I stared up at the mansion my girlfriend lived in. I remembered the first time I’d been here. I’d thought it was so imposing and cold then. I still wasn’t entirely comfortable inside, but I’d come to like the house. But, right now, more than anything, I wished I didn’t have to go inside. I wished I didn’t need to talk to Loralee. Because I had to tell her something. Life was going to change.
I stalled out on the lawn for nearly five minutes. The engine of my dad’s beat up old work truck clicked and groaned as it cooled off. A spring breeze turned up the back of my hair, carrying with it a hint of the heat that would settle upon the town in a couple of months.
You’ve got to do it.
Smoothing down my hair, I reluctantly mounted the steps that never creaked and rang the doorbell that cued a tinkling of chimes heralding the presence of a visitor. Sometimes I still expected a butler the likes of Alfred to come to the door and ask me my reason for calling.
Ms. Thoreau came to the door, smiling pleasantly at me. “Hello, Tommy,” she said, welcoming me inside.
“Hi, Ms. Thoreau.” I started to ask if Loralee was there but just managed to bite it back. She knew why I was there.
“Loralee is out back by the pool. I believe you know the way.” She smiled wryly and motioned towards the back door.
I muttered a quick thank you and went outside. Though it was still much too cold to swim, it was a pleasantly warm day. Warm enough to sun oneself in a bikini by the pool, even.
I walked over next to her lounge, my shadow falling over her. “Hey baby.”
She smiled and sat up. “Tommy! What are you doing here? Not that I’m complaining.”
I rubbed a hand over my face and took a seat next to her. How do I even tell her? “I’ve got to tell you something.”
Her smile dimmed and slowly turned into a worried expression as I remained silent. “What is it? Did you…do something?”
I shook my head. “No, no, it’s nothing like that. You know I would never.” I tunneled a hand through my hair and tugged at it. I just had to spit it out. “Loralee, my parents are moving to Windenburg. In two weeks.”
“Tommy, your father and I need to talk to you,” Mom said from the couch as I came in from school.
“I just got home, Mom, Can’t it wait?” I just wanted to get something to eat, go to the bathroom, take my shoes off.
“Come sit down.” My father’s firm tone brooked no argument, so I reluctantly took a seat.
Mom rested her hand on Dad’s knee. “A while ago, my doctor put me in contact with a specialist who has developed a clinical trial. They both think I would benefit from participating in it.”
I smiled. They’d had me worried that this was something awful, but this was great news. “That’s great, Mom!”
She smiled slightly, nodding. “It is, but Dr. Fleischer lives in Windenburg.”
My mouth went dry at the same moment my hands started to sweat. “Windenburg?”
“We’re moving,” Dad said bluntly. “I’ve called around, and I’ve got some interviews lined up over there. We’ve found a good house to rent. It’s bigger and is only a little more expensive than this one.”
“You’ll like it there,” Mom assured me. “Your room will be so much bigger. And think of all the new things you’ll get to see.”
She, at least, was really trying to sell me on the move, but I only had one question. “When?” How much time did I have before I had to give up the one thing that made life bearable?
I stared at my father. He hadn’t just said that. He couldn’t have. “What?”
“I know this is sudden.” Mom looked at me sympathetically. “But we thought it would be better to wait until everything was finalized to tell you.”
“This is unreal.” I leaned back in my chair, covering my face with both hands.
“They can’t be serious,” Loralee said in a thick voice, as if she was on the verge of crying.
“They are,” I assured her grimly. “They’ve got everything planned and finalized. They’ve even already got Mom’s first doctor’s appointment scheduled.”
“What if you stayed here?” She looked over at me, eyes shining. She desperately wanted to cling to hope, but I knew there was none.
“I asked them. They won’t even let me finish the semester, much less continue my senior year here.” If I’d been about to graduate, maybe they’d have gone for it, but they weren’t going to let me live with my girlfriend for over a year.
Tears glistened in her eyes but didn’t fall. “But…what about us?”
I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her against my chest. “I love you. You know that, right?”
She nodded, her silky hair brushing my jaw. “I love you, too.”
I pulled back and kissed her with all of the desperation I was feeling. “We can make it work, don’t you think? It’ll only be a year. After I graduate, I’ll move back.” There was no way I was staying in a foreign country where I didn’t even speak the language. My heart was sitting right next to me, and my soul was in Oasis Springs.
She nodded. “Yes, absolutely. I don’t want to break up. We can make this work. I can come and visit during breaks, maybe. You can show me around Windenburg and teach me German swear words.”
I smiled. “Yeah, that sounds like a plan.” My chest still hurt at the thought of leaving her, but I was uplifted, too. We were both on the same page; neither of us wanted to call the relationship over with just because we were going long distance. We’d make it work.
I smiled, repeating the newest word Tommy had taught me, “Scheiße. Did I say it right?”
I could see his smile as his rich laugh came across the line. “Yeah, I think so. Now you can say shit whenever you want and your parents won’t have any idea.”
I laughed, leaning back against the sofa. “I’m definitely going to remember this one.” Over the phone, I heard Tommy stifle a yawn. Though it was only the afternoon here, it was nearly midnight in Windenburg. “Do you need to go to bed? You’ve got work tomorrow.”
He groaned. “I can stay up.” The next yawn he didn’t suppress so well.
“You should go to bed. We can talk more tomorrow.” It was disappointing, yeah, since we hadn’t been talking very long, but we might have more time tomorrow. It varied a lot now how often we got to talk.
A few minutes later, after much urging from me, we finally hung up. I sighed quietly into my empty bedroom. I missed him. I missed hanging out with him and seeing him. With a lot of the girls at school, it seemed like their boyfriends were just their boyfriends, not really their friends. But Tommy was both to me; my boyfriend and my best friend. What we had was real. So many people said that high school love wasn’t the kind that lasted, but I knew that if we could manage to get to the end of this year and still be in love with each other, we’d make it.
We’ll make it, I promised myself.
He might want to stay there, whispered my inner pessimist. From the pictures he’d sent, I knew that Windenburg was really beautiful. He might fall in love with it and be happy there. Could I ever move there to be with him? The idea of moving so far away from Newcrest didn’t sit easy with me. I loved this town. My family was here. My friends were here or close by in Willow Creek. He didn’t seem to love it, so maybe he wouldn’t find living there so enjoyable he wouldn’t want to move back.