A short story about moving, and moving on...
(Winner of the Separation Anxiety Award on needleinthehay.net)
‘Please,’ Aaron said, pacing at the foot of the bed, ‘just hear me out.’
Tom sat silently, facing the wall.
‘I wish that we could just be together forever and live happily ever after and all that fairy-tale bullshit,’ Aaron said, running his fingers through his thick brown curls, ‘but real life just doesn’t work like that.’
Tom stared at the photo of the two of them on the wall.
‘We’ve been through a lot of shit together, Tommy, and I will always love y—’ Aaron’s voice faltered. He paused and rested his face in his palms, breathing deep. ‘I will always love you. You mean the world to me, but this thing - us - it’s run its course. What’s that line people always say in movies? “If you truly love me, you’ll let me go” or something? Well… that.’
Aaron felt the sting of tears in his eyes. He walked around the side of the bed and sat next to Tom, looking up at the photo on the wall. Tom didn’t say a word.
Aaron smiled. ‘One of my favourite days ever.’ He took Tom’s hand in his and squeezed it gently. ‘I screamed until I lost my voice on that bloody rollercoaster, remember?’ he chuckled. ‘And you weren’t frightened at all. Nothing scares you.’
Tom stared at the photo.
‘Which is why,' Aaron said, 'I know you’ll be okay when I’m gone.’ He glanced around at the moving boxes sprawled all over the room. Books. Computer. Salvos. Rubbish. ‘Plus, you deserve someone who’ll love you the way you still love me,’ Aaron said, standing up. ‘The way Jack loves Rose. The way Satine loves the penniless sitar player.’ (Titanic and Moulin Rouge were Tom’s favourite films.)
Aaron started to grab bits and pieces that were still strewn across the floor and place them into boxes, continuing to pour his heart out; the packing somehow made it easier to speak honestly.
‘I literally don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for you, Tommy. There’s no way I would have made it through high school without you by my side. You were my friend, my study-buddy, my bloody psychiatrist, my rock, my - my everything. Tommy, I’m serious. Look at me, please.’
Tom looked straight ahead.
‘Okay, I get it, you’re angry. Be angry. It’ll make this easier, for you at least,’ Aaron said as he tossed a wad of papers into the Rubbish box. ‘But you have to know how much I care about you. And I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t certain that it was the best thing for both of us. School is finished now; I need to move on. But mostly, I just need to find out if I’m any good without you.’
‘Aaron?’ came a woman’s voice from downstairs. ‘You good to go?’
‘Two minutes, Mum,’ he shouted in reply.
He finished folding the old, grey hoodie he’d just picked up, and placed it into the Salvos box beside him. He dashed around the corner of the bed and sat down, turning Tom to face him.
‘This is it, Tommy: our big, cinematic goodbye.’ He kissed Tom lightly on the forehead. ‘I’ll never forget you.’
Tom said nothing; his eyes stared blankly over Aaron’s shoulder.
Aaron picked Tom up by the arm, walked around the corner of the bed, and carefully placed him on top of the grey hoodie in the box marked ‘Salvos’.
Aaron sighed as he closed the cardboard lid over his teddy’s worn, smiling face.
‘I hope the next kid loves you as much as I did, Tommy.’