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“Where are you?!”
I can’t help but chuckle at the impatient voice I knew so well. Christina always has and always will be one of the most anxious people I know. I love that voice and, for the first time in far too long, I was going to see the enthusiastic face I knew was on the other end of the phone.
“I hung up with you less than five minutes ago!” my voice is bubbling over with laughter. At least some things never change.
“Oh…well, can you hurry?” she inquires in that voice which sounds more like a statement than a question.
I’m not sure what I’m babbling into the cell phone after that; I don’t need to hear her voice right now; I just need to see her, to have her hold me in her arms and tell me everything was ok now. All I hear now is the deafening pounding of my heart and my mind’s steady whispers. How long has it been? My finger’s count distractedly. Six months… strange, it seems longer. My eyes water from the joy of finally coming home and from the pain of the last six months.
“You are now entering Terminal A,” the robotic sound of a woman’s voice greets us at a door. That’s not what we need. Further on, the signs “Concourse C” and “Concourse B” greet us.
“Emily! There’s the baggage claim sign!” Hannah’s delight is apparent as the double doors to our old lives looms closer.
Yes, you’ve been through a lot, haven’t you? My eyes flicker to my sister who trails along at my side. Do my eyes burn with that same pained desire? You’ve all been through a lot, you more than others.
We stop at the double doors to read the bold-printed sign: “Airport security zone: No turning back once through these doors.” Good riddance. You don’t want to go back. Oh, wait, but you’ll have to. You may be happy for a while, but soon enough you’ll be back here again, except next time you’ll be traveling in the opposite direction.
I slam through the door a little too strongly, for Hannah looks startled. She doesn’t understand you. Nobody does. Your parents don’t know the harassment you face daily, the bullying you keep secret. Your sisters already have friends! And there’s you, day in and day out, sitting all alone, dreaming about your old home and hiding from the monsters that terrorize you in broad daylight. My breathing falters as my stomach tightens. Despite my efforts, my fists won’t unclench and my body continues to shake from the tension. We continue walking, my steps more desperate than before.
My eyes scan the crowds of people, all rushing about their own business. A man in a black suit and a bright red tie is talking swiftly on his phone. A young girl is trailing after her family, wheeling a bright pink suitcase. I tighten my own grip on my green duffel and scan even more rapidly, searching the crowds for the blonde hair and beautiful face I knew was seeking me. Your life’s been so hard! Being the only confidante for each member of your disintegrating family while still battling your own demons at school has to qualify you as some type of martyr. I stab at the elevator button once we realize they’re not on the main level and glare at the bright lights telling me to wait.
“I hope they’re on the bottom floor,” sighs Hannah as she moves beside me. The basement level of the baggage claim slowly reveals itself through the glass elevator
You must be so happy to be going home. The corners of my mouth flicker upwards at the thought. But don’t you ever wonder if you’re missed. My brow furrows as my teeth bite down on my lip. Sure you miss them, everyone knows how much you miss Christina, but how much do you really thing they miss you? After all, they still have friends; they’re never alone or scared. Pretty soon they’ll realize this as well and then the phone calls will slow, the mail will stop coming, and eventually, you’ll be more alone than you could ever imagine. My step falters and everyone seems to move more slowly.
“Emily? Come one, we’re almost there. Keep going,” Hannah murmurs. Why does she sound so far away? “Keep going…”
Yes, come on! Go see your best friend. Look at her, hold her, and be happy. Then you can leave. You can turn around and go back to being all alone again. You can turn around and –
“EMILY!” I glance quickly at the cell phone which remained closed in my palm. My hair whips around sharply as my eyes regain focus and search the crowd. I know that voice. Suddenly the hustle and bustle of the airport returns as I pick up my pace and search for the voice.
“Christina,” I hear my own voice croak at first. Then a stronger cry arises from a place in my heart I wasn’t sure existed anymore. “Christina!”
And then it happens. A wall of suits, ties, and briefcases slowly parts and the slim blonde figure is revealed. That huge smile graces her face and I can almost hear her laughter.
Do you really think she –
“EMILY!” Her joyous shout shatters the doubtful words and they remain in pieces behind me as a run forward. My feet don’t seem to touch the floor as I sprint towards her, leaving everything further and further behind me. My duffel leaves my hands as I run towards the person who represents everything I thought was lost.
Suddenly she starts running towards me and now I’m sure I can hear the laughter rising from her lips. Her arms are spread open, ready to accept every sorrow locked in my heart and every tear trapped behind my eyes. Her face is so familiar I can’t contain my own joyful laughter. With every step I come closer and closer to what I had and even further from what my life had become. My new home, which was never truly a home, is left in the dust with the doubtful voice that had tormented me for too long.
I take two more steps and then I’m there. Our arms are thrown around each other in the consoling embrace of two best friends who had been apart for an extensive period of time. Even though her laughter still rings in my ears, I can’t help the shaking sobs that had replaced my own mirth. Soft, hiccupping noises escape my lips and tears chase each other down my cheeks as I cling tightly to my best friend. She laughs gently and squeezes a little tighter at the tears she knows come from my relief. My stomach aches as my muscles relax for the first time in months.
You’ll have to go back sometime. You know she can’t hold you forever. For the first time, I silence the voice in my head. Its taunts become feebler until they are drowned out forever in Christina’s giggles. She can’t hold me forever, but I know without a doubt that she would if the world would let us. Even though states will separate us physically, she’s told me without words that I can endure anything because she’ll always be on the other side of the door if I need her. Right now, the only thing that matters is being with her; whatever the future holds between the two of us can wait now that I’m in my best friend’s arms.
“I missed you…” she whispers as I close my eyes.
“…I know.” And for the first time, it’s true