The Last Time

It didn’t happen very often, but it always seemed to paralyze me – my phone lighting up with his name. It brought me to a halt no matter what I was doing or where I was. Sometimes, it had been three years since the last time Luke and I had spoke and sometimes, it had only been three days. There was never a warning; it just happened.

It was a Tuesday night in the middle of summer. It was almost midnight, and I was watching TV with my mom. But there he was – calling me, again. I sometimes considered not answering. I waited 15 seconds wondering what his voicemail would say. Did he want to see me? Had he gotten hurt again? Was something wrong? There was no way of knowing.

“Hey. What’s up?” Luke sounded calm, maybe everything was okay this time.

“Not a whole lot. I’m just watching TV with my mom. What’re you up to?”

“I’m at Mike’s house.”

“What?! You’re in town? Ohmygosh, that’s awesome!”

“Yeah, you wanna come over?” he asked.

“Right now? It’s almost midnight?”

“So what? I haven’t seen you in a while. It’s just me and the guys – you should come.”

“Okay, okay, you’re right. I’ll be there in 10.”

I jumped up and grabbed my keys – ready to sprint out the door when my mom stopped me. It was late at night and she wasn’t sure if I should be going to hang out with a bunch of guys alone.

“It’s fine. I’ll pick up Sarah on my way,” I lied. It would’ve been okay if Sarah came; it’s not like I was trying to hide anything. I just didn’t want her there. I wanted to have Luke all to myself this time. I wanted to see him alone.

It was only a ten minute drive across town to Mike’s house, but I was anxious the whole time. I had to blast the music and force myself to sing just to keep my mind off of it. It’d been almost six months since I’d actually seen him last, and I was terrified that we’d grown too far apart. Luke and I had a messy history, and I never knew which side of him I was going to get. I still didn’t know where he stood or how he’d felt about the last few years. I was always hoping he’d say we should try to be together or try to work things out. Maybe this time, he would.

When I walked in, they were all crowded around the kitchen smoking. They didn’t even notice I’d knocked at the door until I was standing right next to them.

“Jen! Hi!” he said as he ran over to hug me.

“Hey, how are you?” I asked. “What’re you doing now? Where are you living? Tell me everything!”

There were only four of us, but we all lived in different cities now, and nothing was the same. We didn’t talk as often as we’d used to, and we hardly even knew each other anymore. Mike was doing business in some city in the south; he’d always been sort of a business junky. Jackson was working at a record store in the middle of the city and trying to become a writer. Luke was getting ready to finish his degree and hopefully move far, far away.

We moved to the living room and sat in a circle on the floor. Mike’s parents hadn’t lived there in a while, so there wasn’t much furniture left in the house. They were all still smoking and filling the air with a haze I’d only ever seen on the movies.

It was nice to see them all in the same room again, but it was all very surreal. I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen again or if, eventually, we’d all drift apart enough to only keep up with each other’s lives on Facebook. I didn’t want to leave, but it was almost 3 am, and I knew that my mother would be worried that I’d gotten in an accident. I said goodbye, and Luke walked me to the door. He hugged me tight and told me that he’d missed being so close.

“We should talk more, like actually!”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll try to call more often.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” and I walked out of the door.

My car was parked pretty far down the street, but when I got to it, I heard the door open behind me. It was Luke. He shouted my name and mumbled something else, but I couldn’t quite hear him.

“What’d you say?!” I yelled as he walked back inside. I waited for a second, but then I got in my car and drove off. He had probably just said to drive safe or something like that, but I was scared of what he’d said that I hadn’t heard.

Then it happened again – his name on my phone.

“I wanted to come say goodbye in your car. Privately. I told you to wait,” the text said.

I wanted to go back; I wanted to turn around so badly. What if he was going to say that he loved me? Or he regretted what had happened in the past? What if he wanted to make things right again? But I was already on the interstate on the way home, and I knew that I couldn’t turn around.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t hear you.”

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