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A Story for the Kids
“Vomit is a beautiful thing,” I said to Caroline as she hunched over the toilet bowl, groaning and crying into it loudly.
“Why do you always say that?” she moaned, her dark hair that was identical to mine, setting walls on both sides of her face.
“It really is. It –”
“– Comes from deep inside and it’s who you are,” she deadpanned, trying to lift her head to give me an irritated look. But she was sidetracked by another familiar hurling sound and...well, you get it. I flushed down what could have been the banana I had given her as an afternoon snack.
“You are what you eat.”
Sounds gross? I know it is. But without vomit, I wouldn’t be where I am today, living the life I’d always dreamed about as a little girl – and it was all thanks to my digestive system and its impeccable timing.
“When are you going to tell me why you love to throw up so much?” Caroline whined as she lifted her head again.
I sighed as I used a tissue to dab at the side of her mouth. “Well, since neither of us will be going anywhere for awhile...”
It was back in middle school when just about everything in my body was sensitive to just about everything that it got hit with. I’d get the biggest bruises from getting hit with balls, massive headaches from the loud hallways, and a ton of acne from the stress of all the homework that would appear in my backpack. To some it all up, I was tortured.
It was in health class when I realized another weak part of my body. Ah, health class. The worst, yet best subject that I was ever taught. It was the first one of the year, and like the other girls in my class, I was pretty grossed out by what I was hearing. Going into details definitely isn’t necessary right now. As awkward words and sentences were tossed around by my teacher, Ms. Adams, my friends and I made gagging faces at each other. We were all glad that the girls and boys were separated in health class at our school.
But half way through, I couldn’t take it anymore. I clamped my hand over my mouth, and made an escape through the back door in the classroom that we’d use during fire drills, and let my lunch loose on the grass.
“Valerie, dear, are you all right?” Ms. Adams called to me through the door, sounding concerned. But I knew my good ole’ teacher, and I could hear a slight tone of amusement in her gentle voice.
Being hunched over on the grass, I was able to give a half-hearted nod in response even though I knew more was on the way. I guess I’d picked a bad day to have a big lunch. I was just dandy.
“Join us when you can,” she said, “but I must get on with the lesson.”
She didn’t know how glad I was to hear that. She closed the door and left me alone outside with the nice breeze that was beginning to take away the stench of my...okay, unneeded details.
Or so I thought I was alone.
“I hate health class.”
A boy with a head of curly brown hair was looking up at the sky as he sat on the grass a few feet away from his own pile of vomit. He lowered his chin and looked over at me with bright green eyes. I didn’t know much about him except that he was in the other class, 6A, and his name was Cory Bales.
Since he was obviously talking to me (wow!), I nodded and replied, “Ditto.” I hunched over farther and some more…stuff…poured onto the grass. Beautiful.
Since I hadn’t ever really talked to Cory (or any other boys, for that matter), I was kind of nervous that this was our conversation and we were having with our rejected lunches sitting next to us.
He was cute, that was for sure, and also kind of quiet from what I could tell. Whenever my girlfriends would have their giggle sessions about which boys were the funniest and most popular, he was never mentioned. I guessed he was the type to lay low through school with a small pack of good friends, like me. Except I laid so low that I doubted Cory even knew my name.
“I’ve been out here for awhile now,” Cory said casually as he ripped big handfuls of grass from the ground.
It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one with a wimpy stomach in grade six. Even though all the girls were grossed out by what we were learning, I was pretty certain that my friends would still tease me from time to time about it.
“Still a little queasy?” I guessed.
He shook his head. “Not at all. I just don’t want to go back in there.” He threw the grass up into the air, probably thinking that the wind would take it away. Instead it went up, and dropped right back down, giving Cory some highlights.
I giggled as he coughed and swiped some grass that had found its way into his mouth and shook out his hair. The whole show was adorable and I had to bite my lip gently from breaking out into a goofy grin. “Smart plan.”
We were both silent for awhile, not knowing what else to say. Cory then broke that silence in a way that surprised me. “So do you get sick a lot, or are you just repulsed by what you’re hearing?” Cory asked me, sounding genuinely curious and funny at the same time.
I smiled at the slight humour. “Both.”
Cory smiled at me. “That’s one thing we have in common. ...Valerie, right?”
I felt something stir in my stomach. It was sudden and it was a big feeling, like how I felt before I had burst through the door and threw up, but I knew that wasn’t about to happen. I nodded shyly as the feelings stirred. At Cory’s smile and his eyes shining on me, I felt butterflies.
“Butterflies?” Caroline repeated. “Did you throw them up?”
I laughed and stroked her hair. “No, not literally. I just felt funny inside.”
“Ooooh!” Caroline said. She giggled. “You liked him!”
I laughed and smiled, helping her to her feet. “Exactly.”
Cory and I kind of hung out after our official introduction. Nothing major like going out on the weekends or being partners for schoolwork, but we hung out. At recess we’d swing together and sometimes my friends would join us. On bus rides for school trips, we’d sit together, and his friends would sit around us. It was a nice little friendship we had going on and I was really good at covering up the fact that I’d had a crush on Cory since the end of sixth grade.
But then high school rolled around and our little friendship that had blossomed into a close sister-brother effect changed. We were on a school trip to the Canada’s Wonderland which we really had no business being on, with our sensitive digestive systems and all. But Cory insisted, saying that it would be a fun trip.
“Throwing up on some poor kid’s head on Behemoth isn’t fun, Cory,” I said to him as we climbed onto the horrible school bus that was noisy with all the ‘cool’ kids laughing at the back of the bus, showing off to everyone at the front that they were having so much fun talking about stupid things. I immediately got hit with the terribly familiar smell of mud, old shoes, and leftover lunches that the bus always supplied. I gagged and slipped into a seat up front away from the other kids and pulled down the window right away.
Cory laughed and slid into the seat next to me. “Don’t eat anything all day then. You can’t throw up if there’s no food in your stomach.”
I snorted and leaned my head on the window. “Me? Yeah, right! The big fatty has to eat!”
Cory frowned and looked at me like I was crazy. “Valerie, you’re not fat – not at all. You’re perfect.”
The butterflies in my stomach erupted and smacked against each other as their wings got tangled and crushed. That was a compliment – a huge compliment…maybe even a flirty compliment? No… I had to have imagined it. It was just Cory being a goof as usual.
But being the polite girl that I was, I of course thanked him for his lie.
Cory sat closer to me so that our legs brushed against each other and our shoulder touched. He smiled in a totally adorable way that made the butterflies melt into a colourful mess. “I swear I’m not lying.”
“Feeling better?” I asked Caroline when she came back downstairs, clean, and changed out of her messy overalls.
She nodded. She walked slowly over to the other side of the kitchen counter and climbed onto the chair. “Much better.”
“Are you lying?” I asked, wiggling my eyebrows at her to make her laugh.
“I’m not! I swear!” she insisted. She gladly accepted the glass of cold water I offered her and gulped a few sips. “Now finish the story, please!”
When my colleagues asked Cory and me how we met after the introductions at work, they were surprised when they found out we went to school together. They were even more surprised that we had dated in high school and were still together after separating briefly for a few years of university. That time without him was, without a doubt, a very dull part of my life.
At our class reunion, I was happy to see all my old friends, and they were happy to see us too – the same happy pair that we were from grades six through twelve – even if we were only dating for those last four years.
Seeing my old health teacher, I left Cory’s side, and approached her with a big smile. It’d been years since she’d retired and I’d seen her. “Ms. Adams!”
“Valerie Hamilton – oops, I mean Bales!” She laughed and pulled me into a long gentle hug, smiling the whole time. We caught up, laughed, shared stories, and laughed some more. Despite my hatred at the time for the subject she taught, she’d always been a favourite teacher of mine and it was so nice to catch up.
She glanced over at Cory who was smiling and talking with some of his old buddies. “I sensed something like this would happen when I saw him outside sick that day during health.”
“Uh-huh. You two seemed so perfect for each other and didn’t even know it,” Ms. Adams said with a smile and a distant look in her eyes.
“Well, I was quite shy,” I reasoned. “And we weren’t in the same class, anyway.”
She smiled and nudged my arm. “Then it’s a good thing that that health class grossed you out, huh?”
I smiled and nodded. She had no idea how much I cherished that day. I knew that Cory felt the same way because the day he proposed to me at dinner, he’d been going on and on about how he would always remember April 12th, 2000.
“Ms. Adams,” Cory said with that handsome smile as he strolled over to us. He gave her a short hug and his eyes shone brightly at his happiness.
“I was just talking to Valerie about you and how you finally met,” she said as she pulled away with the warm loving smile that was always on her face.
Cory put his arm around me and smiled. “Were you now?”
I nodded. “Apparently she knew we were meant for each other.”
Cory just laughed. Mrs. Adams nodded and smiled. “I did. I knew it all along. That’s quite a story for the kids, huh?”
I patted my stomach that was growing more and more by the months and smiled. “An interesting one, that’s for sure.” I couldn’t wait to have my two babies out and do the many motherly things I’d always fantasized about as a little girl when I played with my dolls that I treated as if real humans. It excited me even more that I’d have Cory to share the amazing experience with. He was going to be a great father no doubt, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better to care for me while I was pregnant with the twins.
“Do you have names yet?” Ms. Adams asked us.
Cory looked at me for a few seconds with that smile, and then at Mrs. Adams. “Caroline and Adam.”
“So I’m named after you’re old health teacher?” Caroline asked me.
“Uh-huh,” I said, “my favourite teacher ever.”
“And Adam too? Because her last name was Adams?”
I smiled. “Exactly.”
Caroline finished her water and jumped off her chair. “That is so cool! You met Daddy because you vomited in health class! Is that why you became a teacher, Mommy?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. But I just really love teaching adorable little kids like you and Adam.”
Caroline bounced on the balls of her feet. “I can’t wait for you to teach me health in grade six!”
I laughed and knelt down in front of her freckled face, looking into her shimmering green eyes that matched Cory’s one hundred percent. “Trust me, you won’t feel like that in five years, Caroline.”
“We’re home!” called Cory from the hallway. I could hear him coming down the hall with Adam, and before he could get through the doorway, Caroline had hopped on his back, and Adam was hugging my waist. The usual routine never got old to me – the switch between the twins when one of us would come back from an outing with one of them. It brought an immediate smile on my face.
I lifted Adam and gave him a kiss on his cheek. “Had fun at school?”
“No!” Adam said right away, making a face. "It's not fair that Caroline got to home early!"
I laughed. He always claimed that he hated school – he was like Cory in that way.
“Mommy told me a story about when you two threw up in health class!” Caroline announced to Cory and Adam as he carried her over to the couch.
“Cool!” Adam’s freckled face lit up and his light brown eyes that he got from me danced.
I laughed and carried Adam over to the same couch as Caroline and Cory, and sat next to them. I gave Cory a short welcoming kiss and smiled. “She threw up again today.”
Cory’s eyes danced as he grinned. “That’s my girl.” He bounced Caroline on his knee and she giggled. “Did you like the story, Caroline?”
“I loved it!”
“I wanna hear it!” Adam whined.
“Daddy can tell it to you,” I offered, holding Adam close in my lap. I was up for the story again, and I’m sure Caroline was too. It was like one of those songs that could never get old or annoying. You knew every part and all the lyrics, nothing would ever change about it to make it better or worse – that’s what was so great about it.
Cory pulled Caroline onto his lap and sat closer to me. I remembered the butterflies back in grade nine, that time on the bus when Cory had kissed me for the first time, and smiled. Cory must’ve too, because something about his smile changed slightly and he looked at me for brief moment before turning his attention back to Adam who was settled on my lap. “Back when we were in school, Mommy and Daddy would get upset tummies all the time…”