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Thursday, 5 September 2013

Before He Went Away by Lori Powell


A short story I wrote this afternoon for a YA thread on Goodreads. Enjoy.

Before He Went Away by Lori Powell

Wil had only one thought on his mind as he left school Thursday afternoon, he had to see Kai before he left, he had to explain. Not that Kai had an inkling of what was going on inside Wil’s head, he couldn’t have, Wil never let him in far enough. Best friends forever they’d sworn, yeah they’d only been young at the time, but Wil knew that when Kai said forever he meant it.
Slinging his bag across his back Wil headed through the busy town centre, the opposite direction from home. Autumn was hidden in town, the wind blew swirls of discarded rubbish and, though the shop fronts offered some colourful relief to the unendingly grey November day, it was the bright seasonal leaves Wil wanted to see. The red, orange and yellow displays in the park were what he longed for, the number one reason being that he knew he’d find Kai there. Kai, his Kai, soon to be gone.
The knot that was Wil’s stomach tightened further at the thought. Kai, gone from his life, but for how long? He wasn’t sure if he could cope alone, yet he knew his very actions might be the reason Kai never came back. Soon the shops gave way to rows of council houses and Wil turned left. The small lane behind the uniform, white rendered homes, led past the garages and onto the park. On towards Kai.
Wil saw him the second he walked into the park. The familiar green coat stood out from the grey and he watched his friend BMXing up the ramps. He bunny hopped and flipped the bike round, then rode down and flew at the opposite one. His speed was high and he turned a 180 in the air and shot back down again. Wil’s heart tightened in his chest. He had to do this and he had to do it now. Tomorrow was too late. Tonight was too late. There was only now.
‘Alright?’ he said as he came up alongside the ramps.
‘I s’pose,’ muttered Kai, his eyes barely looking at Wil, ‘Didn’t think I’d see you anymore, didn’t think you’d want me around now.’
Wil bit his lip then said, ‘Can we talk Kai?’
‘What d’you think we are doing?’ Kai made his bike jump around in little circles, avoiding looking at Wil.
‘Kai, get off the damn bike, we need to talk,’ Wil said and started heading to their spot. The tree they’d made the camp in when they were kids, the place they’d made their best friend pact. The place Kai had told him about kissing Millie Johnson. The place where Wil had realised he was in love with his best friend.
Kicking the fallen leaves as he walked, Wil could hear Kai behind him. He stood with his back to the tall oak tree and looked over the fields that surrounded this end of town. The earth, churned dark brown by the recent ploughing, sat in neat rows. The air was fresh and crisp with an underlying smell of smoke, the smell of Autumn, as more and more houses lit fires to keep the chill away. He waited till he heard the thud of Kai’s bike hit the ground and then turned to his friend.
‘I’m sorry I didn’t ask Mum if you could stay with us Kai, I really am, I...’
‘Yeah you don’t want me so I have to go and stay with Dad, miles away, while Mum has her operation.’
The knot in Wil’s stomach pulled tighter yet. A lump lodged itself in his throat and he clenched his fists together because his hands were shaking so hard.
‘I do want you to stay Kai, I don’t know what it’s going to be like without you here.’
‘So you’ll ask your mum?’ Kai’s eyes were bright with hope, the hazel brown glinting, even in the dullness of November. With his hand still shaking Wil reached up and pushed the damp strands of fringe off his friends face. His heart pounded at the touch. Kai’s mouth dropped open a little but he stood still and didn’t try and move Wil’s hands.
‘No Kai, I can’t.’
He looked at Kai, straight in the eye, then his hands moved down and caressed his friend’s cheeks clasping them gently in his hands. Part of him was hoping so badly that Kai would understand, would feel the same and part of him was expecting Kai to slap his hands away – or worse. Kai just stood still, didn’t move, so Wil took a step closer. He was so close he could feel Kai’s breath on his face, smell the scent of his musky shampoo. His cheeks were soft beneath his hands with just a hint of scratchy re-growth His lips were strong and slightly chapped from the wind. God he wanted to kiss him.
‘Why can’t you Wil?’ asked Kai, his voice barely a whisper. Wil breathed in.
‘Because I can’t wake up every day with you just metres away. I can’t sit every morning at the same breakfast table and evening at the dinner table. I can’t share every moment with you, listening to you talking about Millie, or Amy or Kate or whoever it is you fancy this week. I need the mornings to strengthen myself, to prepare myself for seeing you. I need the evenings to unwind, to remember how you looked. I need my space so my heart doesn’t break. Because I need you Kai and you don’t need me.’
Kai looked up at him, clasping his hands around his friend’s wrists. ‘But I do need you Wil, I need you all the time. I don’t want to go to Dad’s because it means you won’t be there.’
Wil sighed, he could feel the tension building in the back of his head, knew it was now or never. He was probably about to do the most stupid thing he’d ever done.
‘It’s not the same Kai,’ he whispered, ‘it’s not the same. I need you because I love you. You’re the reason I get up every day. You’re the sun in my life. The moon in my night.’
Kai closed his eyes and Wil said it again, the words barely a breath. ‘I love you Kai.’
He stopped, felt a tear slide down his cheek and shut his eyes to prevent any more. Then he waited, waited for the pain – physical, mental, he didn’t care, he knew something was coming.
‘But I love you too Wil,’ the words were so quiet Wil thought he’d dreamt them. Then he felt the softest touch to his lips. Smelt the scent that was Kai. His heart pounded. The rough chapped lips pressed harder and suddenly Wil was kissing him back. Stubble and soft and gentle and hard. Colours exploded in his head and he didn’t know the when, the where or the why. All he knew was Kai. All he knew was it would all be alright.

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