It had been many months since Travis Strong had moved back to Hong Kong.
It had been seven, in fact.
7 months, 3 days, 10 hours and three minutes.
7 months, 3 days, 10 hours and three – four minutes in which Lily Randall had not even once stopped thinking about him.
It wasn't fair, really. She had always stood by his side, keeping him close so that he could tell her anything, but never quite close enough to hold him back from what he wanted to do. In retrospect, she wished that she had held on a little bit tighter, a little bit longer, because it turned out that what he had really wanted to do was go back to where he came from. And the most she had been able to do was cry.
Cry, like the weak little girl she was, because she hadn't even told him how she felt before he stepped onto that train and went somewhere where she just couldn't reach him. The last she saw of him was his eyes, dark in his face and wise beyond his years, staring at her with that look of admiration, intrigue and a little bit of pity he always gave her ever since it didn't work out with either him or Ray. And in his eyes she saw his final message to her.
It wasn't even anything nice, like "I'll miss you" or "Good-bye."
It was more along the lines of "Why didn't you stop me? Did you want me to leave? I thought you were my friend."
And maybe that wasn't what he had been trying to say, but it felt like it, and so every night in her dreams she saw those accusing eyes, telling her that she just wasn't strong enough.
And as she climbed out of the hole she had sunk into in despair, not eating, not feeling, not going to school, or doing RFR, she knew that she wasn't coming back because she was ready to, but because she needed to. She needed to let people know, even if it wasn't true, that she was okay, and that she'll get over him, and that happy, perky Lily had just been on vacation.
That Lily had left. That Lily was the one that Travis kept with him, even if he didn't know it, in his heart. And so when he was away, just away, with the promise of return, she was able to be happy Lily because he was coming back. But he had left for good, taking that part of her heart overseas to Hong Kong with him, and it was as though he had ripped out her heart.
But no one could know. No one could ever know, because that would just be too sad. That admirable Lily Randall was pining over her best-friends boyfriend. And that was just sad, because even Parker had gotten over him, and was dating a new guy named Owen who looked and acted nothing like Travis.
And that almost hurt more, actually.
And that was why on that day; Lily was sitting in the old station of RFR, singing a song she wrote not long after he left. She didn't even remember the words, but the feeling were still painfully clear in the melody, so she just hummed along to her melancholic melody, all alone in a place where, only a year back, she had never been left alone once.
And in the middle of the second verse, the sounds of the guitar died out, echoing the haunting last chord of her song, and Lily allowed herself to succumb to the pain. The guitar fell to the floor, crashing and breaking a few strings, and Lily, too, fell to the floor, crashing and breaking her already fragile heart just a little bit more.
She just lay there and stared at the ceiling, letting that comforting numbness wash over her, and it felt so good, and then it was all over. The glass cage holding the pain inside fractured, then burst into a million tiny pieces inside of her, puncturing her lungs, making it hard to breathe, piecing her eyes, making them water, and tearing her ligaments, making her fall painfully to the ground as she cried again, for the first time since he had left.
And suddenly, playing in their old haunt was more painful than she could stand, and she just ran.
She didn't know where to, where from, but she ran, enjoying the sound of her sneakers slapping against the pavement, across the new grass and through puddles, and she welcomed the burning in her legs as a distraction from worse pain that she had no control over.
Her feet just took her from the station to the station, and now she was staring at the people getting ready to board a train to Toronto to fly somewhere where the people who cared about them couldn't reach them. And she wanted to stand up, yell at them not to go, that people would miss them and that they would be lonely, and she just couldn't.
So instead, she ran up to the roof, and looked out from on top as the train pulled away from the station, leaving a trail of smoke behind it, like a stairway to the clouds. She leaned over a bit further on the rail, looking at the people boarding the next train, and she just started to cry again, the tears burning down her face, her weakness that made him leave more apparent than ever.
That was when a hand grabbed her shoulder.
It wasn't an extraordinary hand, pale long fingered, slender, with calluses and a few scars on the palm of the hand, with bitten nails and scraped knuckles, but this one, ordinary hand was one, ordinary unforgettable hand, and she didn't even have to turn around to know who's it was.
So she stood there, relishing the feel of his hand on her shoulder, and all other sounds disappeared, and suddenly, it was just her and him, in their own little world. She wouldn't turn around, to dare him to speak first, to say anything, to laugh, to cry, to just keep holding her, and she let him pick first, beacue that was strength, and she was able to be strong around him.
He took the offered chance and spoke first. Just one word, just two syllables, but it was the sweetest thing she had ever heard, because for the first time in 7 months, 3 days, 11 hours and 16 minutes, she heard her name spoken by Travis Strong.
And the ice having been broken, she turned around and flew into his arms, and she didn't know whether to cry or laugh or hit him, because he was back and now everything was alright. And so they just stood there, her crying into his shirt, him resting his head on hers, because he was taller now, and she hadn't grown much at all, and their arms were wrapped around each other, holding on as though if their strength wavered, then the other would disappear again, this time forever.
And 0 hours, 13 minutes and 26 seconds after Travis returned to Roscoe, she spoke his name.
And in those 2 syllables, there were a thousand question, ten thousand angry comments and a million feelings that both of them had tried so hard to forget. And so when he disengaged the hug and wiped her tears from her eyes, she felt no hesitation from moving a little bit closer.
And when she moved a little bit closer, he felt no hesitation in kissing her.
There was no lust in this kiss, no anger, no passion, none of the feelings Lily had been experiencing for the past months, and instead, it was full of sweetness, it was full of hope, and happiness, and it was like the first kiss you ever have with a boy, full of wonder and joy.
And they said no words as they kissed, and they didn't close their eyes, and Lily saw in those eyes not what she had seen when he left, but an emotion never seen in him before.
Love. Bliss. Pure joy.
And honestly, she couldn't say she felt any different.