There was a gentle sigh as the wind curled its invisible fingers around the trees and ran through the grass of the corn field. Under a strong sun, a girl walks with a boy. They walk closely together, their hands brushing against each other, but without deliberately touching. The girl is dying.
“How long have you got left?” He asks her, swallowing. She’d begged him not to cry.
“The doctors think probably about five or six months,” she answers, her voice soft, but confident.
“Jesus, Beth, half a year?”
“Don’t, please, Jake, I’ve had enough crying from everyone at home, I can’t…”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, it’s just…”
They carry on through the golden corn. It scratches and claws at their bare arms and legs, and somewhere in the back of his mind, Jake finds it strange how something so beautiful from afar can be so painful up close.
“This is going to sound so selfish,” she breaks the lull in conversation first, “but everyone is so sad about all of this, and they keep telling me how much they’ll miss me, but I’m the one who’s actually going to miss out on life. They’ll have a Beth shaped hole in their life for a while, but I’m going to actually cease to be. Jake, I’m terrified about what that means…”
He says nothing, pulling her hand into hers. There’s nothing he can say – he isn’t dying.
“It’s unfair, you know. One day, Mary will be nineteen years old. My little sister will be older than I ever got to be. She’ll go to college and fall in love with a boy, and I won’t be there… to help…”
She starts to cry then, not gentle, delicate tears that girls cry in movies, but ugly, painful sobs. Pure raw emotion forced out of her body. It’s overfilled with pain and fear and it has to get out. Jake pulls her into his arms and feels the shake of her body against his, so small and delicate.
“The closest thing I ever had to a proper boyfriend is my gay best friend…” she chuckles into his chest.
“If I could give you perfect boyfriend package for the next six months, I would” he rumbled, his voice thick with emotion. Tears had fallen silently down his face too.
“In a way, I think your heart would be in it more than any straight boy”
“Damn straight, Beth the Beautiful”
She laughed hard then, at the pet name he’d used for her since they were five years old. Another boy in their class had called her it first, meaning it as a teasing insult at her plain appearance, but Jake had taken it as their own, twisted it around and made it a badge of freak pride. They’d been freaks together ever since.
“Will you keep going to school?” He asked her.
She paused for a moment, looking up at the clear, beautiful blue sky, before answering “I don’t know. Classes start again in a few weeks, but that seems like a total waste of my time now. The doctors made it pretty clear that I wouldn’t be getting better.”
“I don’t want to be there without you…” He murmured, “In the men’s restroom where you sat with me after Andy Richards called me a goddamn faggot for asking him to the dance. There are too many memories in that stupid building.”
“Oh god, and the teacher came in and ask what I was doing in there…”
“And you said ‘I’m honorary boy for the day, so could you kindly fuck off?’ – it’s a miracle they didn’t suspend you.”
“I think there were appropriate circumstances involved.”
“I love you, Beth” Jake said into the top of her head.
“I know” she replied.
The wind continued its lazy swirl around them as they stood and held each other.