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Chapter one: Nadia.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother getting up in the morning. No friends, no boyfriends and a mother I can’t stand to be around. I’ve finished school so I don’t even need to keep up my grades anymore; I’ve already got a place at my dream university. It’s my dream university because it’s a long, long way from home. Not just out of the city or even out of the country, it’s half way around the world. It’s perfect. There’s no way my mother would brave economy class in her make-up and stilettos, and her ten-years-younger boyfriend has no interest in seeing me anyway. What about my Dad? Blissfully unaware that I even exist. But in just two short months I can wipe my slate clean and forget about all that. Two months and I have my freedom.
Today I start packing. I’m not leaving for months, but I have nothing else to do. I get washed and dressed, tiptoeing past my mother’s room, hoping that I won’t have to deal with her and Mark’s disgusting in-love-ness. Mark is my mum’s latest boyfriend. Another of her two-week relationships. I don’t know Mark at all. I don’t feel the need to, before long he’s just going to disappear and leave her alone again, wondering what she did wrong. Again. It’s easy to see why I’ve given up on love. It just isn’t worth it.
I am in my room, sorting through my stuff. I only want to take the bare necessities, just things like my toothbrush and clothes. I don’t want any photos, diaries, anything that will remind me of what life’s like now. I want to re-invent myself.
I hear a high-pitched giggle from the hall and my heart sinks.
“Hey, cupcake!” My mother pokes her peroxide-blonde head around my door. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine.” She pauses for a moment, still thrown off by my unresponsiveness. I’m surprised she’s not used to it by now.
“So… what are you doing?”
“Packing.” I reply, sticking to one-word answers.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit early for that sweetie? You’re not leaving for months.”
I don’t answer this. Instead, I just give her a look that tells her to drop it and leave me alone. She does.
Chapter 2: Jeremy.
A New Person.
Two months. I swallow hard. It’s worse than I thought, but I nod calmly, trying to hide my panic. The man sitting next to me keeps talking, but my mind is elsewhere. My throat feels tight. My palms are sweating. I want to get out, out of that building. But when I do I don’t know what I should be doing. I feel like I should be making up for lost time; all the time I wasted without even realising it. I don’t even know where to start. I just walk. As the sun is setting I find myself far into the centre of London, looking out over the river Thames. The Thames is not beautiful by anyone’s standards. It’s dark and murky, and I always felt like one day I might see a dead body being carried away by the current. But in the last, glowing moments of the day, surrounded by strangely elegant high-rise buildings, it feels like the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. I take a deep breath, inhaling the crisp, refreshing air, feeling my head clear. This doesn’t need to be difficult.
When I get home I feel like a totally different person. Actually, I feel like I’ve been about twenty different people in the last two hours.
“Where do you think you’ve been, Jeremy?” My mum asks indignantly.
“Just out…” I say vaguely. ‘Do you know what I realised today? I’ve never been on the London Eye. I’ve never been to the London Dungeons, or London Bridge, any of those places really. Isn’t that sad? I’ve lived in London my whole life, and people who have been here for a week have probably seen more of it than I have.” My mum looks completely mystified.
“Wha- Jeremy, you’ve been out for hours without telling me anything. Are you not even going to make an excuse? You’re not making sense!” I just laugh and go up to give her a hug.
“I’m sorry Mum, I’ll let you know next time.” I promise. Just then my Dad comes in.
“You’re home, where have you been?”
“Just… don’t even ask.” My mum tells him, releasing me from the hug. I just smile. I love my family.
Chapter 3: Nadia.
Slowed-Down Car Crash.
I trudge down Oxford Street, under a heavy layer of grey cloud. I feel like crap. I didn’t really want to go shopping today, but I had to get out of the house. My mum and Mark have been snuggling on the sofa all morning, listening to love songs. So I decided for a new start I need new clothes.
When it starts to rain I give up and get on the next bus home. The tube is quicker, but I’d rather kill an extra forty-five minutes before I have to face the accident waiting to happen that is my mother. I regret this move pretty much instantly, when I get on the bus and find that it’s completely packed. I squeeze past a woman with a double buggy to get up the stairs, hoping for a spare seat. There is one. I’m relieved for about two seconds, until the boy in the seat next to it catches my eye and smiles at me. He looks about my age, but other than that my first impression is that he’s my polar opposite. He has a friendly, open face with big eyes and kind-of-cute floppy hair. He looks like the kind of person who is insistently cheerful and chatty. I soon find out that I’ve got his personality exactly right.
“So, what’s your favourite colour?” I give him a look. I cannot believe he just asked me that. Do I look five years old to him? I decide to ignore him.
“Okay… then what’s your favourite animal?” I fish a Boots voucher out of my bag and pretend to be suddenly deeply interested in reading the small print. He goes quiet for a few moments, and I think I’ve won.
“What did you say your name was?” I feel like screaming in frustration. Why won’t he leave me alone?
“I didn’t”, I say through gritted teeth.
“Okay,” He smiles, “I’m Jeremy Leigh.” I ignore him, and he finally gives up. We sit in silence for the rest of the journey.
That night I dream about my mum and Mark. They are on the sofa together, like they were that morning. I feel the same sense of annoyance I always do, but this time it was tinged with sadness. Then the image changes, morphs into me, with none other than the annoying boy from the bus. It’s like a slowed-down car crash. There’s nothing I can do, I just have to watch as the image of me looks into his big, dark eyes and kisses him. And then it isn’t like a car crash anymore; it’s like winning the lottery. It’s like taking a risk and feeling it pay off. It’s exciting and exhilarating and wonderfully refreshing. But then I wake up, and it’s all over. For a couple of seconds I sit there, trying to figure out why I feel so weird. And then it hits me like a ton of bricks. I have to call him, right now. I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. How can I call him if I don’t have his number? I check the digital clock on my bedside table, and see that it’s 7.30am. Why am I not fighting this? I run to my living room, almost falling headfirst down the stairs in the process. What is wrong with me? I open to ‘L’ in the telephone directory, flicking through until I find ‘Leigh’. There are about twenty options, and I go through every single one, asking for Jeremy. When I get to the twelfth one down, I know I’ve found him. Instead of grumpy, sleepy voice asking me what the hell I want, I get a “Hi” that sounds like he was just hoping that his phone would go off at 7.30 on a bank holiday Monday.
I don’t realise until it’s too late that I don’t even know what I’m going to say. Why am I calling? Well, Jeremy, I had a dream about us kissing so I just thought I should call and let you know. Cue him hanging up on me and having nightmares or the rest of his life about me drilling holes in his bathroom wall and watching him shower. I decide to take a different route.
“Hi, um, it’s Nadia. From the bus”
He sounds like he doesn’t know what to say. That makes two of us.
“So, I was just thinking that we should meet up and do something.” I blurt out. Why did I say that? How have I ended up in a situation where I am asking a particularly annoying stranger if he wants to ‘meet up and do something’, after I spent the best part of an hour on the bus trying to get him to shut up?
“Oh, well yeah, sure. Um, when do you want to do it?” I am only grateful that he doesn’t ask me how I got his number. That would be an embarrassing little anecdote. We make plans for next weekend. I try not to think about what will happen then.
Chapter 4: Jeremy.
Questions and Answers.
In just a couple of minutes I have broken every rule I set for myself. I have been shy and self-conscious, I’ve hidden my feelings and I haven’t told people how I really feel. Okay, so I sound like I’ve been reading too many self-help books. But the thing is, this has the feeling of a one-in-a-million chance. Something obviously changed her mind, or we would never have spoken again. I guess you could call it fate.
So the week passes, and before I know it it’s the weekend again. We’d made plans to meet at 2pm. It’s 1pm and I’m all ready, just waiting until it’s time to leave. I hate waiting, because it makes me over-think everything. It’s only now that I start feeling nervous. Usually I can ward off any kind of nerves or embarrassment by just reminding myself that it’s not all that important. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. But this suddenly matters. Today, I’m not thinking about the ‘long run’, I’m thinking about right now. Actually, I’m thinking about 2pm, which is now only 50 minutes away.
We chose a place to meet that’s between both our houses. This turns out to be East Jesus Nowhere. I’m standing at a bus stop, surrounded by derelict blocks of flats and closed-down shops. Rubbish blows around my feet. This is a risk you take when you decide to meet somewhere neither of you have ever been. We pretty much just picked a street on the A-Z. At first it seemed spontaneous and fun. Now it seems pretty stupid.
I look down the street and see a figure walking towards me. I know it’s her before she even gets near to me. I watch her getting closer, taking her in. She’s wearing a flowery dress and combat boots. Her hair is just the right amount of messy. She doesn’t look nearly as moody as she did last time I saw her. It’s then that I realise how pretty she is. Of course she was pretty before, but she was also wet and bedraggled and grumpy. It was difficult to appreciate how stunning she actually was.
She comes closer to me, and I almost fall over on shock when she smiles at me. I don’t really know what to expect, whether I’ll be dealing with moody Nadia from the bus or cute, shy Nadia from the phone. In the end it turns out to be neither. At first she still seems kind of nervous and self-conscious, but covers it up with plenty of sarcasm and blunt remarks. I can’t decide if she’s funny or mean. After a while, though, it falls away and reveals the most wonderfully weird girl I’ve ever met.
We wander around for about an hour, talking about anything and everything that comes to mind. We go along narrow, uneven pavements and through neglected parks. We pass play areas that look like they haven’t been used for years. The children who had once used them were probably too old now, more interested in boyfriends and girlfriends and parties and alcohol. I feel a sudden pang for my own childhood, when everything was so simple and yet so exciting. It feels like all that had been taken away so quickly. I know I’ll never have those experiences again, but I suppose everyone feels that way. But I know that now I won’t have any of the experiences I’m meant to have now, either. I won’t get to do that university thing, the leaving home thing. And if I can’t have that, I can’t have the goodbyes either. I can’t say those words, knowing they should be said so differently.
“Jeremy?” I don’t realise until then that I have tears welling up in my eyes. I blink them back, hoping Nadia hasn’t already noticed. She hasn’t.
We find a spot and a brick wall and sit there drinking bottles of Coca Cola and talking. Our topics of conversation vary from films and music (I’m not surprised to learn we have completely different tastes) to what we’d do if we ruled the world. We talk and talk until we know each other inside out and back to front. I wonder why I never took the time to do this with any of my other friends. Eventually we run out of questions and sit in comfortable silence. I decide to be daring, and slip my arm around her waist. After a couple of seconds, she relaxes into me and that’s how we stay for God knows how long.
Too quickly, the sun starts to set and its time for us to go home. We go off in our opposite directions. I stop and watch her walk away, along the long, straight road, until she’s just a speck in the distance. I get a warm feeling in my stomach, and wonder if this is what falling in love feels like.
Chapter 5: Nadia.
I try to be patient. Seeing Jeremy was twenty times better than I thought it would be, and I am fully ready to accept the fact that my mum is in love with Mark and she should be allowed to show it. Five minutes of baby talk and cuddling later and I’m in my room, which is locked from the inside. I’m bored to hell. I’ve done as much packing as is possibly acceptable when there’s still two months before I leave. And besides, I’m not feeling quite as desperate to get out as I normally do. I don’t want to get all weird and clingy about Jeremy when I’ve only seen him once, but he’s one thing I kind of like about being at home at the moment. Maybe he won’t be like everyone else.
I think about the day I just had. I was almost too good to be true. Not once was there an awkward silence or a personality clash. I didn’t even find his questions annoying. I liked that we’re so different. I think if I met me I’d probably run a mile anyway.
I fall asleep without even trying. I don’t dream, but the end result is still the same. I wake up with a burning desire to talk to Jeremy and be around him. I wonder what’s wrong with me. It’s stupid to feel so strongly about someone you barely know. It can’t end well. I try and push thoughts of him to the back of my mind and get on with the day, but I can’t quite manage it. I check my phone every five minutes. I wonder what he’s doing. I wonder if it’s too soon to call him. I don’t know what the rules are for things like this. I don’t know if we went on a date or if we were just meeting up as friends, if that. I don’t even know if he wants to see me again.
I think his consistent niceness is rubbing off on me. I can’t bring myself to be as rude and cynical as I usually am. It was the same when I was with him. Hard as I tried to fight it, the friendly side I never knew I had always won.
* * *
A month passes. In that time I see Jeremy 11 times and talk to him on the phone 15 times. On the fifth time I see him, he kisses me and I feel like I’m flying. From then on we’re not just friends. We’re not just boyfriend and girlfriend either. He’s my best friend. He’s my drug. He’s my haven. He’s the most amazing person I’ve eve met, and he makes me feel amazing too.
Even more surprising than this is that my mum is still with Mark. I can be slightly more accepting now that I have Jeremy, but that doesn’t stop me from hating Mark with a vengeance.
The only problem now is that mine and Jeremy’s time together is almost up. The first month flew by as if it was only a couple of days, and I get the feeling the second month will go even quicker. Sometimes I want to let my heart win and stay forever, but I know that it just wouldn’t be the same. What makes us so special is that we’ve only got a short space of time together. We never argue, because we know it’s just not worth it. Every second counts for us.
Jeremy reacted really strangely when I told him I was leaving. It was one the first times I saw him; I didn’t think it would be a big deal. He looked like he was stuck between laughing and crying. And there have been other times; times when I just don’t get him. Sometimes he’s completely spontaneous, but other times he’s so careful, as if he’s scared everything he touches will break. Sometimes we’ll be in the middle of a conversation and he’ll come up with the weirdest question that has nothing to do with what we were just talking about. I don’t ask him what’s wrong because I’m scared of what the answer will be. I want the rest of our time to be wonderful and perfect, and I don’t want whatever it is he’s hiding from me to ruin it. That doesn’t mean I doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me, though. He means more to me than I care to admit, and I hate that he won’t open up to me. It means that he doesn’t trust me, and that hurts.
Chapter 6: Jeremy.
Too good to be true.
I’m ecstatically happy, but crushed with guilt. I love Nadia. I haven’t told her, but I know I do. So I can I keep such a big secret from her? Because telling her would be the only thing worse than not telling her. She doesn’t need to know, anyway. The whole thing worked out with such perfect irony I almost can’t believe it. The second time I saw her she told me she felt like her life would only really start when she could leave home and get as far away as possible. She’s so resentful to her mum and her boyfriend. I want to shake her and tell her how lucky she is to have people who care about her, that she should just appreciate them while she still can.
I’m at my house with Nadia. My parents out and we’re lying on the sofa, half-watching The Breakfast Club and half watching each other. It’s January the 14th, , which means exactly one month to go. I hadn’t realised that it would be Valentine’s Day when it all happens, but when I did I wasn’t surprised. I’ve figured out now that there is a God. It’s not the all-loving kind of God people like to believe in, though. He’s bored and sadistic and likes to play with people’s feelings. He’s got it all planned out. I laugh at how cynical and Nadia-esque I sound. She must be rubbing off on me. She asks me why I’m laughing, and I shrug it off, like I always do. She looks annoyed. I hug her tighter and kiss her lightly on the corner of her mouth. She stiffens, trying to stay angry with me. I can tell it frustrates her when I don’t tell her what I’m thinking, but I’m just trying to protect her. I keep kissing her anywhere I can reach, on her cheek, along her jaw and in the crook of her neck. Before long she’s kissing me back, and I know we’ll be okay.
Every time something like that happens I can feel her getting more and more fed up. She doesn’t ask about it when I act weirdly, but it’s obvious that she notices. I think she wants me to tell her without being asked. The last time it happens is on the first of February. It’s unseasonably warm, so we make a picnic and go to the park. It’s picture perfect. We sit in the sun eating sandwiches and drinking out of glass bottles. She’s making some kind of bracelet out of strands of grass. I’m stretched out on the grass, letting the sun shine down on me. I wonder how many more days I’ll have like this, and before I can stop them the tears start rolling down my cheeks. She turns to look at me, furrowing her eyebrows.
“What’s the matter?” She asks slightly half-heartedly, like she already knows what the answer will be.
“Nothing,” I lie. Her expression changes.
“What a surprise,” she murmurs; with her trademark sarcasm that she does so well. I sigh. I don’t want to argue with her, not so soon to the end.
“Nadia, it really doesn’t matter,” I say quietly. She sits up abruptly, glaring at me through her sunglasses. I don’t see any glimmer of sympathy, but really I don’t expect to, neither do I deserve it.
“Look, Jeremy,” she says, and I know it’s going to be an argument this time.
“Why don’t you ever tell me anything? You’re getting weirder and weirder, and I want to know what’s going on.” I stare at the floor.
“Tell me.” The silence reverberates in my ears. I wish I could, but I can’t. Anything I say now can only make things worse, so I don’t say anything. Neither does she, she just gets up and walks away. I watch her as she gets further and further away, the same way I did that first time. This time I don’t get to watch her until she disappears. She turns a corner and goes out the park gate, and then she’s gone. She’s gone. The tears come thicker and faster. I look around at the picnic blanket and the plastic cutlery, and wonder how things can go so quickly from being so perfect to feeling like the end of the world.
Chapter 7: Nadia.
Life After Love – Part 1.
I walk back to my house, quickly and purposefully. I resist the urge to cry. It’s not worth it, I tell myself. I thought he was different, but he’s not. He’s just like everyone else. He’s a liar and a fake and I’m better off without him. I’m better off alone.
I storm through the living room, past my mum and Mark, trying to ignore their “Hi”s, and then their “What’s wrong?”s. My mum gets up and runs after me up the stairs, grabbing my arm. I shout at her to get off. She doesn’t, and I keep shouting. I let out all my disappointment and misery and frustration. I can’t remember what I say to her, I just remember the look on her face as she stands there, taking it all. Eventually she lets go and her arm falls to her side. I run the rest of the way up the stairs to my room and collapse on my bed in a mess of tears and anger. I know I’ve only got myself to blame. I decided to take a chance.
I go into autopilot. I sleep, I eat, and I pack. I don’t talk. I don’t think. Just the same routine, every day. No surprises, no risks, no chances. Nothing at all.
I find it hard to remember why I was so excited about leaving. Nothing can be as perfect as those few short weeks I spent with Jeremy. I wish I could go back to how I was before. Now I know how wonderful and exciting life can be, and I just can’t forget. I wonder if I made a mistake by breaking up with him. Would it have been so hard to put up with the weirdness for another two weeks? Probably not, but what would be the point. Soon I’ll be gone, then maybe I can forget about all of this.
Things at home are worse than ever. My mum doesn’t act mad at me like I’d expect, instead she just gives me these looks. I can’t tell if she’s sad for me or scared of me. She has Mark around all the time so that we’re not left alone together. She hates it when she thinks people are mad at her, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it. The thing is I’m not mad at her. I’m just mad.
After a week the anger’s gone, leaving a big, gaping hole behind. This makes me notice all the other holes, that have been there so long I’ve stopped noticing them. One that’s been there since I grew up and started hating my family. One that’s been there since I stopped caring about making friends, sitting alone at school and watching the other kids bitch and gossip. One that’s been there since I found out my first ever boyfriend was cheating on me, and vowed never to trust anyone again. All of the little things that turned me into such a loner, such a cynic. I wish I could go back in time and change things. Instead, I cry and cry, because I don’t know what else to do.
Chapter 8: Jeremy.
Life After Love – Part 2.
It’s better to burn out than fade away.
I’m fading away. I can’t help it. From the moment Nadia got up and left, I just don’t have the energy. I don’t leave the house. I barely leave my room. My parents are worried about me. They take turns sitting by my bed, keeping an eye on me. I love that they don’t keep asking me what’s wrong; they just find their own way to show me they care. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Time goes fast, too fast. Days and nights merge together. I’m always half-expecting a call from Nadia. I want to call her myself, but I’m pretty sure she’d just be angrier with me. Anyway, I’ve put her through enough already. What’s another 4 weeks?
I can feel my body steadily deteriorating. I start feeling weak and shaky, and I know I’m sick. I don’t say anything to my parents. I don’t want to make them worry more than they already are.
I get texts from my friends, asking where I’ve been and whether I’m okay. I can’t bear to respond. I don’t pick up my phone when it rings. I don’t text back. I don’t know what I’d say. I just can’t find the right words. I’m sick of pretending that everything’s normal. I know it’s selfish, but like I said, I just don’t have the energy anymore.
Chapter 9: Nadia.
My second to last day at home, and I’m apathetic as ever. I briefly wonder my mum’s feeling bout the situation. She’ll probably be relieved to see me go. They’ll be no more awkwardness between us. She can have Mark over whenever she wants without having to brave my glares and sarcastic comments. She can have her life back, like she’s always wanted.
I’m all packed except for the stuff I’m still using, like toothbrush and pyjamas. I make a rare trip downstairs to do a final check for things I’ve forgotten. I get half way downstairs, then stop in my tracks, taking in the scene in front of me. The room is tidy as ever, but one thing is out of place. Instead of being perched on the sofa or talking on the phone, my mum is sitting in the floor in the centre of the room. Her head’s in her hands, and I can see she’s shaking as she cries. I make my way down the last few steps, wondering what I should do.
I go and crouch next to her, tentatively touching her shoulder.
“Mum?” She looks up at me. Her make-up, usually immaculate, is in dark streaks down her face. Her top is creased and her hair is messy. She is barely recognisable.
“It’s over, Nadia.” She says softly, “He’s gone”. Now I understand. I sigh. I knew it wouldn’t last.
“It’s okay, Mum. He doesn’t know what he’s missing” I talk without even thinking; it’s just a reflex. I pretend like we haven’t not spoken for weeks, and that the last time we did I wasn’t screaming at her. It’s not the same routine this time though.
“I broke up with him.”
“What?!” I am shocked. This never happens, it’s always them leaving and her being left. She falls for people so easily.
“Why?” I ask.
“I’m not stupid, Nadia. I can see how much you hate him.” She pauses, taking a deep breath.
“I can’t stand how bad our relationship has got. I blame myself. I’ve been so selfish, having new boyfriends every few weeks, hardly paying you any attention. It’s not going to be like that anymore.” I am speechless. I realise that I’m crying too now. My mum hugs me tightly, and I realise how much I’ve missed her.
“I know you have to leave soon, but I really hope you come and visit me. You’re welcome any time you like.” She smiles at me through her tears, and I smile back.
Later, while I’m lying in bed, the realisation dawns on me. Sometimes there is more to people than meets the eye. It’s not about whether they make mistakes and do things wrong, it’s about whether they fix them in the end. I have done something wrong. I made a stupid mistake, and now I have to make it right.
I hate that I have to wait until the morning, but it’s too late to do it now. I barely sleep, waking up every half an hour and hoping it’s morning. Finally, it is.
I deleted Jeremy’s number from my phone while I was mad at him, so once again I’m searching through the Yellow Pages. I find his number much quicker this time. My hands are shaking too much to dial properly, I have to hang up and start again five times before I get it right.
I don’t get the same cheerful voice I did the first time. A woman answers, and I’m worried I’ve got the wrong number.
“Um, can I speak to Jeremy?” I ask. The woman hesitates.
“He… he’s not feeling very well, I don’t think he’s up to it, really…” She stammers. I don’t know what words I can use to tell her how much I need to talk to him.
“Please, it’s really important. Tell him it’s Nadia.” She sounds unconvinced.
“I’ll ask him.”
I hear her going upstairs, then the sound of talking in the background. Then it’s Jeremy.
“Nadia?” For a second, I can’t speak. I had almost forgotten what his voice sounded like. I try to pull myself together for long enough to talk to him.
“Yeah, it’s me. Look, I… I really need to see you again. I think I made a mistake, acting so quickly.” The line goes quiet. I can’t stand the suspense.
“We need to talk. In person”, he says. His voice sounds horribly strained. We arrange to meet up later that day, then say our goodbyes. I wonder what will come of this. Surely long distance relationships can’t be that hard? Maybe we can make this work.
Chapter 10: Jeremy.
There is no right thing to do. I can’t just say no to her, let her think that I don’t want to see her again. I need to let her know how much she means to me. But to do that, I have to do something I never wanted to do.
I go over and over it in my head, trying to find the perfect words. It’s too late to pretend it isn’t a big deal. But I don’t want to pour my heart out to her. That would only make it worse.
In the last two months, my whole world has been turned upside down. My life’s been reduced to secrets and lies. I can barely remember what I was like before. It’s just a distant memory, of a happy, normal teenage boy with normal problems and normal insecurities. I’d give anything to feel that way again.
We meet in a park. Not the same one we went to last time, but one we had been to a few times before. I walk there slowly, trying to put it off for as long as I could. Eventually, I get to the park gates. I stand outside, trying to make myself walk through them. I look around to see if Nadia is already there. I catch sight of her sitting on a bench. I take a deep breath, and start making my way towards her. I feel absolutely sick.
I reach her, and sit down next to her. She looks at me with big, expectant eyes.
“Hey,” she says softly.
“Hi,” I say back.
We sit in silence for a while. There’s so much to say, we just don’t know how to say it. I look at her, and wonder how anyone can be so beautiful. I wonder if it’s really possible to fall in love with someone in less than two months. I think maybe it is.
Chapter 11: Nadia.
We’re sitting side by side on a bench. We’re not alone in the park; it’s Valentine’s Day and there are couples everywhere. We blend in perfectly, like moving wallpaper.
I’m getting ready to talk. To tell him how I really feel, without worrying about what will happen after. For the firs time, I’m just living in the moment. And I’ve never been more scared. I turn to face him, taking a deep breath and bracing myself.
“Jeremy, I never thought I’d be saying this, but I… I think I’m in love with you. I’ve missed you so much, and I-“
I stop when I see the expression on his face. He looks like he’s in physical pain. There are tears in his eyes.
“I love you, Nadia,” I should be happy, but I have a feeling he isn’t finished. He’s going to tell me the secret he’s been hiding from me for the past two months, and I’m not going to like it.
“Just tell me,” I say, my voice sounding strained and scratchy.
“I’m dying,” he says, so softly I’m sure I’ve heard him wrong.
“What?” I try to keep my voice steady.
“I’m dying, Nadia. Soon. Two months ago I got told I had two months to live. I-“ He chokes back the sobs that are shaking his body and carries on, his voice thick with emotion. I just sit there, frozen, while my mind finds a way to process what he’s telling me.
“I’m so sorry. I know you’re going to hate me for not telling you. I should never have got involved in the first place. I just wasn’t thinking straight…” He trails off. He’s right. I should hate him. I should be furious. But I’m just not. I feel like my heart is breaking, but I still love him. I can’t be angry, because it feels like fate. It was always meant to be this way. Right from the beginning, when we were just two strangers, one whose life was about to end and one who felt like theirs was just beginning.
I don’t regret a single second of it. In two short months I’ve felt more bitter, resentful, angry and scared than ever before, but more importantly I’ve felt so happy, so special and so loved. The ending is the only part I wish was different, but I know it couldn’t have been. It’s ironically, poetically, tragically perfect. We were meant to be together, and we were meant to be torn apart. Always. Just two star-crossed lovers.
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