Saying Goodbye: A Short Story About Letting Go

As I sat in my car, parked at that devil of a red light in the middle of the busiest intersection in the city, I lifted my head and saw that it was about to rain. I then scratched my head in wonder because it was bright and sunny not five minutes ago and now it looks as if giant tentacles are going to descend from the sky and consume us all. This sudden change in weather, although wildly inconvenient, was actually quite fitting for that moment seeing as my best friend said goodbye to me in a way I thought would never happen.

It all started two weeks ago. My fiance and I had just returned from our vacation to Italy when I got a call from her asking if I had time to meet up so she could hear all about my trip.

“Of course Katie! Do you want to meet for drinks?” I asked excitedly.

“Sure. Let’s say Bar 9 in about 30 minutes?” she replied.

“Sounds good, see you soon”, I said and hung up.

After that long yet romantic trip, I was really happy to be back home in St. Louis and spend time with one of my best friends. Katie and I have known each other since our freshman year in college and had even worked together on several occasions. As an aspiring model though, she never wanted to hold down a steady, full time job for fear it would put a damper on her availability to schedule photo shoots and participate in local magazine cover spreads.

Katie was your typically model type; she was tall, thin, blonde and had the face of a Victoria’s Secret angel. She had been featured on the cover of one of St. Louis’s most prestigious magazines and even booked a gig as the main model for a very popular local brewery. Yes, she definitely had the looks but she never let them define her. I can remember all the times she would cringe whenever photographers, as well as everyone else, would tell her how gorgeous she was. She hated that every time she had a conversation with someone, that the only thing they had to say about her was the way she looked. This is how Katie and I bonded. She and I had so much in common and I was the only person who was not intimidated or absolutely smitten by her physical appearance.

Bar 9 was a local brewery that Katie and I used to work at during our junior and senior year in college. Although we knew nothing about bartending, we knew it was the only job that would allow us to study, sleep and hang out during the day and then network and meet new people at night. Plus, it was right next to our apartment and we drank for free, which was one of our favorite pastimes. When I walked in the door our old boss Joe and a guy we used to work with named Mikah were behind the bar. At this point, only a handful of people were in the bar.

“Alley Cat! How are you are? Haven’t seen you in here for a while,” Joey said as he motioned for me to sit at the bar right in front of him.

“I’m good Joe. How are you?” I asked.

“I’m good kiddo. Hey, how was Italy?” he asks.

“It was great! I got back yesterday morning actually. I’m meeting up with Katie so we can catch up,” I said.

“That’s cool. Allie, you look great by the way. Very hot. Man, I really regret turning you ladies down when we used to work together,” Mikah said inserting himself into the conversation.

“Well, thank you Mikah but you didn’t turn us down, we turned you down,” I replied.

Mikah was about 3 years older than Katie and I when we all started working together. In all honesty, he was one of the best looking guys Katie and I knew. He had the tall dark and handsome look going on but he went through women like most people go through smartphones. As is the plight of all hot guys in this metropolitan city, most of them jump from girl to girl and make a sport out of it. Luckily, I saw through his act right away and Katie took my word for it.

“Right, so you say,” Mikah said jokingly and began to stock beer in the refrigerator behind him.

“So, where’s Katie?” Joe said as he began to wipe down the bar.

“Oh, she’s on her way. You know her, always fashionably late,” I said.

Another 15 minutes went by before Katie showed up. Her hair was teased up and she was wearing denim shorts, a green tank top and her favorite art canvas designed sandals.

“Hey girl! So sorry I’m late. Traffic was a nightmare,” she said as she hustled toward me and leaned down to give me a hug.

“Oh, no worries. I was just catching up with the guys here,” I said as I pointed to Joe and Mikah.

“Nice. Hey Joe, Mikah,” she said nonchalantly.

“Hey Katie. So, what’ll it be for you today ladies?” Joe asked.

Before I could even answer Katie put her hand up and began to order.

“We’ll take that new light beer you have on tap,” she said authoritatively.

“Oh, the Pilsner?” Joe asked as he pointed at the tap.

“That’s the one. And we’re going to be at that booth in the corner. Thanks Joe,” Katie said as she motioned for me to follow her to the high top booth near the pool table.

I almost felt bad about us not sitting at the bar to talk with Joe and Mikah a little more but the place was starting to get busier and Katie and I had a lot to catch up on anyway.

As we sat down at the booth, Katie tossed her hair back and gave me her famous “tell me everything” grin.

“So, how was your trip?” she asked excitedly.

“Ah, amazing! We started in Florence and then hopped over to Venice, Verona and Milan,” I said waving my finger around like a map of Italy right in front of us.

I continued to regale her with stories about all the things my fiance and I did and saw when Mikah approached us with our drinks.

“Here you go ladies, on the house,” Mikah said as he set down our drinks and gave Katie a seductive stare.

“Oh, we couldn’t possibly,” I began to say before Mikah put his hand up.

“Yes, yes you can.” Mikah said as he nodded to us and walked away.

I tried to call back to him but Katie grabbed my arm.

“What’s rule number 1?” she asked.

I laughed.

“Never turn down a free drink,” I replied.

“Damn right,” Katie said as she raised her glass to mine in a very smooth way.

We drank and talked for what seemed like hours. I continued to tell her about my trip and she told me about what she did while I was gone. Apparently she and her boyfriend had broken up because he decided she was too “high maintenance” and she had been doing back to back photoshoots in order to beef up her portfolio. After catching up, we had a surreal moment of silence and I aimed to break it.

“I’m serious though, I loved Italy so much that I honestly think I’ll end up moving there someday,” I said as our second round of drinks were delivered.

Katie gave me a relieved but solemn look.

“It’s funny that you say that because I have some news,” she said.

“Really? What news?” I asked.

“I’m moving to New York City,” she said.

“Really. Oh my God that’s great,” I said excitedly as I squeezed her arm in recognition.

“When are you leaving?” I asked.

“Two weeks from today,” she replied.

“Oh, that’s pretty soon,” I said a little dumbfounded.

“Well, I made the final decision about 3 days before you came back. You see, while you were gone I booked this photo spread for a new premium outlet store and I met this photographer from New York. He told me that if I wanted to get with a real agency and book shows, better cover spreads and endorsement deals, New York is where I need to be,” she said.

I didn’t know whether or not I should feel happy or sad about this, but a mixture of the two emotions definitely came out in my response.

“Wow, I’m so happy for you,” I said.

“What the photographer told me was nothing new. I knew I had to make that move eventually but I always thought staying here for a bit would be the better move but now I realize that I should just go for it. There really is no better time to do this than now and the timing couldn’t have been better. You know, with Chris dumping me and all,” she said.

“Yeah, you have to do it while you’re young right?” I said as I nervously took a sip of my beer.

“Right. But, I am going to miss this place though. Also, I wish you could come with me. We could do the whole entourage thing,” she said playfully.

When she said this, I seriously thought about going with her. But I was quickly snapped back to reality when I realized that I started a new job at a big advertising agency in a few days and that my fiance and I were about to start planning our wedding.

“Unfortunately, I’m not as freed up as you are at the moment. But I’ll definitely come visit you out there,” I said.

“Absolutely,” she said.

We spent the next two hours at Bar 9 talking about what her plans were for New York and reminiscing about college. After a while we both realized it was getting late so we decided to call it a night.

“Goodbye Joe and Mikah,” Katie said.

“Have a good night ladies,” Joe said.

“Yeah, this is the last time you’ll see Katie for a while,” I said as we walked toward the bar.

“Why’s that? She goin’ somewhere?” Joe asked.

“I’m moving to New York in two weeks,” Katie said quickly.

“Oh, that’s great! Good luck out there. And hey, when you make it big don’t forget your friends huh,” Joe said as he gave us a wink.

“How could I forget you Joe,” Katie said as she wrapped her arms around Joe from over the bar.

I was kind of shocked he didn’t come out from around the bar to hug her but he was pretty busy. Plus, that’s the way Joe’s always been; a great heart-felt guy but seriously lacked on the whole “expressing emotion in a traditional sort of way” thing.

Mikah on the other hand nearly leaped over the barn doors of the side of the bar to come around and hug Katie.

“Gonna miss you kid,” Mikah said softly.

I saw that Mikah was making a move to squeeze Katie’s ass but she was able to quickly move his hands to the center of her back and push him away slightly.

“Thank you Mikah, you be good alright?” she said sarcastically as she playfully patted him on the cheek.

We paid our tab, said our final goodbyes to the guys and headed toward the parking lot.

“Hey, so I’ll get to see you before you leave right?” I asked as we neared our cars.

“Of course! I mean, there is so much work I have to get done and a bunch of packing I need to do but I’ll be able to make time to see you and some other people before I leave,” she said as she fished her keys out of her purse.

“Awesome. And congratulations. I’m really proud of you,” I said as I gave her a quick hug.

“Thanks girl. I’ll see you soon alright,” she said as she jumped into her Chevy Malibu.

I waved at her as she pulled out of the lot and then I hopped into my car.

It was almost a full two weeks before Katie gave me a call. But, true to her word, called me in the middle of the afternoon the day before she was set to leave.

“Hey girl, I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to get back to you sooner. These past few weeks have been absolutely crazy. Well, I’m all packed and freed up so do you want to do lunch with me? I’ll be free from like 5 to 8. Not much time I know, but I really want to see you before I leave,” she said apologetically.

Although I was a little hurt that she waited until the absolute last minute to do this, I immediately shrugged it off and chalked it up to a “that’s just Katie” instance.

“That’s totally fine. I know you’ve been crazy busy and have quite a few loose ends to tie up before you make your great escape. Anyway, I’d love to do lunch! Where do you want to meet?”, I asked as I gently began to close the door to my office.

“Let’s do Sushi at Far East. Say, 5:30?” she asked.

“Absolutely! 5:30 it is,” I said enthusiastically.

“Great, see you then,” she said softly and hung up.

When she hung up I had that confused feeling I had when she first told me about her move. I didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad that she’s leaving. I knew I should be extremely happy for her because she’s realized her dream and moving on with her life but I know that she’s not very likely to ever come back here. I mean, Katie has always been the type of person that stays exactly where she wants to be. If she is somewhere she adores and is, or can be, wildly successful, she won’t dare venture elsewhere. Sure, her parents and good friends are here in the city but I have a feeling she’ll end up convincing us all to come out there to see her. Plus, since I have absolutely no doubt she will achieve some kind of success in the city that never sleeps, all of her friends here will eventually become irrelevant to her. Everyone wants to say that won’t be true but, looking at the lives of not only famous people but also regular people who moved away to achieve some kind of recognition, I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the case for Katie.

By the time 5:30 rolled around I was pulling into the parking lot of Far East Sushi. I loved this place. It’s not only where I first met my fiance but also where Katie and I celebrated graduating from college at the top of our class. We literally closed the place down that night and caught a cab to the nearest night club. I have no memory of that night past walking into the night club but, when I woke up the next morning, I was in my pajamas in my bed and both of our cars were parked in our spots when I got up and looked out of our apartment window. Yes, this place definitely holds some serious memories and it only seems right that our last day together should be here.

I walked inside the building and grabbed a table. Knowing she’d inevitably arrive late, I went ahead and ordered a sampler plate of spicy tuna, salmon and shrimp tempura rolls.

An extra 5 minutes after the 15 minutes she typically arrives, the sushi was delivered to the table and Katie walked through the door. She was wearing a black pencil skirt, a low cut grey short sleeve top complete with black heels and her favorite silver owl necklace.

I didn’t know this was supposed to be a dressy occasion. I just had on a pair of dark blue skinny jeans, a plain white T-shirt and black flats; my typically lounging around outfit. Normally, Katie would be wearing almost the same thing but with a little more flare added to it.

“Hey, sorry I’m so late. Traffic you know,” she said as she slipped into the chair in front of me and set her purse on her lap.

“No problem. I hope you don’t mind but I already ordered a little something,” I said as I pointed to the sushi plate.

Katie then looked at me as if I was speaking Arabic and then snapped right back to reality.

“Wh, oh yeah thanks. Listen, I can only stay for about 20 minutes or so. Some other friends of mine are throwing a get together for me at the club across the street and then I have to do a quick drink with one of my photographers and then I have to do dinner with my parents. They’re freaking out now that I’m leaving and want to try to get as much time with me tonight as possible,” she said as she reached over and grabbed a salmon roll with her chopsticks.

I could literally not believe my ears.

“What,” I said in disbelief.

“I know, I’m really sorry but that’s just how it all worked out,” she said as she picked up another salmon roll.

I was in such shock that I literally was at a loss for words. I mean, this is one of my best friends and she’s telling me that after over 7 years of friendship that she can only afford to spend 20 minutes with me on her very last day in the city. I felt like yelling at her. I felt like saying I was just going to walk out since she was so busy. But then I stopped myself and really thought. She at least gave me a heads up that she was leaving and made it a point to hang out with me one last time before she left. Even if it was only for 20 minutes. But why? We know eachother better than we know ourselves and on her last day here she can’t even spare an hour with me? What the hell? But I really can’t say I’m surprised. This was Katie through and through. She never really thought much about other people when it came to how she wanted to do things and what she wanted to do. I guess I should be happy that a soon to be supermodel decided to include me in her “farewell tour”. Maybe if she makes the jump from model to actress and wins an Oscar, she’ll include me in her list of people to thank.

After a few minutes I realized I had been completely silent. Calming myself with the thought that she at least made time for me, I crafted my next few sentences very carefully.

“It’s OK. I totally understand. At least we’re here right now right?” I said as normally as I could, trying hard not to let her hear the sadness, confusion and disappointment in my voice.

“Good. So, what’s up? How’s the new job? Aren’t you like a hot-shot Ad exec now?” she asked as she downed the last spicy tuna roll. I had been so out of it that I didn’t even know that she’d eaten most of the sushi.

“Well, not exactly. I’m running the video production department of the Steve Hiller advertising agency,” I replied trying not to focus so much on the time on my iPhone.

“Good, I’m happy for you,” she said as she began to check her phone.

For the next 15 minutes we talked about college, relationships and how happy she was to be leaving St. Louis. I was legitimately happy for Katie but most of the conversation was geared toward her. Every time we’d talk about the past or the present she would find some way to bring it back to her. She’s never really been like this. I guess she had already adopted that New York attitude. As we continued to talk, or rather her talk about herself, I found myself glad we only had 20 minutes together.

“So, do you want any more sushi?” I asked while pointing to the three shrimp tempura rolls still left on the plate.

She looked at the rolls in disgust and waved her hand at them dismissively.

“No, I’m good. I’m staying away from fried foods. It’s really bad for you,” she said.

She was acting strange. She liked all types of sushi and would eat fried chicken on an almost weekly basis and not gain an ounce.

“Oh, OK,” I said.

I looked at my phone and noticed we were reaching our time limit. When I looked up, I saw Katie checking out her nails in a very vapid, 1980’s valley girl way.

“So, do you need to head out? It’s about that time,” I said as I picked up my iPhone and showed her the time.

“Well, the party they’re throwing for me is across the street so I can show up just a few minutes late,” she said as she finally quit looking at her nails.

After hearing that, I knew it was time to go. I didn’t want to completely loathe her before she left; it’s never good to look back in anger and I didn’t want to live with that kind of disdain on my mind.

“Nonsense. You don’t want to keep them waiting do you? Plus, I have to get going anyway. Cole is making dinner tonight,” I said as I motioned for the waitress to bring me the check.

“OK. If you insist,” Katie said as she opened her purse and checked herself in her compact mirror.

After paying the bill, although I felt I shouldn’t have to pay because she ate all of the sushi I typically eat, we got up and left the restaurant.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye then,” I said as we exited the building.

“Yeah. Crazy huh? Don’t worry though. You can always come and visit me,” she said as tossed her hair back.

Typical. I knew she’d attempt to give me the last minute “come visit me sometime” song and dance. Nonetheless, I decided to humor her.

“Of course,” I said as I reached out and hugged her.

As we separated from the hug she gasped and suggested we take a selfie. Still humoring her, I agreed.

Katie whipped her phone out and switched on the camera. She is the queen of selfies so her face and body were posed perfectly. I was still trying to position myself when I heard the click of the camera phone. Of course she already started snapping the pictures; she was ready for her close up and that’s all that mattered.

After she snapped the pictures we quickly reviewed them. I looked terrible in all of them except for one. Katie, of course, looked amazing.

“Awesome. I’ll text these to you,” she said as she tucked her phone back in her purse.

“Sounds good,” I said blandly.

“Well, bye girl,” she said as she gave me another quick hug.

“Bye,” I said as we pulled away.

Seconds later, she was already across the street and had disappeared into the building.

After she was out of sight, I headed over to my car. When I got to the driver’s side door I took a deep breath, swung the door open and got in. I sighed and then slammed the door.

I tried to calm down but I found myself tightly gripping my steering wheel and imagining going nuclear on a punching bag. Why did one of my best friends decide to treat me like I was someone she’s only known for a few weeks? I mean, I knew how she was and I knew she had a lot of people to say goodbye, as well as many things to do before she left, but I still found it insulting that she couldn’t set aside at least enough time for both of us to have lunch. I had to drive 20 minutes out here just to spend 20 minutes with her. She didn’t even bother to even try to invite me to continue hanging out with her and her other friends!

After steaming in my car for a few minutes, I took another deep breath, closed my eyes and forced myself to look at the big picture of this scenario. I knew I couldn’t take what she had just done personally. People have their own agendas and I just need to learn to accept that. Although I would never do that to someone I called a friend, I needed to adapt and stop holding people to my own standards. Would I have behaved any better than she did if, after she told me she could only stay for 20 minutes, I had just walked out on her right then and there? No, I wouldn’t be. Yes I did have a right to be upset but getting over it for both of our sakes would be for the best.

Upon realizing this, I pulled myself together, started my car and pulled out of the parking lot. When I reach the stoplight of the city’s largest intersection, I saw a giant semi truck coming from my right trying to pull into the already jammed lane and front of me and noticed that my light had finally turned green. Completely stuck until the semi could start moving again, I put my car in park. And, for some strange reason, I began thinking about the first time I ever met Katie.

It was on a Tuesday during the first week of classes, freshman year. I was wondering through the crowded common area of Founders Hall trying to look for my photography class. Not looking where I was going, I tripped over someone’s backpack that was lying next to a table I was walking past. I fell pretty hard but used the palms of my hands to brace myself so I would not hit the ground face first. Unfortunately, this meant my books went flying into the distance in front of me.

Feeling extremely embarrassed, I quickly picked myself up and went searching for my books. I had picked up 3 of them when, suddenly, my psychology 101 book appeared in front of my face. Only, it was attached to a perfectly tanned arm wearing a brown corded bracelet complete with perfectly manicured cuticles.

“Are you OK?” the person the arm belong to asked sweetly.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just really clumsy,” I said as I slowly leaned up and took the book.

When I looked up I could have sworn I was looking at Natalie Portman. Back then, Katie had brown hair and wore glasses but she was still as pretty then as she is now.

“I can see that. Don’t worry though, I saw some guy trip in almost the exact same spot the other day. It seems to be a common thing around here I guess,” she said.

“I don’t doubt you,” I said as I logged my books under my arm brushed dirt off of my hands and knees.

“So, are you heading to psych 101 with Dr. Farber? That’s actually where I’m heading now,” she asked as she lightly tapped my psychology book.

“Ah, no. I have Farber at 2pm. I actually have photography with professor Lenox in about 5 minutes but I have no idea where his room is. My schedule says it’s room 211 but I can’t find the 200 wing,” I said trying to mask the small amount of panic in my voice. I hated being late to class and never thought that showing up late during the first week was a forgivable defense.

“I know where the 200 wing is. Dr. Farber’s class is room 213 so it looks like we’re heading to the same place. We can head over there together,” she said as she stood by my side and motioned for me to walk with her.

“OK, thanks,” I said in a very mellow tone.

We began to walk down a long corridor where she said the 200 wing was right at the end of.

“Now I’m really regretting not doing that tour of the campus over the summer,” I said regretfully as I looked around at the lecture halls with amazement.

“It’s OK. You’ll get a hang of it. I did the tour but honestly it was incredibly boring. Plus, I only did it because my dad insisted,” she said.

“Oh, so you’re a freshman too?” I asked in a genuinely surprised tone.

“Yup. Why? Did you think I was older or something?” she asked playfully.

“Honestly, yes. You just seem so confident about your surroundings. Plus it helps that you’re about a foot and a half taller than me,” I said jokingly.

“Oh yeah. I get that a lot. Well, it’s a good feature to have for my future career,” she said.

“And what career is that,” I asked.

“Modeling,” she replied.

“Modeling. That’s cool. But I don’t think you can study modeling here,” I replied in a joking tone.

“Yeah, but you can study finance. That’s what I’m majoring in actually. I’m really only studying that field because my father wouldn’t help me pay to go to a liberal arts college. He basically told me if I studied finance and worked at his financial firm for a year after graduation then I can do whatever I want, jobwise, in between and afterward,” she said.

“Sounds like a good deal to me,” I said.

“Yeah, I guess it’s not all bad. But I really had my heart set on moving to New York for college. That’s where I need to be if I want to be a model,” she said hopefully.

“Well, you’ll get there some day,” I said sincerely.

We had finally the end of the corridor and entered into a narrow hallway with a sign that read “200 wing”. I noticed that Katie began to slow down when we neared the first set of doors so I assumed we were about to reach the classrooms.

“Thanks. I’m Katie by the way. I just realized I never told you my name,” she said as she stopped near a door with the number 213 etched into it.

“I’m Allison. Allie for short,” I said.

“Well, nice to meet you Allie. That’s your room right there. 211 right?” she asked as she pointed slighting to door right next to room 213.

“Yeah, that’s the one. Thank you for helping me out,” I said as I nodded in gratitude and moved toward the door.

“No problem. And hey, how long is your class?” she asked almost shyly.

“Ah, only and hour I think,” I said nonchalantly, knowing full well just how long the class was because I memorized my schedule last Sunday afternoon.

“Cool, so is mine. Would you want to meet up near the double doors at the end of the hall after class and grab something to eat? I mean, only if you don’t have another class right after this,” she asked hopefully.

“I actually don’t have another class until Psych 101 at 2pm. So yeah, I’d love to get something to eat after this,” I replied.

“Awesome, see you later,” she said as she quickly waved to me and entered the room.

“Later,” I said softly as she disappeared behind the door.

I was abruptly taken out of my nostalgia when the blaring sound of a car horn filled my ears. It came from a black SUV directly behind me with a red headed, and rather large, man sticking half of his body out of the window screaming at me to go. I quickly looked ahead of me and saw that light had finally turned green, the giant semi was completely fixed in a lane, which gave me plenty of room to move forward.

As I shook myself back to reality, I began to drive. At this moment, little droplets hit my windshield and were almost immediately followed by huge globs of rain. The inevitable rain had come and I was, unfortunately, stuck in the middle of it. But, as I began to make my way down the street that lead to the bridge I needed to take home, I thought about all of the times I had been Katie’s crying shoulder, her supporter and “assistant” on her photo shoots. Images of all the good times we had hanging out, as well as the almost knock down drag out fights we had, swirled through my head. Their sequence seemed to be keeping perfect time with the whooshing sound of the rain and the crash of the thunder that followed. As these thoughts raced through my mind, I let out a big sigh to quiet my thoughts and whispered to myself “Goodbye Katie”.

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