That was normal. It had always felt normal, but this time, seeing him walking toward me with the brightest smile spread across his lips, there was something more that I felt deep inside my chest.
My body warmed, and when he reached me, he wrapped his arms tightly around me, lifting me up although we were almost the same height.
We had tall parents, and being not even one year apart, with me being born only eleven months after he was, people often thought we were twins.
Mama got pregnant with me when Fennec was only two months old, and despite doctors wanting to talk Mama out of it, she decided to keep me.
No matter the risks.
I was a healthy baby though, and growing up with Fen was the best thing ever.
He’s always been there for me, we played and learned new things together, always sat next to each other at the dinner table and in school, and whenever we would go to sleep, we’d find ways to sneak into each other’s rooms to play until we both fell asleep.
Fen’s been my best friend ever since, but there was more to that.
So much more.
We just didn’t know it yet.
“Free at last,” he grinned, letting me back down to my feet and rubbing my back before letting go of me and hugging Mama.
“Congratulations, Fen. I’m proud of you,” she told him quietly.
We all knew Fennec would graduate high school successfully, which couldn’t be said about me.
I had trouble staying focused in school, and always sitting next to a window was one of the reasons why.
I loved watching nature do whatever it did to stay so beautiful, and even though there wasn’t much change happening while staring at the trees and grass outside, I knew I’d rather be out there than stuck inside.
That’s why I wasn’t sure if finishing high school was what I aimed for.
It would be stupid not to, now that I would be a senior after summer, but knowing Fennec wouldn’t be around anymore was what made me want to quit school.
I reached for his hand as he let go of Mama’s embrace, and he squeezed my hand gently, giving me a soft smile while his thumb rubbed along mine.
“I baked you a cake before we came here. You have to try it. It’s carrot cake,” I told him, smiling at him.
“Our favorite. Can’t wait to try it. Let’s go,” he said.
“Wait. Don’t you wanna stay and celebrate with your friends?” Mama asked, immediately making me feel that stupid jealousy I always felt when someone brought up his friends.
I didn’t have any, because I wasn’t very good with people in the first place, but Fen was different.
We both were different, but…he was likable.
He played football and made some friends, and he also attended other clubs during his last school year, making him somewhat a popular guy.
It wasn’t hard to be popular at a school like this though.
We lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, and although it was a fairly big city, people talked and certain things made their rounds in households all over the city.
“I celebrated with them before the ceremony, Mama. I’m happy to come home with you two,” he said, making that jealousy in my chest fly away immediately.
“Let’s go! We should watch a movie. Remember the one I told you about? Where they’re in this spaceship?”
“Passengers?” he asked with a smile as we started to walk toward the parking lot.
“Yes, that! We should watch it,” I told him.
“Hey, Fen!” a familiar voice called out, and we all turned around to see Kody and Duke walk our way.
“You’re leaving already? We’re gonna party at Duke’s. You should come,” Kody said, giving me a look but looking away quickly.
That’s all I ever got from boys at this school.
Or in the streets.
I squeezed Fen’s hand tightly, silently telling him that I didn’t want him to go party with them.
Would he even have fun? He never attended parties.
We usually watched movies at night or went to the diner across the street to eat our favorite burgers and fries.
“Sorry, man. I promised my family to stay home tonight. I’ll be leaving soon, and I want to stay with them before I have to say goodbye,” he explained.
He’d go live with Papa in Wiseman.
In the wilderness.
“Ah, right. I forgot about that. You sure you wanna live in the forest? It gets crazy cold out there at night,” Kody reminded him.