“Ann,” she hears a familiar voice. A voice of the man who has not called her name in a very long time. She gently opens her eyes and confirms who he is. His smiling face welcomes her. It is James- her former best friend.
They used to be the best of friends. Until James changed, had a girlfriend, and left her… all alone.
“Hi,” he says. Ann is surprised and annoyed all at once. He has not shown up for so long yet there he is, sitting beside her in her bedroom at 4 o'clock in the morning.
“Why the hell are you here?” she gets up.
“Can I stay here for the night? I can’t go home yet. My car broke down,” he whispers.
She wants to get mad. It has been a while since the last time they talked. But just because James got himself into trouble, he suddenly appeared in her bedroom, wanting her to cover him up.
Then “Ah,” he touches his head. She sees blood.
“It’s bleeding,” she panics a bit and decides to call her mother.
“No, please,” he stops her. “I’m good, please don’t call anyone,” he pleads.
“Let me at least dress it.”
“No. I’ll just get some sleep. I’m okay,” James requests.
She is very mad at him. Until now, James would still win over her. She wants to yell at him and throw all her sentiments.
But she knows he is not feeling well.
So, she lets it pass.
James fell asleep a couple of minutes after lying on her bed. It has been five months since he last visited her house. It has been five months since they last talked to each other. They suddenly drifted apart. She just woke up one day and saw James with his new set of friends- his girlfriend’s set of friends.
“How dare you show up now? You do not know how much you hurt me, James. And here you are, crashing on my place as if nothing happened,” Ann thinks while watching James sleep from the couch she transferred for the night.
She cannot go back to sleep anymore. She never expected to have another conversation with James after all these months. She knows James would leave again after the night passes. But she cannot help but think about what could happen when he wakes up as well.
Will they ever get back together- at least as good friends?
Ann decides to get ready for school at 6 in the morning. As she takes a bath and does her usual routine, she cannot explain why her heart feels heavy. Then she sees James again and decides to dismiss all the feelings that have been bothering her for the past few hours.
She leaves her room through her window’s hanging ladder without waking James up. But after a few minutes of walking, “Ann!” she hears him call. He is running towards her, trying to catch up.
“Why did you leave me?” he asks in between his breaths.
She finds it odd. She wants to ask James "how does it feel?" but ends up saying, “I thought you still wanted to sleep.”
“Well, I wanted to walk with you to school. Just like we used to," James says, smiling.
She looks at him- trying with all her might to not punch him in the face.
“Why are you acting like this?” she asks.
“We are not best friends anymore, James. You can’t just show up now and do the things you used to do with me before,” Ann says.
“Well…” he tries.
They stand there for a minute, but Ann does not hear a single word.
"I'm going to school. You take a bus or something," Ann starts walking away.
Ann never looked back when she left him standing there. But just when she thought that she finally got rid of him, she sees him again halfway to their school. James has been silently following her after all.
“What the hell is your problem, James?”
Ann is beyond annoyed. But suddenly, she realizes how his face changed. Earlier, he seemed alright. But when she looks at him now, it is as if something horrible happened.
“I’m sorry, Ann,” James says.
She does not understand.
“Will you talk to me?” he asks.
She stops walking. They are in the middle of nowhere, but suddenly, she feels that this is it. It is the confrontation she has been waiting to have since the day he stopped talking to her.
“Can we be okay again?”
“Seriously?” she asks in dismay. “You haven’t shown your stupid face for the last five months, and now you're wondering if we can be okay again?"
"You just left James. When you finally had her, you just left. We drifted apart. You held me hanging without saying a damn thing. Not even a single word."
“I never knew what went wrong. You chose to shut up even though I was supposed to be your best friend. You used to tell me everything," she raises her voice, but James only listens.
"Did you know how hard it was for me to accept that? My mind was telling me ‘Hey Ann, I'm sorry. James found his happiness with some other people, so you're out of his life now.' But my heart was asking for a reason. I wanted to know the reason even if it seemed that you wouldn’t care anyway.”
"You promised to stay right beside me, but you went away. You promised to look after me all the time, but you left me alone. You broke all your promises, James."
"I'm sorry. I've been a jerk," James cannot look at her.
“Yes, you are. You've been a jerk because you left me. You've been a jerk because you threw that stupid friendship we had. You've been a jerk because you broke my heart!" Ann yells, and James finally looks at her in the eyes.
“Yes James, you heard that right. I was in love with you. But I kept everything to myself because I didn't want to ruin our friendship. You liked her. Fine. I was so willing to help you out. You wanted to get close to her. Fine. I did everything that I could so that she would notice you."
“I did everything just to give that damn happiness that you wanted. I did everything because I wanted you to be happy, even if I was already hurt then. It did it because I was your best friend. I did it because I loved you."
“But what happened in the end? You broke my heart. You tore it into pieces as if it was your toy. And I could only wish that I did not give you that right. But it was too late.”
Her tears start falling but she knows that she cannot stop now.
“And yeah now you’re there, standing in front of me asking if we can be okay again without even asking how I have been. I was miserable, James. I felt like I was the worst person in the world that’s why I didn’t deserve an explanation from you.”
"I watched you from afar. You were so damn happy. You were having the best time of your life while I was left in my room, crying because my best friend stood me up.”
“Did you even know that? I bet not. Because that’s how insensitive you are!” she pushes him and laughs.
"I sound bitter, don't I? Well yeah. Maybe I am. I am bitter because you gave me enough reasons to be!”
She stops. All of a sudden, she is out of words. There are so many things in her mind, but she cannot utter any single word anymore when she realizes that James has just been staring at her the whole time.
“And you’re just giving me that look?” she speaks again, disappointed that James cannot even defend himself.
“Fine!” she starts walking away again.
But she stops and turns back to him.
"Oh wait, I forgot to answer your question. Just so you know, it's a No. Maybe it’s true. I don't deserve you. But you have to understand that it's you who do not deserve someone like me.”
As soon as Ann makes her first step to walk away, she bursts into tears. She takes a few more steps, and she feels that she could hardly breathe. She is so upset because she still did not get what she wanted. He never explained. He was out of words.
Maybe this is the end. Ann and James can never go back to the way they used to be. And she will never understand why.
“Ann!” James calls out again, but she decides not to stop. She has had enough of this.
But he starts running. Until he reaches Ann, he runs and hugs her from the back.
She tries to let go, but he just hugs her tight- too tight that she cannot escape.
“I’m sorry I’ve been a douchebag. I let you down. I dumped you. I took you for granted because I was too happy with the wrong person. I chose not to speak because I knew I would never be able to defend myself. There was nothing right about all the things I have done and not said. I am unforgivable. I know I've hurt you so much. I've hurt you more than I could imagine. That's why I'm not asking you to forgive me. I know that we can never be okay again. I just wanted to hear from you. I wanted to know how mad you are. I wanted to feel how angry you are with me. And you did it. I may not have explained things to you, but you've blurted your feelings out. That's the only thing I wanted to happen, Ann."
It is as if as James speaks, all the hateful words are leaving her body at the same time.
"I am sorry Ann. I know it wasn't easy for you. I'm sorry," he hugs her tighter.
"And I know this won't change anything, but you have to know something," he takes a deep breath. “Ever since, I have loved you, too. And it was another mistake that I did not tell you that.”
How should she react from that?
“I… I’m going to school now,” she denies, escaping from his hug.
Ann feels like crying and laughing at the same time. She confessed her feelings to her best friend, but she never thought about hearing the same things from him.
She cannot believe this. She does not want to.
But there is something else she would not want to believe more.
“Will you come to my funeral?” James begs.
She stops. Slowly, as she turns around again, she prays to all the saints that James is just pulling a prank.
But there he is, standing, with blood dripping down on his face, head bleeding.
“I know asking this is too much. That's why I don't expect you to forgive me. But can you at least," James says, “come to my funeral?
“I’m begging you. Please?”
Ann stands frozen. Everything is starting to sink in. She wants to believe that this is just a dream, but she knows that it is not.
Everything that is happening right now is all real.
He walks towards her. She cannot even allow herself to get scared as gives her another hug.
“Do you feel this? I know you hate the way I hug you, but this is the sincerest embrace I have given to anyone. I’m sorry, Ann. I’m sorry,” he cries.
He is a ghost. James- her best friend, is a ghost. All the anger she had for him evaporates, but she wants to scream.
“I’m sorry,” he says over and over.
“No…” she holds him closer.
“Ann? Are you okay” says another voice.
She opens her eyes and searches for the sound, only to find out that it is James’ father.
They are in front of the hospital.
“I have been calling you, Ann. James…” he starts. “He’s… he’s gone.”
Ann does not know what and how to feel. James is with her right now, holding her hands tightly.
But unfortunately, she is the only one who can see him.
When Ann puts the rose on James’ casket, she sees him again a few meters away. She walks to him, scans his face and realizes that the blood and bruises are gone.
"You came. Thank you, Ann," he smiles as if there is no tomorrow.
Her heart breaks. She cannot say if it is a gift or a curse that she got the chance to talk to him again.
"And because you did, I can go the now. I can go home," James looks up.
"You are so damn good at it. You know that? Leaving me alone?" she asks, not caring that she is about to cry like a baby.
His smile fades.
“I am sorry.”
“Stop it,” she says. “You never really had to say sorry. I was just hurt. Hurt real bad," her tears fell, but James wipes them.
“Do that again. Hug me that way again, James,” she embraces him.
And he hugs her as tight as he can.
“I love you, Ann,” he says before kissing her forehead.
“I love you, too.”
Slowly, he lets go.
“I can see it, finally,” he smiles. "I see the light."
James is almost jumping for joy.
“So, it’s time?”
“Yeah,” he confirms.
“Goodbye, Ann. Until we meet again.”
For one last time, James gives that terrible hug she hated when he was still alive.
But this time, she loves it. Because it is the sign that she is alive, and so is James.
He will be alive, in heaven. He will be there, watching over her, fulfilling at least one of the promises he made.
To look after her.