70: The Beginning

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Adrian's face softens, and he sighs.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't yell at you. It's not your fault..." he says this last sentence with a slight edge to it that Autumn can't decipher. "I just feel so... unloved."

She looks at him sympathetically, and he almost laughs. "Don't give me that pitying look; I'm fine." he says.

She doesn't believe him.

"Then what is it?"

He sighs, clearly reluctant to explain for whatever reason. At this point, she doesn't really care what the big secret is just for some peace of mind. "Fine. Okay. It's about my parents,"

Autumn's lungs take this as a cue to start constricting. She coughs and coughs, so hard her eyes water and she has to blink a few times to focus on Adrian again. The heart monitor next to her jumps around irregularly. A nurse rushes in to stick some kind of needle in her arm and take her blood pressure.

Adrian panics a little bit. "Wait! You... you asked a month ago, and you should know. I ignored you the past month, and I feel terrible. I... my parents... they didn't like you. They were the ones who said I wasted my summer with some ungrateful little brat who doesn't know when a... guy likes her. I don't know if I agree with them or not." He pauses. "They... they did make some valid points, though."

Autumn tries to ignore the aching pain around all of her joints: her knees, her armpits, her elbows, her hips. She bites back a sob at his words and at her dark thoughts. Dark, dark thoughts. These-may-be-my-final-minutes thoughts, triggered by the throbbing in her muscles and her air pipe as thin as a straw.

"I... forgive you," she utters weakly, and closes her eyes. It makes her feel better, not having to use any energy to keep them open. She just listens to the steady beeping of the heart monitor and Adrian say her name one final time as her last breath expires into the air.

Autumn will never hear the last five words Adrian mutters into her ear, a depressed sob of regret that no one else distinguishes as words. "I love you, Little Leaf."

A single tear from the man who never cries slips from his cheek and onto hers.

Some may say this is the end. But it isn't.

It's just the beginning.

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