I pull my suitcase up onto the bed and unzip it. Ally said that she would be back in an hour so I should be able to be finished packing by then. I lift some of my shirts into their places and a note falls out onto the floor. At first I think that it is a note from my parents or Austin, but as I unfold it and see the scrawled handwriting I throw it onto the bed in reaction. I stare at it flipped onto the pillow. What could Ryan possibly have to say to me? Sighing, I figure I would rather Ally not know, and pick up the note. I sit on the edge of my bed while I read.
I know that you hate me and I guess you have every right to. But I think you should know that the reason I think you have the right to hate me is not what you think. I guess I should take you back to the beginning. My freshman year I met this girl named Bethany at a soccer camp. She went to a different high school in town but soon we started dating. But she turned out to be nothing like the girl I wanted to be with. A year into our relationship, she broke up with me and it turns out she had been dating another guy at the same time. I was heartbroken, her being what I thought was my first love and all, and I decided to do everything I could to get her back. I worked at impressing her for a year and a half. But then I met you and suddenly had no desire in winning Bethany back anymore. I think she could sense that because then she wanted to get back with me. I was so struck by you that I told her no...multiple times. When we went to Dairy Queen, I agreed to go because I wanted to tell her that I was in love with you and I did not want to date her anymore. She was upset at me but I didn’t figure she would do anything. That is until the night of the dance, when Natalie and Samantha cornered me when I was getting a drink and Bethany was there. She kissed me and the whole time I was trying to get away. I understand that you may not believe me. And you can hate me because I lied to you about Bethany being my cousin but I did not kiss her while we were together. And when I told you I loved you, I meant it, and I still do.
I was wrong this entire time. He wasn’t kissing her. She was kissing him. And as hurt as it had made me, I believed him. He loves me. Suddenly, I know what I must do. I pull out my phone and dial his number. It goes straight to voicemail. Maybe it’s because my service isn’t that good. I run through my house trying to find better reception. I run outside and run until I reach the pond where it all began. I call again and it still doesn’t go through. I fall against a large tree and cover my eyes. I wasted all of this time and now I can’t even tell him that I love him.
“I wasted all of this time.” I whisper.
“Doing what?” The voice startles me and I shoot up facing the tree from which the sound came. The voice registers in my head and I feel relieved.
“Being angry with someone who didn’t deserve it. Being angry with him and not even caring to listen to his story to know that it wasn’t his fault.”
“And what do you wish you could do?”
“Tell him that I’m so sorry,” I pause. “And that I love him.”
Ryan steps out from behind one of the trees. “I bet he would tell you the same thing.” I smile at him and feel so relieved that he was here. He walks toward me and takes my hands. “Katie, I am so sorry that any of this happened. I wish I could turn back time.”
“I don’t” I say.
“Well through all of this, I’ve just realized that I’m stubborn and I really need to work on that,” he smiles slightly at me. “And I’ve realized just how much you can love someone.”
“Do you forgive me then?”
“I think a better question would be do you forgive me? I did punch you.” He answers me by kissing me. I wrap my arms around his neck and feel so happy to have him with me again. I do not hesitate to kiss him back. And now when he kisses me, it’s not like the first time. It’s even better.
“And this is where we can have picnics.”
“And that is the hobo we can share our picnicking food with.” Ryan smiles as he gestures to a homeless man across the street. I laugh at his quirky smile.
“And I need to show you the best part of the campus.” I take his hand and lead him up the stairs in one of the oldest buildings. We climb up and up the many flights of stairs. Ryan complains about them and asks why we didn’t just use the elevator. I tell him that we needed the exercise. We finally reach the end of the stairs and I open the heavy, rusting metal door. It opens onto the roof where the city and countryside are painted before us like one of Grace’s paintings adorning her wall. “This is where we can come to escape.”
It’s been four months since Ryan and I had re-connected. They have been the happiest four months of my life. He decided to go to a college in Spokane which is only an hour away from EWU so that we could see each other more often.
We walk over to a wooden bench looking out at the fields behind the campus. He takes my hand as we sit next to each other. We sit quietly while we both think. I look down at our hands, connected together. “Ryan. I have an answer to your question.” He looks confusedly at me. “You asked me why I ran.” I can see him understand. He nods. “I ran to find you, so that you could start teaching me happiness.”
He smiles faintly and places his hand on my cheek. “I love you, Katie.” He leans down and our lips meet. In that single moment, I feel as though my world will never experience sadness again because right here, right now I was with the boy I loved. I was with the boy who loved me back. And somehow he had taught me happiness. The kind of happiness that can never fade away.