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Ethan absolutely hated autumn.
The sky was crisp, the breeze was cool, half-naked trees loomed on either side of the sidewalk. Crimson, gold, and orange leaves fluttered from the branches, joining their kin on the ground. The scenery was beautiful, the air smelled like pumpkin spice–this only made him more disgusted.
With every step he took, a leaf crunched under his foot. It may have been in his head, but the crunch sounded a lot like a scream. It was as if the leaves were screaming as he stepped on them, him being the giant to end their short, sad lives.
Maybe they were thanking him for ending their pitiful lives? No, he didn’t deserve any sort of thanks.
He hugged his jacket closer to his shivering body. The breeze showed no mercy on him as he quickened his pace. He shoved his hands in his pockets, his right hand brushing a piece of paper. His fingers gripped the paper angrily, and he ripped it from his pocket, glaring at the neatly folded note.
He stared with gritted teeth, his eyes stinging with tears. Then, all at once, it seemed to be happening all over again.
* * * * *
Ethan stood in the middle of the park with Mia at his side. She was his best friend, his only friend. All the while, he may or may not have had a crush on her.
Her long, dark hair waved majestically in the breeze, her bright blue eyes gazing peacefully into the distance. Her fair skin glowed beautifully in the evening light, and when she looked at him, he felt jittery.
Mia sipped at her coffee, which was steaming into the air. Ethan could smell it where he was standing–pumpkin spice.
Ethan loved everything about autumn. The beautiful sights, the mind-settling smells… and Mia. She was his favorite part. When she locked her gaze with his and smiled softly, Ethan gripped the note in his pocket nervously.
When Mia was turned away, Ethan pulled the note from his coat. He tapped her shoulder and she gave him a curious look. Without a word, he gave her the note.
She unfolded it slowly, every passing second was agonizing for Ethan. He watched her expression intently as she read, and with every word her smile fell all the more. Finally, she looked up at him with pity.
“Ethan… I’m afraid I do not feel the same.”
She may as well have stabbed him in the heart.
“W-what do you mean?”
She looked at her feet, “I mean, I do not love you.”
It was then his entire world fell apart.
* * * * *
Ethan shook his head painfully. Along with the one memory, more flooded his mind. He felt dizzy, angry, scared–but mostly depressed. Mia had rejected him heartlessly, she was selfish by not wanting to be with him.
He wanted to scream, wanted to curl up and cry. Though, with all the people around him, he didn’t want to cause a scene. Instead, he swallowed the pain and continued to scramble down the sidewalk. He tried not to think about his destination. It would only make him feel worse, and for the time being, he wanted to feel better. Of course, he never got his wishes.
The breeze blew a brittle leaf into Ethan’s face. He swatted at it, his emotions taking a U-turn as he begun to be angry again. As he stomped to the pier, he passed his old high school, triggering another memory.
* * * * *
Ethan watched Mia leave the school building. He’d skipped seventh period those last two weeks just for a chance to see her. Sometimes he even followed her home. It had been like this since she rejected him in the park.
They never spoke in school, in fact, it seemed as though Mia was avoiding him. Though, this didn’t bother Ethan. He just followed her around and watched her. One might call him a creep, or a stalker, but he thought of it as pursuing his love.
He began to follow at a short distance, though, a thought made him falter. Maybe he should let her go on her own for the day? Ethan followed her all the way to the beach before deciding he was done for the day.
He turned and began walking home, giving him plenty of time to think. He thought about the look on Mia’s face when she read the note. Her tone of voice when she told Ethan she didn’t love him. He almost didn’t hear his phone ringing over his own thoughts. He pulled out his phone curiously, his heart skipping a beat when he saw Mia’s name.
“Hello?” He asked hopefully. On the other end, Ethan could hear sobbing and the sound of the waves. When Mia didn’t answer, he grew worried. “Mia?!”
“I need to you talk me out of something.” Her sobbing grew louder and her breathing was shaky.
Ethan began running back to the beach. “What am I talking you out of?” He asked, huffing from sprinting.
She choked on a cry, “I–” She cut herself off, crying still. He made it to the end of the boardwalk, seeing Mia sitting on the railing, facing the ocean. He screamed her name, seeming to startle her. She turned and gasped at him, causing her to lose her footing and grip, falling into the merciless water.
* * * * *
Ethan had tears streaming down his face from the painful memory of the day Mia died. She killed herself–no note, no reason, just up and ended her life two years ago. Ethan always blamed himself. If he hadn’t called to her like that, maybe she wouldn’t have fallen, and maybe he could have saved her.
The boardwalk made more noise than he last remembered, like a coffin lid rising in some old, cheesy horror movie. The greyish sand looked worn, not the same thing he had watched countless happy people stumble around in when he was younger. Everything was littered with the seasonal multi-colored autumn leaves.
The chubby blonde girl in the polka dot swimsuit, the lanky teenager desperately trying to score with some foreigner who was only visiting for the summer, the mother with the child who wouldn’t stop asking questions about fish, the dark-haired couple who looked like something off of the cover of a teen fiction romance novel. He wondered if any of them remembered the dorky little boy, the preteen who wrote in his journal a lot and refused to touch the water, the teenage boy with the scars on his wrists and hair messy enough to house a family of birds in. They weren’t here now, anyway. They could keep wondering.
The walk was short. The birds were quiet. And below, the water crashed on, stopping for nobody.
Not even for this pathetic excuse for a human being.
Ethan reached over the metal railing, hissing at its temperature before he hoisted himself over the edge. It was still wet and he almost slipped, only regaining his grip and footing at the last second. His heart hammered. His mouth felt dry. He was horrified, though only because his first thought had been, finally.
He pressed himself back against the metal bars, shutting his eyes and tipping his head up to the sky, almost as if in offering. Though, God knows who would even want him.
The air felt cool on his skin, pleasantly humid. Outside was the kind of chill that went straight to your bones, made the tips of your fingers feel like chalk. Ethan took a series of deep breaths. He opened his eyes and stared right down at the ocean.
The waves were crashing so violently he could have pretended they were waving to him, as depressing as that thought was.
Ethan took a deep breath and started to count.
Huh, look at that. He was shaking. How pathetic of him.
And was it just him, or was the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks getting louder?
And there goes his stomach, right down to his toes. He started thinking of obituaries, old rotting tombstones, funerals. What clothes would they bury him in? Would they even find his body? Would anyone notice he was gone? Maybe he’d wash up on shore, and some teenagers gone for a midnight swim would find him, some sick scene from an R-rated movie.
Would he get to see Mia again? Would they find each other and share their time in death?
He shakily inhaled, allowing his fingers to slip from the railing.
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