“Hey Riley, wait up!” I said as I tried to catch up to the brown curls that were bouncing a few strides ahead of me. Her musical laugh made my heart flutter as she started to slow down and eventually stop.
I stopped running too and took in my surroundings, shocked that we were already here. She had this effect on me. We could have been running for hours and I would be too caught up in her beauty to notice.
The memory of how we found this place is still vivid in my mind. We were exploring the woods one day a couple years ago. Eventually we came to a creek, and just started walking along it. After a while, we came across an unoccupied cave. Since then, Riley and I have declared this our place. We come here as often as we can.
We’ve been friends since kindergarten. Billy Johnson ripped the ribbon right out of her silk hair during recess, just for the sake of getting her all "riled up" as they liked to call it. This sent her to tears, and me, being the nice guy, came and carefully tied it back around her hair. Ever since then we’ve been inseparable. She makes me laugh and I always have this bubbly feeling inside of me when I see her. Riley honestly means the world to me.
Her voice brought me out of my thoughts, “Last one into the creek is a rotten egg!” Riley cried as she stripped off her shirt, exposing a blue one-piece bathing suit. She ran towards the steady stream of water. I grinned and bolted after her, taking my shirt off too. I didn’t run as fast, knowing full well that Riley would beat me. She was an incredible runner, especially for an eight year old. We jumped into the water with a loud splash. I was the rotten egg. “Ryan, you suck at running.” She said bluntly while giggling. Her chocolaty eyes were radiant and happy. I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t keep the smile off of my face.
We stayed in the water for a good half hour, splashing and laughing. Eventually she said she was expected to be home in a few minutes, so I nodded and we went to get our things.
The walk back was about twenty minutes. On our way, we talked and laughed. I walked her to her door when we reached her house and I gave her a hug like I always did, taking in her strawberry scent.
My house was only a few minutes from her house. While walking, I got lost in my thoughts that, as always, consisted of Riley. She was the highlight of my day, as usual, and I couldn’t help but smile.
When I arrived at my house, I took a deep breath before entering. Life at home wasn’t the greatest at the moment. My mother and father couldn’t seem to stop fighting. It annoyed me greatly. At this point, I didn’t even care if they got a divorce. Millions of kids went through their parents splitting up, I didn’t see the big deal in it. It wasn’t like they were dying.
I entered the house and heard the T.V. turned on, so I headed for the living room. As I got closer, I could hear sniffling. Uh-oh.
When I got to the room, I just stood in the doorway. The first thing I noticed were the suitcases by the couch. Double uh-oh. I felt the feeling of panic when I noticed my suitcases were among the bags. The second thing I noticed was a woman in her early thirties sitting on the couch, hunched over with her head in her hands. “Mom?” I asked.
She slowly lifted her head from her hands and gave me a sad smile, “I’m so sorry.” She croaked.
Confusion hit me. “For what?” I asked cautiously, afraid of what the answer might be.
“We’re leaving.” A sharp pain panged in my chest.
“Wh-what do you mean?” The only thing running through my mind was Riley. I tried to keep as much optimism as possible. Maybe she meant we’re just leaving the house and moving somewhere else in the city. That would suck, but it’d be better than switching towns. I knew it was useless hoping though.
I had overheard my mom on the phone with her sister last night, asking if her guestroom was available.
“We’re going to go see Aunty Penny and give Brooksdale a try.” She said while coming over and kneeling to be at eye-level with me.
I shook my head fiercely. “I can’t. What about Riley?”
“You’ll make new friends.” She tried to comfort me by rubbing the side of my arms, but I didn’t need her to right now. I needed Riley.
As the thought came into my head, I swiftly turned around and headed for the door.
Before I could get to the door, my mom ran in front of me, taking my shoulders and pinning me against the wall. The gesture wasn’t abusive, she did it in a stern manner, but that didn’t stop the tears from coming and blurring my vision.
“You’ll hate me for saying this, but there’s no time to say goodbye to her. I’m so sorry, but we have to leave before he gets home.” At first I didn’t understand, but then realization hit me and I snorted, shaking my head. I may have only been nine years old, but I wasn't dumb. My father didn’t even know we were leaving.
I slid down the wall, letting the tears fall. My heart hurt, and I absentmindedly clutched my stomach. I tried to control my breathing but I couldn’t stand the thought of not saying goodbye to my best friend.
My mother sat down beside, but didn’t touch me. If she did, I probably would’ve screamed. She was being so selfish.
Eventually she broke the silence “I don’t expect you to understand, you’re only nine, but I don’t know what else to do. Ryan, I love you, and I know you think I’m being selfish, but I need to do this.” She said in a whisper.
“But I need to say goodbye.” I croaked.
She turned to look at me, and for a while she just stared. After a moment she nodded and got up to load the vehicle.
I stayed put and waited until she told me it was time to go.
About half an hour later we were pulled up at Riley’s house. I unbuckled my seat belt and stepped out of the car. As I walked up the steps of her porch, my stomach got tighter and tighter until I couldn’t breathe.
You can do this, I thought to myself.
You can do this.
You can do this.
One tear escaped.
You can do this.
Two tears escaped.
You can do this.
You can’t do this.
As if a switch had flipped, and the barrier had broke, I slouched down in tears. I was sobbing as my heart tore in two. Riley is my everything, how can I just let her go? I can’t see her. It’ll hurt too much. I can’t handle the pain.
With that I stood up on wobbly legs and headed back to my car. I was glad no one in the house heard me. Seeing Riley would probably kill me.
I assumed that my mom had witnessed all of this, but she didn’t say anything. I was glad she didn’t. I took out my iPod that I had gotten for my eighth birthday and listened to the song that Riley and I had decided was ours; Angels on the Moon.