Falling

Jess is just starting her second semester of being a Junior in high school. To start the semester off, she volunteers to show the new kid around the school. Mainly because she gets to skip gym class, but also because she is intrigued by the idea of meeting someone new. Over the first month of school, Jess becomes really close friend with the new student, but who wouldn't become best friends with Louis Tomlinson. He's funny, entertaining, and not to mention cute, but Jess would never admit to thinking that. Louis is always there for Jess, especially when she gets heart shattering news that changes everything.

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31. Part 1: Goodbyes

Throughout the duration of our senior years, Louis and I accomplished many things. He had a goal of making his senior year the most amazing year of his life, which lead him to create a ‘Senior Year Bucket List’. It was filled with things like ‘go skinny dipping at the lake’, ‘cheer with the cheerleaders at a football game’, ‘sneak a squirrel into the school building’, and ‘go on 213 dates’ with me. Why he decided on 213 instead of an even number I’ll never know, but he certainly accomplished that goal. He took me out on every date imaginable, from ice skating to apple picking to skinny dipping, all things that I’ll never forget.

I had a senior bucket list of my own, though it was a little more practical than Louis’s. I wanted to get accepted into my dream college, do something with my friends two times a week, kiss Louis at least ten times a day, and buy every album in existence that have been made by my favorite bands. I worked my butt of to get accepted into Stanford, the school that I’ve been wanting to go to since I was in middle school and college first appeared in my radar. I also managed to buy almost 100 albums, and my friends and I went to tons of parties, concerts, movies, water parks, anything that we could think of to spend as much time together before we had to go our separate ways at the end of the summer.

“What are you thinking about?” Louis asked me, rolling over to sprawl out on top of me. 

“College,” I replied, brushing my hair out of my eyes.

“Shh,” he said, placing his hand over my mouth. “We still have five more weeks, so we don't need to think about that yet.”

Louis also got accepted into his dream school, Julliard, where he will be studying music and drama. It’s something that I’ve been avoiding thinking about since Louis first told me of his acceptance, and we figured out that we would be nearly 3,000 miles apart. I was so proud of him for accomplishing his dreams that, when I first found out, I couldn’t feel anything but excitement for his future. For both of our futures. But, as our time started to dwindle, the undeniable fact that I won’t be next to him everyday started to cause me pain. 

But we’re determined to make it work. It’s come up so many times, and neither of us want what we have to end just because of distance. Louis is the love of my life, and I never want anything to pull us apart. I want it to last, he want’s it to last, we want it to last despite being 2,948 miles apart. I know it seems crazy, my parents have already warned me about what could happen if we tried to stay together long distance. But I don’t care. I’d rather have a long distance relationship with Louis than break up with him, something that would cause me more pain. 

“Are you nervous to go to college?” I asked, running my fingers through his hair.

“Kind of. Are you?”

“I'm nervous to leave home. I've lived here my whole life, so I don't know what to expect in California.”

“That's how I felt about moving here.”

“But you're Louis Tomlinson, you can do anything.” 

“And you're Jessica Benson, you can everything.”

“You just had to one up me, didn't you?” I laughed, my finger tracing along his jaw.

“I always have to,” he gave me a crooked smile.

There was a pause. 

“I feel like I'm going to hate college,” I confessed, my finger running over his bottom lip.

“Why?”

“It's going to be so different. I won't have my family with me, I won't have you with me, and I'm not going to know a single person there. It's not like I'm going to school in state, where I'm more likely to know someone who goes there. I'm going to school across the country, in a place that I've hardly know anything about. I'm so scared, Louis, that I'm going to screw everything up. That I'm going to hate it, that it's going to be too different for me to handle.”

“I think that's the point of college, though. To experience something that you've never experienced before, you know? They kind of toss you into something that you've never done before, just to see how well you do. That's kind of how life works. You get into situations that you have no clue how to handle, and you have to figure it out on your own. It's like riding a bike, your parents help you at first, then they let go. And you might wobble a little at first, as you get used to they it moves, but then you start to move more steadily. It gets easier as you go along. Everything has to start out slowly and a little rough around the edges, but it will eventually smooth out.”

“When did you get so smart?” I giggled, finger now twirling the hair at the base of neck.

Eventually, that summer ended. It had never gone by so fast, not even when I was little and time ticked away like ice dripping on a sweaty day. It slipped through my fingers, like a teddy bear falling out of a claw machine's grasp. It went by so painfully fast, each day feeling shorter than the last and each date feeling like race to finish. Nothing seemed to last as long as it should have. Though we put so much effort into our time together, it just dwindled away as each day passed.

Time is one of those words that has many different connotative meanings attached to it. It can represent how much time you have left with a dying loved one, how much more time is left until summer vacation, how much time you have to get ready, how much time is left with your second half until until you both board your planes, which are headed to opposite sides of the country.

I've experienced all of those meaning attached to the concept of time, but nothing has had such a conflicting affect on me as the latter. There's the part of me that's been waiting to get on that plane that's headed to my dream school since my freshman year. That plane is guiding me to my future, the future that I've worked so hard for. It's going to take me to the place that has motivated me so hard the past four years. It's taking me to college, to new adventures, to new classes, to new people, and to the start of my adulthood.

It's taking me forty-five hours away from Louis.

To shake the thought from my mind, I looked at the clock. It was currently 5 o'clock in the morning. Louis had spent the night with me to ensure that he would be up early enough to go to the airport with me, as he had promised me that he wouldn’t leave my side until the plane forced us apart. 

“How many times are you going to check your suitcase?” Louis asked me from his spot on my bed.

“Enough times to make sure that I have everything that I need. How are you not freaking out? We’re about to leave home until Thanksgiving, four whole months, and you haven't even made a checklist or anything,” I responded, panic clear in my voice.

“Because I already shipped most of my stuff to my dorm house. The only thing that I had to pack was some clothes and my bathroom supplies.”

“I hate you for being so calm right now,” I said, biting my lip.

“You have plenty of time, Jess. Your flight doesn't leave for another four hours.”

“But I have head to the airport in three!”

“If you don's stop pacing, I'm going to duct tape you to a chair,” Louis said, standing up and walking over to me. He placed his hands on my shoulders. “You are going to be fine. If you forget anything, which I doubt you will, your parents can ship it to you or you can just buy a replacement.”

“Maybe I should just blow off college and go with you to New York.”

Louis laughed and said, “Okay, let's go downstairs and get you some coffee before you have a panic attack.”

“Too late, I'm already having one,” I joked.

“Look at our little college girl!” My mother squealed as we walked into the kitchen. “How are you feeling?”

“Vomitty,” I responded, sitting down next to her and resting my forehead on the counter.

“She's a little nervous,” Louis told her. 

I scoffed at his understatement, but decided against saying anything else.

“Oh, Jess, you'll be fine. I bet you're going to love Stanford,” my mom told me, running her hand up and down my back.

“California is a great state, you're going to have a blast. You'll probably forget about us,” my dad joked. I lifted my head off the counter to give him a look, which he laughed at. “Relax, Jess.”

“I can't! I'm very tense,” I replied.

“Maybe this will help,” Louis told me, handing me a mug of hot coffee. 

I wrapped my hands around it, letting the heat soak through to the palms of my hands. It made me feel a little more sane, a little more grounded. And with Louis standing beside me, arm around my waist, my stomach settled.

“Louis, when are you headed to New York?” My mom asked him.

“My flight is a couple hours after Jess’s,” he responded.

“And remind me what are you majoring in?”

“Music and business, with a minor in drama. My goal is to own a record company, I think it’d be really cool.”

“Sometimes I forget how smart you are,” I told him, sipping the coffee.

“You would, English major,” he joked.

“Hey, literature is important,” I said back.

“Sure it is,” he smiled.

“I will smack that smirk right off of your face, mister,” I warned him. 

He put his hands up in surrender before taking a drink from my coffee mug.

——

“Okay, it's an hour drive from here to the airport, then you'll have three hours to get through all the security and get some food before you need to be at your gate,” my dad told me as we stood in the  driveway. My mom was inside making sure that I had everything, John was still asleep, and Louis was packing, no, shoving my suitcases and carry-on bag into the trunk of my car. “You don't need to worry, you'll have plenty of time. Louis is going to be there with you the whole time until your flight leaves.”

“Why can't you guys come with me?” I asked, already crying.

“It would've been too much of a hassle to wake up John and get him to come with us. I'm sorry, Jess,” he told me, pulling me to his side. “Visiting day isn't too far away, so we'll be able to see you really soon.”

I nodded, wiping my nose onto my sleeve, “Okay.”

“But know that we are only coming for the beaches, not you,” my dad joked, getting me to smile. “You’re going to adjust so fast, trust me,” he said, his hand rubbing up and down my arm. I took comfort in the simple gesture and wiped the tears from my cheeks. “I'm going to go get your mom so you can head out. I'll be right back.”

I smiled as my dad kissed the top of my head on his way inside, then sat down on the driveway. I looked at the houses surrounding mine and took in all the little details that I won't be seeing until Thanksgiving. The first thing that I noticed was our mailbox, the only white mailbox in the whole neighborhood. As I looked out at the street, I smiled at the chunk of concrete missing from the curb in front of my home. I had created the break in in the curb after I had just gotten my license, when my dad wanted me to back the car into the driveway while it has a boat trailer attached to it. Considering I had only had my license for a few months and couldn’t back up the car in a straight line, it wasn’t a surprise when I hit the curb, taking a chunk out of in the process. My mom, who had been in the passenger seat at the time, screamed at the top of her lungs because she thought I had hit my father, who was outside directing me on where to go. It was a story that we shared all the time, always reenacting the way my mom screamed and jumped out of the car to make sure that my dad was okay.

“Hey,” Louis said, sitting down next to me.

“Hi,” I smiled at him.

“How are you doing?”

“I've been better.”

“Whatcha thinking about?” He asked, moving closer to me so our shoulders were touching. 

“You,” I looked up at him with a smile.

“Liar,” he laughed.

“I was just thinking about this neighborhood. I’ve lived in this house my whole life.”

“Are you scared?”

“To start college, no,” I looked up at him. “To leave you, yes.”

“Why?”

“I feel like you're all I've ever known. We've been dating for almost two years, I'm scared to be away from you.”

“I can understand that, but I know that nothing will change. I'll still love you just as much as I do now,” he kissed the side of my head. “And even if we do drift apart—”

“Please don't say that.”

Louis nodded with a small smile, “Sorry.”

“It's fine, I just don't want to think about that,” I laid my head against his shoulder and took a deep breath. 

I shut my eyes and took in the moment. I felt the morning wind softly blow against my skin and blow a few strays hair into my face that tickled my nose. It was still chilly outside, considering the sun was just beginning to show it's face over the horizon but being close to Louis kept me warm. There were many unspoken words floating between us, but neither of us could bring ourselves to break the silence. 

“I love you,” I told Louis, turning my head to kiss the side of his neck. 

I felt him swallow, and then his shaky hand reached up to tuck my hair behind my ear causing me took look up at him. His eyes stared back at mine, slightly glossy, and his tongue ran across his bottom lip.

“Sometimes it scares me how fast I feel in love with you,” he told me. “But it feels so natural, like such a normal part of me, that it feels weird to think about what my life was like before I met you. It was so different, so black and white. And now that I'm with you, I can see in color. I can see all the simple details in life that I couldn't see before; all the small things that didn't mean anything now mean so much. Like the way the colors in the sky mix together during a sunrise, and how a bird's song is a wonderful noise to wake up to on a Sunday, and nothing smells better than a freshly cooked homemade meal. I like the way it feels to take in all those details, it makes my heart feel so full of life. And I know it's because of you, because of the way that you point out those little things to me, and the way that you use your words to make everything seem so full of life. You bring so much life into my world. You shine light on the dark and make everything sparkle with your touch, and it means so much to me that you could bring that into my life. You taught me how to see the world in the best way possible, and I don't think you know how much that means to me.”

“You're such a sap,” I giggled, ignoring the tears that were slipping down my cheeks. 

Louis smiled at me, “You're the one who turned me into one.”

I took his hand in mine, placing his arm across my lap, causing me to notice little, black letters scripted across the bicep of his right arm.

“Did you get a tattoo?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “I got it a couple days ago, but I didn’t want to tell you until we got to the airport.”

It read “Far Away.” in a font that looked like it came from a typewriter.

“I got it for you,” he told me, watching my hand as I traced over the delicate letters on his soft skin.

“Why?” I looked up to him with a smile.

“You’ll be far away, but I’ll still love you,” he said, cheeks lightly brushed with pink. “Do you like it?”

I absentmindedly ran my finger over the letters, humming in response to his question. “I love it.”

“Good, because it hurt like crazy.”

“Wimp.”

I placed a kiss on the tattoo, and then leaned in to kiss him.

When he pulled back, he moved to stand up, causing my heart to leap out of my chest. I reached out to take his hand, pulling myself up and pressing my lips back to his. He kissed me back harder than I excepted, the force and pressure of the kiss taking my breath away. His fingers dipped underneath the hem of my shirt, running along the bare skin of my lower back. He wrapped his arms fully around my waist, pulling me impossibly close to his body. Then he rested his head onto my shoulder, hugging me tight in his arms. My arms went around his neck, and we remained like that until my parents came back outside.

Louis kissed my check and went towards my car as I said goodbye to my parents.

“Try not to get too smart,” my dad said to me. 

I hugged him goodbye as silent tears fell down my face. 

“You’re going to be amazing at Stanford, Jess,” my mom said, running her hand through my hair.

I nodded, looking at the two people that have meant the world to be my entire life. They have been the most supportive parents in the world, allowing me to move across the country to fulfill my dreams. They never once doubted me or hesitated in sending me to California. They went with me to tours and orientation, and they were there for every step along the way, waiting with baited breath as I opened my acceptance letter, celebrating for weeks at my accomplishment. All they cared about was that I would get to achieve what I’ve worked so hard for.

“I love you guys. So much,” I kissed them both on the cheek.

“Go on, sweetie. You don’t want to feel rushed at the airport,” my mom said.

I nodded again, biting my lip. 

“Call us when you land,” said my dad.

I hugged my parents one last time before climbing into the car with Louis. He smiled warmly at me, taking my hand as he backed out of the driveway. I waved at my parents as we drove around, before settling back in my seat and preparing myself for the hardest goodbye that would be waiting for me at the airport. 

In a short four hours, I would have to say goodbye to Louis.

——

“Man,” Louis said. “Airports suck.” 

I nodded, “I wouldn’t be able to do this if you weren’t here with me.”

“Oh, you’re just saying that. I’m not that much of a help,” he smiled at me.

I rolled my eyes. “Where is my gate?”

“I think we’re getting close. Look, that one’s 10, aren’t we looking for 14?” 

“Yeah. Okay, good. I need to eat something soon.”

“What are you in the market for, Ms. Benson?” 

“A milkshake, possibly. And fries.”

“That does sound really good.” 

When we found my gate, we took a seat and figured out a plan on what to eat. There was a Wendy’s right by our gate, and we both agreed that that would be way better than eating McDonald’s before getting on a long flight. I told Louis what to get me before he went off and got our food, so I could stay with our bags and hold our seats.

As I watched him walk towards the Wendy’s, I sighed. Though Louis hasn’t been in my life for more than three years, I feel like he’s the most important person to me. He’s been there through the worst parts of my life, also creating the best parts of my life at the same time. After seeing someone for almost everyday for the past couple years, it’s hard to imagine going months at a time without seeing them. 

Being without Louis is a strange concept that I have yet to fully understand. I will not be able to see him whenever I want. I will not be able to chat with him for hours. We’re going to be on opposite ends of the country, opposite time zones, opposite schedules, living opposite lives. Out worlds aren’t going to be revolving around each other’s anymore, they are going to be separate and mismatched. We aren’t going to seem like a couple.

“Hey,” Louis came back, handing me a bag of food.

“Hi,” I said faintly.

“What’s up?”

“Just thinking about what it’s going to be like when our lives barely line up,” I shrugged.

“It’s not like I’m moving to another planet, Jess,” Louis chuckled. “We are still going to be in the same country, just opposite sides.”

“Which means we won’t have the same time zones.”

“We’ve had this discussion before. You know that isn’t going to make a difference in how we communicate. I’ll still wake up early in the morning if you need to talk to me, I’ll stay up late if you need me to be there for you.”

“But what if I need you in person?” I said quietly, sipping from my milkshake.

Louis didn’t say anything.

“I’m proud of you, Louis,” I told him. “So very proud.”

“Yeah?” He smiled crookedly at me.

“Of course. You are going after your dreams, and I think that’s worth praise. You worked so hard to get where you are now. You amaze me, Louis Tomlinson.”

“Well, you amaze me, Jessica Benson. Going to an Ivy League? That’s not easy to do. And you’re also going after your dreams.”

“I wish our dreams lined up a little more.”

“Oh, but they do,” he leaned towards me. “While I’m a famous record producer, you’re going to be the greatest author to walk this planet. People are going to fight over who can get the first copy of your books. People are going to cherish every word that comes out of your mouth every word that is written by you.”

I laughed, pushing Louis on the shoulder. “Bullshit.”

“It’s not!” He defended his thoughts with a smile. “I promise, we are both going to accomplish such great things that we our futures will line up perfectly. We can roll in our large piles of cash together when we’re older. You are going to be so successful, you have no idea.”

“I’m not worried about myself becoming successful, I’m worried that your success won’t match mine. I mean, I’m obviously going to become an amazing author, but that might outshine your record company. We’ll be like Kim and Kanye. Both successful, just one a little bit more,” I said, pointing at myself and mouth ‘me’.

Louis cracked up. “Sure, sure. Does that mean you are going to leak your own sex tape?”

At that point, I started laughing so hard I couldn’t create a response and the people around us were beginning to stare. 

“You’re making people stare at us,” I giggled.

“They’re just enjoying the show, babe!” He waved at a couple that was giving us an annoyed look, causing them to look away. “We already have fans.”

I smiled, adoring the way the pet term slipped into his vocabulary with ease. It’s the things like that that will make me miss him the most. His love for me shows through in the simplest things. I reached over the seat to take his hand in mine, taking his arm and pulling it across the armrest. I traced my fingers over the lettering of his tattoo, watching as his skin raised with goosebumps from my gentle touch to his soft skin. Louis watched my fingers move around his arm with a small smile on his face, his shining eyes when looking up to meet mine.

“Far away. So far away,” I mumbled.

Louis nodded slightly, eyes focusing on the way my fingers locked with his. 

“So,” he said, looking back at me. “What are we going to do for the next hour?”

I shrugged. “Make out?”

Louis laughed. “If only.”

“I kind of just want to sit with you, maybe listen to some music. Just be together.”

“Okay, I can do that,” he leaned forward to get his headphones from his backpack. He pulled them out and plugged them into his phone. He handed me one of the earbuds and started playing his music as he leaned back in his seat. I rested my head on his shoulder, absorbing the music as Louis put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me as close to him as we could manage with an armrest between us.

And we sat there until it was time for me to board my flight.

Louis was the first to move, pausing the music and standing up. I took the earbud out, gingerly handing to Louis before I stood up as well. My heart sank as I looked at him, his sad eyes, his attempted smile. I moved into his arms, into the homely embrace that I had grown to adore, even crave. It became my lifeline, something to keep my going, and I was about to ripped from it, forced across the country from it.

“Don’t even think about being sad. Think about all that you have done to get to this point in you life, how it’s all paying off now. You are going to Stanford, you are going to your dream school. That’s all you need to think about right now.”

“Do you have any idea how hard that is?” I said, pulling back slightly to look into his eyes. 

He nodded. “I know exactly how hard it is. It’s so hard to put on a brave face right now and watch you leave. I’m going to cry when you leave, I’ll have to find solace in some random old lady for feels pity for the poor British kid of can’t keep himself together. They’ll have to call security to pry me away from this gate door. They’ll be mopping up my tears for weeks.”

I laughed a little, wiping the tears from my cheeks.

“But, all jokes aside,” Louis continued. “I hate this so much. It’s one thing to move to another state, it’s a whole other concept to have to be leaving you. I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for so long, I honestly didn’t think that I would feel like this.”

“Like what?” They were calling last warning for my flight.

“Like part of me is being ripped away, brutally and forcefully.”

“I’m going to miss you so much,” I hugged him again. 

Louis was the one to pull away this time, making a move towards my bags. He handed my carryon to me, draping the bigger one over my shoulder. 

“You have to leave, otherwise you’ll miss your flight.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” I looked at him helplessly.

“Jess, get your butt on that plane before I start crying.”

I moved towards him and kissed him, holding to his body for support to keep my legs from giving out. That kiss left my stomach feeling empty, my heart beating grimly, my body feeling depleted of a vital piece of it’s system. It was a desperate kiss, one that seemed too much of a goodbye kiss for my liking, but, at the same time, it still made my fingers tingle with love for this single boy.

“You have to go,” Louis whispered against my lips.

I rested my forehead on his, shaking my head but took a step back despite the protest deep inside me. Louis’s eyes were red, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip. He stepped towards me and gave me on last hug, before lightly pushing me towards my gate. 

“I love you so much, Louis,” I told him.

“I love you, too,” he smiled at me.

I took a deep breath, memorizing the smile on his face before turning around.

I didn’t want to look back as I handed the flight attendants my ticket, knowing fully well that I would abandon my flight to stay with him if I had to see him standing there by himself, watching me board that flight that was taking me far away from him. But, as I was about to step onto the jetway, I turned my head to take one last look at the love of my life. 

He was staring right back, hands deep in his pockets, teeth still biting his lip. I felt tears fall from my eyes as I kept myself from running back into his arms, only able to muster the strength to wave sadly to Louis before I was forced to turn and continue on. 

The long jetway that connected the building to the airplane was the grimmest, greyest area to be in. It felt like miles until I was able to sit in my seat, my body dragging with each step due to the weight of my bags and the growing weight in my heart. I knew I looked like a mess, tears falling, nose stuffed, throat thick and tight. 

I had gotten a window seat, something that would work as a temporary safe haven, having the clouds and the sky as the background for my journey from Texas to California. At the thought of the direction I was headed, I felt a glimmer of excitement rise in my stomach. I was headed to California, to Stanford. I was headed to my dreams. I decided then that I would not allow myself to wallow in self pity. I wasn’t going to let myself spend that whole flight think about what I was leaving, rather I would spend the time thinking about what I was heading towards. 

As the flight attendants came around one last time to make sure everyone was situated, I reached into my pocket to turn off my cell phone, seeing then a text from Louis containing two emojis: the waving hand and a heart. I smiled to myself, turned off my phone, and stared out the window as the plane rolled down the runway and started it’s climb into the sky. 

As I sat back in my seat, I smiled for everything that I had. I was leaving behind a lot, but I was headed to more.

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