When school ended for the summer, my friends and I said goodbye. Our senior year had come to an end, and all of us would be moving on to our respective colleges/ universities (or working the cash register at Superstore, in the case of August Jones.) It was very probable that we would never see each other again, but that was alright. I realized that I was only friends with them because we were stuck in the same building for eight hours a day, and they weren't completely horrible.
"Well, bye, Amie. Promise to keep in touch!" Katya, who would be attending McGill University, said as she got into her mother's 2011 Ford.
"Sure," I replied, knowing full well that the most that would happen was short ongoing conversations over text or Facebook, then eventually just a yearly happy birthday. The dark green door shut behind her with a finality. I smiled and waved as she pulled away; I was still waiting for my brother to pull around with the car.
A few things I found out about Katya:
1) She never made it to McGill.
2) Apparently she was addicted to painkillers.
3) She later became addicted to a few other things.
4) She also never contacted me again.
Before walking to the edge of the parking lot, I let my eyes wander over the building in which I'd spent several hundred hours over the past four years. All for a beige piece of paper with two signatures and a bright red stamp. The grey bricks sighed in tiredness; the uniformly cut windows—two per classroom—were opened wide to let in the late June breeze; and the heavy doors were flung wide, to let out excited students. This place hadn't been bad to me, neither had my friends. They'd been nice, friendly, and had always invited me along, despite knowing I only came half the time. Katya, the others, and I had had a lot of fun inside and outside this building over the past four years; it was sad to see it all come to an end. But at the same time a feeling of relief washed over me. Mainly due to the fact that I wouldn't have to ask to go to the bathroom anymore.
After a few minutes of nostalgically staring at my old school, Albert pulled the car around the corner. I opened the door, then shut it again, with a final stare through the tinted window at the tall grey building. "How was your last day of school, Amie?" he asked, cutting off several cars as we pulled from the parking lot.
"Fine," I replied. Albert had graduated, barely, two years ago and was currently trying to get his red seal so that he could become a chef. After Albert's not so satisfactory final exam marks, the pressure had been turned up for me. Half the reason why I hadn't gone out as often as I'd been invited was because my parents wanted to make sure that at least one of their children got into a good university (that and most social sutuations exhausted me). In the end it had been worth it though, I got into UBC and would be moving to Vancouver to start my semester in August.
"Hey, Earhart, are you going to answer me?" Albert asked, snapping me from my train of thought.
At the sound of my nickname I turned to him, with a sheepish smile. Albert had been calling me Earhart for the past few years, he said, because I was always lost in my thoughts. "Sorry, what?"
"I asked if you had any big summer plans." We pulled into our street then, and I could already imagine how good it would feel to be able to dump my backpack at the foot of my bed and not think about it for two months.
"I got that summer job in Quebec, remember?" I knew Albert wasn't one to remember little details, but I'd been talking about this for weeks now, and this wasn't exactly a little detail. He had been spending a lot of his time with his new girlfriend, who granted was very pretty, so I could understand why. Surprisingly, my strict parents had been totally for the idea. Going so far as to suggest I take a greyhound bus to save on gas and because it was cheaper than a train or plane. They'd never shown me that kind of trust or freedom before, and it honestly made me feel a little anxious. As if they were testing me.
"You're eighteen now, Amelia, and starting university in the fall. You'll be living away from us then, might as well get used to it now," Dad had said, Mom had agreed.
Things my family was known for:
1) Freaking out and being overly strict.
2) They are not, in fact, known for allowing us much independence.
As we walked up the walkway to the front door, I noticed how beautiful all the different shades of the greens on the trees were. The tree branches swayed lightly in the hot breeze; white smudge clouds ran across the bright blue sky; all in all it was a very beautiful day. The air even tasted nice, carrying the faint aroma of twice-cut grass and sunscreen. Too bad the beach wasn't within walking distance, Alvert never let me use his car. Oh well, there was bound to be a beach in Quebec, somewhere. "We're home!" Albert declared as we walked through the door.
"How was your last day, Amelia?" Mom asked, glancing in our general direction quickly before she returned to the magazine in her hands. Mom had been a nurse at the general hospital, but now with my new baby brother, she was staying at home again. She often talked about—making a point to bring it up as often as possible—how she was now able to spend more time on her hobbies and reading, because unlike us, baby number Angus was well behaved.
I pulled my shoes off and immediately headed for my room. "It was fine, but I have to start packing now."
"I laid a suitcase out on your bed for you!" Mom called after me. "I also printed off your ticket."
Why had I waited so long to pack? Now I had to get it all done tonight. "Thanks."
My room was even colder than the rest of the house: due partially to the fact that Mom liked to blast the AC whenever Dad wasn't home, also, because my room door was always closed, so the cold air had been trapped for the past six or so hours. It was okay though, because despite living in one of Canada's warmest provinces, I quite liked the cold.
I started meticulously folding and laying clothes into my suitcase, while at the same time playing some French music (preparation of course), and stressing out over my future. I was very good at multitasking.
At nine a.m. the following day I was packed and standing at the greyhound station. "Have fun, okay? And take lots of pictures!" Mom waved me off, staying as I walked in to the bus depot building. "Don't do drugs!" she called after me.
"I'm eighteen!" I replied.
The bus ride would be two, maybe three hours through the mountains and BC countryside, a couple tedious days through the prairies, and several stop overs in between. I hoped to dear God that it wasn't too packed, so I wouldn't be stuck beside someone. It would be a hard enough to get comfortable, and difficult enough to fall asleep sitting up, without having someone squished beside me.
Two nervous bathroom breaks and a bag of Sun chips later, and I was sitting next to my suitcase, backpack, and no one else. There was an outlet right beside me, and the AC was blowing at a constant 13 degrees (so far this was better than most of our family car trips).
While I waited for the hours to tick by, I reread To Kill a Mokingbird, the UBC info pamphlet, checked and rechecked my picture folders, watched episodes of Attack On Titan, and regarded the fairly monotonous scenery with slight interest. And slept, I managed to sleep a lot.
Mostly I thought about my future, with both excitement and anxiety. With the knowledge of many hard years ahead, I tried to focus on the outcome: hopoefully being a psychologist. In no small part my excitement was due to the independence and the large distance between my family and me. I'd found a relatively cheap apartment a little ways from the university, the view wasn't great but the rent was cheaper than any on-campus dorm. Hopefully, using the money I saved from rent, I would be able to eat more than just Ramen noodles.
Yeah, from here on out everything would be coming up Amelia. I could feel it. And this summer was just the start.