Creative Writing Contest: Second Place – Days Down to Zero

Colleen Burke

He stopped short and whirled around. Without thinking he yelled my name, Evita. He then crossed his fingers, wishing he had been right. And he was. I turned around and once I saw his face, smiled. I whispered his name to myself, as he strode towards me.

“Jake? Is it really you?” I asked. He answered with a smile and a nod.  He then hugged me; I could hear his heart racing. It was the first time we’d seen each other in thirteen years. Back when we were in third grade Jake would steal my crayons and paper, but never once did he return them without a note that said I love you.

I invited him back to my apartment for a cup of coffee and to catch up on old times, when we got there I pulled out a box which contained every single note he had wrote to me, there were 135. We read through each of them, and I finally noticed that on the back of them he had a number. When I asked him what the number was he replied sheepishly, “I was counting the days down until we got married. I didn’t know if we were going to, but I knew I wanted to.”

The rest of the evening was spent reminiscing. I cooked him his favorite meal back in the third grade – mac and cheese. He said it was the best he had ever tasted. When it was finally time to say goodnight, we lingered at the door as if we were afraid we wouldn’t see each other for another thirteen years. Finally he kissed me lightly on the cheek and handed me his jacket. “So I have a reason to come back tomorrow,” he said.

The door closed and I floated to my room. I had been missing Jake forever, but never thought I’d see him again. As babies, our parents would walk us in the park together. As children we learned how to bike together. As teenagers – we never got that far. He moved the summer in between third and fourth grade. I remember crying on his lawn as I watched him drive away, leaving only one thing behind – me. My mom lulled me to sleep every night that summer, wiping away my tears. Now he was back in my life, just as if he had never left.

The next morning he came over to get his jacket. The routine of seeing each other during the day and “accidently” leaving his jacket at my place that evening continued on for what seemed like months. One day, he didn’t show up. I grew worried very fast and made my way to his apartment. His door was unlocked. As I made my way inside I saw a small box on the floor. Inside were little pieces of paper with numbers on it… counting down the days until we got married. He had never stopped writing those notes to me; I had just stopped receiving them.

I had a moment where I forgot that Jake was missing. Then I immediately called him. A pleasant yet shaky woman’s voice answered, “Hello Jakes phone, his mother speaking.” I froze, a little confused.

“Yes, uh hello. This is Evita. I was looking for Jake,” I replied.

“Evita? Oh my dear it’s been ages! I’m here with Jake now; he’s in the hospital actually and would like to see you! It’s his final day as a matter of fact. Please come on down,” she hung up right before she was about to cry it seemed. I was even more puzzled now. I raced down to the hospital, with the box in hand.

As I entered the room I saw Jake’s smiling face. He motioned to the box, “You found it, eh? I was a little embarrassed about it but I knew I’d give it to you sooner or later.”

“Final day? What does that mean Jake?” I questioned, ignoring his comment. He sighed then replied, “Yes… I didn’t want you to find out this way. I’m sick. We don’t know what it is, but this is said to be my final day. Has been since I found out in third grade. That was also what the number was counting down.” I put my hand over my mouth, stunned into silence. I ran out of the room.

Hours later I returned, his face was pale and eyes fluttered. I tried to apologize for leaving before. He shook his head and wrote down on a piece of paper, “it’s ok.” Tears filled my eyes as well as his. We sat there in silence for about three hours. Jake grew weaker by the minute and finally reached out his hand. I grabbed it and lay down next to him. Suddenly I felt his grip loosen, and I heard his thumping heart cease. As I pulled away my hand, I felt a note on my palm. I opened it, and it said “I love you, forever and always. Marry me?” all in different colors. On the other side, in all black it said “0.”