As the episodes and hours piled on, confusion turned to frustration. It was ten o’clock and the light outside had turned dark. I’d been sure he’d be home by now. My stomach was starting to growl, having not eaten for hours. Where the hell was he? He couldn’t still be with Ada, right? What did “I want to talk to you” mean to him, anyway?
I felt isolated sitting in his living room while he wasn’t there. For the hundredth time, I wished my phone was working. Not being able to get in touch with people made me feel helpless.
I couldn’t sit waiting forever, and I definitely wasn’t falling asleep at his place—my bus was leaving tomorrow morning. If he didn’t come back to the apartment soon, I was going to have to leave. Leave Studsen without having talked to Hunter. My stomach dropped. The frustration that had been building inside of me began to turn to dread.
What if I had to leave before he came home? It was unlikely that I’d have time to track him down tomorrow; I didn’t have a phone and my bus was leaving at nine in the morning. Besides, even if I wanted to track him down, would I even be able to? He had disappeared for a week before I saw him today and now he was nowhere to be found again when he promised me that we would talk. Hunter was getting more unreliable every minute he didn’t show up at his own apartment.
I was petting Taylor in my lap when a sudden wave of nausea hit me like an oncoming bus. If I leave Studsen, I may never pet Taylor again. Hunter had been with Ada; I was in his apartment, maybe for the last time; my stepfather had sent me that letter; I failed my semester; my parents were dead; the man I loved was flaking out on me again and everything was turning to shit. Again.
The weight of everything came crashing down on me like a pile of heavy stones. I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous. After hastily putting Taylor to the side, I sprinted on shaky legs for the bathroom so I wouldn’t vomit on the living room floor. Thankfully, I made it to the toilet. I held my hair back and threw up until my guts were empty.
Sitting on the floor hunched over the toilet, ragged, I had a moment to think. This is awful. I couldn’t handle this. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t keep burying my problems and hoping they would go away with time—it would kill me.
A sound came from the bathroom door as it slowly creaked open. Hunter?
Taylor popped her furry head through the door and entered. She stood there, looking at me wide-eyed as I sat there breathing heavily, still trying to steady myself. She approached and nuzzled against my leg. Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes and I stood up to wash myself off in the sink.
After cleaning myself up and walking out of the bathroom with Taylor following close behind, I realized I needed more than a few days stay in Indiana to recuperate. I had dreaded the idea before, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do now. I needed an anchor in my life. Something to stabilize me. I thought Hunter had been it, but the past few days were proving that wrong. I needed to be with Aunt Caroline and Uncle Stewart for more than just a few days.
How was I going to tell Hunter? I needed to get out of here, but he was nowhere to be seen, and I had no way of knowing when he would get home. One thing I didn’t want to do was what he had done to me by disappearing. I couldn’t leave Studsen with this conversation hanging over my head.
Maybe I could leave him a note. It wasn’t perfect, but at least I could explain the situation. Resigned, I rummaged through my bag, seeing if I had a notebook to write Hunter something if he didn’t get back soon. No luck. All I had was my sketchpad and charcoal from earlier in the coffeeshop. It would have to do.
I scratched out my opening: Hunter. Warm tears beaded up in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. I remembered the things he had said to me when we spent those four nights holed up in this apartment.
“I’m gonna save us both.”
When he said those words, I’d believed him. But he was wrong. He could barely save himself from whatever he was dealing with, and if I added my problems on top of that, it was just going to pull us both down. I had to save myself or I wouldn’t make it. Neither of us would.
I took a deep breath and kept writing as tears streamed down my face, pausing now and then to think of my next sentence.
I want to start by saying I’m sorry. After the past few days, I came to your apartment hoping we could talk about everything, but you never came back. I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re okay.
So now I’m leaving this note. Some stuff happened and there’s no way I can continue with my classes, so I’m withdrawing from the semester. I don’t know if I’m ever coming back to Arrowhart.
I’m writing this to tell you we’re over. I’ll be leaving Studsen early tomorrow morning.
It kills me to do it this way, but since you didn’t come back home I have to. Waiting around any longer than I have isn’t an option. I can’t function with the way my mind is right now. Look at this note. My hand is shaking so badly, I can barely write these words.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to me if I don’t find something solid in my life. I want to believe that we had something real Hunter. Maybe if things hadn’t happened this way we could have worked things out, but I have to leave now. If I stay here any longer I might not make it.
I’m so sorry I can’t explain more, but it would be unfair to involve you in this now. I’m not going to do that.
Please don’t think this is about you. You were the happiest thing in my life, and I’m sorry I have to hurt you like this.
I wish life had treated us differently.
I read over what I wrote as best I could through the tears blurring my vision. A warm bead dropped down onto the note. I dabbed it away with my finger, and read again. He wouldn’t be happy when he read the note, but hopefully he would understand with time.
Note in hand, I went into the kitchen. A small body brushed up against my leg. I looked down and saw Hunter’s favorite kitten, Rampage. He was looking up at me with eyes wide, his ears down. I crouched and gave him some pets behind the ears, still sniffling, but it didn’t seem to cheer him up. It was like he knew I was leaving.
After taking a deep breath and looking at the letter one more time, I folded it in half, wrote Hunter’s name on the outside, and set it on his kitchen counter where he could see it easily. Once I was done, I packed up, said one last goodbye to the kittens, and walked out feeling emotionally exhausted .
The cold winter air stung my tear-stained face as I left the apartment. I hurried down the forest path toward Floyd Hall. It was the same path Hunter had given me a piggyback ride through after he’d saved me from drowning. That happened on the day we first met.