"You're not leaving." I look at my boyfriend with the best puppy-dog eyes I can muster. "You're coming up to Boston with me. Okay?"
Ian digs his hand back into the jumbo bag of Swedish Fish and tosses one at me. It bounces off my cheek.
"Ow. What was that for?"
"Open your mouth, moron."
I consent, rolling onto my back and holding my mouth open. Ian, from his position on the bed, pitches the fish at me.
I chew, chew, chew, swallow. "Are you just trying to shut me up with candy?"
Ian scooches over to the end of the bed and hangs his head down, hovering above mine, and kisses me on the lips, lazy and slow.
I pout. "You suck."
"You love me."
"I hate you."
Ian tumbles off the bed and moves over to sit by me. I pull myself upright, slump against his shoulder.
"I don't want you to go," I whine.
Ian, my gorgeous boy, has pain in his eyes as he looks at me. It's obvious he doesn't want to go, either, but I know he'll never say it to me, not out loud. He pulls me into my arms. My head smooshes against his collarbone, and I squeeze my eyes shut to keep from crying.
"I know," he says. His voice is soothing.
"Why couldn't you have gone somewhere else? Like BU, you got into BU. Why Berkley? Why are you going all the way to California?"
I don't want to sound like the whiny, controlling girlfriend, but I can't help myself. We've been going out for a little over a year, and he's almost all I think about. We watch stupid movies and I have someone that meets me at my locker at the end of the day and kisses me in-between classes. I never thought I would be one of those girls, but I am. I have a Boyfriend, with a capital B.
But I won't tomorrow.
Tomorrow Ian is leaving, probably for a long time. He's going on a cross-country road trip with his parents. They're visiting relatives and exploring the great West all summer, before ending up at Berkley in August, where Ian is going to be attending school.
For four years.
I'm going to Northeastern, which is in Boston and not anywhere even near California. Travel expenses are a lot and the likelihood that we're going to be able to keep in touch or ever see each other is slim to none. Ian says that we shouldn't cut each other off from new experiences and new people.
Which means he thinks we should break up when he leaves.
Which is tomorrow.
His bedroom has been transformed into a forest of boxes. We're sitting on practically the only expanse of floor that is not taken up by cardboard and Rubbermaid tubs. Even his violin is in there somewhere, packed in four layers of foam peanuts and bubble wrap, ensuring that Ian can't start playing me Handel or anything to cheer me up.
"It's not like we're never going to see each other again," Ian reasons with me. "There's all the major holidays, and the summer. Besides, there's no way Angela and Amber and those two redheads are going to let us be awkward and keep out of each other's way."
I keep my face smushed against his collarbone so he can't see that he isn't even remotely close to making me feel better.
"And I'll write you letters."
I roll my head to the side and look up at his face. "Letters?"
He smiles at me. "Sure. Letters are important, right? Romantic. I'll put pen to paper and I'll send you a letter whenever I'm missing you. The postage will be enormous, of course."
"But that's a small price to pay for your best girl, right?" I say. I snuggle down into his lap and let him stroke my hair. I feel vaguely like an infant, and wonder what sort of Freudian meaning that particular association might have, but I push those thoughts out of my mind.
"Yeah," says Ian quietly. "For my best girl."
We're silent for a second or two as he sits with his arms tight around my middle, his chin digging into my shoulder but I don't really mind. I wonder if memories of us together are flooding his mind like they're flooding mine. Graduation was just three days ago, and already our lives are splitting apart. There's going to be no more cheap beer in Amber's yard, no more personal mini-symphonies, no more piggyback rides through the hallway and no more lazy summers wasted at the beach. We fit a lot of happy into a few short months, but right now it doesn't seem like enough.
I know logically that breaking up is the smart thing to do, but who ever said I was logical? I know that we do way more than our fair share of fighting right now, and I know enough about long-distance relationships to know that they're hard to keep up, and that the fighting only gets worse and worse until eventually you just end up not talking to each other at all. Well, I know that happens with most people, I don't know if it would happen to us.
We're not the only ones making this decision, but I think we're some of the only ones making it the right way, even if it is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Jake and his girlfriend are staying together. She's a cute little sophomore named Mandy, and the last time I talked to him she was sitting next to him at a basketball game, holding his hand with her head on his shoulder. I would have projectile vomited right into her perfect blonde highlights if Jake hadn't looked so freaking happy as he told me about their plan for visiting, for air tickets and lots of gas mileage and coming home all the time and seeing each other at least every other weekend. It was going to be crazy hard and expensive, but he was convinced he could do it.
Angela and Matt were staying together, too. They were going to the same school, something I thought was incredibly stupid. Angela was capable of reaching way higher, but she seemed happy enough to settle down with Matt. They had gotten their housing materials in the mail about a week ago and were extremely depressed that they weren't in the same dorm, but I was thouroughly convinced they could handle it.
Jules is dating two boys at once, a guy who graduated last year and has a bar through his ear, and Jon Rutgers, ironically enough. They fight constantly and break up every other day, but it seems to make her happy. The fighting, that is. None of us have any clue what Jules is going to do when she leaves for St. John's in August, but we all have faith that she's going to do something that makes her happy.
Happy. I'm not happy. Not right now anyway. I grit my teeth and turn my head away from Ian's shoulder. If we're going to do this, we might as well do it now as later.
I pull myself out of his lap. The air feels cold without his body wrapped around mine. It only heightens my sadness. I bite the inside of my cheek. Ian isn't looking at me. He's looking at the ground, because apparently the carpet near his bed has become newly fascinating.
"Ian," I say, quietly. He doesn't look at me. "Ian!"
My gorgeous boy flashes his eyes up at me quick and I am startled to see that they are wet. It brings me to my knees next to him, on the floor.
"Christ," I say. I lean my head on his shoulder and will myself not to cry, but the longer I stay there, the harder it gets. Finally, I stand up again.
"Goodbye," I say, and I walk into his doorway. I know it's abrupt and painful and unfair and I should be cherishing these last few hours, but I can't do this to myself anymore. Walking away has got to feel better than this. Anything has got to feel better than this.
I turn and look and Ian is right in front of me, and all of a sudden he is crushing me in his arms and kissing me on the lips. It is a Kiss with a capital letter in front of it, a kiss to end all kisses. There never was a kiss in the world before this one. He is saying things to me with his mouth, and without having to turn on my brain, I know what every single one of them is.
When we finally pull away, we are both crying for real, shiny tracks slipping down our faces. I swipe at my face quickly, but Ian doesn't, just stands there, wearing his emotions on his face openly for once in his life, and I am so proud of him in this instant that I almost don't know what to do with myself.
So I turn around and I walk out of his door, for good this time. I walk, as I have ten thousand times, down his carpeted stairs and out the door off his kitchen. I open the door to my car and put on my seatbelt. I put the key in the ignition and I take off the parking break. The mixtape Ian once plays me cues up, and strains of Ryan Adams drift through the car. I turn off the radio with a snap and I am surrounded my silence. I am okay I am okay. I put the car in drive and I back down the driveway. I very carefully do not look at the house because I do not want to see Ian, framed in the doorway or window, watching me leave. I pull onto the dark country road and I turn on my lights and I pull away. It's fine. I can do this. It's easy.
I guide my car carefully along the darkened back roads, and I am concentrating so hard on being okay and I almost do not notice that my cell phone is vibrating, shaking all the change in my cupholders and making a fearsome noise. Without looking at the Caller ID, I flip my phone open and hold it to my ear. I know it's illegal to use a cell phone while driving in New York State, but there's never any cops on these roads and I could use a distraction.
"Hello?" I say.
"Teresa Jane!" yells a happy voice. "Where the fuck have you been for three months?"
And then I really do laugh out loud, because it's Lorne and I have not talked to him in absolutely forever.
"Oh, you know," I say. "Boyfriend. Finals. Graduating. The usual."
"Fuck the boyfriend and come fuck me," says Lorne, being his usual disgusting and inappropriate and overly flirtatious self that I am just realizing that I missed so much. "Seriously! We were all talking about it and..."
There is a scuffle on his end of the phone, and all of a sudden I am talking to a much more measured voice. "Tess? Sorry. He's an idiot."
My golden guitar god laughs. "Excited to hear from me, Tessabee? You've been shitty about keeping in touch."
"I know, I know, I'm sorry, I suck," I say, shifting the phone to my other ear and attempting a real smile. "So what's up?"
"Well, I don't know quite how to tell you this," Bryan says solemnly. "Are you sitting down?"
"Sort of. Driving."
"Shut up and just tell me already," I say.
"We're kind of going on tour," he says.
I scream in happiness as I am expected to.
"And the guys thought that, you know, if you weren't doing anything too special this summer, that maybe you would want to come visit us for a while on the road. Cause, you know, you haven't seen any of us in over a year."
"Cause I suck."
"Precisely," Bryan says, seriously. "So, do you want to take some time to think about it and then call me back some time in the next few weeks? It's looking like I have to go break up a candy corn fight or something right now."
I grin. I can only imagine who started that one. A yelp of "Die, asshole!" in the background confirms my suspicions. Lorne.
I scan the darkness outside my window. God, how lonely this whole town seems without Ian in it. I know he's technically still here, but for me he's not. In contrast, the magical world on the other side of the phone sounds like a paradise of hilarity and love. I haven't seen my boys in forever and I really, really miss them. All of a sudden, I find myself making the kind of terrible
snap decision that I only make in the presence of Pearls&Glory.
"I'll totally come. Where are you? I'll buy my plane ticket tomorrow."
I can hear Bryan's smile over the phone, and, for just a second, the world looks a little bit shinier, and I know I'm going to be okay.
A/N- Well, that only took fortyseven years. I really, really am sorry about the IMMENSE holdup and I hope that you all haven't abandoned me! Every time I get an e-mail saying someone else has added this story to their favorites list, I am quite seriously blown away. Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much! (special thanks to TIER for always encouraging/inspiring me).
This really is the end...of THIS story. As you can see, the ending is kind of open...hmm, possible crossovers with That Girl You Love's Nyx, Tristan, George, and crew ensuing? I do not know! I cannot guess! Suppose you'll all just have to keep checking my latest efforts to see what I'm up to...
Oh, and please please go read the newest section of "Walk Into Mine." I no longer consider this piece a good example of how I write, and that's something I'm a lot prouder of and consider closer to what I'd like to do as a writer.
So yeah. Give up on this and go read something slightly more worthwhile. Haha.
OH! And this has been bothering me for a while. The song in the last chapter is "Magazines" by Brand New. I claim absolutely no credit or ownership for it whatsoever.
keep your socks up, kids.