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Because of Hayden
I'm pouring apple juice and a can of sprite into a red plastic cup. I just don't feel like getting drunk tonight. It's a good disguise because it looks just like beer. All I have to do is laugh a little too loud and trip a few times and no one will suspect anything. Well, almost no one. Hayden Roth takes one look at me, grabs my drink, and takes a swig. I'm about to protest but he's got some kind of goofy grin on his face that makes me shut my mouth. He hands me back my cup. I shrug my shoulders and roll my eyes. I don't owe him an explanation. Luckily for me though, he doesn't ask for one. Instead, he launches into a three-minute story, shouting over the blaring music and obnoxiously loud students, about why there's a brown stain on the front of his white and gray Passion Pit tee shirt. At this point I think he must be high. I scan him from head to toe. Shaggy mass of brown hair, lip ring, band shirt, skinny jeans, and Vans. It's official. He's definitely a druggie. I accuse him. He just stands there and blinks twice.
"I'm not a druggie," he says. I snort.
"Yeah," I reply. "Sure you're not."
"No really. I'm serious. I don't smoke." He pauses. "Or drink for that matter. And apparently neither do you." I look down at my concoction.
"Not tonight." He raises his eyebrows and nods.
The next thing I know he's pulling a Nikon out of his back pocket and there's a bright flash that makes me turn away and squint my eyes. When the black dots finally start to fade away I realize he's just taken a picture of me. I can feel my face contorting into an expression that basically translates into "why-the-heck-did-you-just-do-that?" No words escape my lips but he smiles and shrugs.
"I just think you're really pretty."
At this point I really don't know whether to be flattered or completely creeped out. It would be easier if I was drunk, but I'm most definitely not, so instead I'm left trying desperately to analyze the situation. I hardly know him. I've seen him a few times at various parties around the campus, but we've never talked before now. I remember my friend Julie saying he was cute once. I stare at him. Creamy skin, and a crooked grin that reveals a mouth full of immaculately straight, white teeth. And those eyes. It looked as if someone had colored in the area around his pupils with the crayon marked Leaf Green. I have no choice but to smile.
I'm interrupted by Julie tugging at my arm. She's telling me we have to go. Her words are slurred and she smells like alcohol. I think it's probably best to get her back to the dorms. I wave good-bye to Hayden and let Julie put her weight on me as she struggles to keep her balance. We're half way across the room when he calls out to me.
"Hey Emily!" He's got one hand in his pocket. I turn my head around. "I think I'm going to fall in love with you!" I can feel my eyes widen and my eyebrows rise. Then, almost involuntarily, my face breaks out into a huge grin. I shake my head in disbelief and pull Julie out the door.
That was almost three years ago.
I'm pouring apple juice and a can of sprite into a glass sitting on the table. After Hayden and I started dating I almost never drank again. Now I just like the taste. It's comforting. I cup the drink with both hands and lower my head. The apartment walls seem empty without the sound of his voice. I can still hear his laughter, like tiny bells, echoing. I can feel his cinnamon breath, sweet and sharp from his obsession with Big Red. I can hear his songs. His guitar. I can see myself sitting on the edge of the bed, listening to him strum, as the hand on the clock approaches two a.m.
Who knows why things end. Why do people say good-bye? I know this might seem like a typical love story, because what is typical anyway? People breakup all the time. Everyone thinks they're different, that they're the exception. Well, they're wrong. I wish I could say me and Hayden lived happily ever after, but that just didn't happen. What we had was beautiful. But it ended, as many relationships do.
I can't say that I'm doing fine. I won't say that I've finally moved on and learned how to breathe without him. I'm not going to lie, I miss him. I miss everything about him. I miss his touch. I miss the smell of his skin and the warmth of his embrace. I miss his quirky attitude, quick wit, and the fact that he always had something clever to say. I miss falling asleep to the sound of his heartbeat, as my head rested on his chest. I miss the way he caught me that one night. I was totally thrown off guard as he swiftly flew in and swept me off me off my feet. He was the only one with that kind of power over me.
I sip the last few remaining drops and place the glass in the sink. My eyes wander to a dusty photograph peeking out from behind a stack of papers. I pick it up and stare at it. My eyes well with tears. There's one girl in the picture. Her mouth is pursed into a small 'O' shape. Her eyes are staring slightly up, and filled with both shock and warmth. They are fixed on the person taking the picture. The girl didn't realize the look she was giving them. Pure wonder and gentle infatuation.
"Ohhh." A sound of heartbreak escapes my lips and I can feel my chest and shoulders start to collapse as I bury my head in my hands. I know exactly when this picture was taken. And I'd do anything to go back there right now...