She felt like she couldn’t hug her parents tight enough, or even just enough. She couldn’t help the tears that were streaming down her face, or even their faces. Her three friends waited patiently on the porch, having gone through the same good bye scene themselves.
Courtney was certainly a pro at good byes by then since she was the driver and Abigail was the last to be picked up. She had been raised by her mother after her father ran out on them when she was five, and her mother was a drug addict who had seemed more intent on overdosing rather than waiting for the explosions at midnight. Their good bye scene had been nonexistent; Courtney hadn’t been able to find her mother for the past few hours even though the woman had said she would be back by five.
Morgan had never been particularly close to her uptight, stern parents, so that scene had been brief and the car had then been filled with Morgan’s ranting about her controlling parents, even on the last day of life. Her mother and father had only stood on the porch, not bothering to wave, as Courtney had driven off the driveway.
Ellie had been close to her father ever since her mother had died three years before. It had been a tearful scene lasting about ten minutes, full of weeping and whispers. But they knew Ellie’s dad was going out with a close female friend that night, so Ellie knew her father wouldn’t be alone at midnight. Still, it had been a little uncomfortable for Courtney and Morgan, but it had prepared them for when they picked up Abigail.
Abigail with her loving parents. Parents who knew they had to let their little girl go, but couldn’t find the strength in themselves to do so, even though they themselves had plans for that night.
“Call us if you change your mind,” Callie whispered, her hands around her daughter’s cheeks, gently brushing the tears away. “Okay?”
Abigail nodded and bit her lip. “I will, Mom. But you and Dad should enjoy your last night together.”
“We wouldn’t mind having the whole family together,” Evan said, gently massaging his daughter’s shoulder with one strong hand, his voice deep with emotion. He himself looked about ready to cry, but he knew he had to be strong for both himself and his wife.
“I know,” Abigail said, sniffling. “But you deserve one last night, just the two of you.” She attempted a brave smile. “Besides, I have my best friends and Grant. I won’t be alone and I know I’m going to die loved.”
Callie smiled through her tears and gently stroked Abigail’s hair one last time. With a final study of her parents, Abigail hugged her mother and then her father tightly. She could feel her mother’s hot tears tangling in her hair and sliding along her cheek, her own tears mixing with them. Her father’s arms were strong and sturdy, just as they had always been, even on this last evening, this last time they would ever see each other. Then she moved to embrace her brother and sister, whispering her good byes and luck for a swift death. Her embrace with her brother was quick as she knew Cooper didn’t like physical contact, especially hugs, especially from her. Jenna was a different story. The younger girl burst into tears the moment Abigail touched her and she collapsed into her sister’s arms.
Courtney cleared her throat. “Whenever you’re ready, Abby,” she said quietly.
Abigail nodded against her sister’s head, watching as her tears slid into Jenna’s hair. A moment later, the sisters pulled away and Jenna gave Abigail a brave smile and nodded. They didn’t say anything, but neither did they look ready to release each other. Cooper was awkwardly standing by them, clearly looking as though he wanted to be somewhere else, but not yet ready to say good bye to his family, either.
From experience, Courtney knew she would have to drag Abigail away if they were ever going to meet Grant and Rob at the stadium. Abigail was very close to her family and looked to be on the brink of changing her mind and staying behind instead of going out with her friends.
Gently, ever so gently, Courtney and Morgan pulled Abigail away and led her to Courtney’s car. They seated her in the back with Ellie so the two young women could dry their tears together. Abigail’s family quietly looked on, knowing they should let her go, but also hoping she would change her mind and stay.
“Next stop, Perkins Stadium,” Courtney announced as Abigail waved wildly to her family as the car sped off, the tears filling her eyes overflowing onto her cheeks.
Ellie reached over and placed a hand on her friend’s knee as Abigail twisted herself back into a proper seating position, her house and family now out of view.
“Are you okay?” Ellie asked.
Abigail wiped some stray tears away and sniffed. “Yeah. I’m okay. I’ll be okay. Hey, I get to be with my best friends and a cute guy at the end of the world. I spent all day with my family. I’ll miss them, but at midnight we’ll be dead and probably won’t be able to miss anyone.”
“That’s true,” Morgan said from the front seat, turning slightly to see Ellie and Abigail. “I’ve been hoping I’ll be reunited with my grandma. She was wonderful.”
Abigail and Ellie nodded. They remembered Morgan’s Nana Louise. She had been a wonderful old woman, full of love and spunk and spoiled everyone as much as she possibly could. The four of them used to love having tea with Louise when they were kids. That had ended when they turned fourteen, when the woman had passed away in her sleep.
In the driver’s seat, Courtney smiled to herself as she listened to her friends’ chatter, Abigail’s voice becoming stronger with every minute, and drove towards the falling sun.