Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Jennifer E. Smith

When Aidan opens the door, Clare rises onto her tiptoes to kiss him, and for a moment, it feels like any other night.

“Hi,” she says, once she’s stepped back again, and he smiles.


They stare at each other for a few long seconds, neither quite sure how to begin.

“So,” Clare says eventually.

Aidan attempts a smile. “So.”

“I guess this is it.”

He nods. “I guess it is.”

“The last night,” she says, and he tilts his head at her.

“You know it doesn’t have to be.”


“I know, I know,” he says, holding up his hands. “But you can’t really blame me, right? I’ve still got a little bit of time left to change your mind.”

“Only twelve hours,” she says, glancing at her watch. “I can’t believe that’s all we have left.”

“And that’s only if we don’t sleep.”

“We’re definitely not wasting any time on sleep,” she tells him, pulling a folded piece of notebook paper from the pocket of her dress. “We have way too much to do.”

Aidan raises an eyebrow. “That’d better not be a list of reasons why we should break up.…”

“It’s not,” she says as she hands it over to him, watching as he scans the page with a bemused expression. “I just figured maybe we could use a plan.”

“And this is it?”

She nods. “This is it.”

“Okay,” he says, taking a deep breath. “Then I guess we should get going.”

Together, they start to walk in the direction of the car, but halfway there, Clare stops short, suddenly and unaccountably nervous, her heart drumming hard in her chest. She looks over at Aidan with slightly panicked eyes. “This is kind of crazy, isn’t it?”

“What?” he asks.

“That we leave tomorrow,” she says, her voice rising a little. “That after all this time, we only have twelve hours left. I mean… we’re finally here, you know? At the end of the road.”

“Or,” he reminds her, “the beginning.”

Clare doesn’t say anything; she wants desperately to believe him, but standing here on the edge of something so big, it seems impossible.

“Trust me,” Aidan says, reaching for her hand. “A lot can happen in twelve hours.”

The High School

6:24 PM

In the car, Aidan pauses before turning the key in the ignition, and for a brief second, Clare lets herself imagine that they’re on their way out to dinner or a movie, or anywhere, really, even just the kind of aimless, purposeless drive that’s been the only thing on the agenda so many times before. Their nights always seem to begin in this way: the two of them sitting in Aidan’s dusty Volvo, trying to decide what to do.

But tonight is different.

It’s not a beginning at all. Tonight is an ending.

Aidan’s hand is still hovering over the keys, and Clare glances down at the piece of notebook paper on her lap. During the short walk over to the Gallaghers’ house—a walk she’s made about a thousand times in the past two years—she folded and refolded the page so many times that it’s already soft and wrinkled.

“Maybe we should just take off or something,” Aidan says, looking at her sideways. “Just keep driving till we hit Canada.”

“Canada, huh?” Clare says, raising her eyebrows. “Are we going on the lam?”

He shrugs. “Fine. Maybe just Wisconsin, then.”

She reaches over, resting a hand on the back of his neck, where his reddish hair is newly trimmed, cut close in a way that makes him look older somehow. “I’m leaving first thing in the morning,” she says gently. “The car’s already packed. And your flight’s at noon.”

“I know,” he says, but he won’t look at her. His eyes are fixed on the closed door of the garage. “That’s my point. Let’s skip it all.”

“College?” she says with a smile, letting her hand drop.

“Yeah,” he says, nodding now. “Who needs it? Let’s run away together instead. Just for a year or so. We’ll start a new life. In the country. Or better yet, a deserted island.”

“You would look nice in a hula skirt.”

“I’m serious,” he says, though she knows he’s not. He’s just desperate and sad, nervous and excited, wildly unsure of everything as they barrel toward the invisible line that will separate their lives into a before and an after. Same as her.

“Aidan,” she says quietly, and this time, his eyes find hers. “This is happening. Tomorrow. No matter what.”

“I know,” he admits.

“Which is why we have to figure out what to do about it.”

“Right, but—”

“Nope,” she says, cutting him off. She holds up the piece of paper. “No more talking. We’ve been talking all summer, and it’s gotten us nowhere. We’ve just been going around in circles: Stay together, break up, stay together, break up.…”

“Stay together,” Aidan finishes, grinning a little.

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