Author's note: The inspiration for this novelette was my mother's childhood. She grew up in a small town. When... Show full author's note »
PrologueAutumn and I always had a love hate relationship. In the beginning, the leaves: red, orange, yellow, and golden brown fluttered to the damp ground in such a delicate way that it was as if they were putting on a dance recital. Not only was the fantastic array of colors breathtaking, but the weather was gorgeous. It was so beautiful in fact that on some days, it could almost grasp the inhuman quality of perfection. Anyone could feel unstoppable, for the days were anything but monotonous. Happiness became the sound of school buses and racing to be the first out of the school building. But on the other hand, there was the drag of Fall’s end. There was the muddy ground making the leaves stick to my sneakers and wind tugging at my curly brown hair, twisting it in knots. As the season that represented the start of a new school year where anything could happen suddenly begins to draw to a close, people begin to change just as the leaves once did. It truly begins to sink in that school work is not easy; you have to try hard to get above average grades. Exceeding others’ expectations only happens if you can first exceed your own. Slowly, we are all thrust down the long winding road that is the school year, and the season fades into a winter wonderland, then a warm spring, followed by a sweltering summer, as the cycle repeats every year.
We sprinted down the smooth black road and through the muddy trail in the woods, staining our bare feet as we went. The leaves fell softly, getting tangled in our hair and crumbling between our toes. If you thought unstoppable was unreachable think again, for then you didn’t see us. Noa, Ryan, and I were the very definition of “free” and just the sound of the word left its permanent ring in our ears. It was the last day of summer, the day before we entered the appropriately named “shark infested waters” of middle school, and we didn’t know it yet, but it was also one of the last days of our friendship. The expression, “it feels like it was just yesterday,” did not even cut it. In fact, I can still smell Noa’s apple shampoo from when her blond hair caught the breeze and sometimes, if I listen carefully enough, I can hear Ryan laughing sarcastically at my terrible jokes.
“Can we stop,” Ryan panted, almost choking, “I need some rest.” He stumbled over to a rusty old bench, tripping over his own feet.
“You okay, Ry?” Noa snorted, as she pat him on the back, her breathing just as heavy. We all sat on the cold bench giggling for a while from pure exhaustion before eventually, for the first time in years, there was complete silence. That was when Ryan broke down in tears. No, he didn’t just break down. Ryan, courageous, adventurous, strong, and colorful, was hysterical. Noa, who was at the time peeling the lead paint off the bench to occupy herself during the awkward pause, gave me an unforgettable sisterly look that pulled at my heartstrings, as we both put our arms around him and started tearing up as well. We did not need to speak, a glance was the only thing necessary for us to just know. Our eyes, all red and puffy from crying, said what we were always afraid that we would have to say. Noa’s green eyes, Ryan’s blue, and my hazel, all sobbed the same heartbreaking phrase: “goodbye”. At that we went our separate ways. Now any reasonable person would ask “why?” Why couldn’t you stay friends? The answer to that is plain and simple. For years, we knew this day would come, and as we made new friends over those years, we knew that once when we were all in the same school, there was no way in hell that the popular girl, the jock, and the quiet A-plus student would ever be accepted as friends. Just like the leaves in Autumn, my friends were changing, and though I was too stubborn to accept it, I was changing too.