Sounds of movement draws me into the kitchen, but Desi does not greet me. Both my parents say their good mornings like we are in a library. As I move around the kitchen, Desi stays opposite from wherever I go. It’s a dance I do not like. I do my best to counter her moves, but she evades well. When I reach out to her, her glare scorches and turns further efforts to ash.
Desi flattens me by announcing she’s trying to get a flight out early. Something about an agency party she has to go to. We all know it’s an excuse. She’s leaving because of me. Most likely she won’t get a flight out today, but if I let this simmer, there’s no way she’ll stay for Timeless’ annual New Year’s Eve party. My insides are churning; every second of silence is a razor blade slicing through me. I have to say something to make her stay. The looks I am getting from Mom and Dad tell me the same. I get up from the table with the intent of going to her, but she moves away from me again. The sharp pain of my nails digging into my palms is not enough detract how deeply that cuts me.
“I have a few calls to make,” she softly says grabbing her coat. I notice she grabs her Christmas presents too. And there it is—hope. Though the red hat and scarf are out the door before I can reach her.
The throbbing of my heart pulses in my ears. It is all I hear in the kitchen with the exception of the battery-operated clock ticking away on the wall. The echoes click seconds away as if reminding me my time is limited.
Dad gets up and walks to the sink, standing next to me. It feels like an intrusion, almost offensive, as he is filling the space Desi has abandoned. Putting his arm around my shoulders, he sighs. “Regina, don’t wait. Life is not practice for the real thing; it IS the real thing. We can’t wait for the next test result, we can’t wait for the next treatment; we can’t wait for the next next. Go ahead and give yourself permission to own the moment. Moments are ours for the taking, and we have to grab it whenever we can. Make every moment, and make it count. Love like you have no tomorrow.
Do you really want this to be the last thing she remembers? Live your joy, live your love, and live your life as if it is. Nothing else matters but you and her. Remember what you said: don’t live like you’re dying.”
Everything inside me is clamping down, and it steals my breath. I can’t lose her now, not after waiting for so long to be with her. I can’t lose my best friend and the girl I’ve loved all my life. Determined, I snatch my down coat and wool scarf. I throw a weak smile at Dad, telling him ‘thank you’ with my watery eyes, and with my heart in hand, I go to her—the reason I breathe.
A creak from the side door announces me, and her shoulders tense at the sound. Desi shoves her phone back in her pocket, wiping her face and sniffling. A weight drops low in my belly knowing I caused that reaction. My fingers find her tiny waist and I sigh, leaning the crown of my head against her back.
“Don’t leave me,” I whisper, barely louder than the snowflakes falling around us.
Her hand jetties to her mouth to stifle a whimper. Her tremor shakes a few tears loose from me, melting the snow-covered ground I am staring at. Breath from both of us is crystallizing fast and rapid, surrounding us in a mist.
“You’re right, I am a hypocrite, and I am selfish. I’m sorry, baby. I can’t stand making you cry.” I am grateful she allows my touch, so I risk slipping my arms around her waist.
She sniffles. “Do you know how hard it was to keep up appearances dating all those guys, pretending I didn’t just want to stay home with you? I wasted so much time, and for what? My career? My image? I kept thinking, if I saw a glimmer from you, then I could tell you. I kept looking for hints, and clues, and innuendos. You should have been an actress, Reggie.”
I snort a laugh, which makes her chuckle.
“We are so stupid,” I say, which makes her laugh harder. “Let’s stop being stupid, babe.”
I don’t let her go as she slowly turns around to meet my begging eyes.
“Are you saying yes?” So much love and hope fills her falling tears.
Both our fears burned time we could have had together. My fear drove a crevasse between us, scorching through more. I realize fear is an incendiary element that tempts us away from greatness. I don’t have time to be afraid. I only have time to be great.