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The Sweetest Secret
“And every time she looks at me
She never sees
The love I have for her is incredible
But I’ll forever be invisible-- Always be invisible
They way she laughs, the way she smiles
Makes my love ever so imperishable
But I’m forever invisible
My love is invisible”
We were at our usual spot in the meadow. Dustin and I found it when we were exploring the neighborhood when we were eight. I had just moved to the area and he thought he’d show me around. We ventured past the woods and past the creek, exploring the unknown parts of the neighborhood. That’s when we found it. The meadow was fenced in by tall trees and masses of foliage, virtually hidden from the rest of the world. No one knew about it and we told no one about it. We kept it as something that we could share together. Every day after that, we went to the secluded meadow. We sat under the big oak tree that stood strong and tall in the middle of the field. It was where we shared our deepest secrets. It was where we came to run away from the rest of the world. It was where we became best friends.
As he leaned up against the tree, Dustin softly strummed his guitar as he sang out the words that were concealed in his heart. His dark brown hair hung in his face as he watched his fingers find the right notes. Occasionally he would look up at me with his emerald green eyes and every time our eyes would meet, my breath would be taken away from me. Something about him changed whenever he played for me. There was a pureness about him that I would never get used to. Every mask and guard he put up was stripped away. I could hear the remorse in his voice and it would pain me. I could hear the love and I would want it more than ever.
But that would never happen.
When we were kids, we would always walk around together, holding hands. You could never find a time when we were apart. We shared our lunches together. We shared our secrets to one another. We even shared our first kiss. But that was just a foolish crush. Once we grew older, we decided it was best to just be friends and no more. Neither of us wanted to take the chance and possibly ruin the friendship. Neither of us wanted to stop being best friends.
But I couldn’t stop liking him. I still haven’t stopped liking him. Eventually I learned to accept the fact that friendship and romance could not coexist. Eventually my feelings for him began to subside. But a part of me would always love himâ€”more than just a friend.
I could never tell him that, of course. It would jeopardize our friendship and my relationship with Tyce. Tyce and I have been going out for two years. He was my biology lab partner during my freshman year. His gregarious disposition and friendly smile were irresistible. On the third day of class he had the courage to tell me that he liked me. He said, “I don’t care if you don’t like me now. But damn it, Leah, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win your heart.” And he did. He won every little bit of my heart. Except for the part that would always belonged to Dustin.
It was the last day of spring break and it was soon coming to an end. The sun was setting, casting an orangey backdrop in the sky. White butterflies were fluttering across the field, hovering above the flowers in bloom. The sweetest scent covered the entire meadow. I closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh air. The spring breeze lightly caressed my cheeks and brushed through my hair. It wrapped a sheet of cooling warmth around me. I laid back in the soft grass and listened as Dustin played his sweet lullaby. The cords of the guitar and his soothing voice intertwined into a harmonious melody.
“Open your eyes, girl
Show me you see
Let me love you like no other
Baby, please be with me
Instead your eyes stay closed
My love stays blind
I’m forever invisibleâ€”always invisible
Oh, but my love is invincible…”
He played the last notes of his song and let them linger on before placing the guitar on the ground. I sat up to face him. “You wrote that?” I asked, already knowing the answer to my question.
Dustin nodded his head.
“That was really good,” I commented.
I let a little silence slip by before speaking again. I knew it was a sore subject for him and I had to decide if it was the right time to say anything or not. I decided to risk it. “You still haven’t told her, have you?”
Dustin knew exactly who I was talking about. He has had a crush on Ashley Johnson since the eighth grade but has been too shy to say anything to her. I have tried so many times to get him to talk to her but he just couldn’t do it. I have thought up so many different things he could say to her but he would refuse all of them. He would just sit there and admire her from afar, writing songs about her that she would never get to hear.
“Why don’t you play her that song, Dustin? I’m sure she’ll understand.”
He gazed at me for a moment and then looked away. “I’m not too sure about that.”
“Just try it,” I urged. “That’s what Tyce did and look at how that turned out. “
“Well, I’m not Tyce,” He interjected with hostility tinting his tone. He abruptly got up from his seat and began packing his guitar.
I watched him as he placed his guitar in his case and began zipping it up. “Dustin, I’m sorry. I know it’s hard for youâ€””
He stopped what he was doing to turn around and look at me. “You have no idea.”
The hostility could still be heard in his voice and his eyes were a striking green as they glared at me in anger. My eyebrows furrowed in confusion. In the nine years that I have known him, I’ve never seen him get so angry at me before.
He saw the expression I displayed as I looked up at him and his face soothed. He took a deep breath before continuing, “Look, it’s getting late and I still have homework to do. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
I nodded but remained seated. He never liked talking about Ashley but he never got this upset about it. He would usually just try to change the subject or he would just tell me flat out that he didn’t want to talk about it. I sat still, wondering what I had said to have gotten him so aggravated.
He paused before leaving. “Goodnight, Leah,” He said as he walked away, leaving my question unanswered.
At school Dustin was nowhere to be found. I stopped by his locker a couple of times after class but he never showed. Something was wrong. Dustin and I always met at his locker during passing time. I leaned my shoulder up against the locker and began to worry. I looked around for any sign of him when a pair of hands reached out from behind me and covered my eyes.
“Hey,” I laughed, suddenly relieved. “I was looking for you.”
The pair of hands spun me around and I could see again. My eyes met with ones that were the color of honey. “Hey, you,” He said.
“Tyce,” I greeted, feeling a bit disappointed. “I was looking for Dustin. Have you seen him?”
“Yeah. Why?” He answered. “I just saw him in the hallway.”
I frowned. Dustin and I have gotten into fights before but he never avoided me like this. I began to wonder what could have happened or what I could have done to cause this but my thoughts were interrupted before I could think of a probable answer.
“What’s wrong?” Tyce asked, stroking the turned down corners of my lips.
“Nothing,” I replied, shaking my head as if to shake all my fears and assumptions away. “Dustin and I got into a fight yesterday. It’s no big deal, really. We’ll get over it.”
“Okay, then come on,” He said, taking my hand and pulling it. “Or we’ll be late to class.”
I complied and let him lead the way, my head still drowning in my thoughts.
After school I headed home in my Toyota Corolla and passed Dustin’s house along the way. His car was in the driveway. I checked my phone. No missed calls. I had called Dustin five times right after school but he didn’t pick up nor did he call me back. My eyebrows pulled together at the thought of that. Dustin always kept his phone in his back pocket. He never missed a call and if he did, he would call back within the next ten minutes. He was definitely avoiding me.
I pulled into my driveway and got out of the car, not even bothering to take my backpack out of the passenger seat. I closed the door and immediately headed for the path that led to the creek. I followed it until the path curved back out to the neighborhood. Instead of letting it guide me out, I headed straight through the trees. I snaked around the woods until I found what I was looking for. The trees were arranged in two rows, leaving an empty space between them, as if it were creating a tunnel. The branches hung high in the sky and met in the middle, intertwining together and creating an arch, only allowing little light to shine through.
Through the opening of the tunnel you could see the flowers of the open meadow and the long grass swaying in the wind. You could see the big oak tree and the butterflies fluttering around it. I spotted Dustin in his usual spot, leaning up against the tree with a notepad in his lap. His guitar was propped up next to him.
I watched him write as I quietly made my way towards him. The concentration was clearly exhibited on his face as he jotted down the words that came to his mind. It wasn’t until I was a few feet away from him that he noticed my presence.
“Oh, hey,” He greeted, putting down the pencil and closing his notebook before I could see what he wrote. “I didn’t hear you coming.”
I sat down next to him. “So what’s up? I didn’t see you all day.”
“Yeah, I saw you with Tyce but I didn’t want to interrupt.”
There was a silence between us. I could feel that he didn’t want to make small talk with me but I persisted. I didn’t know what else to say. “I called youâ€”you never picked up.”
He motioned towards the phone next to him. “It’s off.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to keep up the futile conversation. But I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Dustin, what’s wrong?”
“Leah, I’m sorry about yesterday,” He apologized in a rush. “I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I was just so frustrated.”
One look at his face made me believe just how frustrated he was.
“I avoided you today because I didn’t want to take it out on you anymore.” He continued. “I’m sorry.”
I took his hand and held it in between both of mine. “I know,” I said as I squeezed his hand. “It’s okay. But next time please just tell me. I was so worried.”
He nodded his head in consensus.
“You really like her, don’t you?” I asked, immediately regretting that I did. It’s true that I don’t like him nearly as much as I did before, but I still didn’t want to hear how much he liked another girl. That little part of me still wanted to be the one that occupied his heart like Ashley did. That little part of me hurt so much knowing that I could never be the one.
Dustin looked at me before answering my question. “Yeah,” He said in a tone so sincere, it touched my heart and pulled at its heartstrings. “I like her a lot.”
I nodded and peeled my eyes away from his so he couldn’t see the hurt in them. He closed his eyes and leaned his head on the tree. I took it as a sign that he didn’t want to talk about her anymore and I let him have it his way because I didn’t either. I closed my eyes and quietly sat next to him, hand in hand, and secretly wished the day would never come to an end.
“Hey, you guys coming today?” Shane said once we were in hearing range. We were on our lunch break and the whole group was sitting together, eating lunch, in the courtyard. We all have been friends since freshman year, if not before then. The group consisted of me, Tyce, Dustin, Shane and his girlfriend, and Jake and his best friend, Nick. We were all in the same group for an English project and we all really seemed to click. We have been hanging out ever since then.
“To where?” Dustin asked, stealing the question that was running through my head.
“My house,” Shane answered.
“Why?” I inquired.
“Just come, okay?” He answered with that smirk we all knew so well playing on his lips.
Dustin and I exchanged looks but agreed to meet up with them. Shane always had been the mischievous one of the group. Whenever he smirked like that, we knew he was keeping something from us and we knew it had to be good. Usually it meant trouble but that never stopped us from finding out what he had in store for us.
“Fantastic,” He said, the same smirk on his face. “I’ll see you after school, then.”
And with that he left, causing us all to be more curious.
My headache grew into a splitting one by the time I got to Shane’s house. We were all gathered in the front yard, waiting for him to come out. My head pounded so loud, as I stood in between Tyce and Dustin, I wondered if they could hear it. Finally he emerged from the front door.
“Welcome to my house, ladies and gents,” Shane greeted with a big warm smile as he played talk show host. “You are all gathered here today to experience something so incredible that it will blow your mind.”
His smile was so contagious. I couldn’t help but to grin despite the throbbing I felt in my head. The smiling made me dizzy so I wrapped my arms around Tyce’s for support.
Shane laughed before he could finish his charade. “Nah, I’m just joking. I just wanted to show you my Xbox 360 and pool table that I got for my birthday.”
The group all cheered in excitement.
“Dude, do you have Halo 3?” Nick asked.
“Hell yeah I do,” Shane answered as he opened the door wider.
We took it as a cue to go in and check it out. I stayed back.
“I think I’m going to go home, Tyce,” I said, unwrapping my arms around his. “I have a huge headache.”
“Aw, but you are already here,” He replied. “How about you come in and just rest on the couch, okay?” He lightly kissed my forehead and rushed in to follow the crowd, leaving me to watch his back drift away from me. I stood there dumbfounded for a moment until I could hear someone beside me.
“Come on,” Dustin said. “I’ll take you home.”
I looked back at the open door with uncertainty but all I could see was Tyce’s back turned to me. “Okay,” I said and followed him to the car. He opened the passenger seat of his Acura and closed the door behind me before getting in the driver’s side. We drove in silence, lost in our own thoughts.
When we got to my house, Dustin followed me inside.
“Go to bed,” He said as he headed to the kitchen. “I’ll be up in a second.”
I complied and sluggishly made my way up the stairs and climbed into bed. I was comfortable and snug when he came in with a tray in hand.
“Here, take some Tylenol,” He suggested, handing me the pill and a glass of water. “I made some chicken noodle soup, too, if you want it.”
I thanked him and took the tray and rested it on my lap. I glanced at him sitting on the edge of my bed before taking a sip of the soup. There was a throbbing in me again but this time it was in my heart. It was really sweet of Dustin to take care of me like he did and to know that he couldn’t be this sweet to me everyday disheartened me. To know that he could never be mine saddened me. But to lose him as a best friend pained me far worse than anything I could think of.
“Break up with him,” Dustin murmured softly, lightly breaking the silence.
The words stung as they repeated in my head over and over again. I tried so hard not to get angry at him and to yell at him before he could continue and explain himself. I took deep breaths as I waited for his explanation.
“He doesn’t treat you the same way he used to, Leah,” Dustin continued. “You deserve better.”
I could feel my heart twinge. What he said was true and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew it. I knew for a long time now that things were going downhill for Tyce and me. I couldn’t stand losing him, though. If I didn’t have Tyce, then the only person in my heart would be the one person that I could never be withâ€”my best friend.
The thing that hurt me the most was that Dustin actually had the audacity to suggest such thing to me. He was being so selfish. Just because he was lonely and couldn’t have the girl he wanted, didn’t mean I had to be lonely, too. He was trying to sabotage my relationship to compensate for his.
“Tyce may not treat me the same way he used to, Dustin, but neither do you,” I accused, trying to keep my voice steady. It came out cold and sharp, as if they were daggers meant for the heart.
And I could see that it hurt him but that didn’t stop me from continuing. If he wanted to be selfish, then I could be selfish, too. I was going to make his heart hurt as much as he hurt mine. “You have been keeping things from me lately, Dustin. You don’t tell me things like you used to. Something is bothering you and you won’t tell me what. Am I even your best friend anymore?
The words took their effect.
“If you want me to stay out of your business, I don’t mind. I’ll stay out of it but you’ll have to stay out of mine. Stop worrying about my relationship and worry about yoursâ€”or lack there of, rather.”
I could see I went a step too far. The expression on his face hurt me probably as much as my words hurt him. I could clearly see the pain displayed on his face and nothing more. The ache in my heart grew when I saw that he didn’t even try to hide it.
He looked up into my eyes. The throbbing in my heart started up again, stronger than ever. I hurt him deeply and I could see it in his eyes. The one person that he trusted enough to bare his heart to was me and I used it against him. I took his heart and tore it apart like it was a piece of paper.
He got up from my bed and started for the door.
“Just get some sleep, Leah,” Dustin whispered, not even bothering to turn around and face me. Even though his voice was soft I could still hear the grief in it. “You’ll feel better when you wake up.”
He was out the door before I could say anything. I could hear his footsteps as he made his way down the stairs and out of the front door. I swiftly got out of bed, forgetting all about my headache, and peered out of the window. I could see his figure make its way to the car. Everything about him appeared to be dismal. His head hung low and his stride was lethargic. His shoulders were slumped as if all of his grief was rested upon them and weighing him down. The dark aura of sorrow surrounded him.
I sighed heavily as I watched him drive away. I got back into bed and closed my eyes. Before falling asleep, I wondered why we were getting into so many fights lately and I prayed it would end soon.
Dustin was in the car behind me, following me home. We had avoided each other throughout the whole school day but I didn’t want to have to avoid someone who knew me as well as I knew myself for any longer. I caught up to him after class at his locker and I asked him if we could talk. He nodded his head yes. He didn’t ask me where we would meet for he already knew. We both knew. It was some kind of tacit agreement that our meadow would be the best place.
I heard Dustin cut off the engine behind me as I did the same. We stepped out of our cars and headed for the path at the wood’s opening. I stared at the ground as we walked together in silence. There was a safe distance between us as we walked. We were close enough that we were walking together but far enough that our hands could never accidentally brush against each other. I watched our footsteps fall into synchronization as we made our way to the meadow. Neither of us spoke and there was no sign that he was going to speak any time soon. I let the comfortable silence carry on as we both tried to sort out the thoughts in our head.
The branches snapped under our feet as we diverged from the paved path and made our way through the woods. You could hear the creek behind us. It filled the quiet woods with the sound of water gently flowing down the stream.
I waited until we passed the tunnel of trees before I finally broke the silence. “I’m sorry about yesterday, Dustin,” I apologized. “I shouldn’t have said those things.”
“No, it’s okay,” Dustin replied. “I should be the one apologizing. I shouldn’t have meddled in your relationship with Tyce.”
I laughed a weak laugh. “We sure have been apologizing a lot lately.”
His face was glum as he nodded his head in agreement.
“But you were right, Dustin. Tyce doesn’t treat me like he use to.”
“So are you going to break up with him?”
I kept my gaze on the ground. “I don’t know… It’s hard. I love him.”
“Do you really, Leah?” Dustin asked in a tone hinted with skepticism.
My eyes narrowed. He was being such a jerk lately. “Dustin, why do you keep trying to pick a fight with me? I don’t want to fight with you anymore,” I strained to keep my voice calm. “But what does it matter to you anyway?”
“You don’t get it, do you?” He said, shaking his head. “I put myself out there for you and yet you never see it. Why am I so invisible to you?!”
His words triggered the memory of him playing me that song a couple days ago. I was quiet as all of my thoughts scrambled to piece together into some sense. “You told me those songs were for Ashley.”
He merely shrugged.
“You lied to me!” I accused. “All of these years I thought the one you loved was Ashley, and I believed you!”
Dustin opened his mouth to speak but I didn’t give him the chance.
“I can’t believe you would deceive me like this,” I said, making him feel as guilty as I possibly could.
“It’s better than lying to yourself, Leah!” He retorted. “You tell yourself that Tyce is the one you like. And you think the more you say it, the more you will believe it. But deep down you know I’m the one you really want to be with. I always have been.”
“That was just a little boy-girl crush, Dustin,” I explained. “It was nine years ago! I’m over it.”
“No,” He answered firmly. “You’re not over it. And neither am I! I see the way you look at me, Leah. There is a sense of longing in your eyesâ€”“
“Dustin, listen to me!”
“No! I have listened to you for nine years and now it’s your turn,” He demanded. “These past years, I have let you have it your way and I thought I could stand back and just be your friend as long as you were happy. I thought it would be better that way than to risk losing you. I thought with time I would eventually get over you. But nine years has gone by, Leah! I’m tired of waiting!”
“We can’t, Dustin,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“Well, I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t stand watching you in the arms of another guy. I just can’t take it anymore. I’m done with it.”
I knew it was my turn to say something but I struggled to find the right words. It was so much information to retain and I couldn’t register it all. I didn’t know what to think or what to feel. My biggest fear and my deepest desire were displayed out in front of me all at once and I didn’t know which route I wanted to take.
“I don’t expect anything out of you, Leah,” Dustin interrupted, his voice softer than before. “You were right, I shouldn’t have lied to you about Ashley, and so I’m telling you the truth now. I love you, Leah. And I want to be with you but I don’t want to pressure you to do anything you don’t want to do. Just think about it.”
After that I knew nothing needed to be said. We both knew that the next verbal exchange we made would have to come from me and it would have to be my answer. Whether we would continue being friends or whether we would become something more was all up to me. But no matter my decision, I would end up losing my best friend.
It was impossible to have a best-friends relationship with him after this. If I turned him down, we couldn’t just overlook all of this and continue where we left off. It would take months for our friendship to recover and maybe then there would be a slight chance that we could be best friends again. Even so, the fact that a part of us will still always love each other might come between us sometime in the future because friendship and romance really cannot coexist. But if I did accept his offer, and things ended badly, then I would not only have lost a best friend, but a boyfriend, as well. Either way I was risking the most important person in my life.
Dustin smiled weakly before lightly kissing my cheek. He stared intently into my eyes, as if he were trying to find a hint of an answer in them. Then he walked away.
I stood motionless as I watched him make his way through the tunnel of trees and out of sight.
The next couple of days went by slowly. Dustin and I avoided each other at school and the both of us hung out with the group less often. No one asked what had happened between me and Dustin but I knew everyone was curious. They refrained from ever mentioning his name when I was around them. At lunch, Dustin would sit with some other friends while I sat with Tyce and the group. Occasionally I would glance over at him on the other side of the cafeteria but regret doing so right after. Whenever I looked at him, I would remember all the times we had shared and I would realize exactly what I would be losing, exactly what I was already losing.
I spent sleepless nights laying awake, trying to think of an alternative answer to the situation. However, no matter how much I thought about, it came down to those two choices that he had left for me at the meadow. I couldn’t decide which one was better or which one was worse. Both sides looked bad and I didn’t have the courage to choose.
That’s when I realized that Dustin wasn’t the selfish one. I remembered the day when I got so angry at him for suggesting me to break up with Tyce. I remember thinking that he was the most selfish person I have ever met but in reality, it was me. I was the one that wanted to hold on to two people at once. I was the one pulling Tyce along in our relationship, not wanting to lose either of them, but only truly loving one.
A couple more days dragged by and Tyce broke up with me but we managed to stay friends. We both knew the break up would eventually happen; I just didn’t have the heart to do it so I waited for him.
“I really care about you, Leah, and I have enjoyed every second that I spent with you,” He said. “But I don’t think I can make you happy the way Dustin can. I have no resentment toward either of you because I know that a part of me knew all along I wasn’t meant for you. He’s the one you want, Leah. Don’t lose him.”
And I couldn’t have agreed with him more. I really couldn’t lose Dustin but no matter how much I tried to see it in a new light, the situation seemed to end up that way.
I let a couple more days pass by and I still hadn’t come to a decision. One time at school I ran into Dustin on my way to class. Our steps faltered for a meager second when our eyes met but we quickly recomposed ourselves and our strides picked up again. He smiled a feeble smile at me but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. I wanted so badly to say something to him. I wanted so badly to tell him that things shouldn’t be this way, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew if I said anything, then that would be it. That would be the official spoken end of our friendship.
Instead I kept my lips shut and continued to walk. Dustin nodded his head at me as he passed by and continued his way to class. After that I didn’t dare to look back at him and we went our own separate ways. I haven’t walked through that hallway again ever since.
I hadn’t realized how big the part of my heart I reserved for Dustin was until I found out how much it hurt to lose him. I could constantly feel the hole in my heart get bigger each day. There were times when I felt lonely even in a crowded room full of laughter and cheer. The emptiness overwhelmed me so much at times that I found that my whole heart belonged to him.
The creek seemed like a gloomy place as I walked through it. The sun shone brightly through the leaves of the trees but it cast tall, dark shadows over the path I walked on. I had been to the meadow less frequently ever since the fight had happened. In the first few days, I would come on occasion with a little glint of hope that he would be there but he never was.
I listened to the creek as I walked through the woods. The rain from the night before caused the water to rush heavily down the stream, filling my ears with the sound of the flowing creek, and blocking my thoughts from swarming in my head. I walked my own path, absentmindedly. I knew the pathway like the back of my hand. The dirt underneath my feet was packed and worn down from the many thousand times that I have treaded on it.
I stopped at the end of the tunnel and looked out over the field. Everything seemed inanimate. The long grass didn’t sway gracefully like it used to. The flowers were drained of their color. The red seemed less bold, the purple less majestic. Butterflies no longer fluttered across the field and the air sent chills up my spine. The big oak tree, for the first time, seemed old and humble. The branches drooped and the leaves were a dull green.
From where I stood, I could see a piece of white paper stuck to the tree. My heart pounded as I slowly made my way, step by step, towards it. My hands shook as I reached out for it and I immediately recognized the handwriting. It read:
We found this meadow together and it has been a secret we shared. We spent so much time together here that we came to claim it ours. But now I’m giving it to you. Since we no longer share a bond as strong as before, since we no longer are what we used to be, there can no longer be a connection between us. There is no â€˜we’, there is no â€˜us’, and there is no â€˜ours’. There is only â€˜you’ and there is only â€˜me’.
Our friendship has come to an end and only one of us can have this meadow. It belongs to you now. I am giving it to you as a token of gratitude. You have taught me what it is like to love another with your whole heart. You have taught me how to be a true friend and how to trust another entirely. I thank you greatly for that.
I will no longer come to this meadow as it is no longer mine. It is your hidden secret and I will tell no one of it. But I will always treasure the time I spent here with you. I leave now with no regrets. I am happy to have spent most of my life with a person like you. I am happy to know that this meadow is now in your hands. It is safe.
I will not leave here empty handed, though. You have given me so many great memories and I will take them and cherish them forever, remembering each and every one. I will never forget you, Leah. I could never forget you. You have been a big part of my life. You have made me a happier person and I hope I have done the same for you. You mean everything to me and don’t you forget that. I love you, Leah, but it is time to part and go our separate ways.
Take care of yourself and lead a happy, fulfilling life. I wish the best for you. Goodbye, Leah.
The tears rolled down my cheeks and fell on the page, leaving blots of inks where it hit. There was no hope. I haven’t even given him my answer yet but he has made his decision. He was not going to wait for me anymore. He was going to move on.
The emptiness in my heart engulfed me. It closed in on me from all corners as I stood there, frozen. I could feel nothing. My body and heart grew numb. I lost him. My biggest fear has befallen upon me.
My knees felt weak as I stood under the oak tree, reading the note for the second time, then the third. I leaned against the tree and let my weight pull me down. I hugged my knees, hoping that the sense of loneliness would soon subside. I tightened my hold, hoping my arms around me would comfort me.
I lifted my head to wipe the tears away and saw something next to me in my peripheral vision. I stared at it for a moment, not wanting to pick it up. It would only make my agony deepen. But I was compelled by a force. The part of me that wanted to keep Dustin by my side drove me to reach out for it.
I placed it in my lap and ran my fingers over the cover of the notebook. It was filled with all of the songs that he had written for me. I didn’t have the strength to read any but I flipped through the pages.
I stopped on the last page. It was the song he sang me in the meadow right before the break ended. I ran my finger over the side of the page. I had written â€˜Dustin â™¥ Ashley’ there a while ago when he was still writing the song. It had been erased but I could still clearly see the heart indented on the page from where the pencil was pressed.
Suddenly I remembered something. Hope washed over me and the feeling of helplessness desisted to exist. I sprang up from my seat and turned to the big oak tree. I search all around until I found it.
Near the base of the tree was a carving of a heart. Nine years ago, Dustin and I carved it on the tree. We put our initials in it and said it marked the beginning of our relationship.
I grabbed a pencil and tore a blank sheet of paper out of the notebook Dustin left for me. I placed it over the carving and traced over the indentation that the carving made. I smiled to myself when I finishedâ€”my decision has been made.
Class was almost over and I began to get antsy as I went over the plan in my head for the hundredth time. I knew that there was a chance that maybe it wouldn’t work but I knew I had to try. I had to let him know the way I felt and if he didn’t accept it, then I could move on with no regrets, just like he had.
I took out the letter and reread it, making sure there were no mistakes.
Nine years ago, you walked into my life and have been there for me ever since. Please don’t leave me now. Nine years ago, we found that meadow and it has been a secret only we shared. Please don’t break that bond. Nine years, Dustin, and you have always been the one I loved. Please don’t deny me of that.
To walk away now is useless. I still love you, Dustin. I will always love you. You have made your mark in my life. You have made your mark in my heartâ€”just like you have made your mark on the big oak tree.
You once told me that the carving we made represents the beginning of our relationship. It’s still there, Dustin. We’re not over. We will never be over.
Over the years, that oak tree has grown as we have grown. Its roots grew deeper as we became closer. It has sprouted more branches as we spent more time together. It symbolizes our love and as long as that tree stands strong and tall, our love will go on forever.
Your initials are carved into the tree, as well as mine. You own the meadow as much as I own it. We are forever connected in a bond so strong that it will never be broken. The secret is ours. And as long as you still want me, I am yours.
I’m sorry for any trouble I may have caused you. I am sorry for any grief I may have conflicted on you. Forgive me, please. I didn’t realize that the only way I could lose you was if I ever stopped loving you.
I don’t ever want to lose you, Dustin. I’ll be waiting, just like you waited for me.
I folded the sheet of paper along with the tracing of the carving. I wrote his name on the outside and waited for the bell to ring. When it did, I rushed out of the classroom and headed to Dustin’s locker. I placed the note on the top self and shut the locker door before he arrived. I waited around the corner until I saw him pick up the letter and began to read it. Then I left for home and made my way to the meadow.
My heart raced as I paced around the field, waiting for Dustin’s arrival. My mind was filled with thoughts and I didn’t know which one to believe. A part of me wanted to believe that Dustin would show up and take me in his arms but the other part of me doubted that we would come, leaving me an unspoken answer of rejection.
Then I saw him. He was standing at the opening of the tunnel. His facial expression was unreadable as he locked eyes on me. I stood still, gazing back at him. Time seemed to freeze as we stood there motionless.
My breathing became uneven. The doubt swirled in my head and my heart raced faster. Everything around me seemed to have disappeared. I could see none of the surroundings around me. I could hear no noise except for the pounding in my chest. It was just me and him standing in an empty space.
A wide smile spread across his face, causing all of my tension and anxiety to slip away. He ran towards me with open arms and I closed the space between us, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“I love you,” I confessed.
“I’ve waited so long for you to say that,” He said, burying his face in my hair.
“I thought you were done waiting for me,” I laughed, pulling back from him.
There was a sincere, thin grin on his face as he looked at me. “I am.”
And he kissed me before I could say anything more.
We spent the rest of the day in our meadow, sitting under the big oak tree, hand in hand. Dustin wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close. I looked up at him. There was a content smile that spread across his face. The look in his eyes made me think that he knew all along that things would work out between us. I smiled and rested my head on his shoulder, happy that this was just the beginning.
As he leaned up against his spot on the big oak tree, Dustin softly strummed his guitar as he sang out the words of his heart. His dark brown hair hung in his face as he watched his fingers find the right notes. He looked up at me with his emerald green eyes as he played, taking my breath away from me. I could hear the love in his voice and I smiled because it was all mine.
It was the first day of summer break and the day had just started. The sun was rising, brightening the clear blue sky. The butterflies fluttered across the field, hovering over the many flowers that were in bloom. The sweetest scent covered the entire meadow.
I closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh air. The gentle breeze lightly caressed my cheeks and brushed through my hair. It wrapped a sheet of warmth around me. I laid back in the soft grass as it gracefully swayed in the summer breeze. I listened as Dustin played me his sweet lullaby. The cords of the guitar and his soothing voice intertwined into a harmonious melody.
“And she opens her eyes
She shows me she sees
I love her like no other
Baby, you’re staying with me.
My love is incredible
No longer unseen
And nothing can come between us
â€˜Cause I’m no longer invisibleâ€”no longer invisible.”