t know I was sitting next to a genius.” I raise my eyebrow, not that I’m that surprised. It’s more impressive
“Ehh. I wouldn’t go that far. Borderline genius is more like it.”
“What about your friend, are you guys both planning on going to school here?” I ask but immediately hope I’m not being too nosey. She doesn’t seem to mind though.
“Yeah, basically. Our motto is wherever one goes, the other one goes too. If we both get in, I’ll definitely come here. But odds are, one of us won’t so I’m not sure where I’ll end up. That’s the fun part about destiny, it’s out of our control at this point. It’s up to the guys up there to decide my life.”
There doesn’t seem to be any trace of bitterness in her voice when she talks about how the two of them have this pact. I would go insane if my life was tied to another person.
She adds, “I know, it sounds a little crazy but she’s my best friend since we were first talking. I just can’t imagine abandoning her for a school. There are hundreds of colleges and one of her, you know?”
I nod. I guess I’ve just never had someone like this, someone I’d stay with over my future. There’s something admirable about it though. She picks a pink macaron from the box and I just admire her out of the very corner of my vision, her neverending beaming smile is what gets me the most.
I notice a speck of pink left near her mouth. I want to wipe it off, so softly that maybe she won’t notice.
I don’t want to be cliche though, she doesn’t deserve some overdone Nicholas Sparks move.
The way you watch her and it’s as if everything could possibly be right in the world. Even though there is a hell of a lot wrong with this messed up world. She looks over at me and our eyes meet.
This time I don’t look away- she doesn’t pretend.
We embrace it.
Her eyes are a mixture of blue and orange. I didn’t even know it was a thing.
I do now.
Her flushed face and inviting smile. Her warm eyes and the unspoken words shown through them It’s like her face is etched in my mind. One I won’t be able to forget.
I want to cut the atmosphere between us. The great vast space between us that neither one of us can seem to break— perhaps we don’t want to break it. I almost want to touch one of the curls on his head or bring my hand to his face which at first reminded me of honey but now it’s so much more complex than that. I barely know him yet I feel like I know so much. If only I could make a move. I wouldn’t even know how though.
A voice breaks the trance. Or whatever just happened. “Yoo HOO! Ohhh, lovebirds, the tour must go on!” Tommy calls to us. “With or without you. So what will it be, Romeo and Juliet?”
I glance over at Henry, who is just as flustered as me. “Coming!” I yell out with a wobbly voice. We didn’t even do anything. We could’ve just been talking. We were talking, what am I even saying?
“Should we… go?” I say, quickly wrapping up the macrons, stuffing them into my bag. I almost feel ashamed of what people must’ve seen, even though nothing happened.
“Yeah, I should probably learn a little bit about this school. I mean, I came all the way here and all I got out of it was a cute girl I have a crush on.” He grins and I don’t know how to respond. He is referring to me, right? Like it wouldn’t make sense if he were talking about some random Parisian woman with a baguette he met on the streets.
We walk in silence side by side, our hands near touching but not there yet. I feel the warmth of his body next to mine. Our group is so far ahead and Alice ended up making small talk with some other people there, so I don’t think she minds too much.
“When are you going back?” He asks me. This question seems to hold so much power. Is he asking if we should meet up or is it a general statement. I can’t be this presumptuous, no one likes that.
“Tomorrow 6am. You?” I almost want to pause time, not wanting to hear what he says because maybe, just maybe, we are on the same flight.
“Tomorrow night.” He senses the disappointment on my face or he is just a mind reader because he switches subjects. It’s not like we actually have anything tangible here. We are two people who have met in two different turns of events and have merely talked.
“Can I take another photo of you? I understand if you don’t want to but, I don’t know, something about you makes me want to capture it in a photo.” His smile turns slightly crooked and his head lowers, fiddling with his camera.
“Maybe I want to capture a moment too. If you teach me how to take a photo on there can I take one of you?” I ask, tilting my head. Maybe if I do puppy eyes?
“I guess. You’ll probably be disappointed when you find out I don’t have the modeling skills of a Victoria Secret model. Hate to break it to you.” He hands me his camera and instructs me on the different settings. I don’t know how people understand this.
“Ok.. so pretend like I’m taking a photo, let me try and adjust the settings. Stand riiiiight there.” Click. I take a surprise photo, my hand half in the shot, directing him in place and his eased smile, probably laughing thinking about my photography skills.
“Wait, you actually took the photo? Amanda!” I love the way he says my name.
I can’t act like he’s a parisian with a romantic accent but his regular american accent has me feeling some sort of way. It’s a little different they way he pronounces things… Like everything he says is well articulated and full of meaning. Maybe it’s just his persona and the studious way about him. Whatever it is, I want to soak it all in.
“It’s cute! Look, come over here.” He is slightly out of breath and he lightly breathes on me, looking over my shoulder at the photo. At a solid foot taller than me, it’s not hard to see. His smile somehow captured the joy I felt while taking this photo and the even greater joy I felt when I see his reaction.
“This is why I’m behind the camera.” He shakes his head.
I wave off his doubts, “Hey, do you have a pen?”
In all his glory, Henry whips out a pen from his camera bag and hands it to me. I write a note on it, a little sloppy but it means well. I pass him the pen back, “Sign your name or whatever and then we can each keep the polaroid of each other.” I tell him.
“Are you sure you don’t want the one of yourself?” He asks, but not letting go of the picture of me.
“Oh no, I have enough of me. I want just a small piece of you to take with me.” I say with all the nerves I can muster up, he accepts this answer and writes something on the back of my polaroid. Taking his time, I want a peek at what he’s writing.
“Let’s not look at it until you take off tonight, deal?” I extend my arm and he takes it. We shake on it.
We finish the rest of the tour with the group, no more sneaking off, pure listening to Tommy. Well, not exactly, listening but more engaging. Henry and I spend the next 45 minutes of the tour talking about what life will be like if (Henry insists it’s a when situation.) we both get in and go to school here.
We talk about the first-day jitters and whether or not you should bring your professor an apple (Henry says no, I say yes!), or how awful it would be to get a snoring roommate (Alice doesn’t snore, Henry is nervous about this.)
I start to delve into the inner workings of what free time would be like. Henry talks about how we would make an effort to visit every art history museum in a hundred mile radius of Paris. We will eat baguettes with brie and prosciutto for lunch and dinner’s will consist of frog legs and escargot (only the fanciest and most expensive items.) I let myself fall into this imaginary life and I like what I see.
When the tour comes to an end, Henry and I slow down our conversations. Unrealistic ones turn into realistic ones.
We exchange numbers and talk about what we are doing for the summer. Since he lives in New York and I live in Seattle, it’s not like we are going to be running into each other. It’s going to be a whole six months of life without seeing him.
Even though I met him a mere four days ago, I don’t want him to not be in my life. The rest of my senior year is going to be filled with the memories of my hour and a half with him.
I stand across him, back against a concrete wall, not getting too close, not wanting to say goodbye just yet. We walked off behind one of the buildings. It seems to be our forte, sneaking off.
“So, I’ll see you. August 2019. You’ll get in, I’ll get in, I know it.” He says with absolute certainty.
“And if I don’t? Be serious.” I cross my arms, trying hard to be stern. I can’t be chasing a guy for the rest of my life.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it.” Another Dad saying.
“I should go, Alice is probably waiting,” I say, barely a whisper, I think about settling for a wave, but I know it won’t cut it. If I’m waiting until August for something, I need a memory to remember him by. I need-
He leans in too fast for me to make my move, he kisses me softly, against the wall, his arm supporting my back, I feel my entire body tingling. We stop, slowly moving apart, disentangling from each other’s embrace.
“I’ll miss you, Amanda.”
“See you in August, Henry,” I reply, holding on for the hope that I am relying on.
Applications come out in less than two minutes. I sit on my bed, fidgeting with no control. My mind wanders off to all the possibilities. What if I don’t get in? What if I resort to community college? What if flunk out of there too.
Right on schedule, our plan from the beginning, I get an incoming Facetime call from Mandy. We settled as friends but I haven’t been able to have a day without her face popping into my mind.
I click accept and her warm face appears on my screen. “You ready for this?” She asks, rubbing her hands together, “Should I do a drum roll?”
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” I say, dropping my gaze to my keyboard. Not wanting to create that dangerous eye contact. I don’t want her to see the doubt in my eyes. I once read that when one person is nervous in a pair, the other ends up being calmer by default. I tried to be the calm one but it’s hard when your mind won’t sleep of all the things that could go wrong. I’ve pinned all my hopes and dreams on ending up with this one girl at this one school in this one country across the globe. I didn’t leave myself much room for error.
“That doesn’t sound very enthusiastic. I wanna hear how-” She pauses, her eyes focusing on her screen. “THEY’RE OUT! IT’S OUT! I GOT THE EMAIL, I SEE THE NOTIFICATION! OPEN YOUR EMAIL!”
I internally scream but keep my cool. “Ok, ok, ok. I’m opening it.” I log into my email (I couldn’t keep it open because I knew my psycho brain would definitely keep refreshing every 30 seconds.) I hear her breathing on the other end. Ragged and unsure.
Dear Henry Williams,
My eyes zoom in and out. Focusing on what the words say. Congratulations! Good sign. They wouldn’t say congratulations for waitlist… It is my pleasure to offer you admission to the Class of 2019 at the American University of Paris… I gasp and throw my head into a pillow, feeling the need to scream or laugh, I don’t know.
“Mandy! I’m in, I’m in!” I put my hands on my head, shaking profusely. This will change my entire course of life. I’ll be living in Paris. PARIS in less than four months.
“Oh. Congrats, Henry.” She says with a blank stare at the screen. A small tear is crawling down her face, demanding to not be seen. I’ve seen it though.
“Did you not..? Shit.” I say and feel for her, long to be there to hold her in my arms and tell her it’s going to be OK. We’ll find a way. But I know it won’t do anything. This is her dream too. We are each other’s dream. “I’m so sorry.” Is all I manage to say, nothing will make her feel the same after this. Two minutes ago we had optimism, we thought we would be reunited soon. In each other’s arms, telling each other all the things we wished we could say in person.
“What about the other school in Paris you applied to? The small private one?” I ask, grasping for the last thread.
“I didn’t want to tell you but I got the letter a month ago. Declined.” The tears are no longer holding back, coming out of her eyes like a stream. “I have to go.” She hangs up.
My lock screen returning, the Polaroid picture sitting there as a reminder of what we had.
An incoming call from Alice. It rings and rings and rings and rings until I bring up the courage to accept. She’ll definitely notice my blotchy face. The red eyes and puffy cheeks.
“What’d they say!!” She says, almost screaming until she registers my face. I look solemnly at her, not knowing what to say, how to say it out loud. I know what she’s about to say though.
“Aw, Mandy.” She shakes her head, “You deserved better. Who likes Paris, anyways.” Her words are saying one thing and her voice is wobbly and unsure.
“But you got in, didn’t you?” I can’t help but hear a bit of bitterness come through my words.
“I did. But you know our pact, I’m not going anywhere you don’t go.” She says disappointment is plastered all over her.
“You’re going, Ally. I won’t let you follow me. You deserve more than that.” I force the words out of my mouth, she tries interjects and I continue, “It was a stupid pact we made when we were five. You deserve this and if I got in and you didn’t, you’d do the same thing.”
“Where will you go, Mands?” She asks, fiddling with her hair, something she does when she’s anxious. I know her as well as she knows me. Being across the world from her will be like losing a limb. Incomplete.
“I’ll apply in the spring or take a gap year there to see you guys.”
“What did Henry say?” Her guilt refuses to hide, worry lines forming at her forehead.
“He’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.” I smile through my tears, tasting the salty tears pouring down me, silently.
I hang up with her and lay back down on my bed, looking up at my chipped ceiling filled with memories. Old ones with Alice and my friends. At prom. The first day of preschool and senior year. My first prom. My first trip abroad. Alice and I smiling tensely at the terminal. The polaroid of Henry. The one picture that makes me smile no matter what. Filled with the taste of macarons and flowers. The click sounds his camera made, the flash of when it went off and I was startled but almost flattered. That he viewed the beauty in me when I saw none. I may never see him again. Alice may not even go to that school.
No matter what, I’ll forever have captured love purely in a photograph.