The end of semester was coming up. A final exam was in next week. Andy and Julia have got to know each other slowly every week. They usually studied in the college library. Whenever they meet in the library, they studied together in a close seat and left the library at the same time. When they found something that they didn’t know about the class of the day, they asked each other. Sometimes, they had a chance to have a dinner together near the library when the nighttime comes in weekdays. The class often required some of the outdoor assignments for the grade, but she made a group of her friends in the class for the research project. He did not have a lot of chances to do it with her. Although he had an expectation that he might be able to spend the time with her, it did not happen a lot. However, it didn’t matter to him. He was just happy to see her in every class and study together.
Andy was an ordinary student. Since he didn’t have a lot of money, he had to get a student loan to take the class. When the school has a vacation, he got a part time job at the convenient store around the college. He did not want to ask for money to his parents because of his stubbornness. Whenever his parents visit him, they gave him some allowance for his living, but it was not always enough. Therefore, he was considering joining the ROTC of U.S. Air Force that the school connects students to Air Force recruiters. He could often see the notice on the school board that recruiters left on it. He did not have such a dream to become a pilot, but he knew the benefits of joining the military that they cover his college tuition. Then he met Julia when he was considering ROTC. But he was having a concern in his mind.
‘Would I still be able to see her after I join the Air Force? What if I cannot see her? I don’t even know if she is going to wait for me. Would she love me?’
After the class is over, Julia came to Andy. When he was about to get up from the class seat, she talked to him.
“Hey, we are planning to go camping after the final exam in next week. Do you want to come with us?”
He froze for a second because he was not expecting her invitation. As he was looking at her wondering if he wants to join her, he thought he should answer it right away.
“Uhm yeah. Camping? Where are you guys going?”
“Actually, my friend knows the place better than me. She said, if we go to south from here, there will be a mountain and there is a campsite. There aren’t many people coming to that place like a secret place. The semester is going to end soon so, I think we could swim at the valley and have a BBQ party together. It would be fun. I want you to come with us.”
He felt as if she really wanted him to join the camping.
“Sure. Sounds exciting. I’m in. I will go with you.”
“Okay! I will let them know you will come with us. I will talk to you later Andy.”
“See you Julia.”
Andy came into the classroom and sat in one of the chairs in the sixth-row seat from the front. He saw her sitting in the second-row seat. Some of the students are already sitting on the chair individually or together with their friends. One by one, they are still coming into the classroom through the door from the behind of it. The classroom is not that big or small. It’s a first day of the new semester. The students are quietly waiting for the time until the professor comes into the classroom. A few of them are talking to each other in low voices. He can see her back from where he is sitting. He is looking at her still talking with her friend. He could see her profile every time she turned her head.
He thought, ‘It seems I came a long way to see her today. Here I sit in the unfamiliar classroom not knowing what to do or say. All the new people are sitting here with me but all I can see is her back. I’m the only stranger left sitting in the middle of nowhere looking at her in wonder. Everything I thought before I came here stays under me. I wonder if this is how my life is meant to be. Now I’m here just to see her face again. If she is meant to be in my life, it will happen.’
When the professor came to the classroom, the classroom became quiet. The professor put his bag on his desk in front of the classroom. Everyone is focusing on him expecting him to say to start the first class.
Andy found the job after the college graduation thanks to his professor. He was disappointed with the company because it was not a big company and people said it might go under anytime soon. But since his professor connected the company for him, he decided to do his best to return the favor. Before he knows it, all four seasons passed by. Most of his colleagues who started at the same time quitted the job but him and his friend, Tom, remained in the company. He sometimes had a chance to meet his old friends from college but usually they could not make the schedule. Even though they all had a same major in the college, they got the jobs from different kind of companies. He sometimes considered studying more in the school.
Andy met Julia for the first time at the school campus. He is not very tall or short guy. He was rarely described as an attractive from the people around him. He usually went to class by himself walking to the classroom since the dorm where he was living was close to it. One day, when he habitually turned around from the classroom building door before he opens it, he saw Julia with her friend walking toward him. When he saw her, he fell in love with her at first sight. He felt as if he was playing a role in a play. Later when he heard her telling her friends that she doesn’t believe in falling in love at first sight, he was disheartened.
He had a fear that he might not be able to love someone else but himself. It’s not that he was not interested in finding a girlfriend. He has been thinking that it is too much for him to carry the love because he was afraid of losing control of himself and opening himself to others than him. ‘Should I live alone forever if I can never love someone?’ But his uncertainty turned into strange weight at once when he saw her. What he saw was her smile. She was walking with her friend. He felt strange friendly feeling. ‘I hope she smiles at me now,’ he thought. It might have been because he was too tired studying for the exam until late night lately. He stood there looking at her like the time is compressed around him. He was not sure who he was looking at, so he looked away. He focused his sight on her again and looked away again. He was imagining her in his head several times. The figure of her short haircut with an ordinary t-shirt was walking toward his way. The bright sunshine of afternoon was manifesting her glittering smile. ‘I want to see her smile more.’ His palms started to feel sweaty. His tired body started to feel heavier. ‘I don’t want to be alone anymore,’ he was feeling what he was about to talk to himself in his mind.
Julia was drinking by herself in the bar. She called Andy. She was not so drunk like she is about to pass out. He answered the call after the few signals.
“Hi Andy. It’s me, Julia. How are you doing? I feel like we haven’t talked for a while.”
“I’m doing alright. Yeah, it’s been a while. How are you?”
“Andy, can you come over here?”
“Right now? Where are you?”
“I’m at the bar in front of my home by myself. You know it. The quiet and small one that I’ve always talked about.”
“Did you drink a lot?”
“Umm, just a little bit. Haha. Sorry Andy, nevermind. I just wanted to call you.”
Her voice sounded different than her usual bright voice. He thought something happened to her.
“No Julia it’s ok. I will be there. I’m just done with my work. I will be there in 10 minutes.”
“Thank you, Andy. I will be here waiting for you.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”
Andy hung up the phone and talked to his colleague next to him.
“Tom, I’m sorry I have to go somewhere. I can’t drink with you tonight. Let’s have a drink tomorrow night.”
Andy talked to Tom as he was wearing his jacket. Tom said,
“What? Where are you going?”
“I will tell you later.”
Andy rushed to the exit door of the office.
Andy and Julia are sitting on the chair in front of bartender in the bar. They have been drinking together for almost half an hour. Andy has never seen her drunk like this. She always enjoyed having a party with her friends including Andy, but she never crossed her alcohol limitation with them. It seemed she liked to have a good time with friends unlike Andy who usually reluctantly get dragged by his friends. However, the reason why he kept going to their party was because of her. He didn’t like to be a center of attention among friends. He has never had a drink with only Julia before.
“It seems everyone is busy now. We all got the job after the graduation. So, we haven’t had a drink altogether for like 3 months?”
Andy is listening to her.
“Love is too difficult.” Julia said in a low voice with fluffy smile. “I’m still lonely even though I have a boyfriend. Andy, thank you for being here with me.”
Andy looked at her eyes trying to understand what is in her eyes.
Julia smiled again and looked away from his eyes. She said,
“I’m glad you are my friend. I’m always comfortable with you. If I’m with you, I can tell you anything. You are important person to me. I want to see you longer than love.”
“Of course, Julia. I promise I will always be here when you need me.”
It felt weird to say that he will always be a good help for her. ‘This is not what I wanted to tell her,’ he thought.
‘I love you.’ He said in his heart. ‘I hope the person you feel sadness was me.’
He looked at his glass filled with cocktail. He thought that the feelings that he has never shown might have found the answer.
Julia is lying down on her bed in her room with only lamp on. She called Ethan with her phone. She is listening to the connection signal waiting for his voice. He finally answered the phone.
“Hey,” he said in a dry voice.
“Ethan, it’s me.”
“I miss you, Ethan.”
It finally came out of her mouth. It was the thought that she has been only thinking for him. She was hesitating what to tell him about everything between her and him. The answer for her was being honest and open to him to see if he still loves her. She said what she wanted to say to him.
Ethan didn’t say anything.
“Can we meet now?”
Julia is getting anxious from his response.
Ethan didn’t answer again.
“Are you that busy? Why can’t we meet? I need you. I need you to be here.”
She was getting desperate to hear what she wanted to hear from him.
“Julia, I can’t.”
“Then can we meet tomorrow?”
Ethan sighed and said,
“I told you I’m busy. You should think of my situation too.”
“I will. I will be better in understanding you.”
“Julia, do you remember what we talked about? You said you won’t be like this anymore.”
“But I want to meet you. I really want you. You are my boyfriend. I really love you. I love you so much.”
He was not saying anything after his dragging call of her name, so she decided to say what she said only to herself.
“Did you find another girl?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you love me? Tell me you love me. You have to say it now because I know you are still loving me.”
Ethan stayed in silence for 5 seconds.
“I’m just happy having fun with you.”
As it was different from what she was expecting, she didn’t understand what he said at once. But she started talking what comes to her mind and emotion.
“You changed, Ethan. You said you will only love me until we die. You said you will only look at me. You made me look at only you. But you changed so much.”
“You don’t seem to be in a good state now. I have to go. Maybe I will talk to you later.
He hung up the phone. As soon as he hung up the phone, she started to cry in her bed lying sideway next to her small desk.
‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I just said.’
Julia met Ethan on the street near his home after Julia called him several times. When she found him walking toward her from far distance, she started walking toward him almost running. Julia threw herself in his arms. She said, “I missed you so much, Ethan. I’ve thought of you and lived loneliness every night, but you never came back,” as she looked up at his eyes.
Ethan hugged her and said, “I’m sorry. I have been busy because of works.”
She said, “What were you doing these days? Were you that busy? I couldn’t hear from you.”
He replied as he stroked her hair, “I will be with you for a long time tonight.”
She said, “I hope the time stops so I can be with you in this moment forever. I want to stay in permanent time with you.”
“Me too. I feel the same.”
She kept looking at Ethan’s eyes in his arms. He found her mouth trembling as if she is about to cry by his reply. He said with smile,
“You are cute when you look at me like that.”
She smiled little bit and kept looking at him with the same eyes. She felt her emotions passing by in her head,
‘I believe we will never be apart. I believe you. Tell me you believe me too. Tell me you are mine. Show me your heart and show me your dream. May I stay with you? Would you still love me? Please be my only one person for my life.’
Ethan knew what it meant for her and him. He stroked her hair one more time.
He said, “Don’t worry, Julia. I will always stay by your side. Do you believe me?”
She nodded and held him tighter. They stayed there for a while feeling each other.
He is sitting on the top of the car alone looking at the stars. She came to him and asked,
“What are you doing here?”
He replied, “Nothing. I’m just looking at the night sky.”
She sat next to him looking far away. She said,
“Did you know that people saw shooting stars from here? This is the place where you can see the stars well.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“I hope I could see shooting star tonight so I can make a wish. There might be one tonight, who knows?” she said looking at the far sky above the mountain.
“I’m really glad that I met you, my precious friends. When I look at us, I know we are the path we have been walking on and we will be walking on. Do you see that bright star over there?” She pointed at the sky. “Look at the stars in front of us. That is our future. We have had a lot of difficulties to get here. We will be able to overcome them again and again. It’s scary sometimes that we might not achieve our dream, but we will keep chasing it.” She held his hand. Let’s not stop here and walk toward the future.”
He looked at her and thought, ‘You are the light. You are the light that shines the stars brighter. You are the brightest in my eyes. Sometimes, my eyes are too dazzling to see you, but can I stay with you?’
“How are you feeling? Nice to meet you. I’m Dr. Simmonds.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
“So, are you not sleeping well at night?” asked doctor looking at the medical record she received from her nurse.
“Umm… I can’t sleep at night and I can’t breathe well sometimes. It’s so painful.” He said calmly and quietly.
“Okay. Where exactly do you feel pain the most in your body? Is it a headache or…”?
“It’s… everything in my life is painful. Not just my body. I sometimes think that I just want to die when I cannot breathe.”
“During the past month, have you experienced any traumatic events that make you feel down, depressed, or hopeless?”
“The person I love died. It was a car accident. It happened right in front of me. Even though I was next to her, well… she didn’t recognize me. Maybe she thought I was someone else because she called someone else’s name to me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What name did she call you? Did she mistake you for someone else?”
“Ethan. She said Ethan. Maybe Ethan is her boyfriend or someone she loves.”
“So, she was not your girlfriend.”
“No, she was not.”
“You must have loved her very much. “
“Yes. She was the first person who had me feel the kindness and warmness for the first time in my life. When I was having a hard time, she sincerely cared and concerned about me. I wanted to give her the same feeling that she gave me. I feel guilty for not saving her. It’s killing me since then. I love her so much. After she died, I knew how much I love her and how painful it is to live the reality without her. She didn’t look at me more than a friend and it was just one-sided love from me. But it didn’t matter to me. I looked at her posts on her blog to find what she likes and what she wants. I wanted to give her everything she wants in the world. I always wanted to be with her, and I enjoyed every conversation with her. Her gait, her voice tone, her habits are still clearly remaining in my memory. It was just happy for me to spend the time with her together. I still can’t believe she doesn’t exist in the world. But I saw her death in front of my eyes. My mind is empty, and the world is empty. Where is she now? Can I see her again? Will I be able to see her again if I die? Please tell me. I feel like the best thing I can do is to end everything in my life and leave this world forever. I know I won’t be able to forget her.”
He said with calm voice suppressing his intensifying emotions.
“It will be hard for you now. It might take some more time to forget more painful memories and experiences.”
“I won’t be able to love again. I will never love again. Here in my heart, it hurts so much. How can I get rid of this pain in here?”
With the big noise of bang, he heard the car tires screeching sound. He turned around.
‘It can’t be,’ he thought. He rushed to the car muttering, ‘No, no, no.’
He found her lying down in front of the car, so he went closer to her.
‘Oh no,’ he thought.
“Julia, Julia can you hear me? Open your eyes.”
He talked to her as he checks her body if she has visible injuries.
He repeatedly called her name. Then he found her slightly opening her eyes.
She painfully held her hand to touch his face and called the name of someone else.
His hands suddenly stopped.
He said, “Yeah it’s me. Ethan.”
She asked, “What happened to me? It hurts so much.” She smiled a little and said, “You are here for me. I knew you will always be here for me.”
He said, “Of course, I will always be here for you. You were just hit by a car. Look at me. Don’t leave me.”
She coughed several times and cried,
“I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna die like this.”
He said, “You will be fine. You will be fine. Don’t worry.” He held her hand tight. He looked around the people.
He shouted, “Please someone call 911! Please. Hurry.”
He looked at her in his arms closing her slightly opened eyes and dropping her hands. Her head fell on him.
“Julia Julia no no. Don’t… You can’t leave like this.”
He held her on his chest and started sobbing.
Your hands touch your fringe. Your eyes don’t look at me. Anxious look of you. Your trembling eyes trying to hold the tears look like you lost something. It’s like a little child who can’t find parents in the middle of the park. I can see your corners of lips going down. Your face that tries not to cry makes my heart hurt. Your smile would mean that you want me to think you are fine. But your eyes are still moist like a small puddle in rainy day. If I get swayed here, would you burst into tears or would you never look at me?