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I was afraid. Too afraid, in fact. I couldn’t take it in. No one told me it was going to be this hard. This hard just to get two simple words out of my mouth, off my lips and into the ears of my friends. My friends. These strangers huddled around me, trying to soothe me. But those words meant nothing to me. Just a collection of letters, knotted together, without true meaning. The strangers got close. But who were they? Did I even know them?

A friend: “A person with whom one has a mutual affection.” Affection: ” A gentle feeling of fondness or liking.” To like: “To find agreeable, enjoyable or satisfactory.” Yeah, that’s what the dictionary classifies them as. These strangers were friends. Friends that had stayed with me this entire time. Friends who shared too many memories to recall and friends who knew all my deepest secrets. They were my friends.

We just stood there. We could see the tears in our eyes, the misery on our faces. We cuddled closer, not allowing a single breath to escape the bubble. We held on. Tight. We were all afraid to let go, but we all knew we had to.

I was crushed by that thought. I didn’t and wouldn’t say “goodbye”. It was a “see you later,” but I couldn’t lie. Not to my friends, not to myself. And that was when the shower of pain and sorrow cascaded onto us. We cried, and sobbed and wept until our lungs were dry and our eyes had no more tears to shed. We felt each other’s love spill out on us. They weren’t only friends, they were family. And family never gets left behind, as the saying goes.

Nothing seemed to matter at that moment. That’s when I promised I would see them again. We would have a reunion. We’d meet up one day when we were older and go backpacking together through Europe. Something we dreamed of together, something almost impossible¬†that didn’t convince us.

Minutes, almost hours flew by, and little by little our friendship circle was torn apart. Waves of shocking thoughts washed over me. This was the last time I would see him. This was the last time I would¬†say goodbye to her. No, I told myself, I’m not giving up, but the next thing I knew, I was walking away myself. The leftover tears stung my eyes like needles covered in lemonade, blinding me, making that afternoon nothing but a vast memory.