It’s so easy to think back and see exactly where things went wrong. They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason, and while now it seems foolish or even stupid my reason was simple, love.
I had always felt the absence of love in my life. While I knew my grandma loved me it wasn’t the same as having parents, it wasn’t the same as having someone live just for you alone. I know she did the best she could but often our best just isn’t good enough.
During those first few weeks with Ayden I had an aching feeling building within my soul. It was a knot of emotion buried deep under my ribcage, threatening my ability to breathe or even swallow. I felt like things were rushing out of control. Somewhere in the bottom of my heart I knew that Ayden would change me. I just didn’t know exactly how much.
When I think back to that time I can’t help the rush of emotions that follow. I was full of a promising hope, a hope that I had finally found someone who could love me for who I was. Who would accept me no matter what. I was so captivated by his beauty and the fact that he wanted to spend time with me. I was drunk on the rush of love that he inspired within me, distracted by its siren’s call I refused to pay attention to the signs.
When I think back it’s always with a bitter sweet notion of irony. How ironic that my first love, well my only love, would be the one to kill me.
“Kale I have to leave soon.” Ayden said.
“Ok same time tomorrow then?” I asked with a knowing smile.
“No you don’t understand, I mean I have to move on soon. I can’t really stay to long in one spot.”
At first I didn’t understand him; he was talking like he was a criminal on the run. And seeing the pain in his eyes didn’t help the crushing weight of despair that suddenly filled my heart.
“What do you mean you can’t stay to long in one spot?” I asked him.
“I can’t explain it to you Kale, I would if I could but…it’s complicated.” He said with the sound of regret.
“You’re serious aren’t you?” I asked him.
My feelings of desperation were growing out of control. I couldn’t lose him so soon after I had just found him. I had never known the love of another boy, someone who returned those same feelings back to me.
“I never expected to find you Kale, I’m sorry it has to be this way.” Ayden said as tears threatened to spill from his eyes.
“Please don’t go I just found you I can’t lose you now!” I yelled.
With what I assumed was regret he embraced me for a long time. I could hear his breaths hitch as he fought the tears that threatened to fall. I was numb; I couldn’t believe he was leaving me. I had found my Eden and now like the same cruel twist of fate that had befallen Adam and Eve I was being tossed out. I couldn’t face being alone again; I hadn’t realized how cold and cruel the world really was until I found love.
“Kale I…I love you, more than you could ever know.” Ayden said as the tears finally began to fall.
It was in that moment I knew I had to act. I couldn’t allow this love to escape me. And while I would like to say it took a great deal of courage I know deep down my choice was motivated by something less honorable, fear. Only those who have tasted true love can know true fear.
“Ayden I want to go with you.” I said, knowing how utterly devastated I would be if he refused.
“Are you sure you can do that? I mean you have a good life here. Are you willing to give that up?” He asked.
Nothing else mattered, not my grandma, not my friends, not even the knowledge of a safe warm bed could tempt me from the choice I had made.
“All I know is that I can’t let you get away from me Ayden, I’ve never known someone like you and I doubt I ever will again.” I said as my own tears slipped down my cheeks.
“Meet me tomorrow night and we’ll leave then.” He said.
I hadn’t known how truly scared I was until I heard those words. Suddenly my heart unknotted and I was able to take a full breath again. And the tears that had slowly begun to trickle down my cheeks came rushing out in a torrent of relief.
Being taken from the edge of the deepest despair I had ever known to an uncontrollable joy was something I don’t think I wanted to ever live through again. As he meticulously kissed away all my pain I couldn’t help but wonder how many more tears this boy would cost me.
From the moment he left until that next night was, to this day, the longest most agonizing wait of my life. I couldn’t sleep more than an hour and the entire time I had this nagging fear he wouldn’t wait for me. I had no doubts that his love was so great that he might consider leaving without me because he felt it was the right thing to do.
And as the minutes slowly grew into hours I wondered what, if anything I was going to say to my grandma. I didn’t want to leave without letting her know that it was my choice, and not something she had done wrong. I knew my future lay with Ayden but I couldn’t be happy if I thought she was left behind thinking I had ran away in anger.
So I patiently sat down to write her a note. I didn’t plan on pouring out my heart but that’s exactly what happened. And as the short note turned into a confessional I hoped she would understand and not judge me too harshly.
I had so many things on my mind the day before I left with Ayden. I had thought about what it would truly mean to be with someone, have them depend on me in a way I had never experienced before. Every moment of those last few weeks was new territory for me; I’d never had someone like Ayden. I wanted so much to be perfect for him, someone he would love and could be proud of. I didn’t know if I would be everything that Ayden needed, but I knew I would never stop trying.
I had hidden my backpack hours before I actually left; I tried very hard to make sure I had everything. It was a sobering experience to condense the mementos of my life and all the things I had accumulated into the size of a backpack. It forces you to really consider what’s important and what isn’t, need verses want, it was harder than you might think.
As I sat in our meeting place, waiting for the sun to go down, I began to think back on everything that I had been through up till this point. I knew my life was going to be changing for the better, it’s a weird feeling when one chapter of your life comes to a close and a new one opens up right before your eyes. And while I’m sure I should have been nervous, strangely I wasn’t. An eerie calm washed over my mind, as much as I didn’t have control over my old life I knew then with a solid certainty this new one would be different.
“Are you ready to leave?” He asked looking around as if we were being watched.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” I said with a nervous little laugh.
He pulled me into his embrace and kissed me, before I knew it my mind was overloaded with his scent and the feel of his lips. I couldn’t tell you how many kisses we shared but each time it felt like the first kiss all over again. I know it sounds corny but it’s true, how he managed that I’ll never know. As we broke apart he held my hand and we began to walk.
At first we didn’t talk much, mostly I was just glad to be with him. I didn’t really want to be a burden or anything so I let him lead the way. But a little voice in the back of my mind began to whisper to me, I felt like something was wrong. But I ignored it; nothing else mattered as long as I had Ayden. After we had been walking for several hours, my feet sore and my shoulders crying out from carrying the back pack, I began to wonder if he was lost or actually knew where he was going.
“Where are we going to spend the night?” I asked.
“I have a camp site already set up for us.” He told me.
“Well how much longer till we get there?” I asked.
He gave me a look then, I saw something in his eyes but it passed quickly out of sight.
‘Not much longer maybe another hour.” He said as he turned back around and continued to lead the way.
A good two hours later and I was sure he was lost; I thought he was just too stubborn to admit it to me.
“Ayden wait I need to rest for a little while.” I said as I collapsed to the ground.
“We need to hurry we don’t have a lot of time left.” He said. “It will be dawn soon.”
“Why the rush, it’s not like I have to be in before my grandma wakes up.”
“We just have to hurry.” He said.
It was then I thought I heard a note of fear in his voice. And while I sat drinking from a bottle of water I could have sworn he was pacing with nervousness. But before I could think too much about it he smiled at me and my world crumbled all over again just like that first time.
“Come on.” He said as he reached his hand to mine. “I’ll race you the rest of the way.”
And before I knew it he was running ahead and like Artemis I ran after my prey.