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I pick up the newspaper along with my coffee at the deli as I usually do in the mornings. The deli has been there since I was a young girl and even now, as I near my seventies, there is something about it that I love. Maybe it’s because it seems to have grown old with me. Or maybe it’s because it has been the one thing that has stayed when everything else has left. Slowly, I make my way back to my home down the street. I notice that the flowers have begun to blossom and the smell of sweet lavender fills the air for the first time all spring. The joggers in the park seem to have taken advantage of the weather, among them was my granddaughter. Her lovely golden locks of hair bounce as she jogs along the gravel path. I pass by and wave to her, her bright blue eyes still clear as day from the distance. At seventeen years old she looks and acts the same way as I did at her age. I was proud of that, but then again, I also wish she weren’t so much like me. I prayed that she wouldn’t take some of the risks I did, for they would only lead to heartbreaks. Heartbreaks that if I weren’t so foolish could have avoided.
I sat on the porch with my coffee in hand and opened the newspaper. The last page is the obituaries and I check them daily, needing to keep up to date with people I had known and what had become of them. For today, there were three people. The first was Linda Sullivan, a woman whom I had known from church. She was a nice lady a few years older than me, though I didn’t know her too well I mourned her loss and would probably go to the funeral with a couple of other women from the church. Next, there was Benjamin Abell. I vaguely remember him from high school but haven’t heard of him since. From what I know he came from a rough family with many other siblings, but according to this he seems to have turned it around. He was survived by four children and a wife.
I look at the third and final name on the paper. My hand begins to shake and I drop my coffee. A cannot move and for a moment I feel as though my heart has stopped beating. Tears come down my face slowly, as though they are the first drops of rain before the storm and I feel my face drain its delicate color. I drop the newspaper, place my face in my hands and close my eyes.
* * *
It was the spring of 1963 and with graduation around the corner the school was practically oozing with anxiousness and excitement. Personally, I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. I was desperate to go off to college and start over, stand out amongst others. Here, I didn’t stand out among any of them. I was just a name to the teachers, a face to the students, and just another heart beat in the school. It wasn’t until I met Donnie that I knew what it was like to be known, to be wanted, to be someone’s everything. I didn’t meet him until we were seniors in high school, but I had heard of him, just about anyone who had gone to Faraday High had. His status of captain on the football team and perfect looks had earned him the title of the most popular boy in school. Donnie would strut down the hallway with his greased back hair and varsity jacket on, making the girls stare in awe. One day, I had just happened to catch his eye in the hallway and he followed me down to my locker.
“Hi there, darlin’!” he said to me with his southern charm in full swing. His light, charming eyes seemed to smile at me.
“Hi.” I smiled back.
“Hey ya. You’re that running girl, right?” he asked.
“Sure. And you’re that football boy, right?” We both laughed and began our walk down the hallway together.
And just like that we had caught hold of each other and saw no end in sight. Of course, time went on and we spent our final high school days together as a couple. We hardly wanted to leave each other’s sides at all, and with college getting closer and closer we began to worry about the future- the future of us. We talked for hours on end about how we could see each other when we left, what we would do to save our relationship. We spent every moment of the summer of 63’ by each other’s side taking hold of every moment we had and we couldn’t have asked for more. We did wild things, we were young, we lived and we loved.
On our last night in that small Georgian town we snuck off and met in the field. We looked up, hand in hand, at the stars as they danced for us. They glimmered and sparkled with such perfection that it gave us the illusion that this would last forever. The next day we would be more than five hundred miles apart from each other, but we had tonight… we had now.
“Callie, darlin’” he began, “I don’t ever want to leave you.”
“I wish we could stay here forever…but, tomorrow everything changes.”
“I love you.” He whispered in my ear, ever so softly. We met eye to eye and it was as though I was looking into those blue, charming eyes for the first time. He pressed his lips to mine and in that moment, I swear, we danced with the stars. He pulled back and grabbed my hands tightly.
“Callie…” with his eyes wide open, “what if I told you we didn’t have to leave. That nothing has to change.”
“I’d say you were crazy. We leave for college tomorrow and-”
“Marry me.” He said cutting me off.
“What?” I asked surprised. He then began to sit up, as did I. He took my hands and caressed them with his.
“Marry me?” He said again. “We can stay here and build a family together. We have love; we have each other…that’s all we need.” His words seemed to get me excited, but the more I thought about it the more I knew it could never be, at least not now. I loved Donnie, I was sure of that. But, I was unsure if I could stop everything that I had worked for when it just seemed to be in reach.
“Donnie, I love you. I love you- more than you could ever know. I love you so much that just the sound of your voice makes me feel butterflies flutter in my stomach. But…this isn’t the answer. We have to go.” With every word coming out of my mouth I could feel his heart plummeting. I wanted to catch it, but there was no way to break the fall.
“I don’t want to leave-”
“I love you today; I will love you tomorrow and the day after that. We can get married after college.”
He let go of my hands and looked down at the grass we sat on. He fiddled with his thumbs and confusion put him in a daze. It was silent and the only noise was the crickets singing in harmony behind us. Suddenly he looked up at the sky.
“You see the stars? You see the moon? Without one another the sky itself would not make sense. It would just be empty, they would be lonely. Callie…” he looked me once more in the eyes. “If you are the stars I am your moon, I can’t get through this without you…it just, it doesn’t make sense,” He grabbed my hand and I could feel his love radiating from him. “Marry me, Callie?” He asked for the final time.
I gazed down at the grass; it was too hard to look at him. I shook my head slowly. “I have to go to school, Donnie. I’m sorry, my love.” I still stared down at the grass but I could feel him rise to his feet. He reached for my hand and pulled me to my feet.
“I think its best we get going now. You got a whole lot of college starting tomorrow.” He said with sadness in his voice. He guided me to his red pickup truck that we had taken here and drove me home. Neither one of us had the courage to say a word that whole ride home. I opened the car door and began stepping out when he stopped me. He pulled my lips to his and kissed me.
“You’ll always be my stars, darlin’.” He grinned.
“Goodbye, moon.” I grinned back and got out of the car. I walked to the front step and turned around. I saw him smiling in the truck and he waved, I waved back and went inside my house. There was a small part of me that knew that this was the end, but I refused to believe it. My thoughts were confirmed the next day when he didn’t show up to send me off to school. That day as I drove away from the town and everything I had ever known I felt my heart break. It broke into a million, tiny pieces and burned my entire body. I would never love anyone else as much as I had loved Donnie, even if I would never see him again. I wrote him letters, phoned him up almost every week, but he never answered. Eventually, I gave up on it. What else could I have done? And so, time does what time does best, it went on. It waited not for me, or for Donnie, it couldn’t. I graduated college and met a wonderful man named Ray. I loved Ray, certainly not in the same way I had once loved Donnie, but it was enough. I married him and we built our lives together. I was in love with my husband, Ray, but Donnie there was something about Donnie that I could never seem to let go of. He still was in my heart and in my mind of every moment of every day. Sometimes though, the things we want most we simply can’t have.
* * *
I read the name Donnie Jay on the newspaper. I touch my fingers to his name and with that single graze of the paper comes a flood of memories. I look out at my granddaughter and smile at her sight. I begin to rethink my thoughts- I hope she takes the risks I did. I hope she gets her heart broken because then she would have known what it is like to be in love. And love is a risk that everyone should take. We all deserve someone like Donnie. We deserve someone who teaches us how to love, someone who shows us the world with their bare hands- someone who can love us unconditionally. I had that with Donnie, but I let it go. My granddaughter sits next to me at the porch and sees that my eyes are red, she takes my hand. Donnie Jay died unmarried and without kids. He went to college and worked for an insurance company later in his life. He was a simple man, just a name in a town, a face at a school, and another heart beat in this world. But to me he was more than all that, he was everything. I trace my fingers across his name one last time- he was loved- he always was.
“Goodbye, Moon.” I whisper.