Erstwhile — “at one time; for a time”
Three months after camp
On a cool August dawn, Alyssa found herself sitting cross-legged at Kade’s tomb. The cemetery was quiet and provided her the solitude she needed. It was one of the reasons she made sure to be there early. She needed the peace and quiet. But it wouldn’t do much to quiet her heart and mind.
She appreciated the silence. For the first time in months, she was truly alone with her thoughts. After months of hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions on her relationship with Will, she knew she needed to finally make sense of everything. She needed to hear her own thoughts.
It was in times of solitude she missed Kade the most. Most people would describe being in love as losing your mind. It would cause you to go listen to your emotions rather than logic. It wasn’t like that between her and Kade. In fact, it was during moments with Kade wherein she could her thoughts clearer.
As for Will, he had been sending her gifts for the past three months. But she hadn’t seen him since she gave him Kade’s USB. That was three months ago. It just confused her more. It just made her emotions go haywire. She knew he was dealing with his own issues, but how hard was it to send her one text or private message. Granted, she hadn’t done the same thing. But still, what purpose did it serve. She knew she had feelings for him and messaging him would just confuse her more.
With a sigh, Alyssa pulled out a rag from her back and began cleaning the tomb stone.
“Happy Birthday, Kade,” she whispered. Unconsciously, she felt a tear streak down her face. She swallowed hard, emotions overwhelming her. “Sometimes, I wonder if by loving Will I’m betraying you. But, it’s not like there’s anything between us already. I just –“ an uncontrollable sob broke free and once it started, she couldn’t stop.
“I knew I would find you here.”
Alyssa froze. She quickly wiped the tears from her face. “What are you doing here, Drew?”
He took a seat beside her and handed her a handkerchief. “People are worried about you.”
Alyssa wiped her face. “I’m fine, Drew.”
He pinned her with a hard stare. “I’m serious, Alyssa. Please don’t lie to me.”
“You’d think as the years go by it would be easier to deal with Kade’s death. It would be easier to deal with him leaving – easier to deal with living without him. But it still hurts, Drew. It still does. There are days when I barely think about him anymore then when I remember I feel guilty about forgetting him. It’s like I’m betraying him and I –“
“Don’t over think, Alyssa,” Drew cut her off.
Drew closed his eyes. “I hate him, you know.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
He gave her a sad smile. “A part of me does. Why? For leaving us. For not thinking through what he did. For hurting you.” He swallowed and looked away. “For taking you away from me.”
Alyssa gasped. “What?”
“There was a time when I loved you the way you loved Kade,” he finally admitted.
“When was this?” Alyssa demanded.
“We were 16 then,” he told her with a nostalgic smile. “The day I was supposed to lay down my intentions to you, Kade came to me. He was so happy, so excited. He said he was about to do the same thing. After the rough couple of months he was having then, I knew I couldn’t take away his chance of being happy.”
“So, you sacrificed your happiness for his,” Alyssa realized.
Drew let out a bitter laugh. “The funny thing is, I already had your parents’ permission then.”
“What do you think would have happened if I told you that night?” he said, cutting her off.
She looked at him sadly. “I honestly don’t know.”
He looked at her sadly. “I know.” He paused. “I often wonder what would have happened if I put my own self first instead of Kade. He may even be alive today.”
She shook her head. “Regrets wouldn’t do us much good now would it?”
He smiled at her sadly. “Let’s not live life with regrets, Alyssa. Kade’s dead. But we aren’t.”
She smiled at him. “You know I love you, right.”
He grinned back. “Love you, too, sis.”
She rolled her eyes. “So, I’m ‘sis’ now?”
He laughed at her. “Whatever, Lyss.” He paused. “Just remember you have so much to live for. This is your life to live. Your decision to make. Don’t do what I did. If you love Will, go for it.”
“I’ll always be here for you, Lyss,” he told her. “Even when I don’t agree with your decisions. But loving Will? I think that’s best thing you’ve done in the past two years.”