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It’s the middle of May. The sun brightly shines through my classroom windows. I glance at the clock, as my students pass in their worksheets. It’s 2:54. There are six minutes until class is dismissed. I have six minutes until the children will rush out the door, and I can begin my walk home.
The clock ticks away. It seems an eternity before the second hand comes to the twelve. I dismiss the children and gather my belongings. I step outside and sink into the rain-softened ground. Because the ground is so soft, I decide to slip out of my shoes. The walk to my house isn’t too far, so walking bare foot shouldn’t provide any problems. As I walk along the river, I hear the faint sound of dogs howling. It isn’t too long before they reach me. They run around so quickly that I fail to see the one charging straight at me. The next thing I know, I’m dripping wet and covered in muck from the bottom of the river.
I climb out of the water and continue my walk home. My blue cotton dress seems to be shrinking in the warm rays of the sun. As I approach the pathway to my front door, I see someone standing there. It’s Grayson Mour. He’s pleaded with me to go to dinner with him for a few months now. My usual reply is no, but I find myself saying yes to today’s offer. This catches Grayson by surprise. “I’ll pick you up at six then,” he says.
I smile and nod my head before going into my house. I ponder what could have made me say yes to him today. When I look up at my old grandfather clock, I realize I only have an hour before Grayson will be at my door. I skip to my closet and pull out my favorite purple dress. After a while of tugging on the relentless zipper, it comes down. I wiggle into the dress, zip it up, and make my way to the bathroom. I throw my hair into a bun and apply some light pink gloss to my lips. Next, I choose a pair of shoes, which isn’t hard since I only have three. Then comes the knock at the door. I quickly dab some of my favorite perfume on my neck and wrists, and I answer it. “You look fantastic,” Grayson tells me.
“Thank you,” I reply while he takes my hand and leads me to his car. He opens the door for me and gently closes it. Once I get in, I realize I’ve been holding my breath. I have just enough time to let go of all of the air I have inside me before Grayson climbs in. He gives me a warm smile, and we drive away.
I watch as the trees whiz past my window. A bird soars overhead waiting for the best moment to perch by her nest. I glance at Grayson and admire some of his better features. My eyes shoot down to my lap, when he looks over at me. I’ve been caught.
We pull up to a restaurant, and we ease into a space between a bright red jeep and a deep blue truck. I reach for my purse, but it seems to be stuck on something. By the time I free it, Grayson is standing at my door. He opens the door, takes my hand, pulls me up beside him on the sidewalk, and closes the door behind me. We walk into the restaurant. It’s beautiful. The tables are a sleek black. On every table is a vase filled with pink and orange flowers. Glimmering silver chandeliers hang overhead.
The waiter takes us to a table in a corner. I’m glad he didn’t seat us in the middle of the room. When I’m in the center, I feel like people can hear everything I say and are watching me. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’m already nervous enough. “Could I get you anything to drink right away?” asks the waiter.
“Water please,” says Grayson.
“Yeah, I think I’ll have water too.”
I look across the table at Grayson. He still has that smile on his face, and for the first time tonight, I smile back at him. “Do you know what you’re having?” he asks me.
“I’m not sure. I’ve never been here before. What’s good?” I ask.
He proceeds to tell me that the salads are good, but the pastas are his favorites. He says he usually gets the same order when he comes here. Grayson offers to order something for me. I tell him he can order for me as long as he picks something good. He laughs and agrees. When he laughs, I’m taken back a bit. I had forgotten what a deep, rich, and full laugh it was.
We chat until our dinner arrives. Grayson ordered me the same thing he requested. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s delicious. We talk as we finish our meals. The waiter brings us the check, and Grayson goes up to pay. I grab my purse and meet him at the front of the restaurant. Grayson suggests we take a walk, and I’ve had such a good time that I can’t think of any reason to say no.
It’s late, so the street lights illuminate the town. We silently walk across the bridge. As his hand wraps around mine, a feeling of warmth floods my body. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time.
Memories flood back to me. I return to my freshman year in college. I was trying to find my classes, but campus was so big. I got lost. Grayson came and introduced himself. He was a year older than me, so he knew where all the class rooms were. After that, we stayed together. We were a team. He helped me, and I helped him. That’s how it was then, and that’s how it is now. We’re friends. Grayson looks at me. He doesn’t wear the same expression he did before.
“What?” I ask.
It takes a while for him to respond. “This has been one of the best nights of my life,” he says. “I’m so glad you finally said yes. I didn’t expect tonight to turn out so well. In fact, I didn’t even think you would come, which is why it’s so hard for me to tell you this.”
The feeling I had moments ago rushes away as a feeling of uneasiness invades me. What could he possibly have to tell me? Maybe he’s moving. No, he would have told me. He could be changing jobs, but why would that be hard to say? The thought of what he could be getting at scared me.
“I’ve wanted to take you out to dinner for a long time. I’m just glad I got the chance to before I have to leave,” he says.
“Leave? What are you talking about?” I ask.
“I’ve been deployed to Afghanistan, and I leave tomorrow. I’m sorry.”
“Please take me home,” is all I can choke out while keeping the tears welling up in my eyes from falling.
We get into the car and drive away. I don’t care to talk to him. He places his hand just above my knee. I don’t acknowledge him. I’m lost in my thoughts.
Grayson has been my friend for years, and now, after an almost perfect night, he decides to tell me he’s heading off to war. A feeling of betrayal overcomes me. I hate him, and I love him. I feel like someone tore my heart out and threw it in the ocean. It’s drifting away, and there’s a part of me missing. The missing part is my friend. It took one night for me to fall head-over-heels for Grayson Mour, one sentence to make me tighten my grip on his hand, and one piece of paper to say I may never see him again.