One of Grace’s favorite things was lying on the roof of my house, soda and chips between us, looking up at the stars.

Whenever there was a clear night, you’d find us up there. I’d lay there trying not to be too obvious with my feelings for her, while her bright, hazel eyes rarely left the sky. She’d point out constellations, potato chip in hand, and theorize what life was like in other galaxies. She’d curl her fingers into a pretend telescope, holding it up to my eye and ask if I could see Mars.

I never could, but I never told her that.

Never told her I loved her either.

When night got on, and our old grandfather clock had chimed ten or eleven times, her mother would lean out of their house next door, calling for Grace to come home. And like she’d done since we were ten, a secret smile would light her face as she leaned over and kissed my cheek. She’d call out an unnecessary thanks for the provisions while scrambling down the ladder.

I’d stand there, empty cans and bags of chips clutched to my chest, and watch her long, blond hair flying out behind her like a cape as she skipped through the yards. It was like a sunshine waterfall, and I always hated when she left.

When the sun came out, springs and summers, Grace would spend hours on their big trampoline. Jumping up to kiss the sky, spinning somersaults and attempting cartwheels, we’d spend hours there. I’d watch the sunshine swirl around her, playing in her hair, sparking gold in her eyes, and I’d dream about the day when we’d be older. When I would finally muster up the nerve to tell her how I felt. I’d dream about us graduating, leaving town for a big city. I’d dream about her walking towards me in a white dress. I’d dream about the day she’d be mine.

I had reason to believe it might be more than a dream. I’d catch a look from her, or one of her secret smiles – or when I was looking to spend my money on something stupid, she’d tell me to ‘Save it for the kids.’

‘What kids?’ I’d ask.

‘Ours, of course,’ she’d say with a grin.

And so I loved her. I loved her, and I waited for the day when I could tell her.

Well, that day never came, and I blew every shot I had.

I’ve never felt this empty, and in all my dreams about Grace, I never imagined the possibility of life without her.

I’m ill-prepared for this. The grief sits like a cancer in my gut, metastasizing, infecting my insides. I feel gangrenous.

I lie in our spot, on the roof of the house, two unopened cans of soda and two sealed bags of chips at my side. It’s a clear night, but the stars are nothing but a white blur through my tears.

I don’t know how long I stay there. The grandfather clock strikes nine, ten, eleven, twelve, but her mom never comes out.

When my eyes are dry and I can see the sky clearly, my arm rises of its own accord. My fingers curl against my palm, and I bring it to my eye, squinting, but I don’t see Mars.

I never could, even when I told her I did.

The tears begin to fall again, and I let them.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over her.

Copyright © 2013 Layla AlAmmar