The Road Untraveled

February 8, 2011
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“So, are we doing anything for Valentine’s Day?” Olivia casually asked Fernando as they drove to meet up with their friends. “I’m just wondering, because I need to tell work whether I’m free or not.”
Fernando furrowed his dark eyebrows for a second before replying assuredly, “Sure, we can do something, you want me to take you out to dinner?”
“I mean, I’d like that, if YOU want.” She opened her blue eyes inquisitively at him.
“Sure thing babe,” he reached over and squeezed her leg, “Where you wanna go?”
“Now THAT, you ‘ll have to decide for yourself. Surprise me!” She smiled as she said it.
“Oh dear, is this going to be a test for me to pass?” he joked looking over and flashing a lopsided smile.
“It just might,” she gave him a little wink before turning to look out the window, but as she turned, her smile faded and she laid her head against the glass.
She never could decipher how he felt or what he meant, and it just made the ache in her heart hurt even more. After all, SHE had been the one to bring up plans for Valentine’s Day. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? She knew he had just gotten out of a three year relationship and was wary of getting into another one, but if he really liked her, shouldn’t he be willing to take the risk? I mean, they were already everything to each other that a boyfriend and girlfriend ought to be, except for one thing… the title. They spent all their time together, called and texted every night, and were each other’s closest friend; not to mention the overwhelming chemistry that they shared, and the way he held her close when they hung out with friends as if to say, “This is my girl.” And he had kissed her the other night… What had that kiss meant?
Her thoughts traveled back to her upstairs living room. Leaning into his chest, watching a movie while stroking her arm, he had cupped her cheek and slowly brought his lips to hers. Her cheeks felt hot as she remembered the burning desire that soft kiss had awoken in her. She glanced over at him studying both directions before turning a corner. She studied his mouth, agape in concentration, and the sharp contour of his jaw bone. After so many “almosts” in the past few years, she was finding this one harder and harder to believe in.
Sitting on the white tile floor of her egg shell blue bathroom, hands shaking, Courtney held a little plastic test that could seriously alter the course of her life. “Please God, please don’t do this to me,” she whispered in her head, before bracing herself for the result. There, in the center of the pregnancy test, stood a tiny pink plus sign. Her heart seamed to sink into her stomach. She let her head fall into her hands and ran her fingers through her choppy brown hair. Now what? Now what was she supposed to do? I guess she had expected it sooner or later, but she had tried so hard to protect herself from this.
She had to tell Eric, of course. Whether she decided to keep it or not, he still needed to know. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her short frayed jean shorts landed much higher than fingertip length on her skinny pale legs, and the black tank top hugged her in all the right places. She had a tall frame like a model and penetrating blue eyes outlined in dark to make them look even bigger than they already were. Courtney didn’t know what to make of the reflection in the mirror. She guessed she was disappointed in the girl staring back, but she had given up “waiting” so long ago that her conscious seemed to have abandoned her. Before she could contemplate her feelings anymore, she slipped on her flip flops, grabbed her purse, and headed downstairs.
“Hey mom, I’m going to get some coffee,” she yelled in the direction of her parent’s bedroom. Without waiting for a reply, she grabbed the car keys, dialed Eric’s number, and walked out the front door. Eric answered, groggily, from the other end of the phone, “He-hello?”
“Eric, can you meet me at Caribou Coffee in 20? I gotta tell you something...”
“Is this Court? Hey, what do you have to tell me? I’m kind of at school right now, babe.” A door quietly closed in the background.
“I know, I’m sorry, but I just really need to see you,” she heard herself say. Since when did she sound so clingy?
“Okay, yeah, sure, I’ll be there.”
And at that, they hung up.
One after the other, notes flooded into lily’s ears from the headphones of her iPod, along with a steady trickle of thoughts. This past year, most of her thoughts were consumed by one individual in particular, Josh. A lot of the times they concerned what was to happen to her relationship with this individual if college or miles separated her from him next year. She would be off to study music and fine arts, and he hoped to enter into a military academy. If he got accepted, he would have to go off to boot camp for the last month in summer, making their time together seem even more fleeting.
Boot camp meant total separation from one another. No phone, no texting, or calling, just letters, if that. They hadn’t gone a day without talking or seeing each other since they started going out. How in the world could she deal with the deafening silence? She rolled onto her side and ached for his form to be next to her, arms around her, bodies fitting perfectly together. If she just had his presence next to her, she knew she would be able to fall soundly asleep. Scrolling through her iPod, she found Taylor Swift’s song “Last Kiss.” The lyrics painted a perfect image of how she would feel the day he left her. She couldn’t stand thinking about that day, but, being an artist, she was also drawn to the heart-ache that the lyrics aroused in her.
It comforted her to know that Josh suffered from the same tormenting thoughts as she. Only a few weeks ago, they had discussed this issue. She remembered herself finally breaking down as he hugged her, and allowing herself to spill every fear into his chest. She didn’t have to look up to know that she wasn’t crying alone
Josh thought that they should agree to the possibility of seeing other people in college. He said he didn’t want to marry her too easily. Josh was such a realist like that, and she could see his point of view. After all, they were each other’s first serious boyfriend/ girlfriend and neither had even seen the world yet. How could they know what they wanted if they didn’t even know themselves? But, alas, Lily was a romantic and longed to follow her heart. She allowed herself to imagine spending their lives together: sleeping next to him every night, traveling and seeing the world, creating a family, having their own home…
Could their love last through the challenges and tests of college? She thought it could.
Josh had said to her, “If we are meant to be, I swear to the All Merciful God that I will marry you after college.”
She hung onto those words, and the hope they created.
Just then, her thoughts were interrupted by the ring of her cell phone. She pulled her headphones out of her ears, flipped onto her stomach, and reached for the phone off her nightstand.
Crashing on top of her feather mattress after working a 7 hour shift at the Chinese restaurant, Olivia flipped out her cell phone to see how Courtney was doing. Her feet ached, but it had been a pretty good night. She made $100.00 in tips and flirted with Fernando in the kitchen in-between serving tables.
The phone clicked over to Courtney’s voice mail. Ughh, that girl never answered her phone! The last time they talked was a few weeks ago, and some of the things Courtney had said worried Olivia. Always in a goofy mood, Courtney was hard to take seriously, and she carried her care-free attitude into other parts of her life as well.
Olivia decided to give Lily a call. She considered Lily her best friend, even though they didn’t talk very often either. The girls bond was permanent, lasting since 6th grade and strong enough to span the distance from Louisiana to North Carolina. All three girls had originated in Louisiana, laying the foundation for friendships that would last a lifetime. Courtney had been the first to move; her dad transferring to a job in Texas during 5th grade. Olivia followed shortly after, moving to North Carolina, while Lily was left in Louisiana. Thankfully, Lily was a little easier to get in touch with! After one ring, she picked up on the other end of the phone.
“Hey Livey!” she exclaimed. “How are you?”
“I’m pretty good! Just got home from work. What’s up with you?”
“Nothing much, just lying down in bed already, I’m such a loser, haha. How’s Fernandooo?”
“Ughh, I don’t know girl. Tonight was a good night; we flirted in the kitchen and stuff, and he asked me to hang out tomorrow, but I just don’t know what he thinks about us, or if he EVEN thinks about us! Half the time I’m sure I know how he feels, and then the other half I’m convinced I am completely wrong. It’s so frustrating! But, whatever, how’s El Josué?” Olivia teased.
“He’s gooood. Well... Honestly, I’ve been kinda bummed lately, thinking about college and all. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and it scares me. Things are so perfect right now, but what if everything falls apart next year? I’m completely in love with him, Livey! And I know what you’re probably thinking, but it’s not some blind adolescent love, I swear. If he asked me to marry him today, I’d say yes on the spot!”
It was weird seeing her best friend in love, but, at the same time, Olivia couldn’t be happier for Lily. She had met Josh one time, when she visited Lily last summer, and really liked him. He looked at Lily like she was the earth and he was the moon, and was drawn to her as if their orbits overlapped with one another. Lily was the same, lighting up whenever he was anywhere near her. Thinking of her friend married right out of high school, though, freaked her out. The girl who she had grown up with, caught tadpoles with, and had so many silly slumber parties with, married and with kids?
Could they even have sleepovers once she was married? Instead of saying any of this, though, she replied:
“Aww, I know, but it will all work out for the best, I promise! Please don’t worry or get stressed. College will definitely test your relationship, but it will reveal if what you have with Josh is lasting. If you both keep coming back to each other, then that shows your marriage-matterial. Gosh I’m so jealous of you! I want a ‘Josh’ in my life!”
Lily laughed at that, “Maybe this Fernando guy will be Mr. Right!?”
“Maybe… we’ll see. I’m a bit skeptical, but anyways, I gotta tell you about Courtney. Lil, I’m really worried about her. I talked to her a few weeks ago and she told me something... You remember that guy who came with her last time to visit? Eric? They’ve been sleeping together. And she’s gotten pregnant TWICE and had TWO miscarriages!”
She could feel Lily’s jaw dropping on the other line.
“Are you serious? Livey, do you know how weird it is for a perfectly healthy 18 year old to have miscarriages? Not likely. I just hope she hasn’t had abortions. God, I hope she hasn’t had any abortions.”
“I know, Lil, I know,” Olivia replied.
“All I know is that we all need a road trip, or something, this summer. No boys, just us girls and the open road! Summer before college, no one to tell us what to do, or where to go. We can go rent a condo or something, or sleep on the beach for heaven’s sake!”
“That sounds so incredibly wonderful,” Olivia sighed.
A road trip was the solution to all of their problems; it would be a chance to figure things out, grow up a bit more, but most of all, reconnect with ever-lasting friends.

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