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As I sat on the dock I waited to find out what the car crash had done to my sister and her boyfriend, Charlie, my boyfriend Billy came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist “She’ll be OK you know. When have you ever known your sister to give up without a fight?”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said, turning to wrap my arms around his neck.”She’ll fight too much, and it won’t let them get done what they need to.”
“Jenna, you know how much I look up to and love my brother, and I’m not very worried.”
“True.” I sighed. Billy did look up to Charlie, almost as much as I loved Anne.
“Would you feel better if we waited at the hospital?”
“No, this was her favorite spot. She and Charlie would spend hours out here…”
“You mean this is her favorite spot.”
“God, Billy. Do you know what the last thing I said to her was?”
“No, and neither do you, because you haven’t-“
He was interrupted by the shrill ringing of his cell phone. He flipped it open, not bothering to look at the name. “Hello? …Speaking…Yes it is, is there-…are you sure? God, ok. Thanks for calling; I guess…I’m sure you are.” He snapped the phone closed, not even saying goodbye. He stuffed it I his pants pocket, and carefully lifted me off of the dock, carrying me all the way into the house and onto my battered old couch. Without a word, he went to get my emergency ice cream that I only ate when I was extremely upset. I’d purchased it earlier today. He brought it to me on the couch, carrying two spoons.
“Jenna,” he said, not meeting my eyes while opening the container. “That was the hospital. Charlie, uh, lost too much blood. He didn’t make it.”
I gasped. Billy handed me a spoon, but I pushed it away. I couldn’t’ even think about eating ice cream right now. Even though I was in love with his brother, I still loved Charlie as if he was my brother. “Did they say anything about Anne?”
“No, you know hospital rules. They aren’t allowed to tell anyone but the family. Charlie’s always telling us-“ His voice broke, and he began shoveling ice cream into his mouth like a madman, wincing at either a brain freeze or the pain of talking about Charlie. I reached out to stop him, strangely calm. “Billy, stop, it’ll be okay.” Softly, I took the ice cream and two spoons out of his shaking hand.
I quickly ran to my hall closet, grabbing the bright blue afghan Billy had given me for my 19th birthday a year ago. I sat down next to him, resting my head on his shoulder. I pulled the fuzzy blanket around us and began to hum his favorite song. Within moments, we were both asleep.
A shrill sound interrupted my world where the car crash had not happened. I slipped out from under the blanket, careful not to disturb Billy. I picked up the phone. “Hello?” I said groggily. “I have news.” It was my mom. “How is she?...Thank God…Really?...tomorrow?...That’s wonderful!.. Yeah, Billy told me… He’s asleep. Ok…I’ll keep my phone with me….And Mom? I love you. Ok, bye.” I quietly returned the phone to its cradle.
As I sat down next to Billy, I thought about how much he meant to me. I jostled his shoulder. “Billy? Wake up.”
“Jenna?” He asked, perhaps unsure. “I had this horrible dream. Anne and Charlie were in a car accident, and Charlie died.”
“Billy,” I whispered, taking his warm hand in mine. “It wasn’t a dream. They really were in an accident, Charlie didn’t make it. I’m sorry.” He stared at me, mouth agape, for a full two minutes. Then he suddenly yanked the blanket over his head, burying his face in the armrest.
His hand had been wrenched form mine, so I put my hand on his shoulder as I slid to the ground. On my knees, I pulled the blanket off of him.
“Billy, listen to me. I love Charlie like a brother; I know how hard this is for you. But this is why you have to cherish things -or people- while you have them. That’s why, if you love someone, you have to tell them. Billy, look at me.”
He turned his head toward me. I tilted my head in order to look directly into his baby blue eyes, more vulnerable than I had ever seen them. I stared at him for nearly five minutes, and then said, for the very first time, exactly how I felt about him. “Billy, I love you.”
His eyes opened wide. I searched them for some clue of how he was feeling. He opened his mouth, then closed it again when he changed his mind on what to say. He did this several more times before, finally, speaking. “I love you too, Jenna.” He said, smiling for the first time since the news about Charlie. I smiled back, happier than I had ever been. I wrapped my arms around his neck, still on my knees. He sat up, pulling me with him until I was sitting on his lap. He wrapped his arms around my waist tightly, holding me close to him. We sat like this for the longest time, not speaking a word.
It amazed me how Charlie’s death, such a horrible event, could end up creating such a large shift in the universe that was our relationship. I wondered where we would go from here. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how much longer we would last, whether for another year, or forever. What I did know, was at this moment, Billy loved me, I loved him, and we would always be there for each other.
That’s all that mattered.