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“UCLA!” she said excitedly. I watched her jump up and down on the couch, her black and blonde hair bouncing with her. UCLA?! I thought. That’s thousands of miles away from here, our home, New York City. She stared at me with those dazzling green eyes, her messy bangs falling over them.
I put on a fake smile. “That’s…great, Christina.”
Her face shifted and she looked worried. “Mathew, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy for me?”
I nodded as convincingly as I could. “Of course.”
She squinted at me. She could always tell when I was lying. Ever since 8 grade, when we first met she could tell. But this time she let it go and hugged me with all her might. I loved her hugs and I never wanted them to end but now I knew they would, with her going to UCLA and all.
“When do you leave?” I asked reluctantly.
She frowned. “Next week.”
I took a deep breath and avoided her eyes. Christina was my best friend. I should be excited for her but I wasn’t and I wasn’t sure why not.
“But don’t worry Matt. That’s not nearly as close as it seems,” she said but even I could tell she didn’t really believe it.
Over the next few days we packed and packed and packed. With her mom always tearing up and her father constantly by her daughter’s side we had no alone time. I really wanted to be alone with her, just for a few minutes. I wanted to tell her about my feelings but I couldn’t help but get the feeling that it wasn’t the right time. It was never the right time.
Two days before she was due to leave, we were alone in the house. Her mother had gone to the store for last minute school supplies and her father was at work. We sat at the coffee table with cups of tea, just enjoying the peace and quiet.
“Wow,” she whispered, “this is really happening.”
I took a sip of tea and nodded.
She looked at me with sad eyes and bit her lip. When she did that she was thinking of what to say or what not to say. Finally she said, “I just realized something. I am really, really going to miss you, Matt.”
I sighed. “I was honestly trying not to think about it. You leaving, I mean. You’re my best friend and I…” I trailed off.
She looked up. “What?”
I shook my head. “Nothing.”
She rolled her eyes and slammed her cup down. “You always do that,” she muttered and got up.
“What did I say?!”
“It’s not what you said it’s what you didn’t say,” she snapped.
I followed her into the kitchen. “Well then what do you want me to say?” I asked slightly irritated.
She turned towards me. She was looking up because I was taller. We were mere inches away from each other. “I want you to say what’s on your mind.”
I sighed. “Fine…I don’t want you to leave, okay. I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay here…with me. Look, Christina, you are my best friend and I know I should be happy for you and I know I sound selfish and I’m sorry for that but I just don’t want you to go.” I stared into her eyes. I was about to say the thing that I've wanted to say all along, the thing that would make everything make sense. I took a deep breath and said, “I love you.”
She looked at me with wide eyes as she stared with confusion. She opened her mouth to say something but then her mother came in with two handfuls of bags.
“Hey. Sorry. I think I may have bought a little too much but you can’t ever be too prepared right?” her mother said. Christina took full advantage of this outlet and rushed to her mother’s side to help with the bags.
“I got it, mom. Hey Matt, can you get the rest out of the car,” she asked avoiding my eyes. I silently nodded. She didn’t look at me the rest of the day.
The next day I didn’t see Christina. Her mother was treating her with a shopping spree. They were gone all day. The next day was her leaving day. I got out of bed reluctantly. I was never good with goodbyes. I arrived at her house around 11 AM. Her plane left at 2:35.
“Hey,” I said.
“What’s up,” she said quietly. We stood in awkward silence waiting for her parents to come into the living room. “It was nice of you to offer to drive to the airport,” she said.
Finally her parents came in. Her mother had obviously been crying and her father just kept hugging her. “They grow up so fast,” her mother kept repeating. Her father asked if she had everything and Christina said she did. He also reminded her to call once she landed. She promised she would. They gave their last hugs, last kisses, and last tears and then we were on our way.
We sat in the car in dead silence as the radio played. I gripped the steering wheel so tight my knuckles turned white. She stared blankly ahead.
“About what you said the other day,” Christina started.
“It was nothing,” I said cutting her off. “Just forget it.”
After getting through security and finally settling down, we had 10 minutes until her plane finally boarded. Christina kept biting her lip but she wouldn’t say anything. I went up to the nearest Starbucks kiosk and bought two frappes. When I got back Christina was standing.
“I love you too,” she blurted out. I looked at her with wide eyes.
“I love you too,” she repeated. She stepped towards me until our bodies were inches apart.
“You love me?” I asked dumbly. She nodded and then kissed me. Her mouth was slightly open and her tongue was tracing the outline of my lips. She tasted like vanilla and her bangs kept tickling my nose.
“Flight 2467 to California now boarding,” the intercom cackled. We separated and I looked into her eyes.
“I love you…but I still have to go,” she said sadly. She grabbed one frappe and her bags and looked at me with those big green eyes.
“But…I was never good with goodbyes,” I said.
“Me neither…but we don’t have to say goodbye,” she said, “We can say hello…to all the new things to come.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Hello, Mathew.”
I sadly smiled. “Hello Christina.” And with that she was carried away by the crowd.