If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal

Hey guys, earlier this summer you might recall a two-part mini series I published called Tatum the Vampire Slayer. It was originally written for my English class, as part of our Bold Actions unit. People liked it more than I thought they would, and so I decided to start publishing stories on here too, instead of just your traditional blog post. The following story was also written for an English project known as an Independent Reading Project. Everyone in the class picks a book, and they pick a project (either from a given list or one they came up with themselves) and at the end of the marking period, we all present them. For my first IRP, I read the book If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. The story is about two teenagers, Finny and Autumn, who’ve been best friends since before they were born. Their mothers had been best friends, as well. Finny and Autumn start off pretty inseparable, but as the story progresses and they get older, they start to drift apart. In their later years of high school, they begin to find their way back to each other, but is it already too late? (If you haven’t read this before, read it. And if you’re interested, check out Laura Nowlin’s blog too. It’s one of the blogs I follow). It’s a really sad but beautiful novel and I reread it three times before even deciding on a project. The ending is left ambiguous in a way that there are several options open for Autumn’s future, and it gives the reader lots of space to speculate about what happened. (I have a very specific view on what happened to her, but that’s a story for another post.) Eventually, I decided on writing several journal entries of major (in my opinion) events in the story from Finny’s point of view, since the story is told from Autumn’s point of view. Lucky for you, there’s no spoilers, and the events are sort of spaced out so it’s like reading the book but from a different perspective.  The dates and such are approximated, and the first entry takes place in eighth grade, while the rest focus on their junior and senior years of high school.  Without further ado, I present to you If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal. 

January 1, 2011

Even though I felt like we were drifting apart during the first semester, we finally seemed like we were becoming friends again over winter break. And then I had to go and ruin it like the idiot I am.

I kissed Autumn. I kissed her and it wasn’t what she wanted and now she’s not talking to me. I don’t think she’ll ever talk to me again. Worse than that, I gripped her arm so hard that I left a bruise. Even though I didn’t mean to, I hurt one of the people I care about most in the world, and now she won’t talk to me.

This morning she sat as far away from me as possible on the couch. Mom had put on some sitcom, but neither of us were paying any attention.

Did I just screw up my friendship with the best friend I’ll ever have?

September 16, 2014

Today was the first game of the season. I was so excited, and I was sure that nothing would go wrong. Or at least, that’s what I thought when the game started. At one point, I looked up at the bleachers and what I saw shocked me. Autumn was sitting there with Aunt Claire, reading a brochure. I knew Aunt Claire was coming, but I thought Autumn wouldn’t be interested. Sports have never been her thing, for as long as I’ve known her, and that’s our entire lives. The shock of seeing Autumn sitting up there–combined with the fact that Ed bumped into–caused me to trip and fall. When I stood to my feet, I looked for Autumn and Aunt Claire in the bleachers again. Aunt Claire seemed pretty relieved that I was okay, but when I looked at Autumn, she looked shaken and small, like she’d just lost the person who meant the most to her. She looked exactly the same as she did when we were in elementary school and her father tried to put her in private school. She even looked four years younger. It wasn’t until later that I realized she had looked like that until I fell. She was concerned…for me. When was the last time that had ever happened? Even though I’ve been in love with her for as long as I can remember, for the last year or so, I thought that she hated me, but maybe she doesn’t. Maybe, just maybe, she feels the same way about me.

September 19, 2014

My father wants my mother and I to begin having dinners with him on a daily basis, but I honestly don’t see the point. He hasn’t been involved in my life since before I was born. Why start now?

In other news, I saw Autumn again today. I was supposed to be doing my homework, but out of the window, I saw Autumn leap into the pile of leaves I’d raked earlier, just like she would always do when we were younger.

I went outside to go talk to her, and while I was upset about the leaves, it was hard to stay mad at Autumn. I should’ve just bagged the leaves after I saw her, but whatever. It gave me a chance to talk to her, which is rare nowadays.

January 15, 2015

Autumn had an appointment with her mom’s psychiatrist today. I’m not supposed to know, but I heard Aunt Claire talking to Mom in the kitchen a few days ago. Even though we’re not close anymore, I still wish Autumn had told me. I still care about her, even after all this time. Autumn left English class early today, and when Mrs. Stevens asked her who she’d get the notes from, she said me. Even though Sasha and Jamie both have English with us. Does it mean anything? Was she saying it because it’s more convenient to get the notes from me? Or does it mean more than that? Or am I just overanalysing everything? God, I wish I knew, but I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

August 8, 2015

I think I might be going crazy. This morning, I woke up at three am. I was going to go back to bed when lightning lit up my room. For a split second, I swear that I saw my car wrapped around a tree. A girl’s silhouette was lying on the asphalt a few feet in front of it. But when I blinked, it disappeared. The rain stopped, there was no more lightning, no more thunder, and my car was parked in the driveway like always. I don’t know if I was dreaming, or if I just imagined it. Either way, I guess Aunt Claire’s right–I should really be aware of what my late-night snacks consist of.

May 28, 2016

Mom came into my room early this morning and told me that Jamie cheated on Autumn with Sasha and that she’s been pretty broken up about it.

It made me pretty angry. I’ve never been all that fond of Jamie, but he treated Autumn pretty well–or so I thought–and Autumn always seemed pretty crazy about him, so I tolerated him. And Sasha–Sasha’s been friends with Autumn since middle school. How could they do that to her?

Now I’m wishing I’d punched that little jerk in the face like I did to Donnie Banks in the fifth grade. Or done something to stop their relationship. But I can’t do that to Autumn; she really would hate me then. My mom and I both think that she just needs a friend right now, and so I’m going to go see her later today. Hopefully, she’ll want to see me.

June 3, 2016

I feel like a bad friend. Autumn and I have been hanging out for the last week or so, but I had to leave her alone yesterday. She said she was fine. Jamie texted her this morning, asking if she wanted a ride to the hospital so she could see Angie and the baby, but she seemed pretty okay about it. She was angry at first but she got over it pretty quickly.

She seemed to forget about it entirely when we met the baby. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she looked down at Guinevere. It was a mix of adoration, awe, and happiness. She seemed so excited when she handed Guinevere to me. I haven’t seen her that happy since when we were younger. I didn’t know that she could be so happy. It’s been a while, but I’m glad that Autumn is back. I’ve missed her.

August 8, 2016

Autumn let me read her novel, and it was pretty obvious that the two main characters were based on the two of us and our lives. It was beautifully and brilliantly written, of course, but reading it dredged up terrible memories I’ve been trying for years to suppress, and so I had no choice. I confronted Autumn about it, asking her why she’d cut me out of her life so abruptly. It was a stupid question. I kind of already knew why: I wasn’t good enough for her anymore. Or was it the fact that I had kissed her and she didn’t feel the same way? Most likely a combination of both. . I just didn’t know why she’d been so cold about it. She apologized profusely, she told me that it wasn’t her intention but she hadn’t known what to do after I kissed her that night, and I think that some part of me always knew that. I told her I was sorry for kissing her like that, but she told me that I didn’t have anything sorry for. I laughed and joked about how I never knew how to make her happy, which was kind of true.

She said, “You make me happier than any other person ever has.” I asked her if this was true, but I knew that it was. After all, the same could be said for me. She makes me happier than anyone else.

When she said that, I felt emboldened, and I asked her if I could kiss her. I could hardly believed it when she said yes: I’d dreamed about this moment for what felt like years, and now it was happening, and it feels so right. It feels more natural than anything I’ve ever felt before. And I’m so happy that I can say, ‘Autumn Davis is my girlfriend.’ without having to pinch myself to make sure that I know that this is nothing more than a dream.

Even now, a day later, I still can’t believe it. I’ve loved her from afar for years, and now Autumn and I are finally together. It makes me feel bad that I have to leave her, even though I’m just picking up Sylvie. But I’ll be back for her soon. Now that we’re together, I don’t ever want to leave her.

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