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“Do you have everything you need, Eddie-bear?”

Sonia Kaspbrak stood at the far end of Eddie’s soon-to-be dorm room, wiping down the window for the third time. While Eddie took trips to carry his boxes up from the car, she had stayed to disinfect every inch of the already spotless room. But he knew that was her way of stalling, and he let her have it.

“Yes, mommy.” Eddie sighed, carrying in the last of his boxes in and placing it on the top of the stack he had made at the foot of the bed. On one of his trips back to the car, Eddie had run into Mike who’d offered to help move some of the boxes. Eddie protested since it looked like Mike was on his way to something, but Mike insisted and carried two boxes up to his dorm. Despite his protests, Eddie was grateful for Mike’s help because he ended up picking the two biggest boxes that Eddie had been dreading trying to get up the stairs. He even apologized for only being able to help a little bit, which Eddie thought was silly since he’d helped significantly, before needing to run off to whatever meeting he was needed at. He vaguely remembered Mike mentioning in the Losers’ group chat being a part of some buddy-system program for upperclassmen to help first-year students adjust to college life, and he kind of wished he had signed up for that, too. But there was no way his mother would’ve let him move in early enough to make the meetings. He was glad Mike did sign up, though, since he had been homeschooled up until that point.

“That Mike boy sure was nice for helping you out with those,” Sonia remarked, throwing a cleaning wipe in the small trash bin under the desk. “You should have asked him to stay and help with the rest. I can tell your asthma is getting worked up from all those stairs.”

Eddie instinctively reached into the fanny pack that his mother insisted he wore and took two puffs off of his inhaler. He really wasn’t feeling too short of breath, but he did it to appease her. It was easier than trying to explain that he felt fine, really.

Sonia turned to her son and pulled him into a tight embrace. “Oh, I’m going to miss you so much!” She whimpered and Eddie could tell that she had begun to cry. Honestly, he was impressed that she had managed to fend off tears for as long as she did. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay and help you unpack?”

“I’m sure, ma-” Eddie pulled away and tried to reassure his mother that he could unpack a few boxes by himself before he was cut off by the hall door opening and slamming shut, paired with a familiar voice echoing off the walls.

“Is that my Eddie Spaghetti?!” The footsteps quickened until Richie popped his head into the open doorway and Beverly followed a few moments later. He smiled his huge, dorky smile and ran into the room, wrapping his arms around Eddie’s body and lifting him a foot into the air with surprising ease. The smell of stale cigarettes assaulted Eddie’s nose and he winced, realizing his mom could probably smell it too.

“Put me down, asshole!” Eddie cried. He wriggled in Richie’s arms, with little effect. His arms were stuck to his sides, so there was very little he could accomplish. Except wriggle like an oversized trout trapped in a surprisingly well-secured net.

“Eddie-bear! Language!” Sonia scolded and Richie set Eddie down, just then realizing that she had been standing there the whole time.

“Sorry, Ma,” Eddie blushed both at being reprimanded and being called a childish nickname in front of his friends.

“Hey Mrs. K!” Richie chimed, “How was your Summer?”

“Alright, time to go,” Eddie insisted before Richie could interject with anything inappropriate about missing her over the break. He pushed his mom out of the room and both Richie and Bev had to maneuver awkwardly around the tight space in order to let her and Eddie through.

“Oh no, I really think I should stay a bit longer. Don’t you want to get lunch? You should eat something, sweetie, you look pale!” Sonia pleaded as Eddie pushed her down the hall and through the door at the end.

“I’m fine, mom! I still have the sandwich you packed me for the drive here.” Eddie stood in the door jam, blocking her path in case she tried to reason her way back into the hall. “I’ll be fine. I promise. I’ve got my friends to look after me.”

That definitely did not reassure Sonia, but she had little choice in the matter. She sighed heavily, “Alright. One last hug, though.”

Eddie stepped into his mother’s arms and could instantly feel all the air leave his lungs. His mom was crying once again, but he let her cling to him for as long as she needed. He had survived 18 years with her, what was two more minutes? “Make sure to call me! And I mean it, Eddie. Call me with any issues you’re having, or if you just want to talk, I’ll be right on the other line!”

“I will,” He wheezed, and she let up on her grip. She placed a wet kiss on his forehead and let him go. “I love you, mom,” Eddie smiled, knowing exactly what she needed to hear.

“I love you too, sweetie.” And with that, she turned and walked down the stairs back to the parking lot. Eddie waved goodbye from with window in the staircase and he could tell even from that distance that his mother was crying again as she got in the car and drove off. He felt bad that she had to drive all the way back to Maine by herself, but he tried not to dwell on it too much.

 

Upon re-entering his room, Richie had already begun going through some of his boxes and placing the smaller stuff on his shelves. “There he is! Man of the hour! We thought you’d never show up.”

“Yeah, sorry. My mom wanted me home as long as humanly possible. She originally was gonna drop me off right before my first class on Monday, but I convinced her that I needed a day or two to unpack.” He made his way over the open box and joined Richie in the unpacking.

“That’s why we’re here!” Bev piped up from her seat on the bare mattress and tossed Eddie’s sandwich at him. “Your mom was right, though. You, sir, need to eat your lunch.”

“Yeah, Bev and I will get a head start while you munch!” Richie took out a collection of comics that looked eerily familiar and delicately lined them up on the shelf above Eddie’s desk.

“Oh no. You’ll get a head start. I’m in charge of the music!” Bev giggled and earned herself a balled-up sock to the head.

Eddie smiled at his two bickering friends, thankful to have them back in his life and in the same place. Their colorful language and vibrant energies were a harsh contrast to the vacant white walls and uninhabited furniture of his new room, but they helped it feel more like home. ‘How’, he thought to himself, ‘is it possible that I miss them more now than I did back home?’.

Eddie joined Bev on the bed and ate his sandwich, laughing whenever Richie and Bev would get into an argument about the song choice and sometimes even becoming a physical barrier between Richie and Bev’s phone. Eventually, Bev and Eddie joined in on unpacking and they got about 2 boxes completely unpacked before Ben popped his head in to greet everyone. He helped take the empty boxes to the dumpster downstairs and returned to help with the rest of the unpacking. Bill and Stan showed up not too much later to welcome Eddie to the official Losers Hall and stood in the door frame as everyone chatted, catching up on the highlights of everyone’s Summers. Mike joined them a bit later with a box of leftover apple cider donuts he’d snagged from his meeting.

Eddie felt himself fall back into the comfortable rhythm that came with having all of the Losers back together, and any anxiety about living on his own for the first time melted away. This was the first time that all the Losers had gotten together after Middle School, and it felt whole to have everyone back in one place. And in such a new and exciting place, too. He definitely had some concerns, but he knew that whatever happened, he’d at least have them. Just like he did back then.

Not everyone had left Derry after Middle School. In fact, most of the Losers stayed. Mike had stayed to work on his grandfather's farm and even got an internship at Derry Public Library. Albert Carson, the librarian at the time, had offered him the position after noticing how many nights Mike spent in the library’s carrels for his various research projects; both academic and extracurricular. Ben had also stayed, as he had just recently moved there when they’d all met him, and Bill as well. The three of them and Eddie would hang out often, but it never felt the same as it did when the rest were there too. Bill and Ben would often enthuse Mike with their interest in all of his projects, and it was nice, but Eddie was never as enthralled as the other three. He loved that his friends were excited about stuff, don’t get him wrong, he just never had as much of a fascination for Derry history as the others did. It made him feel a little left out if he was being completely honest.

It was in those moments that Eddie would sit back and think about Richie. He’d remember the many times Richie would interject at just the wrong moment with some new voice he’d be testing out, and how he always had something to say. Even if that something was completely outrageous. Eddie always admired that about Richie. How he always had a witty response to everything, and how he didn’t care if people laughed. Hell, he seemed to like it more if they did. He thought about how Richie always included everyone, even if he wasn’t thinking about it. He thought about how if Richie were here right now, Eddie would have something to be a part of. But thinking about him for too long made Eddie nauseous, so he steadied himself with a puff of his inhaler and turned his attention to what the other Losers might’ve been up to since leaving Derry.

Eddie learned that Bev was adjusting well to living with her Aunt in Portland and had made a few good friends in high school, but nothing as close as the Losers. Bill had gone on his annual summer trip with his family; this year to see Niagara Falls. He talked about how the roar of that much water rushing down at once freaked him out a bit, so they didn’t stay long. Bill also was quick to bring up how proud he was of Stan for getting promoted to Assistant Scout Master in his new Eagle Scout troop in New York. Everyone lifted their donuts in a round of cheers and Richie patted Stan firmly on the back. Mike asked about Richie’s new life in California and that sprung him into a long rant about his dad having to move for work, but resolving it with stories about all the “hot babes” he’d met on the beach.

“California must be suffering from some spandex deficiency, ‘cause the swimsuits people wear over there are tiny!” Richie covered his chest as if he’d been scandalized and Bill shoved him lightly.

“Polyester” Beverly corrected, “bathing suits are made of polyester, not spandex.”

“Alright, Miranda Priestly, not everyone’s a fashion genius!” When Bev was the only one to smile at his joke, Richie winced. “Geez, no Devil Wears Prada fans in the crowd?”

Bev giggled and suggested that they plan a movie night soon to educate the rest of the Losers.

“Oh, yeah! We should start a list of movies we want to watch!” Ben smiled and pulled out his phone to start a note. His addition brought on an array of interjections from each of the Losers, each suggesting a wide array of movie genres and titles.

“Indiana Jones!” Mike proposed, and Ben instantly typed it in, agreeing firmly.

“Ooh! Breakfast Club!” Stan added excitedly and earned a vigorous head nod from everyone in the room.

Bill smiled and threw in “Stand By Me” and Ben added it.

It was at that point that Eddie noticed that his friends’ presence had significantly reduced how much unpacking was actually getting done and decided it best to finish up the last of it himself. As much as he loved the conversation, he knew he’d have all year to hang out and politely dismissed them so he could finish up. They all agreed, some more hesitantly than others, and retreated to the lounge to continue their conversation. Eddie smiled to himself as their ramblings echoed down the hall, not faltering for a moment as they changed locations. “Ooh! Put Herbie, Fully Loaded on there!” he heard Richie yell just before his door clicked shut.

He let out a small laugh before turning back to his half-empty room. The sun was low in the sky at that point and cast a warm glow that turned his white walls orange. Bev had cracked the window open earlier to let some fresh air in, and the hush of rustling leaves in the gentle breeze was calming.

This was his for the next year. A place where his friends were all within throwing distance. Not across the country, not in different states, not even down the street. All Eddie had to do to see all the people he loved was leave the room and yell. He might not even have to leave the room if he really didn’t want to. They’d hear him and all come rushing in within seconds, he’d bet. Thinking about their closeness comforted him in a way he’d only felt that summer in middle school. This was his place to remember what it’s like to have fun. A place where his mother couldn’t hold him back. She had restrained him so much growing up that this new freedom excited him. All the possibilities bubbled up and tickled his insides.

Without Sonia, Eddie could be anything.

Because this was his.

And not even his mother could take that away.