He opened the door to find three of his friends outside. Without waiting for an invitation, they pushed their way inside.

“Hi guys. What’s going on?”

Lisa pointed at a chair in his living room. “Sit.” He had heard that tone before. It was her no nonsense voice, and there was no point questioning it.

The three of them sat on the couch facing him, with Lisa in the middle and Simon and Jackie on either side of her. All of them had serious looks on their faces.

“So . . .”

Lisa interrupted him. “Are you going to kill yourself?”

“Shit, Lisa. I thought we were going to ease into it,” Jackie said to her. Simon nodded.

“No point in dancing around it. Are you?”

They all turned their attention back to him.

“Why would you ask that?”

“We’re worried about you,” Simon answered.

“You’ve been giving your stuff away,” Jackie said. “It took us a little while to realize it because you’ve spread it out, but you’ve been giving away things you love. Like you won’t need it anymore.”

“And we couldn’t just sit by,” Lisa finished.

He looked at his friends and could feel their concern.

“You guys know I don’t belong here. I never have.”

“Bullshit,” Lisa shot back. “That’s a load of crap. We’re your friends. Practically family. You really think you don’t belong with us?”

“You are friends. And I love you guys. But it’s not about you.”

“So you are going to kill yourself.” The sadness in Jackie’s voice nearly broke his heart.

“No. No. I’m just . . . I’m just going away.”

“What does that even mean?” Simon asked.

“A trip. I’m leaving on a trip.”

“Yeah? Where are you going?” Lisa sounded incredulous.

“When are you coming back?” Jackie still sounded worried, but there was a hint of hope in her voice as well.

“I’m not coming back. As to where, that’s difficult to explain.”

“You are going to kill yourself.” Lisa was angry now.

“No. I’m really not.”

“Well, you might as well be committing suicide. You’re leaving for good and not telling us where. What’s the difference?”

As Lisa spoke, tears began to run down Jackie’s cheeks.

“I’m not going to kill myself.” Jackie’s struggle not to start sobbing demanded his attention. His resolve crumbled. “Look, I had been thinking about this trip, but I can see how much it would affect you. I won’t go. It’s not worth it to me if it’s going to hurt you all so much.”

“Really?” Jackie blurted out.

“Yes. Really.”

Simon smiled, but Lisa obviously did not believe him.

“That was a sudden change of heart.”

He finally broke away from Jackie to look at her. “I promise, Lisa. I’m not going to leave.”

“Well, we’re staying right here for now. Just to be sure. I ordered pizza before we came over.”

He laughed, and Lisa’s face softened.

“Okay, okay. I’ll go get some pillows and we can watch movies.”

Jackie stood to go with him, but he stopped her. “I promise. I’ll be right back.”

He walked into his bedroom and closed the door.

The Visitor sat on his bed. “So you aren’t leaving with me?”

“You heard them.”

“Yes, but you don’t belong here. You belong home, with us.”

“I know, and I was ready to go. But they won’t understand. And I can’t bring myself to break their hearts.”

“I could talk to them.”

“That wouldn’t help.”

“I suppose not.”

“I wish I could go.”

“You could, but you won’t. And whether I like it or not, I respect your decision.”

“Thank you.”

“I will come back for you again.”

“I know. That makes it easier to stay.”

“You should go back. They are starting to worry.”

“Okay. I will see you again.”

The Visitor nodded and then vanished. Grabbing a few spare pillows, he walked back to his friends.

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