Waking up in the middle of a lake was not necessarily the way I’d prefer to kick off my Thursday morning. It was about 7:30 am, and I couldn’t recall how I wound up on a floating blow up mattress a few feet away from the shore. I did my best to turn myself over on my side– and as soon as I did, I notice my best friends laughing at their obvious prank on me.
That’s what happened.
I remembered refusing a dare from them and falling asleep. I pushed their buttons; so they, quite literally, pushed mine back... and into a lake.
My name is Mason Roberts. I’m 17 years old, and clearly very pushed around by my friends. It’s the middle of July, and we decided to take a one-night camping trip together in celebration to the conclusion of Junior year. We found ourselves playing truth or dare at 3 in the morning, and I was dared to text the only girl I’ve loved since the 4th grade.
As any other sane-and-completely-avoiding-socially-disturbing-situations type of person, I said no thank you. I flip myself over on my stomach and paddle my way back to the shore. We had a good laugh about it, kicking back and crying over something so ridiculous. All until I felt a buzz in my pocket.
I receive a message from her.
Her name is Lydia, same age as myself. She’s got brown eyes and strawberry blonde hair. She thinks it’s a strange combination, but I promise her that it’s not. We’ve been best friends for God knows how long.
With shaky hands, I unlock my phone. It reads:
LYDIA: I need to see you.
MASON: I was just thinking about you. What’s wrong?
LYDIA: I can’t type it out. Need to see you. Please.
MASON: Of course. Where and when.
LYDIA: I’m at the corner of Adelaide trail. Now.
MASON: I’ll see you then.
I put my head in my hands, as curious eyes from my friends find my screen. They all let out an “Ooooh”, as though they were still 6 years old.
There’s a moment of silence, although I think everyone was able to hear my heart’s extravagant thumping. I don’t know what she needs to tell me. There’s a long pause until one of my friends turns to me.
“You understand you can’t live like this forever, right? In all seriousness.” He gives me a half-hearted smile.
“I know.” I shrugged.
“This girl can’t sit and wait for you anymore. You’ve had years, and you’ve grown up. You need to do something about it.”
And he was right. So, I tried.
We packed up and parted our ways late afternoon, as I made a left on Adelaide trail to get to Lydia. I managed to find a post-it note before I left, and wrote down all of the thoughts I’ve ever had. I figured that once she told me what was going on, I could slip her the note and make a break for it. It was risky, but at least I had the courage. As I pulled up, I saw her car. I parked and ran up to the window.
She was crying.
I had never seen her cry since she lost her math homework back in 5th grade. She had mascara running down her cheeks, her eyes were bloodshot. As she turned, she noticed me, rubbed her eyes, smiled, and unlocked her car. I sat in the passenger's seat and turned to her.
“What happened?” I stated in a calming voice. She breathes in and out, avoiding eye contact with me. Basically, she explained how her life was falling apart, how her parents were going through a divorce and everything was changing. I asked her if there was anything she needed.
She spoke softly but swiftly to the side, “I’m okay,” she looks down. The entire time, she does not look me in the eyes. “I can’t help but believe that this was my fault. It feels like everything’s crashing and burning. And there are some things you just don’t know, that I’d love to explain and I–.” She pauses.
“What types of things?” I question.
“I’m sorry, Mason. I promise you’ll know more when the time comes.”
I look down at my hand holding the post-it. I crumple it up slowly.
We talk for another few minutes, as I reassure her that I will be here for her until the very day I pass. She thanks me, and tells me she’s going to be on her way. I step out of the car.
“Thanks for coming to see me. I’ll see you later, Mason.” She says.
In that moment, I want to so badly tell her I love her and keep her here with me. I want to take her hand and promise her that everything will be okay. I got the feeling that “later” will be quite a long time.
And I was right.
After that night, I did not hear from her for months. Every time I went to visit her, the house was locked up, with nobody inside. I, of course, often thought about her and the situation she was in before. I missed her. Dearly.
Each passing day I never received any more phone calls or text messages from her. It got to the point where I would get nothing but CNN reports on my phone. I missed the good morning messages and the good nights.
I searched everywhere for her.
I was still in love with her.
No matter how many times she left me for other guys or ignored me for weeks, I still loved her. And that’s what hurt the most. This was the longest time I’ve ever spent without her, and it’s almost like thunderclouds further covering my heart. I know she’d never truly love me, and it would possibly always stay one sided.
I received a letter from address states away about a year later. At first, I figure it’s a scam of some sort until I open it. It read:
I’m so sorry I was unable to get to you. I’m safe, I can promise you that much. We had to sell my house, and I left my phone back in Massachusetts after we left in a hurry.”
I stared at the lines and lines of writing. Her family must have fled the state after being unable to afford anything anymore. The more I thought about it, the deeper the ink bled through my well-being. She never wanted to leave me.
I kept reading, “...I tried to get to every possible line, but I figured the only reasonable way of communication was through a letter. P.S. I found this. I wanted to return it to you…”
Taped to the back of the envelope was a small, yellow piece of paper. I unfold it. It was the very note I had given up on a year prior. The ink hadn’t smudged. My love note was still frozen solid in time. My heart drops. I never put it back in my pocket. She found it. She read it. I continue reading:
“…I wanted to say that you are not alone.”
My eyes scan down to the bottom of the note, slowly. My heart is on fire. My breathing is slow. I feel sick and almost as though I’m going to pass out. I make it to her writing.
Printed, right before me, it reads:
“I never break my promises.”