“Guess what? I got my call!”
“You did? Oh my goodness!”
“Yeah! I’m going to Northern California! The Roseville, California Mission.”
“California? You’re kidding me! I actually have some idea where that is!”
Ryan laughs on the other end of the line. “My letters will only take a few days to get to you,” he says.
“That is a really good thing. A really, really good thing.” I smile, sink onto a couch and let the phone slump against my shoulder.
“I’m gonna walk to the library and look up all of the information on Northern California that I can find. You wanna come?” He asks.
“Sure. That sounds great. Come and get me!”
When I hang up the phone, I look around my living room. The sun is lighting and warming the room, fall colors and smells are filling me up like a creamy soup. Ryan is going on a mission to California and one of the first people he told about it was me. This is exactly how it was supposed to be from the moment we got locked in the church closet together in the ninth grade. From the moment we danced together in the snow under the streetlight.
But I don’t believe it.
We walk to the library, the cool breeze, the gently falling leaves, the comfortingly empty streets still adding to my surreal feeling. Ryan is glowing and bouncing with his contagious enthusiasm, so excited about his call, so ready to go anywhere he’s asked. He’s suddenly so ready to stop kissing girls and shrugging off school with his untouchable friends, and strutting around thinking of nobody but himself.
But I don’t believe it.
We go into the quaint, small town library, one of my favorite little getaways, now and forever. We find books and maps and information. I’m encouraging and happy for him. He’s happier than I’ve seen him in a long time, and loves sharing it with me.
But I don’t believe it.
On the walk home, he tells me, “I’ve been reading all of these articles and talks about how to be a good missionary. My favorite one is called ‘Total Faith and Dedication’. It’s about obeying every rule, being totally focused and-“
I can’t take it anymore! The supreme happiness and goodness! The recent saying and doing all of the right things! It’s making it so hard to keep hating him and holding a grudge against him.
“Don’t.” I say, interrupting. My feet stop on the gravel pavement of the small, quiet road. “Don’t do that. Don’t try telling me that happily ever after is possible. Not now. Not after everything you’ve done.”
I start walking again, briskly. Leave him standing there in a bit of stunned silence, before his longer footsteps bring him back to my side.
I’m still ranting. “I dreamed of this day! I’ve always wanted it, and you’ve always known I have! But then you dashed that dream on the lips of a hundred other girls. You’ve dated my best friends! You were cocky and heartless and I vowed you wouldn’t be able to do this! Just change in the nick of time? Suddenly it’s time to serve a mission and you’re just ready to go be the best missionary the world has ever seen? It isn’t fair.”
“Geez, Amie. You make it sound like I transformed into a dark sorcerer over the last year.”
“Yeah… and what would be missing from that scenario? The deceptive, hypnotic spells or the undiluted evil seething from you?” I ask.
“I was an arrogant high school kid, which I suppose could easily be mistaken for a dark sorcerer, but I didn’t do anything that’s keeping me from serving a mission, Amie. I did some bad things; I avoided a lot of worse things. A lot of worse things. And I’m sorry I hurt you, because I kissed a lot of girls… but you’re the only girl I want to keep on kissing.”
He steps in front of me now, forcing me to stop walking. He looks at me, takes both of my hands in both of his.
“I’m just scared,” I say. “This is too good to be true.”
“It’s not too good to be true. Not when you have all of these terrible memories of me as the dark sorcerer,” he says, winking. “It’s just good enough to be true." He faces forward again, keeping one of my hands so that he can hold it as he walks. "Besides… you really think I believe in happily ever after? I still think I’m going to come home to Amie Gee Smith, happily married and three months pregnant.”
I shake my head, still melancholy and not so much as smiling at his conjecture about my future. “I’d wonder. If I got married while you were gone, I’d always wonder.”
“Nah. You don’t have to feel that way. We’ll always be friends. One day, we’ll go out on a double date. You and your husband, me and my wife.”
“That sounds wretched.”
“You’ll be jealous of course… because my kids will be better at basketball than your kids.”
He’s right. Probably about his kids being better at basketball than my kids, and definitely about the jealousy. Sitting across the table from a happily married Ryan and his wife is less believable than a fairy tale. I’ll write to him on his mission, and take my chances.