"Your eyes look like they're glowing by the candle," said Claire.
"It's because I'm looking at you," said Jake.
"Hey, don't hide behind the haystack. Look, I was just teasing you. It seems like you take me too seriously these days. We used to be able to relax around each other. Have I done anything lately to upend our friendship?"
"No, it's not you. I-I've been dealing with a lot lately. My grandma's been on my case about...the future,"
"The future? Is this about moving out of the countryside again? Tell her you're still trying to find your way and it'll all come in due time.
"No, it's about marriage,"
"Marriage? You're barely eighteen. A mere overgrown child in adult clothing,"
"Yes, well--hey! I'm not a child."
"What I'm trying to say is perhaps she needs to just give you room to find your way instead of forcing you into some barbaric tradition like marriage,"
"Perhaps, but you know my grandma well enough by know. She's kind-hearted but stubborn as a mule. Anyways, I hope you don't feel like I'm abandoning you,"
"Well we used to talk every day, Claire. Now it's just me and the barn cats. They only love me when it's dinner time and I throw them a bone,"
"I'm sorry. I don't think things are going to be the same anymore," she whispered.
"What did you say?" said Jake.
"I came to the barn tonight to tell you something, something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time,"
"You've finally figured out where your grandma kept the keys to the car and are finally escaping to the city with your friends?"
"No. I'm trying to be serious Jake. Can you drop the jokes?"
"Did you do something to your hair? It looks extra bouncy today,"
"Jake! I'm being serious,"
"So am I! It looks so good, like something out of a magazine. Wait don't leave! I'll stop now. Promise!"
"Stop laughing then. That's better. Do you remember when we first met?"
"It was a Tuesday, two days after the solstice in the backyard of the barn. The night was pitch black. You were standing in the middle of the corn field looking at the full moon, and I burst in like a blind dog on the hunt for shelter and food. Why're you looking at me so weirdly?"
"That's way more than I would've thought you remembered..." she muttered.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. Do you remember anything before that time? Anything at all?"
"Claire, I've told you. Before we met in that corn field, the only memory I had was nearly drowning in the ocean. I don't even know how I managed to pull myself out. And after that there was only you, this barn, and the cats. I don't think I've ever had a better time," said Jake.
"How do you know if you can't remember anything from before?"
"I have this feeling. I've been really happy here. I hope I've done the same for you?"
"You have, more than you know,"
"You've got to talk louder. I can't hear a word you're saying,"
"I said before you came into our lives, it was just my grandma on this farm and, of course, the cats. There's nobody in this town besides Melissa who's been a friend, but she lives miles away. Ever since you've come here I don't feel like I'm the only person in the world anymore. I..I appreciate you so much,"
"Claire, I didn't know you felt that way. You always seemed so cheerful I'd assumed you were one of those people who..."
"Enjoyed talking to cats? Don't skirt around the answer by coughing! Stop laughing at me,"
"I can't. Every time I'm around you I can't stop laughing,"
"Great, you think I'm a clown,"
"I think you're pretty dam wonderful. Hey, why're you leaving?! Come back!"
"Hah! How does it feel to be duped for once?"
"I'd rather be the one duping of course,"
"Claire, jokes aside, I consider you one of my greatest friends. No wait, the best one I've had,"
"Really? You forget that we don't know if that's true. What if you had a truly great best friend back from wherever you've come from, but you can't remember because of your accident?"
"The past doesn't matter. All I know is that I'm warm, I'm fed, and I've got a best friend by my side. What more can a person ask for?"
"Jake...you can't be serious."
"But I am. Even if I could remember things from before, I wouldn't want to. You've got to live in the moment. If you keep looking over your shoulder, you'll never appreciate what's in front of you,"
"So if you had a chance to go back to your old life, you wouldn't?"
"No, I wouldn't."
"What if you were a five star general?"
"Wealthy beyond belief?"
"I'm currently rich with laughter and good company,"
"What about family? What if you had a wife and...and children? What if you have a beautiful wife who you're in love with and a family? What then?"
"I..I...how are you so serious all the time?"
"And you're not thinking about this enough,"
"You're telling me I could potentially be an absentee father and here I am enjoying my time without a care in the world. You must think I'm horrible,"
"I'm not and I don't. I'm not trying to upset you or insult you. I'm just asking you to consider the possibility of a full and rich life waiting for you,"
"And if it's a horrible life? What then? What if I do make the effort to retrace my steps and don't like what I find? I haven't told you this, but I’ve been having nightmares of a fire. I drown in a plume of smoke and then there's this distinct scent of burning flesh. It makes me gag, and I choke until I awake. I think I hear screams but it turns out to be my own when I wake up in the middle of the night. If that's what I'm going back to, then I'm not going out looking for it,"
"I'm so sorry, I didn't know..."
"I sit up afterwards and wonder what I'm doing here. I joke a lot, but I do think about it. I've come to the decision that I want to start fresh. I want to stay and ask your grandma if I could work here as a farmhand for room and board. What do you think?"
"What I think? It would be wonderful, but--"
"Really? I do too because we could be together."
"Do you know what I wished for in that corn field? For a friend. Sad I know, but I don't make friends easily. Once I do, I'll do anything for you. I'll always be speaking only great things of you, be by your side the instant I get a chance to help with whatever you need. Jake, I always stand by my friends and that means doing what is right,"
"Claire, what are you trying to say?"
"I love you, Jake," she thought to herself.
"I know who you were before your accident," she said.