By Anonymous

 
“Hello?”
“Hey! Where are you?”
“In my car, I just got off work.”
“The night shift?”
“Yeah.”
“So…there’s a karaoke night tonight at Maribel’s Diner- ”
“No.”
“C’mon Olivia! I want you to come with me.”
“I don’t think I can go back there… ”
“It’s been a year!”
Olivia was silent.
“It’s not like he’s going to be there. You can’t just mope around your whole life. Please,
Olivia? Maybe a night of karaoke can help you move on.”
“I can’t.” She paused. “And I don’t think I will move on. Don’t expect to see me tonight.”
Olivia hung up the phone on her friend, sank back into her seat, and sighed. She reached
for the gold circle pendant dangling from her neck, stroking its cool surface.
Maribel’s Diner. She’d been going there since before she could remember. It was the
heart of the town and the setting for some of her favorite memories. Mom, Dad, Jack and I used
to go there every Sunday, she remembered fondly. It didn’t matter whether it was raining or
snowing they would always go for brunch after church. During middle school, it was her friends’
predetermined meeting spot and favorite destination for late night milkshakes. But her favorite
memory that took place in the booths of Maribel’s made Olivia blush a little, even years after.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Hey! Olivia!”
Olivia turned to face the tall, gangly brunette running down the hall to catch up with her.
1
“Yeah, Austin?”
“Hi,” he paused to catch his breath. “Do you want to go to Maribel’s after eighth period’s
over?”
“Who is going?”
Austin’s cheeks became a little rosier. “Uhh…” He looked down at his feet then looked
up at Olivia with an embarrassed smile. “Me?”
Olivia’s heart rate picked up a little but she tried to keep a straight face.
She and Austin had been in school together for years now and had grown pretty close.
This year she considered him one of her best friends. Only, recently had she begun to see him in
a new light. She had tried to keep it under wraps, in case he didn’t share the same feelings for
her, but here was her answer.
“Sure,” she replied as casually as she could muster.
“Alright, see you later!” He waved and disappeared into the crowd of kids in the hallway.
Austin was already waiting outside when Olivia got out of class 45 minutes later.
“Olivia!” he shouted standing on his toes to see over the sea of kids. She made her way over to
him.
“Did you get out of class early?”
“Mr. Robinson always falls asleep during eighth period,” he said as if that answered her
question. “It makes it really easy to sneak out.”
Olivia smiled. She was not one to skip class but she was amused by Austin’s mischievous
edge.
Their school was near the ‘downtown’ part of town so it was about a five minute walk.
Situated in the heart of the downtown area, Maribel’s Diner was a hot spot for students after
school. When Olivia and Austin arrived, it was already packed with kids. They found a table to
sit down at, and over a burger and fries, their friendship turned to something a little more
significant.
The pair became a frequent appearance at the diner. It became routine. Wednesday nights
they would spend laughing and talking in the booths with a milkshake and fries. By the end of
highschool, they knew all the waiters by name and the waiters knew them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2
Olivia leaned back in her seat contentedly reliving those memories, even allowing herself
a smile. As she dwelt more and more on them, however, a shadow of heartache began to
dampen her spirits.
She let go of the gold necklace hanging around her neck and let her hands rest on the top
of the steering wheel. Taking a deep breath to clear her thoughts, she turned on her car to head
home.
Her original route had taken her down main street and through the small downtown area
but since last year, she had started driving an alternate route in an attempt to avoid the diner all
together. However, her daydreaming led her to fall back into old ways.
Holding onto the steering wheel with one hand, she gazed out of the car window, her
mind drifting far from the road in front of her. A headlight flashed across her line of sight. A
loud honk ripped her out of her daze and she swerved to avoid the oncoming car.
Her heart still racing, Olivia turned into the nearest parking lot. She let out a heavy sigh
as she sat back in her seat and closed her eyes. I don’t get it! What is going on with me? She
thought. It’s been a whole year and I haven’t changed one bit.
Shaking her head she became aware of her surroundings. A familiar mix of the neon
lights and silver panelling triggered something buried in her memory.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Hi, Austin! Hi, Olivia! Welcome back to Maribel’s Diner.”
“Hey, Ben,” both Olivia and Austin replied, almost in unison.
“What can I get for you guys today?”
Austin took the lead. “We’ll have two chocolate ice cream cones. And can we get them to
go?”
“Sure thing!”
Olivia squeezed Austin’s hand and looked up at his face. He has really grown up since
the first time we came here together, she thought with a smile. Olivia and Austin had happily
been together for about seven years now. They had survived the long distance through college,
with Olivia attending the local state university and Austin travelling to West Point for military
school.
Austin was currently on a short break, so the two of them were continuing their high
school tradition of spending Wednesday nights at Maribel’s diner. Since he had been back,
3
Olivia had hardly left his side but ever since he had arrived home, Austin had been acting
unusual. Even now, as Olivia locked her hand into his, he shifted his feet nervously.
With ice cream cones in hand, the pair said goodbye to Ben and left the diner.
“How come we aren’t eating in there?” Olivia asked, slightly confused.
“I thought it might nice to sit in my truck, just the two of us.”
So they sat, just the two of them, in the parking lot of Maribel’s Diner. They talked and
they laughed long past the time they finished their ice cream.
At last, when Olivia suggested going home, Austin turned to face her. He flatly stated, “I
love you, Olivia, but I don’t think this is working out.”
“What?”
“You and me,” he replied. “I think we should breakup. The distance just isn’t working for
me.”
The rest of the night was a blur for Olivia. Austin politely drove her home and said
goodbye. Olivia didn’t say a word.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now, here she was a year later staring at that same diner. The same cheerfully blinking
lights, blinding her watery eyes. She felt like a bandage had just been ripped off an open wound
trying to slowly heal.
She was about to turn around and continue home but she let her eyes wander to the
window of the diner and she could see her friends laughing and talking like they didn’t have a
care in the world. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like that, she thought sadly. Maybe she’s
right….it might help me move on.
To her surprise, Olivia found herself excitedly climbing the steps to the diner. With a
familiar ding!, she was inside. Olivia glanced around. Wow, this place hasn’t changed a bit.
“Olivia!”
Olivia looked for the speaker.
“You came!”
“Yeah, well…I didn’t really mean to,” Olivia admitted.
4
“Come over! We saved you a seat.” Her friend grabbed her by the arm and dragged her
into a booth. Across the room, an old man stepped up to the microphone and began to sing
‘Don’t Stop Believing.’
As he was finishing up the final refrain, Olivia’s friend, sitting across the table, looked up
from her burger, her eyes a full size larger and a look of concern on her face.
“Olivia…” she said, motioning for her to look back. “You won’t believe this.”
Turning her head, Olivia gasped. He’s here. He’s got nerve to come back. She quickly
spun back to face her friends hoping he did not see her.
“Olivia!” Austin exclaimed, beaming at her.
Olivia reluctantly turned toward the familiar face behind her. “Why are you here?” she
said with a little more curiosity than she meant to show.
“I came back to see you.”
Olivia felt sick. “How’d you know I’d be here?”
“I saw the flyer and thought I’d try my luck,” Austin replied holding out a blue paper that
read ‘Come join us for Karaoke Night tonight at Maribel’s Diner!’ “It’s Wednesday, Olivia,” he
added.
Olivia was taken aback. Sure enough, it was Wednesday, she realized. What was I
thinking? Olivia felt her heartbeat accelerate as her cheeks began to burn with anger and her
stomach tightened.
“I’ve got to go,” she mumbled to no one in particular, as she abruptly turned and walked
towards the exit. At the front of the diner, Olivia shoved open the doors and ran out, tears
pouring down her cheeks.
She made it a couple feet before she broke down, collapsing onto the steps of the diner.
She leaned forward resting her head in her hands.
I should never have come tonight…this is why I will never move on.
Behind her, the diner door eased open. Austin stepped forward cautiously approaching
the slumped over figure on the stairs.
Olivia lifted her head and turned to face him. “Don’t come any closer,” she muttered,
swallowing hard.
5
“Olivia, please let me explain.”
“Explain what?” she interjected coldly. “Explain how you miss me so much and you
want me to be happy to see you now that you’re back?” She stared coldly at the man she had
cared for so deeply just a year ago. “No, Austin. I don’t know for sure how I feel about you
coming back, but I certainly wouldn’t describe the feeling as happy.”
Austin looked at her wistfully. He wanted so badly to tell her the truth and explain to her
why he left but he didn’t know how. She’d never believe him. And so they stood there in silence.
Each one not knowing what to say next.
As he stood there, Austin noticed a flash of light reflecting off Olivia’s neck.
“You’re still wearing the necklace I gave you.”
Instinctively Olivia’s hand went to her neck. She shifted her weight but still wouldn’t
make eye contact with him. She fingered the smooth golden circle, tracing the letters engraved
on it.
A + O. A + O.
Over and over again she traced them with her fingers. She had never taken the necklace
off since he left her. Over the past year, she had endured persistent reprimanding from her
friends who believed it would only make her pain worse. Nevertheless, she kept it around her
neck. To her amazement, it dawned on her that, over the past year, it had provided her with a
small strand of hope.
Austin’s next words only seemed to confirm this new realization, “You knew I would
come back.”
Olivia did not answer. To be truthful, she did not know what her answer was.
After some time, she stood up, looked him in the eyes and asked him the question she had
asked herself for the past year. “Why did you leave?”
Austin looked down at his feet then slowly lifted his head locking his eyes with Olivia’s.
“You want to know the truth?” he asked.
Olivia gave a slight nod.
“I did it because I didn’t want you to worry about me…” He paused. “Last year, I was
told that my training was getting cut short. They were sending me to Afghanistan within a
month.”
6
He dropped his gaze. “I…I know I should have told you, Olivia….I’m sorry.
“I didn’t want you to be hurt if I never came back. I…I wanted you to hate me while I was
gone.” He stepped closer and sat down on the top step.
“I realized though that it was the stupidest thing I could have done. It hurt you anyway.
While I was gone, I couldn’t think of anything else but you and what I had done to you and how
stupid I was and….and….” Austin paused. “…and how much I love you.” Olivia took a step
back, a little overwhelmed.
“I came back as soon as I could to apologize to you. I understand if you still hate me and
never want to see me again. I had to at least tell you the truth.”
Olivia stood in front of him, not knowing what to do. She could hear her friend’s voice
echoing in the back of her head, “You can’t just mope around your whole life.” But there he was
standing in front of her and, except for a scratch on his cheek, he was the same honest, kind
hearted man she had fallen in love with.
She turned away so he wouldn’t see the tears streaming down her cheeks.
Austin stood up. “If you ever want to see me again let me know,” he said quietly and
walked passed her towards the parking lot.
“Wait.”
Olivia grabbed his hand. Austin stopped and turned towards her. Olivia stared hard into
his eyes.
“How do I know that you are telling the truth?”
“That is for you to decide I guess…but this might help.” He handed her a crinkled piece
of paper with her name at the top.
“What is this?”
“A letter I never sent to you.”
Olivia opened the paper and began to read.
April 21st 2002: Olivia, today I arrived in Afghanistan for my
year-long mission. Just a week ago, I was sitting next to you in the
truck making the worst decision I’ve made in my life. Already I
realize how foolish I was. I wish I could explain to you in this
letter but it wouldn’t do any good. My general said that no letters
will be able to get through to family for the whole year. I’m not
7
sure why I decided to write the letter anyway. I guess I felt like I
needed to do something to amend my mistake. Maybe one day I’ll be
able to hand this to you in person. I really do love you Olivia and I
wish I could be at Maribel’s diner tonight drinking a milkshake and
laughing with you. One day I will come back to see you and hopefully
explain to you in person. I just pray that you will still be there.
With All The Love In The World,
Austin
Olivia let the tears fall down her cheeks as she read the note. When she had finished, she
looked at Austin teary eyed. Olivia slowly leaned forward and rested her head on Austin’s chest.
She looked into Austin’s eyes and whispered, “I forgive you.”
He surrounded her in his steady arms and Olivia let her body relax. She rested her head
on his shoulder and he squeezed her close to him. As he did so, Olivia could feel the cool surface
of her pendant pressing into her chest.
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