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Goodbye, James King

So there I was, just sitting on the soggy metal bench outside of my high school, umbrella in hand. The book bag on my lap was getting heavier the longer I sat there, and so was the rain. The sun was still peeking through the gray overcast, causing the sky to break in certain spots to let the light shine through. To me, that was always kind of beautiful, how the sun could still shine when the rain seemed endless.
“Opal!” a voice called out my name from the distance, which startled me and caused my bag to slip onto the wet concrete.
I whipped my head towards the source of the familiar voice. I swept my auburn curls away from my eyes and smiled at one of my good friends (and secret crush of three years), James King, as he approached me through the rainfall.
He gave me a wide grin and his dimples deepened on both cheeks. I scooted over on the bench and leaned down to straighten my soaked book bag so that it rested against my leg. I looked up at James as he sat down.
“Hey, James,” I said through a grin. “What are you doing at school so late?”
James ducked his head under my umbrella as he got situated and glanced over at me.
“I could ask you the same thing.” He said. He raised an eyebrow, prompting me to give an explanation.
“I’m waiting for my mom to come pick me up. But apparently she’s running late, so I’m stuck outside.” I sighed.
“Opal, the school’s right here, just go back inside!” James said, laughing. I shrugged.
“Yea, but… I don’t know… I kind of just wanted to sit out here alone and enjoy the calm.”
“In the rain? You’re really something, Opal, really something.” James said, grinning.
“Whatever!” I bumped my fist into his arm, which was surprisingly close to me. I got excited for a minute but then quickly remembered that it was just because I was the only one with an umbrella.
“So…again, why are you here so late?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation going.
James nodded and replied, “I had baseball practice again today,” He patted his huge gym bag, which lay at his own feet. “So I guess we can both chill out here.”
I nodded, trying to hide my smile. I silently hoped my mom would be a little later so that I could be with James for a little longer. I loved spending my time with him, especially when we were alone. When our friends were around, James and I had to act like “buddies” and buddies only. But when we’re alone we get to connect through deep, and sometimes random, conversations. I could see the real James King for who he was and, to me, that was special.
As I thought about this to myself, I could feel James looking at me. I glanced up and asked, “What are you looking at?”
“You.” he said casually. I felt my cheeks get warm and I gathered all my hair and brought it around to block my face. James started to speak again.
“Wait, Opal, you never said why you were here after school. Why are you getting picked up?”
My shoulders fell and I sighed. “I’m moving, remember? We’re getting on the road in an hour.” James opened his mouth as if to say something, but he just let out a heavy breath instead. “Oh….right, I forgot about that.” He said quietly. I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head.
The whole move had brought on so much drama at my house. My dad wanted the family to move to the sunny state of California so that he could start his new job there. I hadn’t talked to them much about it since they told me about a month ago.
But I had told all of my friends immediately to get over the initial shock. I told pretty much everyone except James. I wanted to tell him when we had one of those special “alone moments”, but one of our friends told him before I could get the chance, which kind of pissed him off a little. At least he cared enough to be upset.
We sat in silence for a while until I broke it, saying, “Are you gonna miss me?” That didn’t sound desperate at all, Opal, great job! Before I could take it back James looked at me in surprise.
“Well, duh, of course I’m gonna miss you! I’ve known for three years--.”
“But it feels like it’s been longer, right?” I added with a smile. He nodded, returning the smile. There were those dimples again. I was going to miss him desperately. I’d miss the little things about him—every little thing: his dimples, his naturally wide smile, his round, brown eyes, his neatly cut, deep brown hair, the way I had to look up to talk to him since he was about a foot taller than me…just everything.
I wondered if he would miss the little things about me, too.
“What are you thinking about, Opal?” James asked out of nowhere.
“You.” I blurted out. I clamped my mouth shut immediately. James didn’t say anything which made it worse. We were both really still for a minute. The rain was starting to turn into a slight drizzle and the sun slid out from underneath the clouds. The empty parking lot looked dewy and the tar glistened. Everything was still, it seemed.
“Oh?” James finally said.
“Uh…yeeeaaa…?” I said slowly, putting the umbrella away in my book bag.
What should I say? Is this awkward for him?
James shifted so that he sat forward with his elbows on his knees. He looked forward as he asked, “Hey, Opal? Can I ask you a question?”
“You just did! Heh, heh…” I tried to joke. He looked back at me and I shut up.
“No, seriously,”
“Oh, well sure, shoot.” I said. I watched him shift again.
“Do you like me? And don’t say ‘yea, we’re friends’. I mean do you like me, Opal?” James asked forwardly. I was caught off guard. I considered lying and saying ‘no’ and that he was crazy for thinking that. But where would that get me? Why should I lie? I have absolutely nothing to lose at this point. So in a quick moment I replied, “…yes.”
James turned his around to look at me and he nodded, like all his suspicions had been confirmed. He stood suddenly.
Wait, did I say something wrong? Is he leaving? Did I just ruin our friendship? The thoughts ran through my mind as I sat there, looking up at James as he paced back and forth in front of me. He shoved his hands in his pockets. He didn’t seem upset but he didn’t look too ecstatic either. I stood, too, hoping he wouldn’t suddenly walk away, disgusted.
Come on, say something, James! I thought desperately. He just kept pacing like an idiot. Why wouldn’t he say anything? I suddenly got restless and stepped out in front of James causing him to stop abruptly. I looked up at him and held his gaze. His eyes widened as I leaned up closer to his face.
He didn’t move so I took that as a good sign. I tilted my chin up and pressed my lips to his. He was stiff at first which made it seem like I was kissing a mannequin. But then as he realized what was happening he moved his lips along with mine. He was gentle and slow, but I wanted to go faster, making the whole ordeal a little sloppy. I didn’t care, though. I wrapped my hands around his neck and pulled him in closer and kissed him passionately (or what I thought to be passionately).
I could feel his hands fumble around as he tried to regain his balance after I nearly tackled him, trying to get the most out of the kiss.
He finally shook his head and pushed me off of him. He gasped for air and I gaped up at him.
“You’re a crazy chick, Opal, you know that?!” James exhaled, rubbing his lips.
“What? Did I do something wrong?” I asked.
I kissed James… I kissed James King.
He shrugged. “Uh…whatever that’s not important,” I nodded and I looked back up at him. He was looking at me with a frown on his face. He wasn’t as love-struck as I was. He wasn’t looking deeply into my eyes and saying that he’s liked me all this time, too. I messed up.
“What’s important is that you don’t like me the way I like you…right?” I stated blandly. Yea, I shouldn’t have said anything.
James looked back at the school and then at his shoes. “Right…but it’s all good, really!” he said quickly, seeing that I was mortified. He grabbed my hands, forcing me to look at him again. James flashed his signature smile and I couldn’t help but smile back.
Okay, so he isn’t totally disgusted, I thought to myself.
“Listen to me, Opal. I always figured you liked me,” Oh, God…
James continued, “But we both know that you wouldn’t have said so if I hadn’t asked.” I nodded.
“I asked you because…even though it sucks…you’re moving away. You’re starting a whole new life. You need a fresh start with no regrets. And I know you, Opal. You would’ve regretted not telling me when you finally left.”
“Oh, really now?” I snorted. But he was right. We both knew he was right.
“Yea, Opal.” He said. “You don’t deserve someone who doesn’t want you that way. You deserve the very best, and that’s the truth. I’m not the very best for you.”
My cheeks were undoubtedly red now. But this time I didn’t care anymore. James may not have been secretly in love with me, but he definitely cared about me. That was suddenly enough for me.
“Thanks.” I said. James chuckled and pulled me in for a tight hug.
“Come here, creep. Give ol’ James a big hug now.” I laughed into his chest as I wrapped my arms tightly around his midsection.
The abrupt honk of a car horn interrupted our sweet moment. We both looked up at the same time to see my mom’s car finally pulled alongside the curb.
James let go of me and reached down to get my book bag for me. I took it slowly from him and looked at the car.
“So I guess this is your cue to leave then, huh?” James said quietly. I nodded.
“Goodbye, James King.” I said, tears welling up and stinging my eyes. James shook his head.
“No goodbyes, Opal. I’ll see you again someday.” He grinned down at me. I took one last look at those dimples and glanced at his big eyes. They weren’t sad, which comforted me.
“Yes you will.” I said.
I hugged him again quickly before turning around and walking to my mom’s car. I got in and buckled the seat belt.
“Sorry I was so late, sweetie.” My mom said, starting up the car again. I nodded and looked back at James. He caught my eye and waved at me. I waved back as my mom pulled away.
As I watched him get smaller and smaller in the distance I couldn’t help myself from thinking it again: “I’ll see you again someday.”



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