Minutes passed and Michael’s anxiety grew. He suddenly had a déjà vu from last year.
“I love you.”
It was the first time Michael said these words to someone other than his parents. And it was the first time he did not hear them back from the other side. Adaline had told him to give her some time to think about it and then ignored his calls for the next two days.
The third day, he saw a photo of her in front of the Eiffel Tower on Instagram.
If he was being honest, Michael expected this reaction from Adaline. He knew the first time he laid eyes on her that she was going to be much harder to tame than any other girl he ever knew. And that quality of hers was what drew him in the first place.
Yet, some times Michael wished Adaline would fucking tell him what she wanted from him.
After being ignored by the love of his life for a whole week, Michael had had enough. He decided he would confront Adaline once and for all. He wasn’t the kind of guy to give ultimatums, but he also didn’t like being kept in the dark (something which Adaline often did). That, and Prince had finally gotten into his head.
“It’s been a week, Michael. Break it off already,” Prince rolled his eyes at his best friend, who was busy staring at the school gate and searching for Cole’s car.
Although Adaline was in Paris, Michael had no idea when she would come back. This made the black-haired boy search for her brother’s car everyday, hoping he would see her sitting inside. Cole came to school everyday in his own car, which was driven by a driver, courtesy of his father. Yet, Adaline had not made an appearance for past one week.
Jack stared back and forth between the two boys. He never liked that Prince and Michael always had their own conversations going on. Even when they were all together, both the boys were always talking amongst themselves.
“A week since what?” He asked them, not expecting to get an answer back.
Michael glanced at Jack and then went back to subtly staring at the gate. Prince blew out his cigarette and shook his head at Michael.
“Adaline West has been ignoring Michael for the past week.” Prince announced to the whole group, including Sebastian and Wesley. Michael threw his best friend a dirty look.
Wesley snorted. “Want some weed to take your pain away?”
As usual, Michael ignored Wesley’s attempt to sell him weed. He was about to lose all hopes of seeing his girlfriend any time soon, when he noticed Cole’s car enter the driveway. And so did Prince.
“Look, this girl has been nothing but pain in your ass. If you’re too pussy to break up with her, then I’ll do it for you.” Prince put out his cigarette with his expensive shoes.
Michael took a deep breath and turned to face Prince with a determined look in his eyes.
“Prince, let me handle my fucking relationship myself, alright?”
Sebastian raised his eyebrow at Michael’s tone. He barely lost his temper, especially with Prince. And whenever he did, it was always related to Adaline.
This girl really has to go, Sebastian thought.
It seemed like forever but eventually, Cole’s car reached nearer to them and the driver opened his gate. This was the daily routine. The driver would get out and open Cole’s gate. Then he would take out the crutches from the boot and help Cole balance himself.
And today was no different.
Once again, Adaline did not come to school and the last ray of hope in Michael’s heart seemed to fade away.
Cole made eye contact with the boys and nodded at them with a small smile on his face. Michael couldn’t stop himself.
“Hey Cole. When will Adaline come back from Paris?” He finally asked him.
Cole’s eyes grew in surprise, and then in pity. And Michael finally understood what had happened.
“I-I thought you knew,” Cole replied with a stagger in his voice.
Michael clenched his jaw.
“She’s... not coming back.”
Michael broke out of his reverie when he heard someone call out his name. He turned around to see a blond haired boy waving at him. Michael had seen him around the school, but he couldn’t guess his name even if he tried to.
The boy ran closer to the group and stopped in front of the black haired boy. The boys waited for him to speak.
“Adaline wants to talk to you.”
Michael suddenly stood taller and his ears perked up.
"What? Where is she?”
The blond boy got a content expression on his face, proud of the fact that he got to deliver this news to the elitist clique of Dalton High.
“She’s sitting on a bench in that garden,” he pointed to the fresh patch of grass in near distance. “She-”
Michael didn’t wait for him to complete his sentence and quickly ran in that direction.
Adaline was, just like the boy had said, sitting on the bench alone.
She stood out from everyone present at the funeral, but not in the way she always did. But because she was the only person there who wasn’t wearing black coloured clothes. Instead, she wore a blood red dress and a cream coloured coat.
Adaline noticed Michael when he reached the bench. She gave him a small smile, and Michael noticed that her face showed no signs of tears.
She probably covered it with makeup, he thought.
Adaline shifted to make space for him to sit on the bench with her. Michael craved to ask her a thousand questions, but he decided to go with her pace and sat down beside her.
Adaline spoke first.
“A few months ago, Cole and I were in the hospital, and he made a joke,” she started, “he said, ‘promise me you won’t wear black at my funeral. You know I hate that colour, right?’”
Michael closed his eyes and leaned back on the bench.
Adaline turned to look at him and ran her hand through his hair. Michael opened his eyes and looked back at her.
And the expression on Adaline’s face was enough for him to know what was coming next.
This time, he spoke first.
“You’re leaving again.”
Adaline looked down at her hands, and slowly nodded.
Michael let out a breath, and after what seemed like eternity, he laughed.
“Oh God,” he kept laughing. “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. I can’t fucking believe this.”
Adaline kept quiet throughout his outburst.
When he finally seemed to calm down, Michael turned his face to the girl sitting next to him.
“Where is it this time? Italy? Switzerland? I’ve heard India is very beautiful this time of year.”
Adaline exhaled. “Michael, don’t do this.”
“Do what, Jo?”
"This! Don’t make me feel worse.”
And for the first time in his life, Michael noticed how ugly Adaline was.
“You know what, Adaline? Go wherever you fucking want to. Just don’t contact me ever again.” He made a move to get up from the bench, but Adaline held his hand.
“Let me explain, please.”
And for the sake of closure, Michael let her.
“Cole was the only thing keeping me here, Michael. I came back for him. I know this might seem harsh, but it’s true. I never planned to meet you again.” Adaline turned to face him, but Michael kept his eyes on his shoes.
Adaline gave him a small smile.
“But I did. I did meet you, and it was amazing. You are amazing.” She took his head in her hand and shifted it to make him look at her.
“I was not meant for love, and you knew that. Yet, you gave me so much of yours.
I may not have said it back, Michael, but please know that I did. I did love you, and I will always continue to do so.”
When Michael did not say anything back, Adaline continued.
“I’m telling you this because I know I have to do right by you.”
“You need to check the meaning of that phrase in your dictionary.”
“No, I am done. We are done.” He got up from the bench, and this time Adaline didn’t stop him.
Michael wanted to get back to his life, without speaking to Adaline ever again, but he still had to get one last word. So he turned around, and she looked back at him.
“I really hope you find someone someday, Jo. And I really hope that he breaks your heart just like you broke mine. Maybe that’ll make you more human.”