Stay. By Eric Lethcoe.

When I turned 18, I was quick to move out of my parent’s house. My parents had moved us from New York City to the countryside in Maine. My parents saw this as a much smarter move, and, looking back, it really was. It was safe out there. Crime was almost unheard of. No worries, no fear of our house being broken into. It was quiet. No cars honking, tires screaming. None of the bustling, chaotic noises of the city. Just nature. The deer, squirrels, and the occasional black bear. I was much too young to really consider what was actually going on. I just transferred to a new school, a new home, barely even batting an eye at what it really was. Years went by, and I got older and older and more aware of my reality. I started to get really lonely where I was living. Looking back, as an adult, I understand my parents motivations, looking not to make us miserable, but instead had our best interests in mind regarding a safe place to grow up. But I was too young, and was too small minded and stubborn to realize. Since I was young, I bore a grudge against my parents. Until recently, the unthinkable happened.

Finally, I’m 18 years old. I’m legally an adult. It’s only 4:00 AM, but I’m ready to get out of here. I’d prepared for a few months for this moment, I just couldn’t wait to get out of Maine. I hear someone pull into the driveway, and look out. There’s my moving truck. I rented it for just a few days so I could transport all of my belongings (it wasn’t much, I never crowded with any of my things, and sold most of it in preparation) so I could rent an apartment back in New York City. I loaded all of my stuff with the mover, and by this time it was 7:00 in the morning.

I grab my jacket and beanie hat and open the front door. The smell of the backcountry was the first thing I noticed, the smell of firewood and leaves. The crisp chill of the air hit me in the face and briefly took my breath away. Winter time in Maine was brutal. It was November now, so it was getting colder and colder. I walk down the steps and toward the moving truck. I opened the door and stepped down into my car. I signaled at the driver of the truck. I rolled down my window, “Go ahead,” I said. I turn my head to the right and look out the window while the driver is putting the address into the GPS. I see a light on in the dark in our living room window. I could see the shadowed figure of my mom. I ignore it and turn away. The driver pulls out of our driveway and away I went.

After 10 hours of driving, we arrived in New York City. I rented an apartment in Queens, New York, and the moving truck pulled up to the building where I rented. It didn’t take long for us to move my belongings inside, maybe three hours. I quickly made myself at home and the moving truck left. My first few goals were to get some food and immediately start to look for a job. I had already saved up a good bit from working a part time job in Maine, ever since I was 16 years old, so I’d be all right for long enough for me to get a job. 

Some years went by living in New York City, I went from being 18, to 19, to 20… and 21 in a week. I eventually got a job and was stable on my own. I had a big circle of friends and acquaintances. I even met a lady and I’ve been dating her for a year and a half now. Every year, for my birthday, my mom would contact me on my phone, telling me that she misses me and telling me happy birthday. I ignored most of them, but answered one of them with “Thanks.” and left it at that. My 21st birthday is tomorrow, one of the last most important birthdays. I had planned to have a house party, or apartment, in my case, to celebrate. I invited every one of my friends along and my girlfriend too. It’s late at night now, and I wondered who all would show up tomorrow, then fell asleep.

I wake up the next morning, and see that my bedside clock has fallen onto the floor and slid under my bed, because I can see the cord leading under there. It’s beeping over and over and over. That’s my irritating alarm. I wanted to get up early to have all the preparations for my house party. Annoyed, I get out of my bed and crawl underneath to get my clock. I shut off the alarm and set it back on my nightstand. It reads 9:00 AM. I walk out to my kitchen and grab something quick to eat. The day before, I had grabbed a bunch of red solo cups, and other party stuff to decorate my apartment with. Some time passes, it’s about 1:00 PM, and all of the decorations are completed. I hear a knock at the door. I walk over to it and look through the peephole and see three of my coworkers there, waiting. I open the door and welcome them in. After about an hour everyone’s shown up. A few people brought little boxes, small gifts. I thought I’d open them when everyone’s left. Everyone’s standing around talking, drinking, just having a good time. I’m bouncing around, talking to everyone, greeting people, the usual. I’m standing talking to two of my good friends that I met at work when the door opens. No one notices but I look over and see my own mom walk through the door, carrying a small white box with a red ribbon. What’s she doing all the way down here in New York? I never invited her. I wouldn’t expect her to come all the way down to the city just for my birthday. This must be important, then. I watch her, and she’s looking around. She spots me, and walks over to me and personally hands me the white box with the red ribbon. She looks up at me. “Open it,” she says. Without hesitation, I undid the ribbon and slowly opened the box. Inside is a small silver pocket watch. “It was your great grandfather’s,” she says, “it was the one he always kept. I thought you’d like it.”

“Thanks, I guess,” I said, unimpressed with the choice of her gift. I’d never say that, though.

“Goodbye,” she said. She turned and walked out of my apartment.

The party went on, and everyone left at about 6. It was fun. I got to catch up with many of my busier friends. Some of them have even started families. It was interesting to get to know what’s going on in their lives.

Exhausted from rearranging my apartment and cleaning, I sit back and relax on the couch. I flick on the TV and change it to the news channel. I was shocked at the headline. “Freak car accident leaves 3 dead, 1 injured.” It then listed the names. Two people I didn’t know, strangers. The person injured? Didn’t recognize them.

“Oh God,” I thought.

My own mother, was the third casualty. Head on collision on the main road. She was dead. I pulled the watch out of my pocket and twirled it through my hand. A tear fell down my face and splashed onto the hardwood floor. I inspected the pocket watch, grieving, not having properly said goodbye. I pressed my thumb down on the face of the clock and it made a small click.

BEEP BEEP BEEP. I sit up in bed. What just happened? Wait, did I fall asleep? Why am I in my bed? I was on the couch just a moment ago. I look under my bed and there’s my annoying ass alarm clock. It reads 9:00 AM. Wait. Was that a dream? Or was it real? Wow… I’ve never lucid dreamed before! How fascinating. It all felt so real… what in the world! I’ve always wanted to but that was just plain scary. Oh wait. It’s my birthday. I’m expecting guests. I’d better get up and get things ready.

I set things up all around the house. Stacks of red SOLO cups on tables, set up the furniture. I was expecting a lot of people. Should be a fun party. I finished up around 1 PM. People started arriving. I welcomed and greeted everyone who showed up. All of my coworkers, people I’ve met on public transportation, and a couple of acquaintances who I thought I should invite. Everyone was standing around, talking, just enjoying themselves. I bounced around between groups, wanting to talk with everyone. I’m usually so busy in my daily life that I have almost no time to be social.

I’m standing with two of my close friends that I met at work. We’re all occupied, talking about hobbies (theirs, I don’t have any) and interests. I tell them about the girl I’ve been seeing. She’s out of state on a business trip; she’s in Massachusetts. They tell me about the families they’ve started. I look over to my left at the door and it opens, and my mom walks through. Woah, just like my dream… I thought. She’s looking around, looking for something. Me. She spots me and walks over to me. She’s carrying a little white box with a red ribbon. I’m putting the pieces together in my head, but also calling myself crazy for thinking that any of it made sense and putting it off as merely coincidental. She hands me the box. “Open it,” she says. I tug the red ribbon, and it easily slides undone. I open up the box and inside is a little silver pocket watch. My heart is racing. How could my brain have predicted every last detail of this?

“It was your great grandfather’s,” she said, “it was the one he always kept. I thought you’d like it.”

“I-I do,” I stuttered. “Thank you.”

“Goodbye,” she said, and turned to walk out of the apartment.

I look down at the pocket watch and see that hours have passed. It reads 5:55. I slid it into my pocket and walked out of the room.

Everyone started leaving at about 6. I cleaned up my apartment, it wasn’t too bad of a mess, but I’d had a long day. Exhausted, I make my way into the living room and relax into the couch. I pick up the remote and point it at the TV. Before I press any button, I pause there. What was I about to see? No way… could my dream have predicted…

I switch on the TV and change it to the news channel. Oh no.

“Freak car accident leaves 3 dead, 1 injured.”

I didn’t bother to read any of the details. I about ripped the pocket in my jeans, ripping and tearing, fumbling for the pocket watch, my eyes swelling up. I pull it out and jam my thumb down on the face so hard it cracks.

BEEP BEEP BEEP. My eyes open and I jump out of bed. I kick the alarm clock out from under my bed and turn it off. I know what to do. I hurry into my apartment and get everything set up. The entire time I’m shaking. I know what happened, it’s happened twice. It was real. BOTH times. I’m twitching, tapping, touching everything, nervous as ever, waiting for 1 PM.

Finally, the guests start to arrive. It felt like an ETERNITY. I hurry everyone in and greet and welcome them. They can tell something’s up but wouldn’t say anything. They’d just give me a strange look then continue. Everyone’s showed up now, and everything’s the same it was the last two days. I was having the same conversation with the same two friends. They noticed the anxious tone in my voice. They noticed I’m tapping, twitching. Sweating a little.

“Are you all right?” one of them asks.

“Yes! Fine, never been better.” I answer.

I glance over at the time and see it reads 5:50 PM. Any minute now. I look over and stare at the door. The doorknob turns. My mom walks in, and she’s looking around, carrying that small white box with a red ribbon. I keep eye contact with her and she notices me. She walks up to me and hands me the little white box. She could barely get out “Open it,” before I was already pulling off the ribbon, and she was watching, looking satisfied.

“It was your great grandfather’s,” she said, “it was the one he always kept. I thought you’d li-”

“Yes, I like it, very much. Thank you,” I said.

“Oh, um, okay. Goodbye,” she says.

She turns and walks towards the door, kind of fast.

“Wait!” I called to her. She stops and turns around towards me. I could tell she didn’t feel welcome here. She wouldn’t look at anyone.

“Wait,” I said, “why don’t you stay a little longer?”

Her face lit up and she smiled.

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