They always knew it would come to this. That didn't make it any easier. They knew it would only be three months until they saw each other again. That didn't make it any easier either. All they could think about right now was making the moment last as long as they possibly could.
When she decided to go to Cornell, her mom had been more than shocked. For years the two had talked about Stanford University, and Cornell couldn't be further from that. She wasn't quite sure how she made the transition from Palo Alto, California to Ithaca, New York. At first she convinced herself that it was the weather. She longed for the cold winters that she knew as a child, before her family was torn apart at the seams when her father passed away. Then she thought that maybe Cornell was simply a better school than Stanford, but there was really no solid proof of that. In the end, she accepted the fact that she wanted to grow up and continue her life on a path that she chose for herself, not one that her mother had assumed for her in hopes she would follow in her father's footsteps.
When she told him she was going to New York, he was heartbroken. He never expected her to stay in New Mexico to be near him, but California was a hell of a lot closer and a lot easier to get to than Ithaca, New York. He had cried when she first told him. Actually cried. She was surprised… They had been together for almost a year and a half and she had barely seen him shed one tear. But he cried to her. He told her he was proud of her for breaking free. He told her that he would miss her, but he understood why she had to go. He told her he loved her, and she replied by telling him that she loved him too.
They talked about separating in the fall. They discussed whether or not they were missing out on the real college experience by being tied down to someone across the country. There was mention of an open relationship, but it was quickly shot down by both parties. Their final decision was to stay together and tough it out until they could see each other again on Thanksgiving. Surely they could make it three short months without being together.
The first few days after she had told him of her choice to go to New York, things were uncomfortable to say the least. They were so afraid of things changing, that they didn't allow themselves to move forward. It was only after him walking in on her in tears did they decide to spend the rest of their summer with each other at least trying to have fun.
When they had first gotten together during the second semester of their junior year in high school, they hadn't expected it to turn out like it did. It started out casual, and gradually worked its way into something much deeper. They had felt the connection from the first time their eyes met, but they told themselves it wouldn't last. They were in high school and relationships weren't meant to be any longer than a few months. But it had. It had escalated into something neither of them had expected or been prepared for. It was after only two months together that he admitted just how far he had fallen for her. When she repeated those three words back to him they felt as though nothing could touch them.
It wasn't always easy, though. The first summer they spent together had been rocky. As college application deadlines came closer, they seemed to have less time for each other. But they stuck it through with the best of intentions. They agreed that the college decisions they were making would be for themselves, not for the other.
They had gotten through the rocky summer, their brief break up after a fight at the homecoming dance their senior year, and college applications. And now here they were. They were close enough to count the hours until she would have to leave. The room was silent as they lay together in her unmade bed. In some ways the normality of the situation was comforting. He had snuck in after curfew, something that he had done many times before. They had spoken in whispers and he would leave as the sun began to rise, making sure not to wake her on his way out. In other ways, the normality was heartbreaking. It was the everyday things they would miss the most. She would miss the way he kissed her softly on the nose before telling her he loved her. He would miss the way she ran her fingers through his hair and stared straight into his eyes. He swore she could see his soul.
The night had begun like any other. He arrived shortly after her mother had gone to sleep and the two quietly made their way to her room. She shut the door and locked it as he lied down over her comforter. She lied down next to him and the two enjoyed each other's embrace for hours before falling asleep together.
They had been together for almost 18 months now. It would be naïve, at least, to suggest that all they had done in bed together was sleep, but she was solid on choice to remain a virgin until after high school. They had waited still after that, never feeling like the moment was right. But this night was different. It's not as if they had planned for it to happen this way. In fact, her having to leave the next morning was not exactly ideal for either of them. But in the moment, they felt it was the best way to say goodbye to each other. They wanted the other to know exactly how they felt before they would be separated at two different schools in two different states on two different coasts.
He was nervous as they began. He didn't want to hurt her on their last night together. She was nervous too; afraid that she wouldn't be able to leave him in the morning like she knew she had to. But they continued. It wasn't perfect, as it never is the first time. It was physically awkward, not something that their bodies were accustomed to feeling. It was emotionally draining, the realization that they only had a few hours left together settling in as they kissed in the aftermath.
When he woke up the next morning at sunrise, he kissed her cheek softly before getting up to get dressed. He had gotten as far as his boxers when he heard her plea for him to stay. He softly argued that he didn't think her mom would appreciate it, and she reminded him that she would be leaving shortly, and if her mom had a problem with them spending time together than it was just that: her mother's problem. He chuckled softy and pulled on his shirt. She held her hand out for the pajamas he was giving her and dressed herself in them quickly before he slid back in bed next to her. He explained that at least this way if they got walked in on it would look more innocent than it actually was.
They both tried to go back to sleep but instead lay silent in each other's arms. The clock was ticking loudly and they knew it would be just a matter of time before her mom walked in and saw them. When the moment finally happened, she didn't glare disapprovingly. She didn't yell. She didn't even acknowledge the unusualness of the situation. She just starred at the two sadly and reminded her daughter that they would have to leave in a short two hours. He watched her as she got dressed and packed a few last minute things. He watched her as she attempted to eat breakfast but couldn't bother with the effort. Before either of them knew it, it was time to say goodbye.
They always knew it would come to this. That didn't make it any easier. They knew it would only be three months until they saw each other again. That didn't make it any easier either. All they could think about right now was making the moment last as long as they possibly could. But as hard as they tried, they couldn't make it last forever. With a final kiss on the nose and a final declaration of love, she was gone.
Three months had passed by, more quickly than both of them thought it would. They had kept in contact over their time apart, beginning with nightly phone calls that went on for hours and ending with weekly updates between classes. When they saw each other that Thanksgiving it had not been easy. Their feelings hadn't changed, but their lives had. They had. When she left again after the holiday it was understood that things would never be as they were.
Seeing each other again had sparked something in both of them. While they did not go back to their nightly phone calls, they began to miss each other more and more. When winter break finally rolled around, they couldn't wait to be together again. They were inseparable for the month they were home. But that was all it was. A month. The inevitable goodbye would soon be upon them again. They talked about whether it was worth it and if they were staying together for the right reasons.
Leaving that time had been harder than the other two times combined. There was no promise of what she was coming back to. They had left things unresolved for the simple reason that they did not want to acknowledge the obvious solution. They continued to talk on a regular basis, but the air of the conversations were different. Their talks became more casual, more friendly. Without words, their relationship had fizzled into nothing more than a close friendship with someone that they had been strongly connected to in high school.
When they came home that summer, they greeted each other as long lost friends would. A tight hug was shared and smiles were exchanged. They each felt a pang for what they had been and what they no longer were. They always knew it would come to this. That didn't make it any easier.