Lucas struggled to keep his breathing steady as he trudged up the porch steps in a daze.
He’d spent much for the morning sitting on the bench in the park, lost in thought for a very long time. Then, finally realizing the time, he’d pulled out his cellphone and called in sick from work. And then, not knowing where else to go, he’d headed for Mel’s.
He knocked gently on the door. Melanie was working at her computer, and looked over her shoulder curiously at the sound. “Lucas?” Her voice was muffled through the wooden door.
Lucas let himself in, pausing in the doorway as Mel rose to her feet.
“What are you doing here?” She asked. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, of course.” Melanie added quickly, smiling. “But aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
“I called out.” He said, unsmiling. “I didn’t really feel like going in today…”
Melanie studied his face for a moment, and Lucas could see in her eyes that she knew something was wrong.
“Lucas… what’s going on?” Mel’s voice trembled nervously as she spoke, stepping closer to him.
“I’m sorry to just show up like this…” Lucas shook his head as he fought to keep his voice steady. “I just didn’t know who else I could talk to.”
Melanie reached out a hand, placing it gently on Lucas’ shoulder. “You’re kinda scaring me a little bit…” She admitted. “Just take a deep breath, okay?”
Lucas stepped away from her and took a seat at the nearby kitchen table. He knew that Mel had never see him like this before. It made him feel guilty, worrying her like this.
He shook his head. “It’s nothing you need to worry about.” He said softly. “It’s just…” Lucas dropped his face into one of his hands, trying to calm himself. “It’s kind of a long story.” He muttered.
Without lifting his head, Lucas heard the soft squeak of chair legs on the wooden floor as Melanie took the seat beside him. “I’ve got time.” She said softly.
Lucas took a deep breath. How am I gonna do this? He wondered.
“I used to have this friend,” He began slowly, turning to face Mel. “She was my best friend in the world, ever since I was a kid…” Lucas paused. “I was pretty lonely growing up… I guess you knew that already.”
“But she kinda saved me from that, y’know? And she didn’t really have anyone either…” He explained. “We were really close for a long time… We even dated for a few years.” Lucas glanced nervously at Mel, judging her reaction.
Mel’s face showed no sign of jealousy, only concern. “How come I’ve never heard about her before?” She asked. There was no malice or accusation in her tone, just curiosity.
Lucas hesitated for a moment. “She was kinda… different.” He shrugged. “My parents didn’t… They didn’t really approve of her… And most of my friends never even met her… The whole thing was kinda secret, I guess. But she was an amazing person. They just didn’t understand, y’know?” He paused, feeling a wave of emotion well up inside of him. Lucas tried his best to hold it back. “I really loved her…” He said finally. “And we made it work, for a while.”
Lucas shook his head. “But it started to get really hard. I still cared about her, but it just wasn’t working anymore… And instead of talking to her about it…” He closed his eyes, holding his head in his hand. “I strung her along for a long time… I was awful. And maybe if I was honest with her from the beginning, we could still be friends… But I fucked everything up.” He said nothing for several long moments.
Lucas felt Melanie’s comforting hand on his shoulder. He lifted his head at the touch, turning to face her once more. “We finally broke it off…” He went on. “But it was so bad, Mel. And it was all my fault.” Lucas took a deep breath. “She stopped talking to me after that. She hated me. And I haven’t heard from her since.” He sighed. “That was a long time ago… R-right before I met you.” He cringed inwardly at the lie.
“I’ve been trying and trying to get in touch with her.” He continued. “I just wanted the chance to apologize, maybe try to be friends again…” Lucas’ chest felt heavy, and he could feel the sharp sting of tears coming to his eyes. “But today… I-I found out that she’s…” He tried again. “I guess… a while ago, she…”
Melanie’s eyes went wide. “Oh no…”
He nodded. “She’s gone, Mel.” Lucas’ voice shook as he spoke and his tears finally began streaming down his cheeks. “I never got to tell her I’m sorry, or say goodbye…” Or keep my promise…
Lucas could no longer find the words to speak. He’d thought that being able to open up to someone would make him feel better. But talking about it, reliving everything that had happened – it only made the pain worse.
Evelyn was gone. And he would never see her again.
Lucas hunched forward, holding his face in his hands. And, for the first time in a very long time, he wept.