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I sighed, staring out over the roof of my school, across the front lawn and the football field, marveling at how different the same things can look from the same spot at different times of your life. When I was four I would sit up on this hill and have picnics with my family, when my dad was still around. In fact, every year of my life I’d come up here and watch the Fourth of July fireworks with some group of people or another. This place was always comforting and beautiful, even romantic some days. It was the first place me and Luke ever kissed, and the place where I met my very first boyfriend in the ninth grade. Now, though, the goal posts and the hills back in the distance were giving me no sense of comfort or joy, they were simply stabbing me through with bitter nostalgia, and a sense of desolation.
Wrapping my open sweater more tightly around myself, I leaned back on the hood of his car, feeling the slight chill of the metal through my shorts and against the back of my thighs. The grass was cool and moist against my bare toes. The morning air caressed my face, leaving my cheeks the color of the sunrise which had just peaked over the horizon.
His blue Celica moved a little beneath me as he climbed out and shut the door. We both stood there in silence for a moment, taking in the scenery, unsure of what to say. I could feel his warmth against my shoulder. I almost cried, reflecting on all the times I’d been this close to him and had never really thought about it.
“You leavin’ tomorrow?” I glanced up at his face as I asked noting the sadness in his bright grey eyes.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, his arms uncrossing and coming down to rest at his sides. He continued to stare across the field at the fading sunset, not meeting my gaze.
I followed his eyes with my own and sighed again. Moments passed in silence as we simply stood together, I guess hoping that if we didn’t do anything at all, time would slow down for us and none of this would have to happen so soon.
A strong arm was placed around my shoulders. Although his eyes hadn’t moved, they had begun to water just a little at the corners. I laughed at the same time that I started to shed tears. “I didn’t even begin to believe that you leavin’ would matter this much to me, Chris.”
He laughed a little too. “Yeah, well….I happen to be a little bit shaken myself.”
“Yeah.” He smiled down at me, his eyes glistening with emotion that threatened to spill over at the next word.
I smiled back, still crying, and wondered if I’d ever get to see him again. Sure people come and go, but….this is Chris we’re talkin’ about. No matter what happened Chris was never going to go anywhere. He was always going to be there for me, and he was always going to be around to drive me to the mall or to listen to me when everyone else was busy. Chris was my best friend. He and I had met way too recently for him to be leavin’ now anyway. It wasn’t like he was some stereotypical best-friend from elementary school that I’d had plenty of time around, that I’d known since I was born who had to pack up and move after years and years of doing everything with me. He was Chris. He was Chris that I met through work at our Memorial Day picnic. He was Chris that I fought with for four out of the nine months that I’d known him. He was Chris that I hadn’t even played “Never Have I Ever” with yet. He was Chris that I’d barely gotten to be around and his stupid effin’ parents decided he had to move already, the year before I could even graduate.
I scoffed. “What’s so great about Italy? Nothing but a bunch of Catholics and Fascists livin’ over there anyway.”
He laughed again, raising his hand to gently stroke the side of my face. “I know better, Jess. You’ve always wanted to go to Italy. Besides, you’ll still be able to call whenever you need to. I promise. The second I’m over there, I’ll send you my new number, and I’ll always have my phone on me. Don’t ever hesitate to dial my number.”
“Hav’n’t ever before have I?”
“No, I don’t guess you have….Listen—I know you and Lucas are happy, and I’d never, ever undermine that for you, but there….there is something I have to do before I leave, or I won’t be able to live with myself….”
“And what’s that?”
His thumb brushed gently over my lips and he closed his eyes. My heart pounded as Chris, my Chris, pressed his lips to mine and cradled my face in his hand. His free arm slid down from my shoulders to wrap instead around my waist, his hand resting on the small of my back. Without thinking about it at all, I parted my lips slightly, and his tongue dipped softly into my mouth. Pressed together like that, we kissed for God knows how long, the salty taste of my tears starting to mingle with the taste of his mouth.
Chris finally broke the kiss, slowly pulling his face back from mine. I smiled a little still kind of dazed and senseless. There were tear streaks down his cheeks as he tried to smile. Still holding me close he looked out over the school building and the field. “Nine months ago this place looked a little smaller, and the football field never looked that far away. You didn’t look quite so special either, and I never quite understood what Luke felt so damn lucky about.” He laughed. “I can tell you one thing though. There’s not gonna’ be anything like this in Italy.”
I leaned my head on his chest, crying harder now. “I hate your mom.”
He laughed, stroking my hair and holding me close to him. “I know Jess. I know.” After a moment or two he gently kissed my head. “Come on, Jess. I guess we better go.”
I nodded weakly and climbed back into his car. I held his hand as we drove home so he could finish packing and I could call all our friends for one last party at Chris’ place.