by rugal b.
The final countdown draws near.
|I stand in a corner holding my drink, just a soda because I really can’t stand alcohol, as I look at the crowd of people in this area of the house. Is it some kind of fire hazard or something? Catherine’s home is fairly normal sized and I’m amazed that she’s able to pack so many people into it. I guess that’s just the kind of reputation her parties hold though. I don’t like parties, the music and dancing and all of that. But Catherine’s are always… something else I guess. Maybe it’s just because I like Catherine, even if she inadvertently pushed me off of the track team.
Such is her magnetism, I suppose.
“You look like you’re having fun,” Amber says, her face beaming as she walks up to me.
“It’s too crowded,” is all I say in return.
“You’re telling me! It took me forever to find you.”
“Did you just get here?” I ask.
“Mmhmm. I came over with Monica and the twins about fifteen minutes ago. Ash and Penny are looking for drinks and boys. Monica’s looking for… well, I’m not sure what she’s looking for but she said it was it was important.”
“She wouldn’t be Monica if she didn’t constantly keep everything close to the vest.”
“Yeah,” Amber snickers before regaining herself. “Sam, I’m sorry.”
I look at her in surprise. “About what?” I ask her.
“You know, just kind of blurting all of that out of the blue a while back. About where I was going to school.”
I suddenly felt very horrible. “You don’t have to apologize for that Amber! That’s… I mean, it’s not like it’s bad or anything! I’m honestly really, really happy for you,” I say. I’m feeling incredibly guilty.
“I know it’s been eating at you because I know how you get. Well, how all of us get,” she says. “Monica was telling me a few days ago that she had to have a lot of talks on Christmas. Penny was telling me that her and Ash cried a lot that night.”
“Ashley’s never been the crying type.”
“I know,” says Amber with amusement. “She’s always trying to act like she’s sort of the tough one. I’m going to miss seeing it. I’m going to miss seeing all of you every day.”
“You deserve it though,” I tell her. “You’ve really done a lot for us. For me. There’s a lot of times that I would’ve had a really hard time getting through without you. The stuff with the basketball team earlier this year and all that but a lot of stuff too. You’re like the most supportive person I know so if anyone deserves a little bit more...”
“Well, you’ve done a lot for me too,” she replies. “Because I kind of always know what to expect from you. You’re a constant and I like that because it means any time I was starting to doubt myself, any time I was feeling uncomfortable, you were there being you. Everything been changing so much this year but you’re like a little bit of normalcy in all that. It’s something I really needed. It’s something that all of us needed.”
“I just feel so selfish though,” I admit. “I just don’t want any of it to end. I really kind of thought we’d all be together forever.”
“Silly, you are the least selfish person I know,” Amber declares. She then pulls me into a tight hug and I can’t help but hug her back. “I’m going to miss you so much. I’m going to miss all of you.”
I can hear her voice wobbling. I know that she’s crying. I don’t really know what to say or do as I hug her back so instead I blurt out what seems to be the natural thing to reassure her. “We can still talk,” I tell her, “and you can probably come back here on breaks or maybe we could go out there or… I don’t know. It’s not like we’re going to stop being friends as soon as we graduate.”
I don’t really know how long all of it lasts but I don’t really care either. I’m jut glad to be spending a little more time with one of my best friends. And saying that… maybe it was more about reassuring myself than it was reassuring her because I’m feeling a little bit better by the end of it. Eventually Amber decides to excuse herself as she wants to mingle a bit and talk to some other people as well; tell the news to people she hasn’t been able to talk to yet.
“You must be Samantha,” comes a voice not long afterwards.
It’s to my surprise to see a boy but he’s not one I recognize. His brown hair hangs just the slightest bit shaggy, he’s got a full compliment of facial hair and his dark eyes are deep set. But the expression on his face is very warm. Still, it’s in my nature to be hesitant and cautious and this instance is no different.
“I am,” I reply with a bit of trepidation.
“Great! Penny said you’d be with Amber and I just saw her walking the other way so I figured you must be the girl.”
“You know Amber?” I ask. I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him around school. But something about him is, very vaguely, registering as familiar.
“We’re teammates. Name’s Ashton.”
That’s why he seems familiar. I’ve watched Amber swim a couple of times so I’ve probably seen him too. With that I allow my guard to drop a little bit more and allow myself to talk to him. Again, I’ve long since stopped paying attention to time so I’m not really sure how long the two of us talk. But Ashton’s a very nice guy and I find myself slowly feeling more and more at ease as the conversation moves.
He’s handsome and athletic but unlike a lot of the jocks at Westside he doesn’t seem to have the ego. He’s a very unpretentious guy and in spite of myself I find that I’m actually starting to really enjoy his company. We eventually part but not before agreeing to meet some time later. Again to my surprise.
It’s eleven now, one hour until the new year. There’s a palpable excitement buzzing throughout the house and murmurs and talk. I can hear people talking about plans for the new year or what their resolutions will be. I’ve moved out of that corner now though to another area that’s still a bit quieter. I’m just not a mingler and a conversation with a guy isn’t going to change things that quickly for me.
I’m eventually joined by Amber, Ashley, Penny and finally Monica. It’s the first time I’ve seen her all day and there’s something different about her. I can’t quite place it though.
“So, what were you looking for?” I ask to her confusion. “Amber said earlier that you went to go look for something.”
“Oh, right. Yeah, gosh this is going to sound cheesy, it was my nerve,” Monica says. “Because I’d have to tell you guys eventually and I figure that it’s probably best to do it sooner rather than later.”
The four of us say nothing. We don’t even look around nervously at each other. We watch for a moment as Monica works herself up and then begins to talk.
“You know my Grampa,” she says. “I’m kind of following him. I’m enlisting in the Navy so I’ll be leaving after graduation. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but after Amber’s news,” she shifts in an uncharacteristically uncomfortable manner, “I figured that was for the best. I wanted to do something that would make him proud and I want to make all of you proud too.”
“You in the military?” asks Penny.
“Can’t see it,” adds Ashley.
We start to laugh a little bit but then someone starts sniffling and before we can all turn into one giant tear-soaked mess we have one big group hug. I don’t think it really stops that but it does help in its own way, lame as that might be.
It’s all so much to take in. Monica will be leaving for the military. Amber will be leaving for California. I’m not sure if Ashley and Penny have decided on what they’re doing but they have to prepare for the very real possibility that they’ll be split apart too. Meanwhile I still don’t have any real idea myself for what I’ll be doing.
For most of my life these four girls have been my best friends. We’ve done so much together, been through so much together. I don’t want it to end, I really don’t. But maybe it was talking to Amber, maybe it was realizing we’re all going through the same feelings. I look around at the people in the room. I think about everyone that’s in this house right now.
Are they all feeling the same way as well? Are they anxious about the future and life after high school? Of having to potentially leave behind everything they know? Are they thinking about their friendships and relationships that they have and wondering if those bonds will remain in place? Lamenting the chances they didn’t take? Or are there people here that just don’t care and are living in the moment? Or those that can’t wait to drop everything and get out of here as quickly as possible?
It’s a lot to take in, a lot to consider.
Within the hour the clock will strike midnight. Reality will begin to set in for me and for everyone else here. In less than a week we’ll be back in school starting the second semester, the last semester of our high school lives. That will be it for our childhoods; we’ll truly be adults.
One more semester. Everything ends. Everything changes. I’m still anxious and I don’t think the nerves will ever fully go away. But I’m feeling a little more comfortable with it; a little more accepting of the reality. The apocalypse is coming so I’ll do the only thing I can: move towards it and hope for the best.
* * * * *