Empty Promises

By , Malvern, PA
Five promises that he made me… not one he fulfilled. Not one that he kept. Not one that wasn’t broken. Life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. But please don’t make me another empty promise…

He promised to never leave me.

“Melanie? Melanie!”
I ignored his voice and continued down the empty path.
“Melanie, will you just listen?”
No, I would not listen.
“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. This wasn’t my decision.”
Too bad. That was just too bad. It was too bad that he couldn’t change fate. It was too bad that he broke his promise. It was too bad that he was a liar and an idiot and it was too bad that he happened to be my best friend and it was too bad that I happened to love him.
“I just came to say good-bye. My flight’s tomorrow.”
Tomorrow? That soon? He was leaving that soon?
“So… good-bye.”
Well, I wasn’t going to say good-bye. I wasn’t even going to miss him at all. I was going to forget he ever existed.
I watched him walk away. I watched him turn his back on me forever. I wasn’t going to cry.
Nevertheless, hot tears sprung to my eyes. I blinked them away. More came. I wiped those with my sleeve. Then more. And more. And more.
I covered my mouth with my hand and muffled my choking sobs. My body shook with anger and frustration.
I don’t know how long it took for me to drain all my tears.
He was my best friend. Not anymore.


He promised he would find me again.

I absentmindedly fingered the locket on my neck. It was cool and smooth under my fingertips –but filled with memories I didn’t want to unlock. I hadn’t opened it for five years now…


“Melanie! Smile!” he called to me, peering through the camera lens. Flash.
I turned away, dodging the camera.
“Melanie!”
I laughed, ducking behind the tree to avoid another flash.
He smiled, “I give up! You’re impossible!”
I stuck my tongue out at him. He pressed the button. Flash.
“Hey!” I shouted, running up and grabbing the camera, “I’m deleting that!”
He reached over and snatched it from me.
“I think you look cute!” he told me, “Just like a five year old-”
I kicked him and he dropped the camera, but I was laughing too hard to pick it up. Flash.
“There,” he exclaimed, satisfied, “At least you’re smiling.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Give me the camera and I’ll take the stupid picture.”
“No. You’ll probably eat it or something.”
But he handed it over anyway. I positioned myself next to him, my arm around his shoulder.
“Smile!”

Flash. Perfect.

He’d given me the locket on my ninth birthday. I still remembered. Inside was a picture of us, together, under the cherry tree. So many happy days spent there… Now that I think about it, I haven’t gone to the cherry tree for five years either. The one we sat under every day after school. The cherry tree was a tradition. We always went there, rain or shine.

I’ve been waiting for him to come back, so we could go together. Then, maybe I’d open the locket, just to show him I still had the picture. Just to show him I still cared.
Five years. It took me that long to realize I’d never see him again. It took me five years to come to my senses.

It was time to move on.

He promised to never forget.


We were sitting under the old cherry tree. Our cherry tree. And we sat there, for hours, doing nothing, saying nothing, just enjoying each other’s company. Those were my favorite days. The days where our friendship had no complications. The days where we could just sit there, under the cherry tree, feeling the beautiful silence.

He finally spoke, ever so quietly, a whisper in my ear, “Happy birthday, Melanie.”

I looked up. A small smile played on his lips. I felt my own face break into a grin. He remembered… he actually remembered…

“You… you didn’t forget,” I said, surprised.

“I’d never forget.”

“You will, someday. In forty years when I’m all old and ugly, you won’t even bother to call.”

He tilted his head to the side.

“No,” he replied, still smiling, “I’ll remember forever.”

“You’ll never forget my birthday?”
He leaned in, whispering so not even the birds above could hear.

“Never. I promise.”

Well, I never forget either.


I waited by the phone for hours. He never called. It was my fourteenth birthday.
I forgave him for leaving. If only he would call me tonight, keep at least one promise, I would completely forgive him for everything.

He never called.

I waited until midnight. But he never called. Another empty promise.


He promised to always catch me when I fell.


The angry wind ripped at my hair. I shivered. It was going to be a freezing day. The water below me was churning fiercely. I prayed that this was a strong bridge. Another gust of wind blew right in my face. My eyes stung, but that wasn’t the only reason I was crying.

I’d decided it was time to do something. To finally forget about him. He wasn’t worth the space in my heart. I could find another friend, one who actually kept their promises.

With one swift movement, I tore the locket off my neck and flung it as far as I could. It landed with a satisfying splash and drowned under the waves. I smiled. The first real smile in years. There goes one less memory. One less weight on my chest.

But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t going to escape that easily. As if in a trace, I climbed up on the railing, balancing on the cool metal bar. Nothing lay between me and the water. I was free to do whatever I wanted.

In the back of my mind, I faintly remembered his promise to me. He said he’d always be there for me, to always catch me. Well, what was he waiting for?

I leaned forward, ever so slightly, and the wind did the rest. Suddenly, I was tumbling down, my vision a dark blur, only one thought in my mind –was he going to catch me now?

My face hit the water first. It was freezing, as I’d predicted. But I loved it. I loved the feeling of the coldness creeping down my body, engulfing me in ice. It was refreshing. I let my whole body go rigid. I didn’t try to swim. I didn’t try to surface. I just floated, imagining myself like a leaf, just drifting down the river… And pretty soon, my vision went black.

He made me five.


So what was the fifth promise? You’ll laugh at this. He promised to never lie to me. To never break a promise. So much for that one, huh?

It was too late now.

Life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. And now he can’t ever make me another empty promise. Because I’ll be far, far away…





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