“Momma will see you tomorrow night, sweetie,” I talk into my phone with it on my shoulder as I go back and forth from my closet to the suitcases spread out on the floor. I finally put the phone on speaker and place it on the floor as I kneel in front of one of the suitcases, organizing everything in it.
“I can’t wait to see you, mommy!” Willow’s voice says through the phone. I smile big.
“Me too, baby,” I said to Willow, looking at the phone. “I love you; put papa back on the phone.” A couple of moments later, I hear the phone being picked up and hear Max’s voice.
“What time is your flight landing tomorrow?” Max asked.
“I’m taking a Red Eye flight tonight, so I should be landing around 5:30,” I answered as I continued to pack. “Ari is picking me up from the airport.”
“Ari?” Max asked and then laughed. “Are you sure she’ll be up that early?” I smiled at Max’s reaction.
“Listen, Ari is a different woman now,” I said. “She’s an almost-married woman.” Max laughs loudly over the phone.
“If Ari actually picks you up on time, tell her I owe her $20,” Max said. I shook my head and chuckled. Max and Ari were always teasing each other; of course, whenever Max and I were on good terms. It’s been a long time since Max and I were on good terms like this. It truly only happens when there’s a distance between us.
“You guys are too much,” I responded. “I should be situated at my parent’s place by the time I should be headed to you guys, but let me know when you’re ready; it’s no rush.”
“Please,” Max scoffed. “Willow will make sure we are ready for you when you come over. Mariam is cooking dinner, so don’t feel like you have to bring anything unless you want to.” I hear a knock on my bedroom door; the door slowly opens and Skylar stands there.
“Alright, I’m going to finish packing, tell Willow I love her,” I said before hanging up the phone. I looked up at Skylar. I feel bad for leaving her in California after everything that happened. I feel guilty even; she’s going to be by herself after having her heart broken by a person I was affiliated with by association.
“Hey, Sky,” I said. Skylar walked into my room and sat at the edge of my bed.
“Hey,” she finally said after looking down at the clothes on the floor. She kneeled down next to me and started to fold the pile of clothes I previously threw on the ground. “You shouldn’t leave this unfolded; it’ll get wrinkled.” I watched Skylar fold the piece of clothing she was talking about. When she was done, she looked at me.
“Are you gonna be okay when I leave?” I asked. Skylar scuffed and began to fold the rest of the clothes.
“Skylar Ashmore is an independent woman,” she started. “I’ll be just fine on my own. I always have.”
“Sky,” I started to say. “It’s okay to still feel sad about Shawn.” Skylar and I haven’t spoken about Shawn or Jamie since the night I saw Jamie at the pier. In a sense, it became taboo to mention those two in this house. But I was leaving in a few hours, and I didn’t want Skylar to have all of this bottled inside her. She deserved to let go. To breathe. To ease her mind.
“I’m fine,” Skylar stated. I rolled my eyes at her. I swear the Ashmore women suck at lying.
“I know you’re not,” I began. “Because I told myself the same thing the first time. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to you, Sky.” I was being honest and protective more than comforting and supportive. I know how reckless Skylar can be, and I was afraid that once I left, she’d go party and drink herself into oblivion. Skylar looked annoyed with me.
“I’m not you, Grace,” Skylar spat back at me.
“You don’t have to be like me to be heartbroken because you were in love,” I said bluntly. Skylar didn’t respond; she sat there still folding clothes, most likely deep in her thoughts. “I loved Jamie. The first time he left, I didn’t know how or what to feel. I was just angry and sad and confused. I did stupid shit because I was in love, Sky, and I really look back at that time and really wish I did things differently.”
“Like what?” Skylar asked. Like what? What would I have done differently? I say this about almost everything in my life. I wish I did my childhood differently. I wish I did my high-school years differently. I wish I did college and my career differently. I wish I did things differently with Max and Willow. I wish I did things differently with my life all the time.
“I wish I was able to tell myself that it wasn’t worth it,” I finally said. “I wasted so much time being sad and heartbroken over someone that had no choice but to go back to his home country, but–“
“Then why take him back in the first place?” Skylar asked. I looked at her, not understanding her motive behind this conversation. What was she trying to prove?
“I was in love with him, Sky,” I emphasized. “When he came back, all that hurt that he caused just… went away. I was so in love with him that I subconsciously forgave him for leaving me in the first place.” Skylar got up from the ground and walked out of the bedroom. She left the door open, in which I looked out from where I was sitting to see where she went. She immediately comes back into the room and throws something at me. I looked down at my lap and saw it was a little black box. I looked back up to Skylar.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Open it,” she demanded. I slowly opened the box and saw a bracelet with a charm on it; specifically a charm of a key. I couldn’t process what was going on. “I don’t know if you ever noticed,” Skylar began. I turned the lid of the box around to see a folded piece of paper. I unfold it as Skylar continued to speak.
“It was in the mailbox. Y’know, Jamie wore that bracelet every single time I saw him in person,” Skylar pointed out. I finally unravel the note, in which it simply said, I’m sorry. I know this bracelet was Jamie’s. I know he never took this bracelet off. I noticed it on him the first time I saw him here in California. He said the love of his life gave it to him. I still remember the night I gifted him this bracelet. I felt sick to my stomach. All I could do is look at Skylar, who continues to talk. “And I know you gave him that bracelet because you asked me to get it handcrafted for you and ship it to you when you were in New York.” I couldn’t say anything back. It was like the words were trapped in my throat because if I were to say something, nothing but tears and possibly vomit would come out.
Skylar crossed her arms across her chest and looked directly at me, without any sort of emotion on her face. “If he was able to go back to Korea all of those times without batting an eyelash, then giving back the one thing he held closest to him, the one thing that he had connected to you? It wasn’t hard for him to do. He never truly loved you if he was able to do all of that.”
Was that true? Did Jamie never love me in the first place? That can’t be true. But then what explains this? He had this bracelet for years now. Why give it back? Why give it back if it wasn’t because he didn’t love me?
All I could hear is the white noise from the light on in my bedroom, followed by a sigh from Skylar. Her voice was soft now when she spoke.
“That is why I choose to be fine about Shawn leaving me,” Skylar admitted. “Because he was able to break my heart without even hesitating. Because he always knew he had to go back home when he allowed me to fall in love with him.” Skylar finally left my room and closed the door behind her. The tears couldn’t help but fall down my face. I look at the bracelet in the box. The tears kept falling into the box and on the metal of the bracelet. I couldn’t bare to look at the bracelet anymore. I chucked it on the bed, hoping that I threw it hard enough for it to disappear so I wouldn’t know where it went.
Everything made sense at that moment. It was so easy for Jamie to pack his life up and let me go countlessly in the process. It was so easy for him to let go of the things that he told me all those years ago he would never let go. He let me go time and time again and then got mad t me for trying to let him go for good. Maybe Jamie used me all this time. Maybe he said those things to me because he saw I was broken or some shit. Maybe he saw me at the cafe that day for the first time and took pity on me. Maybe he took everything we had and saw it as temporary and useless to hinder on. Maybe he didn’t see me the way I saw him. I truly did love him, but maybe he truly never loved me.
And maybe it’s that belief that I have to tell myself in order to let go. It’s about time I let him go, because holding on is hurting me more when I know the release will feel like a weight off of my shoulders, and I need that. I need to feel free again. I need to feel something else but emptiness again.
I need to feel like I have a purpose again.