Written by: Keren Turner (PGCE Combined Sciences, 2008)
“What do you mean gone? Gone where?” He tried to appear calm, but the bead of sweat on his forehead contradicted his appearance.
“I don’t know. She was here. Everything was fine. Then she said she needed the toilet and now…well….she’s gone.”
He wiped his brow with the back of his hand, a feeble attempt to remove the tell-tale signs of the panic he was feeling. Through gritted teeth he gave his order.
It was one of those hazy summer evenings. To Lily, this was the best type of evening. Exams were over, at the weekend she’d be home, enjoying her mum’s Sunday dinner, not having to worry about rushing back to Nottingham afterwards, and best of all, she was lying in the arms of Freddie.
She turned over and smiled. Her big, gorgeous, rugby playing buffoon of a boyfriend lay with his eyes closed, the low sun reflecting from his blond hair giving the effect of a halo around his beautiful head. She gave him a gentle peck on the lips and started to turn back around.
“A sneaky kiss hey? Can’t let you get away with that can I?” His muscular arms squeezed around her tightly as she tickled her and flipped her over in one swift move.
“Fred! Freddie! Get off me you big lump!”
“Not until you kiss me properly Lily Foster.” His big hands stroked her face as he pressed his lips into hers.
“Right, are you ready for your end of term and 7 month 13 day anniversary present combined Miss Foster?” A smile spread across Freddie’s face as he saw the look of surprise in Lily’s eyes. He loved this girl. He really loved her.
“A present? But, I didn’t get you anything! Now I feel bad.”
“Sshhh your pretty little head and follow me.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her up.
He rushed her across the grounds of University Park in an excited silence, snaking pass the rowing lake and Trent building, heading towards the library.
“The library? Please don’t make me spend any more time in here this term!” Lily poked at his ribs.
“Not quite. Come with me.” They crept around the back, walking towards the edge of the campus.“
Here you are Lily Foster. Here is your present.” Freddie pointed towards one of the trees that adorned the campus.
“A tree? Freddie, I am not sure you can just give those away!”
Lily moved in closer to the tree, walking around its circumference.
“What am I missing Fred?”
Once again he grabbed her hand, this time pulling her down into the grassy bed surrounding the tree. Fingers entwined together, he lifted her hand and traced a notch in the base of the tree.
Lily leaned in and spotted her gift. Scratched into the base of stem of the tree, tiny, almost too tiny,
F ❤️ L. She turned to look at him, ready to admonish him for defacing the tree, but stopped when she saw the look on his face.
“Do you like it?”
“Oh Freddie, I love it!” She threw her arms around his neck “I love you.”
Lily was still gushing inside when she arrived at her parents’ house in Manchester that weekend. She had had the most wonderful couple of days with Freddie before they both left the campus for the summer. Freddie had gone to visit his family in Exeter for a few days, and then they both promised to meet up with one another in the second week of the summer break and take things from there. She couldn’t imagine spending a whole week apart from him, it was hard enough not seeing him during her lectures. Although at this moment she could curse him for failing to charge his phone before leaving. She tried to ring him when she arrived home a few times, but his phone was off. At least it gave her a chance to catch up with her parents and fuss over Bertie the cat, who seemed to be getting older and grumpier each time she came home.
By the time 12 hours had passed and Lily still hadn’t heard from Freddie, she was becoming frantic. She felt sick. And she knew. She knew something was terribly wrong.
“Yep, Mr Foster. I’ve found her; I’ll have her back soon. I know she’s late. Just hold them off a few more minutes.” Roxy walked over to her friend, bent down to her level and wrapped her arms around her.
“Lily, you can’t be here. They’re all waiting for you. You’re already 15 minutes late. Your dad is going crazy.”
Lily looked up, tears leaving tracks of mascara on her cheeks.
“I can’t do it Roxy, I feel like I’m betraying him.” She leant against the tree, rubbing her fingers over the carved initials gifted to her all those years ago.
“Freddie’s gone Lily. He wouldn’t want you to live your life alone. He loved you and wanted you to be happy. Does Edward make you happy?”
“Do you love him?”
“Yes. But it’s not the same. With Freddie, I didn’t feel alive unless I was with him. With Edward. Well…He makes me feel safe I guess.”
“Lily, it’s never going to be the same. Freddie was your first love. You didn’t break up, he died. You didn’t have the same closure as a break up. But what you need to decide is, is Edward enough? Can you see him as the father of your children? Can you see yourself waking up next to him for the rest of your life?”
Lily closed her eyes, picturing her future in her mind.
“Yes. Yes I think I can.”
“Then let’s go and get you married then!”
Roxy walked ahead, leading the way to the Trent building where Lily’s future waited.
Lily looked over her shoulder at the tree once more.
“Bye Freddie.” She whispered, as a ray of sunlight broke through the clouds.