One thousand six hundred and sixty four. That’s how many miles there are between you and me. But we don’t talk about the distance. Just like we don’t talk about the time I was unfaithful or that you had popped pills because of it.
Your face is the first I see when I step off the plane and into a state I haven’t seen in four months. I could say I missed it here, but we both know that would be a lie. You’re smiling so wide it must hurt your cheeks and you’re holding a sign with my name written in red and green.
I run to you, although I had told myself I would not, and bury my face into your chest. You smell of cinnamon and pine and vague memories of the past. You wrap your arms around me and lift me up so my feet no longer touch the ground.
“Merry Christmas,” You whisper into my hair.
“God, I missed you so much.” I pull away from you and take your hand as we make our way to baggage claim.
“Does it seem different to you?” There’s a longing in your eyes. A wish that you had the means to soar alongside me. Being the star basketball player didn’t seem to matter when you got to college. I knew it was bothering you, even if you didn’t tell me. With an injured knee you had lost your scholarship along with your dreams.
“It looks the same.” I shrug my shoulders as he pulls my suitcase off the belt. “But everything feels different.”
I want to add that we feel different, but there’s something in your soft grey eyes that makes me stop. I had come back to end things between us, but suddenly who I was when I got on that plane is completely different than the girl in your arms now.
“What are we doing tonight?” I ask instead. With both our parents gone, we only have each other, and only for tonight.
“It’s a surprise.” You smile with the same mystery you did on prom night.
“You know I hate surprises.”
“Yes I know.” You roll your eyes at me. “That only makes it more fun.”
I follow you to the old pick up you’d had since sophomore year. I remember sitting in the passenger seat, my feet propped on the dash, as you told me you loved me for the first time. If I closed my eyes, I could still taste your lips on my own. It was yesterday and not three years ago.
“I thought you were selling that damn thing.”
“No one would take her. Besides, she’s rock solid. Wouldn’t want to ride around in anything else.”
“She’s broken down more times than I can count.”
You ignore my comment and load my bag into the backseat. I make my way to the passenger side and slam the door shut. I shouldn’t be picking fights, we only had sixteen hours. Still, I can’t help myself.
“Would you stop fumbling with the radio,” You snap at me after ten minutes of driving with only the sound of our breathing shared between us.
“Maybe if you had some decent music I wouldn’t have to.” I turn the dial again for good measure. You grit your teeth and tense your knuckles, playing it all off with a smile. Maybe you were as thrilled to see me as I was you.
“Your hair looks nice,” You say as a peace offering. I had dyed it darker two weeks ago.
“Thanks,” I mumble, looking out the window. I didn’t like the absence of snow our town was notorious for.
“I thought this moment would be different,” You admit. My heart drops in my chest. We weren’t who we used to be and it was up to me to decide whether to string you along any longer.
“There’s something on your mind isn’t there?” Out of the corner of my eye I see you staring at me. You lose sight of the road for only a second, but it’s enough.
Neither of us sees the deer until it’s too late. One second I’m staring at wide eyed innocence, the next we are plowing right over it. I grip the sides of the seat, trying not to hurl as crimson spews in front of us, showering your beloved pickup truck.
“Oh god, oh god,” I mumble at the same time you utter a string of curse words under your breath.
“You alright?” Your hands are all on my body, checking to see if I’m hurt. I only manage to nod an answer before you’re out the door. I count to ten before joining you.
“We should bury it,” You say. You crouch over the body, not even stopping to examine the damage to your truck.
“We don’t even have a shovel.” I divert my eyes from the lump of fur that no longer resembles what it once was.
“Jesus Christ we can’t just leave it here.”
I tug my jacket on tighter as I watch you pace back and forth in the dark. We’re lucky this road is seldom traveled.
“We aren’t strong enough to lift that thing.” I watch your face fall. I hate being the voice of reason, but you always force me to.
“Forget it,” You laugh, throwing your hands up in the air. “Forget the deer. Forget the surprise. Forget it all! Let’s just go get take out.”
“Don’t think like that, it’s Christmas.” I pull you off the ground and force you to look into my eyes. I didn’t fly all this way for you to stand around and sulk over something that’s already dead and gone.
“You act like just because it’s the holidays everything’s going to be magically fixed.” You gesture your hands wildly. “You act like all of this can be fixed.”
I know you aren’t talking about the deer.
“You’re right. Everything’s crap.” I don’t realize I’m crying until you scold me.
“Would you stop that?” You speak as if I’m a child. I push you away when you try to wipe my cheeks. But how can I not cry after everything we had been through together? You’re my entire past. A future without you is mindboggling.
You pull me into you and this time I don’t pull away. I snuggle against your sweatshirt as I have on many long nights. But it’s different this time, it’s goodbye.
“We can’t do this anymore.” I sigh into the familiar fabric. “We’re driving each other mad.”
“I know.” You hug me closer to your chest. “I’ve known since you got off that plane.”
A silence falls between us. For months I had imagined what it would feel like when we were finally back together. Now that I’m finally beside you, we couldn’t be more distant. We aren’t who we were in high school anymore.
“I love you, I know a part of me will forever. But it’s just not enough.” I pull away, placing a single kiss to your cheek. “You’re my best friend and whoever you decide to be from here, you’re going to be great.”
“You’re amazing. You know that?” You tell me. There’s a sparkle in your eyes. “You’re going to dazzle the world with your brilliance. I’ve always imagined you would. You’ll just have to do it without me.”
It all fades away. Somehow, it doesn’t matter that this is going to be my last night in your arms. I close my eyes and I can see a white sheet of snowflakes wrapping around us, protecting our final moment. They fall; wild and unique and free.