Illustration by Laura Endy
It was cold.
Amber watched as the leaves fell slowly down from the trees and onto the sidewalk. They moved around her feet and across the grass to her neighbour's lawn. She pulled the sleeves of her orange sweater down over her hands to try and fight the biting wind.
She watched as some little boys from the neighbourhood played football in the street. One of them fell down, and she took a step forward to help him up, but he was soon back on his feet, running after his friends laughing.
Amber stepped down from her front porch and out onto the sidewalk, watching her breath form in front of her as she made her way slowly down the street. Everything seemed so much slower in the fall.
Before she realized it, she was at Jamie’s house. The light in his living room was on, but there was no sound coming from inside. She reached for her phone, ready to text him, but the door opened and then he was suddenly standing mere feet from her.
“Hey,” he said. His breath formed a small cloud between them.
“Hey,” she whispered back. Not only were things slower in fall, but they were also quiet.
He reached out his hand to her, and she took it, noticing how much warmer it was than everything else around her. Pretty soon it would be cold just like her own hand. Just like the wind.
They sat down on the curb, watching the leaves fall from the trees. She leaned her head on Jamie’s shoulder, enjoying the moment. Reaching up, he smoothed back her hair, smiling down at her.
“Fall looks good on you,” he said. He kissed her lightly. The leaves and the pumpkins on people's’ porches may have matched her sweater, but the earth matched Jamie’s hair and the sunset matched his eyes.
This is what it was like to say goodbye, she knew. It was cold and slow, but it wasn’t quiet. It was loud like a scream inside of her she couldn’t let out. She couldn’t tell her dad that she didn’t want to leave Boston, not after what happened with mom.
Remembering the car crash, she squeezed her eyes shut. The sound of the car crunching metal on metal. The feel of broken glass coating her skin. The flash of the red and blue lights of the ambulance as it raced to her and her mother’s rescue, not knowing it was already too late, at least for one of them.
After the funeral, her dad couldn’t run away from this place fast enough. Unlike her dad though, the thought of leaving sent shivers of despair through her. She couldn’t tell him that though. She couldn’t tell him that the thought of leaving New England, of leaving Jamie, was more than she could stand. She had to be strong. She had to be strong for him.
That’s why she had to say goodbye. Not just to her home and her boyfriend, but to her mother, because that’s what fall was all about. The leaves changed and the cold came and so did the goodbyes of what once was. The beauty and the magic of summer was long gone and that wasn’t always a bad thing, but it was always a sad thing. A loud thing. Goodbyes didn’t come in a whisper like fall but with a bang. They weren’t something you could just ignore. You couldn’t hide away from it like you could the cold. You had to expect it, and then let it go.
Jamie picked himself up from the sidewalk, pulling her up with him and leading her inside of his house. Before the door closed behind her, she looked out at the now growing twilight. It was quiet. It was warm.