Even though it had been going on for such a long time, I still couldn’t help but marvel at what was happening before me. At who was standing before me. But somehow, even after all of this, I couldn’t bring myself to think that I would’ve wanted my life to be any different. He stared at me sadly, anguish clear in his crystal blue eyes. He gazed into my eyes for a while longer, until he softly raised his hand to my face, gently caressing my cheek. “Goodbye,” he whispered.
Tears formed in my eyes, spilling over as I tried in vain to not break out sobbing. I could barely stand it - not going to him and begging him to stay. I didn’t want to say it; speaking it would make it seem all too real. But I knew that could very well be the last time I would ever see him. “Goodbye.” Somehow I managed to choke out the word, even if every fiber in my being didn’t want this to happen, for it to play out the way that it has. He smiled back at me sadly, as if he could somehow hear what I was thinking. Carefully and slowly, he pulled away from our embrace and, with one final look, walked out the door. I slumped down into my bed, trying to hold back the waterfall of tears I knew was going to come. That single word rang mercilessly in my mind. Goodbye.
“Lana. Lana? LANA!!” A voice shouted, snapping me out of my daydream. I looked around, dazed as I tried to remember where exactly I was. Jane stood in front of me, angrily snapping her fingers in front of my face. I scowled and shoved her hand out of my face, effectively ending her yelling. Jane frowned at me, most likely wondering what I was thinking about. However, even though she is my best friend, there are still some things that I cannot tell her. Some things that I cannot bear to share. She stared at me a while longer, seeming to try to get me into speaking my thoughts aloud without actually saying anything, but after a while of staring at me with no results she gave up. As well she should, for as my best friend and closest employee, Jane should know when it’s not the time to pry.
She sighed off her irritation and continued with what I assume was what she was talking about before I had drifted off, listing all of the meetings that I had to attend and all of the places I needed to be. “Remember, you have an appointment at 12:30 with the CEO of Lang Enterprises, so make sure that you have all of the notes from yesterday's appointment with their ambassador. Your mother will be swinging down at 10:00 to discuss it, and remember that we have still not made a deal with Lang Enterprises so we must move carefully; we can’t afford losing their business to the Grays.” She spoke quickly, moving through my schedule that she had mapped out in her head. I flinched ever so slightly at the mention of the Grays.
I couldn’t imagine her not noticing. Hopefully she just passed it on as disgust or perhaps even revulsion over my family’s most formidable business rivals. But it’s not like our family would ever say that in public. In front of other people’s eyes we were quick to assure anyone with a hint of doubt that our family was the one with the better business, the family with the upper hand. As she continued talking, I decided to release my hair from its tight bun and leave it as something more comfortable. A ponytail, perhaps.
Jane continued to prattle on and on about my schedule, but I couldn’t bring myself to listen. “Speaking of the Grays,” she said hesitantly, “Did you hear that Jason Gray got shipped off to the war?” She spoke the last part quickly, as if fearing my reaction, for my reactions have not always been pleasant when bringing up the Grays. However, she was definitely not expecting the reaction I gave.
I stopped trying to pull my hair into a ponytail, dropping my hair in shock. My wavy brown hair fell down into my face, something that I do not particularly enjoy, but at that moment, absolutely nothing seemed to matter. Everything inside me just froze. “No,” I gasped, trying to remember how to breathe.
I could vaguely hear Jane calling my name, trying to snap me back into reality, but I blocked her out, knowing that I could only focus on one thing. The words that broke my heart in half. Unwanted memories started showing themselves to me, bringing me to many months in the past. I sat at the board meeting, feeling immensely annoyed as he kept speaking, talking the head of Cards for Kiddies out of lending their business to ours, and instead moving it to his family’s business. I rolled my eyes as he shook hands with the business woman, effectively sealing the deal, making sure that he saw my dramatic movement. He smirked at me, irritating me to no end, and I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out like a five year old. “Lana? Lana?” Jane sounded panicked, but the memories kept rolling past like a movie.
I sat at the bus stop with my head tucked between my knees, crying as the rain fell down on my head. I couldn’t believe it; after so many years of being with him, thinking that he was the one, all of those years down the drain. I knew that I must have looked pathetic, a 20 year old woman crying alone, in the rain at night, but I couldn’t seem to get up. I sat there sobbing until all of a sudden, the rain stopped pounding down on my head. I looked up, confused to find him, Jason Gray of all people, standing in front of me holding an umbrella over my head. He gazed at me a while longer until he sat down beside me, wrapping his arms around me as I cried. “Lana? Lana?”
I walked with him, happily swinging our arms back and forth with our fingers intertwined. I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Then, in the middle of our walk, he stopped before the garden of roses. I stared at him, bewildered as he gently plucked one of the roses and placed it softly in my hair. He smiled at me and said, "Even the most wonderful flower has nothing on your beauty,” I gasped as he slowly got down on one knee, presenting me with the most beautiful ring I had ever seen.
The memories rushed past with even more force, until finally stopped on one of the most recent memories. And one of the most painful. I sat with him, feeling content as I dreamt of all the happy days to come. It didn’t bother me anymore, the fact that we weren’t supposed to be together. That we were supposed to hate each other, that we were supposed to be fighting every time we laid eyes on each other. However, sometimes I couldn’t help but stare at him and wonder how I could’ve gotten so lucky. I smiled at him as he turned around and gasped as I saw the expression laid out on his face. I had never seen that amount of pain on anyone’s face until that day. I hadn’t thought it was possible.
I stared at him in shock as I waited for his explanation. Tears escaped his eyes as he spoke his tale aloud. He said, “My father was not always a businessman. He was once a war hero, fighting for what was right. And he decided many years ago that I would follow in his footsteps.” I swallowed noisily, trying to shove down the lump that was forming in my throat. “He said that I would be sent off to train in the military.” I didn’t know what to do, what I could say. I tried to think of an excuse to keep him here, any excuse. But I knew that once Jason’s father made a decision, there was no changing his mind. That was what made his business such a huge success.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. “But there is no war. Doesn’t that mean that you don’t have to go?” He shook his head sadly. “No Lana, I still have to go. The good part is that there is no war, so all I will have to do is train. The bad part is that I will have to stay for four years.” Four years. I couldn’t believe it; it had to be a dream. However, I knew that I couldn’t have imagined the amount of agony shown on his face. “As long as you don’t get hurt.” I whispered, trying to think optimistically. That was, without a doubt, what I wanted for him. To not get hurt. I knew that that was not all that I wanted. I knew that I wanted him to say no and to stay with me. But I knew that wasn’t an option. I knew that this would be the best outcome we could possibly get.
All of a sudden I was brought back to the present, with Jane’s face hovering over me once again. Last time she was annoyed. Now she was worried. “Elana Penelope DeCreak, what is up with you today?” She asked, pulling the full name card. All I could manage to choke out were two words. “What war?” Jane frowned at me once again, now most likely feeling both worried and annoyed, but she continued to answer my question. “The Republic of Esperanto. One of the deadliest places you could ever be in. They just declared war and the USA is sending out everyone they can to fight them off, including Jason.” I could practically feel myself falling apart at the seams, tearing like a ratty old shirt. The Republic of Esperanto?! Why did that have to be the one place for him to go, the one place that my fiancé had to go. That is why I ran.
I ignored Jane shouting behind me, the heads in the office turning, wondering what was going on and ran out of the office until I finally stopped at my house. I wish I could say that I got over it, that I was strong enough to handle it. But that would be a lie. The days blurred into each other, passing by at the speed of a jet plane flying quickly across the sky. I doubt that I stayed in my house for anything less than two months. I eventually learned to block out everyone else’s voices, pleading for me to leave and to rejoin society. I knew that I would only listen to one voice, the voice that was as good as dead. I stayed there for a while until I finally fell into a routine; get up, make a quick breakfast, read on my Kindle, make lunch, read some more, make dinner, fall asleep and the next day repeat it again.
After going on like this for days on end, I finally awoke one morning to find Jane standing in my room, peering down at my once sleeping face. I screamed in terror, staring at her with the lower half of my jaw hitting the floor. She simply rolled her eyes as I continued on my yelling until she finally put her hand over my mouth. “What are you doing here?” I asked, trying to speak through her hand like a muffle over my face. She sighed. “Isn’t it obvious? You’ve been hiding out in your house for days, and your parents threatened that if you don’t come out in the next two days they will fire you. So, naturally I climbed through your window to tell you, since you didn’t have the decency to return my calls.”
Now it was my turn to sigh. I flopped back down into my bed and under the covers, ignoring another one of Jane’s famous eye rolls.
“I don’t care about my job.” I grumbled. Jane groaned and before I even had time to wonder what she was doing, she shoved the sheets right off of my bed. “Hey!” I protested, sitting up once again. She acted like she didn’t hear me and stared at me seriously. “Elana Penelope DeCreak, if you don’t get out of your bed and outside in the next five minutes I am telling everyone about your secret romance with Jason Gray.” Now that caught my attention. I bolted straight up on my bed, staring incredulously into her eyes. “How do you know about that?” I asked, surprised.
She stared at me a while longer, and all of a sudden she burst out laughing. She continued laughing for such a long time until I began to feel self-conscious. “What?” I demanded, my cheeks warming red. She finally stopped laughing and looked at me for a while, wiping the tears away from her eyes. “Lani, darling, I say this with love. You are the worst secret keeper I have ever met.” My face felt like it was on fire, which only made Jane laugh ever harder. I threw one of my pillows at her, which she dodged easily, and buried my face into another one of my pillows, desperately trying to hide my embarrassment.
I tried to summon up the rest of my courage and sat back up in my bed.“You know what?” I managed. “If you came here just to make threats and to accuse me of being a bad secret keeper, which I am not, I think that you will just have to leave.” I remember that I felt very proud of myself at the time for acting so put-together, but only for my pride to crumble down as I saw my words had no effect on Jane, which was clear from the fact that she was smiling and still in my room. I frowned and opened the door to the hallway, gesturing for her to leave.
At last she stopped smiling and finally looked apologetic. “Hey, look Lani, I’m sorry. But I know what can make you feel better. All you have to do is leave the house for a bit and I’ll lead you. You don’t have to do anything except follow.” I looked at her feeling skeptical, wondering if she was joking, only to find that she was in fact telling the truth. She really wanted to show me something. I could feel my irritation slipping away until I finally sighed. “Alright,” I said resignedly. “I’ll go with you. But it’d better be something good.” I wasn’t going to forgive her that easily.
After I had gotten up and taken a shower, only because of Jane’s begging (I didn’t smell that bad Jane!), I got all dressed up with Jane as my guide. When she eventually decided that none of my clothing was good enough, she quickly left to retrieve some clothes from her house. When she returned I could barely refrain from gaping at the dress in her hands. From the stitching down to the lovely red fabric-it was absolutely gorgeous. After staring wide-eyed at the dress a while longer, I then turned my gaze to Jane curiously.
“Where could we be going where I would need to wear that?” Jane smiled mysteriously. “You’ll see.” I rolled my eyes, but I didn’t continue to ask. After putting on the dress and letting Jane do my make-up, I slowly walked down the sidewalk in front of my house until something occurred to me and I looked back at my house shocked. This was it. I was actually leaving my house. Jane honked the horn of her car impatiently. “Come on,” she shouted. I took a deep breath and, with a final look back at the house, I walked up to Jane’s car and sat down with my legs crossed in the seat.
I gazed out of the window, watching the trees and houses fly by until we eventually stopped at a garden. Jane walked out of the car and opened the door for me, waiting for me to get out. I turned around, ready to ask what we were doing here when I saw that Jane was getting back in the car. “Where are you going?” I asked Jane as panic threatened to overtake me. I didn’t know if I could stand to be there, the place where Jason proposed when he was away, risking his life not knowing if he was going to make it back home alive. Jane registered my emotions and quickly ran over to hug me. “It’s all going to be okay,” she murmured softly. “I promise. However, you need to go there.”
I was struck by the sudden ferocity in her voice, but I knew better than to argue. Then, with one parting look, she drove away. I started walking forward, wandering through the garden until I finally stopped at the garden of roses, the exact spot where Jason had proposed. I gazed at the flowers for a while longer until I heard a quiet voice. “Hey Lana.” I whirled around in shock. It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t. But there he stood. He was definitely different; he was walking on crutches with his leg in bandages and he had a new short scar marring his cheek. However, I knew exactly who he was, no matter how different he looked. He still had his crystal blue eyes and was still as handsome as ever.
I ran forward to him and embraced him in the tightest hug I could hold, causing him to wince. “Woah there Lani, not so tight.” But he was laughing the whole time. I pulled back from him and stared into his eyes, his beautiful, beautiful eyes. “You’re back,” I whispered softly. I then wrapped my arms around his neck, kissing him for a very long time.