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The story begins back when I was a senior in high school. I was the small kid everyone picked on; not the annoying kid who typically got bullied, but just a regular kid who everyone seemed to have a problem with. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol, I didn’t play sports, I wasn’t in any clubs, and eventually the whole “no friend” situation got so bad, I had to start eating lunch in the bathroom. Things were at their worst and I could only pray for the day where I stood out in my own skin.
It was the day before Halloween, and I was sitting at home after school when I got a text from my old friend Joey: ‘Hey, we are going to the volleyball game tonight, it’s at 7, and I’ll pick you up in a few’ it read. Immediately I started getting ready; this was the second school sporting event I had ever attended, and for some reason on this particular night, I was feeling adventurous.
“Hop in! We are going to be late,” he exclaimed. “It’s an hour drive and that assuming we don’t hit any traffic”
“What’s the special occasion?” I asked with a puzzled look across my face. “We haven’t hung out in months, or even talked for that matter!”
“That’s the occasion! It’s been too long since we’ve talked. What better way to catch up than a nice long road trip and watching girls play volleyball!” he answered in a confident and pumped up tone.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
Like old times we sang in the car, and a few karaoke sessions later, we arrived. To our surprise there were no other students from our school there to support the team. So Joey and I went to the back corner and watched the girls warm up before the game. Moments later, another team showed up to watch the game, and all the girls sat in front of us. Our team started dominating the game and we quickly lost interest.
“Hey, do you play volleyball” Joey shouted down towards the girls, just trying to start some conversation. Hoping it would make the game a little less boring to watch.
“Yeah, why do you ask?” replied one of the closer girls to where we were sitting.
“Well why are you here?” he questioned.
“We are playing the winner of this game next” she replied. “Our coach made us come to this game so we could see our competition for our next game in the tournament.”
From then on, the small talk continued. We ended up moving down towards the girls and sitting with them. This was a little out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t even eat lunch like a normal kid and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of a huge group of girls who all wanted my attention.
“Do any of you know how to do long division?” one of the prettier girls asked her teammates.
“My friend here is in calculus, I’m sure he can help you out,” Joey obnoxiously butted in.
She walked up a few rows in the stands and sat down right next to me. Our legs brushed ever so slightly in a friendly but also rather awkward manner.
“Hi, I’m Elizabeth,” she said with a slight grin. She was beautiful: like a horse’s mane, her golden hair trailed down her back, her elegant emerald eyes glistened under the bright lights of the gym, her voice was fit for none less than a queen, and her charisma was inexplicable.
“I’m Benjamin. What can I help you with?” I asked while returning a friendly smile.
“I’m doing long division. I know it’s easy, but I forgot how to do it,” she said in an ever so fragile voice.
I reached for the pencil and our hands awkwardly touched, but in that moment, there was a spark, something that made us both smile, and in that instant my world changed. The neurons in my head were rewired and all of a sudden I was fearless. I put everything that was a part of my life up to that point behind me, and just went for it. She finished her homework, and we continued the small talk until the game was almost over.
“Let’s leave early and beat the traffic!” after getting nudged in the ribs by Joey.
“Bye, Elizabeth” I said slowly in a saddened tone, “It was nice meeting you” and I walked out.
It was pouring out, so we ran to the car and got inside.
“Wait!” I yelled before Joey could start the car. “There’s something I need to do.”
I got out of the car and ran back towards the doors, frantically looking for the girl of my dreams. I searched the parking lot, nothing. I went inside, she was gone. Soaked and disheartened, I began walking back towards the car. I opened the car door, and I heard the school door slowly screech open. I looked back over my shoulder, and there she was: Elizabeth.
I ran over, “Hey, I had a great time tonight, do you want to go out for coffee?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’d like that” she replied in her soft soothing voice. She took my phone out of my hands “Here’s my number,” she stated as she punched in the digits.
She started walking towards her car, and I went back to mine. I pulled the door shut behind me, and called her.
“Hey, it’s Benjamin, where should we go?” I asked.
“Hmmm, how about Starbucks?” she replied, after a slight hesitation in thought, as to what was closest to us.
“Sounds good” I replied and ten minutes later we were sharing coffee. Joey tagged along since he was my ride home. Small talk filled the shop, but after an hour or two it was time for us to leave. I said my goodbye, and left: hugless.
I’ll never forget that night, lying in bed, thoughts racing, wishing I had hugged her on my way out, wishing I could relive that night; the highlight of my senior year. The next day we started talking and every Monday after that we met at that same coffee shop, sat in our same seats, and shared our coffee.
It was my junior year of college, and her sophomore. I lived a very different college lifestyle: I never partied, drank, and rarely visited campus for reasons other than class. Elizabeth and I lived together happily, far off campus, but close to the shore. We spent every windy day surfing, which was one of our favorite childhood hobbies and every night watching the sunset across the shining sea, fingers intertwined. Life seemed absolutely perfect and our relationship made the ones in movies jealous. The days went by slower and slower, as each moment of every day was filled with the magic of love, and emotions that could not be described.
I graduated college the following year, getting my Engineering Degree, and Elizabeth graduated the year after that, with a writing degree. I worked for GM and a few years in, I became a manager, got a company car: Red Chevrolet Truck, and started living the good life. As for Elizabeth, it was a different story; she stayed at home on the beach and wrote day after day. She was a naturally gifted writer and her heart was set on the profession since she was a little girl. She wrote short stories and poems which were published more often than not, but recently she had been working on her third book from her “Politics Abroad” series. I provided for us, loving my job, and allowing my love to chase her dreams.
A few years later, we were ready. I took the day off work, went to the jewelry store, and bought the ring. I came home early to find her down by the beach. I went inside, put a suit on, concealed the ring in my pocket, and walked down to the beach where she sat.
“What are you doing home, and why do you look so fancy?” she asked in a curious but humble tone.
I got down on one knee, pulled the ring out.
“Elizabeth, will you marry me?” I asked, nervous out of my mind.
“Yes” she exclaimed after regaining her breath.
She took the ring. Then I got up, grabbed her in my arms, and kissed her.
Shortly after was the wedding. I called the local priest and asked if he could bind us through marriage at our house, which he politely agreed to. We held it on our beach and only invited close family. Her beautiful white dress and veil blew in the wind as she walked barefoot across the sand towards me. The priest began the ceremony, and I got lost in the moment.
“I do” she said.
“I do” I responded.
It was very classy and very romantic; something Elizabeth and I had always wanted. Two years later, after a trip to the doctors, we got some good news: Elizabeth was pregnant. We were going to be the parents of a little baby girl.
“Hey honey, wake up. It’s a beautiful day” I whispered as I pulled apart the curtains revealing the sun, as its golden rays glistened across the waves and into the room, illuminating Elizabeth’s face as she rolled out of bed.
“Good Morning” she replied with the simplest of smiles as we walked down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast.
“How is your book coming along?” I asked as she poured me some coffee.
“Delightful, I just finished revising and I think it’s ready to be published soon,” she replied.
“Is this one better than your last?” I asked.
“This is the best book I’ve ever written” she replied.
I finished my coffee and left for work.
I got home from work early, and it was the perfect day to go surfing; the wind was strong and the waves were huge. I walked out to the back porch and saw Elizabeth down by the water writing among the beauty of the sea, as she did every day.
“Hey love, let’s take a break from work and go have some fun.” I giddily stated.
“What did you have in mind?” she replied.
“Let’s go surfing like the good old days!”
I reached my hand out to her, helped her up, and walked her back inside. We put our suits on, threw the boards in the back of the truck, and left for the beach.
We stopped on the shore, embracing the purity of the ocean water as it repeatedly brushed the golden grains of sand like a paintbrush looking for the right stroke.
“Don’t you think we are getting a little old for this?” she stated sarcastically.
“You’re never too old to have fun” I replied.
Hand in hand, we strolled down to the beach with our boards and paddled out to sea. As usual, I kissed her for good luck before the first wave, and off she went; paddling towards the coast. She got up her first try and began cruising along the water wall. She disappeared into the wave, living the moment most only see on TV; where you try to escape the tunnel of the wake. I lost her and began to worry as she was headed towards the Shallow, a dangerous part of the beach which was filled with rocks and known to take the lives of surfers. The wave subsided, and Elizabeth was gone.
Petrified, I began paddling over to the Shallow, heart pounding, mind racing, only hoping she was okay. Panic set in, and the tears began flowing with the current. I spotted her board and immediately swam to it. I went underwater and saw her unconscious; caught under a rock. I took a deep breath, swam down, tugged her free, and brought her up to the surface; laying her upon my board. The waves were too rough in the Shallow, so I swam my fastest to shore and dragged her up onto the beach. There was a gash in her head that was bleeding profusely. I checked her pulse: there was none. Breath, breath, compression, compression, compression… It must have been three minutes before her heart started beating again. She coughed, and some water pumped out of her mouth. I grabbed her in my arms.
“I should have never brought us here to surf” I mumbled full of regret.
“We were just having fun” she replied with a grimacing smile.
“I’m so sor…” she cut me off.
We locked lips, and when I pulled away, her pulse was gone.
The funeral was the following week. It was beautiful, but it couldn’t bring her back. My world fell apart after she left. Everything changed: the days went from short happy memories where every instant felt right, to what seemed like decades of tears and loneliness. The memories began to fade and what killed me most was accepting that her love was no longer a part of my life. I fell into a loveless and lifeless depression, quit my job, sold my house, and moved into an apartment downtown. It was a small, cheap, simple place containing only what was needed to live; a bed, a kitchen, a couch, and one flickering light bulb in each of the three rooms. I became accustomed to the dark as it consumed me; straining the remains of hope and spirit I still possessed. My soul decayed as I aged, and the light at the end of the tunnel became blurry. Until one day, the light became clear.
I left bright and early on this particular Monday, kicking my old rusty Chevy until the gears began to grind and the fog machine of a muffler started filling the air with smoke. The trip was long to Katie’s house; it was halfway across the state and a four hour drive to Romeo. I arrived at noon which was when the party started.
“Happy Birthday” I said as I walked in the door.
“Thank you for coming dad” she replied in accompany with a kiss on the cheek and warm hug.
Katie was 35 today, the same age I was when Elizabeth left me. I didn’t talk much at the party, I really wanted to, but it was too difficult to keep a conversation alive when I couldn’t hear most of what was being said. I left around four, hoping I could get home by eight which was before it got dark. I pulled out of her driveway and began driving down the street when I passed the old coffee shop. This was the first time I had seen the place since the last time Elizabeth and I shared coffee here; my senior year of high school.
I went in to get a coffee, and to my amazement, there she was: Elizabeth, sitting at the same table we used to share coffee at. I walked over as fast as my little old body allowed and sat down across from her.
“I’ve missed you” I muttered. There was no reply. I ordered us coffee and sat there at peace with the world. There was no conversation for the rest of the night, I couldn’t tell if she was actually there or if my eyes were deceiving me but it didn’t matter. All those lonely nights I laid in bed, cold, thinking about her and praying for one last chance to see her were finally answered. I finished my coffee, and just sat there staring into her gorgeous green eyes until the manager kicked me out. I started walking towards my truck when I tripped on the curb, and once and for all the lights went out.
My soul separated from my body, and I lifted off the ground like a rocket without the smoke. I was quickly surrounded by white clouds. I reached out and a hand pulled me through. I got to the other side, and there she was: Elizabeth.