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I, Eleanor Doyle, had always been a cynical, skeptical child. My words never failed to snip away at people’s defenses, and my acid tongue incessantly lashed out at any signs of weakness or ignorance in others. Oh, I was friendly when I wanted to be – no doubt about that – but rarely did I refrain from uttering the caustic thoughts that perpetually coursed through my mind. My friends would smile and laugh as I would unleash my sarcasm upon unfortunate victims, claiming that my dry sense of humor was not as devastating as I thought it to be, but I would occasionally notice fleeting grimaces on the faces of my comrades and soon learned that my wisecracks were perhaps not always of the best kind.
At the start of high school, I vowed to slowly but surely reform myself, and with great time and effort, I did actually manage to act civil towards even those I despised with a passion unbeknownst to others. However, the sharp edge to my persona never disappeared. It remained an indelible part of me: the frost on a leaf, the prick of a pin, the sting of the rain – no matter how much I tried to tame myself to the greatest extent, I was never able to rid myself of my ever-pessimistic and bitter side. Two hectic years passed by with an ungodly swiftness, and I soon found myself at the gateway to eleventh grade. By that time I was drastically sweeter and kinder than ever before, but there was one thing I failed to see in a different light: love.
Why do people let themselves be carried away by a simple chemical imbalance in the brain, the effect of which can be created just by ingesting a slab of chocolate? Why do people throw their hearts and themselves at each other, all the while spewing nonsense about “devotion,” “passion,” and “eternity”? Can we humans not survive without relinquishing our lives (and sanity) and giving them away to people who are, let’s face it, at perfect liberty to throw our gifts back in our faces? Is it really so necessary to love?
These questions remained unanswered for a very long time until…I met Anthony.
Anthony King was the complete antithesis of me. He was the boy everyone loved – kindhearted, altruistic, fun-loving, and an unwavering optimist. He would walk through the hallways of our high school, grinning that nonchalant grin of his, greeting each teacher he passed with a cordial “hello.” His Italian heritage was blatantly obvious thanks to his dark hair and skin, and he occasionally let his inner Italian boy emerge in his small but harmless pranks and tricks that he played on the other students. In essence, he was the perfect class clown – hilarious yet aware of his limits.
I remember the first thing I noticed about him were his brown eyes. To me, brown eyes had always been boring: they were the color of mud and dirt, two very unflattering things to resemble. I myself had glared balefully into the bathroom mirror countless times, furious that I would be stuck with near-black orbs in the middle of my face for the rest of my life. Not that I really care what other people say, but it is a bit disheartening to hear an excessively tactless boy mutter that your eyes frighten him because they resemble the black pits of hell.
But there you have it. I hated brown eyes; thus for a long time, I hated Anthony, too. Of course, it didn’t help my sour mood that he was constantly nice to me and perfectly chipper whenever he interacted with me. It annoyed me to my wits’ end…what business had he, ruining my efforts to alienate him and wallow in self-pity and resentment?!
But that, I suppose, is Anthony for you. He’s the type of fellow who would discreetly put a flower in the locker of a girl who he knew was having a bad day, or purposefully fall back in a race or competition in order to let a deserving child enjoy his fifteen seconds of fame. He simply had this aura of benevolence that never failed to reel in even the most reclusive of characters.
I suppose it was inevitable that I would start warming up to him, too.
At first, Anthony and I would simply exchange tedious pleasantries with each other, sometimes speaking of the lunchroom mystery meat, sometimes discussing homework, and sometimes even bordering on the dreaded subject of the weather. Yes, I know, it sounds astonishingly pathetic, but believe it or not, as the sun dipped in and out of the horizon, we steadily became the best of friends through those infinitesimal conversations.
He would wait for me every afternoon by the everlastingly-broken water fountain, tapping his foot in mock impatience and shooting me faux glares when he caught sight of me striding up to meet him. In the mornings, I would always hover near the old, malodorous gymnasium, valiantly keeping my olfactory senses intact as I’d wait for him to throw the double doors open and jog in to rendezvous with me. Our classmates used to ask us why we never failed to stick around for each other, and we simply shrugged and gave the same answer: What better way to start and end a day than with your friend?
Of course, tongues began to wag and mental gears began to creak into operation as people began noticing that Anthony and I had become inseparable. Needless to say, we two laughed it off and called those people crazy, but I, the ever tormented and analytical creature that I am, also started questioning the matters of my relationship with Anthony. Although he was good-looking, intelligent, and had an extraordinarily good personality, I hadn’t really considered the idea of love or even like before. Had he thought of it that way?
Seasons riddled with muddled emotions stormed by in an almost impolite haste, and I quickly realized that my high school career had reached its last leg – senior year. I can still recall my excitement as I dialed Anthony’s home phone number the moment I returned from my annual summer hiatus to England. Two whole months without a good, long conversation with my best friend! It was nothing short of a crime!
The melodic beeps of the numbers I had punched in quickly transformed into a trilling ringing sound as I held the phone to my ear.
After about five seconds, a voice I recognized to be Anthony’s father’s spoke gruffly, “Hello?”
“Hey, Mr. King?” I replied. “It’s me, Ellie. May I speak to Anthony, please?”
I cannot tell you what was said in the few seconds after that, but what I can tell you is that my heart had never felt such a jolt before as it did that night. The words “car crash,” “fatal,” and “no hope” swirled around in my head as I slammed my foot down on the gas and defied every speed law known to me. Somehow, in less than seven minutes, I found myself in a dank hospital room, surrounded by buzzing machines and poised directly in front of the person for whom I cared the most – Anthony.
He looked so worn and delicate as he lay there on the spotless bed, his chest rising and falling in a steady cadence. I struggled to swallow the lump in my throat and blinked back my tears as I reached across and put my hand in his.
At my touch, he opened his eyes, those beautiful brown eyes, and smiled. “Oh, Ellie. You came after all.”
Somewhere from far, far away, a nurse said, “He doesn’t have long. He’s been waiting for you.”
I desperately clung to my senses, willing myself not to break down and destroy my strength. “You – you waited for me? W – Why?”
Anthony gazed up at me, his eyes shimmering with unshed tears, and gave a soft, watery chuckle. “I always waited for you, Ellie…because I knew you would always come.”
Surrendering myself to the overwhelming emotions within me, I leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead, trying to tell him all those things I had never managed to say before but had merely felt. The instant I pulled away, a deafening flat beep ripped through the air, and through the gray haze in my head, I heard a woman’s blood-curdling scream of anguish.
I stumbled away, blinded by a whirlpool of tears and the image of Anthony smiling up at me. I walked out into the pouring rain, sat down on the curb, and sobbed out a heart I never I knew I possessed.
Years have passed since Anthony’s death. I am now an old woman, sitting at my small writing table, wishing for days gone too soon and dreaming dreams spun from agony and longing. Some say I have squandered away my life, dwelling on matters that cannot be reversed and remaining devoted to a single boy my entire existence, but I resolutely maintain that Anthony King was, is, and shall forever continue to be my dearest companion. If I could not have him as a lover, I am glad to at least have him as a friend – my eternal comrade, my immortal confidante, and my undying angel.
Those ignorant outsiders know not what I feel or what I remember, but perhaps my memories will help them understand the ways of my heart. If they only knew Anthony as I did, they would understand why I shall never let him go.
For in his eyes, I found my faith…
In his touch, I found my strength…
Through his laugh, I found my joy…
…But in his love, I have lived a thousand lives in one.