Well, there was supposed to be a sequel, but I think it's pretty obvious that I don't want to continue this anymore. Anyway, here's the last entry.
Five and a Half Years Later…
I gazed at the writing etched on the grey tombstone.
Andrew Michael Keats
April 2, 1989 – January 15, 2006
Your presence is a gift to the world,
You're unique and one of a kind.
Your life can be what you want it to be
Take it one day at a time.
I could feel my composure faltering a little. I glanced at the purple irises and noticed that they were starting to wilt. They were probably from Kane…or Mrs. Carson…not me…
I laid down the flowers that I brought. The bright yellow petals contrasted well with the irises.
"I'm finally here," I said quietly. My voice cracked. "It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm sorry about the rare visits. I live pretty far…." My voice trailed off. I paused and stared blankly at the epitaph, not knowing what to say.
The wind was slightly cold. It was the beginning of autumn; the leaves of the trees that surrounded the cemetery were starting to change. Summer was gone.
I sighed softly. "Well…I'm in law school right now. Are you surprised? I am. I never thought that I would choose to go into law, of all things." I pursed my lips. "If someone had told me during high school that I would end up becoming a law student, I would…I would…" I smiled wryly. "Well. I would give them an incredulous look. I guess I have changed a lot since then. And you…" I gritted my teeth as my vision began to blur. My composure was fading quickly. "You should be in med school," I whispered. "We should be complaining about the tons of work we have to do." I wiped my eyes angrily. "It's just so…unfair. Unfair that I have so much time to do the things that I want, while you…you just…" I swallowed, feeling the painful lump in my throat. I shook my head. "It's just not fair."
I closed my eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Anyway," I said quietly, "it's a lot of hard work. Sometimes I wonder if I am able to do it." I smiled. "Don't worry; I won't give up. I won't run away like I did five and half years ago. I'm better now, you know. I'm very tough. I'm sorry I didn't keep my promise back then. I'm sorry I became a wreck after you passed away, even though I said that I wouldn't. I'm sorry I decided to go to another school and leave home after what happened. It's just that…I felt like I was suffocating, you know? I wanted to go somewhere far. Somewhere where I could…recuperate, I guess. Somewhere where there was peace and quiet. Aunt Louise's home was the perfect place for that. And Thornhill High didn't give me any trouble. The students there seemed a lot more mature. Probably because that school only accepted the studious, goal-oriented ones.
"I haven't talked to anyone from SCH for a long time. The last person I talked to was Kane, and that was over a year ago, through email. I didn't tell her that I'd be back today. I'm only stopping by, you know. I have to leave soon." I paused. "Also, I'd like to say one thing: I never regretted meeting you. I never regretted becoming your best friend. If I am given the chance to stop my past self from meeting you, from becoming close to you, I would never take it. Ever. Even though the times we had were short, they were, and always will be, precious." I paused. "So…so thank you, Andrew." I took a deep breath. "Thank you for being there."
I sighed and looked up from the tombstone slowly. My heart skipped a beat when I saw a familiar face. I almost did not recognize him because instead of the bright, artificial red hair, his hair was black. It was still, however, spiky. His eyebrow piercing remained, but the lip piercing was gone. He was staring at a tombstone a couple of feet away, a distinct sadness in his gaze.
He looked up and caught my eye. He tilted his head and stared at me for a moment with a pensive look on his face. Then he smiled, as if he suddenly recognized me. I stood still as he walked forward.
We stood in silence. I could see delight in his dark eyes.
"I guess you're a late bloomer," he said playfully.
"Well, the last time I saw you, you were this skinny, awkward-looking girl. You were…sixteen, I think. How old are you right now?"
"Twenty-two," I said dully. "So why was your nickname for me 'beautiful' back then if I was a skinny, awkward-looking girl?"
"Because despite that, I did think you were beautiful."
"You're such a charmer."
"I try." He smiled. "So…what's going on with you?"
"Well, I'm in law school. But it's pretty far from here."
He whistled. "Congratulations."
"Thank you. And you?"
"I'm in college. Doing business."
"So you went back to school?" I said, impressed.
"Yup. I decided to smarten up."
He smiled cheerfully. "You know, I had a crush on you back then. Even before you realized I existed. Before dropping out of school, I was already aware of you. I never talked to you, but I was already intrigued. My friends and I always hung out near the tree where you would always sit and read. You never knew what was going on around you."
"Wow," I said in amusement. "That's…surprising."
He chuckled. "I guess." His expression sobered. "What brings you here?"
I glanced at the tombstone and smiled sombrely. "My friend Andrew. What about you?"
"My grandfather. What a coincidence that we see each other here."
I smiled. "Coincidence? No. Maybe there's a reason," I said light-heartedly.
"Maybe. I can't believe it's been five years."
"Ì know," I said quietly. "We're not teenagers anymore."
"Yeah. Scary. High school is nothing compared to what comes after."
I chuckled. "You got that right."
"So what are your—" Cason stopped suddenly and looked over my shoulder. Surprise settled in his face, followed by a small, lingering frown. Puzzled, I turned around to follow his gaze.
I felt my back stiffen. Time seemed to have stopped. Standing a few feet away, looking slightly older but still as handsome as ever, was a person more than just familiar. His face had been engraved in my head for years now.
The moment I saw him, it felt as if we were sixteen again. There was still that fierceness in his ocean-blue eyes. His black hair was still messy. He still towered over me. Despite these familiar traits, however, he was not the same Dave I saw almost six years ago. This twenty-two-year-old Dave looked…mature. I could see it in his eyes and the way he carried himself. I sensed that he was no longer that arrogant, overly confident teenager who always liked to be praised. The boy who always wanted things done his way.
There was a calm, humble aura about this Dave.
This Dave…had grown up.
"You're here." My own voice sounded foreign to me. "What a coincidence."
His lips curved up a little. He approached slowly, deliberately. For some reason, my heart began to beat faster.
"Coincidence?" he said calmly. He shook his head. "Maybe there's a reason."
A deep silence fell. My heart was hammering in my ribcage, but I kept eye contact without showing weakness. Cason used this moment to clear his throat and say, "Well…uh…I think I'll go away for a second. Or fifteen minutes." He nodded and pointedly walked away.
Neither Dave nor I budged. His gaze did not soften. I did not look away.
"What are you doing here?" I said quietly.
He shrugged. "For some reason, I felt the urge to come here. So I did."
I frowned. "Huh."
"It's been a while," he remarked casually. "You look very different now."
"No longer the skinny, awkward-looking girl?" I said wryly.
I chuckled. "Okay. Thanks. I guess."
Silence. Dave stepped closer. I prayed that my knees would not do something embarrassing like, say, give in.
His eyes took in my face deliberately. It was as if he wanted to observe every detail of what five and a half years had done to my appearance. It was definitely not comfortable.
"S-so...what are you up to?"
There was a pause. Then he smiled politely and said, "Med school."
My heart skipped a beat. I remembered Andrew.
"Congratulations," I said softly.
"Thank you. What about you?"
Surprise flashed on his face. "Congratulations," he said after he had recovered.
I nodded. "Thank you."
"So how are you?"
"I'm very well. I know that I was a wreck when you last saw me."
"I was really worried."
I stared at him. Then I laughed and said, "Well, you don't have to be anymore. I really am all right."
Another silence fell.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
I tilted my head and smiled in amusement. "No," I replied. "Too busy."
"What about you?"
"Nah, I don't have a boyfriend." He laughed when I gave him a look. "No girlfriend either."
"Lexia." His voice had taken in a serious tone now.
A cold breeze blew past. I shivered and placed my hands in my pockets.
Dave took a deep breath. "I want to apologize," he said solemnly. "I'm sorry if I ever caused you pain. I know that I was pretty immature back then."
I nodded silently. "I…I wasn't perfect either," I pointed out. "I was pretty bratty too. I'm very sorry."
"May I ask you something?"
He did not break his gaze. "Why did you leave?"
He said this very quietly.
I paused and stared at him thoughtfully. Then I shrugged and took a deep breath. "I guess I wanted to start fresh. I wanted a different environment. I believed that that was the only way I could get up again."
"You can't just run away every time you face a problem. You can't just pack your bags and go to a different place to start fresh."
"I know that!" I said hotly.
He held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry. It's just that…" He gave me a look. "You just left. Without telling your friends. You left your family, who wanted to help you, Kane, who wanted to comfort you...and me, who wanted to…to…" He shrugged. "To be there for you. You don't have to rely on yourself all the time. Sometimes it's okay to turn to others."
"You're right...I-I'm sorry."
"You were missed, Lexia."
I remained silent.
"Anyway"—his voice had taken in a lighter tone, but it sounded forced—"no use dwelling in the past. I'm really glad I saw you today."
I nodded. For some reason, there was a painful lump in my throat. "Me too."
"Do you think we'll see each other again?"
I shrugged. "I don't know." I looked at him curiously. "By the way, do you think everything happens for a reason?"
"So what is the reason for us seeing each other here?"
He looked at me with an expression I couldn't really understand. "Well…I have one reason in mind," he said softly.
"And what is that?"
"Right after you left, I thought to myself, 'I hope I'll see her again. Even if it's just once.'" He smiled. "My wish was granted."
"Oh." My face was starting to feel very hot, but I didn't know why. I felt like I was sixteen all over again.
"So if we see each other again, what do you think the reason for our meeting will be?"
"I already know what it will be," he replied with a smile.
"Oh? So what is it?"
His smile widened. "Right after this meeting, I'm going to think to myself, 'I hope I'll see her again. And I wish our meeting will be much longer than a couple of minutes.'"
I did not know what to say to that. Another cold breeze blew past us. It was twilight now.
I nodded silently. "Maybe it'll happen…if it's supposed to." I smiled. "Goodbye."
I offered my hand. Dave took it and pulled me to him gently. It was surprising, but for some reason, I was not bothered by it. His hug was warm and comforting. He held me tight, as if he was scared that he would never see me again.
"Goodbye, Dave" I repeated quietly. I was glad that there was going to be a form of closure between us.
His hold on me tightened. After a moment of silence, he said, "I'll see you later."