Everybody was heading home. George was the only one still clearing out his room and packing clothes, shoes and kitchen utensils into the car. Sam and I were sitting on the outside table, talking and laughing. Tomorrow was my birthday.
'Hey, I have something to give you. Hang on, I'll get it.’ Sam reached into the red gift bag sitting next to her and produced a small, dark blue, rectangular box.
Sam was going away for at least a year and would be travelling as part of her research. I wasn't sure when I'd see her next. Perhaps I would travel too and meet up with her in Europe, in Piccadilly Square or somewhere like that. We'd been talking about keeping in touch with actual physical letters. We liked pretending to be more literary than we were. But I was pretty sure that it was never going to happen. I was more than capable and willing to write letters but am, to all intents and purposes, too lazy to seal them into envelopes, drive them to the post office for stamps, and send them halfway across the world. We'd probably Skype. Or email instead.
But I opened the box and there, new and glittering, was a fountain pen. 'Oh, is this a hint?' I asked, teasing. It was made out of clear, sleek plastic and had a shiny, silver nib. It was the Lamy I'd had my eye on for the past week.
George came to the table. 'Cake, ladies?' he asked, placing an assortment of treats on the table. He disappeared inside again for some juice, as we cried out a loud, 'Yes!' Typical.
It was quiet between us. We had a long established way of communicating: no backslapping or hugs; we're not that kind of sentimental. But I held the pen in my hand and thanked her. We ate some cake and George came to join us.
It was the end of the academic year but, strangely, I felt like I was at the beginning of something, a thing I couldn't put my finger on. I wanted the new year to bring new opportunities. I had an inkling they'd come but I felt anxious about it. Then I realised that it was because Sam was leaving. We'd been a constant in each other's lives for the past seven years – and the future now looked a bit scary.
An hour later, Sam said she was heading off. 'My parents are meeting me at the airport in an hour. So. Bye, everyone. Promise to keep in touch, and Camilla, if you don't write me letters with that pen then at least write something interesting.’ I laughed and agreed. We said our goodbyes.
After, I went inside and sat at my desk and put the pen on top of my notebook.
Camilla Patini is a writer and student at the Australian National University. She has written arts reviews and opinion pieces for Lip Magazine, and was, until recently, the author of its ‘love and relationships’ column. Her writing has also appeared in Woroni, the ANU student newspaper. She is currently one of two ‘Bloggers in Residence’ at the ACT Writers Centre.