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"Are we there yet?"
"Just a little further."
"Ugh. I'm tired. Why'd you have to choose somewhere so far away?"
"Suck it up. I wanted to make sure we'd be alone."
Lily rolled her eyes. She never understood why Isra had such a need to be spontaneous. It was like spontaneity ran through her veins instead of blood, charging her up for the "next great adventure" as Isra always called them. If ever there was someone Lily would bet on discovering some deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, it was Isra. Adventure, exploring, change, that was who Isra was.
Isra glanced back at Lily who was following behind her with a frown etched on her strong features. Isra knew Lily only appeared to be angry with the world most of the time, the moments few and far between where Lily's emotions matched the ones strewn across her face.
Lily stopped when Isra stopped. Isra moved behind Lily, putting her hands over Lily's eyes so Lily could no longer see what laid in front of her. "Walk," Isra commanded.
If she had been able to, Lily would've looked at Isra like she was insane, because that's certainly how it sounded. "You're kidding, right? We're in the middle of nowhere and you want me to walk blindfolded? I could trip and twist an ankle or something. No way. Just lead me how you were a couple seconds ago. What was so wrong with that?"
Isra sighed. "But I want to surprise you!"
"I think this whole outing is surprise enough."
"I don't, so you better start walking or I'll run back to the car and leave you here all on your own until you find where I was going to take you."
Lily tried to turn her head back to look at Isra but Isra wouldn't let her. "That would be impossible, considering I have no idea where you're taking me. It could be anywhere."
Isra nudged Lily and, reluctantly, Lily started moving where Isra guided her. "No, it couldn't be anywhere. Don't you know me by now?" she laughed. "You'd know it when you saw it. Trust me."
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Lily exclaimed, attempting to sound exasperated.
"I dunno, you tell me."
"Shut up, I'm trusting you with my life here. I can't see a damn thing."
Isra let another wide smile spread on her lips as she took in the sight of the beautiful girl she was now standing in front of. "Really? So you can't see me?"
"No, of course no—" Lily opened her eyes. "Oh." She looked up into the canopy of leaves above her head, all different shades of red and yellow and orange, something like she would've imagined seeing the sun up close would be like. Behind Isra was a cliff that jutted off towards the most beautifully clear water Lily had ever seen. You could see everything on the bottom of the tiny lake, and it was covered in pennies that gleamed and shone as they reflected the shafts of light who managed to poke through those same leaves she'd been admiring moments before. "Oh."
Isra skipped out of her line of view, watching Lily take it all in. That was always the best part of their adventures, to Isra—watching Lily experience it all. In those couple seconds of amazement, she completely let down her walls, and Isra could finally see through her like she could see through the water below them.
As Lily sat down on the edge of the cliff, legs dangling over the edge, Isra put down the picnic basket she'd been carrying. She pulled out the CareBear blanket first (it was the only one she could find, property of her little sister, Emma), and then started setting out the sandwiches and hot chocolate. It wasn't that cold out, but Isra knew Lily loved hot chocolate, so it was a must-have item on her picnic list.
When she was done, Isra joined Lily on the cliff. "What's with the pennies?"
Lily was leaning back on her hands, so Isra mimicked her position, laying her hand over Lily's. "You know how people throw pennies into wishing wells?" Lily nodded. "Well, I'm told it's a similar concept. When two people come here together and swim in the lake and leave a penny behind, then they're destined to be together forever."
"Huh. Seems legit," Lily commented sarcastically. She could be cynical at times...or really, all of the time. Isra learned quickly that it was best to ignore that side of Lily, since it was more of a front than anything real. As it turned out, Lily was the bigger romantic of the two, though she'd never admit to it.
Isra glanced back at the food spread. "You hungry?"
Lily returned her question with a grin. "Starving."
Once settled on the blanket, they sat in silence while they inhaled their sandwiches. It really had been a long walk. If a random stranger had somehow come across them, they would've thought the girls hadn't eaten in days.
Taking a deep breath, Isra looked at Lily. "So..."
"So?" Lily repeated.
"I, um...I have something to tell you."
Lily froze. Those words. Those words were never good. Those words brought bad things, bad things that haunted her in her dreams on nights she woke up in a cold sweat. Those words were merely facades for ghosts who lingered in their world a little too long, with only the purpose of disturbing the living.
She choked on her bite of cheese and ham. "What?" The food went down her throat but for some reason it felt like it was still stuck.
Isra dropped her gaze and Lily's stomach churned. Isra never looked away from Lily while they were talking. That was Isra, head-on, strong, always focused on what was in front of her and nothing more. And when Lily was around, well, Lily was always Isra's focus.
Isra took a deep breath. "My, uh," she gulped,"it's my dad. He, um, he doesn't want us to, you know, be together."
Lily scoffed. "So? Mine weren't exactly ecstatic either, but we kind of just agreed not to talk about it. Do something like that with your dad."
Isra felt closer to the edge of the cliff than when she had been sitting on it. "I tried," she said so quietly Lily almost missed it. "I tried and he...I'm probably going to be gone for a while, Lily."
Lily leaned across the blanket and lifted Isra's chin so she was forced to look her in the eye. "What do you mean 'gone'?" When Isra didn't respond, she said it again. "What do you mean by 'gone', Isra?"
Tears were welling up in Isra's eyes. She'd never cried in front of Lily before. Isra had always been the strong one, contrary to how they seemed on the outside. Lily was always the one who came to Isra, all upset in the middle of the night and begging her to take a walk around the neighborhood so she could be distracted.
"It's nothing," Isra said just as the first tear hit her cheek. "Don't worry about it just—just know that I won't be around for a while. I'm not sure how long, but I'll come back, I promise."
Lily stood up, not knowing what to do with herself. "Where are you going? Why are you leaving? Where is he sending you?"
Isra shook her head. "Nowhere, nowhere. Nowhere. Don't worry about it."
"Don't worry about it?" Lily bit back the taste of humor on her tongue. "I'm your girlfriend, Isra, I have every right to worry about you, so don't you dare tell me not to worry! Where are you going?"
Isra pushed herself off the ground and leveled the height difference between her and Lily. "I don't know, Lily. I just know that I'm going and that I'm not sure when I'm coming back."
Lily started pacing, throwing her hands up in the air as she thought of a solution, a way out of this horrible situation. It made her want to throw up, thinking about where Isra could be going. She needed to help Isra this time, Isra who had been her rock an infinite amount more than she'd returned the favor.
"We could run away. Just pack up and run away," she suggested, staring out into the wilderness.
"With what money?" Isra countered. "We'd run out within a week at most."
Lily tapped her foot on the ground. "Ok, um, I can hide you in my basement then. My parents never go down there, they'd never know."
Isra stepped towards her girlfriend.
"I could bring you food when I got home from school, and—"
Lily was calm when Isra pulled away from the kiss. Her eyelids rose slowly, as if she was drugged off just that one kiss. But it was just the calm before the storm, and soon enough her rosy cheeks were wet and her knees gave out, leaving her kneeling at the edge of the cliff.
"I don't want you to leave me, Isra! I want," she tried to get the words out through her sobs,"I want to stay with you forever. I can't live without you. Who else will push me on the swings at the park? Who else will pull me out of last period study hall to drive through the night and end up in some shady motel six hours away that just happens to be in the button capital of the world?"
Isra could barely see through her own tears, but she did her best to blink them away, and brush Lily's off her cheeks. "We can do all of those things when I get back. Just think, waiting will make them seem even better when we can finally do them again."
"I don't want to wait."
"Me either, but, we have to. We have to look forward so we don't forget ourselves in the now."
Lily's red eyes met Isra's. "I," she sniffled,"I need some more buttons, so," a small laugh leaked through,"so you need to promise me we can go back there and get more of the yellow ones—the ones shaped like stars."