Farewell (February 2019, Round 3, Day 2)
Epiphany stuffed the last of her belongings into the backpack and looked around the room, scanning for anything she might have missed. Three suitcases and a backpack was all it took to erase herself from the apartment – she was getting better at this.
She loaded the car in two trips and went back to close and lock the door. As she stood on the porch applying a fresh coat of lipstick, the littlest neighbor boy poked his head through the slats of the railing that enclosed the porch. Epiphany smiled under the bright red tube.
“Farewell, little buddy.”
“Yup. That’s fancy for ‘goodbye’ – you don’t know ‘farewell’?”
“I know what it means. I didn’t know you were leaving.”
Epiphany crouched down, angling her knees to the side so she didn’t have to worry about flashing the little boy. “I gotta go.”
“I thought you were my friend.”
She hadn’t planned on a tearful goodbye with anyone, and kids were far from her specialty. “I was. I was a short-time friend.”
“A short-time friend?”
“Are you asking what that means or telling me you didn’t know that’s what I was?” When the little boy furrowed his eyebrows and stuck his bottom lip out further than ever she held up her hand and said, “hey, hey- I didn’t want to get it wrong, ok?”
“What is a short-time friend?”
Epiphany checked her watch and looked at her packed car. “Sometimes friends aren’t meant to be forever. They’re supposed to come into your life, do some magic, and then go on their way. Those are short-time friends, like me.”
The little boy pulled his head out from between the slats and came around to sit on the porch steps. Epiphany swore beneath her breath before going to sit next to him.
“I really do need to go, little buddy, and soon.”
The little boy reached over and wrapped his small hand around one of hers. He didn’t look at her or say anything and still Epiphany felt her eyes get watery. The two of them sat there for a time, each thinking their own thoughts, until Epiphany’s watch buzzed.
“You have to go.” He didn’t let go of her hand.
“I really do.”
“And you’re not coming back.”
He turned to her with his eyes wide. “Can short-time friends also be pen-pals?”
Epiphany shook her head as she eased her hand out from his and patted him on the back. “No, it doesn’t work that way. Short-time friends just disappear.”
She stood up and walked back up the stairs to the front door. She gave the silver elephant keychain a hard kiss, leaving a perfect print on it, and dropped it through the mail slot in the door. Hefting her backpack onto her shoulder she walked past the little boy without saying anything. Epiphany knew she had to get moving, knew that her clean exit was minutes away from being thwarted, and still turned around to face the little boy.
“Goodbye, little buddy.”