Chapter no 41

If He Had Been with Me

I am asleep in my bed, dreaming something that I will not remember in a few moments, because my cell phone is ringing. The glow of the screen in the dark night wakes me as much as the chirping song. I fumble instinctively for it on my nightstand, and somewhere in my mind, I am registering the late time on my clock, somehow trying to sort through the dream I am losing. My fingers wrap around the phone and hold it close to my face for reading.


My dream is gone, and all that is left is the reality of Finny’s name glowing at me in the dark. I sit up in bed. The phone chirps again.

“Hello?” I say.

“Dude, it’s a girl.” I do not know the voice or the laughter in the background.

“Hello?” I say. My sleepy logic thinks that if I say my correct lines, the other side will follow.

“Hey, what are you—” There is a shout and some shuffling, and the noise stops. I look down at my phone, which dutifully tells me that the conversation lasted fifteen seconds. I blink down at it, and the phone rings again. Finny. I press the button. I hold it to my ear.


“Autumn? I’m sorry.” “Finny?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” I fall back on my pillows and close my eyes. I feel relieved, but I’m too tired to try to sort out why. It’s just that it’s him, so it’s


“What was that?”

“Some guys got a hold of my phone—I’m at a party—I guess they called you because you’re first in my phone—”

“I’m first in your phone?” I feel the corners of my mouth turn up and hope he cannot hear my surprised pleasure.

“Well, yeah. Alphabetical order. You know.” His voice trails off at the end.

“Oh, right.” I rub my eyes and sigh. “I’m still half asleep.” “I’m sorry,” Finny says.

“It’s okay,” I say. “Really.”

“They’re drunk and being stupid. It won’t happen again.” “Are you drunk?”

“No, I’m driving.”

“That’s good,” I say. I don’t know what I mean by that, but it feels true, so it’s what I say.

“Hey, hold on,” he says. And then quietly, not to me, “Is she sick again?” Another voice, female, answers him. “Okay,” he says. “Hey, Autumn?”


“I’m gonna let you get back to sleep, okay? Sorry about before.” “It’s fine. Good night.”

“Good night.”

I wait for him to hang up first. I can hear the noise of the party in the background. I count to three slowly, and I can still hear him breathing.

He hangs up.

The phone drops to the floor and I roll over and bury my face in my pillow. The ache in my chest pounds and hums with my heart. When was the last time his voice was in this room with me, in the dark? A deluge of memories hits me. Us, such small children, sleeping curled together like baby rabbits. Older, we whisper secrets to each other at night. We place fingers over each other’s lips to stifle our giggles. Our despair when The Mothers said we were too old to sleep in the same bed. Finny signaling me

with a flashlight from his window, and me taking the cup and string to my ear, “Can you hear me?”

The love I’ve tried to hold back breaks its dam and flows over me, curling my toes and making fists of my hands as I breathe his name into my pillow.

“Finny,” I say to the lonely dark. “Finny. My Finny.” My breath shudders and my eyelids close against the pain of loving him. Finny. My Finny.

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