There was a tapping on my window, it was around eleven-thirty at night. I rolled out of bed, and crawled over to investigate the noises.
It was my best friend, he was grinning and leaning against the windowsill.
“Good evening M’lady.” He said muffled through the window. I opened it up, and he promptly grabbed my hands. His were freezing. “Come on, we’re going to be late for my early birthday dinner.”
“Early birthday Your birthday isn't for five months.”
“So?” There was a twinkle in his eye, and something else, I’m not quite sure what it was. He pulled me out of my room gently. “Lets go anyway. It’ll be fun.”
“I don’t know… Its really late.”
“Please.” He spoke quietly, and his tone sent a chill up my spine.
“Okay, fine, lets go.” The smile returned to his face, and we walked to his car.
We got into his car, and I was struggling to stay awake. I must have fallen asleep though, because when he parked, I noticed he had been driving at least an hour.
“Jeez, where did you take me? Gonna kill me, leave me on the side of the road?” I laughed sleepily and climbed out of the car.
“Naturally, I had to get far away from where we lived to make sure it wouldn’t look too suspicious.” He walked over and gently hit my arm. That strange look was in his eyes again. “Nah. I just thought I’d let you sleep a little, plus this place is really good. I haven’t been in a while.”
I shrug, and follow him. The place he was referring to, was a small diner. I looked around and saw that we were in a small town.
Kind of like what you would see in an old western, but modernized. A little spooky at night, but I have since discovered that it is a very nice little town.
We walked in and the host greeted my friend with a loud, “Eyyy, haven’t seen yah in awhile!” As he clapped him on the shoulder and gave him a one armed hug.
He made a comment about me that I didn’t quite catch, to which my friend went a shade of scarlet and assured him that we were just best friends.
The host laughs a deep laugh, and sits us down telling my friend that he has a good eye, and then turns to me and tells me to make sure to keep “That bruiser,” in check, which I laugh at and promise him I will.
“Looks like you’re well liked out here.” I say sipping on the complimentary water that was left for us.
“Oh yeah, he and I go way back. I used to come out here a lot.” He was skimming the menu, avoiding direct eye contact.
I let out a slight sigh, and read over my menu as well, and decide on what I was going to eat. I guess I was pretty hungry without even realizing it.
I couldn’t help but notice though, how much skinnier he looked now that we were in a proper light.
His hair was messy, his cheekbones were more prominent than they had been previously, and his skin was almost a gray shade.
My stomach churned, but he looked up at me before I could say anything and smiled. It was a very familiar smile, everything seemed so normal again in that moment.
The waitress passed by and took our orders. He ordered how he would typically order. Some kind of massive burger, lots of toppings, extra fries please.
I ordered my usual restaurant fodder as well. Just a typical evening out with friends. I hardly noticed how tired I was.
After a while of awkward silence between the two of us, I look him dead in the eye. “What is going on? Its twelve thirty at night, and we’re ordering dinner.”
He smiles, and says very plainly, “Can’t I want a meal with my best friend?”
I open my mouth to respond, but no words come out, my mind was blank. Perhaps due to lack of a proper sleep. They brought out our food, and we both dig in, another rather awkward silence.
When we both finish, the waitress brings out a rather impressively sized chocolate milkshake.
“Uh, we didn’t…”
“It’s on the house, hun. You two enjoy.” We both look over where the host is sitting and he winks. My friend gives him the thumbs up, and he looks back at me with a twinkle in his eye.
“Well, no point in letting it go to waste right?” He grabbed the straws left for us, and handed me one. I hesitantly opened it, but didn’t put it in the drink. “C’mon. It’ll be fine. One last hurrah for the night.”
When I still did not comply, he sighed slightly, that odd look in his eyes again. “Its okay. I promise. Please drink with me?” I smiled, nodded and drank with him. It was actually a really nice drink.
When we finished, I offered to pay, he insisted on paying himself. We thanked the workers at the diner, and we got back into his car. I buckled my seatbelt, he started the ignition.
We drove off slowly. I looked at the clock and saw that it was going on one o’clock.
We drove for a while without speaking. I was beginning to doze off when I felt him turn slightly, he was pulling over. “Hmm? What’s going on?”
He parked and looked at me. He was smiling his usual, wide happy smile, but there were tears in his eyes. “I’m dying.”
My throat went cotton dry, I can’t tell if he’s joking or not. “What do you mean ‘dying?’”
“It came back. My doctor said that with how fast, and aggressive it has become, I’ll be lucky for another month.” He kept his smile, but couldn’t hold the tears.
“But they said-”
“We know. They said sometimes complications like this happen. They’re unpredictable. And there’s nothing we can do. I’m officially terminal.”
My body and mind were numb. I couldn’t breath. It felt like the world was closing in around me, crushing my body, constricting my lungs, everything was so, so wrong.
“Say something, please. Please say something.”
I tried to swallow, “W-Why aren’t you in the hospital? They can do more tests and-”
He shook his head slowly, “I’ve been fighting this for years. There’s nothing they can do anymore. I don’t want to die in the hospital. I’d rather be with my family, and my friends."
He reached out and grabbed my hand gently. With the other hand he wiped the tears from my eyes. “Hey, it’s going to be okay. I’m ready. It’s just my time.”
I reached over and hugged him. We cried, and hugged for a while. Just giving each other the chance to experience our mourning together.
I reminisced on everything we did together, and held onto him. I didn’t want to let go. If I let go, it would mean we would have to leave, and go home. I didn’t ever want to let him go.
“Hey… We have to go now. Okay? I need to get you back home.” He spoke softly. “Let’s do this again soon, okay? We still have time. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
I laugh slightly, and sit up. He turns the key and starts driving. The adrenaline started to wear off, and I slowly doze off.
I don’t know how long he let me sleep, or how long we were in my driveway, but when he tapped me awake, we could see the sun peaking out from the horizon.
We sat together and watched it come up, and he whispered something I couldn’t quite hear. “Think of me - - sun rise."
My mind wants to fill in the blanks, and my heart knows what he said, but to this day I still wonder what it was he said.
That morning was the last time I saw him.
He died a week later, peacefully, surrounded by family and loved ones.