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Three Years Too Late

Synopsis:

Three years has gone by since senior year of highschool, yet someone from Emily's past reappears to make amends. Little does he know that she isn't interested in reopening old wounds after all that time.


Author’s Note:

The short story includes two of my original characters, Emily Anderson and Jack Ramirez. They met up again in college after a few years of no contact. They dated from sophomore year until senior year of highschool, but he decided to end it before graduating. They had grown distant over the course of their relationship, as he focused on his friends and sports instead of his girlfriend.


Though what Jack did was terrible, I wanted to portray people making mistakes when they were still teenagers. Everyone is immature and reckless in highschool because they haven’t completely grown up. Essentially, Jack became bored of Emily since he didn’t understand how to connect with her. He only pursued her for being one of the prettiest girls in school. Emily was deeply hurt over his seemingly change of heart, but her fault lies in the fact she usually pretends everything is fine and ignores the painful truth.


Both are definitely to blame for how things ended between them, and I did my best to write a more nuanced approach in their story. Other than that, I hope you enjoyed reading and have a wonderful day!


 


“I’m glad you decided to meet me,” Jack said.


Emily simply nodded, tucking a few strands of red hair behind her ear.


He stood up and led her to the seat in front of him. She mumbled a ‘thank you’ after him, as she set down her purse. He returned to his chair, gray eyes focused on her.


“How have you been?”


“I’m doing alright,” she cleared her throat. “It’s been a little stressful these past two weeks, but I can manage.”


“What have you been doing then?” he continued. “You still do ballet?”


She cracked a tiny smile. “Yeah, I decided to pursue it for college. What about you?”


“I’m studying at Yale.” He shrugged, leaning on the wooden chair. “I never really knew what to take up otFer than law.”


“But you were the best at track in school!” she told him. “You said you wanted to be a varsity athlete once we got into university.”


He seemed to be caught off-guard by what she said. “I can’t believe you still remember that.”


She glanced out the cafe window. It was a cloudy afternoon, with the orange leaves falling on the sidewalk. Autumn was her favorite season, and it had only just begun.


“Of course I’d remember,” she said softly. “There was no way I could forget. Not when it was about you.”


His eyes softened, the guilt evident in his demeanor.


“Emily…”


“Why did you want to meet me?” she asked.


His eyebrows furrowed together. “Am I not allowed to see you?”


She pursed her lips into a small frown. “I-It’s not like that, but this is just sudden. What do you want, Jack?”


He put down his coffee on the coaster. She watched him open his mouth, but he didn’t say a word. She wondered what was going through his mind.


It was no surprise that it was difficult seeing each other since highschool. It had been three years, though it did little for the hurt she went through. He looked like he hadn’t changed all that much— his curly hair, his voice, his eyes that she loved before.


Sometimes, she wished she’d never met him.


“A chance is all I ask,” Jack finally spoke up.


She blinked her eyes.


“A chance?” She stared at him, wide-eyed. “At what?”


“Just let me explain myself for what happened,” he insisted. “If by the end you don’t want to forgive me, I’ll leave you alone.”


“You already did,” she forced out. “You didn’t have the decency to end things with me in person, yet you came to find me so you could... apologize?”


He held her hand in his as he whispered, “I know it’s three years too late, but I swear I’ve changed— ”


A sharp slap met his face, leaving both of them stunned. It was only when she felt her hand sting did she realize that it was her fault. He slowly turned his head from the side, as he stared up at her in disbelief.


Emily looked around to find the other customers gawking at their exchange. The entire room had gone silent, and the staff struggled to approach their table. Her cheeks burned in embarrassment with all eyes on them.


She shouldn’t have made a scene. She should have kept quiet, like always.


“...What the hell was that?” He held his cheek and she could see his skin begin to blister red.


One of the staff cautiously stepped forward. “I-I’m so sorry to bother, but we’ll have to ask the two of you to step outside if— ”


The redhead abruptly stood up, gathering her coat and purse.


“No, Emily, wait!”


Without sparing him another glance, she dashed out of the cafe. Cars blasted their horns as she ran across the street, but she didn’t care. She kept her fast pace, lungs burning at the cold breeze that rushed past her.


Her legs finally gave out once she reached the park. She gasped for air, as the exhaustion caught up with her.


“Emily, just stop running!”


Her body froze, catching a glimpse of Jack’s figure. He managed to follow her, no doubt. The yellow and orange leaves rustled with every step he took.


“Can you just stop running away for once?” he yelled back. “You always do this!”


She straightened her posture, keeping herself at arm’s distance from him.


“Look, whether you believe me or not, you weren’t blameless for what happened between us.”


“N-No, no, you can’t keep doing this!” she protested. “You can’t keep turning everything on me like you used to!”


“That’s because you never knew how to stand up for yourself,” he countered with a glare. “Not once did you tell me anything! All you ever did was smile and agree!”


Tears welled up in her eyes, lips trembling at his words.


He ran a hand through his hair. “It’s- It’s like you agreed to be my girlfriend just because I asked you out!”


“That’s not true!” she cried out. “I really did like you! I wanted us to work out!”


“It sure didn’t feel like it!” He let out a frustrated laugh. “Talking to you was a waste of time! It was always ‘you decide,’ or ‘I’m okay with anything,’ or ‘if you want to,’ like you could never make up your mind!”


Her green eyes were filled with pain and grief and long-sealed wounds scratched open and raw. There was nothing she could say to change his words. It was the truth.


“I’m no mind reader, damn it!” He shook his head. “...I thought you were perfect, but you just were no fun to be around.”


She covered a hand over her mouth. “Is that what you think of me?”


“I used to,” he sighed, dropping his gaze to the ground. “Now I can see you’ve clearly changed.”


“Then I- I just need to know something, Jack...”


She gathered what little strength she had left to come closer to him. “Did you ever love me back then?” she quietly said. “Was anything we had… real to you?”


She chewed on her bottom lip to keep her composure, and watched him draw nearer.


“I did love you,” Jack admitted slowly, carefully. “I guess I just never figured you out.”


That was it.


That was all Emily needed to know from him. Even if it dug at the very pieces of her heart that she’d glued together over the years.


“I loved you too,” she smiled through the tears that spilled down her cheeks. “But I ended up losing who I am.”


He reached out for her hand, and she didn’t pull away this time.


“Would you do it all again if you had the chance?”


She wiped away the moisture from her eyelids. Resting her head against his shoulder, she answered, “No, it wasn’t fair to me. It wasn’t fair to you, either.”


“I’m sorry,” was all he managed to get out. Her grip on him loosened, as she lifted her head to look at him once more.


“So am I. At least we tried, right?”


There was nothing left to be said between them. After such a long time, they agreed on one thing; to walk away at the same time — in separate ways.


For being strangers, they knew each other so well.


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