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She really had. That was the one thing she wished she could tell those close to her. She’d put every ounce of strength she had into hiding the pain. But now she only had the strength to drag herself to this stupid church service and wallow in the pain of dozens of others who knew him. She knew that they hurt, too. But they didn’t lose an entire future. They didn’t have a million promises hanging in their minds, little dreams that would never come true. They didn’t think about him and stop breathing, and they’d probably gotten more than ten minutes of sleep, collectively, in the last three days.
Of course they missed him. Of course they all had a hole in their heart where his presence used to be. But that was one wound, one little void that, even though it hurt now, they would be able to look past. His parents probably shared her feelings if no one else, but they still had Seth and Cameron. They still had two sons, two futures to look forward to. Now that he was gone from her life, on the other hand, her entire existence was useless. The only time life had made sense was when she was with him. Her name tangled with his, made so much sense when it was called out with his. Now that he was gone and his name wouldn’t be spoken, neither with hers or any other name, she was empty. Her mind, once able to solve the hardest math problems or the trickiest puzzles, only held the sweet little things they’d whispered on the nights they’d shared together. One of those things screamed out from the rest, drowning out the words of the minister.
“I'll love you forever. Even when I die, I'm going to love you.”
Pain, bittersweet and raw and enough to make her double over, sliced through her heart as she thought of the irony of the statement he’d made. She couldn’t help but wonder if he knew. Why else would he have promised such a thing? Of course people said those things in movies and sometimes in real life too, but it had only sounded like an example to prove the length of his love for her. Now, she wished she’d since the literality of his statement. Maybe she would have appreciated a little more, asked him to stay home from his job at the local auto parts store. It would’ve nice to think that it was merely then abruptness that had crushed her, but the bitter fact was that no amount of notice could have prepared her for this.
She could feel it in her pocket. When she’d first picked it up last night, the weight of it made uncomfortable butterflies flutter through her stomach. Her hands had shaken at the devilish glint of the metal as she slid It into the pocket of her jacket—black, to fit the occasion, of course. Now, however, it was a comforting weight. A promise in a world that was now filled with broken promises. There was no fear in her heart as she focused on the weight resting on her hip. It was the first real feeling she’d felt since her phone had rang on That Day. She knew that this wasn’t the right thing to do. But she also knew that it was the only thing she could do. This was the happiest ending to this nightmare. She wouldn’t go to college; the pain would distract from study. She wouldn’t fall in love again. The thought of casting his memory aside to love another was sickening. Forgetting him, forgetting this wonderful person with all of these wonderful promises hanging on his cold lips… it would be like remembering a face she’d never seen before.
People were beginning to stand around her. Some gave shy, sympathetic pats on the back to her. They were probably trying to smile at her, but she couldn’t see anything but the open casket waiting for her. The service had ended. It was time for her goodbye.
As she stood, the strangest thing popped into her head. One little quote that stood among the rest. A quote from a story she hadn’t read since Freshman year. She vaguely remembered performing a little monologue in front of the Pre-AP English class, the one where he’d sat in the back right corner, across the room from her seat, and passed notes in order to flirt with her. She still remembered the words, and with a shaking voice, whispered the words too low for any other ears as she made her way over.
“Eyes, look your last…”
His mother kissed his cheek, now so cold under anyone’s touch.
“Arms, take your last embrace…”
His father, the ex-marine who she’d never seen show an ounce of weakness, leaned over the side of the casket. She counted three tears falling into the resting place. It was her turn now. The words screamed inside of her head.
“And lips, O you the doors of breath…” She looked at his peaceful expression. She’d seen him like this hundreds of times, but he’d only been asleep. She didn’t feel pain when her eyes, her greedy eyes, devoured his image one last time. She closed them now as she reached in the jacket pocket. Both the weight on her hip and the weight on her heart lifted as she slid the object from her pocket. There were many tools folded into the little contraption, but she only needed one. She’d memorized exactly where it was, and her thumb used this knowledge to seek out its target and flick it out. She opened her eyes once more. No one paid her any attention; they just spoke their words of comfort to each other and promised it would be alright. In the surface of the pristine blade, she could see her eyes and nothing more. Eyes that no longer held fear or pain. This was the decision she’d made. Her family would probably hate her for this, but she hoped beyond hoped that they’d at least understand her reasons. Thinking about the pain they’d feel upset her. But, in her mind, it was a short-term pain that was easy to get through versus losing the one thing that only ever made sense. She closed her eyes again and silently sent her goodbye and her apology to them. Then, moving onto the bigger picture, she prayed one last time for strength.
She leaned down and planted on last kiss on the lips that she knew so well, all the while thinking the last line:
‘Seal with a righteous kiss, a dateless bargain to engrossing death…’
She reached for his hand, drew on the strength and comfort that he’d promised would always be there for her, and escaped.