SKoW Challenge "No Need to Say Goodbye."

Rules:

-Protagonists say goodbye – probably never to see each other again.

- An actual parting between the two characters – they can come back together in a year if the writer so desires.

- A creative way of saying goodbye – no saying goodbye or any other variation of goodbye in dialogue.

- Parting is WILLING. Nothing forcing the characters to leave each other.

- Cell phones make several appearances – can be a theme if the writer so desires.

- Setting begins in Autumn.

- No airport or bus terminal goodbye scenes.

- No texting and chatting on line in the story.

No Need To Say Goodbye

Josh Mashee was leaving work when his cell phone went off. He didn't recognize the number but he took the call anyway.

"Hello?"

"Josh?" It was a woman's voice.

"Who's this?"

"Loren," she answered.

"Loren!" Josh replied with surprise. "Wow!"

"I know."

"It's been a while."

"I know."

"You home for Thanksgiving?"

"Sort of."

"Great, maybe we can get together," Josh said pleasantly.

"How 'bout tonight?" She asked.

"Tonight?" Josh was surprised by the quick invite.

"Don't alumni get together at The Bullpen the night before the big game?"

"We're only twenty, Loren," he reminded her. "We can't legally drink in a bar."

"Oh, yeah. That's right. Well, isn't anybody from our class having a party or something?"

"I don't know," Josh replied. "I really don't keep up with that stuff anymore."

"Really?" Now it was her turn to be surprised.

"Have you eaten yet?" He asked. "We can go to Duffy's for a bite if you want. Some of the older crowd hangs out there talking Turkey Day football."

"I guess," she sighed.

"Or we could go to the rally at the school," he foolishly suggested.

"The rally!" He could hear the excitement in her voice. "That would be fun!"

Josh couldn't believe she was actually interested in that lame idea.

"You should wear your letter jacket," Loren giggled.

"That would be hokey," Josh insisted. "How 'bout I pick you up? You staying with your parents?"

"No, I'll pick you up," Loren told him. "What time?"

"6:45."

"See you then!" The call ended.

Wow! Loren Westwood! Who would have thought she'd call him after all this time? Josh went home, took a shower and told his mother he was going out.

"A date!?" His mother asked hopefully.

"No, not a date, Ma," he groaned.

Josh heard the toot of a car horn at 6:45 and he bid his mother a good night as he left the house, feeling her eyes peeking through the curtains behind him. Loren was driving the same car she had in high school and Josh couldn't help but grin as he climbed into the passenger seat, almost feeling like it was high school again.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi, Josh!" Loren said enthusiastically.

He could see her shiny deep blue eyes even in the dark and he smiled, happy to be with her again. She had done something with her hair – he wasn't sure what, but it was a different shape and style and even the color looked different – a much darker brown as it hung on her shoulders and across her forehead.

"How's college?" Josh asked.

"Fine, fine," Loren said as she drove the car away from the curb. "How's life here in Hillsboro?"

"Never changes," Josh replied.

Loren nodded her head in understanding but then there was an awkward lull in the conversation. Loren concentrated on her driving as her excuse while Josh was busy trying to figure out what he was doing with her after all this time.

"So, you're working with your father," Loren deduced after they had driven a few blocks.

"Was there ever any doubt?"

"I suppose not," she admitted.

"I'm the newest employee with Mashee Excavating," Josh revealed.

"Congratulations," she smiled.

"I can dig it," he joked.

Loren laughed with amusement. "You were always so funny," she said happily.

Josh smirked, pleased that she was so easily entertained. Loren pulled the car into the high school parking lot and they walked toward the familiar school.

"I haven't been here since graduation," Josh told her.

"Really?" Loren asked with surprise. "You haven't been back to watch a game or anything?"

He shook his head no. "High school's over," he said.

"I wish it never ended," Loren pouted.

They walked among current and past students, parents and football fans to the gym and they found seats in the bleachers with other parents and adults while most of the student body sat on the other side of the gym. A few people recognized Josh and said hello as he passed by.

"See, they still remember you," Loren smiled.

"There's nothing sadder than a former jock," Josh said.

Loren squeezed his arm with affection. "I used to love to watch you play," she said.

They sat in the crowd and watched the activities – the band playing the Hillsboro Hurricane fight song and other rallying tunes, the cheerleaders doing their sexy cheers, the football team captains making their speeches, and Coach Anderson giving his motivational talk to the crowd. Coach didn't look much different as far as Josh could tell but the former player felt distant and removed from the festivities knowing he really didn't belong here anymore.

"We shouldn't have come," he told Loren.

"Why not?" She asked. "This is fun."

"It's not about us anymore," Josh said. "Our time has passed."

"That's too sad to think about," Loren sighed.

When the rally was over, Josh hurried Loren out of the gym, clearly trying to avoid former teachers and the few students who remembered them. Loren protested, wanting to say hello to people but Josh didn't give her the chance and soon they were out in the dark parking lot.

"You're taking all the fun of it," Loren complained.

"You should be telling me all your college stories instead of wanting to take a trip down high school memory lane," Josh replied.

"I like going back," she said with annoyance. "You should lighten up and enjoy it."

"We can go get a pizza if you want," Josh suggested. "That would be like old times."

Loren's face lit up. "Definitely," she said happily. "We had some great times there."

They climbed into Loren's car and she drove them to the downtown Hillsboro Pizza House a few miles away. Loren rattled off names of families and classmates that lived in particular houses as they drove through the neighborhoods and she asked Josh if he knew what some of them were up to these days. To his surprise, Josh realized that he knew very little about what any of the people from his past were doing and that he was living a somewhat isolated life – working for his father and (still) living with his mother where he spent the majority of his time in his room in front of the computer surfing the web or playing video games.

He was much more active and social in high school – sports kept him busy and involved and that was his calling card to popularity and fitting in. He and Loren didn't date but they were good friends and part of the same peer circle all through high school and they spent plenty of time together, even though Loren dated Butch Unger for most of high school.

"What happened with Ung?" Josh wondered aloud (although he didn't mean to say it).

"We drifted apart," Loren shrugged as she pulled the car into a parking space not far from the pizza house. "The Citadel is a long way off in more ways than one."

Most of the old gang was gone from Hillsboro so Josh was nostalgically appreciative that Loren was back for a visit. It was only now that he realized how much he missed her.

"Oh, wow!" Loren smiled, sucking in her breath and taking in the familiar aroma as they stepped into the pizza house. "How I missed that smell!"

Josh still stopped in from time to time but now it was always to go instead of huddling in one of the corner booths like he used to do with the gang during their high school glory days. Loren, Ung, Josh, Jet-Ski, Moonpie, Dorey, and Judy-Gee were the nucleus of the clique, although a few others came and went. Jet-Ski was in the Army now, Moonpie was at Syracuse University, Dorey took off for Florida with a guy, and Judy-Gee married and moved to Iowa. How quickly things changed two years after high school graduation.

"Guess we only need a small now," Loren sighed.

Josh grabbed a couple of Pepsi's from the cooler and they ordered a small hamburger, mushroom, pepper and onion pizza for missing friends. They slipped into their usual booth and grinned at each other knowing the significance of their presence together.

"Guess we're the last two standing," Josh remarked.

"Or sitting in this case!" Loren smiled.

Loren finally told Josh about some of her college exploits, achievements and experiences although most of them seemed to be in the past instead of the present but Josh didn't ask too many questions about her current situation – whether she was dating anybody or what her future plans might be now that she was a college junior. Loren asked Josh how he was doing at work. He replied that it was a challenge to try to fit in as one of the guys when he was the owner's kid being groomed for the future.

"I'm the youngest guy there but I'm treated as if I have seniority over most of them," he sighed. "I'm sure some of the older guys resent me."

The pizza was even better than they remembered and they were both in sentimentally reflective moods when they left the pizza house. Even Josh was fondly reminiscing about the good old days as Loren drove him home.

"Thanks for a good time," Josh said when she pulled the car to the curb in front of his (mother's) house.

"It was fun," Loren smiled happily. "It was great seeing you again, Josh."

"You too," Josh said.

He hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should attempt a kiss. They never kissed before so why should they start now? Damn, Josh hadn't been out on a date in forever so that might be one reason. Of course, that wasn't Loren's problem. She probably had plenty of guys interested in her at college.

"So, Goodnight," Josh said, opening the door.

"Happy Thanksgiving!" Loren called after him.

"You too," he smiled before closing the door.

Josh heard the car drive off as he walked along the front walk and he was struck by a wave of loneliness as he opened the front door. Had he known how special high school was going to be he would have made it a point to enjoy it more.

Josh was awakened from a sound sleep by the ringing of his cell. Who in the hell was calling at 9:00 on Thanksgiving morning? He was going to let it go to the voice mail but he thought it might be important.

"Yeah?" He mumbled half asleep into the receiver.

"Good morning, Josh!"

"Loren?"

"Hey, I forgot to ask you last night if you were going to the game."

"The game?"

"It's in Hillsboro this year, right? We should go. It would be fun."

Josh dragged himself out of bed and went to the window. It was a gray day and it looked rather cold but there was no snow or rain so it probably wouldn't be that bad. He hadn't been to a Hillsboro game since he walked off the field as a senior, losing to arch-rival Greenville 24-6 on a frigid Thanksgiving morning.

"I don't know..."

"Come on!" Loren urged. "We've never been to a game together. You were always playing."

"And you were cheering."

"I miss it," she admitted.

"Well, I guess we could..."

"Goodie!"

"I can pick you up if..."

"No, I'll pick you up. I'll be there at 9:40. Be ready. Dress warm."

The call went dead and Josh couldn't help but chuckle at her enthusiasm. Loren was always the positive one of the group - made sense since she was a cheerleader - she was peppy and cheerful to a fault. He dressed in layers - thermo tee shirt, flannel shirt, sweatshirt, hooded sweatshirt and a winter's coat, along with gloves and a wool hat. He also had on a pair of long johns and two pairs of thick wool socks under his padded boots.

"You're going out?" Josh's mother asked with surprise when he trudged down the stairs looking like a lumberjack.

"The game."

"Alone?"

"With Loren."

"A date!?" His mother asked hopefully.

"No, not a date, Ma," he groaned.

Josh heard the toot of Loren's car horn at exactly 9:40 and he bid his mother goodbye as he left the house, Once again he felt his mother's eyes looking out the window behind him, only this time she was waving at Loren who was cheerfully waving back from the car. Josh couldn't help but grin as he climbed into the passenger seat.

"Hey," he said.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Josh!" Loren said enthusiastically.

Her shiny deep blue eyes were dancing in the warmth of the car with the blowing heater and Josh realized he was happy to be with her again.

"Is Hillsboro favored this year?" Loren wondered as she drove them to the school.

"I really haven't been following the season," Josh admitted sheepishly. "I don't want to be one of those washed up football players living vicariously through present day players."

"It's okay to be proud of your achievements," Loren said. "People remember good players."

"It's more important now that they remember good excavators," Josh theorized.

Hillsboro-Greenville always drew a good crowd and Loren and Josh were able to ascertain that the Giants and Hurricanes both had good years - although Greenville (8-1) was better than Hillsboro (6-2-1) and the Green had already won the league championship. As usual, the Turkey day game was one of pride between the two rivals.

Josh was a little bit more personable than he had been the previous night at the rally, saying hello to people he recognized, including a couple of former teammates. Loren was extra excited to be seen with Josh and she enjoyed schmoozing with people she remembered. They sat in the bleachers not far from where the cheerleaders cheered so Loren could critique them to Josh who was surprised at how interested he was at watching the game, spiritually bonding with the players on the field while remembering some of his great moments on the gridiron. It was cold with a stiff wind but with a cup of coffee and a few body hugs from Loren it wasn't so bad.

Loren reverted into her cheerleader persona, yelling and screaming and being all rah-rah which made Josh smile. He liked it when she grabbed onto his arm in excitement during some of the more thrilling moments. The hometown Hurricanes lead 16-14 at the half, but the Giants steamrolled in the second half and cruised to a 34-22 victory and Josh couldn't help but feel for his old coach and the Hurricane players as they dejectedly left the field while the Giants celebrated another Thanksgiving Day win.

"Bummer," Loren said as they walked out of the bleachers.

"At least you're not crying this time," Josh smirked. "I remember you blubbering like a baby when we lost our senior year."

"It was our last game ever," Loren said. "I was sad."

They mingled for a few minutes saying hello to a various familiar people and then they slowly made their way to the car. They didn't talk much as Loren drove Josh home.

"Thanks for going to the game with me," Loren smiled when she pulled the car to the curb in front of Josh (mother's) house.

"It was fun," Josh replied. "Thanks for calling."

"Happy Thanksgiving," Loren smiled.

"You too," Josh said as he opened the door.

"Josh?" Loren asked tentatively.

"Yes?" He asked, sticking his head in the space of the opened door.

"Nothing...never mind, Happy Thanksgiving."

"Happy Thanksgiving."

Josh wondered what Loren wanted to say as he walked to the house. She seemed momentarily vulnerable and lonely in her tone but Josh assumed she was having Thanksgiving Dinner with her folks (Loren was an only child) so he let it go. An hour later his cell went off again. He thought he recognized the number as the one Loren had been calling from the last few days.

"Hello?"

"It's me again, Josh," Loren giggled awkwardly

"Loren?"

"Hey, I forgot to ask you earlier what you were doing for Thanksgiving."

He assumed Loren was going to invite him to her house for Turkey dinner with her family.

"My mother and I are going to my sister Jenny's house for Thanksgiving Dinner and then I'll stop by my Dad's for dessert with his new family," he revealed.

"Oh." Loren sounded disappointed.

"Why, what are you doing?" Josh asked with confusion.

"I don't have any plans, really," she revealed sadly.

"What about your parents?"

"Ah…um…..they're doing something else," she remarked mysteriously.

"Oh," Josh replied, even more confused now. "Well, you're more than welcomed to spend Thanksgiving with me….us….my family," he said.

"Really?" She asked hopefully.

"I could pick you up on our way to Jenny's," Josh offered.

"No, that's okay," Loren told him. "I'll meet you at your place. What time you leaving?"

"Two-ish," Josh replied.

"I'll be there," she promised. "Don't leave without me!"

The call ended and Josh slipped his cell back into his pocket. That was strangely odd. What did she mean about her parents doing something else? He told his mother than Loren would be joining them for Thanksgiving.

A date!?" His mother asked hopefully.

"No, not a date, Ma," Josh replied.

The doorbell rang a few minutes before two. Josh's mother beat him to the door and she greeted Loren with a warm embrace and a spirited 'Happy Thanksgiving'. Loren had spent plenty of time at Josh's house over the years and Josh's mother adored her, disappointed that the two never became an item.

"The 'just friends' routine is for the birds," his mother once told Josh.

Loren was extremely pleased by Mrs. Mashee's warm welcome and the two women exchanged pleasantries and compliments about one another's appearance while Josh impatiently waited for them to finish. Josh's mother had always been accepting of his friends and she was more than happy to have them in the house. They liked her too and now Loren was gushing (again) about how it felt like old times all over again being in the house.

"We should get going," Josh said when the conversation started to focus on malls and shopping. "We don't want to keep Jenny and Seth waiting."

Josh knew it was going to be a great Thanksgiving even before they left the house. His mother was thrilled to have Loren joining them and Josh realized that it was the first time he was with someone besides family on Thanksgiving. He drove Loren and his mother to Jenny's house in Greenville in his mother's car. Jenny was five years older than Josh and Loren but his sister had been friendly and kind to all of Josh's friends (especially after their father left) and Loren even went to Jenny's wedding with Josh their sophomore year. That was the subject of the conversation during the ride to Greenville – reminiscing about Jenny's great wedding.

"That was my first wedding," Loren said. "Jenny was such a beautiful bride and it was a wonderful ceremony."

"I liked the reception," Josh said with a smile, remembering how he got to hang out with Loren all day (with no Unger turning him into a third wheel as usual).

"That was fun too," Loren agreed.

Jenny and Seth lived in a one story ranch in a nice middle class neighborhood. Seth ran his own successful plumbing business and the couple had their first child a couple of years ago (Henry). Seth was always nice to Josh, playing the big brother role Josh had never experienced before. Jenny was happy to see Loren with her brother again and the Thanksgiving gathering was fun and delicious with plenty of conversation and warmth. Loren spent a lot of time goofing around with little Henry and "girling" with Jenny but she also watched some of the football game with Seth and Josh and she helped Mrs. Mashee and Jenny in the kitchen during clean up.

Josh and Loren brought Josh's mother home before switching vehicles and heading to Josh's father's house on the Hilltop section of town, a huge old brick Victorian which made Josh's mom's place look like a doll house in comparison.

The old man left the family when Josh was seven, remarrying soon afterward and he now had three children who were in the 11-12-13 year age range. It was definitely a house divided as Josh's mother never forgave her ex for abandoning the family and Jenny didn't invest a lot of time with him either (she wasn't going for Thanksgiving pie that evening for example) but Josh had always maintained an amenable relationship with his father even though his Dad's second wife never really warmed up to him. The old man made it clear that Josh was welcomed (even expected) to join the company. Josh worked summers as a gopher and truck washer and as soon as high school was over he became a full time apprentice learning the full scope of the job although the old man treated him with special favor.

"I've never been here before," Loren said when Josh pulled his pickup truck to the curb in front of the large house. "This place is huge."

"My mother calls it 'The Mansion'," Josh remarked as they walked to the front door.

Shirley (the old man's second wife) greeted them at the door and they sat in the living room for coffee and pie. Shirley was only about fourteen years older than Josh, a good looking woman with auburn hair and while she was polite and friendly enough there was an edge to her that even Loren picked up on even though this was the first time the two had met. The old man was happy to see Josh with a young woman even though Josh and Loren both insisted they were simply old high school friends.

"High school's over," the old man pointed out. He was an athletic looking man in his mid-forties. His physical work kept him in shape and he had the same sandy brown hair as Josh. "Maybe it's time to take it to the next level."

"Loren is away at college, Dad," Josh explained diplomatically.

"College doesn't last forever either," the old man pointed out. "You coming back here, Loren?"

"Who knows what the future holds," Loren said with a smile but there was something sad in her tone.

"What's your major?" The old man wanted to know.

"Spanish."

"You can teach Spanish at Hillsboro High," the old man grinned.

"That would be fun," Loren admitted.

Shirley was in and out of the room tending to the three kids (who never made their presence in the living room) and after a while Josh figured they had put in a good enough appearance to cover his social obligations so he and Loren left, stepping into the cold night.

"Did you get the impression your Dad was trying to fix us up?" an amused Loren asked as they climbed into Josh's pick-up truck.

"He doesn't think I socialize enough," Josh explained. "My mother either."

"You dated Roberta," Loren said.

"That didn't last very long," Josh reminded her.

"How come?"

Josh shrugged. "Guess it just wasn't meant to be."

"And there's nobody else?"

"I haven't been making much of an effort," Josh confessed.

He parked the truck in the driveway of his (mother's) house and they both sat in the cab. Loren slid across the seat so she was closer to him.

"It's been good seeing you again," she said.

"I've missed you," Josh admitted, though he hadn't realized how much until she called him the other night.

"I've missed you too, Josh," she said. "And I want to thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me all these years. It was a special time I'll never forget."

And then she surprised him by leaning in and pressing her lips softly to his. It was their first kiss ever. Something was most definitely different between them now and it made Josh uneasy simply because he wasn't expecting it and he wasn't sure how to deal with it. His life was less than perfect and sometimes he felt the weight of depression knowing there was something missing in his life. Somehow, it felt comforting being with Loren like this now, realizing that his feelings of loneliness that had prevailed recently didn't feel so pronounced with her sitting so close to him. But he knew it was only temporary.

Josh reached his hand out and gently and affectionately toyed with her hair. "Loren?" He asked.

"Yes?" Loren replied, staring at him in the darkness of the truck cab.

"Why do you like Hillsboro so much?" He wondered. "You're always talking about how great it is here."

"It's home," she said simply. "You haven't gone away so maybe you don't appreciate coming back like I do."

"I guess," he agreed.

"I bet you'd feel the way I do if you thought you were going to lose it all."

"Maybe," he replied.

"I've always been attached to this place," Loren said sentimentally. "I don't care if you think I'm a sap for it."

"I don't think that," he said earnestly.

"I'd love to come back and teach Spanish and buy a house in one of the neighborhoods," she said dreamingly.

"Maybe you will," Josh said with encouragement.

"Yeah, sure." There was doubt in her voice.

"We had fun today," Josh observed, hoping she'd feel better.

She studied him for a long moment. "You live here and you still look sad," she noted.

"Sometimes," he confessed.

"Cheer up," she advised, before leaning in and giving him another kiss. "Thanks for a wonderful Thanksgiving, Josh," she said when their lips parted. "Good night."

With that she was out of the truck before Josh could protest and he watched her disappear into the dark. He heard her car engine start and the beams of her headlights cut through the blackness as she drove off into the night.

Josh was at work the next morning when his cell went off, a rare occurrence for him. He recognized the number as Loren's.

"Hello?"

"It's me again, Josh," Loren announced.

"Hello."

"Hey, I forgot to ask you last night if you were working today," she said.

"I am," he confirmed.

"Oh, rats," she sighed. "I was hoping we could spend some time together before….." Her voice trailed off.

"Before what?" Josh asked with confusion.

"Nothing," she replied.

"Sorry," Josh said. "Working all day."

"That's too bad."

"But maybe we could get together tonight," he suggested. "Dinner at Johnny C's?"

"I'd like that."

"How 'bout I pick you up?"

"No, I'll pick you up," she said firmly. "Six O'clock okay?"

"Sure," Josh said.

"See you then."

The line went dead and Josh wondered if he should think it strange that she insisted upon always picking him up but the foreman called out to him and he was distracted by job requirements that kept him busy for the rest of the day.

Josh went home after work and showered, telling his mother he was going out for dinner.

"With Loren?"

"Yeah."

"A date!?"

"No, Ma, it's not a date," Josh replied. "Just Johnny C's."

Josh heard the toot of Loren's car horn at 6:00 and he trotted from the house, the eyes of his mother on them from the window. Loren gave her a wave as Josh slid into the car seat.

"I've been waiting all day to see you," Loren beamed as she drove the car from the curb.

"What'd ja do all day?" He asked with interest.

"Donovan's Department Store, shopping. Took a ride up to Sun Rise Lake. Over to the tower on Mt. Griffin. Took a walk along the river. Stuff like that."

"Sorry I missed it," Josh smiled.

Loren parked the car in the diner's parking lot and the two walked into the familiar and popular diner.

"You can't order Turkey!" Loren joked as they waited a few minutes for a booth to open up.

When they were finally in their seats, one of Johnny C's stereotypically friendly and personable waitresses appeared, a skinny blond woman with a board smile dressed in jeans and a yellow Johnny C's Tee shirt.

"What can I get for you?" She asked politely.

Josh order an opened face roast beef sandwich with gravy and fries and Loren ordered a scallop roll with Cole slaw.

"God, I may have missed the place the most," Loren laughed when the waitress left. "I have yet to find a place that can compare to Johnny C's."

"It is a one of a kind diner," Josh agreed.

Loren asked him how his day went and Josh told her about some of the guys he worked with – Walkman who was about six foot nine and three hundred and fifty pounds, Ricky – who was about sixty but in better shape than anybody else on the job, and Eddie who barely spoke English but was as smart as any person Josh ever met.

The waitress returned with their food orders. "Can I get you anything else?" the waitress asked.

"No, I think we're good," Josh replied with a smile.

Loren had already begun eating and by the way she was wolfing the food down it look like she hadn't eaten all day.

"What's the matter, you forget to eat lunch?" Josh teased.

"Something like that," Loren replied as she ate her scallop roll. She tossed him a look. "I have dreams about this place all the time," she revealed.

"Johnny C's?"

"Sure. And Hillsboro in general."

"I suppose that's natural."

"I miss it."

"You're here now."

"Yeah," she agreed, glancing out the window as she continued to eat. It was a cold November evening and the large windows were partially covered with frost. "I'm here now."

They made small talk for the rest of the meal and when they were done and Josh was paying the bill he asked if Loren was interested in seeing a movie with him.

"Gosh, how many movies have we seen together over the years!?" Loren gushed.

"More than I can remember," Josh smiled.

They had been going to the movies together since they were twelve, sometimes with the group. Other times Josh would tag along with Loren and Ung and there were plenty of times when Josh went with Loren alone. They had also watched DVDs together at each other's houses over the years.

Loren drove them to the Cinema in Greenville. They got their sodas and popcorn and got good seats and waited for the previews to start. At one point, completely on instinct and temptation, Josh leaned across the seat and pressed his lips hard against Loren's and she dared to lick her tongue against his salt-buttered lips. He opened his mouth slightly and she darted her tongue into his mouth and this was definitely something he had never expected to happen between them.

"You taste like popcorn," Loren giggled.

The previews started and they watched them while munching on the popcorn and then the feature event followed – a romantic comedy about two teenagers who run away together, set in the 1940s with old cars and neat wardrobes and a sexy love scene but there was no happy ending as the guy enlisted and went off to fight in World War II and Josh could hear Loren sobbing next to him.

"What's wrong?" He whispered with concern.

"He's never coming back," Loren whimpered.

Josh smiled and leaned over the seat, gently kissing her. "It's only a movie," he reminded her softly.

"Yeah, only a movie," Loren sighed sadly, sounding as if she knew something he didn't.

Josh brushed his lips across hers and when she didn't resist he deepened the smooch and suddenly her arms were wrapped around his neck and the popcorn spilt on the floor and she moved closer so that she was practically sitting in his lap as they made out like two horny young teenagers on a first date.

The movie ended rather abruptly (Loren had been right, the hero didn't return) and the lights came up and Loren wiped her misty eyes of their tears.

"I didn't know you were such a push over for sappy love movies with unhappy endings," he grinned, holding her close with her still in his lap.

"I hate unhappy endings," Loren confessed.

"Let's just be happy then," Josh suggested.

"Okay," she agreed as she finally slid herself off of his thighs. "I'm fine."

Josh reached his hand out and rubbed it along Loren's cheek. "You sure?"

"Yeah," she smiled.

They left the movie theater and Loren drove them back to Josh's house, pulling the car to the curb.

"It's been a quick few days," she sighed.

"When do you have to go back?" Josh asked. "Maybe we could do something tomorrow."

"Do you think I could come in?" Loren asked hopefully.

"Sure," Josh said, happy to hear her request.

Josh knew his mother had already gone to bed so they quietly walked into the house and he led Loren into his bedroom at the end of the hall. Loren glanced around – it'd been a while since she'd been in his room and she smiled at the high school football photos and other mementos from his high school years.

"So," Josh grinned seductively, crossing his arms across his chest as he stood in the middle of the room. "What should we do now?"

Loren was staring at him with a pained and forlorn look on her sad face.

"Something wrong, Loren?" Josh asked.

"No, not really," she lied.

"Should I turn the television on?"

She shook her head no.

"How 'bout some music?"

"Softly," she suggested. "Don't want to wake your mom."

He nodded in agreement and turned his boom box on, keeping the volume down low.

"Do you think I could spend the night?" Loren asked timidly.

"Loren," Josh whispered as he wrapped his arms around her. "Of course."

"Okay," Loren said, leaning her head against his shoulder.

"You sure everything's alr…"

Loren pressed her lips to Josh's mouth to stop him from talking and it was a kiss like he had never experienced before.

"No more talking," she said softly as they continued to make out and slowly they removed each other's clothing and before long they were naked on top of his bed, kissing and cuddling, and feeling and Josh couldn't believe it had finally happened between them. Seeing her naked, holding her close, kissing her was a fantasy come true and it was the most wonderful moment of his life.

For some reason it felt like they were the two characters in the movie they had just seen and Josh hoped he could satisfy Loren by making love to her just like the guy had done for the girl in the film.

When they were finished with their amazing lovemaking, they slipped naked under the covers and Josh held Loren close while she softly cried but he didn't ask her what was wrong because he knew she wasn't going to tell him anyway.

They fell asleep and Josh slept more peacefully and happily than he could remember but he was surprised when he awoke in the morning and found himself alone. There was no evidence that Loren had ever been there except for the scent of her in the bed. Josh noticed her phone on the bedside table and upon closer inspection he realized it was one of those untraceable disposable cell phones and not one she would use in the long term.

Josh didn't understand any of this. Why would she leave? Did she leave her phone behind on purpose? Was he not supposed to call her? Josh climbed out of the bed and quickly dressed. He left the house and drove to Loren's parent's home on the other side of town and he was surprised to see a Serguci Reality sign planted in the Westwood's front yard with a "sale pending' sticker slapped across the front of the sign.

Josh was horrified to see that the Westwood house was empty and it had been for a while by the looks of things. He noticed the neighbor – Mr. Smith? Mr. Schmidt…..Mr. Smitt – he couldn't quite remember – stepping out of his house to retrieve his morning paper. The only reason he remembered the older balding guy was because he was always saying hello to Loren whenever she was coming and going from the house.

"Excuse me," Josh called out to the gentlemen. "Can you tell me what happened to the Westwoods?"

"They moved," the neighbor said, stating the obvious.

"Do you know where?" Josh asked, his heart beating in his chest.

The neighbor walked across the front lawn to join Josh where he stood near the driveway.

"Charlie got a job transfer to Virginia a couple of months ago," the older gentleman explained.

"Did their daughter go with them?" Josh asked.

"I don't know all the particulars," the guy replied. "But I imagine so. I'm going to miss her. She was a terrific girl."

"Thanks," Josh said with a brave sigh as he headed for the pick-up truck.

He couldn't believe he had been that clueless. No wonder Loren didn't want him coming to her parent's house. No wonder Loren was always free, available and interested in hanging out. She must have been staying in a motel in Greenville for her last hurrah in Blue County.

Josh suddenly realized that Loren had come to say farewell to him, Hillsboro, and her past without actually coming out and saying it. He knew she was gone and never coming back.

Sitting behind the wheel of the pickup truck, Josh glanced down at her disposable cell phone sitting on the seat of the cab.

"Loren," he sighed sadly before starting up the truck and driving home to the life he had been living before she called him on Wednesday afternoon.

He felt like he was in a unhappy movie.