The Day After High
School GraduationMy toes skimmed across the worn wood of the porch as I tried for the hundredth time that day to get a hold of Holden. We were supposed to go to Chicago to try and find us an apartment for the fall, but Holden had failed to pick me up when he was supposed to. At first, I thought nothing of it and only thought he was late. But as time ticked by with no word, I started to get worried. This wasn’t like my boyfriend of three years. Holden always called when he was going to be late, which wasn’t very often. Hours later and I was a mess, grasping at straws as to where he was and why he wasn’t answering any of my phone calls or text messages.

“Any word?” my dad asked out the screen door, worry etched on his strong but tired face.

“No.” I hung my head as tears started to build for the millionth time that day.

“Why don’t you drive on over to his house? Maybe his parents know where he is. I think leaving the front porch will do you some good anyhow.” He gave me a weary smile that did nothing to ease my worries.

“Maybe I should. Sitting here isn’t getting me anywhere,” I strangled out, worried about what could have happened to Holden to prevent him from picking up his phone.

“That’s my girl. I’m sure it’s some big misunderstanding.” He gave me a wan smile.

“You think?” My head popped up, hopeful.

“Baby girl, Holden loves you more than life itself. Nothing could keep him away.”

He did. Holden loved me just as much as I loved him. My dad was right. Long ago my dad accepted that Holden would be around for the long haul. Not that Holden was bad news or anything. My Dad just thought I was too young to find the man I was going to spend my life with.

This all had to have been some kind of misunderstanding. Holden probably left his phone somewhere and couldn’t hear it the hundred times I’d called. That had to be it.

“You’re right, Dad. Thanks. I’m going to see what’s going on. Don’t wait up for me.” I hopped off the porch swing and dashed inside for my car keys. On my way out, I popped up on my toes and gave my dad’s smooth cheek a kiss. So excited to see Holden, I tripped going down the stairs. Looking back up at my dad, he stood shaking his head and waved. waving

The entire way to his house, I had the windows down, letting the wind blow through my hair. There was something about the feeling of the night air on my skin, and my hair tickling along my back and arms that soothed me. By the time I made it to Holden’s house, I almost felt like myself again.

As I pulled into his driveway I noticed there were no lights on, which was odd considering they always had them set on a timer. Stacy and Bruce Montgomery didn’t want their son to ever come home to a dark house. This was the first time in years I’d seen it pitch black inside. The worry from earlier reared its ugly head as I hoped a light would miraculously turn on. 

Still, I parked and made my way up to the ornate front door. I tried to peek inside through the frosted windows to no avail. I knew there was no point, but I was desperate. It was eerie how quiet the house was. Not even a cricket was chirping in the yard.

Taking a breath, I rang the doorbell and waited patiently for someone to answer the door, all the while hoping this was some sort of silly prank.  After a few minutes with no one in sight, I decided to try my luck at the doorknob. If Holden knew I was coming over, he made sure that the front door was unlocked for me to come in. We’d been together for so long, I was part of the family. This time, though, I was met with the resistance of a locked door.

Where were they?

Fighting back the tears that were threatening to build, I slipped my phone out of my back pocket and dialed Holden’s number one last time. By that time, I expected it to ring and go straight to voicemail or for it to be dead after all the times I’d called and texted throughout the day. I never expected the message that shattered my heart into a million pieces.

“We're sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.”

Falling to my knees, my entire world crumbled around me. 

Holden was gone.

And I was alone.

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© 2020 by Harlow Layne

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