- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
“Bye Dad,” I tried to keep my voice from cracking and the tears at bay, “I’ll miss you.”
“Bye Elizabeth. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
My dad gave me a bear hug then moved on to my little brother, repeating the ritual, and went to my mom, giving her an enveloping hug and kiss. He stepped back and just looked at us a while, engraining the image in his mind.
“I’ll see you all soon. G’bye. I love you all,” he whispered before he turned around and walked down the terminal to board his flight. It was then that I let the tears fall, rolling down my face. My vision blurred, the throngs of people pulling colorful, oversized luggage becoming slightly out of focus. I couldn’t hear the shouts of crazed vacationers as they tried to find a place to rent a car. Someone tripped on a suitcase, sending its contents onto the floor in a heap. Another person in the packed airport was yelling someone’s name, surely, trying to find a returning passenger. But everything was blocked out and all I could think of was my father. What are we getting ourselves into?
“Elizabeth, we have to go or we’ll be late! Come on!” my mom frantically hollered over her shoulder. It had been a few months since my dad left. We still weren’t used to it. We were always late and the house was always a little messier than before. Everything seemed crazy and hectic, almost too hard to handle. We all missed him so much. He made everything better. Sighing, I hopped into the car, joining Nick and my mother on our way to various places; guitar lessons for me and piano lessons for Nick.
“I’m ready,” I replied pointlessly; my mom was already speeding out of the driveway.
“Now remember, when you are switching from a G to a C-add9, keep your ring and pinkie fingers on the bottom two strings; don’t lift them up. Oh and don’t forget to practice our new song for next week. Alright?” probed Mrs. Mallard, my very eccentric guitar teacher. I swear she thought I had amnesia because she repeated everything at least five times before she decided I would be able to remember it. Or maybe she had amnesia and forgot that she had already told me. Either way, it was pretty annoying at times.
“Okay I’ll see you next week then. Buh-bye now,” she waved her fingers and shut the door behind me.
“How’d your lesson go?” my mom asked once I got in the car.
“Good.” I gave her my typical answer. I don’t know why, but for me it was always so much easier to talk to my dad.
“What’d you learn?”
“A strumming pattern for a new song.”
She had no idea what I was talking about. My dad would’ve if he had been here. He had been playing since high school. But he wasn’t here. I barely managed to hold back the scream of frustration that kept sliding up my throat.
“Doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t know it. Are we gonna go get Nick or not?” I asked, suddenly harboring annoyance for her innocent questions. It wasn’t her fault, but I didn’t know where else to direct my irritation.
“Yes.” I sensed she was mad at my attitude. Her fists griped the steering wheel tighter than normal, but nothing seemed normal while Dad was gone anyways.
After a few minutes I gave in and apologized.
“That’s okay.” She was still upset though. I could tell by her tone. But I understood. I wasn’t acting like myself lately. Well, really, not since Dad left. I’ve been a brat.
“What do you guys want for dinner?” my mom asked after we picked up Nick.
Of course. That’s what he always wants.
“Sounds good. I can’t handle cooking right now.” My mom decided.
Can she ever since dad left?
A few months later things were worse. I needed my dad. We all did. I was always angry at everyone and everything. I blamed the world for taking my dad away, even though it was, as we all desperately hoped, only for a short time.
Nick felt like he had to take care of my mom and me because he was the only guy in the house. I really do love him. A lot. But, to be honest, it was getting annoying. Really annoying. Plus he didn’t need to grow up that fast. He shouldn’t have to.
Mom was a whole other story. She was so stressed all the time and she couldn’t seem to keep up with anything. And I am pretty sure that I made things worse. No. I’m positive. I was so upset about my dad leaving and I didn’t know where to direct that anger, so she got the brunt of it. I blamed her for not stopping him, though I knew it wasn’t her choice. Not entirely anyways. It wasn’t fair of me, but I was at a complete loss as to what to do.
One night, I passed her room on the way to the kitchen for a drink and heard her crying. That probably wasn’t the first and only night either.
“Mom are you okay?” I peered through the crack the slightly ajar door created.
“Oh,” She had jumped, surprised. She had quickly wiped the tears off her face and tried to pretend she hadn’t been crying. But I knew better. “Oh I’m fine. Go to bed sweetie, okay? Good night.” In other words, go away.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I told her good night and quickly escaped to my bedroom, regretting not adding the last three words that hadn’t escaped my lips in a very long time: “I love you.”
“Wanna play with me?” Nick asked, motioning to my guitar. I hadn’t seen him come in the living room.
“Um, sure.” I said, getting off my feet and walking over to my guitar. I loved playing it. Music helped me get my mind of things, and just then I really wanted my mom’s tear streaked face from the night before to disappear. Did I do that to her? I couldn’t help but wonder.
“You start. I’ll join in,” I directed.
“You pick.” He sat down at the piano, his fingers poised over the keys, ready to pounce.
When I play guitar, I get completely lost in my music. If someone were to talk, I wouldn’t have heard them. I wouldn’t have even noticed they were there. Music allows me to escape from my problems into a carefree world.
I let my mind wander. Upon closing my eyes, I found myself drifting in a far away land where war doesn’t even exist to oppose peace. I looked around, taking in my surroundings. Trees covered the lush green hills that were rolling through the land, turquoise water stretched out for miles in front of me, making music with the rise and fall of each gentle wave. My dad was there along with Nick, and my mother. They were standing near the water, holding hands and motioning me over. We all glowed with the happiness that came from being together. The beautiful surrounding didn’t hurt either, though.
“Lizzie?” Nick was looking at me. I had continued strumming for who knows how long after the song was over. Oops.
“Sorry. I was . . . distracted.” We went through a few more songs, and then headed to bed. I hoped with all my heart Mom wouldn’t cry that night. It was only three more weeks until my dad would get home. I only wished we could make it.
I stared through my bedroom window and watched the rain fall in droplets, distorting my view through the window, just like my tears did to me the day my dad left for war. It had been fifteen months since he left.
knock, knock, knock
“Hey, Lizzie, mom said to tell you we are leaving in five minutes.”
“What are you thinking about?” Nick came in and sat on the edge of my bed, watching me.
“The day he left. It seems like so long ago.”
“I know. I’m so glad he’s coming back. I’ve missed him.”
“Me too. I can’t wait to see him again.”
“Me either.” We sat in silence, staring out into the rain, each of us lost in our own thoughts.
“Come on kids, time to go,” Mom called up the stairs, a mixture of excitement, relief, and nervousness rolling of her tongue.
“Coming!” we shouted in unison.
My dad walked through the terminal and paused for a second, looking around, still dressed in his army getup. Then he saw us. He dropped his bags and came in on a jog, wrapping my mom, then Nick and me in his arms.
“I missed you so much!” he choked out. My whole family cried tears of joy. Sobs racked my body. There we all stood, a big blubbering bunch, overjoyed to finally be together again.
We walked through the front door and I watched my dad take everything in. I looked around to, trying to look at everything as if I hadn’t been there in fifteen months. I put my hand on his arm to show him support. This must be so weird for him.
There were muddy rain boots on the floor by the front door, clean laundry ready to be folded on the worn, brown, leather couch, and Nick’s sheet music was spread out on the floor by our old, hand me down piano. My Martin DM sat in the corner, yearning to be played. There was also a Twister board in the middle of the room strewn out on the floor. The walls were painted a soft buttery yellow contrasting with the dark grey and murky blue hues outside, which could be seen through the huge window at the front of our modest, little house. The window allowed us to see rain pouring down in sheets, drowning the myriad of green trees that I knew were right outside our front door. The house smelled warm, like sugar cookies right out of the oven and the air, which almost always rang with the sound of either laughter or music, was still. I couldn’t imagine being away for so long.
A few hours later, my mom and I watched as my dad tried to beat Nick at Twister, a family tradition, though it was completely pointless. No one could ever beat Nick at Twister, except me of course.
I glanced at my mom sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor next to me. She looked so carefree in her jeans and white v-neck shirt, with her long, brown hair draped over one shoulder and her twinkling green eyes, “You guys look like pretzels!” She yelled, then gave me a smile. It gave me comfort to know that with dad around, our relationship would be back to normal. Thank heavens. I’ve missed her. Yes. I know she was with me the whole time, but none of us were acting like ourselves in his absence.
Pleased, I looked at my dad and brother and found she was right. I joined in the laughter. “Left hand on yellow,” I called as I spun the spinner another time. They both awkwardly moved their left hand to a clown red circle. My dad was about to fall and he looked like he was in a lot of pain, the way his face was turning as a red as the circle his right hand was on. He had golden blond hair, icy blue eyes, and extremely tan skin that he acquired while he was gone. He was also wearing timeworn jeans and a navy blue shirt. “Right foot on blue.”
Nick moved with ease, trying not to laugh too hard at my dad so he didn’t fall over. His brown hair came from my mom. He was tall and lean with the same icy blue eyes and complexion of my dad. He was wearing new, dark blue jeans and a black t-shirt. “Left foot on green.”
The doorbell rang just then, startling my dad as he was attempting to follow my instructions. His right foot slipped causing him to tumble.
“Ha! I won!” Nick yelled as he sprang up, and then reached out a hand to help our lump of a dad stand up.
“It caught me off guard,” my dad claimed.
“Maybe. But Nick would’ve won anyway” I grinned. Dad pretended to be shocked and hurt, but he couldn’t keep it up for very long. We all ended up laughing.
“Shhhh!” my mom whispered to me once the laughter had quieted a bit, just loud enough for everyone to hear, of course, “Nick was supposed let him could actually win, remember?”
“He must have forgotten,” I agreed. That brought on a new round of laughs and giggles. The doorbell rang again.
“We can hear you!” came a muffled shout through the door.
“I got it,” Nick said, walking to the door. He opened it to find the Hunt family standing there holding a plate of hot, homemade brownies. Nick’s face instantly light up even brighter, if that’s possible, with a genuine smile.
The Hunts had been our best friends for as long as any of us in both families could remember. Claire was six years old and as darling as ever with bright blue eyes and blonde curls. I can still remember the day she was born, her hair was jet-black. None of us could’ve guessed that she would turn into the adorable little fair-haired girl she is today. Justin was my age and a good friend to both Nick and I. He also had light blonde hair, though his eyes were a deep brown.
Marie and Dave, their parents, were so amazing. Dave was about 6 feet tall, towering over his brown-haired 5 foot two inch wife. They were always there for us. It was as if we were their own children. Not to mention Marie’s amazing cooking abilities. Both of them were so giving and great friends to my parents.
“That’s hilarious!” Justin laughed at another one of Nick’s lame jokes.
“No it’s not!” I claimed, though I was laughing too. “You know, sometimes I really worry about you guys…”
“Thanks sis. Appreciate that.”
We were currently sitting around the loft, now that Marie’s specialty brownies were long gone. Our parents were downstairs doing whatever it is that parents do. Claire was with them.
“Hey Elizabeth come here for a second,” my Mom called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Hold on,” I said standing up.
“What’d you do this time?” Nick teased.
“Have you been robbing from the bank again?” Justin asked innocently.
“You guys are stupid,” I called over my shoulder as they burst into laughter.
“Do you think you could watch Claire tomorrow while Marie and I do a little shopping? All the boys are going to a soccer game, otherwise Dave or Justin would watch her.”
“Oh sure. No problem.”
“Great,” Marie smiled.
“Will you puh-lease play hide and seek with me?” Claire asked, giving me a face I could not disappoint.
“OK, fine. Only a few rounds though.”
“Yea! Alright. I’ll hide, you seek. Start counting to thirty . . . now!”
And with that she was off. I waited around a while then began my search. First I checked the garage. Then the living room. Next, the dining room and kitchen. Then all the bedrooms. And of course the backyard. All these turning up with the same results.
Empty. Where could she be? I started to get worried. I checked everywhere I could think of. Well, there was one place left, but no one ever went up there.
The door creaked open. Empty. I was about to go back over another room when something caught my attention. Someone’s footprint. Etched into the thin layer of dust that covers the attic floor. They were much too big to be Claire’s. But, intrigued, I followed them anyway. They lead over to an old chair, the one my dad supposedly “threw away” years ago. I wonder if my mom knows it’s up here. Next to the chair is a little circular end table. On it is a lamp that my mother hated as well and leather, journal-looking book that I had never seen before.
I opened the book to a random entry on yellowed pages. None of them were dated. I began to read the words on the page, written in masculine, sure, strokes:
The sounds of war echoed through the air. The hot desert sand matched the orange color of the merciless, scorching sun. It shone down on us with its beady rays, burning our faces red as cherries. I forged onward with the rest of the troops. I let off another shot, then another, and another.
“Move forward! Keep shooting!” A commander yelled.
“Yes sir!” a loud shout rang up, barley heard through the thunderous, never-ending sound of gunshots in the air. Dust and gun smoke clung to everything. BANG!
A fellow soldier went down beside me, at first yelling in pain then becoming silent. My entire world began to fade into darkness, as I stared into the lifeless eyes of my comrade.
Everything in my vision became blurry. Did he really see all this?
I had to ask. To know for myself: Was he really living with all those haunting images, no memories, bouncing around in his head?
I forced myself to keep reading, blinking back tears:
“I said keep moving! On your feet now. Now move, move, move!”
“Yes sir,” I said, my voice filled with pain and lacking the respect and conviction I knew it should hold. He nudged me forward, motioning for me to kill yet another enemy with my gun.
I lifted the weapon and . . .
I threw the book on the floor before I could finish the sentence and fled the attic, unable to continue reading. I didn’t want to even imagine everything my dad must have seen and had to do.
I ran into my room and flopped onto my bed, finally allowing the cleansing tears roll down my face.
“What’s wrong?” a sweet, innocent voice asked after about five minutes, though it’s hard to say how much time has passed.
I quickly mopped up my face with my sleeve.
“Oh I was just worried I wouldn’t find you!” I exclaimed, “but everything is fine now,” I said with fake conviction. I felt terrible lying to her like that, but I didn’t want to trouble this little child with the truth. That would cause her nightmares like my own I was sure to have. She didn’t deserve that.
“Don’t cry. I was hiding in your laundry hamper,” Claire said hesitantly, reaching out her comforting, though little hand and resting it on my trembling arm. “I was right here the whole time.” She stretched her arms wide to show me how long the whole time really was.
I scooped her up and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“Oh good!” I gushed. The doorbell rang.
“Let’s go find your mom.”
“Mommy!” Claire ran into the arms of Marie.
“Hey sugar plum! Did you have fun with Elizabeth?”
“YES! We played hide and seek! I even won!”
“You sure know the way to her heart don’t you Elizabeth?” she joked, “What’s wrong, sweets?” she asked after getting a look and my red-rimmed eyes.
“Oh, well . . .” I started, but was saved by Claire.
“She thought she wouldn’t be able to find me ‘cause I was hid so good. But she’s okay now. Right?” she looked at me with those big blue eyes.
“Of course!” I faked cheer, fooling Claire. I knew Marie could see right through it, but she didn’t push.
“Okay if you don’t want to tell me . . .” she trailed off and changed the subject. “Your mom forgot she had a hair appointment, but she wanted me to tell you that she’ll be home soon. The boys’ soccer game isn’t over yet so they won’t be home for at least another hour. I have to run home and let the dog out now, though, before he has an accident. Will you be alright?”
“Yeah I’ll be okay,” I lied. I didn’t want to be alone. Didn’t want time to reflect on what I found. But we said our goodbyes and they left.
Nothing to do now but wait for someone to come home.
I continued to go back to the attic a few days every week, making sure no one was paying any attention to me. I would hike up the stairs, the ancient steps creaking under each foot, and open the journal to a random entry and start reading. As I read, my heart would beat faster; fear gripping me. That time-worn journal began to become the center of my nightmares. I don’t know why I kept doing it, reading up there, other than the fact that I felt I had to know what my dad went through. I don’t know why I felt that either. All I did know, it seemed, was that I did. So I kept reading. Day after day. Week after week. And finally, month after month.
Once, my mom almost caught me. I felt like I was somehow lying to her by not telling her, but I still didn’t want her to know. Well, I had just come down from reading about five or so entries.
“Elizabeth, why do you have dust all over you?” she questioned, “Just look at those pants!”
I looked down and found she was right. It was all over me. And it was especially noticeable on my dark pants.
“Um. . . I was. . .”
“Never mind,” she said after about fifteen seconds of waiting for me to come up with a response, “I’m late for my doctor’s appointment. Just go clean up,” she ordered. I watched her hurry out the door, purse and car keys in hand, only to add “And stay clean!” to my list of chores before the door came to a close.
“That was close.” I said aloud, wiping my brow.
“What was close?” Nick asked teasingly, knowing he wasn’t supposed to hear that.
Darn! I didn’t know he was in the room!
“Um, nothing,” I said weakly.
“C’mon Lizzie. It was obviously something or you wouldn’t have said that,” he pointed out. I hate it when he is right.
Should I tell him? I mean, I should probably tell someone; maybe he could help me figure it out.
“Fine. Follow me. I’ll show you.”
“That’s my name!” he said proudly and followed me up the stairs to the attic. I rolled my eyes.
“Do you really think it’s his, Lizzie? Are you sure he wrote this?” Nick’s faced was scrunched up in concern.
“I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to figure it out.”
“Are you gonna ask him?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” My conviction I had had to find out the truth when I first came across the journal was quickly fading. I did not want to bring it up to my dad. Ever. I didn’t want to cause him pain by making him relive those terrifying moments of his life at war.
“Well you should. In fact, if you don’t I will,” he teases. Or so I thought.
“No! Don’t you dare! Not yet.”
“Fine. But you should. And soon. It’s not worth worrying yourself sick over if it’s not even his. Maybe he made it up. Or maybe he just found it at a garage sale and thought it looked cool. He is the only one that knows and the only way you are going to find out if it is his or not is if you ask,” Nick said pointedly.
“You don’t know that for sure. I might be able to figure it out by myself,” I said, folding my arms for comfort and doubting my words. Who was I kidding? My dad would be the only one who could help me.
“Just talk to him. Do you want me to go with you when you do?”
“Possibly. But I still don’t want to do it yet.”
“Let me know when you do. I’m here for you, Lizzie.”
“I know. Thanks.”
“Hey Elizabeth, would you mind helping me with this? It will just take a second,” my dad’s voiced hopefully.
“Sure. I guess.” I walked into the backyard with my dad, ready to hand him tools when he asked for them. He was trying to build a fence around my mom’s garden to keep the critters out. “Stupid raccoons. Go find your own food!” I would often say, but, I actually thought they weren’t all that bad. They were pretty cute, to be honest.
“Screw driver please. . . No. The Phillips head.”
“This one?” I held up one with a bright orange handle.
“Yes. Thank you.”
We sat in silence for a while as he worked. He broke it first.
“What have you been up to lately? I feel like I never see you anymore.”
“Sorry about that. I’ve been . . . busy.”
“Doing what? Because I know your homework doesn’t take up all your time, otherwise I would have to go talk to your teachers and that would be a pain.” His right eye crinkled up in a wink. I knew he would do anything for me. “And I haven’t heard you playing guitar all that often either.”
“I’ve been reading,” I admitted cautiously.
“I see. And what have you been reading exactly?”
Should I tell him?
“Um, a book Justin gave me.” I tried, hoping he wouldn’t ask for a title.
“What’s it called?”
Of course. Why on Earth would he let me get away with it? Hmm . . .
“I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“Can I borrow it when you’re done?”
“No,” I quickly stumbled to come up with an excuse, “he needs it back for a book report when I’m finished.”
“Oh. Maybe some other time then.” Whew!
“Honey, are you okay? You seem tense.”
You have no idea.
“Oh I’m fine. Just fine,” I lied, disgusted at myself for being untruthful with him. I just need to tell him. It is not worth all this. I’m going to get caught eventually anyways.
“You’re sure.” He still wasn’t convinced. “Wrench please.”
“Perfect. Thanks. No sweetie, be honest, what’s wrong?”
“Dad, it’s nothing. Really.” Why can’t I bring myself to do it? HE ios asking isn’t he?
“Well I trust you. I want you to come to me thought when something is wrong. Okay? No matter what it is.”
“Good.” Pause. “I think I’ll be okay now. Go ahead and go inside. You look like you need a break.”
I sighed, got up from my “break” on the comfortable couch, and walked over to the door to the ruckus the person on the other side was making.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
“Yes?” I queried, not happy at all about the noise.
“Oh it’s you. Hey Justin. One question. Was all that banging really necessary?” I joked.
“Nope” he grinned, “But it was fun.” Then he asked “Do you want to shoot some hoops with Nick and I this afternoon?”
I gave him my best eye roll. “You know I’m terrible at basketball! Plus I really don’t feel like doing anything today.”
“Well that doesn’t sound like you. What’s up?”
“I. . .” Long pause. “I can’t tell you. I’m sorry,” I said attempting to quickly shut the door before he could ask any more questions. But, as it turns out, today was not my lucky day.
‘Wait,” he commanded, stopping me from shutting the door. “Why not? Did something bad happen?” His chocolate eyes were questioning as he gazed at me.
“No. Nothing like that. Well. At least I don’t think so. I just feel like I shouldn’t tell you.”
“Oh c’mon. Tell me so I can help. I know you are just dying to tell someone.”
“No. I can’t. And I already did tell someone anyway.”
“Please,” he said, purposely making an exaggerated puppy dog face that made me laugh. “Why them, whoever it was you told, and not me?”
What harm would it be to just tell him? Maybe he really could help. “You are so annoying. Do you know that? Ugh. Fine. You win. Come in and I’ll tell you.”
“Elizabeth you really need to talk to him about this. You won’t stop freaking out about it until you do and you know that.”
“Ugh. I don’t want to.”
“I don’t know. I kinda feel like I’ve been lying to him by reading it without his permission. I can tell I wasn’t supposed to read it. It’s in the attic for crying out loud.”
“He can’t, and won’t for that matter, get mad at you for reading it. He left it lying out. How were you supposed to know?”
“Like I said. No one ever goes in the attic. He probably assumed he didn’t have to hide it. Plus a little common sense. Oh wait. You wouldn’t know would you since you are clearly lacking in that area?”
He laughed at my joke, then became solemn. “Elizabeth. Trust me. You need to talk to him.”
“Really? You won’t ask him anything about the book? Promise?”
“Promise. Hey you know what? I just remembered. Nick is waiting for me to meet him . . .” he glanced at his non-existent watch, “Right now! You it’s impossible to play one-on-one by yourself? See you later!” I watched his retreating back, startled at his quick departure. Great. He is definitely up to something. He doesn’t just give in that easily. Does he? Ugh. Boys are such idiots. And with that thought, I settled in to read a few more distressing entries.
“Elizabeth, what are you doing up here?” my Dad’s voice boomed, though not in a threatening way.
“Oh, um, well, I was uh . . . What are you doing up here?”
“Justin and Nick found me on their way to the park. They told me you wanted to talk to me and that you were up here. He also told me that you found the journal. I guess they were right.” He looked pointedly at the offending book in my hands. Nick! Justin! But Justin agreed that he wouldn’t tell! I should have known . . .
“Oh, well, I was just leaving actually. Here. Take it.” I tried to shove the time-worn book into his hands and run down the stairs. It didn’t work. He stopped me, grabbing my arm and placing the book back into my own, unsteady hands.
“No, it’s okay,” my dad said.
I walked back, slumping into the chair.
“How long have you been coming up here and reading? Justin told me you were pretty worried about that book.” Thanks a lot, Justin. He promised! Oh I will get him later. Oh right. It’s my turn to respond . . .
“Why didn’t you ask me about the book if it worried you so much?”
“I didn’t want to bring back bad memories,” I whispered with my head down, all thoughts of the revenge I would get on Justin dissipating as I recalled the terrifying words I had read and I had thought my dad had experienced.
“What do you mean? Memories?”
“Well you wrote it didn’t you? About the war?” I felt like someone was inside my head, hammering at my skull, succeeding in giving me quite a headache.
“Is that what you thought? All this time?” He helped me up then scooped me into a comforting hug.
“Huh?” I was so lost.
“I didn’t write that. I promise.”
“You didn’t?” I looked up at him, my eyes, I’m sure, filled with hope. “Then who did?”
“Rick Acevedo, your grandfather’s friend. He passed away before your grandpa died. Rick left his journal to your grandfather in his will. Rick was such a good friend to him. A few months before your grandpa passed away, he passed it onto me, making me promise I would take care of it, in honor of Rick. So here it is. I’m sorry it scared you. You should have talked to me about it.”
“That’s what Nick said. And Justin,” I grudgingly admitted. We stayed like that for a while, neither of us willing to let go.
“You know, they were both really worried about you. So no getting revenge on either of them. Deal?” He knows me too well.
“Oh fine,” I relented.
“You know, Justin didn’t break his promise. He told me about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“He promised he wouldn’t ask me about it. He never said he wouldn’t tell me about it.” He had a twinkle in his eye. I knew Justin was like another son to him.
“That’s not fair!”
“You set the terms, sweetheart,” he chuckled.
Unwilling to focus on my blunder anymore, I looked up and searched his face, then asked, “Have you read it?”
“Yes,” he ventured slowly, not wanting to give too much detail about his own experience reading the daunting text. “I am so sorry that you did, too. I should have put in a box somewhere where you and Nick wouldn’t stumble across it.”
“It’s my own fault. I should have asked you about it sooner. Thinking about you experiencing all that is what killed me. I am so glad it wasn’t yours.”
“Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”