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Can't Let this Go
I tapped my pencil against the desk, my head rested in my free palm. I swallowed, and circled “C” on the scan tron card, since I hadn’t used it in a while. It had been all A's and D's.
The loud-speaker crackled to life above my head, and I placed the pencil down and stretched as a voice filled the room.
“Would Adam Mathers please report to the office? I repeat; would Adam Mathers please come to the office? Thank you.”
Thirty pairs of eyes turned to stare at me, and I slid lower in my seat. The teacher, at the front playing on her phone, slid her glasses higher on her nose to give me a proper glare, “Take your bag, Adam.”
I stood, and carefully packed my pencils and binder away. I slid the half-finished test onto the teacher’s desk, and carefully walked out of the silent room, hoping everyone would just ignore me as I fumbled for the door knob.
In the hall, I felt even more awkward, as the sound of my footsteps interrupted the silence. I entered the office, and sat on one of the chairs by the desk. My mind was running like clockwork. What had I been busted for? Nick and I had been busy lately, even too busy to fill anything with green goo, or slip too much salt into the cafeteria cupcakes. We hadn’t even done any fresh graffiti behind the science portable.
The stuffy secretary entered the office and saw me. Strangely enough, she didn’t look disgusted. She gave me a sad smile. S**t! pity from the secretary meant I was either getting expelled, or my mother had driven her car into a swimming pool.
“The principal’s out back, on the street. He requested you join him.”
That’s a first.
I grabbed my bag and took the emergency exit stairs down to the football fields and crossed it. As I reached the top of the hill on campus, my calves burning from the climb, I saw flashing lights. Red, blue, red, blue, blinded me as I broke into a jog down the other side of the hill. The principal, a pretty brunette, turned and saw me. She looked stressed, but, I guess I would too, if I was surrounded by police cars, fire engines and two ambulances.
“What’s going on?” I asked, carefully.
“I have some bad news, Adam.”
She moved so I could step forward and see the scene. My breath got caught in my stomach, and I felt something drop into my stomach. I swallowed, and took another step towards the stretcher. The paramedics looked at me sadly.
“Poor kid,” One whispered.
I didn’t know if he was talking about me, or about Nick, but, it didn’t matter.
“Adam,” Nick reached his pale hand out to me, and I grabbed it. He opened his mouth, and closed it again, in forced breaths. His body was gnarled and twisted, and blood was seeping through his jeans from his waist. His white school shirt was covered in mud and rain.
“Nick,” I said, my eyes brimming with tears, “Don’t leave me, Nick.”
Nick shook his head a little, “It hurts, man,” He whispered.
“ I know, man, but, you gotta be strong.”
Nick nodded, slightly, letting his head loll to one side to look at me.
“You gotta do me a favor,” His voice was raspy.
“One, you gotta keep my legacy going,” He struggled with the words, “Raise a little h*ll now and then.”
I nodded, smiling as the tears free fell down my cheeks.
“And... you gotta tell Carly Mason that I love her.”
“Who... who’s Carly Mason?” I asked, my brain mentally going through all the girls we’d ever whistled at, or had champagne showers with.
“Tell her I love her...” Nick said, looking distant. He passed on smiling, and I felt his hand go limp in mine. I placed his hand on the stretcher and the paramedics sat back.
“I’m sorry; we weren’t able to save him.”
As if, that was supposed to make me feel better.
A guy paramedic, about my Dad’s age, approached me.
“Sorry about your friend.”
“But, you looked pretty lost when you were talking to him. He might have been hallucinating or dazed, the trauma does that sometimes. Most last words don’t make sense.”
I nodded. That must be the case. I don’t know a Carly Mason, and Nick would have shared at least once or twice if he thought she was hot.
I went home that day, and until the day of the funeral, people looked at me with pity. A few patted me on the back, and some girls would hug me, but, none really knew how to talk to me. The day before the funeral, I was once again called to the principal’s office, and he suggested some counseling to get over the loss. I just shrugged, and he scheduled a meeting. The name still stuck in my mind. Carly Mason! A voice in the back of my mind kept reminding me of her, and I argued among the voices, trying to decide if I should take action.
The day of the funeral, I put on my best tux, and went over early to help Nick’s mom, and his sister Fiona, prepare.
His mom burst into tears when she saw me, because I reminded her of him. Fiona, who was stronger, led me up to his room, and said I could help myself to his old stuff, since he would have wanted it. I lingered on his bed for a few minutes, not sure what to do. Then, I did the weirdest thing ever. I started to clean.
I slowly made the bed, smoothing the cloth out and fluffed the pillows. I grabbed one of his t-shirts from the hamper and dusted off his bureau, and then, his curtains. In his closet, I pulled all the things off of the floor, and brought them into the light, hanging them in the hangers. I found a shirt he wore on the first day of school, in a crumpled bunch and smiled. Suddenly, a book slid out of the bundle of material and landed on the wood floor. I picked it up, and turned it over. The cover had a drawing, anime-style, of a strong guy, muscles and abs showing through his shirt, holding the hand of a petite brunette. I realized it was Nick, and a girl. It didn’t look like the type of girls that go to our school; otherwise she would have gigantic boobs, a tiny plaid skirt, wide hips and endless tan legs. She was pretty, glasses on the tip of her nose, and a book in her free hand. A nerd.
I opened the book, and was surprised to find it was hollow. It was full of letters. I picked the first up, and turned it over. In Nick’s big block letters was “Carly”. I opened the letter, and read it. Then, I immediately opened the next, and the next, eagerly swallowing the information. So, Carly was real, and she lived in our city. She didn’t go to our school, since Nick often asked about her school. The few letters from her revealed more. She was a freshman, like us, and liked art and reading, and secretly danced, but, no one knew. She lived in a house with yellow walls, and on her street, all the houses looked the same. She talked about the sunset a lot, so, she must live in the west. I swallowed, thinking: F**k, what I have gotten myself into? How the heck am I supposed to track down one girl, in this huge city? I shoved the book in my pocket, and closed the closet.
The next few days were spent sneaking into the school office, checking records, sorting through my dad’s newspaper archive, even visiting town hall hoping for some help. Nothing pushed me in the right direction. I finally, in frustration, slammed the power button on my laptop and typed her name into the search bar.
Over 111,000,000 results. I picked through the ones that only contained her first name, or last, or companies or products. I had only four articles left, and it was four a.m. The first, talked about Carly winning second place in a dance competition in Europe. The second was a small commercial she had made when she was seven. Neither clued me into anything. The last two helped though. The first was a newspaper clipping, talking about Carly trying to save a super old tree at the local park which, supposedly, she hangs out at all the time, and goes for a daily run in. I guess I could stalk her in the park. The second, said that she attends Colton Freshwater High School down in the east side, and was on the honor roll. So, I could stalk her in the park, or at her school. I checked the picture of her on the website, and it didn’t really look like the girl in the drawing, but, Nick wasn’t the best artist.
It took me another few days to even get the courage to take action. Stalking was probably some criminal offense. Maybe she would get freaked that I was following her, and call the cops. Or maybe she was a black belt and would kick my butt. I ignored the thoughts and hurried to the park, where I sat, impersonating a runner, resting on a bench, and waited, photo in hand. I was some sort of crazy, but, it was what Nick wanted. It would be nice if he had left a note, a letter, drop an email or clue, or something. I guess he didn’t plan on dying.
I must have been sitting for an hour or two, because the next thing I knew, I was woken up by footsteps. I shot up, and my mind registered a certain girl jogging down the path. Keeping my heart beat down, I stood and shot her a smile. She nodded, blank-looking, and kept running. I began to jog behind her.
She stopped to rest a mile later and I did too. Finally, I spoke to her: So... come here often?
“That’s why you’ve been following me for a mile? Cause you want to hit on me?” She snapped; turning and splashing me with whatever was in her water bottle.
“Um, well... no, no...” She began to run, and I darted after her.
“It’s... well, you know I was like... okay, so my friend,” I panted, “Do you know Nick?”
She stopped so suddenly.
“Nick?” Her voice was quiet, I barely heard it.
“Yeah. He... he got in an accident.”
“Is he okay?”
“Well... um, no. He passed. His last words were to tell you, if you are Carly, that he loved you.”
Her knees buckled under her, and she landed in the wood chips, sobbing.
I awkwardly patted her on the back, ignoring the glances I got from the other people on the path.
“How did you know him?” I asked, once the sobs subsided.
“I... I met him at a... a soccer match... I was in the stands, and... he sat next to me. He... he knew a lot about the book... the book I was reading... and we started to talk. Soon, we began to date in secret. No one knew, since he didn’t think his friends would understand, and I wasn’t technically supposed to be dating. Oh my God...”
She buried her face in her hands, and the sobs racked her body again.
“It’s just... it’s just that...” She stuttered.
“What is it, Carly?” I asked, softly.
I was going to leave this story at that. A cliff-hanger, you know? But, that’s all that the story is. Nick doesn’t come back to life to take care of Carly. Her parents are really p*ssed. She can’t go back to school. But, on the good side, I kept searching, and we found a letter to her, containing all of Nick’s life savings, over thirty-five thousand, for the baby. No one knew he had that much, but, he gave it all to Carly. He loved her, and I know that now. Even death can’t stand in the way of that.