Story by Alanna Rossi, Illustrations by Jaclyn Simon
Before she knew it, the end of August had arrived. With it came slightly shorter evenings and a subtle change in the air. Everyone was starting to get ready for the fall season. Lucy woke up on Saturday morning to a text from her mom asking her what time her ferry got in on Monday. The departure had arrived. Lucy had spent the last few days packing up the house and making sure she had everything gathered. It was amazing how settled she had become in the small house, it had actually started to feel like her own. The owner had reached out the previous week to check in and remind Lucy that they would be returning in a few weeks for the rest of the year. It was all coming to an end. It was hard to believe that just a few short months ago, Lucy had arrived in Salt Spring not knowing a soul and now she was about to leave behind some people she couldn’t imagine living without. Funny how that happens.
She gingerly got out of bed and made her way downstairs. There were some bags strewn about in the kitchen filled with books and other odds and ends that she needed to take home. She would have to start loading up her car today, there was no way that she would do it all tomorrow. She had promised Max that she would visit the store later that morning. Jake was going to be coming over later than evening. Lucy had a sneaking suspicion that he felt the same way she did about saying goodbye.
Lucy put the coffee on and sat down at the kitchen table, flipping through her notes and photographs of the orchid. She still felt amazed that they found it. Lucy remembered the day they found it. It was pouring rain and she was miserable, ready to go home. Jake was with her and they were starting to head back to the car when she spotted an old cedar off of the trail. She had a feeling and when she walked over to it, there it was. It looked like it was glowing in the misty gloom of the forest. She could have cried if she wasn’t so relieved. Despite the rain, she spent two hours taking photos of it and just staring at it, taking notes. It was everything she had imagined it to be.
Lucy also spent a good amount of her time speaking with her professor back in Vancouver about Gwendolyn. She told him all about her life and the work she did at protecting the forests in Salt Spring. He agreed that she deserved recognition and promised Lucy they would talk more when she was back.
Since it was her last full day on the island she decided to make the most of it. The majority of her belongings were packed up and all she had to do was clean the house before she left, which wouldn’t be too difficult. She had gathered a few items of Jake’s that he had left over. A ball cap, pair of socks, a book he was reading about a man who hiked some famous trail on Vancouver Island. She put the items on the kitchen island and felt a pang of sadness at seeing them in one spot. Something about it felt final. She knew they would say goodbye soon and not knowing how she really felt about it made her feel uncomfortable.
After she finished her coffee she got dressed and drove into town to see Max at the store. Lucy picked up coffees from their favourite place, along with a couple of pastries which gave her the opportunity to say goodbye to the owners who have been feeding her pastries all summer. They wished her all the best and told her to visit again soon. She promised she would. At the store, Max unlocked the doors to let Lucy in. Technically the store didn’t open for another hour but Max told Lucy to come early so they could have some uninterrupted time together.
“Oh my god, you’re a dream,” said Max as she took a hot coffee and pastry from Lucy. “My favourite. I can’t believe you’re leaving tomorrow.”
“I know,” said Lucy. “It genuinely feels like I’ve been here for a year. It was so sad to see all my stuff packed up. I’ll miss that house.”
“To the house,” Max said, holding up her coffee to Lucy.
“To the house.”
“So, have you seen Jake yet?”
Lucy eyed Max suspiciously. “No, not yet. He’s coming over later.”
“For one last hurrah,” said Max with a wink.
Lucy scoffed. “A little decorum please!” she teased. She was used to Max’s subtlety, or lack thereof, at this point.
“Honestly, Max, I don’t know what to do. We’ve spent so much time together this summer and we’ve really gotten to know each other. Leaving this place and leaving him behind feels like the hardest thing in the world, but at the same time I cannot give up my life for some guy I basically just met, you know?”
Max leaned back in her chair. “Do you think he’ll come visit you in Vancouver?”
“I don’t know… maybe? I asked him if he would but he didn’t give me a straight answer. I know he’s not a city person. He loves this island too much to actually leave it behind. It makes any sort of possibility of a relationship with him very challenging, that’s for sure.”
Max nodded. “I think you know what you need to do. Listen, I love you two together. I’ve never seen Jake so happy with another person before and it’s great, but you have shit to do and you need to do it. You can’t get side tracked by some gorgeous guy you met on an island. At least not yet.”
“You’re right. I know you’re right. It’s just hard. I’m developing serious feelings for him, but I guess if it’s meant to be it’ll all work out. Right? At least that’s what they say.”
“Ah yes. You’ll be okay. You’ve made some pretty awesome memories this summer. Jake’s a good guy, he’ll understand. I don’t think he’ll expect you to stay anyways.”
“Yeah, probably. Ugh. Of course I had to meet someone this summer. Why couldn’t I have just stayed sad and alone?”
Max laughed. “Well, before you have to head out, why don’t you buy some books? I think there’s a good section on being sad and alone in the corner.”
“Har har,” said Lucy.
They spent the next hour happily browsing books and when it came time for Lucy to leave Max hugged her tight. Lucy felt her eyes stinging with tears and judging by the sniffles coming from Max, she knew she was crying too. When Lucy got back in her car, a stack of books in the passenger seat, she let herself cry for a few minutes. She was dreading that evening and her goodbye with Jake. She knew what she would say, but it wouldn’t be easy.
The car was packed up and Lucy had confirmed her ferry reservation for the following morning. There was nothing left to do except wait for Jake to arrive. She was drinking a glass of wine from her last remaining bottle and was sitting out on the back deck. She was watching the swallows dive around the yard when she heard a car on the driveway. She felt her stomach tighten up. She wished that she could stay sitting and watching the birds, but she knew she should greet him at the door. He would be just as anxious as she was and probably dreading the conversation they were about to have. She thought about what the night would bring.
“Hey,” said Jake as he walked in through the front door. “Pour one for me?”
Lucy smiled. “Sure thing.” She poured him a glass of wine and handed it to him as he walked into the kitchen.
“Hi,” he said, smiling at her.
“Hi,” she said back, her cheeks burning.
He leaned down to kiss her and afterwards took a sip of his wine and gestured to the deck.
They sat in the chairs they had sat in all summer and carried on watching the swallows. Lucy loved watching them fly around like little daredevils, catching mosquitoes and other insects. She could feel the tension in the air around her, the much needed conversation waiting nearby awkwardly. She knew she should bring it up and get it over with.
“Jake, we should talk.”
He sighed, and for the first time Lucy saw sadness on his face.
“I know,” he said, looking over at her. “Would you be upset if you knew I was trying to avoid it?”
She laughed “God no, I’ve also been trying to avoid it.”
“What a relief,” he said smiling. “So…”
“So…” Lucy started. “So, I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”
“And I just… Well, I just don’t really know where that leaves us. I didn’t want to just leave without discussing it because it would have felt awkward. We’ve spent a lot of time together this summer and have gotten to know each other… intimately… and well, I guess I’ve developed feelings for you.”
Her cheeks were burning and she was desperately trying not to look over at him, worried about what his face would give away. To her surprise, she felt his hand close over hers.
“Lucy, I like you. I really like you. I’ve loved this time we’ve spent together. Here at the house, out in the forest, exploring the island… It’s been one of the best summers of my life. I’m really sad that you’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh, well that’s good then. That we feel the same way,” she said awkwardly. “I know we haven’t known each other all that long, but I think I would like to keep talking when I’m back in Vancouver. I’m not asking for everything, just that we stay in touch. For real.”
“Of course we’ll stay in touch,” said Jake. “I’m not just going to forget you exist when you leave. I know it’s weird. You can’t stay and I can’t leave, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends and talk, a lot hopefully.”
“Okay great,” smiled Lucy. “I think you’re really great.”
“I think you’re really great too,” Jake said, smiling back. “Come here.”
She leaned towards him and he kissed her again. Lucy knew what they have is special, and felt a wave of relief wash over her knowing that they would keep talking after she had left. Who knew what would happen, but at least they could see.
The ferry was packed, full of families heading home from their weekend away. Lucy sat on the upper deck with her coffee, her puffy eyes hidden by her sunglasses and her unwashed hair tucked under Jake’s hat. Their night together was the perfect way to say goodbye, but the goodbye in the morning was rough. Now that Lucy was on the boat leaving the terminal, it finally hit her. She was leaving. She watched the island get smaller and smaller as the ferry headed towards the mainland. The morning sun was reflecting off the water, making it sparkle and dance in the light. Most of the people outside had headed in to line up for breakfast and Lucy soon found herself alone. She thought she would feel more sad, but instead she felt peace. She thought back to how she felt on the ferry over. Anxious and full of doubt. Now, she felt like a brand new person. She had awoken a part of herself that she didn’t know was there and was full of a new found confidence she hoped would last when she arrived home in Vancouver.