You pull up your stockings and push your feet into your shoes, dressing for school, while sitting on the edge of your bed.
You can’t stay at home for another day. You know that there isn’t much time left and, regardless of what everyone says, you have to see the world one final time.
You pick up your backpack and open your bedroom door. The house is still, telling you that your parents are asleep.
You tip toe down the stairs and to the front door, where you hesitate for a moment.
“I can’t just leave them…”
You turn around, deciding to tell them that you’re off for school when you see your mother coming down the steps.
“Where are you going?” She asks worriedly, her night dressings fluttering around her.
“To school,” You say as brightly as you can. She hurries over to you.
“You’re too sick to go to school,”
“I’m feeling fine, mother, really!”
“You can’t go,” she says stubbornly. You step forward and hug her as tightly as you can, holding back your threatening tears as best as you can.
“Be back soon, alright?”
You smile and nod. “I will,”
She doesn't understand.
You pull away from her and say, “I love you.”
“I love you too, dear.”
You swear that you see the smallest tear roll down her face. You peck her cheek and turn to the front door. You grip the handle tightly.
“Tell father that I love him too, when he wakes up.”
You hesitate for a moment, but open the door widely.
The world you haven’t seen for maybe a month opens out before you; bright, endless and busy.
You give your mother one final glance and step outside, pulling the door closed tightly behind you.
You walk past many people, all of whom seem to not have a care about the next day. They chatter about school, jobs and families. But none seem to be wondering deeply about tomorrow, as if they expect for the next day to come…As you had before you realized what it meant to be alive.
Now, all of their talk seems stupid, pointless even, to you, because you knew that nothing could live forever. And maybe they knew this, too, but they just throw the day under the belt and say that tomorrow will be better.
But what if they don’t wake up tomorrow?
They don't understand.
You want to tell them, all of them, to live now, because they might not see tomorrow. But you know that they won’t listen. They never listen.
“Hey, [Name]! Where have you been?!”
You turn around to see Alfred running at you as fast as he can. You open your arms for his embrace.
Alfred grabs you up, lifting you off the ground, and spins in circles.
“You’re back! I’m so glad!” He sets you back onto your own feet, looking down at you with his azure eyes that are always so bright and limitless.
“I’m glad to be back, Alfred.”
“So what happened?! I haven’t seen you for a whole month!”
“It’s nothing,” You say faultlessly. The lie burns your tongue, but you couldn’t possibly tell him.
Alfred puts his hands into his pockets and sighs. “Alright, don’t tell me…But I’m so glad you’re back.”
“Yeah, I’m glad to be coming back.”
You walk with him to the high school. He talks about the trivial things that everyone else talks about.
“I’ve got a test tomorrow, and I’m gonna ace it,” “I think I might’ve forgotten my watch,” “Lunch today is gonna suck,” and so on. Not anything of importance.
“Hey, you know what, [Name]?”
“I think we should just hang out today, there’s nothing fun about school.”
“You want to play rookie?!”
“Why not? You’ve been gone for a month; a day won’t make a difference, will it? And I’ve had perfect attendance, so I’m good, too, so why not?”
It is just like him to come up with such stupid ideas.
“Okay, I’ll play rookie with you,” You agree with a small nod.
But he doesn’t understand.
“Sweet!” Alfred slings his backpack onto the side walk and waits for you to do the same, but you don’t. “You aren’t gonna carry that, are you?”
“I think it seems kind of suspicious, don’t you think?” That’s your excuse.
“I guess you’re right,” Alfred sighs and picks up his backpack.
You watch as he crosses the shady sidewalk and sets the backpack behind one of the large trees.
“There’s nothing but school work in it anyway,” he says resolutely. You can’t help but smile and shake your head. He comes back to your side and beams down at you.
“Where do you want to go first on this fine, spring day?” he asks.
“How about we go to school?”
He makes a gagging sound. “Somewhere else!”
He doesn’t understand how lucky he is.
“Alright then,” You cross your arms mildly. “How about we go get ice cream or something?”
“Now that’s a good idea!”
The small ice cream parlor is a place that you haven’t visited in quite some time, but everything is still the same; the glossy table tops and counters, the appealing stools and spinning chairs, the clean and sparkling checkered floors that are white and red, the pictures of famous people like Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Prince, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and KISS, but it was the fragrance of the place that tied everything together; the faint smell of rock salt, cream and sugar mixed with the different scents of the ice creams.
Alfred holds the door open for you and you enter casually, taking in the surroundings. Alfred follows behind you and calls a greeting to the man behind the bar. He’s been working here ever since you were little.
“Hey, Mr. Douglas!”
“Well look at who we’ve got here!” cries Mr. Douglas. You can’t wipe the smile from your face as you perch up on one of the bar stools. Mr. Douglas looks the same as he always does; dark hair, cocoa brown eyes and a large, neat mustache that wiggles whenever he speaks.
“It’s nice to see you again, missy! Where’ve you been?!” He asks joyously, pulling out two glass ice cream bowls from under the counter.
“I’ve been really busy, sorry,” You tell him. Alfred sits on the next stool over, leaning excitedly against the counter and engages in a conversation with Mr. Douglas. You occasionally join in, but really, you can’t help but think. You wish that you could just live this moment forever, not having to live or die. This was what you wanted, but something in your heart tells you that your dream won’t come true. You know that already and now regret all of the days you wasted. But you know there’s no way that you can just rewind it all and start over. That isn’t how things go.
Mr. Douglas slides you a mountain of ice cream in one of the glass bowls and winks at you.
“Shouldn’t you two be in school anyway?”
“Yeah, but sometimes people need a break, ya know?” Alfred replies with a grin before shoving a spoonful of chocolate ice cream down his throat.
You nod in agreement with Alfred. Mr. Douglas laughs, “Kids these days!”
“Takes one to know one,” teases Alfred. Mr. Douglas, who was well past being a child, simply laughs more. And the three of you sit in the parlor, laughing like a bunch of idiots.
“Bye, you two rascals! Come back soon, I’m missin’ ya both already!”
“Will do, Mr. D,” Alfred waves.
“Yeah, we’ll be back,” You say with a fond smile. The lie burns your tongue, but you couldn’t tell him you wouldn’t be back.
He wouldn't understand.
Alfred releases the parlor door and reaches for the sky, stretching. “Where to now?”
“The park, maybe?”
“Hey, are you turning into a little kid or something?” he asks, but walks in the direction of the park. You follow after him.
“I don’t want to play on the swing set, I want to see the lake.”
“If you say so,”
You sit in the soft, lush grass and Alfred sits beside you. The lake opens up wide only yards away.
The sparkling water undulates, carrying small boats across its beautiful body.
“It’s crazy how things still look the same as they did when we were little, doesn’t it?” Alfred says dreamily. You nod a little, remembering the days when you didn’t understand what it meant to die. The days when you were carefree and didn’t wonder about whether or not you’d see another day.
“It does,” You agree. Alfred falls over onto his back, letting the shade of the tree above cool him.
“It’s a really nice day today. I kinda wish that it’d always be this pretty.”
“Yeah…” You lay onto your back next to him, resting your backpack at your side.
“Have you ever wondered why we were born, [Name]?” he asks quietly. You turn your head so that you can see his face. He isn’t looking at you, but up at the leaves of the tree. You turn back.
“I have, actually.”
“I sometimes wonder about it. It’s normally at the craziest of times, though. I never really think about it.”
You don’t say anything. There’s nothing for you to say at the moment. You just listen.
“I feel like I’ve been wasting all of this time…I want to be someone, but I never tried to become anyone…Life’s too short to just wander about it aimlessly, you know?”
“It’s crazy,” he sighs. “I wish we all had more time…Then maybe we could live without the worry.”
“But then more people would waste the time, right? They’d just waste it all…they’d never think about it…”
“I guess you’re right.”
You feel Alfred’s warm hand wrap around yours.
“But I wish there was more time to spend…with other people…”
You feel like something sharp has punctured your heart.
“I agree with you completely, Alfred. It’s all so sad…”
“Yeah, it really sucks…”
The beating begins to slow, the pain begins to increase. Each breath is shallower than the last.
“I guess we should stop worrying about little things, like school and homework and stuff.”
“But doesn’t that all…set us up…to lead a good life…?”
“I guess, but people act like that’s all they live for…”
Your heart shudders.
“I don’t know…it’s all so confusing…” You breathe.
“Maybe that’s why people just go on and on and on without thinking about tomorrow… What if there is no tomorrow…?”
“I agree with you…Alfred…”
A tugging sensation comes to what you believe is your soul, as if it is trying to be free of your body, pushing through the walls of your skin.
Alfred’s grip tightens around your hand.
“It’s all so difficult.”
“I hate it…”
“In a way, I mean, who wants to live in fear of if the next day is gonna come or not?”
“…….But…no one…thinks about it……”
“That’s why it’s so confusing.”
You feel cold on the inside, your heart beats painfully slow, your mind only captures pieces of the words Alfred is saying. You can’t stay any longer, but you don’t want to leave him.
But he understands.
“But I guess if we balance it, everything should be alright, don’t you think?”
You’re losing the grip on yourself. The world is slipping away into darkness.
“I love you, [Name], you know?”
You feel tears roll down your face. You want to tell him the same, but there’s no control over your body anymore. You’re too far away; you don’t think he’ll hear you.
Alfred continues to stare up at the tree, waiting for you to say something.
“…love…you…” Your voice says barely audibly. He holds your hand even tighter.
He heard you.
You close your eyes as the world becomes further and further away. And then everything is dark.
Alfred turns his head over to you, tears streaming down his face. His grip loosens but not by much. He looks back up at the tree, leaves blowing in the soft breeze, unable to see the delicacy of each one through his blurred vision. The grass dances with the breeze as well, creating the softest melody.
“I love you.”