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Haylee didn't need his text to tell her he was there. The headlights from his truck said it all as they flashed through her upstairs bedroom window. She quickly threw on her black zip-up hoodie and hurried out of her room, preparing to meet him outside.
Brayden was barely out of his truck when Haylee bounded out the front door. He slammed the driver's side door, and slipped his keys into his jeans pocket, so he could embrace her into a hug when she reached him.
Haylee quickly closed the last little bit of space between them and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. She knew in her heart that this would be one of the last times she was probably going to get to hug him the way she was, and held onto him for dear life.
Brayden figured the same and held onto her with just as tight of a death grip, for an immeasurable amount of time.
Everything around them was quiet, except for the light sound of the wind slipping past them, gently pushing Haylee's blonde hair back, and the many crickets hiding in the grass.
Dark clouds rolled above them, threatening a bad storm and their soon to be heartbreak, but they each pushed this thought away; understanding the importance of that moment. Of that night.
Finally, they pulled apart and Haylee looked up at him sadly.
It killed him to see her sadness like that and Brayden mirrored her look with his own dark brown eyes, feeling her pain.
“I love you," he said.
"I love you, too," Haylee answered, her heart breaking with every word. She did love him. She just couldn't stay with him. Not if he left like he was planning to. She couldn't handle such a long distance. There was no way they would work out. No matter how much they loved each other. Long distance just didn't work for her.
Brayden read the expression on her face and nodded sadly, understanding. "I'll be forever yours," he said. "No matter what happens."
Haylee nodded in response, afraid if she spoke her voice would break and she'd start crying.
Brayden raised his hand up and slid it gently across her face, and swallowed hard as if he was holding back guilt for leaving her and a lump of tears himself. "C'mon, we still got some time left. Let's go for a drive," he said, wanting to change the subject.
“Okay," Haylee managed to choke out.
Brayden dropped his hand and unlocked the truck again. As he hopped into the driver's seat, Haylee ambled her way around his Ford and climbed into the cab with him.
He started the car and the sudden rumble of the engine was comforting to Haylee.
She was going to miss hearing that sound roaring in her ears all the time and coming up the drive, once Brayden left.
Brayden turned the truck around and together they headed across the acres of property Haylee's dad owned; forming a tire-tracked trail in the freshly cut crass.
Ahead of them the sky was growing darker and lightning flashed in the distance signaling danger and rough times ahead, but they pushed on, not allowing anything to spoil their little bit of time left together.
Haylee stared out the side window looking up as a large Airliner flew across the night sky, the dark clouds as backdrop, made it stand out even more to her. It struck her then, that in a few short hours, Brayden would be flying up in the same dark sky, heading away from all they knew, and really leaving this whole town behind him. Including her.
Haylee's stomach dropped, but the feeling went away, when suddenly she felt Brayden’s hand slip around hers. She looked over at him and saw that he was giving her the smile she had classified as her favorite a few months back, and which seemed to be telling her that they had all the time in the world, instead of just a few hours. She couldn't help but smile back, and she scooted across the bench seat closer to him, laying her head on his shoulder.
Brayden wrapped his one arm around her and kissed the top of her head, as he drove the truck further into the back acres.
The two snuggled close to each other, driving until they were far enough away from the house that they could hardly see it. Figuring they were far enough, Brayden put the truck in park. They sat in the dark together, the only light radiating from the digital clock on his truck's stereo.
The small light reflected in Haylee's now watery eyes, and she ducked her head deep into Brayden’s chest trying to hide her tears.
Brayden soothingly ran his fingers through her hair in hopes to comfort her and suddenly began reminiscing about all the memories they'd shared together over the years.
He managed to make her laugh bringing up stupid arguments that they’d thought were so important years back and embarrassing moments each of them had experienced. He brought up all their old inside jokes that no one else would understand but them and even managed to make up a few new ones just to hold onto her smile.
Haylee contributed a few memories of her own, bringing a smile to Brayden’s own warm face and bright eyes.
Though their life together seemed to becoming to end, with all the memories they had shared, their love for each other would never die, that was clear. No matter the distance.
After what felt like only minutes to the two of them, Brayden glanced at the clock and realized it was quarter to three. Nearly three hours had gone by. The smile on his lips faded slowly and a sad look crossed his face. It was time to go.
Haylee sensed her life crumbling around her and her stomach churned violently. She too glanced at the clock and she felt her blood run cold as she sat up in her seat. She had been praying this moment wouldn’t come; hoping and wishing this night wouldn’t end. Sadly, it had.
“We should head back,” Brayden said solemnly.
Haylee fought hard to hold back her tears as Brayden put the truck in drive again and headed back towards her house.
The drive back felt much shorter than the way there had been, and both of them felt time slipping away. They now only had a matter of minutes left before their lives changed forever and they went their separate ways.
Brayden pulled his truck back in front of Haylee’s house and slowly put it in park, before the two stepped out again.
Thunder rolled violently above them and drops of rain began to splash down; the storm had finally reached them.
Haylee slid her hands into her back pockets of her jeans as she met Brayden at the driver’s side of his truck again. She racked her brain for things to say to possibly get him to change his mind and get him to stay, but she knew it was too late. Moving to California was his dream. She couldn’t sabotage his dream for her own selfish reasons. No, she had to let him go.
Haylee took a step forward and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I’m going to miss you,” she said, quietly, her voice breaking. Tears spilled from her incredible blue eyes.
Brayden hugged her tight and rested his chin on her head. “I love you, Haylee. And I always will,” he replied, fighting back his own set of tears. He meant every word he’d said.
“I love you too,” Haylee cried.
As more thunder roared and streaks of lightning lit up the sky, Brayden’s phone buzzed in his pocket. His brother was calling to tell him they were ready to leave.
Brayden pulled back from Haylee and looked deep into her eyes, one last time. “Don’t forget me, okay?” he said.
Haylee shook her head unable to speak; a silent promise that she could never do such a thing.
“Bye, Haylee,” Brayden said. He stroked the side of her face with his fingers for a final time, before taking a deep breath and hopping back into his truck.
“Bye, Brayden,” Haylee said quietly, as the truck roared to life again and he pulled away from all the two of them had ever known.
As soon as the truck was out of sight, Haylee fell to her knees sobbing as rain poured down around her, soaking her to the core. She’d lost the only thing she’d ever loved with all her heart, and it was killing her. She desperately longed for him to come back. Turn around and stop her heart from shattering into tiny little pieces. But, despite her cries and her desperate pleas, she knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Brayden was gone for good, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Five Years Later…
Brayden hadn’t heard her ring-tone play in years, yet the sound was so familiar, his heart instantly responded; just like it had used to when she called him years ago. He reached for his phone on the bedside table but he missed her call by a fraction of a second. Disappointed, he stared at her name flashing across his screen, willing her to call back.
When she didn’t, he started to dial her number but he was interrupted when his phone beeped alerting him he had a new voicemail message. He quit dialing and listened to her sweet voice.
“Hey, it’s me. Ummm...I guess it's too late,” her voice sounded different, older and more mature, but it was still her. Her voice suddenly began to waver, “but I just thought I should let you know I ummm...I-I-I...changed my mind…”
The message ended and he lied there frozen, his mind and heart racing as he went over what she said.
He smiled a little to himself and carefully got out of the bed without waking the girl lying next to him.
The girl stirred lightly, but didn’t open her eyes as he pulled his jeans over his boxers and slipped on his long sleeved thermal. He grabbed his phone, and unplugged his charger before throwing it into his bag. As he looked around the room quickly to make sure he didn’t leave anything else behind, he began dialing the number to the city airport.
When the operator answered, he began speaking quietly. “Yeah, hi,” he said, “I need a ticket for the next plane to Indiana.”
The girl on the bed stirred again, this time waking up and she sat up. “Where you going?” she asked, hearing him on the phone with the airlines.
He finished booking his flight for that afternoon and slid his phone into his pocket. “I have to go home,” he said, quickly.
The girl smiled. “You need a flight to go across the street?” she asked, playfully. She gave him a coy smile that lit up her dark brown eyes, and her straight jet black hair fell against the side of her face.
“I meant Indiana, Callie,” he said, a little more forcefully than intended. His mind was elsewhere and he hadn’t meant to snap at her.
Callie recoiled and looked down at the covers, clearly hurt.
He realized the last few weeks they’d spent together hanging out, had meant more to her than it had meant to him, and his heart sank a little. His intention was never to hurt her, but he hadn’t expected Haylee to change her mind. Ever. He’d been hoping for this moment forever and though he didn’t want to break Callie’s heart, he couldn’t let this moment slip away.
“Look, I’m sorry. Just…something’s come up back home, and I have to go.”
Callie nodded and after a second looked up. “It’s her, isn’t it?”
He gave her a confused look.
“You have her picture in your wallet. I saw it the other day when you were flipping through it looking for your I.D.” She forced a smile. “Not to mention, you talk about her practically every night.”
The confused look didn’t leave his face.
“You talk in your sleep, you know. Her name comes up a lot,” though Callie’s voice was steady, Brayden knew she was falling apart on the inside.
He swallowed hard, not sure how to respond to that. He’d always had a problem with sleep talking. Especially when he was stressed or troubled.
Haylee had mentioned it to him a few years back when they’d fallen asleep together under the stars one night. She had said that he had talked about things that seemed to be on his mind. It only made sense now that what was on his mind nowadays, was her.
He sighed finally. “I’m sorry, Callie,” he said, quietly, not knowing what else to say.
Callie let out a small breath. “Yeah, me too,” she said, softly, knowing what they had was ending.
For a moment nobody said anything.
“I…uhhh…better go," he mentioned after a few minutes.
Callie nodded, but didn’t say anything, leaving an uncomfortable silence to hover around them still.
The silence dragged for a moment too long and finally, he picked up his backpack off the floor. Then he gave her one last look, before leaving her apartment forever.