Stay in Touch

Two weeks ago, I ruined Chloe’s life. Now I was listening to her talk about the fun times she would never have again.
“He was the best dad in the world. We always wanted to go to Paris as a family. Whenever we mentioned it he would always speak in this really funny French accent. I’d try and show you all but I’d just embarrass myself. It was hilarious though, mom and I would be in tears,” Chloe said.
She moved over to the casket. On top was a wreathe and a photograph of her dad. He was pulling a goofy expression. He wouldn’t have wanted any other picture to be used. He never wanted anyone around him to be unhappy. Chloe spoke to her dad like no-one else was there.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I have a crappy day and you’re not there to cheer me up.” She put her hand on his casket.
I had to look away. To my right Chloe’s mom, Joyce, was wiping her eyes with a tissue. I reached over and squeezed her hand. She scrunched up her tissue and smiled at me. I didn’t know why I was getting so upset. Chloe and her mom had far more right than I did.

~

Later on and we were all outside. It was a beautiful summer day. I had gone to the buffet to grab some food. I wasn’t hungry, just having a tough time looking Chloe and her mom in the eye. I grabbed a few pigs in blankets and a spoonful of salad and dumped them on the plate. When I got back to the table Chloe was alone. She was moving her food around on her plate. I sat next to her.
“Where’s your mom?” I asked.
“She abandoned me to go talk to relatives or some bullshit,” she said. I saw Joyce stood with a man and woman.
“She didn’t abandon you, Chloe. She’s just–”
“Max, I was kidding. Chill out,” she said. I was afraid to ask my next question.
“How you holding up?” I said.
Chloe just shrugged her shoulders.
“That was a really beautiful eulogy.”
“Thanks. I felt like an idiot in front of all those people.”
“You were great,” I said.
Chloe played with her food some more.
“You excited about your big move?” she asked.
“Oh, um. I guess.”
“You guess? Come on, it’s cool. If I had a chance to get out this shithole I know I’d take it,” she said.
I nodded.
“Oh I get it,” Chloe said.
“What?”
“You won’t know what you’ll do without me, right? Don’t worry about that. Just be prepared to spend some dollars ‘cos I’ll be texting you non-stop the second you leave.”
I smiled.
“Chloe,” Joyce’s voice came from across the area. She was waving Chloe over.
“Sorry, gonna have to leave you alone,” Chloe said.
“That’s fine. Go be with your mom,” I said.
Chloe walked over to her mom and relatives. I got out my cell phone and flipped it open. I went through until I found the two week old texts I was looking for.

Me: Had to bug my parents 24-7 but Project Sleepover is go!
Chloe: Awesome! I’ll make sure mom has enough pancake batter to last the weekend!

I flipped my phone down. I made Chloe’s mom go out Saturday morning to get ingredients. I made her buy so much stuff. I made her call Chloe’s dad to pick her up. I made Chloe’s dad get in that car.

~

It was five months later and the big move was upon me. Our stuff was being packed into the moving van. Chloe and her mom had come to help my family and I pack the rest of our belongings. Chloe and I were up in my room with boxes everywhere. I was half heartedly putting my clothes into my suitcase while she went through my wardrobe behind me. I’d found it difficult to talk to her recently. Her mom started dating some guy last week and she and Chloe had been getting into so many arguments over it. I hadn’t met him myself but I thought it was great she might find happiness with someone again. Chloe didn’t see it that way though.
“No way!” Chloe said. “Look what I found!” Chloe was holding a pirate’s eye patch. My mouth hit the floor.
“Are you serious?” I said.
“I can’t believe you still have this. I think my mom got rid of my shit years ago!” she said.
Chloe was talking about the pirate gear we used to wear as kids. We went on so many adventures we even made a soundtrack on CD.
“Put it on,” said Chloe. I slipped it over my head and looked in the mirror on my wall. I was ambushed by flashbacks of the both of us running around the back yard. Having sword fights, sailing the seven seas and pillaging cookies from the jar in the kitchen. We’d had so many great times together. And what had I done? I’d fucked up her family’s life. I ripped the eye patch off and rushed back to my suitcase.
Tears streamed down my face and onto my bed covers. I tried to wipe my eyes quickly in a vain attempt to hide it from Chloe. I felt her hand on my shoulder. I turned around and hugged her.
“I’m so sorry, Chloe.”
“For what, moving away?”
“I’m sorry about your dad,” I said. I felt Chloe hug me tighter.
“It fucking sucks, sure. But I’m a big girl, Max. It’s gonna be shit for a while and I’m gonna miss you like you wouldn’t believe. But I’ll be okay.”

~

The moving van was filled with our belongings. It waited for my mom, dad and I to drive ahead. My mom and dad said their goodbyes to Chloe and her mom. They waited for me in the car. Chloe’s mom gave me a big hug.
“You take care of yourself, Hun,” she said.
“I will. You too, Mrs Price.”
She let me go and put her hand on Chloe’s shoulder.
“I’ll be in the car when you’re ready,” she said. Chloe didn’t even look at her as she walked away. She let out a deep breath.
“I guess this is it, huh Maximus?” she said.
“Guess so.” The fact I didn’t have anything better to say made me feel like an idiot. We hugged each other. I wish I didn’t have to let her go. But I had to. For her sake.
“I’ll see you again some day,” she said. “You better not go forgetting about me. Promise?”
“Promise,” I said. I couldn’t forget which just made things worse.

Our car pulled away. I looked out the back window and saw Chloe stood on the sidewalk. She waved with one hand and wiped her eyes with the other. I waved back and turned to face the front. I felt my cell phone vibrate a few moments later. I took it out and flipped it open.

UNKNOWN NUMBER: Stay in touch.

I’m so sorry, Chloe. For everything.

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