It's been four years, thought Krickette, still reclined in her seat. She
looked back at the clock. A half an hour had passed since the Sunday
service had ended, and nearly everyone else had left. She couldn't make
herself move; she couldn't stop the questions and the doubts that were
invading her mind. Four whole years... and I'm questioning this.
And indeed, it was a valid concern. When she and Noah had met a good,
long, four years ago, there was instant chemistry. They began dating
about a year thereafter, and pulled through with ease throughout their
remaining years in high school. They had both graduated only a couple of
months ago; up until that point, Krickette thought for sure that they'd
end up going to the same college, graduating with honors, getting
married - you know the drill. Now, though, she wasn't so sure. But why
wouldn't she be? All those years together, they were more than just
boyfriend and girlfriend. They were best friends. Every time he came
around, she could feel herself light up like a firefly. They did everything together:
they talked, went places, worked, and did everything in between. She
felt elated whenever he would hold her hand; or flash her that big,
charming grin of his; or pick her up bride-style and carry her around
the school, or restaurant, or wherever they may have been. Whenever a slow song would
play at church, they would dance either in the foyer or in the back of the very sanctuary in
which she now sat, grinning and giggling and near-oblivious to the older attendants'
Then came graduation. While Noah had picked far in advance what college
he would attend, Krickette had been indecisive. Once Noah received his
desired scholarship, he discarded the rest. Krickette, on the other
hand, found herself struggling to choose between two: the University of
Nebraska Omaha, where Noah planned to take classes on performing arts,
or Elkhorn's Metropolitan Community College - which was much easier to afford -
where she could further her artistic skills and likely live her dream of
selling and commissioning her paintings and drawings. Art had become her passion
long before she met Noah. But would she choose a career over a person -
specifically her best friend? Wouldn't a life with him be much better?
She knew very well that they'd never have time for each other in
separate colleges. Wasn't the answer staring her in the face?
Maybe not. Only yesterday, Krickette had taken a trip to confide in a
friend. Ollie, who had already graduated from high school and was
attending the local Metro, worked part time as a bartender and karaoke
singer at Blair's VFW. "It's not my dream job," she had said, "but I get
to sing once or twice a week, and it pays." Ollie had never been shy
about stating her opinion - especially not when it came to matters such
as romance. She would describe a spouse or date or lover of any kind as
a "ball and chain," or dating as "setting yourself up," and more. You
couldn't really blame her, though, what with her parents having had a
destructive marriage and painful divorce. The memory was still sharp in Krickette's mind:
watching helplessly from a distance as Ollie bounced back and forth between her parents'
two different homes, picking up her every subtle discription of the couple's expressed
thoughts of each other, hearing out her tales of how her parents had met and how beautiful
their romance was - only to slowly crumble. Needless to say, Ollie vowed she would never
get herself involved in anything romantic, and, Krickette observed, followed through
It was no surprise how their conversation went down that day. Krickette had entered the
front door and sat at the bar, her head collapsing into her hands.
Ollie paused her wiping down the counter. "Rough day?" she mused.
Krickette could feel her smirking a little.
"I. Am emotionally. Wrought," replied Krickette, not bothering to look up.
"Well, you're not quite old enough to drink, so I assume you're here to
Pretty much. Krickette wasn't sure where to start. She supposed it would
be easier to talk about the college-aspect of her dilemma. "I got a
scholarship to Metro," she began.
"The one in Blair, or the one in Elkhorn?" asked Ollie.
"Well, good! That's the one you wanted to go to, right?"
"Yeah... sort of. Noah's going to UNO."
"So, if I attend any other college, we'll probably never see each other
Krickette now met Ollie's eyes. They were narrow and unblinking, a reflection of something
in Ollie that Krickette forced herself not to think about. "Look,"
said Ollie. "People break up. It happens. I know how close you guys
always were - it was as obvious to me as to anyone - but honestly, this
was bound to happen. And now you have to make a decision: live your
dream, or tie yourself down to someone who, five years from now, could
easily be someone very different from the guy you" - here she rolled her
eyes and made air-quotes - "'fell in love with.'" After that comment,
Ollie continued to clean the counter top. Clearly their conversation was
over. Krickette left the bar with a heart made heavier.
Ollie's mocking tone as she used those last words was still fresh in
Krickette's mind as she hunched over in her seat. It had her heart
throbbing. She felt alone, as though she were now the only one remaining
in the church building. She wished she was. But she wasn't. Out of the
corner of her eye, she saw him approaching. Her heart throbbed even more
as he got closer. He stopped in front of her.
For a moment, they were silent. She could feel him staring down at her. She refused to
look at him.
Finally, he spoke. "You still haven't returned my calls." His voice was
stern, but soft; she could tell he was trying to hide his hurt.
"I know," was all Krickette could think to say.
He sat down next to her and stared at the floor. She turned her head away.
"What happened to us?" he asked gently.
It was as if something in her mind just fell into place. Her decision was firm. There would be
no ball and chain in her life. She told him.
"I chose freedom."