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I felt my first life slip away on a frigid winter night while watching Babe in the basement. I can still hear the echo of my mom's frantic voice on the phone with the veterinarian.
“...can't get up....lot of pain.” Her words were strangled by intermittent sobs that break my heart now just as they did then. The minutes passed and I remained in the basement like a coward, not wanting to face the reality of what was going on upstairs. I thought if I ignored it, maybe it would go away. But, it never did. I heard the vet's car pull into the driveway and the house had gone eerily silent. I did nothing but watch the overrated sheep-herding pig.
Five minutes passed.
Finally I heard noise in the house again. Maybe the demons had gone and it was all just a dream. I was wishing with all my might that it had been. Then I heard my mom's cautious footsteps slowly coming down the stairs. I looked at her face and all of the horror that I had tried to calm came back with a vengeance so pure, I felt I would collapse. Her tear-streaked face and bloodshot eyes told me all I needed to know. But she controlled herself, being strong for me; something I had failed being for her.
“Sophia,” she began, refusing to surrender to the agony I know she felt. “We had to put Foxie down.” She wiped away a tear that leaked out of her determined eyes and continued. “You know she was in a lot of pain and that this moment would have come eventually.” Then her voice trailed off on some explanation but I didn't hear one word. The reality of the situation had finally hit me. The horse I grew up with that I learned how to ride on, had been put to sleep. She was the kind of animal that you only get one of in a lifetime, and now she was gone. And I was too much of a coward to even say goodbye.
Learn to say goodbye before it's too late.
The loss of my second life was a betrayal of the worst kind. It was the betrayal of my sister; my own flesh and blood. I had a crush on a guy on my swim team and it was decided that we should play hide and seek at my house. Before he got there, my sister was interrogating me with the usual questions.
“So, are you going to make your move?” The wicked smile on her lips dared me to say anything other than 'yes'.
I returned her wild grin and felt my face flush. “Of course! He's totally hot Lex!...plus...hide and seek is the perfect opportunity for being alone.” I gave her a seductive wink and we both started giggling like mad women.
After the giggling subsided, I saw something flash in her eyes that looked both challenging and wicked, but decided to ignore it. That was my first mistake.
Minutes passed and we saw him whip into the driveway on his pedal bike. Me and Lex exchanged evil grins and stepped outside into the warm summer night.
“Okay, boundaries...You are not allowed near the road and don't even think about going into the horse pasture. We have a man-eating horse and she will bite your head off.” Lex announced.
A few rounds of hard-core hide and seek went by, and finally I decided it was time to make 'the move.' I was 'it' and as I was counting, I was scheming up ways to kiss him.
“...fifty-eight...fifty-nine...SIXTY! Ready or not, here I come!” I smiled at the irony of that last line. Creeping around, swift as a cat, I spotted the distinct silhouette of a person on the other side of the bushes. Gotcha. I thought to myself. Sneaking closer and closer, nervous as to what he might say after I kiss him...I pounce.
It took me a while to realize something was very wrong. There wasn't just one person back there...there were two. And they were kissing. Not PG kissing either, it was hardcore kissing. NO! This can't be happening. That's Josh. And that's my sister. And they are kissing.
The realization slapped me in the face and sent me reeling backwards into the night, choking on my own sobs.
Those closest to you are the ones that can hurt you the most.
There was no chance of saving my third life. It was violently ripped out of my very being one Friday night.
Snuggled up in my winter fleece ensemble by the dining room table, I conversed with my mom about the normal school saga and my sister's latest male conquest when the ring of the phone sliced through the air. Looking back on it now, I knew that instant something was awry. Maybe it was the timing of it: Nobody calls our house during the dinner hour. Or perhaps it was a woman's intuition.
A chill swept over my body as my mom reached for the phone.
“Hello.” She said in her typical cheery phone voice.
I could hear a man's voice on the other line but couldn't make out anything of what he was saying.
My attention focused back on my mom, who's attempts to keep her face stoic were made impossible by the amount of grief and sheer betrayal running through her veins.
“Okay.” She said, losing control by the second. “Will you send them to me? I'll give you my e-mail.” Her words were terse, threatening to be cut off by the sobs that were sure to come.
“Okay. Thank you.” And with that she hung up the phone and looked stricken about how to tell me what she had just heard.
I had a good guess about what the news was, but couldn't bring myself to actually say it. I wished it wasn't horrible. But I'm no fool; I prepared myself for the worst.
“Am I in trouble?” I squeaked, although I knew full well I had done nothing wrong.
“No.” She replied, holding it together far longer than any mortal should be able.
“Is Lex in trouble?”
She sighed and replied “No.”
No. The one time I was actually hoping for either me or my sister to be the ones in trouble. I gulped and asked the last question, even though I already knew the answer.
“Is dad in trouble?”
A look of both desperation and grief welled in her eyes as she answered.
And those two words; those two tiny, insignificant words are the words that shattered everything. I knew what the next words were going to be...but I didn't want to hear her say them.
She continued and I listened even though my ears were screaming not to hear.“Your father has been having an affair for the past couple of months. I don't want to get into details with you, because it's not your place. But that was the husband of the wife and he has known about it for quite some time...he just decided today that he couldn't keep the secret anymore.”
I could hear my life shattering into millions of tiny pieces. The walls I had built up for so long came crumbling down in a catastrophic cloud of dust. I knew my parents had been drifting apart, but I didn't think it went that far.
I stared at her in shock, mouth hanging open, not sure of what to say. The dad I had looked up to all those years, the one I had tried so desperately to impress, had betrayed us. That's the thing about affairs...you don't just betray your spouse; you betray your entire family.
I could hear somebody talking, then realized it was me. To this day I don't know what I said, but after a few minutes, I calmly stood up, walked outside into the barn, and cried for two hours.
When you feel something going terribly wrong in the lives of the ones you love, act before it's too late.
The fourth life I lost was the icing on the cake, and it all has to do with a boy.
We were the couple that nobody expected to date, but when we were together they were shocked as to what they saw. I was a girl that nobody really knew anything about, except her obvious lack of grace...and he was a deeply unhappy boy for reasons few knew, and even less understood.
But when summer came after senior year, something happened. We were no longer 'us'. Rather, two separate people, each dreading what the future held.
Then came a summer night I will never forget. We were curled up in a chair together – limbs intertwined –, listening to the crackling fire, when the elephant in the room became inescapable.
“Something's bothering you...what is it?” I asked, clumsily breaking the silence.
He cringed and was about to say something before snapping his mouth closed. The light from the flames cast an orange glow over us as he gazed my face like it was the last time he would see me.
“I don't want to talk about it.” He finally managed to say.
“Come on, just tell me.” I pushed further, dreading his next words.
“It's college...” His eyes left mine and he let his eyes drift out into the night like he was willing the darkness to take his pain away. “I can't stand the thought of you leaving. I don't want to be alone again.”
And with those words I kissed his cheek and told him not to worry, we still had a few months until I left.
Two weeks passed, and each passing day he became increasingly sullen; until the day of High School graduation finally arrived. I spotted him in the crowd and was hopeful that since he came to this, there might be a chance for us. But the flicker of hope was snuffed out the second I looked into his eyes.
He was gone.
Physically, still there, but the boy I fell in love with was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was his ice cold shell he took out only for special occasions.
He congratulated me on my graduation and we exchanged small talk and took a few pictures together.
“Well, how does it feel to be officially out of hell?” He asked, remaining as emotionless as possible.
“Pretty awesome.” I replied, trying to keep the mood light.
We hugged after one final congratulations and I turned to walk away, but stopped myself short. In one graceful motion, I closed the distance between us and kissed him goodbye, knowing that it would be the last time I ever see him.
Learn to love what you have every second of every day because you never know when your time together has come to an end.