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A Lesson in Love

As I walked into the funeral home, I tried to block out all thoughts of the service, knowing that if I remembered what I was there for, I would completely lose it. I walked quickly past the throng of people at the door, trying to avoid seeing anyone from school.
“Anna!” someone called from the depths of the crowd. I glanced up warily to see Chase Matthews struggling toward me through the mob. My boyfriend Sean had introduced me to him months before; they were best friends. “Are you okay?” he asked, looking concerned.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
“If you ever need to talk to someone, I’m here,” Chase said.
I nodded again as I looked around for the room where the service was being held. I had to get away from Chase and all the memories he brought with him.
“Well, see you,” I managed weakly, and hurried away.
When I got into the room I looked around for a place to sit. The spot I located was almost in the middle of the room, at the opposite end of the bench from the aisle. Next to me on the bench were some people I didn’t know, all crying. My hands started to shake, and I nervously smoothed out the short black dress I was wearing. I’m not going to cry. I will get through this without breaking down, I said to myself.
I never let myself cry in front of other people. It makes me feel weak and exposed.
A woman I recognized walked to the podium in the front of the room and adjusted the microphone to her trembling mouth. In a halting voice, she started: “I would sincerely like to thank you all for your support tonight. Everyone knows that drunk driving is dangerous, but we never think that a catastrophe like this will come our way. As in this case, the innocent often suffer. My son Sean did not deserve this; he was too young–” here she broke off, too upset to continue, and I stood up abruptly. I could feel the tears building up behind my eyes. Trying to cover my face, I pushed through the row of people in my bench in a panic. I couldn’t hold the tears in for much longer; I felt like I was going to explode. I started to fast-walk to the door, but broke into a run when the rivers started down my face. I didn’t care that people from my school would be whispering about me later. Luckily, most everyone’s attention was focused on Sean’s mom and her breakdown, not mine.
I made it out into the hallway and crossed to the adjoining room which thankfully was uninhabited. I closed the door behind me and sank into the easy chair, sobbing silently and remembering the day I had first met my Sean, my former best friend and love.

My sister Jenny and I had been celebrating the last day of summer vacation, and decided to hit the local mall for sales and window shopping. “Let’s go in here and try some stuff on just for fun,” my sister said excitedly, pointing toward an expensive dress shop. I agreed, and as we stepped into the store a wave of perfumed air rushed out and hit us in the face. I rolled my eyes inwardly, knowing that this trip would be more funny for Jenny than me.

Jenny pulled me inside and we started to look around, staring wide-eyed at the beautiful dresses adorning the walls and racks. I’m sure we looked like total idiots, but we couldn’t help gaping. The prices of some of the dresses were roughly the sum of our total allowances since seventh grade.

“Anna, you should totally try this one on,” Jenny said, gesturing to me from a couple feet away. “It would so bring out your eyes!”

“I don’t know,” I replied nervously. Jenny has always been the more outgoing of us two, and I had always tried to hide cover myself up in baggy, ill-fitting clothes. Quite frankly, I found my curves to be embarrassing; aspects that drew unnecessary attention to me. The dress she was holding was a sea-green strapless number – way outside my comfort zone. I glared at her, but Jenny gave me her puppy-dog eyes. I grabbed the dress, annoyed, and stomped off to find the changing rooms.
Once inside, I pulled off my conservative T-shirt and jeans combo and slipped on the dress. I barely glanced in the mirror at my image, knowing full-well that I would never have worn it out of the house. Too much cleavage, I thought to myself. Too much leg.
I poked my head around the door of the changing room. “Jenny?” Of course, my sister was nowhere to be seen. Her obsession with clothes had gone into overdrive, and her attention span of two seconds had expired. I stepped out of the little cubicle, looking around. “I look so stupid like this. Where is she?” I said out loud to myself.
“On the contrary, you look quite beautiful,” said a voice. A teenage boy wearing the store’s uniform stepped out from behind a nearby dress rack. I could feel the heat rising to my face. Here I was, talking to myself, wearing a ridiculous dress, in a store where I couldn’t afford to buy anything! I recognized the boy, Sean, from school, but I didn’t really know him.
“Uh, thanks,” I stammered. “But I’m not really interested in the dress.”
“I tell you what. I’ll give it to you half-off if you’ll wear it to the start-of-school dance with me next week,” Sean said with a wink.
I opened my mouth to politely decline but was cut off. “Of course she will,” my sister answered from behind me.
Now she decides to show up, I thought angrily. Before I could say another word, Jenny had arranged the pick-up time and place and whisked me out the door. I won’t bother repeating what I said to Jenny when we returned to her car, as I would have to be censored anyway.
Aside from me being a nervous wreck and tripping on my way to Sean’s car, the dance was a success. I know it sounds clichéd and ridiculous because I’m only a teenager, but I felt like I had found my other half after one date. The next year was a whirlwind of movies, dances, and sheer bliss – the happiest time of my seventeen-year-old life.

I resurfaced from my reverie as I became dimly aware that someone else was in the room. Their chair was facing the wall opposite the door, and whoever it was hadn’t heard me come in. I could hear them sobbing quietly. Curiously, I stood up and wiped all trace of tears from my face. Tiptoeing toward the person, I tried not to alert him or her to my presence. I failed, however.

“Anna?” Chase turned and looked up at me through his hands. When I couldn’t answer, he tried again. “Anna, it’s okay to cry. You can’t keep all that bottled up.” He stood and led me to a couch where we could both sit together. I wouldn’t look at him – or rather, I couldn’t. Blankly, I just stared ahead. “Say something, Anna. You’re starting to really worry me.”

I opened my mouth to tell him to go away, but all that came out was a bout of hysterical sobbing. Instead of feeling embarrassed as I thought I would, I felt relief sweep across my limp form as Chase held me to him.
By this time, my he had stopped crying and just sat there, watching me fall to pieces. “I believe people enter and leave our lives for specific reasons. Sean came into your life to teach you how to love. And not just other people, either, Anna. Yourself, too. You used to be so introverted and shy, but he brought the best out of you.”
The seriousness of Chase’s statement caused me to look at him in wonder. He stared vaguely at a place above my head as he continued. “Sean fulfilled his duty, so he wasn’t needed anymore and he left.”
“But I do need him,” I cried desperately. “I miss him.”
“I do too,” Chase whispered hoarsely, running his fingers through my hair.
We stayed like that throughout the rest of the service, reminiscing and laughing about our lost friend. And even though I would give almost anything to have my beloved Sean back, I thank him for leaving me one last thing as a parting gift: a friend.




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