Jude

You were so foolish, Jude, I say to myself as I lie on my bed in my apartment, staring up at the ceiling fan whirring above me. Did you actually think that you would be able to get over Adrian? Did you really believe that you could just forget her?

It has been about two months, since I saw Jim and learned that I truly could be with Adrian, it's just he's not going to let me. He's afraid I'll hurt her again and, despite what I tell myself, I know he's right. I'd only end up hurting her because I always have to be the goddamn martyr and decide what I think is best for everyone else when in all actuality, I could be completely wrong.

Like you were with Adrian, a voice reminds me.

I roll over onto my side, glaring, but I don't say anything to contradict this statement. I simply reply, Yeah. Like I was with Adrian. There isn't anything in that statement that is untrue and reminding myself of what I did will only reassure that I don't go and do anything stupid, like try to make up to her and upset Jim even more.

I push myself up and look out the window to see the sun's early morning rays streaked across the sky. I was up all night thinking about Adrian and about whether or not I should take Jim seriously. I kept the shades that cover my window and block out all light open, so I could watch for the sunrise. I decided last night, around eleven at night that I would reach a decision when the sun's first rays shone through my window, but now it is six in the morning and I am still as indecisive as I was last night.

I yawn as I get up off my bed and head for the bathroom to take an early morning shower. I am thankful that it's Saturday because I'm sure that if I had work today, I wouldn't be able to go. Not just because I am so exhausted physically, but because I am drained mentally as well.

I take as long a shower as I can get away with, thinking all the while about Adrian and the warning Jim gave me, trying to decide whether or not it's worth trying to get back together with her, whether it's worth telling her how much I still love her and have always loved her, even if it means I might hurt her with my martyrdom sometimes.

Could she accept me that way? I think. Would she be able to handle me taking the blame for everything? Would she be able to handle my past and my problems?

It doesn't really matter, though, does it? A voice inside my head that sounds eerily akin to Jim's, reminds me. Jim told you that you can't be with her and that he would do everything in his power to keep you two apart.

Yeah, so? I retort. Jim's not the boss of me. He can't tell me what to do.

But he can make you miserable. He's probably already talked to Adrian and told her to stay away from you, the voice snaps.

So what? I love Adrian, I've always loved Adrian, and nothing, not even Jim, is going to stop me from being with her.

I shut off the water then and open my eyes. I stare at the tiled wall in front of me, but I'm not really seeing the tiled wall, I'm seeing Adrian's smiling face, her lips against mine, our fingers entwined, my arm around her. It is in this moment as images of the girl of my dreams, the girl that was able to fill the void Kayla's death left when I thought no one ever would, that I realize what I'm going to do.

I push the shower curtain aside and go into my bedroom without even bothering to wrap a towel around my waist. I dress as quickly as I possibly can and shake my head until my wet hair stands up on end and isn't dripping with water any longer. I check my appearance in the mirror. I put in my animal-horn earring and pull my necklace that is nothing more than a fancy chain over my head, adding the final touches.

I want to look nice because the only thing running through my mind right now is, I am going to see Adrian. I am going to ask her out again. And this time, I'm going to make it work, no matter what Jim does.

And then, as I wait for the sun to rise and a decent hour to arrive, so I can call her, I can't help it. I plug my iPod in the dock on my dresser and, using the remote control, press the on button. I go to my playlists and select a song I never thought I would listen to again after Adrian and I broke up a year ago.

She's got the time, says she's got time on her side.

Running the room, commanding the late boys' eyes.

Dance, Dance Christa Paffgen by Anberlin. As it goes into the chorus, I smile wider and brighter than I have in a year and scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs.

Don't need no drugs,

You're my chemical.

Now I'm dependant

No, not cynical.

Addicted to those glances taking chances tonight.

I need a fix in Adrian's heroin eyes.

Adrian

The end of the summer is fast approaching and since I let go of Jude I have seen Sarah and Jim nearly every day, I've hung out with Michael and Alyssa at least once a week, I've been laughing and meaning it for the first time in my life, hell, I've been smiling and meaning it for the first time in my life. I am happier than I can ever remember being. And though I know I still haven't fully let go of Jude, since I catch myself thinking about him sometimes, wondering what it would be like if he were here with us, I know I'm getting there and that everything is going to be alright now.

I wake up early on this particular Saturday morning and feel excited immediately, though I can't remember why. Then I look at the calendar I have tacked above my bed and see that later, around five in the afternoon, Sarah, Jim and I are going to see a movie and we're going to go to dinner beforehand. I know I'm going to feel like the third wheel I am at dinner, since Sarah and Jim have definitely got a thing for one another, but right now I don't care. I'm excited and I can't wait for five o' clock to come.

I spend the morning making myself and Michael a breakfast of pancakes, which I end up burning and setting the grille on fire, making Michael wake up in a panic when the smoke alarms go off, but after we put out the fire and most of the smoke has drifted out through the open window we laugh and have cereal instead, while watching early morning cartoons like we used to when we were younger.

The day seems to be going as normal as any day goes now, when the phone rings.

I put my cereal down on the carpet in front of me and push myself up, saying, through the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, "I'll get it!"

I pull the heavy phone down off the receiver, swallow and say, "Hello?"

"Adrian?"

I freeze. I think my heart even stops beating for a moment. I can't move, I can't even speak, and I can hardly breathe, because the voice on the other end, I know. I know it better than almost anyone. It's the voice I have been dreaming about hearing again for the past year. The same voice that gave me all the letters I tore to pieces on the top of the apartment where I used to live. I know this voice because it's the voice of the one person I have been trying to get over, trying to forget, trying to move on from for two months.

Jude.

"Adrian?" the voice says again. I can't believe it's him, otherwise he might disappear. He might go away. He might not exist anymore and I can't let that happen. I can't lose him again. Not now that he's so close.

That's why I swallow hard and force myself to speak, "Yes?" Then I add because I need to hear him say his name, I need to know it's really him, "Who is this?"

"It's Jude, Jude Klassen. Sarah's older brother."

It's him! A voice shouts in my mind and a balloon, so large, swells inside me that I don't know if I'll be able to contain it. However, then a pin, albeit a rather small one punctures it. What if he isn't calling because he wants to see me or be with me at all? What if it's just for some other reason? Just to apologize before he moves on with life, like I should be? I swallow hard, not knowing if I could take that, but I have to know.

"Why are you calling me?"

"I want to see you." I pinch myself, but I'm not dreaming, though I don't know how this is possible. All my life, I have always been let down. Everything I have ever wished for has gone wrong. The only thing that went right was my parents dying and meeting Jude, but even those two triumphs were met with losses that I'm not sure were really worth either. I can hardly dare to believe that this is actually happening, even when he adds, "Can you meet me at the park by your house at ten thirty?"

I open my mouth to say yes, but then a voice reminds me, You're supposed to be moving on remember? You're not supposed to have anything to do with him anymore. You're definitely not supposed to see him.

I don't care, I reply. If he wants to be with me again, I will most definitely give him a second chance. I still love him. And, if I'm going to be completely honest, I always have.

Before I can have any more doubts, I say, "Yes."

He says goodbye and hangs up and I run upstairs to get dressed, since it's ten now. My cereal sits in its bowl by the TV forgotten. I hardly hear Michael shouting after me, asking who was on the phone and where I'm going. I don't answer. I run all the way to my room. Shut the door behind me and jump around the room, happier than I can remember ever having been, even happier than I have been these past two months.

It's like that phone call was the icing on the top of the cake.

I plug in my iPod as I get dressed in the nicest clothes I have that aren't too dressy. I press the play button with my remote and can't help, but shout the words of Hot Air Balloon by Owl City as I pull on a pair of Capri's and a short-sleeved green and grey striped t-shirt.

I'll be out of my mind and you'll be out of ideas pretty soon,

So let's spend the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon.

I finish dressing and getting ready in record time. I stand before the mirror I have hanging on my door and add a headband to my already overdone ensemble, but with what I'm wearing, it doesn't look overdone, it actually looks rather cute and I can't help, but smile at myself and think, for the first time in living memory, that I am beautiful.

Jude

The minute I get off the phone with Adrian, I drive over to the park I mentioned on the phone. I arrive fifteen minutes ahead of schedule and think about calling Adrian back and telling her to meet me at the park now, but, as I get out of the car, shaking with anticipation, I decide against it. I want to give her time to get ready because, if Jim was telling the truth and she still wants to be with me, then she'll be spending all the time she can getting ready. I smile to myself as I sit down on one of the park's swings, feeling overtly special that she feels the need to make herself more beautiful than she already is for me.

I sit on that swing, looking down the street to where I know I will see Adrian walk out of her house and head down the street, for what feels like hours, but is only fifteen minutes. I hum happy songs to myself under my breath and watch little children, who live in the other houses surrounding the park, race through, stopping here and there to go down a slide or across the monkey-bars a couple times before running off with their friends. A couple with two children that can't be more than five or six, arrive at around ten twenty-five. The little girl looks just like her mother and the boy is the spitting image of his father. They run around the playground several times, their parents watching them, holding hands. I am just wondering if someday that will be Adrian and I, sitting on a park bench, watching our children run around the playground, having fun, playing with one another, when a figure walks out of the house at the end of the street.

I look up instantly and see the unmistakable figure of Adrian Julian walking down the street from the pale blue house she lives in towards the park where the couple and I are now sitting. I get up from the swing at once and walk towards her, hardly able to sit and wait while she comes to me.

She notices me walking towards her once I leave the playground and start heading across the field that lays behind it. Even from this distance, I can see her face light up with a beautiful smile. The first genuine smile I am sure I have ever seen on her. And then I am running, running as fast as my legs can carry me towards her. And she's running too. Her hair swishing back and forth, her lovely smile never once leaving her face.

When we hit one another, I have expect there to be some kind of explosion. If we were in a videogame I am sure that a large red heart would have enveloped us, showing the love we have for one another. I promised myself earlier I was going to hold back, that I wasn't going to kiss her or hold her hand or even hug her, until I apologized to her and she told me that she wanted to be with me again, but in that moment all rational thought seems to have vanished. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that a mother, father, two children and however many people are looking out their windows this time of morning are watching, I kiss her.

I want to be your last first kiss,

For all time.

Adrian

When my lips touch Jude's for the first time in a year, I know something amazing is going to happen and I'm right. Everything melts away and I feel as I did when I first met him. I feel all the pain, all the doubt, evaporate, and for that moment, Jude and I are in our little world. A world of pure white where there is no pain, no doubts, no memories, only love. No scars covering my arms and legs.

But it doesn't matter that there are does it? An elated voice tells me. He loves you just the way you are. He doesn't want you any different. He loves you even with your mutilated arms and legs. He loves you and nothing, especially scars, is going to stop that.

When we break apart, I let Jude hold me for a moment. I close my eyes and bask in the warmth of his arms wrapped around me. I think of nothing, I feel nothing, but pure bliss and I can't help, but wonder if Jude feels the same thing.

Eventually, after what feels like years and yet still not long enough, we pull apart and Jude says, his face now grave, "Adrian, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone and I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to realize this. You cannot know how much I hate myself for what I did to you. I know you must hate me just as much, but please, before you run away and tell me you never want to see me again, please just consider this: if you take me back now, I promise I will spend the rest of my life making up for what I have done."

No words can describe my answer, so I tilt Jude's downcast face upwards, so he's looking deep into my hazel eyes. I smile at him long enough for him to take in how happy I am, how I feel that everything in my life is right now and then I kiss him again. As I do so, for the first time in my life, every happy memory I possess flashes through my mind. I see the day I met Jude, coupled with the day I met Sarah, Jim and Allison. I see all of us at the zoo, at Mall of America and at the apartment in which I used to live, all watching Jim play Wii, laughing at nothing in particular. I see Jude's smiling face. I see us at Minnehaha Falls. And I think to myself, This is why I'm alive. Because the world isn't full of evil. There is good in it too. You just have to find it. Like moments like this.

And I should have always known that, but when you are stuck in endless darkness like I was, you cannot see the light.

But I can now.

I have been taken out of the shadows and into the sun. And I know, as I pull away from Jude, a beautiful, indisputable smile stuck like glue on my face, I will be there.

Forever.