That Summer: Twenty-NineMature

Riley

Stephan King once wrote that time takes it all. I was sixteen, and so far, everything I'd ever had was already gone. After the funeral, I returned to my empty house. Being alone didnt seem so bad, not when the only person I wanted to be with was dead.

I knew all to well that eventually I'd have to let her go. Otherwise her memory would eat me alive. I needed to stay strong, to keep alive her beautiful memory.

Willow had told me we would all get through this. Maybe it wouldnt be easy, and it certainly wouldnt come soon. But someday, I thought, there was a possibility of living free of the chains.

Thinking of Willow brought to mind another situation entirely, and that was what such a fragile girl could find in the tornado of my brother. Seeing them so tangled in each other's arms had ignited something deep inside of me, some beacon of hope I'd long since let die out. I wanted to believe that her innocence might corrode away his harsh shadows, and not the other way around.

When the doorbell rang, I was both surprised and expectant. I didnt know who was on the other side, and I didnt particularly care. I sauntered into the foyer, past the elaborate artwork that went so unnoticed, My parents had spent thousands on those pieces, and still I awaited the day I would see my mother stare upon them inquisitively. Search for a sign, maybe. A meaning in the nothingness void.

The locks turned. The night spilled in as I opened the door, and standing before me was Willow. Her pale blonde hair was almost close enough to be mistaken for Harper's, but her green eyes kept me in reality, and her solemn expression forced me to step aside and let her in.

"Sorry I didnt call," she mumbled. Her cheeks were rosy, although it was a good eighty degrees. Embarrassment, then. Or anger. She was short of breath.

"It's alright," I assured her. "Let me go get you some water." Willow trailed behind me into the kitchen, where she sat down at one of the dinette chairs. My hands were shaking as I filled a crystal glass halfway. "What brings you to my doorstep?" I asked her off-handedly. Willow and I had never truly been friends, only civil acquaintance. It seemed that summer might change that fact.

"I was hoping Trevor might be here," she explained. "There was a fight..."

She trailed off, and I didnt press her. Willow sipped at the water greedily; I sat by and watched, watched her lick the last drops from her lips. "He's not," I replied, perhaps harsher than I should have. "He hardly ever comes by."

If anything, Willow seemed confused by that. I thought that our apparent closeness at the funeral may have disillusioned her.

Her next words, seemingly so off topic, struck me deeply. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain, so simple and yet so intense.

"You two were lovers, werent you?"

Six small words tore open more wounds than I'd known I had. Willow was staring at me all the while. Waiting.

I sighed a little. "You want the truth?"

Willow shrugged. "I just...she was supposed to be my best friend, Riley. And I'm starting to realize I barely even knew her."

I nodded, because I really did understand. Hell, I'd hardly known her. Love without knowing. I wondered if that was even possible.

"I want to make it as magical as it seemed to me," I told her. "But I just dont think it meant anything to her." 

"You really cared about her," she murmured.

"Yeah," I said with a hollow laugh. "Yeah, I did." Willow's expression was pure sympathy.

"I'm sorry," she told me. I could tell it was sincere.

But I could only shrug. "It was nobody's choice but hers."

The End

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