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Life Goes On
The cold, early September rains streaked the shiny windows of the big Greyhound bus in Columbus, Mississippi. The sky was overcast, the winds blew unmercifully, and the ache in seventeen-year-old Haylie Montgomery?s heart didn?t feel much different. She hugged the jacket she was holding closer to her body as she watched in disbelief the scene that was unfolding before her. Her boyfriend since she was fifteen, Brantley Lincoln, was leaving for college in Maryland. She watched as he handed his luggage to the driver of the bus and felt a swarm of emotions in her chest as he locked eyes with her and walked back to where she stood moping. He sat his carry-on bag on the ground and wrapped her in a hug. Haylie could barely breathe, but she did enough to take in his slightly ashy boy-smell that she loved. The warmth of his broad body against hers made her feel weak and strong at the same time. She wanted to melt into his arms and stay there forever, but she couldn?t. He had to go. Suddenly, it felt like her world was coming to a tragic ending. Haylie started sobbing all over again, and her tears soaked into Brantley?s shirt, leaving small, wet stains.
Brantley finally let go and held her out at arm?s length, getting one last look. It was time. He had to board that bus and leave. Until then, Haylie hadn?t really considered the fact that he was leaving. It was stupid she knew, but it was the pathetic truth.
?Bye,? Brantley said. His blue eyes sparkled. Haylie realized he was on the verge of tears. She didn?t know if she could handle seeing him cry right now.
?I love you,? was what she wanted to say. She should?ve said it. But she didn?t; she didn?t say anything.
As she watched him climb the bus steps, she was filled with hate. She hated the college in Maryland. She hated the stinky fumes that the bus emitted as it pulled away. She hated that big, ugly bus itself that would take him miles away from her. She even hated the stranger who nodded to her in acknowledgement as he walked by. But more than anything else, she hated herself. She hadn?t been able to say the words she knew she meant. She hadn?t even said ?good-bye.?
She stood at the bus stop until she was sure he wasn?t coming back, and then returned home. When she arrived, she ran upstairs to her room, flopped on her bed, and cried.
The next day, Haylie was busy at her job making coffee and muffins at a popular coffee shop dubbed Strange Brew. She had shoved a pan of lemon squares in the shop?s over-sized oven when she heard a voice behind her.
She turned around to see a tall woman dressed in a beige business suit. The woman?s forehead was slightly wrinkled between her eyebrows and her mouth looked small and firm. Beside her, a little freckle-faced boy peered over the glass countertop. He had an evil-looking grin on his face.
?I would like a tall cappuccino and a blueberry muffin,? the woman said.
?No!? the child hollered, ?I want a cimm?on roll!?
The woman gave Haylie a weak smile, ?He?ll have a muffin.?
Haylie prepared her order despite the boy?s loud protests. She was relieved when the two finally walked out the door.
Later that day, when Haylie?s shift was almost over, her boss approached her.
?Do you know who that woman with the little boy was? The one who came in this morning?? Mrs. Coolidge wanted to know.
Haylie paused while wiping spilled coffee off of the countertop. She shook her head.
?Her name is Deborah Wilson. Her husband is in the air force and he was sent overseas last month. She told me that their son, James, is having a tough time with his dad gone,? Mrs. Coolidge mused, ?I feel for that family; they were really close.?
Haylie was not sure how to respond. She slowly nodded and continued wiping the shiny countertop. She had thought the child to be a brat, but he was experiencing something that he didn?t understand: pain. She figured that he was actually a sweet kid. She thought that, to him, it appeared like his dad had left him and he was not old enough to understand why. He didn?t know how to cope with being left. Haylie realized that she had something in common with a little freckle-faced boy.
As she was walking out of the shop, her cell phone started singing and she fumbled around in her purse for it.
?Hello?? she answered finally.
?How are you doing?? the familiar voice of her best friend, Carly, asked.
Haylie just grunted in reply.
?That good, huh? Well, me and Kaitlyn are on our way to get you and take you out for a milkshake,? Carly announced.
?As much as I?m addicted to those things, I seriously doubt it?ll help, Car. In fact, it might not stay down.?
?Oh please, stop rolling in self pity. It?s not going to help, ya know.?
Sometimes Carly?s ?suck it up? attitude was completely annoying, and sometimes Haylie really appreciated it. This time it was both.
?Besides, you?ll still get to talk to him. I mean it?s not like he died or anything,? she added. ?He just went to school.?
?So? Be happy he?s so smart.?
?But he?s gone. Like, he?s not here anymore. What if he finds somebody else??
?Haylie. This is Brantley we?re talking about. Since when do you think he?ll fall in love with some girl from Maryland??
?We?ll be there in about two minutes.?
When Haylie realized that Carly had already hung up, she flipped her phone shut and waited. She stared at her car from across the parking lot. She wanted to go home.
Half an hour later, Haylie and her friends sat around a bright orange table consuming Oreo milkshakes at a place called Bop?s. Haylie had only taken a few sips of hers by the time Carly was done and Kaitlyn had downed more than half.
?Haylie, will you please stop moping?? Carly suddenly blurted.
?She can?t help it,? Kaitlyn, the sympathetic one, said. ?She?s going to be sad for awhile.?
?Until he comes back,? Haylie mumbled around her straw.
?You can?t just put your life on hold while he?s gone,? Carly said.
That did it. Out of all the things her friends had said, that one really sunk in. She had to go on with her life. She couldn?t just stop living until he came back, and even if she could, she realized that she didn?t want that. Brantley wouldn?t want her to, either. Things would change, that was for sure, but Haylie knew that her life would go on no matter what. She thought of the little freckle-faced boy. While her boyfriend had gone to college, his dad had gone to war. Who was worse off? She knew the answer, and it made her realize something. She was going to be okay.