The space beside me was empty, the lack of presence making me shiver as I lay alone in the large bed. I lay still for a moment, reveling in the short period of time just after you gain consciousness, in which your mind grasps nothing and events from the days before are not disclosed to thought. Then a stab of pain shot through my chest, and everything flooded back. I had been hit by a car, I had talked to my father, I had come home with Seth.

Seth, who wasn't here right now.

I propped myself up carefully on one elbow, swinging my legs around off the bed and planting my feet firmly on the ground. Pushing myself into a standing position, I kept one hand on the wall beside the bed, unbalanced from the amount of days I'd gone without walking. My eyes swam, and I blinked away the dizziness before I attempted to move.

Finally I took a step towards the door, reaching it slowly and leaning against the door frame before continuing down the hallway. The kitchen was cold, no figure standing at the stove, making breakfast as he had on that first morning and many mornings after that. The balcony was vacant, light streaming through the windows without hindrance, unbroken by the possibility of a shadow formed by someone standing at the railing. The couches held no one, and as I scanned the whole of the apartment, I found no evidence that Seth had left, though obviously he had. No dirty dishes, no hastily scribbled note.

Nothing.

I drifted towards the door, noting the lack of keys or shoes but wondering if a note had been thrown in with the mail. Shuffling the envelopes into one pile, I flipped through them all, searching for a line of Seth's handwriting, anything. But no, each letter was only a letter, and I dropped them back to the table by the entrance.

One letter slipped to the ground, and I bent cautiously to pick it up. Standing slowly, I went to replace it with the others when the address caught my eye -

Concordia University

1530 Concordia West Irvine, CA 92612

My vision blackened, fading as my head began to pound with an intensity I'd never before experienced. My fingers grasped the edge of the table in a grip that would have implied that I was hanging on for dear life. When my sight finally returned, I relaxed my hold on the tabletop, turning over the opened envelope and removing the letter from inside it.

We are pleased to inform you that you have accepted into Concordia University, Irvine...

So he was leaving. Across the country. College across the country. Four years across the country.

Four years away from me.

My mind felt torn, ripped completely down the center. Half of me felt happy, proud that he had been able to get into the school, excited that he had been able to do it, could finally do what he had dreamed of doing.

The other part felt like it wanted to die.

This explained his anxiety, this explained why he had wanted me to have the option of staying with my father, this explained his sadness the night before. His worries that he would lose me, his strange reaction every time I asked what was wrong, it all made sense.

Seth was going to leave me and he didn't know how to tell me.

Of course staying wasn't an option. This was college, for God's sake, this was the rest of his life! He was going, he knew that. And I was staying. He would be across the country for four years, in a place where I would hardly see him. He could find someone new! He could realize that what he felt for me wasn't really love, and could decide he loved someone else. I could be forgotten here, thousands of miles away.

I could lose him.

It was with this thought that the tears began to fall, streaming unabated down my cheeks. I turned to lean against the wall, closing my eyes against it all. Why did he have to leave? Why did he have to be a year older than me, going to college now? Why did this have to happen now?

Why did this have to happen at all?

The sound of keys in the hallway caused me to move away from the wall, my tearstained face turning towards the door as it opened to reveal Seth. His shock registered immediately, but when he took in my tears and the letter in my hand, his face crumpled. Stepping forward, he wrapped his arms around me, burying his face in my hair, and I knew he was crying as well.

He didn't want this either.

It took several moments before either of us moved, and when the scene finally became unfrozen, Seth pulled away, turning to close the door and avoiding my gaze. Keeping his eyes averted, he made his way to the couch, sinking onto it slowly and burying his face in his hands. I continued to stand, staring at the door, unable to move.

What seemed like hours passed before I finally joined him on the couch, sitting close to him, yet with a deliberate space between our bodies. He sat up with what seemed like a great effort, and his red-rimmed eyes, while not spilling tears any longer, conveyed all the emotion I needed. I broke down, falling into his arms and sobbing into his shoulder, unable to contain it any longer.

'Seth..." My voice came out broken and despondent, cracking at the single syllable. He pulled back, bringing his fingers to my lips, shushing me. "No...Eryn...I'm so sorry..." His eyes watered, and he closed his eyelids against the onslaught of tears. Minutes passed before he continued. "I'm sorry...I didn't think I would get in...I didn't think that leaving would be an option..."

He took a deep breath, steadying his voice as it rose slowly in hysteria. "I sent the application in February...the acceptance came the day of the...of the accident..." His hesitation to mention the car accident was followed by an aversion of his gaze, and suddenly I understood the full extent of his guilt. He thought that if he hadn't sent the application, he wouldn't have had to worry about losing me, and he wouldn't have demanded that I speak to my father. He placed himself at the head of the chain of events, and it would take a miracle to move him.

I needed a miracle.

"Seth..." I tried again, my voice coming out firmer than before. "This isn't...it isn't something you can help. You have to go to college, there is no other option. This is the rest of your life we're talking about...you have to do the most you can to do well. Sending that application was not a mistake, for any reason. You...just like you said with my mother's accident...twenty factors came together to cause the result that occurred...none of it was your fault...none of it. You don't need to explain anything, or make excuses...you have to go to college, whether you have to leave me or not..."

The tears came faster, and I stood quickly, practically running out to the balcony and collapsing on the railing, painfully aware of my cracked ribs. The city was blurry beneath me, but nothing mattered. Not the pain, not the tears, nothing.

Nothing at all.

Two arms around my waist caused me to jump, startled by Seth's sudden appearance. He pulled me away from the railing, cradling me against him in an effort not to increase the pain. We slowly sank to the floor, sitting on the balcony together for hours afterwards, both wrapped in each other's arms and our own thoughts.