From: Harper Donnelly
To: Chloe Pascal
Subject: I hate your dad
I just got home from your place, or, I guess your old place. Is it possible that my house feels emptier with you gone? That visit was way too short. I can’t believe you’re actually leaving. I can’t believe you won’t be at Eden’s for New Year’s. I can’t believe you won’t be at school. Or in Berne Harbor. Or Maine for that matter. This royally sucks.
I’m gonna go eat all the leftover chocolate from Christmas. Yes. All of it. Then I’ll name the 10 lbs I gain after you. “Oh, this roll of fat right here? That’s just Chloe.”
Tell your dad I think he’s a dick for taking the job in Columbus.
Jokes. Your dad’s nice. But this still sucks.
Hugs et al,
P.S. I realize I could’ve just texted you all of this, but I’ve kinda always wanted a pen pal, and I figure writing you emails can be the not-that-shiny silver lining to this crappy, crappy situation.
It was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. At least, that’s how he presented it when my best friend’s father told her the two of them would suddenly be moving to Ohio of all places over Christmas break. I’m sure he technically could have refused, but Chloe and her dad really needed the money after he’d lost his job a few months earlier. And there was no wiggle room in the offer either. If Mr. Pascal wanted the job, it had to be there, and it had to be then. No delaying until graduation. The company didn’t care that Chloe had friends, a boyfriend, and a very important life she’d have to leave behind. Teenage dreams don’t speak louder than the almighty dollar, so it was either move to Ohio with her dad, or to Texas, where her mom had moved years earlier, after her parents’ divorce.
Chloe and her dad left the day after Christmas. Our other friend, Meera, and I came by for one final visit while Mr. Pascal loaded the last of their things into the rental truck.
Saying goodbye was strange. It felt like we were supposed to spend the time doing something meaningful, something memorable, something that could pay tribute to the years of sleepovers, secrets, confessions, hair braiding, movie marathons, fits of giggles, and silent understandings. But instead we sat on the winterized front porch of their modest home, with its peeling paint and scuffed floorboards, and talked about trivial things.
Meera had just broken up with her secret boyfriend, Lewis, having successfully hidden him from her overbearing and traditional Indian parents for the entire three-month duration of their relationship. Dating before college was a big N-O in her house, but Meera had a decidedly different opinion on the subject. The limitations her parents set seemed to only make the forbidden fruit that much juicier and appetizing. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her boy crazy, but she did seem to have a habit of dating guys for a brief period of time before always being the one to break things off when she got bored or set her sights on someone new.
And then there was Chloe, who, of course, had just broken up with her boyfriend as well. At least, sort of. There seemed to be some confusion on the subject.
“Did Luke agree it was for the best?” I asked, sliding a blue fabric elastic from my pocket so I could sweep my below shoulder-length brown hair into a ponytail.
Chloe frowned. “Not specifically. I don’t think he was there yet. At first, he just seemed pissed that I was moving, almost like he thought it was my idea. Because, you know me; I’ve been meaning to check ruin my entire life off my bucket list for a while.” She paused to roll her eyes. “Anyway, after we moved past the initial shock and suckiness of it, we started talking about long distance relationships and how they rarely work, and how it wouldn’t be fair to each other blah blah blah. But then we talked about how college is only nine months away and if we both end up at UMaine like we planned…”
“So, wait—are you still together?” Meera asked.
Chloe tucked a curl of honey-blonde hair behind her ear. “No. It’s more like, we’re on hold. Kinda. Except not. We agreed we don’t owe each other anything, but, it’s not like either of us wanted this to happen.”
“I’m sorry, Chloe,” I said, though truthfully, a tiny part of me selfishly wasn’t. Chloe and Luke had only been dating for about eight months, but they’d gotten pretty serious. I hadn’t realized how much she liked him until the day she asked him out. We’d been sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch when she suddenly got up to sit across from him a few tables over. I remember feeling confused, wondering what the hell she was doing. He had his earbuds in and was reading and eating at the same time. He didn’t seem to notice her until she started mirroring his every movement, finally eliciting a laugh. They talked for about five minutes; I stared the entire time. I couldn’t see her face, but I could see his and he was smiling. The next thing I knew they went to see a movie together, then they started holding hands in the halls, kissing goodbye before class. It seemed abrupt at the time, but I don’t think it actually was.
Chloe and I had been much closer before Luke came along. And sure, that probably would’ve been true with any boyfriend, or if the situation had been reversed, but having to share her with Luke made me resent him a little, even though I knew it was irrational.
“I feel like sorry is understating things,” I continued. “But I am. Especially for myself cause I’m gonna miss the crap out of you.”
Chloe smiled at that, but it was faint. “I’m going to miss the crap out of you guys, too.”
Mr. Pascal pulled the back door of the rental truck and the three of us startled as it slammed shut. This was really happening.
“Alright, Chlo,” he called from the driveway. “Time to wrap it up, Hun.”
Chloe’s glassy eyes went wide as they shifted from Meera to me.
“We’re gonna text, IM, whatever on an hourly basis,” Meera said, bounding forward to draw Chloe into a hug. “You know that, right?”
Chloe nodded, managing an affirmative squeak as Meera released her. She turned to face me, and suddenly it felt like something heavy had been dropped onto my chest, pressing in on my lungs.
“You should know, I strongly considered asking Nan if you could move in with us, but, well, you know how small the cottage is. Either she’d kill me for asking in the first place, or you for being there when she reluctantly agreed,” I joked, hoping to break the tension.
“I know she would.” Chloe smiled, pulling me into her arms. “I appreciate the thought.”
I’d hugged Chloe plenty of times before, but I’d never given much thought to the moment of letting go, not until I definitely didn’t want to.
“We don’t say goodbye around here,” I said. “There’s no sense in it.”
“This is literally the worst,” she whispered into my shoulder. And as much as that definitely wasn’t true, in that moment, it felt awfully close. Nothing exciting or eventful ever happened in Berne Harbor. Our lives had always been linear, predictable. Now something was finally happening, and all I wanted was for everything to stay the same.
Meera and I waited until the rental truck turned the corner and was out of sight before we said our own goodbyes and headed home.
“I’ll text you!” she shouted before disappearing behind the wheel of her mom’s SUV.
I waved, then crossed the street to where my grandmother’s baby blue passenger van with the Donnelly Shuttle Service logo on the side sat waiting. Climbing in, I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. 10:23 AM.
Dammit. I was gonna be late.