This story is by Angel Amou and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I stumble over the railings and catch myself before the ground does. I trip on my skirt and gravity takes its toll on me once more. The cement floor is cold and rough but my senses do not register until the pain kicks in. By that time, I’m already on my feet again, running and running as fast as I can, which is not very fast, mind you. You were always the star athlete, just the way you were always the brilliant student, the moral compass and, more importantly, my best friend. The momentum under my feet carries me with the wind, I am too tired, too desperate to stop. You will be gone in three minutes. Oh, Ember, Ember will I ever see you again?
“Einstein’s theory of relativity, many do not grasp its true definition.” Mrs. Hemmer’s lectures bored me to the core; my mind had this automatic mechanism that tuned out her words upon hearing her voice. I rolled my eyes and looked at you to see if you were paying any attention. You were, of course, absorbing every bit of Mrs. Hemmer’s blab about Einstein. I don’t know if you know this, but your face becomes even prettier when you’re concentrated on something like you were in that moment. Perfectly arched eyebrows furrowed, red hair spilled across your cheek as you tilted your head to see the board, and most noticeably, those sparks in your eyes that looked like flames. We were born next to each other, in the same hospital. You came to this world three minutes before I did. (Remember? You used to joke that even back then you beat me to the punch.) And for the next fifteen years, my world would revolve around yours. You were my sun. Fifteen years felt like fifteen seconds, and soon I was sitting next to you in Physics class not knowing that in less than an hour, you would be gone. Time and space are such abstract concepts that Einstein was able to put into words, and suddenly I was able to understand it all by just looking at you, Ember, and thinking of our past.>
Bits of our history flash in my mind, fitting like an intricate puzzle. But the missing piece is not in my hands; it is in yours. What I don’t understand is:? Why didn’t you tell me? The question hurts so much, I numbed it with another memory.
Now you’re on a train to Chicago to catch your future, while leaving mine behind.
The wind taunts me as it gently slaps my face. I have left the town behind me and the dusty road leading to the train station draws nearer and nearer. It is hard to imagine that this is the place our friendship would come to an end.
People glare at me as I push through the crowd to find you. The train has already arrived and the thumping of my heartbeat counts down the seconds I have left. The flame of your hair catches my eye. I scream your name as I wade through the sea of people to reach you. You are like the clouds, moving so slowly but impossible to grasp.
I am in front of you, but you have already boarded the train. Your expression is calm but your eyes tell a different story. I see your face for probably the last time, and it’s like time stops; someone hits the pause button and rewinds my mind to make it all click when I finally come to a realization.
I got home from what felt like the same old uneventful day and flopped onto my unmade bed. I stared up at the ceiling where constellations of glow-in-the-dark stars peered back at me. I flashed back to the time we stuck those up there, super-gluing the stars in their places. When we finished adjusting the last one right above my bed, we high-fived with our super-glue sticky hands. After much struggle, we had my dad separate us with acetone. I had a smile on my face from this memory when my mother walked into my room. Her emotions tend to be hard to read, like mine, but I could tell she was holding something from me. The room filled with tense silence for what felt like an eternity. Until eternity ended. “Ember is moving to Chicago” The tone of her voice suggested this wasn’t for vacation. Another millennium passed before I managed to find a single word in my body. “Why?” Silence. “ She found an opportunity. For college.” I scrambled off the bed and kicked the door frame with rage. The stars fell, as did my tears. I turned to my mother whose expression turned from an unrecognizable empathy to pure shock. You know me, I never raised my temper. Until then. “When?” My voice was so desperate, I thought it was someone else’s. “ Her train leaves in three minutes.” Three minutes, I cursed the cold irony in it. Was this some cruel fate? My sun was gone; my world was crumbling, but all I could think about was you. My star, my best friend. And soon I was running. I didn’t even think about it; it’s like my body just knew that I had to see you one last time.>
Time winds forward again at such a speed that I don’t even comprehend that I’m back in front of your two-seconds-to-departing train until you speak. Perhaps you remember the last words you said to me?
You said: “ I have found my future, Drenna. I hope you find yours.”
Did you want to say more? Fifteen years of friendship summarized in eleven words. That’s a record.
The whistle of your departure drowned my thoughts and whatever persuasion I was going to use to beg you to stay. It is hopeless; the adrenaline that had surged through my body is whisked away. I collapse onto the floor in a heap of hurt. So much hurt that the expected tears remain unshed in my shattered heart. And in a split second, a moment that I would hold onto forever, you were gone from the very future you had just wished for me.
But I understand, Ember, and this is me telling you that I forgive you and that I’d let you go. The instant you left me alone at the train station, I found myself. I sat there on a wooden bench, contemplating over you, over me, over us. But there was no us anymore. So I thought about me. There was this whole revolution in my thinking. The eleven words you uttered to me that day changed my world. My life was not in yours, or in the fate of the stars. It was mine to maneuver.
Honestly, I thought it would take me another fifteen years to get over you and find my own way, but, really, all it took me was three short minutes.