Holding back

I wrote this for a piece of English coursework last year. It’s a very important piece for me because it reflects how I felt at the time (yes, I know that’s quite cheesy, but also true). Hope you enjoy, Luc

The nervous, chaotic and strangely muffled atmosphere of the airport hit us as soon as we stepped through the automatic doors into Heathrow Terminal Five. I carried Clara’s hand luggage for her as she dragged two bursting suitcases across the hall to check-in. The bright lights seemed to create a surreal feeling of day time, which made me float in timelessness, especially as it was actually ten thirty at night. I wondered why Clara had chosen that flight, at that time of day. But then, Clara always had her reasons – even if they didn’t make sense to anyone else. Which leads me to what I was dying to ask her: why was she leaving?
Clara and I have been best friends since we met on a college partnership programme in the first year of our A-levels. I had attended the local comprehensive and she had studied at a private school only ten minutes away. She then passed an exam and made it in to a private college, while I was left to scrape through my exams. When we met, I thought she would be as different from me as humanly possible. How wrong and in some ways right I had been. With Clara at my side I’d managed good grades and gone with her to Bristol University, where we had both studied medicine. We had graduated four years ago, and in that time I’d secured a job working as a junior consultant at Charing Cross Hospital. I’m as happy as I can be, but Clara has always been a dreamer. It’s in her nature to reach up and touch the stars. So she’s leaving her life behind to go and set up a clinic in the Australian bush, in an effort to help the aborigines and their culture prosper. Don’t get me wrong, I support her cause, I just wish it wasn’t so far away. Couldn’t she be happy as a doctor here too?
As we joined the unimaginably slow, jostling queue she turned to me and I saw in her eyes the determination I had fed off in earlier times.
“Liv,”
she said “I know you don’t want me to go, but you know I have to. This is me”
I nodded, this was her. Stubborn as an ox and hell-bent on helping those she’d never met in her life. Yes, that was Clara, and that was why I loved her. We took another couple of steps forwards as the family at the front finally cleared check-in and gathered up their three hyper children. I took a deep breath and looked at my watch. 10:42 it blinked. I felt my hand go cold. I didn’t want to lose her. Not now. She was the reason that I had got so far when everyone else had given up on me. Of course, I could never tell her this. She would just raise one eyebrow, in her classically Clara way of showing skepticism, and inform me patently that I only had my own will power and determination to thank. But now I really would be on my own.
It was as I thought about all this that I started to watch her closely. She was stood with one foot tapping out a hectic rhythm on the floor, her frizzy blond hair hurriedly tied up and forgotten about, gripping her passport in her hands and looking with a gaze of concentration at the big electronic notice boards. She didn’t look much different from when I’d first met her. But as she finished reading the board her body language changed. A sense of purpose surged through her before my eyes, straightening her up, and she took another step forward.
“Don’t forget to get a new roommate” she instructed me casually. “Maybe a university student or something.”
“No, actually” I said, “I thought I might, you know, live on my own for a bit.
A flicker of surprise passed momentarily across her face, and then she smiled. She was happy for me.  I looked at my watch again: 10:59.
We reached check-in and passed it without complication. I think I’d expected the BA worker to tell Clara to go home and carry on her life, but she didn’t. Instead, the woman just tagged the suitcases and told her to have a good flight. 11:13. I swallowed hard. People who weren’t flying couldn’t go past security. Clara reached out and took my hand.
“See you, Liv,” she whispered, her grip suddenly tightening. “I’ll miss you.”
I could see that she was holding back tears, blinking rapidly so that her eyes were sure to stay dry. I am sure I asked something unimportant about whether she had packed sunscreen or such like. But I can’t remember. There was a final grasping hug and a fumbled goodbye.
And then she turned, swinging her hand luggage over her shoulder. “Goodbye!”  I croaked and she walked away, each feeble step taking her a million miles away from me. “Text me when you land!” A flick of her high pony-tail gave her assent. I stood still and watched her go through to security. There she went.
I found an almost deserted observation deck and stood by the huge windows, staring out. Time passed and I felt the cold from outside penetrate the glass and wrap around me. I began, without realizing, to reminisce. I don’t know if it was the dark and lonely atmosphere that made my mind wonder back to the night when, not long after we started university, I had found Clara’s diary. I had known before I’d opened it that, not only was reading her diary wrong, I would regret it.
Dear Diary, I’d read,
I should have gone to Oxford. I’ve let my dreams go for Liv, but will it be worth it?
I suddenly wished I’d thanked her. Properly. Clara had given up so much and fought so hard for me. Well at least now she was free of me – free to dream.

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