“Unlike the previous morning, I woke up with a heaviness to my body that was unfamiliar. My eyes were puffy from crying myself to sleep. I knew it was from more than Alex ignoring me, I was missing home, my friends and my mama. Aunt Abby had gone out of her way to make me feel at home and special, but sometimes you just get homesick…especially at sixteen. Abby had already left for work that morning and the house was quiet. She had left me a sweet note in the kitchen saying she would be home early in the afternoon to hang out with me. The time to myself would be good. The kettle was still hot and I made myself a cup of tea. I slowly meandered through the house with my cup of tea and decided to check out the stables. Alex spent most of his time in the stables and because of that I was intrigued by them. I dressed slowly that morning without showering and then set out to visit the stables. Once I had opened the back door the crisp morning air rejuvenated me and reminded me what this trip was about and I smiled. I walked down to the stables and was elated to see the majestic horses. I immediately understood the draw. There were two of them. Sadly I didn’t know their names, but they seemed okay with my presence. I didn’t know anything about horses. I wanted so much for Alex to be there and to teach me how to ride them. My mind drifted to dreams of the two of us riding over the hills together and it infuriated me that I couldn’t stop thinking about him. The horses seemed eager for company and were happy to have me brush their coats, so I talked to them for a while. The horses were a welcome distraction for me. I didn’t like the loss of control over my feelings. It made me feel weak. The day lingered on and my thoughts of Alex continued to grow stronger. The quiet had just allowed me more time to dwell. Thoughts of friends crying to me over their crushes in the past now made complete sense to me. It was painful to fall for someone and scary. Obviously, the crush was one-sided and it devastated me. I had never had feelings like them before and they were not going to be reciprocated. He had made that clear the night before. For the first time since I had left home, I truly felt lonely. Sleep was the only cure I knew of so I went back to the house for a nap. I woke later to a happy house. There was music playing in the background and I could hear Abby singing in the kitchen. Mama was caressing my face tenderly. She had surprised me with an early visit! Her timing could not have been more perfect. We embraced each other for the longest time. She immediately started in on all of the things we were going to do. So we made a plan. For the following two weeks we traveled all over Europe with Abby in tow. It was fantastic. We saw and ate everything that the country had to offer us. We truly were having the time of our lives. Sadly thoughts of Alex continued to linger in the back of my mind. The time had flown by with mama there. The three of us had a blast together. I felt slightly jealous of the friendship the two of them had with each other. I hoped that one day I would have the same. On mama’s last night we planned a big family night at the house. Mama and I decided we would cook a true southern meal for the family. We set the table with a large platter of fried chicken, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and a peach cobbler for dessert. Having mama and Aunt Abby both there had changed everything. As we ate dinner that night, the table was full of laughter. Even Alex seemed to be having a good time. I had done my best for weeks to ignore him even though it had been painful. Every once in a while I would catch him staring at me. What was up with him? I wasn’t used to playing games like this. My first crush was proving to be quite the learning lesson. After dinner mama and Aunt Abby decided to treat me with a glass of wine. We walked over the grounds with our wine and I felt like a true grown up for the first time. We talked about boys and they truly made me feel like an equal. It didn’t take long for me to tell them about my crush on Alex and how he had been ignoring me. I guess it was the wine. Abby and Mama both went quiet and gave each other a knowing look. Abby told mama she thought they should tell me. Tell me what? Abby poured herself another glass of wine and slowly started to tell me about what had happened to Alex. She told me that Alex had once been more like Charles. He had dated the same girl from middle school all through high school. She had passed away six months ago. She had been stricken with leukemia and after over a year of watching her suffer, she died. Alex had been by her side the whole time. Abby looked over at me with tears in her eyes and told me that she knew that Alex had feelings for me, but he was scared and he felt guilty, like he was betraying her memory with the feelings he was having for me. He felt guilty for living some days. It had been a hard year and a half on the whole family. My heart was full of sadness for him. I wanted to run to him and hug him as tight as I could, but Abby told me not to tell him that I knew. She told me it would just re-open the wounds for him. That night I cuddled with mama and told her how much I loved her and that I would miss her my last few weeks of my trip. She cradled my face, looked me in the eye and told me that if I really had feelings for Alex, that I should let him know. That night as I fell asleep in my mama’s arms a peace fell over me.”
Hannah looked up at me for the first time in hours with tears in her eyes and thanked me for listening. “Oh no you don’t.” I said. “You have to tell me what happened with you and Alex.” Hannah touched the airplane charm on her bracelet and nodded off.
To be continued…one day.