Construction Update: I've kept this chapter pretty much the way I've had it before, just with a little more added to the beginning. I really didn't have the heart to change it completely, because the first chapter to this story is very much my baby and I have too many memories attached to it.

Primavera © Eklipt
Battle: Los Angeles © Jonathan Liebesman

They call holidays an option for a reason
I heard you're coming back to life just for the fourth
I've been catching all your ghosts for every season
I pray to god you won't come back here anymore

Where have you been? - Manchester Orchestra

Chapter 1

Forsythia: Good nature, innocence, and anticipation

The clouds hung low, providing a source of insulation despite the chilly winter morning. It was six in the morning with the only sound of motion being my deep labored breaths as I enjoyed the early morning jog before the disturbance of the morning rush hour. It was the only time I can accomplish something in peace without the dozens of curious passersby.

Or maybe I took a small joy in being the first to make a footprint in the recent blanket of powdered snow on the ground.

I paused despite the burning adrenaline of caffeine begging me not to. This morning winter jog will be the last for a while, meaning up to four or more years. I breathed in the crisp air from the result of a fresh snowfall. The pollution of the town felt like it was miles away despite the fact that it will always blanket the area due to the fact that it was literally in a bowl of surrounding mountains. It was the perfect place to locate a mass of civilization- or so the forbearers had thought. The place could have been beautiful if not for the pulp mills constantly pumping out toxins. It was a never good day if there were fog, because more than likely it smelt strongly of sewage and toxins.

I enjoyed the scenery of the town at the peak of the hill where the trees were less in abundance to hinder my view. The lights from the lamp posts reflected off the snow and glittered harmoniously with each step I took. By now, I suppose I should be regretting my brilliant idea in joining the marines, however, I was so ridiculously ready to turn over a new page in my life that I can sacrifice the small joys.

My only concern was learning to tolerate the hot summers of sunny California. I never liked the sun in all nineteen years of my life.

I decided I've had enough of the cold that had started to nip into my skin after the clouds had departed. The heat it trapped in had escaped rapidly and signs of dawn had streaked through the grey fluffy blankets in the sky. By now my cheeks were already an impressive shade of red in contrast to my naturally tanned skin. My lips were chapped and my feet ached. I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed, but by now Cathy was probably already up and about and more than likely groaning my name in spite for having to wake up early for my sake. My only coercion was to buy her a coffee in which she begrudgingly couldn't turn down the thought of free coffee. The perks of living with a coffee addict.

I swiped my student ID card into the card slot and waited for the door to open automatically. I was dreading the thought of packing up my entire room with no motivation to do so. Who ever knew that the human sloth would have the guts to enter the marine forces, with all the grunt training, the early mornings, and physical labor that I was especially not known for. Despite my flawed logic, priorities, and lack of motivation, I did have my reasons. And that reason being him.

To me that was reason enough.

It had only been a month since I had made my decision. I reminisced over what happened over that time period as I used my teeth to tear a strip of scotch tape, and placed it over the cardboard flaps of the box that contained the last of my things. My dorm room appeared empty now, and the walls were scrubbed clean. Paper cranes of various sizes and colours no longer decorated the ceiling, and the only evidence left behind were the tiny holes created by push-pins.

I sighed, glancing towards the lemon-scented desk. The top shelf had a wooden frame; inside a picture of a tall, silly looking guy with his arm slung around my shoulder. His eyes were droopy in an attempt to create the 'bedroom-eyes', only to fail and appear as a total creep.

My lips quirked for a split-second before I flipped the frame face-down and unlatched the back, taking the picture out and folding it up. I placed it in the back pocket of my jeans before I took the remaining box and left the dorm room life behind for the final time. The memories and dreams I created here had been boxed up and ready to be transported five hours away without me. I had other plans, and I sure couldn't go home for four years. I had enlisted into the marines at 20-years of age with only a few years of studies left before I was able to obtain my master's degree in Psychology. The professors and counsellors who had been working with my psychological health for the past few months had turned their noses up at the mention of my plans to drop out of school after my first semester, thinking that I was wasting my potential by joining the marines. That I would only be a huge target for sexual harassment and would be crushed by military standards and expectations due to my petite size. But I wasn't entirely defenseless, despite being only a mere five-foot in height. I had naturally muscular biceps and legs due to genetics, along with fairly broad shoulders that made shopping for shirts, skirts and dresses so difficult.

However, genetics and physical traits wasn't the reason for joining. It was him. After he left, so did my dreams. It was going to take a lot of hard work to get my passion back for life, and what better way than to join the marines? Why not fight for my life to regain back my respect and appreciation of it. I knew it was a drastic decision, but I had already measured the pros and cons prior to my decision. It was going to help gain the confidence that I need to tackle problems – specifically social problems, and conquer them rather than escape like I always had done in the past.

I was tired of living behind a shell.

"Are you ready, Jaren?" Cathy asked, revving up her truck as I put the box in the back seat.

"Unfortunately," I replied, climbing into the passenger and shut the door. I caught the knowing look my roommate shot at me as she shifted gears and backed out of the narrow parking lot. As soon as she was sure she wouldn't careen into any vehicles, she sped up, causing us to drift along the snow top for a moment before leaving the university behind.

I sighed, pulling my hood over my head and sunk down into the seat. I felt comforted by the winter chill that crept down to my bones. It was the last Canadian winter that I would experience for a while, and I would have to adapt to the humid weather of sunny California. It was in that train of the thought that reminded me that I was going to need an entire change of wardrobe. I groaned at the thought, ignoring Cathy's look of curiosity.

Despite my desperate intentions to improve my ability to confront my problems, it felt like I was still running away from them. I was taking several steps back from my goal in a last-ditch effort by joining the marines. I was hoping that taking those steps back would give me the momentum I needed to overcome that mental wall that had been my comfort zone for so long. The marines would build me that strength and motivation, even if it meant having to demolish that wall instead.

I felt the left side of my head burn and I realized that we were at a stop light. I slowly glanced over to notice that Cathy was staring with a glint in her eyes that shone with raw determination. I twitched my lip, and rested my head against the window as I prepared for the 'voice of reason'.

"You know, we were really good roommates together. We all lived together really well. It's too bad that you're leaving us right after we finally got you out of your shell." I flinched at her words. I was a little surprised that she spoke so much, but I realized the truth of her words. In the time of being roommates with Justine, Becky, and her, I hadn't really hung out with any of them until last night. It was our first and only roommate hangout where we went to Dairy Queen, gossiped, and was interrogated about any guys in our lives. It was the first time in a few weeks that I was able to smile after He died. Of course, they questioned about him and his significance in my life. At the time, I couldn't find the words to tell them, and resorted to shoving a spoon full of frozen brownie into my mouth, ceasing their interrogation and turning the conversation onto something else. After that, I spent half the night mulling over the conversation in my head, planning out what I should have said, and then rolling around in bed in regret of not being able to say them.

"What I'm trying to say is that no matter how much your decision makes us sad, we don't hate you for it. I'm sure you have your reasons, and no matter what, we'll all still be friends. So you better visit us soon, whenever you can." I snapped out of my reverie and watched as the light turn green. I let the force of the speed push me back into my seat, and before I could open my mouth, she spoke again. "And don't forget to text us, too."

"And there's always Facebook," I piped in, and felt a wave of embarrassment soon after.

Cathy smiled, "Skype too."

My cheeks lost their colour and I smiled too, albeit a little weakly, but a smile nonetheless. I suddenly felt childish for being scared of what she would have said, and relieved too now that it was over. My lips quirked a little higher as I realized how cool my roommates really were. I was going to miss Justine's loud screeches she made in an attempt to sound like a pterodactyl, and Becky's constant jokes and upbeat attitude. I was also going to miss Cathy's kindness, and her quirky way of laughing. I was going to miss how they all made me laugh, and just filled the silence I put myself in.

"I'm gonna miss you, too." I finally said after figuring out that her 'guilt-trip' speech was just her way of saying that she was going to miss me.

"Good," she laughed.

I breathed in deeply at the sight of the airport rolling into view. I was excited and extremely nervous at the same time. Within that night, I was going to leave Canadian soil for the first time after transferring planes in Vancouver. I was leaving behind the mountains of British Columbia that I grew up in. I was also leaving behind the old Jaren. I breathed the air out of my lungs at that realization, and just let everything go.