I'm sure by this point you're thinking, "Seriously? The Casey kid again? You haven't had enough already?" Well, I don't blame you. But he was just addicting. As Nicole used to put it, "He had a certain charm about him..."
And come on, look at that smile.
Believe it or not, back in my high school days, I used to think I'd meet my husband in college. We'd fall in love, date all four years, then he'd propose as soon as we graduated. We'd get married and pop out all of our babies before I was 30.
What the hell was I thinking?
So by my senior year of college, I'd trashed that idea and decided to just have fun. It didn't hurt that some of my courses that year included bowling, pilates, and weight training. When I wasn't working hard at improving my bowling strike streak (one time I nailed six strikes in a row. You better believe I aced that class), I was busting my ass at my new internship writing for a local alternative newsweekly.
I shared a tiny, cramped office with the arts and entertainment editor, Beau. Our desks were separated by a floor-to-ceiling divider, so it felt like I had my own little office. Maybe closet was a better word for it.
My second week on the job, I was transcribing a phone interview I'd done earlier that day when I saw a text message waiting for me on my phone. It was from Will.
Just wanted to let you know I'm on my way home. My mom and brother died in a car accident last night. They're not sure if my sister is going to make it.
WHAT? I reread it again and again and it still didn't make sense to me. Car accident? His mom AND brother died? Tears were pouring down my face before I'd fully grasped the weight of the text. His brother was supposed to graduate high school that year, same year Will and I were supposed to graduate college. How was all of this happening to my Will? My best friend. The most kind-hearted person I'd ever met.
I couldn't breath. The office was suffocating me. I had to get out of there. But how I was I going to up and walk out with tears streaming down my face and snot dripping from my nose without looking suspicious?
So I shot my managing editor, Owen, an email from across the hall.
I just found out a good friend's mom and brother passed away. I need to go make sure he's OK. I hate to ask this, but can I take the rest of the day off?
Seconds later, he responded.
I'm sorry to hear that. Don't worry about work today. Get out of here.
I grabbed my purse and used my long curly hair to shield my tear-streaked face from Beau on my way out. Once I was in the parking lot, I realized I didn't know where to go, what to do. I sat down in my car and had a breakdown. No matter what, when you hear about tragedies like that, you picture it happening to you. I tried not to think about it, but I could stop thinking about it being my mom and my brother in that car accident. My sister in critical condition. I cried and cried. I punched the steering wheel. And when I thought I had it all out of my system, I took a deep breath and called Will.
"Hello?" His voice sounded small, but steady.
"Will! Oh my god, where are you?" My voice was shrill and unsteady. So much for being strong for him.
"I'm in the car driving home. They were coming back from the dentist last night when it was raining. They hydroplaned into the wrong lane. Hit another car head on."
My stomach lurched and I tried to get the image of my mom's Expedition slipping across the highway out of my mind.
"Can I come meet you? Can I do anything? Anything, Will. You name it, I'll do it."
"Nah, I'm with Jaelyn. She's driving."
Of course. Jaelyn. His girlfriend. Will wasn't mine. Will was Jaelyn's. She was there for him. She was at his side, being the strong one, while I was having a breakdown in the parking lot.
"But I'll let you know if I need anything. Thanks for calling. I 'ppreciate it."
"Please do. I love you, Will."
"Love you, too."
That wasn't the first time I'd told Will I loved him, but before that it was always in a best friend kind of way. That day, sitting in my car with a throbbing headache and choking back tears, I loved him in a different way. In a family way. In a forever kind of way.