It was a quiet easy morning, as it was everytime I came up here. The days had just started to become brisk in the early hours, a hint of autumn playing in the gentle breezes. They tickled my face playfully as I walked down by the same shops I'd seen for years, heading for the place I'd learned to appreciate more than anything in my life, the place I'd taken for granted since I was a child, one I had to lose for what felt like a lifetime to see exactly what it was to me.
I reached for the glass door and pulled it open, my eyes scanning the large room for one person. He knew me better than anyone else ever could and it was their gaze I wanted most right now. I saw their smile first and couldn't help matching it on my own lips for the first time in months. It was warm, instantly putting me at ease. It was a smile that had been worn on his face every day, worn through the best of times when laughter came easily and happiness was only genuine, worn through the most terrible and miserable times, when his world was falling apart at the seams and when there was no one to return it. A smile that had to be held on to even when bitter tears and bitter people had forced themselves to be dealt with. It made him the person I respected and called my best friend.
"Hey Mac Attack," he said easily. I wanted to laugh everytime he used it. The nickname I used to hate was almost the only name he called me. It was a relief to hear it, to feel like things were going to go back to normal. It didn't matter that I'd been gone forever, the family that I'd become a part of here did not forget me. We were joined by several others who I'd known since kindergarten, and I smiled and chatted with all of them, the whole time thinking "Do any of you understand what you are to me? You, who feel like the only real family I have?"
The day went on as if I'd never disappeared and I was grateful for it. A few questions here and there, but no one pried. They knew what I'd been trying to deal with. Everytime I felt waves of anger or sadness knowing that I'd have to leave work at the end of the day and wait another week to come back, I'd find my best friend and his knowing eyes. Because everytime they'd tell me it was going to be ok, that as much as I was honestly going to miss him and our talks, he'd miss them just as much too.
I'd met his girlfriend just once and in the brief time I got to talk to her, I made her sit and listen for a moment. Told her exactly how lucky she was, that there was no one else better she could find. She'd just smiled and assured me that she already knew and I returned her smile, all the while repeating in my head that she truly didn't have any idea.
Eventually I did have to leave for the day and although I had tried to prepare myself for it, I couldn't hold back a few tears. This was home to me, these people were family to me, closer than almost all of my biological relatives were. Before I headed for the door, I gave my friend a hug with my voice caught in my throat. I meant to say something funny and nonchalant, but I couldn't say anything besides a quick "bye" before quickly turning around and leaving. I knew I'd be coming back though and for a moment it was easier to smile, knowing that that'd be the first bit of advice my best friend would give me if I asked what to do.
I felt the cool breeze that had remained since this morning and bowed my head, letting it run it's gentle fingers through my hair, allowing it to try to comfort me in the only way it could. With one last look at home, I got into the car and was driven away, words I couldn't say for fear of tears still hanging on my lips.