I'm so scared.
My heart is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my hands are shaking. I've faced so much and survived: vampires, werewolves, phantoms. Things I never imagined were real. And now I'm terrified.
Simply because I'm leaving home.
And I know that it's completely, insanely ridiculous. I'm barely leaving home, really. I'm going to college, only a few hours' drive from this darling house where I've lived since I was a baby.
No, I'm not going to start crying again. I'll be sharing a room with Bonnie and Meredith, my two best friends in the whole world. In the same dorm, only a couple of floors away will be my beloved Stefan. My other best friend, Matt, will be just a short walk across campus. Even Damon will be in an apartment in the town nearby.
Honestly, I couldn't stick any closer to home unless I never moved out of this house at all. I'm being such a wimp. But it seems like I just got my home back - my family, my life - after being exiled for so long, and now I suddenly have to leave again.
I suppose I'm scared partly because these last few weeks of summer have been wonderful. We packed all the enjoyment we would have been having these past few months - if it hadn't been for fighting the kitsune, traveling to the Dark Dimension, battling the jealousy phantom, and all the other Extremely Not Fun things we've done - into three glorious weeks. We had picnics and sleepovers and went swimming and shopping. We took a trip to the county fair, where Matt won Bonnie a stuffed tiger and turned bright red when she squealed and leaped into his arms. Stefan even kissed me on the top of the Ferris wheel, just like any normal guy might kiss his girlfriend on a beautiful summer night.
We were so happy. So normal in a way I thought we could never be again.
That's what's frightening me, I guess. I'm scared that these few weeks have been a bright golden interlude and that now that things are changing, we'll be heading back into darkness and horror. It's like that poem we read in English class last fall says: Nothing gold can stay. Not for me.
The clatter of feet in the hal way downstairs distracted her, and Elena Gilbert's pen slowed. She glanced up at the last couple of boxes scattered around her room. Stefan and Damon must be here to pick her up.
But she wanted to finish her thought, to express the last worry that had been nagging at her during these perfect weeks. She turned back to her diary, writing faster so that she could get her thoughts down before she had to leave.
Damon has changed. Ever since we defeated the jealousy phantom, he's been ... kinder. Not just to me, not just to Bonnie, who he's always had a soft spot for, but even to Matt and Meredith. He can still be intensely irritating and unpredictable - he wouldn't be Damon without that - but he hasn't had that cruel edge to him. Not like he used to.
He and Stefan seem to have come to an understanding. They know I love them both, and yet they haven't let jealousy come between them.
They're close, acting like true brothers in a way I haven't seen before. There's this delicate balance between the three of us that's lasted through the end of the summer. And I worry that any misstep on my part will bring it crashing down and that like their first love, Katherine, I'll tear the brothers apart. And then we'll lose Damon forever.
Aunt Judith cal ed up, sounding impatient, "Elena!"
"Coming!" Elena replied. She quickly scribbled a few more sentences in her diary.
Still, it's possible that this new life will be wonderful. Maybe I'll find everything I've been looking for. I can't hold on to high school, or to my life here at home, forever. And who knows? Maybe this time the gold will stay.
"Elena! Your ride is waiting!"
Aunt Judith was definitely getting stressed out now.
She'd wanted to drive Elena up to school herself. But Elena knew she wouldn't be able to say good-bye to her family without crying, so she'd asked Stefan and Damon to drive her up instead. It would be less embarrassing to get emotional here at home than to weep al over Dalcrest's campus. Since Elena had decided to go up with the Salvatore brothers, Aunt Judith had been working herself up about every little detail, anxious that Elena's col ege career wouldn't start off perfectly without her there to supervise. It was al because Aunt Judith loved her, Elena knew.
Elena slammed the blue-velvet-covered journal shut and dropped it into an open box. She climbed to her feet and headed for the door, but before she opened it, she turned to look at her room one last time.
It was so empty, with her favorite posters missing from the wal s and half the books gone from her bookcase. Only a few clothes remained in her dresser and closet. The furniture was al stil in place. But now that the room was stripped of most of her possessions, it felt more like an impersonal hotel room than the cozy haven of her childhood.
So much had happened here. Elena could remember cuddling up with her father on the window seat to read together when she was a little girl. She and Bonnie and Meredith - and Caroline, who had been her good friend, too, once - had spent at least a hundred nights here tel ing secrets, studying, dressing for dances, and just hanging out. Stefan had kissed her here, early in the morning, and disappeared quickly when Aunt Judith came to wake her.
Elena remembered Damon's cruel, triumphant smile as she invited him in that first time, what felt like a mil ion years ago. And, not so long ago, her joy when he had appeared here one dark night, after they al thought he was dead.
There was a quiet knock at the door, and it swung open.
Stefan stood in the doorway, watching her.
"About ready?" he said. "Your aunt is a little worried.
She thinks you're not going to have time to unpack before orientation if we don't get going."