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It's One of Those Sappy Stories
I listen to the silence on the other end of the payphone, the loudest silence I’ve ever heard.
“…and um, you missed by graduation,” I sniff. “I’m valedictorian. Not that you care.”
I click off and leaned against the bench at the bus stop. Tears still brim my eyes. I truly loved him, and, well, I thought he loved me. Obviously not. He didn’t go to prom; he didn’t come to my graduation. Instead, he ditched town for who knows where and why. I still call him though, and I don’t even know if he’s on the other side listening, or if I’m talking to dead air. Either way, I’m wasting my breath.
The long bus pulls over, a half-naked lady shaving her already perfectly shaved legs is plastered onto the side. I slip in, sitting towards the middle. I shove my backpack under the seat and pull out To Kill a Mockingbird.
After ten minutes of pretending to read I shove it in my pack, and lean back. One name circles my head: Javier. The Jerk. That horrible beautiful jerk. I look around the buss, tapping the beat of The Immigrant Song on the seat, humming the tune. I pick up someone else humming along and look around.
And there he is. His knapsack beside him, in the back of the bus, singing along to one of his favorite bands. Who else would be humming along?
His black hair was still stuck up in random places, and his leather jacket with all those unconventional zips was still attached to his body like skin.
He has his feet kicked up, a copy of ‘Punk Rock: An Oral History’ bent out of shape, and underlined. I look away and bite my lip, using all my willpower not to scream or flip out. If I did he’d probably mistake me for the lead singer in one of his bands. I put my backpack on and pretend not to see him.
The bus stops, and I rush to get off. It’s not even my stop, but this bus was suddenly very hot and crowded.
“Wait, Acadia!” He reaches for my arm and pulls me over. I smell his familiar scent. It smells like home. I pull away because this is too close.
I look at the ground, because I know if I look at his eyes I won't be able to stay mad. “What are you doing here, Jave?”
“What do you mean?” he asks, equally nervous. “I live here.”
I look at him now, full of anger. “No, you don’t! I’ve been here in this town for months, and never once have I seen you. It’s a pretty small town. You left, remember?”
“Then what are you doing here?”
He looks up at me, now angry too. “I’m here to see you! Why else do you think I’d come back halfway across the country? I at least wanted to see you graduate.”
I step away, confused with anger. “What do you mean, me?”
He sits down on the bench and hangs his head in his hands. After a few seconds, he asks, calmly now. “Why do you think I left?”
“I-I don’t know. I assumed it was another girl, or-or something.”
His face was full of hurt as he looked at me, but then something like understanding crossed him. He knew he had been a jerk.
“I left because I flunked out of school. And…I knew you wouldn’t want to be with me anymore.”
He looks at me expectantly, to see my reaction. I stop for a minute and stare at him.
He was unusually smart and considering he went to public school, he could have left that school being the smartest person there. Yet he flunked, and I can’t process that.’
“You idiot,” I croak, the words barely coming out. “When I told you I loved you, I meant I loved all of you. Not just the good parts.”
He doesn’t say anything, fingering the strings of his knapsack. I hoist up my backpack and turn to get off the bus, which had been stopped for an extremely long time.
I turn back, tears streaming from my face. He holds his arms out.
I stumble into his arms and bury my face in his sweet-smelling shirt, letting the tears flow.
“I love you, you idiot.”
He rests his lips on my head and pulls me in tighter. “I love you, my valedictorian.”
Cranberry Twp, Pennsylvania
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