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18 Years + Forever
The sun is too bright. My eyes flutter open, and for a moment I forget,
But, then the pain is there, potent and real and swelling inside of me, a hard, empty ball of hatred.
I get up slowly, and my leg is in pain. I lean over awkwardly to crab my crutches. They hurt my armpits, but I won’t succumb to a wheelchair.
On normal days, I would search for something cute to wear. I would put on my lavender colored earrings, the ones that swish beside my ears. The ones that were his favorites.
On normal days, I would wear my flats and denim skirt. Today, though, is not a normal day. I slip into a black skirt and button down black top; I pull my hair into a pony tail. I wear no makeup. What’s the point, anyway?
I crutch my way back to my bed, not wanting to leave the solace of my bedroom. If I never open the door, if I never walk into my parents’ car, if I never drive to the cemetery…then I don’t have to face what is to come.
I smile, then, thinking about how normal today would have been.
It is a Tuesday.
It is sunny and warm, a perfect June morning.
It is my birthday. I am eighteen.
Today would be so perfect, so wonderful….but it is Eli’s funeral. It is the day he will be buried alone, six feet under, into the cold, hard dirt. It is the day we will tell memories about him, and make little jokes to ease the pain; it is a useless day.
“April,” my mother slowly opens the door. I notice that her eyes are red, a bit swollen. She has blocked it quite well with concealer and foundation, mascara. But, I see right through her. “Are you alright, hon?”
She wears black, like me.
“You look tired,” she notes.
What does she expect?
“You can sleep afterwards.”
My mother stands in the doorway, hunched over a bit, looking uncomfortable. She needs me to comfort her.
“It’ll be fine, mom.”
She claps her hands to her cheeks. “I just can’t stand this, April.” She tears up and comes to sit beside me. She puts her arm around my shoulders, but I squirm away.
“He was your best friend. He’s lives next door for eighteen years. Now…he’s gone.” She begins to cry now, fat tears rolling down her cheeks.
Careful, I think, you’re going to wear off that make-up.
“And, the car accident. If I’d lost you….oh, April,” my mother hugs her arms around me, clutching me like a child. “What will Denise and Robert do?” She gulps.
At the moment, I don’t care about what Eli’s parents will do. How they will cope without him. I am selfish. I am lonely. I miss Eli. Eli was my one true love, my best friend since birth. I wondered what I would do without him. Forever was a long time to go without the boy who’d completed my other half.
My mother was still crying when I stood, grabbing my crutches from my bed. I thought of Eli three years ago, when he’d sprained his ankle during gym class. How I’d carried his books while he crutched from class to class. The way I’d laughed at him, so pitiful, so helpless.
“It’s time, mom,” I say. She is surprised that I have left her on the bed, weak and crying, as feeble as a newborn.
“Fine,” she stands quickly, clearly annoyed. “I’ll go touch up my make-up.” She turns to leave, but then stops. “A card came for you,” she takes a bent enveloped from the pocket of her skirt, and then she is gone, closing the door swiftly behind her.
I hop back to my bed, and pry open the envelope with my nails. Inside, there is a card. I know who it is from. He sends one to me every year, though he lives right next door. On the front, it reads:
To a friend,
And my girl
I open the envelope, tears springing to my eyes. In his loopy scrawl, it is written:
Happy 18th! Here comes college, voting, driving to California, and everything in between. Here’s to fun; here’s to the rest of our lives!
And, finally, the tears come. They are hot and fast, speeding down the contous of my face, dipping by my nose, some falling sideways into the hollow of my ear.
I smush the card close to my heart and Eli’s smiling face is beside me, his arm is curled around my waist. He is whispering into my ear.
I love you, Eli.