January 10, 2008
By Carolyn Grillo, St. Charles, IL

I was ten years old when the new neighbors moved in across the street. They moved into one of those dark, gloomy almost haunted houses that belonged to the creepy smelly old man before he passed away. He was the kind of man that would always yell and shake his can at us as we walked by. It was his house that we all made up stories about, and the one we were even afraid to walk past. That house had been up for sale for two years before they bought it, and it had some serious I figured the people that bought it were rich, wanting to spend so much money on that nasty house.

Now, my mom had always been the friendly, bring-over-a-casserole-to-the-new-neighbors type. So once again, she was in the kitchen mixing up yet another casserole. I watched her put in all the ingredients and gave thanks that I wasn’t the one receiving that… thing.

Of course, I didn’t want to go say hi to them. Part of it was my embarrassment of my mom’s cooking, but the other was fear. Fear that they would be another old and stinky couple. But my mom begged, so I trudged along. We arrived at the door, and I stared up at it. It was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How could someone move in here? My mom hit the big door knocker that looked like it was going to jump out and eat me. But we didn’t get an answer. We waited and waited what seemed like hours, shifting eager glances to each other. Finally, the sound of high heels echoed through the walls. The door opened, and a woman no taller than five feet looked upon us.

“Well Ha-low there!!” The woman yelled with a thick southern accent. This woman scared me half to death. Besides her freaky accent, her hair was the size and shape of Texas, and her lips were so bright pink, it hurt to look at them. My mom introduced herself, then me, but I wasn’t so sure that I wanted this strange lady knowing my name. She hesitantly took the casserole my mom had made, which made me wonder if she knew how disgusting it was too.

“Aww, thank yew! We’re new to this neighborhood, and it’s so great to meet new friends! It’s especially good for my little Nicolas. Nick!!!” she shrieked as I covered my ears. If her son was anything like his mom, I definitely did not want to meet him. There was no response, but a few seconds later, a scrawny little boy appeared out from behind her. I couldn’t tell if his shaking was out of anxiety or excitement. The sun glistened so beautifully off his blue ocean eyes, and his hair, so blond, it was almost white.

“This is mah son, Nick. Nick this is, oh dear, your name?”

“Carolyn.” I reported shyly. I could tell my mom wanted to get away from that woman as quickly as possible so we said our goodbyes and left. My mom didn’t say anything about the scary southern woman that day, but I knew she was terrified of her too.

Months passed and soon it was spring break. All my friends were on vacation. So I had no choice. I grabbed my shovel and bucket and trudged through the grass. No longer was I afraid of this house now that Nick lived there. I reached the Leaning Tower of Pisa and stretched my hand out to reach that door knocker. Sure enough, seconds later, the sound of high heels echoed through the walls.

“Hold yer’ horses! I’m a comin’!” She screamed. The door slammed open, and she peered at me with beady eyes.

“Oh! My little darling, haw nice of yew to stop by!” Not two seconds after she shrieked, Nick showed up at the door. Without a word he staggered out, grabbed his shovel, and we ran to my sandbox. We spend all day out there under the scorching sun, playing, talking, and laughing. Pretty soon the sun started to set, and we both knew it was time to go. So we said our sad goodbyes, and skipped home.

Nick and I became best friends after that day. We were inseparable. Everyday we were over at each other’s house and pretty soon we were ditching our other friends just to spend time together.

The years flew by with him, and soon it was September 25th 2006, Nick’s sixteenth birthday. I had the whole thing planned perfectly. I was going to throw him a surprise party. I even got him out of the house and headed over there with my streamers and other decorations. The door was no longer a Leaning Tower of Pisa, and I could now reach the knocker. No longer did it look like it was going to eat me.

I spent the whole afternoon getting the house perfect. There were streamers everywhere and balloons carpeted the floor. I had baked him a chocolate cake earlier that said, “Happy birthday Nick” in green icing. All our friends showed up an hour later, and we all waited in suspense for him to finally get home. We hid behind couches, chairs, stairs, and tables, anything we could find. Shifting glances between each other, the clock, and the door. The lock started to turn and our hearts started to pound together as one in excitement. Squeak…

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!!” We all cheered in unison. Nick’s face was unforgettable. His eyes popped two feet out of his sockets, and we could almost feel his heart stop. It’s a surprise we didn’t kill him. The whole night was spent laughing, reminiscing, cheering, and conversing. It was without a doubt, the best night of my life.

At about 11:30 everyone headed home, and we were left to clean up the destruction we all left.

“Thanks so much for this Carolyn. It was really the best night of my life.” Nick started to say as he moved closer to me. His mom had gone to bed because she said she needed her “beauty sleep”

“I really loved it… just like I love you,” he confessed. This totally threw me off guard. I couldn’t even think. My mind was a mess of jumbled up goo. He shifted towards me more and gently pressed his lips to mine. Butterflies filled my stomach and my heart pulled a 180. We weren’t little kids anymore, and this was actually happening. He had grown up very well. His eyes were still blue as the ocean and his hair ever so blond. But boy was he fit! His body was perfectly toned, and his skin had become tan from running everyday. He was every girl’s dream guy, and I had him. I kissed him back and that was the start of a perfect relationship…until that day.

Nick had gone to the doctor because he had been having very bad headaches for the past month. I got the call around 4:00 on a crisp December day. The sky was a disgusting looking grey. It was one of those days where you stay in your pajamas the whole time. The call was from Nick, and as soon as I heard his voice, I could tell that his headache was no normal headache.

“Carolyn,” he started, tears overflowing his words. “I… I have… Cancer. It….it can’t be cured.” Cancer. We all hear the stories about people getting cancer, and see their mother crying. But hearing that word come from your boyfriend’s mouth is the worst. I felt horrible hanging up on him, but no words would come out of my mouth, even if I tried. I sat down in the black leather couch directly next to the phone. I didn’t cry, I didn’t think. I just sat.

I saw him the next day at school, and promised I would be there for him every step of the way. The chemo came two weeks later, along with the hair loss and changing moods. But I didn’t give in. I made a promise, and I was going to stick it out for the boy I loved. I never gave on him those 6 months.

Six months. Six months is all it takes for cancer to take over the body. Sometimes for those less fortunate it takes months less, and for those that are lucky, it takes more times. But not for Nick. Six months after that day is when it happened. And I found out the hard way. The day was June 11th 2007. I was in the middle of English class, and we were reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Talk about boring. In the middle of class, the dean assistant came in and asked my teacher if I could come with them. Immediately, my mind raced into the thoughts that I did something wrong, and of course, all the kids started hollering “oooooooooh!” The dean assistant told me it was an emergency, but they were not authorized to tell me. So immediately I knew it just had to be something with Nick. And then the tears came. I couldn’t control it; they just streamed down my face. My cheeks turned red with embarrassment, and I bit my lip hoping to stop, but I just couldn’t stop crying.

My mom held my hand the whole way to the hospital. I reached the lounge where his room was located, and I stopped. I guess it had just happened, so they hadn’t moved his body yet. The doctor strolled out of the room and sauntered up to me. He looked so relaxed and professional, as if someone hadn’t just died.

“So, you’re the girlfriend?” He asked with a slight grin on his face. I nodded, but I wouldn’t talk to that bald, evil, pear shaped man.

“I’m very sorry about your loss,” he said emotionless. I could tell he didn’t mean it. He probably said those words so many times that it doesn’t mean anything to him anymore. He doesn’t know what its like. The person he loved didn’t just die. I turned my attention to Nick’s door. On a small document, there was a six letter number. A number. Like he wasn’t a human being.

“Would you like to go in and see him?” he interrupted my trance. Go in and see him? How could they ask me that? They wanted me to goo in and look upon the face of my dead boyfriend? Were they serious? But something inside of me knew I had to say goodbye. Yes, he was gone, but I he didn’t say bye before he left.

I pushed the door, and it slowly opened with a creak. There he lay, lifeless on the bed. The red was gone from his cheeks. No more ocean blue eyes, no more bleach blonde hair, he was gone. I made my way over to his bed and held his cold hand. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started to blubber, “Nick, I know you can hear me out there. I don’t know where you are, but I want you to know that I love you. And I always will.” I started.

“Why?! Why did this happen to you? No not this, not now!” I screamed with anger in my voice.

“God! Why did you do this to me?! How could you!” I cried, sinking into the chair next to the bed. He was only sixteen, he hadn’t even lived. Several minutes later the door opened to awake me from my darkness. My mom entered and told me it was time to go. My tears had gone down, and I made my way out of the hospital to the car.

The next week I hardly spoke to anyone, and no one spoke to me. Now it’s been months since he died, but I haven’t forgotten him. He may be out of my life, but he wasn’t erased. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, and remember the good times we shared. The years will come and go, but we will last forever.

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