I Will Always Love You



Mark was sitting eating his lunch when he first saw her. She was standing in line waiting for her food. She was laughing along with her friends until she looked up and their eyes met. He stopped breathing. Carissa. They were in different classes. He was the year above her. They didn't spend any time together, their friends were in different groups, but somehow he couldn't stop looking at her. The spell was broken a couple of seconds later when the lunch lady caught her attention. That one second when his heart skipped a beat changed everything.

Mark followed the coffin through the graveyard with his head down. He couldn't believe that he was really her. They were burying her today. She was really gone. He stopped at the side of the freshly dug grave. It couldn't be her. But it was carved right there on the headstone. "Carissa"

He had watched her for a few weeks now. He couldn't get her out of his head and he didn't know why. He was sitting eating his lunch again as she came in. He watched her until she got to the till. Then he looked down at his plate. She would have to turn towards him to find a seat and he didn't want her to catch him. "Is this seat taken?" He looked up to see her standing there. Carissa, the girl he had been watching was asking to sit next to him. "Yeah, no, I eh... I mean go ahead" She laughed as she sat down. "I'm Carissa by the way." He took her hand "Mark." She nodded. "I know. You're the guy who's been watching me." He nearly choked on his drink. "What?" She knew? All this time she knew? "You've been watching me for weeks now 'Mark' I just want to know why." He tried to laugh the question off but it came out a little hysterically. "I don't know what you're talking about." Carissa rolled her eyes before stealing a chip of his plate. "You know exactly what I'm talking about idiot. Now are you going to tell me...?" He interrupted her. "Would you go out with me?" She stopped, turning to look at him. "What?" He took a deep breath. "Would you? Eh... Like to go out for coffee, or a film eh, or something?" She stood up taking her now empty tray with her. "Friday. 8 o'clock. The Bowling Alley" And then she was gone.

Mark watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground. That was the way she was. She didn't take any crap. So confident all the time. She lived life to the full. No matter what happened she strived to be happy. He never should have left her. But he had wanted an out. He had wanted to get away from this town. She stayed behind and he left.

Carissa was sitting on the porch steps of her house throwing a ball up in the air and catching it again. Mark walked towards her slowly. He really didn't want to do this, but he had to. He had to leave. He couldn't stay here forever. This was his way out. "What's wrong Mark?" She asked not looking up from what she was doing. He sat down next to her, with their legs touching. "Well?" she asked, putting the ball down. "I'm... I'm eh..." She rolled her eyes. "You're what Mark? I thought we were past all this by now" She was right. He hadn't been this awkward around her since that day he had first spoken to her. That had been over two years ago. He took a deep breath and handed her the letter he had in his hand. It was his acceptance letter to University. "Oh" was all she said when she finished reading. It was all she had to say. She looked deflated. She knew what it meant. He was leaving, and she wasn't. She had to stay here and help her family. "We'll still see each other Carissa. I mean, I'll be coming back for holidays and you can come visit me and..." She shook her head. He had known it wouldn't work as well as she did. He should have known she wouldn't let him get away with that lie. "When?" she asked finally.

When it came time to finally say goodbye to each other they didn't say anything. It had been a few weeks since the conversation on the porch. They had gone on pretending that nothing was wrong. But now they were really saying goodbye for good. "I'll call" Mark said. She shook her head. "No you won't" He laughed, but he really didn't feel like laughing. "I'll be back for Christmas and the summer" she nodded "I know" He started to go but turned around. "We'll still be friends right?" he asked. "Of course" but he didn't believe her. He couldn't do it. He couldn't just leave. He pulled her into one last kiss. "I'll always love you" he whispered into her ear. "No you won't" she whispered back.

Mark glanced to his right. Layla was standing there, his wife. But she shouldn't be. Yes he loved her, in her way. But it should be Carissa standing by his side. It was always supposed to be her. Instead he had met Layla at University. And when Carissa had come to visit that year, he had made it clear that this was the way things were now.

Mark was just about to leave for the pub when there was a knock on the door. He went to the door and opened it. "Happy Birthday" Carissa was standing on the other side of the door brandishing a bottle of Whisky. Without thinking he propelled himself forward and gave her a hug. Suddenly he remembered and pulled back "What are you doing here Carissa?" she looked confused. "What do you mean? It's your birthday. You're 21st no less" He pulled her inside. Usually he would be pleased to see her. Well he was pleased to see her, but he had someone in his life now. Just then there was another knock on the door, and he knew who it would be. "It's open" He stood up as Layla walked in. He put an arm around her trying to ignore Carissa's confused expression. "Layla, this is my friend Carissa. And Carissa, this is my Girlfriend Layla" He watched as she tried to smile politely but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Pleased to meet you" Layla took her hand and shook it. "Carissa, oh I remember your ex right?" She turned to him smiling. Mark nodded.

An hour later they were all in the pub. Things were going a lot better than Mark expected. He hated springing Layla on Carissa like that, but he had been so caught up in the new relationship he had forgotten about her. Now that she knew however she was taking it in her stride. She was sitting laughing at the moment with some of Mark's friends, while he sat next to Layla with her hand in hers. Suddenly Layla looked at her watch. She stood up and leant in to give him a kiss. "I'm sorry honey, but I've got to go" He watched her leave sadly before something else caught his attention. He wasn't sure why he hadn't noticed before but Carissa and his flatmate Jamie were sitting awfully close. Within minutes it was obvious, they were flirting with each other. Mark's blood boiled. When Carissa stood up to get another drink he followed her.

"So you having a good time?" he asked, trying not to look at her. "Yeah, your friends are great Mark. I've told you that before." He knew he was being irrational but he couldn't help it. "So... You and Jamie seem to be getting on well." He watched her out of the corner of his eye. She huffed. "What's wrong Mark?" He shook his head. "Nothing's wrong" But she obviously didn't believe him as she grabbed his shoulder turning him to face her. "Cut the crap Mark. You're pissed at me for talking to your roommate. If you didn't want me here you should have said something. It wasn't a problem last year, or the year before..." He shook her off. "That was hardly talking Carissa; you two were all over each other." Glancing around she pulled him outside before their conversation escalated into a full blown argument.

"And what's wrong with that?" She asked when they were outside. "Are you worried, I might actually like him, that we might get along?" He looked away. "That's not..." Carissa interrupted him. "Or are you worried that for once I'll wake up in someone else's bed instead of yours?" She was really angry, and he couldn't blame her for that. She had every right to, because she was right. He was jealous, as ridiculous as it was he was jealous. "Yes" he said simply. She laughed, but there was no humour in her voice. "You're really fucked up, you know that?" he didn't say anything. Suddenly all he wanted to do was kiss her, but she pushed him away. "You had a choice Mark. And you chose this. You left me remember?" He fell back against the wall. "I shouldn't have." That didn't stop her. "No you shouldn't have, but you did." He watched her take a breath before speaking again. "You know what; I thought I could do this. I thought I could come out tonight and just be your friend, but I can't" She was walking away from him. "Where are you going" he asked. She turned round to face him one last time. "I'm going to get my bag and then I'm going home. Have a nice life Mark" And with that she was gone. It was the last time he saw her.

Mark sat in his chair with a glass of whisky in one hand. "Are you coming to bed" Layla asked from behind him. He shook his head. "Not yet." She sighed. "Alright, but don't stay up too late." He nodded even though he didn't think he'd sleep at all that night. He turned around to watch her make her way to their room. She was pregnant, very heavily pregnant. And again he thought about how it shouldn't be her. He stood up and walked to the bookcase. He pulled out his yearbook and sat down again. There was only one picture he wanted to see. He turned to the page that was more worn than any of the others. It was his prom photo. There he was standing with Carissa, both of them smiling at the camera. "You were wrong you know" he said to the picture putting his now empty glass down. "I'll always love you." As he fell asleep in the chair he heard an answering whisper in his ear. "No you won't"