"Tomorrow is it."
Those words echoed like a bad dream as Liam and I walked silently side by side. The day had been determined, and here it was. I longed to grab his hand and tell him I would never leave him, never go, but the words stuck on my tongue as I realized they weren't true. Soon, Micah would whisk me away to heaven where I would have to wait for the only person in the world I cared about.
"You know, it's not a terrible thing for you to be moving on. At least you'll be free. That's what you always wanted, and now it's becoming a reality."
Illustration by Allie Vugrincic / JFK
The words tore at my heart despite the truth of them. Instead of being relieved that he seemed to be dealing with this situation well, my only wish was that he would tell me he wanted me to stay.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I shouldn't be so sad about it."
As I admitted this point, I understood this was the reality of my situation. Going to heaven had been my fate from the very beginning of this whole adventure, a fate we had both recognized. The sun shone brightly above the horizon, mocking my attempts at acceptance.
"Hey, Gwen, you at least enjoyed your extra time here?"
The question felt like a knife through my very being. Of course I had, and I wanted this time to be forever. Telling him how I really felt, though, would be unfair. I didn't want him to live his life in some kind of funk because as I left his side, I confessed that I loved him. Someone would come along later that could love and stay with him.
"Yes, I enjoyed it a lot. These last couple months were the best months of my entire life. Thanks, Liam."
I offered a smile, hoping I could end this conversation. I didn't know when Micah would show up, and this as our last conversation would depress me for all eternity.
"It really was my pleasure."
With that, we fell silent again. I thought I sensed someone watching us, a set of sad, determined eyes that had to be Micah's. I sidled up a little closer to Liam, trying not to cry again.
A rush of wind blew by us, revealing Micah's solemn figure standing before us.
"Hello, Gwen. Are you ready?"
He extended a hand, eyes lighting on Liam for a moment before catching my gaze to hold it. I couldn't help it; a tear slipped down my cheek as I took a step forward.
"Goodbye, Liam. Thank you again. I hope I don't see you anytime soon."
A choked laugh escaped him before he faced me with a smile, that beautiful smile I loved so much.
"Bye, Gwen. Don't ever lose your sense of humor."
He turned his back, walking back down the path. Micah lowered his gaze, but not his hand as I took another hesitant step forward.
"Come on. It's time to go."
I slowly gripped his hand, closing my eyes so that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't see it all end. A whisper broke through the roaring wind in my ears, hoarse but definitely Micah's voice.
"It's a shame, you know. I've been where Liam is right now, watching the one he cares for most leave. I've also been in your position, trying to say goodbye to someone you love. Things like this shouldn't happen."
My thoughts stormed about, processing the gravity of my situation for the first time. That's when it hit me. I just couldn't leave. No matter the cost, no matter how selfish, I would stay by his side until he no longer wanted me there. I'd spent my whole life searching for something better, and I'd found it. No force in heaven or earth, even Micah, was going to take it from me.
"Micah, let go. I'm staying."
"Are you sure about that? You have to be one hundred percent positive."
"Yes!! I'm not going anywhere but back home!"
I peeled my eyes open at the sudden stillness around me. I was sitting in my tree, with no Micah, wind, Liam, or heaven to be seen. Before I lost my balance completely, I slid out of the tree, trying to figure out what was going on.
"Confused? Don't be. I granted your wish. You're home, and before you go running off, I have a few things to tell you. Sit down, Gwen."
Micah had appeared behind me, eyes twinkling mischievously. I leaned casually against the tree, waiting. His whole dramatic 'sit down' thing was not going to deter me.
"Alright, fine, don't play along. Anyway, you should know that the three months you just spent being dead were just an illusion. Your life needed a serious turn around, and as an angel, I happened to know that unless it did, the cool stuff you're meant to do wouldn't happen. So, you're not really dead!! It's three months ago, and if you don't start walking, you're going to be late to school. Remember, make it count this time."
With a big grin and a wink, he vanished, leaving me desperately hoping that every word was true. But, if it was all an illusion, would Liam remember any of it? Only one way to find out! I sprinted toward school as fast as I could, heart racing as I realized that this could be my chance. Just around this corner sat the key to my whole life! Before I turned though, a tall figure rounded it, and we crashed into each other. I hit the ground hard, which reminded me what pain felt like, and he had fallen on his butt. Scrambling, I muttered an apology, already starting my run again despite the pain in my leg.
A very familiar, determined voice resounded behind me, stunning me enough that I actually stopped. Slowly, I turned my head until I could see the guy I'd run into.
"Gwen, um . . . hi."
Liam. If my heart had been racing before, it was pounding out of my chest now. I realized that I couldn't just blurt out all the things I wanted to say, in case he didn't remember. He had an odd look on his face, like he was trying to say something but couldn't quite get it out right.
"Oh! Hi, Liam. Um, do you need help studying for your chemistry test?"
A huge grin almost split his face in two, indication enough for me that he remembered everything. Every moment in my life paled to this one as I sat down next to him on the ground, both of us laughing hysterically.
"Well, if you really want to start studying for a test three months away, then I'm all for it! Is this real?! You don't know how hard I kicked myself when you vanished; I was so stupid. I'm sorry it sounded like I didn't care, I really did; I just thought you wanted to go!"
"I thought I DID want to leave, but halfway there, I realized I had to stay. I'd miss you too much."
With that, he grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug. School would have to wait just for today, because some things just come up. Somehow, sitting there, I knew that from now on, everything would be different. I would not be going home tonight, nor would I ever fail a test again. I'd never wish to be invisible, and being alone without anyone to turn to was not a position I'd ever put myself in. Life was not a chore I'd drag my feet over anymore. Being loved made all the difference, a difference that would change the two of us as long as we lived. This was the way it was meant to be: love, life, and happiness, the path I'd finally learned to walk.