End Of Summer - Five Years Ago
I turned over in my bed and groaned. The sun was already streaming through the space where the curtains met in the middle of the window by my bed, and the light had landed directly on my eyes. I groaned and buried my head in my pillow. The last thing I wanted to do was wake up and face the day and it wasn’t even a school day. In fact school didn’t even start for another week.
I ignored the fact it was morning, and forced all thoughts from my mind, as I slowly lulled back into a light sleep there was a soft knock on my bedroom door. Another minute or so and I would have been asleep, but it was enough to bring me from my slumber. Reluctantly my eyes opened, betraying my body.
“Honey, Sebastian is here.” My Mother’s voice sung out from behind the door.
Those four words solidified the one thing I had been dreading all summer, the reality that today would end with my best friend leaving for college, while I was stuck here for another three years. I wanted to pretend I hadn’t heard her, as if not hearing her would mean that none of this had to happen, that it would turn into a weird type of groundhog day where Sebastian just never left. If it meant I could still see him everyday, then it was something I could get on board with.
“Emelia?” She questioned, her voice full of concern.
“I’ll be down soon Mom.” I mumbled loud enough for her to hear.
I sat up and looked around my room. Remnants of summer were still strewn throughout my room. Photos I’d had printed were covering my desk and the half deflated rocky horror inspired unicorn balloon Seb had bought me at the local carnival a few weeks prior was still tied to the back of my computer chair. I looked down at the time on my alarm clock, it was 9am. I frowned as I looked at the book Seb had leant me on my nightstand. I hadn’t managed to finish it because irrationally, like not hearing my mother I thought not finishing meant today would never come.
I stood up and walked over to my drawers. I stared at my reflection and for the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t recognise the person staring back at me. I looked the same, but my eyes seemed different. Like the once bright hue had dulled some how. I looked away as I opened my drawers and pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I pulled my pajamas off and tugged my jeans on. They didn’t fit the same as they had only a few short months ago. They hugged my hips like a second skin. I’d grown taller too and now they were almost too short. It was no secret I was in need of new clothes, but we couldn’t afford them. Not right now. I threw my t-shirt on over my head and flattened it down.
Before I left the room I picked up the book Sebastian had leant me and walked downstairs with it in my hands. My Mom and Dad stood in the kitchen, coffee cups in their hands, talking to a swiftly dressed Sebastian. The boy who skulked around in ripped jeans and band shirts was dressed in tailored jeans and a nice plain black button down. He turned his focus to me as I reached the bottom of the stairs, his hazel eyes flickered with something I didn’t understand while he smiled at me, albeit sadly.
“Em.” He said softly. “You trying to avoid me?”
I shook my head, but said nothing because I couldn’t think of the right words to say. I could never avoid Seb, I just wanted to avoid reality. I wanted to avoid him leaving, even though it wasn’t possible.
“We’ll leave you two to talk.” Mom whispered. I looked over at her and Dad as they slipped out the back door into the conservatory.
I stared down at the book in my hands and sighed. “I should give this back to you.” I whispered, holding out the book. Seb’s hands didn’t take it though, so I glanced up at him. His eyes were sad, I could see it now. He looked like I had in the mirror. Lost.
“Did you finish it?” He asked softly.
I shook my head and frowned. “I couldn’t bring myself to.” I replied. “I thought if I....”
I stopped, because my words had begun to waver. If I continued I was going to cry and if I cried then I wouldn’t be able to let him leave.
“It’s okay.” He whispered. “I get it.”
He stepped forward and placed his hand over mine as I held the book and pushed it gently back toward me. “Keep it. It’s yours. Read it when you’re ready.”
I nodded, because it seemed like the natural thing to do. Because I was running on autopilot, because my best friend was leaving for college and I still had three years of high school to get through, because I didn’t know what else to do.
Seb swallowed hard and looked down. “I’m going to miss you Em.”
His words were all I needed to break me. To send me down a spiral of self pity so strong that suddenly I didn’t want to put myself through the torture of goodbye. I felt the tears line my eyes before I even had a chance to catch my breath. I pushed past him, shoving the book into his hands as I ran out the front door.
I didn’t even know where I was running to. I looked at Seb’s house beside ours and let out a gasp. I wasn’t going to be able to lean across my balcony and tell him bad jokes anymore. He wasn’t going to be there. Life was forever evolving, forever changing, but for me, this change sucked.
I ran next door and climbed up the trellis beside Seb’s room. I’d scaled his wall a thousand times before, but today I knew it would be the last time. Without him here, there wouldn’t be much point.
I looked down at my front yard before I slipped inside. Seb was on his way here.
His room looked pretty much the same, if not a little barer. By the door sat a gigantic suitcase thought and his open closet was empty. I walked into it, leaned against the wall and sank to the ground. I couldn’t stop the tears that fell from my eyes, as much as I wanted to be strong I wasn’t. For so long Seb had been my everything and now...
“Em.” his door opened and he stepped inside. For a moment he stood there, a look of confusion pasted across his face. Then his eyes met mine, he walked until he was by his closet and fell to his knees. He was crying too. “Don’t run away from me.”
“I could say the same to you.” I managed to splutter out in between sobs. “I need you Seb.”
Seb bit his lip and pulled me up and out of the closet, embracing me. Hugging wasn’t a thing we did, but today it seemed so necessary. Like I needed to be as close as possible to Seb so that everything about him would stay so vividly in my mind.
"“It’s not forever. I’ll be back.” He offered before continuing. “You are the strongest person I know Em. You don’t need me, you’ll be fine.”
I sucked in a breath and shook my head pulling back away from him. Our faces weren’t far apart, so I spoke softly, regaining clarity for a short time.
“If I am so strong, then why does the thought of you leaving make me feel so weak.”
His eyes closed for a moment and when he finally opened them again, fresh tears rolled down his cheeks. I lifted my hands to his face and brushed the tears away.
“Stop.” He murmured.
I listened, but left my hands on his cheeks. Something stirred within me. A feeling I didn’t understand, a feeling I’d never had before. I yearned to learn everything I didn’t already know about Seb, which I gathered by the depth in his eyes was more than I realised.
“I love you Seb.” I whispered. I’d told him I loved him hundreds of times before, we’d been best friends almost all of our lives. We’d seen each other through hard times, well as hard as they can be as children and teenagers. This time though, the words seemed to have a layer they’d never had before... another meaning.
“I love you too Em.”
I closed my eyes to stem the flow of tears, and as if by magnetic force I felt my face move forward, closer to Seb’s until we were so close I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face. I felt Seb’s hands cup my face and then skin met skin, our lips brushed sending a bolt of electricity between us, connecting us like a powersource. I’d never been kissed before, I’d never wanted to be... not until now. The tears in my eyes evaporated from the sheer warmth we had generated from one small, soft kiss. It was everything, it almost felt like a beginning and yet at the same time and ending.
All too quickly it ended, with Seb releasing me and shuffling backwards until he was against his bed and I was by the closet. My lips still tingled from his touch even though we were almost a room apart.
“I’m sorry.” Seb said finally. “Em... I shouldn’t have...”
My heart thumped against my chest so hard that it felt like my whole body was moving with its rhythmic thump. Nausea filled my gut and all of a sudden I felt like I was falling off the edge of a cliff. Whatever we had just shared had changed me, I felt different somehow and yet Seb just looked disturbed.
“It’s okay.” I whispered even though I felt anything but okay.
“I... I gotta go.” He stuttered, jumping to his feet.
I stood up, even though my legs felt like jelly and my head felt like lead. Seb walked to the door and grabbed his suitcase handle before opening his bedroom door. He left the room, pulling it down the stairs behind him. His parents met us at the bottom, his mother was misty eyed, while his father held her. He stopped by the door and looked at his parents.
“Don’t cry Mom. I’m only a few hours away.” He stopped and looked down.
“Oh Sebastian.” Anne, his mom exclaimed, stepping out of her husband’s embrace in order to envelope her only son into her arms. “My baby, you’re all grown up.”
“Son.” His father exclaimed with a thick voice he joined the hug and for a moment I felt like I was encroaching on a moment meant only for family. But Anne stopped and held out her arms for me.
I held back, aware that Seb felt strange about what had happened only a few minutes prior, but he looked over at me and nodded. I walked forward and stepped into the hug and pretended that everything was going to be okay.
All too soon the embrace disintegrated. Seb’s grip returned to his suitcase and the his dad opened the front door.
He got into his car and I watched as he drove away, feeling helpless and alone, completely unaware that the worst was yet to come.