Going the Distance | Teen Ink

Going the Distance

January 7, 2011
By Cheekymonkey GOLD, washington, District of Columbia
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Cheekymonkey GOLD, Washington, District Of Columbia
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Favorite Quote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.”


Author's note: When I began writing this story I never intended it to become a novel but with the support of my friends and family it did. From there beginning there was always a piece of me in the protagonist but as the story took shape that piece kept changing. In the end the character took on her own persona and that is probably the best part.

It all started with a boy, a girl and a very messy food fight.
Sometimes the simplest experiences are the ones we treasure the most. This was the case for two teenagers the summer they went to Camp Kently in upstate New York. It was the summer before their senior year in high school and they were both tired of their daily lives in the city. The girl lived in Manhattan while the boy was from L.A. Neither of them had spent much time at camp in the past. Sure they had gone to day camps when they were little and overnight trips with their schools but the idea of sleep away camp had never really occurred to either of them. It was the need to get away from the stress of their daily lives along with the wish for one last hoorah before they buckled down and worked hard for their last year of school that made them sign up for Camp Kently. They never intended to become so close but in the end they did. Wherever one went the other was sure to follow. It wasn’t that they were just in love, they were best friends. If you asked either of them what it was they liked best about the other it wasn’t how “hot” they were or if they were good kissers. They truly valued each other’s friendship. They understood each other better than anyone else. Words were not necessary, but merely an aid, you could have taped their mouths shut and they would have been fine. One look and they knew how the other was feeling.
During the day they were in all of the same activities. It wasn’t intentional but they were so much alike that they had signed up for all of the same courses. In fact they were so much alike that they shared the same birthday. It was if this shared birthday were what sealed the bond between them. They knew they were meant to be together from the start but once they found out about their shared birthday they decided it was a sign saying that they were perfectly matched. Art was a passion they both shared. The boy was more interested in portraits while the girl preferred to be inspired by nature but it didn’t matter. They spent their mornings painting together and chatting away. The counselors got tired of their constant chatter but it was impossible to get them to stop. They weren’t getting into any trouble and they produced the best work in the group so they were left alone and they just went on with their lives.
At lunch you could always find them sitting under the old oak. After lunch it was bunk time but they managed to sneak away and meet up by the lake where they would splash around until it was time to go back to their bunks. They always made it back in time before they got caught.
The afternoon activities were much more active which meant that there was a lot less talking but they still did it together. They cheered each other on when they did the high ropes courses and worked as a team on the low ropes courses. When it was time for team sports they were always on the same team. It was as if they were one person.
Right before dinner the entire group went down to the lake for a swim. At the risk of being seen as being antisocial they went off to a corner of the swimming area to be alone. It wasn’t that they didn’t like the other campers; they just liked being together more. At first the other people tried to go talk to them but after awhile they got the picture.
At dinner they sat at the same table and shared food. The nights that they had spaghetti they reenacted the scene from The Lady and the Tramp and made everyone laugh when they got tomato sauce all over their faces. They even performed it for one of the camp’s comedy nights making sure to get extra messy. Sometimes they would sneak off after dark but usually they would just sit together by the campfire after dinner and laugh about all the adventures they had had that day. When they were together there was never a dull moment.
Every day was the roughly if not exactly the same. Being the oldest age group at the camp they were given a lot more freedom and they took full advantage of it. Their days were always filled with smiles and laughter. They were so comfortable together that they forgot that they had only known each other for a few weeks. When you are as close to someone, as they were to each other, time doesn’t matter.
On the last day of camp during the closing ceremony there was an award ceremony and to no one’s surprise the boy and girl won cutest couple as well as most likely to be together at the 10 year reunion. The price they had to pay for this was that they were forced to kiss on stage in front of everyone. They had nothing against kissing but the way they were being forced to do it so publically made them both slightly uncomfortable. Their picture was taken and within days it was on the camp’s website. They had to admit though; it was a very sweet picture. They both printed it and pinned it onto their wall.
It was only six weeks, and in the scheme of things it was hardly any time at all, but six weeks was all it took for these two teenagers to realize what they meant to each other. Saying goodbye was a tearful ordeal but they promised each other that they would speak everyday and that they wouldn’t let the distance pull them apart. As they each climbed into their respective cars they waved to each other one last time and showed each other what looked like a peace sign. In reality those two fingers were their secret signal to each other that stood for “together forever”. They had come up with it only a few days before. They invented it because they had gotten tired of everyone giggling whenever they said “I love you”. They tried to brush off what other people thought but it did get tiring and they wanted to left in peace. The girl had just read a book where 3 fingers meant I love you so they adapted the idea and made it their own. Everyone else thought that they were just being silly and trying to be hippies but they knew what it meant and they would never forget.
Just like six weeks is just a number so is 3,000 miles. They knew their bond was strong and that no matter how many miles separated them it would stay that way. In some ways their goodbye was just the beginning because when one door closes another two open. They never thought for a moment that it was the end, and they were right.
If there is a lesson to be learned from these two it is that when you care about someone enough anything is possible. Numbers are just that, something that was invented to keep count but they are nothing more. Distance and time are relative and barriers that can be broken if you try hard enough.

It was Monday morning and I woke up to the sound of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are”. I reached over to my bedside table and picked up my iPhone that lay on my bedside table exactly where I had left it the night before. “1 new message”, I thought about opening it but knew I couldn’t so I hopped out of bed and wandered into my bathroom where I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth and my hair. I then went back to my room to get dressed for school. Right before I left my room I sprayed my sleeve with CK ONE.
When I got downstairs I found breakfast on the table.
“Morning mom” – I chirped as I sat down in my usual spot across from the window where I could see the bus arriving.
“Hi darling, how’d you sleep?’- She replied half-heartedly.
“Great! Never better”, not a complete lie and it kept the mood light.
This was our usual exchange in the morning. I was always cheery and optimistic while she seemed to have her mind on something else at all times. I didn’t mind though, I still had the text unopened on my phone.
When I had finished eating my half a grapefruit, and honey and nut granola I grabbed my bag that was conveniently placed by the door and went to wait for the bus. As expected it was late, AGAIN. I don’t think that the bus ever arrived on time in the entire 12 years I attended Leeway Prep in Manhattan. Once again the unopened text was what kept me up beat.
Finally the bus arrived and I got on and found a seat, but not before the bus driver gave me her usual evil glare. It was finally time, the moment I had been waiting for ever since I woke up that morning. The time had come to open the text. “Good morning sunshine.–J”. 3 words and a letter, that’s all it took to make me feel like I was on top of the world. To anyone else they would be meaningless, but to me those 3 words and a letter were better than any amount of gold and silver combined. Just like a pirate values their treasure chest that text was my treasure.
That’s how every day had started for me ever since I got home from Camp Kently 3 weeks before. The messages were always different, some were longer and some were shorter, but the letter was always the same. No matter what, the messages always ended with “-J” .Ever since I got the first message I had made myself a promise not to open them until I was on the bus going to school so that I have something to look forward to. On the weekends I could open them straight away because there was no bus ride to school to wait till.
What seemed like only seconds later we were at school. I was so far off in my own little world I didn’t notice the time slip by. I slid my phone back into its case and dropped it into my bag. Once again the day was off to a good start. While everyone else had the Monday morning blues I was as happy as I had ever been before, well almost. The happiest I had ever been were the six weeks I spent at camp the previous summer. It seemed that nothing would ever beat that summer.

*****

I had art first period which made me even happier. Art was my favorite class, especially on the second Monday of the month, because it was “Free Expression Day”. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The text had inspired me. When I got to the classroom I pulled an easel over to the window and collected my paints and just went for it. There was a perfect image in my mind and I wanted to get it out before I lost it. I can’t say I’m the world’s most talented painter but I was pretty satisfied. By the end of the period I had a painting of the sun setting over a lake just like the one at Kently. I had spent plenty of time by the lake that summer so I knew it well. There was the jetty with the gazebo at the end and a rope swing hanging off the branch that jutted over the water. It might as well have been a photo.
The rest of the day fit the same mold as the previous few weeks as well. I went to my classes and tried my best to pay attention, I swear I did, but somehow I always ended up getting distracted. In history my mind floated off to the evenings I had spent in the gazebo. In algebra my equations always had J as a variable. Econ was boring and I went back to thinking about the gazebo. English was the only class I actually paid attention in, and that was only because we were writing sonnets and they were my favorite type of poem. Had we been reading and analyzing another text I probably would have fallen asleep in the first five minutes.
I had spent my lunch time painting the back drop for the high school production of Romeo and Juliet so as soon as the bell rang after last period I made a bee line for the coffee cart. There wasn’t much to choose from, but in the end I chose a blueberry muffin. It wasn’t the best thing I had ever tasted but I was so starving that I would have eaten cardboard if I had to. Having put an end to my grumbling stomach I pulled out my phone and looked at the screen. “3 new messages”. The first was from my mom saying that I had an orthodontist appointment at 4:30. The next was also from my mom because she had gotten the dates mixed up and my appointment wasn’t till the following week. Along with being particularly aloof my mother was always forgetting things. I didn’t need to look at who the sender of the last one was because I already knew who it was from. I had gotten a message from them at the end of each school day for the past 3 weeks. This one said “ring ring ring! Make sure to have your phone with you when the clock strikes 8. –J”. It wasn’t going to be difficult to follow instructions, I always had my phone with my anyway, partially incase he ever tried to call or text. Given how happy the text that morning had made me it was no surprise that I was over the moon at the thought of a phone call that night.
It was 3:05 which meant that I had missed the regular bus and would have to wait for the late bus at 4 o’clock. Usually this would have bothered me at least a little, there was never anyone interesting on the late bus, but that day I had my iPod and the library was open. This meant I could listen to music and go online while I waited and not get too bored.
When I got to the library I signed straight into Gmail, it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing but oh well, I wasn’t too concerned. I had 3 new emails of interest, the rest were just junk. They were all from friends from camp. I was always happy to hear from camp friends, they were basically part of my family. After spending almost the entire summer with a person you get to know them pretty well. I had just finished reading the messages and had started to respond to the first one from my best friend Kate when I heard that distinctive little “ping” that the computer makes when you get a new chat message.
Jbird: look who’s online! It’s Little Miss. Sunshine :D
Me: Well would you look at that it’s prince charming :P
Jbird: how was your day?
Me: A certain wonderful person made it incredible.
Jbird: Really? Who? I need to meet this person and thank them. Anyone who can make you so happy must be a really great person.
Me: I’m pretty sure you’ve already met but if not I’ll make sure to introduce you the next time you’re in town. How about your day?
Jbird: It was dreadfully long and I had this girl on my mind all day.
Me: I’m jealous! I hope she’s a nice girl; I wouldn’t want you getting hurt.
Jbird: She’s only the most beautiful, intelligent, sweet girl I have ever met!
Me: She sounds incredible.
Jbird: She is. Hey I’ve got an idea!
Me: What would that be?
Jbird: Now this is just a suggestion, but I think that your guy and my girl should talk later. Maybe 8 o’clock?
Me: Well I think that’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day.
Jbird: It’s a date then.
Me: It’s a date.
Then suddenly he was offline and it was time for me to go home. By the time I got to the bus stop the bus was already there. I got on, got glared at by the bus driver and sat down. This time instead of flying by, the bus ride seemed like the longest one I had been on in my entire life. In reality it was only half an hour. Funny how our perception of time seems to changes so easily.

*****

“Hi mom, I’m home!”
No answer. What a surprise. My mom was rarely home when I got back from school, but for some reason I called out every day when I got home anyway. I guess I always hoped that one day something would change and we would have that perfect mother daughter relationship you see in movies. The likelihood of that ever happening was one in five million but I tried anyway. You never know, sometimes dreams do come true.
Since I had spent my time in the library chatting I still had several hours of homework left to do for the next day. No surprise there either, I had always been a procrastinator. It wasn’t the most exciting thing to do, but it passed the time until 8 when I got my much anticipated phone call.
By 20 minutes to 8 I had finished all of my work. My mom still wasn’t home and our house keeper, Karen had the night off since we had asked her to work on Saturday during the dinner party we had to celebrate my mom’s promotion. I went downstairs to make dinner. It’s probably a good thing that I was cooking; my mom had no culinary skills, at all. Once when I was little she tried to make me a grilled cheese sandwich and left the plastic on the cheese. I decided to make spaghetti and meat balls so I put the water to boil on the stove and started chopping up tomatoes. Unfortunately I realized we were out of basil so the sauce was not as good as I would have liked.

At 8 o’clock on the dot my cell phone started playing “I’m yours”; it only did that for one person. I answered instantly.
“Hi, I appear to have lost my other half. Have you seen her by any chance?”
“That’s funny; I’ve lost my other half as well. Would you happen to be him?”
“Yes, yes I would.”
“I was hoping that’s what you’d say. So tell me something new, I haven’t heard from you for awhile”
“There’s really nothing to tell, and anyway I would much rather hear about you.”
“You’re so silly but alright. I painted a picture of our gazebo today in art class.”
“Really? Why? What’s that got to do with school?”
“Because there is no where I would rather be than back in the gazebo with you and it was ‘free expression day’.”
“Awww! Can I tell you a secret?”
“Of course! I love secrets.”
“But you can’t tell anyone.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”
“I love you more than there are grains of sand on the beach”
“Oh my god! I have never heard a better secret in all my life.”
Just then the smoke alarm went off, I had left the meatballs on the stove and they were burning.
“I’m really sorry but I have to go unless you want my house to burn down.”
“GO! GO! We’ll talk later”
CLICK. The line cut off and I ran to turn off the stove and fan away the smoke. 20 minutes later my mom walked through the door and we sat down for dinner.
That night just as I was turning out the lights my phone started to vibrate. It very nearly gave me a heart attack since I wasn’t expecting it. “1 new message”, I got into bed and opened it. “Hey baby girl, just wanted to make sure you hadn’t burnt the house down. Sleep well.” Having read that, there was no way I wouldn’t.
I dreamt of the gazebo that had been on my mind all day. It was as if we were standing inside of my painting. “J” and I were standing hand and hand looking out over the water as the sun set and the crickets were chirping. I never wanted to wake up, but as always all good things must come to an end.

*****

The next few weeks were much the same. I woke up to the same song, had a nonexistent relationship with my mother and smiled whenever I got a message from “J”. Not the most exciting thing I know, but once you’ve fallen into a routine it’s hard to get out of it. It wasn’t that I was trying very hard to break the cycle anyway. Sure I was bored of the lack of communication with my mom and the monotone voices of my teachers droning on day after day but I always had my conversations with “J” to cheer me up. No matter how good or bad my day, talking to “J” always brightened my mood. As the weeks progressed there were more and more things on my mind and I became less and less focused. Every day I became a little more stressed. SATs were coming up and just like any other senior in high school I wasn’t ready. They say that you will be prepared when the time comes, but let’s be honest; when do you ever feel ready for a test? College essays were another thing to worry about and each day I was a little more overwhelmed and a little less on top of things. I know that it’s something that everyone one goes through but that didn’t make it any easier. One day I was writing yet another college essay, this one for Yale, when I got an email: Are you or someone you know in a band? Does the idea of a trip with your band mates to New York sound like fun? Would you like to be able to record in a professional studio? If you answered yes to any of these questions please click the link below and sign up for the 10th annual Jammathon. There is no entry fee and all genres of music are welcome. I had never actually been in a band, and I had no intention of joining one. On the other hand I did know someone who was in a band, and the idea of them coming to New York, where I was living at the time seemed very appealing. I immediately clicked forward and typed into the address bar and wrote, “If you ask me I think you and ‘Rapid fire’ should enter, it would be perfect way to see you again”. Then I hit send. Less than 45 minutes later I had a response, “Just talked to the band and they think it would be a great way to get our name out, I’m signing up right now”. This was incredible I actually had a concrete plan as to how to get “J” to New York. At that moment I knew that dreams do come true. *****

Within a week the contestants were up on the site and “Rapid fire” was in the running to win a trip to New York. This was no surprise; they were the best high school band I had ever heard. True, my opinion was somewhat biased, but clearly other people thought they were good too. All that was left was to get everyone I knew to vote and in a few months they would be on their way to “the big apple”.
This was easier said than done. I went up on stage at every school meeting, posted flyers around campus and emailed everyone in my contact list. I even made it my status everyday on facebook. The word was out. I had done my job; there was nothing else I could do. I had told everyone I knew in every possible way. I even put an ad in the local paper one day.
Over the next few weeks different people came up to me asking what the competition was and I told them, “It’s a competition for high school students that are in a band and would like to compete to win a session in a recording studio to make their own CD”. This seemed to get people’s attention and they promised to vote. Whenever I heard this I could just feel my face light up. This was my chance to see “J” and I wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way.
About two weeks before the finalists were announced I started getting worried. What if not enough people voted? This was my one chance to get what I wanted. We had come too far for a couple of votes to get in the way. I was determined to get “Rapid fire” to New York. I started googleing ideas as to how to get people to vote.
Suddenly it hit me in the middle of the night. Just like we had had a fundraising week the previous year at school I would have a “get the word out” week. I had it all planned out. I would start off the week by sending inboxes to everyone and speaking once again at the school wide meeting. The next day I would post fliers around the school and wear a shirt with “Rapid fire” written on it and then I would have bake sales for the next couple of days and finish the week off by passing out demo CDs.
It was quite tiring promoting the band but my friends helped out and by the end of the week everyone at school and in the neighborhood had heard the name “Rapid fire” at least 10 times. If you add in the fact that it was all over facebook there must have been at least two thousand people that had heard their name. I guess you could call it a success.
Finally the day came when they announced the finalists for the contest. If “Rapid fire” made it to the finals I would only have to wait one more month to see “J”. I couldn’t concentrate at all that day. I was already my usual distracted self and on top of that I was thinking about the competition. A lot of people had told me that they’d voted but I wasn’t sure if it was enough.
When I got home that afternoon I went straight for my computer to check the contest website. Nothing, there was absolutely nothing. The site had not changed since I looked at it the day before, or the day before that. I started to get worried until I remembered that they were going to post the results at 3 pm West coast time, not east cost.
At exactly 6 o’clock my time, not a minute earlier or later I logged back on and the results were up. “Rapid fire” was in first place. I was ecstatic. I’m not sure anything had made me so excited in a very long time. I grabbed my phone and dialed the number I knew so well.
“Hello?”
“Hey! Have you checked the competition results?”
“No, not yet. Do I want to?”
“Well let’s put it this way…. You better start packing!”
“Oh my god! This is incredible!”
“I can’t wait to see you!”
Then I heard a thud come from his end of the line… there is only one person it could be,
“The dog’s at the door waiting to be walked, I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.”
I knew it. No one but his dog made that much noise. I had heard the noise before and I was sure I would hear it again.
“Alright, bye!”
I was just so happy, I couldn’t sit still. I’m not kidding when I say I was bouncing off the walls in excitement. After all this time I was finally going to get to see the one person I couldn’t get my mind off of. I would have to wait another month, but all my hard work had paid off. I know I didn’t actually do that much in the scheme of things, but I felt like I had accomplished something.
The next month was probably the most exciting month of my life since the school year started. I was talking to “J” every chance I got, planning all the details of his visit. He would only be in town for a weekend but the way we saw it, some time was better than nothing. Obviously he was going to be staying with his band mates and doing whatever the contest required but the rest of the time was ours to spend as we pleased. Unfortunately my free time to plan was limited due to school work and college entrance exams. As much as I wanted to, I could not neglect my responsibilities; I still had 3 college applications to finish before the Christmas holiday. It just so happens that the applications were for my top three choices for universities.
*****

Finally the day arrived when “Rapid fire” was flying in. I hadn’t slept the night before I was so excited. I managed to persuade my mom to let me leave school early that one time and was at the airport a full 30 minutes before the plane was scheduled to land.
As soon as the doors opened and I saw his face I ran. I couldn’t stay where I was any longer. “Jason!” I yelled, because that is what the elusive “J” stood for. He dropped his bag on the floor and opened his arms. I ran at him, not stopping to consider the force with which I was coming at him. Luckily he was quite strong and had good balance so I managed to avoid knocking him off his feet. I had been dreaming of this moment ever since I found out that he was coming. It wasn’t what I had expected. It was better, so much better.
As we walked towards the door to the parking lot all I could do was smile. There aren’t words to describe how happy I felt in that moment. He and his band piled into the minivan my mom had lent me and we drove to the hotel. It wasn’t the nicest hotel in New York but it didn’t really matter. It was relatively close to my house, and that’s all that we really cared about. When you’re 17 the quality of the hotel room that you are going to spend less than a week in is really not one of your biggest concerns.
Once everyone had dropped their bags off at the hotel we headed out to Times Square. Usually I would never have thought twice about it, but that day it seemed like a whole different place. We walked around talking and laughing and just generally having a great time.
The next day was Saturday and we spent it in Central Park where the finalists were playing in order to determine the winner. It was a lot of fun getting to hear all the different groups perform. As expected my favorite was “Rapid fire” but I must admit that the rest were really good as well. I especially liked the all girls group “New Millennium”. Once all the bands had played it was time for the judges to deliberate so we went to the hot dog stand nearby to grab something to eat.
When we got back they were just about to announce the winners. In 3rd place was a group called “Power to the People”. Ridiculous name, I know, but they were actually pretty good. In 2nd place was “Rapid fire”. We were all a bit bummed that they had not come in first, but still I was proud of them for having gotten that far. “New Millennium” came in 1st, and I must say they deserved it. Since “Rapid fire” didn’t win, I’m glad they did.

*****

All too soon it was Sunday and it was time for everyone to go home. If saying goodbye once is difficult saying it twice is impossible. I was crying even before I knocked at the hotel room door to pick up the band to go to the airport. Thankfully one of Jason’s band mates offered to drive, because my vision was too blurred by tears, and my mind too clouded with thoughts of sadness to be able to function properly, let alone drive. I didn’t want them to leave, but killing them in a car accident wasn’t going to solve things either.
I couldn’t bear to walk inside the airport, it was just too much. I said goodbye in the parking lot where I knew what if I had a fit no one would care. Once they were gone no one would see the girl alone in her car crying to herself.
When the rest of his band had gone in, Jason hung back. He took my hands in his and held them tight. Then he let go of one hand and wiped away my tears. As he did so whispered to me “Goodbye is just a word. It is not forever, just for now.” Never had I heard words as sweet as those. Somewhere deep down, I knew they were true. We had said goodbye before and we were doing it once more, but in between that we had seen each other again.
I wanted to freeze time and stay where we were forever, but I knew it wasn’t possible. No one has those sorts of powers. He had a plane to catch and I had a life to go back to. Our paths would remain intertwined and one day, soon I hopped we’d meet again.
I stayed in the parking lot for another hour watching planes take off until I thought I had seen Jason’s plane leave. I later realized it was probably not his plane but at the time it felt like closure. I had an empty gap in me. I knew he was gone and that it would be awhile before I would see him again.
As I pulled out of the parking lot it started to rain. The darkness of the clouds in the sky seemed to fit my feelings. It was grey and off putting, but somewhere in the middle of it all there was a streak of sunlight shinning through. The light was a beacon of hope in all the darkness. It’s like my father used to tell me, “There’s always tomorrow”. Then again, my father was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. If he were there I would have asked him why he said that if tomorrow could always be worse than today.
I wasn’t quite ready to go home just yet so I just drove around a bit looking at the world around me. I had never noticed how much there is in the city. It had always just been a part of my daily life and didn’t seem like anything special. All the billboards were just that, billboards. The tourists from all over the world were just people milling around. I never stopped to think about what a special place I lived in. That day was the first time I noticed.
When I got home I took a nap. It was still raining outside and I had nothing to do. On top of that I had not slept much in the past few weeks because of the mixture of excitement and stress. Any extra sleep I could get was a good thing. My brain was fried and I needed to revive it for school the next day.
I didn’t wake up until I heard my mom calling for me at the bottom of the stairs. I had completely forgotten that it was my job to figure out what we were having for dinner that night. It was time for my never fail back up plan, call for takeout. I dashed downstairs and looked in the drawer for the menu. I had done this enough times before to know exactly what to order. I always had the same thing, “Chicken Cashew with rice” and mom had the “Pickled cabbage and carrot salad.”
Half an hour later I was paying the delivery guy and setting the dining room table. My mother did not seem particularly impressed with the meal but I couldn’t be bothered to care. It had been a long day and I had a biology exam the next day. I laid out the cartons on the table and handed her a pair of chopsticks and a fortune cookie. We didn’t talk at all but both of us felt the need to sit down at the table together. This was the way it had always been ever since my dad walked out 10 years before. When he first left I was so confused and I wanted to talk all the time but my mom never wanted to talk. She tried, and I’m thankful for that but she was a much quieter person than I am and after a while I just stopped trying. I talked to my friends when I needed to but I made sure not to burden her. As the time passed things began to seem normal the way they were. We had nothing to say but we still needed that sense of companionship. That’s the best explanation I can come up with. I’m not sure I will ever understand my relationship with my mother but I am glad we had one even if there wasn’t much to it. She was there when I needed her and I tried to do the same for her.

*****

The next day it was still raining but I was back to my usual routine. I woke up to the sound of “Just the way you are”, saw the words, “1 new message” on my phone and got ready for school. The only difference was that this time I missed him more than before. I was no longer content with just reading texts and talking on the phone. The weekend we spent together made me realize how much a part of me he was and how much I wanted to be with him.
Breakfast itself was the same as it had always been as well. I had my half a grapefruit and honey and nut granola. My mother made no more of an effort than she usually did and at I wasn’t making much of an effort either. My energy level was depleted, not that my mom actually noticed. As usual she was too absorbed in her own problems to notice anyone else’s.
As I got on the bus that morning I thought I noticed a hint of sympathy in the bus driver’s usual glare. I may have been just imagining things, trying to make myself feel better but anything’s possible. Another surprise awaited me when I turned into the aisle. My best friend Lauren was sitting in the third row. This wouldn’t seem odd to most people, but Lauren NEVER took the bus. Ever since “the incident” in 4th grade Lauren had done everything possible to avoid school buses. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to see her.
I slid into the empty seat beside Lauren and asked what had happened to make her get past her hate of buses and join me that day. I should have known though, Lauren was the sort of person who would have done anything for a friend in need. She knew I was bummed about Jason leaving and conquered her fear in order to be there for me. It was touching that she cared enough to get over her hate of buses for me. Admittedly “the incident” wasn’t actually that big a deal but she was 10 at the time and everything gets blown out of proportion at that age.
It was the end of 4th grade and we were all on a bus on our way to the water show. It had been a tradition since as long as I could remember. At the end of 4th grade that year’s class would go to see the opening of the water show at Kingston Park. Everything was going fine; we were all laughing and singing. Then suddenly we hit a bump and Lauren went flying off of her seat and onto the lap of Timmy, the boy she had had a crush on since the beginning of the year. This would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that she scratched his face in the process. Lauren instantly turned red and started to cry, this didn’t make things any better. The entire 4th grade class burst into laughter. Everyone but me of course, I would never dare laugh at my friend’s expense. Ever since that day Lauren had avoided the bus at all costs even though there was no chance that it would happen again because Timmy left at the end of 5th grade. When I said she avoided buses at all costs I meant it. Whenever we had a fieldtrip she would get her parents to drive her. Lucky for Lauren, her parents were very understanding people and were happy to help their daughter in any way possible within reason.
We talked for the first ten minutes of the bus ride until I realized I had forgotten to do something. I hadn’t read my text message yet. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get through the day if I didn’t read it so I did. “I told you goodbye wasn’t forever, I have a plan.-J” There it was again, “J” My favorite letter in the alphabet. What had started off as a lousy morning had turned into a great one. I couldn’t wait for school to end so that I could talk to Jason and find out what his plan was.

*****

Just like that Monday a few months before it was the second Monday of the month and I had art class. Once again I was inspired but this time in a different way. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to paint, there was no image in my mind but I just had this feeling, a feeling that I knew what I wanted. I picked up a paint brush and closed my eyes; somehow I felt it would work better if I didn’t see what I was painting. It must have looked rather odd to see me painting with my eyes shut but I didn’t mind, I was on a mission. When I finally did open my eyes I realized that my picture was more abstract than I usually would have done but that was fine. It did vaguely look like two people locked in a passionate embrace with a heart around them. Well that’s what I thought; my teacher seemed to think it was a picture of a koala bear climbing a tree in the rain. I guess art really is in the eye of the beholder. Good thing it was “free expression day” so I was free to do whatever I felt like and I couldn’t be told that what I was doing was wrong.
This time around I actually did eat lunch. I can’t say that a salad and a bottle of water is a gourmet meal but it was not bad either. Lauren sat with me and once again I thanked her for taking the bus with me to make sure I was alright. We spent most of the period trying to figure out what Jason’s brilliant plan was. We came up with the most absurd things but it was entertaining. My favorite was probably the one in which he had hijacked a plane and was planning to fly it to New York and kidnap me and then fly us to some remote deserted island where we could be together forever and never have to worry about being torn apart ever again. Another plan was that we would both start digging a hole this weekend and by the end of the school year we would have met half way. If I had told my geography teacher about that plan he very well may have fainted. He had spent countless hours of my high school career stressing the point that you cannot dig to another city let alone another country because you would burn up. My philosophy remained though that sometimes dreams do come true. I wanted to call Jason and ask what his real plan was but school rules prohibited it and getting in trouble my last year of high school was not on the agenda.
When the last bell of the day rang I jumped out of my seat as if it were on fire. This got more than a few stares but I was too distracted to really care. Everyone already knew I was crazy anyway. I ran to the bus stop in the hope that for some reason it would leave early just for me, but of course that would never happen. If it was never on time to begin with what made me think that it would leave early?
Never had I been so happy to get home. I ran inside and up the stairs, I didn’t even notice that my mom’s car was actually in the drive when I got back for the first time since I was in second grade. As soon as I got to my room I shut the door and pulled out my phone. Thankfully it was at the top of my bag. I dialed Jason’s number faster than I had ever dialed a number before. The phone started to ring. One ring, no answer, two rings, no answer, finally on the third ring he picked up.
“Hello?”
“Hey! I got your text message, what’s your brilliant idea.”
“I’m not telling, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own.”
“What are you talking about? How on earth am I supposed to do that?”
“To start with I believe you should go make sure that we didn’t leave anything in the car, I think I may have left some drumsticks in there.”
“Have you lost your mind? Even if you did leave your drumsticks in the car I can’t fly all the way to LA to deliver them to you.”
“Just do what I say and call me back. Bye!”
And then he was gone. I was convinced that he had gone completely insane but what choice did I have but to follow his directions? I darted back down the stairs and over to the van that was conveniently parked in the driveway because my mom was home. I still hadn’t figured out why that was but I wasn’t going to be bothered to check. I was too preoccupied with this “plan” Jason wouldn’t tell me about.
*****

When I got to the van I realized I didn’t have the keys so I had to go back into the house and ask my mom for the keys, unfortunately she wasn’t actually at home. Another mystery I would have to solve, but one thing at a time. I went in search of the spare keys instead. Given that they got used probably more than the original set that was a rather difficult task. They weren’t in the drawer where they were supposed to be and they weren’t in my mom’s closet or on the dresser. For a minute I thought I may have left them on my desk on Sunday but they weren’t there either. Suddenly it hit me, Sunday; I had been wearing my black jeans when I drove the van on Sunday. I dashed over to my hamper and dug around until I found my jeans. In the pocket were the spare car keys.
Back to the van I went. I opened the door to the backseat and found nothing there; I looked under the seats, on the seats and between the seats but there was nothing there. Once I was sure they weren’t in the back seat I decided to look in the trunk. There, under a stack of newspaper I saw the head of a drumstick poking out. I pulled the sticks out and attached to them was a note,
My darling girl,
You thought this was going to be easy didn’t you? Think again. You spend way too much time working and worrying about others so now it’s your turn to have some fun. Go to the hotel where we were staying this past weekend and ask for the sweater I “forgot”.
Always yours,
-J
Well there it was, the next piece of the puzzle right in front of me. Along with it was the single letter that made my heart flutter. I didn’t really feel like running all around the city trying to solve this scavenger hunt that Jason had set up for me but I did want to find out what he had planned. In addition to that he was right about me never having fun. My decision had been made for me, I was going to follow directions instead of giving them and let go.
The traffic wasn’t too bad on the way to the hotel. It was a Monday afternoon and hardly anyone was out on the streets. I was outside the hotel within half an hour. Parking was a different story. As anyone who has ever driven in Manhattan knows parking is impossible. I drove in endless circles for another fifteen minutes looking for a spot until I finally saw someone pulling out. I was feeling lucky until I realized that there was no way the van would ever fit in the spot they were pulling out of. I did actually get lucky a few minutes later though when I found an ally with several parking spots.
Once the car was parked I walked the couple of blocks necessary to get back to the hotel. The door was one of those cool revolving ones that I loved to play in when I was younger so when I saw it, it made me smile. I spun around in the door a few times and then walked in. People probably thought that I was crazy but I was trying to let go and have some fun. It felt good too. I was glad to just be free. I had skipped a whole chapter of my childhood and Jason’s note had made me realize that it was time to get it back.

*****

I still remember when my dad walked out on us. I was in second grade at the time. My parents had been fighting for as long as I could remember. One day when I came home from school they were both in the kitchen. I could hear them yelling from the second I opened the door. I knew that it would do no one any good to interrupt so I crept up to my room. I didn’t want to hear them yelling anyway. I tried doing everything possible to get my mind off of it. I played the radio at full volume and did the little homework you have in second grade. Once I was finished with that I drew a picture of my family with everyone smiling. I hoped that somehow if I wished hard enough we would be a happy family but somewhere deep down I knew that that was never going to happen. He left that same night. Ever since that day I was forced to grow up faster than anyone else I knew. My mom never really was good at keeping the house running so she hired a maid when my dad left. That helped a bit but I still had to learn to take care of myself. I was never fully a child after that.
Once I had let my inner child out I walked over to the concierge. I asked them if they had found a sweater. They said they had and that someone had already called about it. They had been instructed to only give it to the person who could answer the question, “Why is ‘Rapid fire’ called ‘Rapid fire’?” I was expecting a difficult question but that was one of the easiest questions I had ever heard. I would never forget the answer. It wasn’t that it was a particularly interesting or moving story but the day I was told was ingrained in my mind forever.
It was the first evening Jason and I had spent in the gazebo. We had managed to sneak away from the dining hall during a food fight and had crept down to the lake. We happened to find a couple of towels outside the laundry cabin on the way down so we brought them with us. When we got to the gazebo we laid down on the towels and stared at the stars through the sky light. At first we didn’t say much, we just laid there and listened to the crickets. Then we started talking about music and he mentioned that he was in a band. This didn’t really surprise me; he gave off a sort of rocker vibe. So he told me that it was called “Rapid fire” and I asked him why. The explanation was really quite simple, he and his band mates were sitting in the basement of his house trying to figure out a name for the band and no one was coming up with anything so then they decided that they would just start yelling out the first thing that came to mind until someone yelled stop. They were about to start when someone said, “isn’t this sort of like the ‘rapid fire’ function on the program the teacher showed us at school?” and that’s when it hit them. “Rapid fire” was not only a cool name but it was also part of the way they found the name.
I told the concierge the story and he handed me the sweater. Of all the sweaters that I had seen Jason wear that one was my favorite. It was a faded navy blue v-neck and was super soft. At first I just hugged it tight inhaling the scent. Once I had taken it all in I realized that there was a note pinned to the inside.
Well you’ve done it, you followed instructions. If my first note inspired you as I hope it did you had fun in the process. Now it’s time for your next clue. Remember our trip to the hot dog stand in the park? Well I think I may have left my journal there. Would you mind going and checking for me?
Love you lots,
-J
When I woke up that morning I had no clue that I would be going on a wild goose chase. To be fair I didn’t know I would have so much fun either. I always knew that Jason brought out the best in me; I just had no clue that he could do it while he was across the country.
On my way back to the car I found a penny lying on the sidewalk. I know a lot of people might say that its silly but I honestly believe that it was a good luck token. I picked it up and placed it in my wallet in a special pocket that held the bingo chip that I won the bingo final with at camp.
Parking at the park was a lot simpler; maybe the penny really was good luck because I found a parking space within a matter of minutes. I found my way over to the hot dog stand and asked for the journal. Once again I had to answer a question. This time the question was even simpler. “What are my favorite 3 numbers?”’
Most people might assume that his 3 favorite numbers were 26-11-1993 but I knew better. His favorite numbers were 21- 9-10. I understand that these seem quite random and it seems odd that I would know them but they were another thing that he had told me that first night in the gazebo. After we talked about his band we started talking about constellations and I told him that I had always wondered about them. To my great surprise he was an expert on constellations. As a matter of fact they were one of his favorite things because it was an interest that he had shared with his father ever since he was a young boy. The reason that 21, 9 and 16 were his favorite numbers was related to the stars. His mom was a Pisces and the Pisces constellation has 21 main stars. His dad was a Virgo and that constellation has 9 main stars and he was a Sagittarius which has 10 stars in its constellation. I was so touched by his story that I never forgot it.
The guy at the hot dog stand seemed quite impressed with my knowledge and handed me the notebook. It wasn’t very large, roughly pocket size, which explains why I didn’t notice it on Saturday. Most likely Jason had it in his pocket and it slipped out or something, although honestly I was starting to wonder how forgetful one person can truly be. If the next clue said that he had forgotten something else I was pretty sure I was going to scream. As much as I was enjoying his little game I was not going to go collecting his things all over the city, I did have a life.
I was about to open the journal when I noticed an empty playground out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually been to a playground but I did remember how much I loved the swings when I was little. I saw no rush to read what Jason had written in the notebook and he wanted me to start having more fun so I decided to go swing for a bit. When I got to the swing set I sat down and started pumping my legs. It felt a bit odd at first because I hadn’t swung in so long but it felt good and all sorts of memories came rushing back. For the second time that day I felt free and like no one could hurt me. A rather unrealistic thought but it was a feeling I would never forget as long as I lived.
Once I had finished swinging I realized that it had started to get dark. I knew the city like the back of my hand and yet I still hated being out on my own once it got dark. I walked back to the car and pulled out the notebook. The first few pages were lyrics to the songs they had sung that weekend. In the margins though there were little notes that had nothing to do with the lyrics. There was one that said “this one’s for you my dear:
I look in your eyes,
And you gaze back into mine.
I love you baby.”
Around it he had drawn lots of little hearts and a smiley face. The other pages had little notes and poems as well. Then on the tenth page or so there was a full poem that had the heading “another one for you”
You’re words are magic,
You’ve got a heart of gold.
I could listen to you forever
And it’d never get old.

I miss you when you’re gone
I want you here with me.
You’re the best thing that ever happened
You’re the only one for me.

Now go back home and talk to your mother, I know that you must have been wondering why she was home.
How on earth did he know that my mother was home? I suddenly realized that she was probably in on the whole thing. There’s no way he could have actually planned this whole thing on his own. No matter how brilliant I liked to believe he was, he was in fact a teenage boy. I sped home as fast as the speed limit would allow me. The only problem was that all the traffic that hadn’t been there on the way there was there then.

At home I found my mother sitting at the kitchen table. She had her laptop set out in front of her. Even at home she was always working. The surprise though, was that she smiled when I walked in. I hadn’t seen her smile more than three times in the past year. My mother had the most beautiful smile and I couldn’t help but smile back at her. I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I wanted her to be the first to speak. It took a moment but she finally did. She asked where I had been as if she didn’t already know. I played along and told her all about the little scavenger hunt I had been sent on and how I realized how much of my childhood I had missed. To my shock this actually brought tears to her eyes. She started apologizing for all the times she hadn’t been there and all the times I was forced to act older than I was. It really touched my heart to hear that she noticed and cared. I wasn’t expecting to hear her apologize but it felt good. It was a real bonding moment for the two of us. All of that hoping and wishing was paying off and by the end of it we were closer than we ever had been before.
Once we had finished out bonding experience I finally got around to asking my mom about why she was home. As I suspected she had been in on Jason’s plan the whole time. They had been emailing back and forth all weekend. All the running around the city had been just for fun. His real plan was that my mom and I were flying out to LA for Thanksgiving and were going to spend it with Jason and his family. I was speechless. I had no clue that they had been planning all of this behind my back, and best of all our birthday fell on the weekend we were going to be there which meant that we were going to be together to celebrate. I was ecstatic. Suddenly all my dreams were coming true. Well almost all of them, my father was still in no way part of my life. I couldn’t contain myself; I stood up and started doing a little dance.
The Thanksgiving break was only a week away. I thought I wouldn’t be able to see Jason again until the summer, after we had graduated but instead I was going to see him less than two weeks after he had been in New York. It was a dream come true and more. I thanked my mother a thousand times and then a few more times. This made up for all the tension there had ever been between us. All the times I thought she didn’t care I was wrong. I had underestimated my mother and now I was happily surprised. When I couldn’t talk anymore I just hugged my mom. I had never been so grateful. I promised to stay on top of all my cooking duties and that we wouldn’t have takeout because of me for the rest of the year. It was the least I could do after all that she had done for me.
*****

I finished thanking my mom and then ran upstairs. I tried to call Jason but his phone was off. I had forgotten that he had soccer practice that day. It was the week of a really big tournament and his team was practicing extra hard. I left him a message instead. I’m not sure how comprehensible it was but I didn’t really care, I just wanted him to know that I had found out what the surprise was and was looking forward to seeing him. I don’t think that this last part came as a surprise to him but I told him anyway. I knew that we would talk later as well and I would be able to tell him everything then.
Since I had been running all around the city since I got home that afternoon I was once again behind on my homework. Luckily I didn’t have to cook dinner so I had the time to do it. I sat down and got to work but I kept looking at the clock every few minutes hoping the time would pass faster so I would be able to call Jason. No matter how many times I checked the clock was still ticking at the same rate. 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour and if I waited long enough 24 hours to a day. At one point the time seemed to be moving slower just to spite me. I knew it wasn’t true but it sure seemed like it.
After what seemed like an eternity my phone rang. I pounced on it, but it was only Lauren calling to ask if I had talked to Jason. I told her I had briefly when I got home from school and then I proceeded to tell her about everything that had happened since then. She was understandably impressed and agreed to help me regain my childhood during the rest of senior year. We agreed that we would to do childish things and simply enjoy ourselves more often. As happy as I was to talk to Lauren and discuss future childish plans I didn’t want the phone to be busy when Jason called so I told Lauren I had to go and she understood exactly what I meant.
Jason didn’t call for another hour but when he did I stopped writing my commentary for English and answered immediately. He obviously had heard my message because he asked me to explain what I had said. As expected it hadn’t make a whole load of sense. I can’t say I did a much better job the second time around, but he got the idea. We were both just so excited. As soon as we had calmed down we started planning a huge party for our birthday. After all it was going to be our 18th birthday and we wanted to have a night we were never going to forget. Given it was going to be his friends I let him do most of the planning but I still put in my two cents. I knew for sure that I wanted balloons and lots of them. This had nothing to do with my need to be a child again but instead just my fascination with balloons. Ever since I was very young I had loved balloons. There was something about the way that they floated above my head that seemed almost magical. I used to think that each balloon had a little fairy inside of it that made it stay up. I have of course learned the truth since then but sometimes I still imagine that they are there. I also knew that I wanted lots of color. I respected that people think that black and white is classy but I loved color and wanted there to be as much as possible.
We stayed on the phone until it was time for dinner. I wasn’t quite ready to leave but I had to go and eat. I was starving and I had a feeling that things were going to change with my mom. I couldn’t be sure but after our conversation that afternoon I had a pretty good feeling about it. We were having stir- fried rice for dinner, one of my favorite things in the world. A lot of people say that they love sweets but for me there was nothing better than Karen’s stir-fried rice and a cold glass of milk. That day was turning out to be the best day I had had in a long time and that was saying a lot given I had had a lot of great days recently.
As I had hoped my mom and I had a real conversation at dinner that night and none of it felt forced. I could honestly say that we were enjoying each other’s company. We talked about our upcoming trip as well plenty of other things. We talked about the elections which was a surprise because I always thought my mom hated politics and we talked about possibly getting a dog. I had wanted a pet for so long but I had always been too afraid to ask. It turns out that my mom had been wanting a pet as well but felt as though I may not want one. We realized how much we had missed because of our lack of communication. Even after we had finished eating we kept talking. We had so much to talk about and to make up for. We talked until we stopped hearing cars drive by and then for a bit longer. I was so happy that I was getting to spend quality time with my mom and she agreed to write to my teacher asking for an extension on my commentary so that we could spend the rest of the time until we went to bed together. I’m not sure how it happened but the quiet withdrawn mother I once knew was gone and the perfect involved one I had always dreamed of had taken her place. Before going to bed we agreed that we would go shopping that Friday for a dress for my birthday party. We hadn’t been shopping together in so long but I must admit my mom had a great sense of style so I was glad to have the opportunity.
That night before I went to bed I thanked god for everything that had gone right. I knew I shouldn’t only talk to god when things were going well but I made myself a promise that I would say my prayers every night from then on and that that was just the start. I was so tired that night that I fell asleep as soon as I was done saying my prayers. I didn’t even bother to take my make up off. I knew I would wake up with panda eyes but I was just so tired that I couldn’t be bothered to get up and go wash my face. I would pay the price in the morning and to be honest it wasn’t really that high a price to pay.
*****

As expected in the morning I looked like a monster from down under. My eyes were smudged to no end and my hair was a tumbled snarled mess. If someone were to have seen me at that point in time they may very well have thought that I was possessed. Luckily a shower solved all of that in a matter of minutes. It felt good to have the water running over me. It was so fresh and cool. I would have stayed there for hours if I weren’t going to be late for school. I was running late anyway since I had over slept.
By the time I got downstairs it was too late for me to sit down and have my usual breakfast, but my mom had laid out a muffin and a bottle of orange juice for me to take on the go. Our conversation the day before had been a turning point and the change I saw in her was incredible. She was actually smiling when I came down stairs.
I ran outside to catch the bus, but there was no need since it was still a block away. Unlike my mother the bus driver was in as foul a mood as ever. She gave me an extra long glare that morning and seemed angry when I tried to be polite and say good morning. I had been hoping that a little verbal communication would do some good and I would be able to make an ally but it was useless. She seemed set in her ways, there was no way I was going to get her to be more social that morning. I decided that she would be my good deed project for the rest of the year. My mission was to make her smile at least once before I graduated. There was no text message to read that morning because Jason and I had agreed that we wouldn’t talk until we saw each other in person to make it all the more special. It was a strange idea, but I was pretty sure it would work. I missed him already and we had talked the night before. I had a feeling I was going to crack and call him at some point because it was just too long a wait but I would give it a try. I needed to prove my strength somehow. It was the ultimate test. I texted Lauren instead since she was not on the bus that day. Clearly she felt I was no longer a threat to myself, or anyone else for that matter. Not that I ever really was but it seemed that she thought I might be.
It started to pour just as we pulled up to school; luckily I had checked the weather forecast and had brought my rain coat. I admit it was not the most dignified rain coat on the planet but it was a rain coat none the less and it would have to do. It had been a gift from my grandmother who still liked to think I was a small child. It was pink with purple polka dots and flowers. I didn’t plan to wear it for very long but I didn’t plan to get wet either. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices in order to benefit in the long term. I much preferred suffering a little embarrassment for a few minutes at the start of the day in order to avoid discomfort for the entire morning. As strange as it sounds I was not actually as obsessed with my looks as a lot of the girls in my school were. Sure I didn’t want to look like a slob but I was not preoccupied with perfection either. I never understood how some girls could spend hours on end looking at magazines and commenting on celebrities’ outfits. Whenever I read those magazines, which was not often, I was much more interested in what they were doing as opposed to what they were wearing. This came as a huge disappointment to my mother who liked to be dressed to perfection every moment of every day. She tried to get me to follow in her footsteps but after awhile just gave in. She saw that her efforts were having very little effect. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the occasional day at the spa and getting my nails done. I was all for looking good but it simply wasn’t an obsession.
Looking around the classroom that morning I saw that most people had not been as well prepared as I was and were dripping wet. I knew that by the end of first period the halls would be full of puddles and people would be slipping and sliding everywhere. It was the inevitable truth about high school on a rainy day. High school is full of teenagers; teenagers are not good at planning ahead. These two facts combined lead to the simple fact that unless you were wearing shoes with really good traction, which hardly anybody was, you were going to have to be careful. Just like I had planned ahead and brought my rain coat I had also planned ahead and worn shoes with excellent traction that I reserved specifically for days like that one. Well perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration. I hadn’t actually gone out and bought shoes specifically for rainy days in high school hallways that would be rather ridiculous. I just happened to own a pair of shoes that I actually liked quite a bit that had good traction and therefore came in handy when it rained.
I had second period free so I was in no rush to get anywhere. On my way to the library I decided to count the number of people who slipped as well as pick the people best and worst dressed given the circumstances. I counted 13 people slip in the span of 15 minutes, that’s almost a person a minute. I didn’t actually see anyone particularly well dressed but I did see the worse outfit. Just as I was walking into the library Tina Jettson was walking out. She was wearing an extra short mini skirt with no tights on and stiletto heels. What she was wearing as a top might as well have been called a sock. It barely covered her chest and certainly didn’t cover her stomach. I was surprised she hadn’t been sent to the office for inappropriate dress. Then again her father was the biggest donor to the school and would do anything for his little princess. It wouldn’t have surprised me if I found out that he had paid the school to let her wear that outfit. To make matters stylistically worse her hair was as dry as hay and a sad lifeless shade of blond. I had nothing against her dyeing her hair but given the amount of money her family had she could have at least gotten someone professional to do it, just like she could have afforded more clothing and not worn something that looked like it had been shrunken to infant size.
Having had the satisfaction of realizing that compared to what Tina was wearing my clothing looked actually normal I went and found a table in the library to sit down. I sat down at a table where there was already someone sitting down. At first I thought it was someone from one of the grades below mine and thought nothing of it but when I looked more closely I realized that the person looked awfully familiar but not in the sense that I had seen them on campus a lot. They seemed to be someone from my past who I had not seen in a very long time. I tried to ignore them and get to work but there was a nagging in the back of my mind that made me want to figure out who they were. I sat there for awhile trying not to stare but at the same time taking glances at them whenever I thought they weren’t looking. This was not too difficult given they seemed deeply absorbed in whatever they were reading. The only disadvantage of this was that I wasn’t able to get a proper look at their face. After awhile I got tired of trying to be discreet and finally just gave in and asked them their name. They looked up and at that point I didn’t need to hear the answer. I knew exactly who they were.
The boy I had spent so long staring at was none other than Timmy Nickleson. Believe me I was shocked when I saw him. I thought that when he left at the end of elementary school that was going to be the last time I would ever see him, and I was fine with that. He had been the cause of my best friend’s fear of busses and I wanted nothing to do with him. It wasn’t that he was a bad person; as a matter of fact he was as close to a model citizen as any 10 year old could possibly be. He made p.b & j sandwiches to help feed the homeless and always brought in canned food for the drives we had at school. He even volunteered at a retirement home once a week.
It made no sense, what was Timmy doing in our library? He was no longer a student and as far as I knew he hadn’t kept in touch with anyone from our class after he moved to Norway. I quite honestly couldn’t understand why he was back at our school after so many years. It wasn’t even the beginning of a new school year. Had it been September perhaps I would have understood. Instead it was the middle of November and we had all settled in to our routines and were finding our way through the chaos of the last year of high school. All I could think now was what is Lauren going to say when she finds out? I wasn’t sure if Timmy had forgotten “the incident” but I knew for a fact that Lauren hadn’t. She was still terrified to even bring it up.
In the time it had taken for me to process what was going on Timmy, who now preferred to be called Tim, had re-introduced himself and registered who I was. He seemed genuinely happy to see me even though we had never really talked while we were in class together. Perhaps the Norwegian air had done him some good because he was smiling the whole time and gave no indication as to whether or not he was still upset about what Lauren had done. If he was, he didn’t show it. I took a deep breath and relaxed, maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed. There was a chance, although slim that Lauren would see him and not be bothered. I was coming to realize that sometimes the things that we think are the most unlikely are actually the ones that end up coming true.
I realized seconds later that I hadn’t responded and started searching my mind for something to say. I didn’t really know what you are supposed to say to someone who was your sworn enemy the last time you saw them. We were no longer children who could blame their actions on inexperience and therefore I had to think carefully about what I was going to say. I didn’t want to make the wrong impression because this time there was no taking it back. Tim seemed unbothered by my unresponsiveness though; he just looked at me and smiled as if he knew that I was trying very hard to come up with something to say. His smile was encouraging. At that moment I decided that if he had in fact moved back into the area I was going to make friends with him. Unless of course Lauren didn’t want me to, because in the end her opinion was the one that mattered. If she wanted to avoid him I would have to oblige and avoid him with her. To be quite honest though, I had a feeling that that wasn’t going to be the case. Once Lauren saw what a nice person Tim was she would instantly want to become friends with him. After all it would be her chance to make up for the past and start fresh. I took one last breath and then began to speak.
Words began to leave my mouth in what I sincerely hoped were at least somewhat cohesive sentences. I was after all in English higher. Something I was quite proud of given I wanted to be a journalist if I couldn’t be a doctor. My first question of course was what are you doing here? To that he simply replied, visiting. This answer nowhere near satisfied my need to understand what was going on so I gave it another shot. Who are you visiting in the middle of the school day, and why? I got a somewhat more satisfactory answer to that question. “I am not visiting a who, as much as a what. If you must know I am going to be transferring here after the Thanksgiving break and I thought it would be nice to have a sense of what I was going to have to deal with when I arrived. We have a break right now for half term and so I am here with my parents looking for a house. My dad’s job needs him to be back in the States by the first of December and he wants some time to settle in, so we are moving next week. By the look of things though, we won’t have a house just yet. No one can seem to agree on which place we should get. I would love the one we saw that is right between school and the skate park but my mom would rather be farther outside the city and my dad wants to be right in the center near his office. Thank goodness I’m an only child or I would be going mad listening to all the different opinions. I say it was somewhat more satisfactory because he had succeeded in going into more detail than I really cared to hear. I really wasn’t interested in where he wanted to live or if he was glad to be an only child. Either way, in that long explanation had gotten the answer to what I was really wondering. Tim was transferring back to Leeway Prep. For better or for worse he was back in our lives.
Not wanting to seem rude I stuck around a bit longer and talked to Tim asking questions and answering some as well. To my surprise he was actually quite nice. Our conversation did not feel forced but instead flowed easily. By the end of the period I wanted to hear more about Norway and life there. It sounded so much more interesting than the dull everyday lives we live here in the States. To begin with the names were so much cooler. Here everyone has the same name or a variant of it while there anything goes. From what I understood Tim, a name that here is as common as the sun coming up in the morning is very strange to them. Another cool thing was the accent Tim had picked up while he was there. It wasn’t fully Norwegian according to him but to my ears it was close enough. I was really excited to tell Lauren. I told Tim that he should join us at lunch as a surprise for her. I would of course have to keep my mouth shut for one whole period but I knew it would be worth it. Lauren had always been a bit of a prankster so this was my chance to seek revenge. Anyway, it wasn’t as if I was doing anyone any real harm.
English dragged on forever that morning because I was so much looking forward to lunch time. Every time someone said anything that sounded vaguely like “Tim” my ears perked up. I didn’t want anyone ruining the surprise for Lauren. I myself came very close to blowing it at one point. I kept looking at the clock and Lauren asked me what was happening at lunch that I was so anxious to get out of English. I had to think fast on my feet (or in my seat) and made up the excuse that I had skipped breakfast that morning and was really hungry. Of course she knew my schedule and asked why I hadn’t eaten during my free the period before, forcing me to come up with yet another excuse. This time it wasn’t so easy, but finally it occurred to me. I told her I was expecting a text from Jason. I hadn’t told her about our promise not to talk so she bought it. I would explain to her later of course that we had made a deal not to communicate but for the moment it worked.
After what was the longest hour of my life up until that point the bell finally rang. I grabbed Lauren by the arm and dragged her to the cafeteria. Tim and I had planned it out perfectly. He would be waiting around a corner and when he saw us standing in line to pay he would creep up from behind and tap her on the shoulder. This would give the double element of surprise. She would be surprised by the action itself and even more so by the person who had done it. All I hoped was that she wouldn’t do anything irrational and hurt him in some way. From our conversation earlier that day I knew that he was genuinely excited to see her. In the end we had gotten around to talking about “the incident” but he wasn’t holding a grudge in the slightest. He found the whole thing rather amusing and from pictures he had seen on facebook found Lauren to be quite pretty, which she was. Somehow the roles had been reversed and now it was him who had a crush on her. I felt like cupid trying to get them together. My hope was that Lauren still felt the same way about him as she had all those years ago before she embarrassed herself in front of the whole class.
Then it happened, we were standing in line and out of the corner of my eye I saw Tim approaching. I braced myself incase Lauren screamed, which she had the tendency to do. Surprisingly though, she didn’t. She did jump a bit but then she was quiet because she had seen who it was. Unlike me she recognized him immediately. She let out a barely audible gasp and then did something I never expected. She fainted. Thankfully Tim was standing right behind her and caught her because I was in no position to catch anyone, I had my hands full and on top of that she was twice my height. I’m not going to say I was glad she fainted, but in a way I was because it gave Tim the perfect opportunity to be a real gentleman and come to her rescue. He lifted her up, cradling her in his arms and walked over to the sofa that was sitting in the corner. I put down the food in my hands and ran to catch up. By the time we got to the sofa Lauren had begun to regain consciousness. Tim laid her down on the sofa and then knelt down besides her stroking her hair. She hadn’t said a word to him yet but it was clear that he was head over heels in love with her. No matter how much of a good person you are you don’t look at someone with the amount of compassion and understanding that he looked at her with unless you truly love them.
It took a few minutes and a glass of water but slowly Lauren got back to her normal state. She insisted that she was fine but Tim wouldn’t let her move. He wanted to go get the nurse but in the end we persuaded him that she was fine. I went and bought us all lunch while they took a few minutes to talk and recap what had just happened as well as what had happened since Tim had left. I was afraid to leave them alone but having seen the look on Tim’s face I had a feeling that it would be more than fine. When I got back Lauren was sitting up and Tim was beside her with his arm around her. They looked as though they had been together forever. I was really happy for both of them if a little jealous. I was not jealous that they were going out because I was in love with Jason, but I did wish that Jason were actually transferring to our school. You can’t get everything you want though and I was going to see him very soon so everything was fine. We spent the rest of lunch chatting and laughing and generally having a good time. All too soon lunch was over and it was time for Lauren and I to go back to class. Before we left Lauren and I both exchanged numbers with Tim so that when he officially moved we would be able to get in touch with him.
On the way to class Lauren was in nonstop chatter mode. She wanted to know every detail of what had happened during the few minutes that she was unconscious. There wasn’t actually that much to tell but given how happy it was making her I indulged her and told her about every second of it and made sure to put emphasis on Tim’s chivalry. We were running late for class though, so I had to speak quickly. This didn’t bother Lauren though. She herself was an extremely fast talker and was able to keep up. It was probably all of the years she had spent on the debate team that made her so good at it. For the past three years she had won every debate trophy she had competed for and I had no doubt that she would win all the ones that year as well. It was one of her biggest strengths and probably what was going to help her get a scholarship to Yale. It had been her dream ever since we were little to go to Yale. It wasn’t that she had family that had gone there or anything, it was just the place that she saw herself going and I respected that. I on the other hand had no idea where I was going to go. Even as I wrote my college applications I had no idea which university I would pick. I had dreamed of going overseas but that seemed unlikely so I had applied to a bunch of universities in the country as well.
The last two classes of the day were drama and gym so I was able to relax to some extent. I know that sounds difficult given that you have to run around a lot in gym but you don’t actually need to think hard in order to be able to do that and in drama we were just watching a movie because the teacher was working on painting the set and needed us out of the way. The movie coincidentally took place in Norway so I kept thinking about Tim and then about him and Lauren and how they had seen each other again after so long and instantly bonded. All their past troubles had been forgotten and they were as happy as a couple who had been together for months if not years. I couldn’t wait till Tim actually moved so that they could go on a date. Lauren had been so wonderful whenever I did or said anything related to Jason and it was my turn to do the same for her and Tim. I wanted only the best for the two of them.
At long last the day ended and we were free. I had nothing to do after school and nor did Lauren so we walked over to the Starbucks down the street and had Cappuccinos and chocolate chip cookies while we talked about our plans for my birthday party. I knew I was going to have one in LA but everyone there was going to be Jason’s friend. That was fine, but I also wanted to have a party with my own friends. Lauren and I had decided a few months before that it should have a theme but we weren’t sure which one we were going to choose. Black and white was always an option because it was classic and the opposite of the colorful party I was going to have with Jason but it seemed too traditional. I wanted to break the mold just as I had for my entire life. We considered masquerade but it seemed too complicated because you wouldn’t be able to see anyone’s face and people could use that to their advantage and get into trouble. Then suddenly it hit me, I was going to have a Vegas themed party. It seemed like a brilliant idea because Vegas is so full of life and that’s exactly what I wanted my party to be, full of life. We would have poker tables and slot machines and non alcoholic cocktails. All that was left to do was find a venue and talk to my mom and then send out the invitations.
When we had finished eating and planning we had to part ways because I had my English commentary to work on. Even if my mom did get an extension for me I had to get it done eventually. Taking English higher had its advantages and disadvantages. To begin with it looked good on college applications, secondly the material was much more interesting and there was more room for us to interpret the texts. The obvious disadvantage was that there was a lot of work to do. I was never one to complain unnecessarily but that last year of high school was nightmarish with all the work we had to do. On the bright side I loved my teacher; she had such an interesting view on everything we read and was very open to new perspectives. I was not the biggest fan of Shakespeare but that year I learned to appreciate it because of the new view I had. It no longer seemed like a text written by some guy long before I was born telling the story of people who spoke in a dialect so confusing it seemed like a foreign language. I began to realize that he was actually a very insightful person and the stories he told were a lot more relevant to my life than I thought possible. Suddenly Romeo and Juliet weren’t just two silly teenagers who loved each other and couldn’t be together. In my mind they became a symbol for the struggles in our life that we get through in order to attain what really matters.
*****

Getting home took quite a bit longer than expected. The traffic was beyond terrible because of the rain. It was bumper to bumper the whole way out of the center of town, where school was to the outskirts where I lived. Usually I loved not living in the center of town where all the noise was but on days like that one where the traffic was slower than a snail I wouldn’t have minded living closer in. I didn’t even have the car so I had to take public transport the whole way home. The metro was packed because no one wanted to walk around outside ,and the bus that I had to take for the last leg of the journey was even worse because not only were people piling in but we were stuck in the rainy day traffic. As I stood pressed against the other hundred people that had squashed on to the bus I thought about Thanksgiving.
After my dad left my mom and I never really celebrated Thanksgiving. We had tried it a couple of times in the beginning but it always failed. The only memory I had of a real Thanksgiving was the one we had right before my dad left. He left a week after exactly. Sometimes I used to wonder if it was something that had happened during that Thanksgiving that had been the turning point. I had gone over it time and time again in my mind only to conclude that nothing had happened that day that would have caused my dad to leave. As a matter of fact as I looked back on it yet again I saw that that may have been the last time I remember having a family gathering where we were all happy. My dad’s family had come in from Maine and spent the week with us. The house smelled delicious and everyone had a smile on their face. All my aunts and uncles played with me as much as I wanted and treated me like a real person not just a child. I loved how everyone seemed to truly care what I had to say and listened until I was done speaking. At dinner we all sat together and went around the table saying one thing we were grateful for in life and one thing that we were grateful that another member of the family had done. When my mother said that she was grateful for the way I cooperated when things were tough I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was the only mention of her arguments with my father but it was enough. I knew what she was talking about and I didn’t want to hear anymore. Up until that point Thanksgiving had been perfect and I swore to do everything possible to keep it that way. I was sad when all my relatives left but at the time I thought I would see them all again the following year. I was wrong though, that was the last time I saw any of them. When my dad left he never came back except to collect his things and even that was while I was at school. I never saw him again and therefore I never saw any of his relatives again either. At the time I was too young to really understand and or care that I wouldn’t be seeing my relatives but as I grew older I began to feel short changed. I had done nothing wrong and yet I was being punished by not having any relatives on that side of the family. I did have some family on my mom’s side but there weren’t many of them and they were all much older than me so they didn’t do me much good in the friendship department.
I did have one cousin on my mom’s side though that I was very close to. Her name was Tessa and she was the step-daughter of my mom’s sister. Tessa and I were roughly the same age, she two years older than me. We used to email all the time and talk on the phone for hours. I felt like I could tell her anything and I knew she would never tell anyone. Whenever we went to visit them or they came to visit us we were inseparable. We shared a room even if there was a guest room available (at my house there wasn’t, but at hers there was). We would stay up for hours late at night just talking and laughing together. She was like the sister I never had. I was always so sad when we had to say goodbye and so excited whenever I found out we were going to see each other again. Things changed when she went to college. She attended Stanford University in California and became a completely different person. She made new friends that weren’t really the sort of people I wanted to mix with and began being influenced by them. It wasn’t that they were a bad group. They didn’t break the law or anything; they were just snobbish and seemed under the impression that they were entitled to anything. I tried to stay in touch with her for a little while but she just became more and more like her friends and less and less like the Tessa I had grown up with.
*****

To my great relief when the bus pulled up to the stop near my house it had stopped raining. It wasn’t that I was afraid of getting wet because I had my rain coat; it was just that I much preferred not having to walk in the rain. When I got to my house I saw that my mom’s car was in the driveway. I walked inside and yelled out “Hi mom, I’m home!” and this time I got a response. “Hi honey, how was your day?” This was said not with the half hearted tone that I had heard every morning up until that day when she asked how I had slept, but instead with honest care and curiosity. We sat down on the sofa and I told my mom all about my day and how Tim had showed up in the library and then saved Lauren at lunch. It felt good to be able to talk to her and tell her what was going on in my life. As I spoke I realized yet again what I had missed out on and all that I was going to have to make up for. I asked her how her day had been but regretted it almost immediately. She worked for a company that gave loans to private investors and quite honestly it was a profession that didn’t really interest me. I wish I could say I paid full attention but after about two minutes of hearing how this investor wanted to get a loan for this and that investor wanted to take out a second loan for that I got bored and began to zone out. It sounds terrible but I actually fell asleep. I woke up what turned out to be two hours later and found myself lying on the sofa with a blanket placed on top of me. I felt terrible that I had fallen asleep while listening to my mom but it had felt nice to get a bit of extra sleep. I walked into the kitchen and found Karen preparing dinner and to my great surprise my mom was there too. Apparently she was trying to learn to cook. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled that my mother was finally learning to cook but I was also slightly shocked and confused. I had never seen my mother make more than a bowl of cereal so to see her with a wooden stirring spoon in hand and an apron on was a bit of a surprise. They were making rice with mushrooms and chicken. It smelled absolutely delicious and my mouth began to water. I decided to stay in the kitchen with them, so I went upstairs to get my laptop and then went to sit at the kitchen table so that I could work while I was there. My mom gave me a look that said, “You better be working” and I just smiled and her and started to work. I know most people would have minded their parents being on their tails about working but I was just so happy to be forming a real bond with my mother that I didn’t mind.
Just as the oven timer went off I finished the last sentence of my history paper. It was perfect timing because the food smelt so good and I was really hungry. I helped set the table and cleared my stuff out of the way and we sat down to eat. My mom was so proud of herself for having helped out with the preparation of the meal and I told her repeatedly that I was proud of her too. This made her smile so much that it looked as though she was frozen in that position. Once again we took our time eating and enjoying each other’s company. There was just so much to say after hardly talking for so long. I told my mom about the movie I had seen with Lauren a few weeks before and she told me about a book that she had just finished reading that her friend had recommended to her and she was recommending it to me. It was the story of an old man who claimed to remember the civil war but in reality it was all just a dream. It sounded like quite a complex plot but one worth reading. I had always been a fan of books that make you think. Simple easy reading was not for me. I never understood how people can read such mindless trash. We talked about our upcoming trip and all the logistics and then finally I brought up the topic of my Las Vegas themed party idea. My mom thought it was a good idea but that it should be turned into a learning experience. She planned to give me a fixed amount of money and I was free to use it as I pleased but once I ran out of money I was out of luck. It sounded like a fair enough deal to me and I excused myself to go call Lauren.
Lauren was so excited when I told her that my mom had said yes. She was the treasurer in the student government so I had no doubt that she would know how to make the most out of the money that my mom was going to give me. I could just imagine what it was going to be like the night of the party. Everyone would be all dressed up and having a great time and there would be slot machines and prizes for the tickets. It would be the best party anyone had ever been to. Lauren was talking nonstop. Every time I cut in she had something else to say. I had always known that she was a chatterbox but between what had happened with Tim and talk of the party she was going a word a second and talking forever. It got to the point where I told her I had to go to bed. As much as I loved Lauren and her endless flow of excitement I couldn’t take any more that day. I was honestly very tired and in need of a good night’s rest. All of that day’s excitement had worn me out. I couldn’t understand how at 10 o’clock at night Lauren was still going strong and displaying no signs of stopping. Before I hung up Lauren told me the one thing that made my day perfect, she was no longer afraid of the bus. She had decided that from the next day onwards she would take the bus every day. After hearing that I knew I could go to bed happy.
*****

That night I dreamt of Las Vegas. I had gone to see a show and somehow become one of the dancers. I had had odd dreams before but this one was up there with the strangest. I had never been the most coordinated person in the world. When I was younger I had been the laughing stock of my ballet class because I always tripped over my feet and bumped into people. I had actually sent a girl to the hospital once because of my lack of balance. We had been practicing our pirouettes and I had spun in the wrong direction causing her to go crashing into the bar and creating a large gash just above her left eyebrow. I was traumatized and had never gone back. I felt eternally guilty and didn’t want to face her the following week. I know it sounds like the wimpy thing to do but I was young and did not like confrontation. It was probably for the better because I had never gotten on with my teacher anyway. Luckily in my dream I had much better balance and didn’t take anyone out. I actually did quite a good job and everyone applauded when I came out to take my bow. I felt like a rock star and when I woke up in the morning I briefly considered putting on a performance at my own party before I remembered the reason why I had quit ballet and then the idea was gone immediately.
For the second time since I had gotten home from camp there was no text message waiting for me. At first I felt a pang of disappointment but then I remembered the reason why and I was happy again. Each day I was a little bit closer to boarding the plane that would take me to see Jason. All I had to do was get through that week and then it would be time. The weather had cleared over night but just like it always does after it rains the temperature had dropped. As much as I had been avoiding it, it was time to get out my thick wool sweaters and the rest of my winter wardrobe. I felt like I was dressing to go to the North Pole but I knew that I would be thankful I had once I stepped out the door. As I learned at a young age the one disadvantage of living in New York is that when a cold spell hits it hits hard. Despite that I wouldn’t have moved anywhere else. New York was my home and I loved it there. I was born in New York and had grown up there. Every memory I have of my childhood both good and bad is in New York. I learned to ride my bike and broke my arm in the process in Central Park and lost my first tooth biting a hot dog at a curbside cart. When I was in 3rd grade my class took a trip to the Empire State Building. Since then I had been back twice with my class and endless amounts of times with out of town guests.
Once again I was running late for school. For some odd reason ever since everything else had taken a turn for the best my punctuality had taken a turn for the worse. Quite honestly I wasn’t too bothered by it. I was not aiming to get a perfect attendance record or anything of the sort and as long I was on the bus in time it wasn’t a concern anyway. Even if I did miss the bus I was sure that my mom could give me a lift on her way to work. When I was younger she always offered but I turned her down because I didn’t want to endure an awkward, silent car ride every day. Somehow being in a car and not talking was a lot more uncomfortable than being at a dining table. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that in the car you are trapped and there is no where you can go, whereas at the table even if you have no plans to leave you have the option and therefore you are not as trapped. But since we were getting on better I did not have the desire to avoid being in the car with my mother, I actually quite liked the idea. I even thought for a moment that maybe we should drive to LA instead of fly. It would be a bonding experience for my mother and I, and it would probably be cheaper as well. I wasn’t completely sure about the idea though so I decided to wait until I had had some time to think over it before bringing it up with my mom. Our new bond was going so well and I didn’t want over exposure to each other to damage it. No matter how well you get on with someone spending hours on end alone with them in a confined space can be detrimental.
When I got outside I saw that the bus was just pulling up. I got on and gave the bus driver the best smile I could. I also gave her a muffin that had been freshly baked the night before by Karen. To my great dismay this did not aid in my attempt to make her smile. She didn’t even say thank you. I didn’t let this discourage me; it was only the second day. I was sure that by the end of the year she would have smiled at least once, if not more. That day’s attempt just proved that it was going to be more difficult that I had originally anticipated but I knew that if I set my mind to it I would succeed. There was no way I was not going to. No matter how hard her exterior I knew that she had a soft spot somewhere, I just had to find it. I just needed to make a list of possible things that I could do and try them until I found something that worked.
Lauren was patiently waiting in a seat in the third row with her bag reserving a seat for me. I slid in beside her and started to tell her about my road trip idea. She agreed that it may not be the best idea given I wasn’t certain of the strength of my relationship with my mother. She also pointed out that it takes somewhere between three and four days to drive from New York down to Los Angeles. Even if I did have faith in my relationship with my mother there just wasn’t enough time to drive there. By the time we got there it would be time to start heading back. I wanted to spend as much time as was physically possible with Jason so I decided to not even broach the subject with my mother.
School was totally uneventful that day. I did not have a single interesting class and no one said or did anything interesting either. It was just another useless day. That being said, it was not terrible either. I didn’t have any tests or major assignments assigned or due and I managed to stay awake in class and actually pay attention to a certain extent. Lauren and I had several classes together so we spent a lot of time talking about the party. Lauren had already started looking at several venues online and was going to call that afternoon to discuss prices. She had some connections with a few different people so she felt confident that she would be able to get us good prices at one of our top choices. At lunch she showed me the websites of the different venues and I must say that I was a fan of all of them. They all had a party vibe to them from what I could tell from the photos. Though to be quite honest, there was one that stood out above all the others. It was the ball room of the Crown Plaza Hotel. It had a massive dance floor and plenty of room off to the sides for the tables, bar and slot machines. There was a giant chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. It was fairly modern and instead of being made of crystal was made of rose and black glass. There was also a stage in case we wanted to have any performances. Oddly enough it vaguely resembled the room that I had seen in my dream the night before. I told Lauren about my dream and she could not stop laughing. Although she had not been in my ballet class Lauren had heard about my failure and had seen my uncoordinated way of being many times. She had been there the time I totally over looked the fact that there were steps in front of me and just kept walking only to fall flat on my back and ended up with a very sore behind which was black and blue for weeks to follow. It came as a shock to everyone that I had never broken a single bone in my body. The worst I had done was twisting my ankle while getting up from a beanbag. A true act of clumsiness on my part, I never really understood how I had done it. One moment I was getting up from the bean bag and the next I was falling forward and twisting my ankle in the process. Lauren on the other hand who was one of the most coordinated people I had ever met seemed to get injured every two seconds. Everything she did seemed to end with her getting bumped, bruised or scratched. She often complained about the injustice of it all, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not as if I planned to go and intentionally get hurt just to make her feel better. I tried to be a good friend but there comes a point where you just can’t do anything about it. Inflicting pain upon yourself just to make your friend feel better about them self being of those points. I told Lauren this once and she appeared to understand. I mean how you can you not. You would never wish harm to come to your friend. That would just be cruel and I knew Lauren was not cruel; as a matter of fact she was one of the sweetest people I had ever met.
I had a huge amount of homework that day so as soon as I got home I set to work. I was still working when my mom got home and when she called me down for dinner. If there was ever a time when I wished there were more hours in a day it was then. It may have had to do with the fact that it was the week before Thanksgiving, but every teacher was cramming in all the work possible. I was convinced that I was going to fall asleep at my desk still fully dressed. It didn’t actually happen but I came close. I pulled together just enough energy to finish my work and put on a pair of pajamas. I fell asleep almost immediately once I got into bed. I didn’t even turn on my ipod. My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light.
*****

The rest of the week was pretty normal. I made my daily attempt to make the bus driver smile but it didn’t work. She was as stubborn as can be. I had never met someone so grumpy in my entire life. School was bearable but not enjoyable and I continued to get more and more excited about my trip. I even managed not to talk to Jason during the entire week. That was probably the most difficult part.
On Friday afternoon my mom came to pick me up from school so we could go shopping. I had no real idea of what I wanted to wear so I let her take the lead. We ended up driving into the center of the city and going into this shop I had never heard of before but that was filled with the most incredible dresses I had ever seen in my life. There were dresses of every color and material imaginable and every cut as well. I felt as though I had walked into a magical land where anything was possible. I immediately started pulling dresses off the racks. My mother on the other hand carefully walked around looking at dresses but not committing to anything. For every five dresses I picked up, she picked up one. I knew that in the end her method was more effective but I was too wound up in the excitement to really think about practicality. We spent hours in the shop looking at and trying on different dresses. They were all incredible but there was always something that just wasn’t quite right. I was starting to feel discouraged when the shop clerk brought over another dress. From the moment I saw it I knew that it was the one. It was a burnt orange made out of satin with a fitted bodice and a flowing skirt that rippled ever so slightly. When I tried it on it only confirmed my original thoughts. It fit like a glove. I had never found an article of clothing that I loved so much in my life. If you could marry an inanimate object I would have wed that dress then and there. It fell just above my knee making it not too long but not too short either. I twirled around and felt like a fairy princess as I twirled around in front of the mirror. Once I had found the dress it was time for shoe shopping. Clothing is alright but I have loved shoes for as long as I can remember. There is nothing like the smell of new shoes. We walked to a store a few blocks down that was like Nine West on steroids. I took a deep breath inhaling the smell. It was intoxicatingly magnificent. I got an adrenaline rush from seeing all the different shoes and smelling that wonderful aroma. If you could imagine a shoe it existed in that store. My choices were greatly narrowed though by the fact that I already had my dress picked out. I knew I wanted something with a heel but that was also comfortable. If possible I wanted them to be the same shade of orange as my dress but if not something that would create a striking contrast. The first pair I tried on was the right color and height but not the least bit comfortable. The next pair was comfortable but not the right style. Then I found them, they stood out amongst all the other shoes. They were a pair of midnight blue peep toes. I slipped one on and I felt like Cinderella at the ball. Never in my life had I felt so comfortable in a pair of shoes. My mom walked over and instantly approved. She was impressed by how well they matched the dress and how striking yet elegant the contrast was. Once we had paid and the shoes were all wrapped up we headed back to the car, but first we stopped at Sephora to buy makeup to match my outfit. By the time we got back to the car we were both exhausted. All the shopping had made us both incredibly tired.
The entire drive home I was thinking about packing. I stepped through the front door and immediately went digging in the basement for my suitcase. It had been awhile since I had last used it and I couldn’t really remember where I had put it. I had to move a lot of stuff around but in the end I found it buried under a bunch of boxes. It was a bit dusty but luckily I had thought to wrap it in plastic before I put it away so it was still in somewhat good condition. I dragged it up the stairs and wiped it off a bit and then laid it on my bed so I could start packing. The first thing I did was lay my dress down very carefully. Then I went in search of the lighter clothing I had put away because I knew that in LA it would be warmer than in New York. I made sure I had all my makeup we had bought that day and placed my brand new, wonderful smelling, beautiful, incredibly comfortable shoes in their shoe bag. Once everything was carefully and strategically placed in my suitcase I closed the top and zipped it up. I then went on a mission all around the house looking for a TSA approved lock. I refused to run the risk of someone stealing my beloved dress or shoes. There was just no way I was going to let that happen. Not in a million years would I leave them unguarded. They were the most important two objects I owned. Well perhaps that’s an exaggeration but there were still extremely important to me. I would have hated to have something happen to them.
*****

I woke up Saturday morning with more energy than I had had in a long while. The sun was shining and I could just feel that it was going to be a good day. I got up and ate breakfast and finished putting a few things in my hand luggage. When I was done with that there were still three hours before we had to be at the airport. Even if I did give us an hour to drive to the airport I still had two hours to occupy myself. I tried watching TV but there was nothing on so I tried reading but I kept losing my concentration. Then I attempted to take a walk. That worked for a little while until the wind started to blow and I had to go inside because I had forgotten to wear a jacket and I had no gloves on. I had lived in denial at the beginning of winter every year for as long as I had lived in New York. Every year it would get cold but I would refuse to accept it and would go outside under dressed in the hopes that somehow if I denied the fact that it had gotten cold, it would be true. To my great dismay every year I was proven wrong. The weather did not care how I felt and just went on as it should. I’m not sure I ever truly expected my denial to make a difference but I did it every year anyway. Everybody has some sort of odd superstition or belief that does not make much sense and that was mine. I had others as well, but that was the one that I believed the most. I also used to think that if you spun around in circles five time clockwise and then jumped in a circle on one foot counterclockwise it would rain. I believed that for about three years after we watched a movie about a rain dance. When it didn’t actually work I just figured I had done the dance wrong or that I was being punished for something I had done. This went on until I learned about the water cycle and then I came to terms with the fact that I had no power over the rain. Yet for some reason my realization did not apply to all aspects of weather and its irrelevance to my actions.
At long last the time came for us to call a cab to go to the airport. We had considered driving ourselves to the airport but then we realized that we would have to pay a large sum of money for the parking and it really wasn’t worth it. My mom had a friend who worked for the taxi company and always gave us good rates and the best drivers. As soon as I had booked a cab I started to put pressure on my mom to get ready. I knew that it was necessary. From the day I learned to tell time I knew that my mother was never on time for anything. That was the other reason I didn’t want her to drive me to school. I knew that if she did we would be late every single day of the week. I had told her to pack the night before so that we wouldn’t encounter this problem but of course she didn’t listen to me and I was stuck hurrying her along as if she were the child and I were the adult. I heard the taxi pull up and honk its horn just as I helped my mother place her last shirt inside her bag and zip it up. I ran downstairs and grabbed my suit case that was already sitting by the door all ready to go.
When I got outside I saw Robert, my favorite of the taxi drivers. Robert was a middle aged Israeli man who had moved to the United States in the hopes of becoming a Hollywood actor but soon realized that it was a lot more difficult to succeed in the movie business than he had originally thought. He then moved to New York in the hopes of becoming a Broadway star. He got lucky when he auditioned for Fiddler on the Roof and spent many years on stage. This was all many years before and unfortunately one night while he was performing he pulled his knee and fell consequentially smashing his hip bone. After that day he was no longer able to dance and was forced to become a taxi driver in order to continue making a living. Despite his misfortune Robert always had a huge grin on his face and was willing to help with the bags no matter how heavy they were. I always thought to myself that he did it in order to make himself seem strong. It probably wasn’t the case but I used to say it was just to make myself laugh. Whatever the reason I was always glad when I saw that it was Robert picking us up. It wasn’t that we used cabs that often, but we used them often enough that I had learned the names of the people that picked us up most often.
The drive to the airport was a long one. Being the weekend before Thanksgiving there was an endless amount of traffic both coming into the city and going out. Everyone who lived in the city was leaving and all the tourists were arriving. Because of the Macy’s parade along with New Years and Christmas, Thanksgiving was always the busiest time of the year in New York. I had of course been to the parade several times and despite the cold enjoyed it each time. The floats and balloons always brought out the little child in me. In a way I was sad that we weren’t going to be in New York that year for Thanksgiving but at the same time I was glad to get away from all the crowds and the noise. I had a remarkably low threshold for noise given I had grown up in the city. It was the one thing I had inherited from my father. He too had very sensitive ears. Just as we pulled into the airport my phone began to buzz. It was an email from Lauren. She had forwarded me a message from Tim. It was a poem that he had apparently written while he was living in Norway with Lauren in mind.
I’m falling slowly not knowing which way to turn
Nothing makes sense; it’s all just a blur.
I try to grab on to anything I can
But it just slips away and I’m falling again.

Darkness falls but it makes no difference
I’ve been in the dark for far too long.
I hardly even notice as the time passes by
As I look around it all falls apart.

If only I could find my place
Like I used to tell myself I would.
I don’t know where I belong
It scares me to death that I’m on my own.

The pressure is rising as my confidence is dropping.
There’s no one doing this to me but myself.
You tell me I can stop whenever I choose
But in reality that is far from the truth.

You tell me it’s ok and that nobody’s perfect
And deep down I know you’re right.
Because buried down below, under all the fear,
There is still that glimmer of light.

I don’t understand how to just let things be,
I always need to feel some control.
If I could I’d just sit, take a deep breath and breathe
But what are the chances of that?

Maybe one day I’ll find where I belong
I’ll finally feel at ease.
Until that day just guide me along
Because in the end you are the one I need.
It was slightly dramatic to say the least. I began to wonder if he was supposed to be on anti depressants but it had clearly made Lauren’s day and that was what truly mattered. I quickly replied to her saying that it was a very touching poem and that he clearly cared deeply about her and then began to help unload the cab. We still had plenty of time to check in but we were holding up the traffic and the other cab drivers were getting impatient. I could hear them all honking their horns impatiently and I just wanted to go and scream at them to shut up. I had had enough of them honking in the city on the way to the airport and I was not in the mood to hear it continue. There are some sounds that a person just can’t stand and in my case it was the sound of honking horns. Most people found this odd given I lived in the city but the truth is my house was on the outskirts where there was much less traffic and I didn’t have to listen to the honking of horns for hours on end. The neighborhood where we lived was actually quite peaceful and serene. Nothing at all like what most people associate New York with. Whenever people asked me where I lived I had to explain that it was not in Manhattan proper but instead outside of it and that is why we actually had a garden and space to breathe and the ability to hear the birds sing in the spring. For most people the only place that would be possible would be in Central Park and even there it is very noisy. We were fortunate enough though to be able to live within a reasonable distance of the city but not so close that we had to be wrapped up in all the commotion. I could not have asked for a better place to grow up.
Within minutes of finishing unloading the cab I got another email from Lauren with another poem from Tim. This one seemed to have been written more recently given that he talked about having found hope again.
And nothing else matters
I don’t understand
Gone is the time when life was a game
I couldn’t care less if you asked me to try
There’s nothing left that means anything to me
All that’s left is meaningless and bare.
That one little thing about which no one else cared
Was my life and my soul, my reason to live.
It’s all gone now and there’s nothing to show
But then I see it, that beacon of hope
It lights up my world like a bright shooting star.
It’s as if the world were whole again
I have hopes and dreams that can become a reality.
It all becomes clear now,
The darkness has lifted.
I see where I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go.
What once was broken is now whole.
I’m no longer lost in the madness of life.
I’ve found my way out of the world of uncertainty.
I can see where the path I’m taking will lead.
There’s nothing more to say, nowhere else to look.
I’ve found what I’m looking for and happiness is restored.

There was no denying it; this guy was clearly head over heels in love with her as well as a great writer. I would be lying if I said he wasn’t. The way he took the words and gave them meaning was almost magical. There was an insight in them that I would never have been able to achieve. He never mentioned love once in either of the two poems but it was clearly there. The emotion was so profound and I forgot where I was for a moment. Then the honking of the taxis brought me back to reality. I grabbed the handle of my suitcase and dragged it inside. It was not that much quieter inside but at least I knew that once I had passed the check in I would be able to wander off and take a deep breath. Thankfully my mom had a premier card that let us jump the long lines so we were through in no time and I was able to go get a tea at Starbucks and calm my nerves. Ever since the first time I had flown I had been a nervous flyer. What happened on 9/11 had not helped at all and no matter how many times I assured myself that nothing could possibly go wrong I still got anxious before any flight. I knew that once we were up in the air I would be fine; it was just the period of time that we were in the airport or on the tarmac that got me jumpy. For obvious reasons having a coffee would not have helped but sipping a cup of decaf tea did a great deal of good. Because I had gotten us to the airport so early we had plenty of time to mill around the terminal. I went to Borders and looked at the books but they didn’t have anything even half decent. All the good books were out of stock and everything that was left was complete garbage. I did need to find something to read though so in the end I picked up the new Nicholas Sparks book. I had gone through a phase where I loved anything written by him so I figured I might enjoy it at least a little. On the cover was a bicycle with flowers in the basket but the blurb on the back told a story far from peaceful and pleasant. Once I had wandered around a bit more I went to sit down by our gate and began to read. The book was actually a lot more interesting than I would have thought. My mom had to pull me away from it when we were about to bored because I had zoned out and failed to hear the boarding call. I had also forgotten my fear of flying because I was so involved in the book. I’d never been a fast reader except when I’m really into a book and I was a good third of the way into that book by the time I sat down in my seat on the airplane. I decided to take it as a good omen. I settled down in my seat and kept reading. I finished the book while we were flying over Colorado. I was satisfied with the ending but at the same time it left me wanting more. I tried to sleep but failed miserably. I was just going to have to accept the fact that I would arrive in LA totally beat. There was nothing else I could do about it. I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill because it was just putting toxins in my body and I had forgotten to charge my ipod so I couldn’t listen to my rain sounds to make me sleep. At one point I came very close to falling asleep but then the duty free trolley came rattling by and woke me up. That was the one and only time I came close to sleep. Since I had given up hope on rest I decided to channel my extra energy into writing a letter to Jason for his birthday. There was so much to say and I wanted to get it just right so that ended up taking up most of the remaining time.
My sweet and kind Jason,
You have been my man since the day we met but now you are a man in the eyes of society as well. I can’t believe the luck I’ve had since fate brought us together. I went to camp thinking I would come home the same person I left as, maybe just a little tanner but thanks to you I am a new person. The fact that our birthdays are on the same day must be destiny’s way of saying we are meant for each other. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t rather share my birthday with anyone else in the world. You are the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thought I have when I go to sleep. They say perfection is not reality but the only reason that that is true about you is that you live so far away. When I saw you at the airport when you came to New York my heart skipped a beat and my mind went blank. The only thing I could see was you. Now that I am on my way to see you for Thanksgiving and your birthday I know that I will feel the same way again.
If I were to make a list of all the reasons I love you I would never finish because I would always be forgetting something but I will give you just a few of the reasons. To begin with you are more than the love of my life you are my best friend and the one I know I can trust. Talking to you is easy because I know you will listen. When I’m with you I feel safe and like there is nothing that can hurt me. You instill a feeling of confidence in me that no one else can do. On top of that you can make me smile no matter what. You are funny without being rude like so many people. The look on your face in photographs that you don’t want to be taken is priceless and the ones that you accept are lit up with your smile. It is the little things that you do that make me the most happy. The way you stroke my hand with your thumb when we hold hands or the way you run your fingers through my hair as we embrace. Those are the moments I treasure the most. I don’t need to go anywhere or do anything special when I am with you, because YOU are special. Those are just a few of the many reasons that you mean so much to me.
If someone were to ask me what my life would be like would I would tell them I don’t know, not because I can’t imagine but because I choose not to. You are my light in the dark and the warmth on a cold winter’s day. I can’t see a future without you.
Yours forever and for always,

I finished the letter just as the pilot announced that we were ten minutes away from landing. It’s funny how the timing was so perfect. I folded it up and slipped it into the envelope I had packed in my carry on. I then folded up my tray table and relaxed. There were only a few minutes left before I would see Jason again. Unfortunately I had always been of the frame of mind that “patience is a virtue not worth waiting for”. I got more and more fidgety as the time passed. I just didn’t know what to do to entertain myself. I tried looking at the map on the screen but that made time pass slower and when I tried to read the magazines in the seat pocket I started to get motion sick. There was nothing I could do other than just sit and stare at the ceiling.
*****

At long last I felt the wheels of the plane hit the runway. It had been a remarkably smooth landing so for a moment I was unsure if we really had touched the ground but when I looked out the window I saw that I was right. Of course we then had to wait for the plane to come to a full stop and for the seatbelt sign to be turned off but finally everything was set and we were able to get up. Not that standing up made much of a difference. There were plenty people in front of us that seemed in no rush to get anywhere. It could have just been my imagination but I felt as if there was a conspiracy to make me wait as long as was physically possible. I knew it was a ridiculous idea and that no one would actually spend the time to do that but that’s how I felt given the amount of time it was taking. As soon as I saw people start moving I felt a ball of excitement building up inside of me. If I could have started jumping up and down without making a scene I would have. Instead I just kept waiting my turn until I finally got to the front and was able to get off the plane. Once I was off the plane I still had to go to the baggage claim to pick up my luggage, but thankfully that didn’t take too long. When we arrived at the carousel our bags were already doing the loop so we just had to reach out and grab them. Since they had wheels we didn’t even have to get a trolley.
As I walked out the door of the baggage claim and into the arrivals area there was one face in the crowd that stood out above all the others. There was Jason with his adorable warm smile looking out at me. He jumped over the barrier and then stopped his arms wide open and when I ran at him he picked me up and twirled me around as if I weighed nothing. I knew he had been working out but I was still rather impressed by his strength. Then again anything he did would probably have impressed me. Once we had finished hugging I turned around to see where my mom was. She was right behind us holding my suitcase and smiling. She then walked over and said hello to Jason. They were very cordial but you could tell that they were glad that their plan had worked out. The next thing Jason did was introduce me to his parents. His mother was very warm and cheerful and actually gave me a bouquet of flowers. They were a mixture of pink and white Gerber daisies which I had once told Jason were my favorite flowers in the world. His father was very nice as well although not quite as open as his mother. This seemed natural to me and I was just glad to meet the two of them since they had been unable to come at parent’s weekend that summer at camp and it had been his uncle who had picked him up at the end of the summer.
We all walked together over to their car and placed the bags in the trunk, then his parents got in the front and Jason, my mom and I got in the back. For the first fifteen minutes we were all chattering away but then I slowly got more and more sleepy and before I knew it I had fallen asleep on Jason’s shoulder. For as long as I can remember cars had been the one place that I could fall asleep effortlessly. We used to go on long car rides and I would fall asleep to the sound of whatever book on tape we were listening to at the time. We would always have to rewind the tape when I woke up because I hated not knowing what had happened. It just so happened that Jason was wearing my favorite of his sweaters, a black v-neck one that was slightly faded and so soft. It was identical to the one he had left in New York for me to find but even softer. It also had many memories attached to it because he had been wearing it the first time he told me he loved me and I had worn it several times that summer when the weather was chilly. This fact that he was wearing that specific sweater made his shoulder an even more comfortable pillow than usual and let me just tell you that his shoulder always made a very good pillow.
The drive from the airport to his house was longer than I had expected so I actually got a good nap out of it. If it had been day time I would have felt bad about missing seeing all the sights but since it had already gotten dark I didn’t miss out on much. When we arrived at his house Jason tried to scoop me up and take me inside without waking me and succeeded until we got to his door where his dog started to bark. At that point I looked up and saw him smiling down at me. A warm tingly feeling instantly shot through my veins. A lot of people would say that you don’t get butterflies after being with someone for so long but I found this to be totally false. I felt an undeniably giddy feeling whenever I saw Jason after a long period of not seeing him or even a relatively short one for that matter. He refused to put me down until we had gotten over the thresh hold and even then he only did so after lightly kissing my forehead.
Once I was back on my own two feet, Lilly, Jason’s St. Bernard came straight at me as a ball of loud and slobbery excitement. I wouldn’t have minded except that I was still half asleep and somewhat disoriented. I came very close to falling flat on my back but Jason came to my rescue just as I began to fall backwards. Once I had let Lilly sniff me and get a sense of who I was, she calmed down significantly and I saw that she was in fact a very sweet dog. I had a feeling that we would become good friends in the days to come. In the mean time I was much more interested in going upstairs and taking a shower before dinner. After having travelled all day I did not feel that I looked my best. There was no point in telling Jason this because I knew that he would be a loyal boyfriend and deny it but I also knew he would let me go take a shower if I asked so that is just what I did.
*****

I felt much better after my shower. Not only was I clean but I was also awake. To my great contentment I noticed that the bathroom smelled of CK ONE. Sure enough there on Jason’s bathroom counter was a bottle of it. I walked over and sprayed just a hint of it on my sleeve just as I always did back home. I then walked back down the hall to the room where Jason had put my bag and unpacked making sure to hang up my dress in a way that assured that it would get as few wrinkles in it as possible. I put it in the back of my closet though so that Jason wouldn’t see it if he came into my room and the closet happened to be open. I wanted him to be surprised when he saw me in it. Not to be cocky but the woman at the shop had told me that it looked wonderful with my complexion and that whoever I was dressing up for very lucky indeed and I had to agree. It was a very flattering dress and the burnt orange did look nice with my chocolate brown eyes and hair. My goal was to leave him totally awe struck since he had never seen me in formal clothes before. The dances at camp were not formal and I had no reason to get dressed up when he was in New York a few weeks before. I would of course dress up for Thanksgiving but not as much as for the party.
When I finally went downstairs everybody was sitting in the living room talking. Jason patted the sofa cushion next to him indicating for me to sit down. I walked over and plopped down next to him. As I looked around I felt at home. Jason’s house was nothing like mine but it just had this homey feeling to it. A lot of my mom’s friends that lived in Los Angeles had really nice homes but they all had this icy feeling to them that just didn’t make you want to live there. Jason’s was different; to begin with the house didn’t smell of cleaning liquid but instead of fresh baked bread. The smell made me really hungry since I hadn’t eaten on the plane and I really hoped that we were actually going to have fresh bread. The color of the walls was another thing that made the house feel welcoming. There were different hues of reds and browns that created warmth. The other thing that was creating warmth was Jason’s arm around my body. I curled up into a ball and wiggled my way closer to him. I could feel his muscles flex as he held on tighter and I knew that I was finally where I wanted to be. Both his parents and my mom seemed happy to see us together and there was no tension. It was as if we had all known each other forever and this wasn’t the first time that my mom and I were meeting his parents. I just knew that we would have a great Thanksgiving all together and a great week in general.
Suddenly Lilly came into the room and realized that I had come downstairs. She was a lot more subdued now and padded over and sat down at my feet waiting to be petted. I was much too comfortable in Jason’s arms to get up and move but I did extend a foot and rub her with it. I immediately heard her tail thudding against the rug when I did so. She was an easy dog to please and I was happy to oblige. There may be some truth to the saying that a dog is like their owner.. Lilly was the kindest gentlest most loving dog I had ever met. Lilly even had the same shaggy hair as Jason. It was shaggy and yet well kept and shiny. I never understood how he kept his hair looking so perfectly unkempt but somehow he did and after seeing Lilly I had begun to think that it was something in the water. Jason’s father had a perfect head of hair as well. His mother had lovely hair although not messy. Hers was just like you see in magazines. It was long and blond, lightly tousled with highlights that looked natural. I hoped that by the end of the week my hair would look that nice. I took a mental note to ask his mom where she got her hair done so that I could go before the party and look my very best.
After talking for a good while Jason’s mom went into the kitchen to check on dinner. By this point there was a wonderful smell wafting out of the kitchen. I wasn’t quite sure what it was but it smelled like some sort of stew. It was just what I needed after a long day of travelling. While we waited for dinner to be ready we nibbled on crackers and this really yummy aged cheese. Every worry I had had up until that moment slowly evaporated. I felt more at rest there than I did in my own home. This is not to say that I didn’t feel comfortable in my own home because I was very comfortable at home because I was, but as I learned from Madeline when I was little, “Home is where the heart is” and my heart was with Jason.
When dinner was ready we all moved into the dining room. The table looked perfect. It wasn’t beautifully set with crystal glasses and glimmering silverware but it had the same comfortable feeling as the rest of the house. There was a checkered table cloth and green tinted glasses. The plates had green rims with a pretty little flower design. I waited for everyone else to sit down and then took a seat between Jason and his mom. My mom and his dad were seated across from us and once again I felt as if this were not a first but instead a habit. I had been right both when I guessed about the bread and the stew. It turns out that Jason’s mom was a great baker and got a lot of pleasure out of doing it. The bread was delicious. The stew I had smelt was rich beef and vegetable stew full of flavor. After the food that they had served us on the airplane, that I had barely eaten, a home cooked meal was just what I needed.
After dinner we went back into the living room for dessert and hot apple cider. Jason’s father had left the table momentarily and lit a fire in the fire place so when we went back into the living room it was warmer and cozier than before. His mom’s great baking skills carried over to desert and we had the best warm chocolate cake I had ever had. It had a soft gooey center that just melted in your mouth. In the fun and good natured spirit of it all I put some of the gooey center on Jason’s nose. We all burst out laughing after that. It was the sort of evening I had always imagined having with my own family when they came to visit. Since I no longer visited my family this was wonderful. We played charades and Pictionary until no one could keep their eyes open any longer. We all walked upstairs like zombies I was so tired I didn’t even remember changing into my pajamas and getting into bed.
I woke up in the morning slightly disoriented. When I first looked around I couldn’t quite understand where I was and then suddenly it all came rushing back to me. I had a sudden sense of euphoria. I feel as though I was in heaven. I knew as soon as I got up I would be able to see and talk to Jason. I wouldn’t just be looking at a picture or texting either. I would be able to wrap my arms around him and feel his skin warm against mine. I slipped into my robe and put on my fuzzy slippers and went looking. When I stepped into the hallway I could smell warm maple syrup and waffles. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It hurt, so I knew it was real. In the kitchen perched on a stool at the counter was Jason looking cuter than ever. His hair was in that shaggy yet well groomed state and he still had sleep in his eyes. He looked so comfortable sitting there in his flannel pajama bottoms and worn through t-shirt. I stood in the doorway for a few minutes just watching him. I didn’t want to disturb him, but then I sneezed and he turned around. The instant he saw me I saw his face light up. He got up and walked over to me wrapping his arms around me in a giant bear hug. It was so sweet how he nuzzled his face into my hair and told me how nice I smelled in the morning. I can’t say I quite understood what he meant but apparently I smelt like a mixture of flowers and baby powder.
As much as I was enjoying standing there hugging Jason the smell of the waffles was just too much. I was extremely hungry and they just smelled so good. I went over to the oven where they were being kept warm and made myself a plate. I then asked where my mom and his parents were. Apparently they had all gone for a walk to better get to know each other. They had clearly hit it off the night before. I had so much to be thankful for that Thanksgiving. Lucky for Jason and I his school was closed for the entire week so even though it was Monday we had plenty of time to do whatever we wanted. We didn’t really feel like making plans though. We decided to just take it easy and watch a movie and be together. But first I was going to sit down and enjoy my waffles. I had told Jason once that waffles were my favorite breakfast food and clearly he had listened because he asked me how they measured up to the waffles I had had in New York. To be truthful they were the best waffles I had ever had and I would have eaten them all if I didn’t know that I would be sick later if I did.
After breakfast we went in search of blankets, and then we went into the den and curled up to watch a movie. We couldn’t actually find a movie that we felt like watching so we watched episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. It doesn’t sound like the most romantic thing in the world but it was good enough and when there was a teenage couple that had super glued themselves together we joked about how we should do the same. We knew that it would be a terrible idea and as we learned from the show it can be undone although it is painful. It was fun joking about it anyway. At one point we heard our parents get back from their walk with Lilly. She came bounding into the room and jumped onto the sofa covering us with slobbery kisses. We had to push her off because she wasn’t supposed to be on the sofa but we both found it difficult to be angry at her. She was just so sweet and friendly and lively. It made me wish that I had a dog but I knew that even though I had discussed it with my mom it was too late to get one at that point. I was going to be going to college in less than a year and my mom wouldn’t want to have an animal tying her down. Even if she did say yes it wouldn’t be fair to her.
We kept watching Grey’s Anatomy for a bit longer and then decided that it was time to get dressed. When we went upstairs he told me to wait a second before I got dressed. He walked over to the laundry basket full of clean clothes that was sitting down the hall. He picked up the black sweater he had been wearing the night before and handed it to me. He told me that he wanted me to have it. I knew that it was his favorite sweater but I also knew that he meant it when he said he wanted me to have it. I took it and gave him a kiss on the cheek and then went into my room to go change. I put on a pair of jeans and a pink t-shirt with the sweater on top and pair of zebra print ballet flats. Then I went into the bathroom to do my hair and brush my teeth. By the time I got out of the bathroom Jason was already standing in the hallway waiting for me. We didn’t really have a plan as to where we wanted to go so we just agreed to go for a drive and see where we would end up.
*****

We got into the car and just started to drive flipping a coin at intersections to decide where we would turn next. It wasn’t a very productive plan but it was fun and I got to see parts of Los Angeles that I had never even heard of. When you read about LA in magazines and things you read about Beverly Hills and all the celebrities but you don’t read about the quaint little side streets. If I had to choose I would have chosen the trip we took over the big city any day. I had lived in the city all my life and it was nice to see something else. Just like me although Jason lived in what was technically the city his house was out of the center of town where all the commotion was happening. After driving around for half an hour we spotted a cute little gazebo in the center of a park. It turns out we were only a mile from his house. We both immediately thought of our gazebo at camp and knew that we needed to stop and go in.
There was a parking lot that connected to the park. We pulled in and parked the car. We got out of the car and I started running towards the gazebo but Jason caught my arm and pulled me back. I slipped onto the ground and he knelt down beside me tickling me until I couldn’t bare it any longer and just started squirming and giggling uncontrollably. I acted as if I wanted to get away but at the same time I wanted to stay just where I was because in that moment I was truly happy. He finally stopped tickling me and lay down beside me. I laid my head on his chest and took a deep breath inhaling the smell of his cologne. It smelled wonderful mixed with the smell of the freshly cut grass it smelled better than anything I had ever smelt before. It smelled better than the shoe store where I had bought my shoes for the party and better than the warm maple syrup and waffles that morning. It even smelled better than the fresh bread and stew the night before. I was in paradise and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. I took a mental image of the moment. I would treasure that memory forever, I was sure of it and I wanted to make sure I got it right.
We had almost forgotten about the gazebo when it started to rain. That’s when we remembered it. We made a mad dash towards the gazebo. It started to pour just was we got inside. We sat and talked for a little while and then when we saw that the rain wasn’t easing up we decided that it was nap time. We cuddled up on the floor of the gazebo and fell asleep to the sound on the rain. Who needs an ipod when you have the real thing? Even though the wooden floor of the gazebo was not the most comfortable place in the world I slept like a baby. It was as if I had been given a sleeping pill full of happy thoughts.
When I woke up Jason was still asleep so I carefully got up and went to sit on the bench. It was just stopping to rain and slowly a rainbow appeared. I was torn between letting Jason sleep and waking him up so he could see the rainbow. In the end I decided to wake him up. The rainbow was just too special to let him miss it. We sat together on the gazebo bench his arm around me looking at the rainbow and enjoying the silence. Everyone else had left the park because of the rain and the birds were just starting to tweet again. It was as if the world had come to a full stop and was just starting to come alive again.
Once the rain had totally stopped we went back to the car and drove home. As we walked through the door we were hit with the sound of laughter and excited chatter. Then I saw my mom and Jason’s parents playing Pictionary again this time with two unfamiliar people who moments later were introduced to me as Jason’s grandparents. They looked like the stereotypical grandparents. They were all cute and wrinkly with snow white hair and extremely friendly. They seemed genuinely happy to meet me and asked a million questions. They wanted to know exactly how we had met and how long we had been at camp together. They asked about what it had been like being apart and what it was like to see each other again in New York when Jason came with his band, “Rapid fire”. Once they had gotten past the questions about Jason and me as a couple they moved on to the questions about me and my life and friends. They were very inquisitive and yet it never felt pushy. Their questions gave off the vibe of actual interest and not just a need to fill the silence.
We spent the rest of the afternoon having family time. We joked and told stories and played games. I actually won at scrabble both times we played. Clearly taking English higher was paying off. At one point I managed to spell some obscure word that no one had heard of and I wasn’t quite sure was even a word. We had to look it up in the dictionary and it turns out that abderian means “given to incessant or idiotic laughter”. This discovery of course sparked a whole series of discussions both about people who laugh incessantly and about obscure words in general. One person in particular came immediately to Jason’s and my mind.
While we were at camp there was a girl named Sara that drove everyone insane. She would laugh about anything even if it wasn’t meant to be funny. It was worse when someone tried to make a joke but no one else found it funny, because then Sara would start laughing uncontrollably as if to make up for the fact that no one else was laughing. Her laughter was not only constant but also sounded ridiculous. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. I actually had nightmares about Sara’s laughing a couple of times. Apparently Jason did too. The worst of all was the time someone found a package of atomic fireballs and Sara tried to eat 3 at once. Not only did she laugh incessantly out of amusement she also squirmed around and ended up drooling red goop all over the place. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen. Of course we all laughed at the beginning but then we saw that it was just making her laugh more which made her expel more of the disgusting red drool so we pulled ourselves together and stopped laughing in an attempt to get her to do the same.
The next day was much of the same. We were all very relaxed and just glad to have some time to rest. I found out that we actually weren’t going to be having Thanksgiving at Jason’s house but were instead going to his aunt and uncles house several hours away. This sounded like fun given how well I was getting on with the members of his family I had already met. I was informed at the same time that relatives from all over the country were coming. This put some unintended pressure on me because I felt the need to make a good impression. At the same time I wasn’t too worried given how nice everybody had been so far. That night before we went to bed Jason’s mom asked me if I’d like to come with her to the grocery store in the morning to buy ingredients for the pies she was making for Thanksgiving. I was extremely honored to have been asked to accompany her and agreed immediately. I viewed the invitation as a sign of her acceptance.


*****

I woke up Wednesday morning bright and early. I was very excited for my trip to the super market with Jason’s mom. It was not the actual going to the store that excited me but the feeling of inclusion that came with it. It would also serve as an opportunity to better get to know Jason’s mom without him around. I had enjoyed every moment of the time I spent with Jason but I also looked forward to some girl time. My mom had suggested that she and Jason’s grandmother meet us for lunch and that we then all go to get our nails done and it was unanimously agreed that that was a brilliant idea so it became our plan for the day.
The drive to the super market was very pleasant. It was interesting to get a chance to talk to Jason’s mom. She told me about the NGO she worked for and the travelling she’d done because of it. She worked for Children United. It’s a nonprofit organization that works to help children being abused in underdeveloped countries. It sounded like something I would like to spend my gap year doing so I made sure to ask lots of questions and get as much information as I could about it. She was very helpful and promised to help me when the time came to get involved with an organization for my gap year between undergrad and med school. Unfortunately Children United didn’t really offer volunteer or internship positions but she said she was happy to help me look elsewhere.
The shopping its self was nothing out of the ordinary. We just picked up the ingredients we needed and left. No matter where you are in the world grocery stores are all the same. You just walk around through the aisles and then check out. Lunch afterwards was great though. We went to this cute little French bistro on a side street near the center of town. We sat outside near a space heater and had a delicious lunch. The manicures and pedicures after lunch were incredibly relaxing. I had already de stressed in the days since we had arrived but that was the cherry on top. I had my finger nails painted a shade of blue similar to that of my shoes. My toe nails were purple because Jason had told me that that he didn’t think I was capable of painting them anything other than pink or red.
That afternoon Jason and I went back to the park. Before we went though, I showed him my purple toe nails and he was adequately impressed. He admitted that he had been wrong and it gave me an odd sense of silly satisfaction. It was a lovely and sunny day at the park although a bit windy so we flew kites. It was so pretty seeing the kites against the bright blue sky. There was not a cloud in sight. It was picture perfect. I wished I had a brought my camera with me. My hope was that we would be able to fly kites again the next day out in the countryside. When it started to get dark we went home. The smell of pies baking was overpowering from the moment we opened the door. I should have been expecting it given how delicious the bread and stew had smelled the night we arrived and how delicious everything had been since then. I went upstairs to take a shower and when I came back down Jason had made a bowl of popcorn and was sitting in the den all snuggled up in a blanket. He looked so adorable and for the second time that day I wished I had my camera with me. I thought about going to get it but I knew that by the time I had gone and come back he would probably have moved so I just joined him on the sofa instead. We actually watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving movie. The first couple of minutes were insanely dull where Snoopy and Woodstock did nothing but eat, but then it got rather interesting. My interest may have been simply because it brought back lots of memories but it was an interest none the less and I enjoyed the experience.
Even though I hadn’t done much that day I was exhausted. Before going to bed I had to pack my overnight bag for the next day. Then I went to bed and slept wonderfully. There was something about the mattress in the guest room that made me sleep so well. I can’t remember any other time when I’d slept so well. I had had wonderful dreams every night so far. I only wished I could bring the bed home with me.
*****

The next morning we had to leave the house relatively early in order to beat the traffic and get to the country side early enough for us to help prepare for the meal. Luckily unlike a lot of people we were having dinner at the normal hour and not in the late afternoon. Once again I fell asleep in the car. It was not that I was tired that time but instead that the movement of the car and the sound of everyone’s voices had lulled me to sleep. When I woke up again we were in the middle of the woods bumping along on a dirt road. I couldn’t believe that we had been in the city only hours earlier.
Jason’s aunt and uncle’s house was amazing. It had the main house where it appeared that they lived and where we were going to eat. Off to the side there was a red barn just like you saw in movies with a riding area and in the distance you could see the horses grazing. There was also a small cottage that Jason told me was where we were going to be sleeping. The main house had guest rooms but they were being occupied by other family members and his parents and grandparents. My mom was going to be in the cottage with us.
As we approached the house the door flew open. Out came someone who looked almost identical to Jason’s father except a few years younger. Clearly he was Jason’s uncle. Behind him was a woman with a huge grin on her face exclaiming “Welcome!” and behind her were two young boys. Both boys had bright blue eyes and grins that matched their mother’s. When they saw Jason come out from behind the car they came running at him. He crouched down and opened his arms so that he could wrap them in a huge embrace when they got to him. It was the one of the sweetest things I had ever seen. My heart melted on the spot. I knew that if Jason and I ever got married one day he would be a great father. I was not making plans for that far into the future but it is always nice to know how someone handles children.
Inside I met the rest of the family and was formally introduced to everyone. To no surprise they were all wonderfully kind. He had more young cousins than I ever dreamed of having as well as several our age. Jason’s mother and mine along with his grandmother and aunts all went into the kitchen to continue preparing the meal for that evening and Jason and I went over to the cottage to drop off our stuff and then we went back to the main building to join his cousins. After sitting around for a bit and having an early lunch of sandwiches and apple slices, we all got antsy and decided to take the younger children outside for a game of capture the flag. Admittedly we were just as excited as they were. The giant pasture behind the barn made the perfect playing field. We split into two teams making sure to have a balanced amount of young children and teenagers on each team. I ended up being placed on a team with Jason’s cousin Tori and the two little boys I had seen when I first arrived who I discovered were named Nate and Ralph as well as a few others as well that I have forgotten the names of.
By three o’clock the little ones were tired out and in need of a nap and to be quite honest so was I. Jason and I wandered into the barn and climbed up into the hayloft where we proceeded to fall asleep. The hay tickled like you would not imagine but at the same time it made a rather good bed, in my opinion at least. I was beginning to realize though that I could fall asleep almost anywhere. I woke up with hay in every opening of my clothing as well as in my hair. Jason was not much better off. He had hay poking out from everywhere but somehow the honey color of his hair matched the hay magnificently. As usual he looked perfectly unkempt. It was a trait I greatly envied.
There were still a couple of hours before we had to be ready for dinner so we decided to saddle up a couple of the horses and go out for a ride. Jason had me do a few loops around the arena before we set out and soon realized that despite my best efforts I had no idea what I was doing. At that point he had me get off the horse and he unsaddled it and took off the bit. Then he lifted me up and placed me on his horse and climbed on in front of me. I wrapped my arms around his waist and we set off. With this new arrangement there was nothing for me to do except for enjoy the ride, which I did greatly. I felt liberated as we galloped through the fields in the open air. It felt wonderful having the wind rush through my hair as the horse moved with great ease and elegance. We got back to the house just as the sun was beginning to set. The air was beginning to cool and I could smell the smoke coming out of the chimney thick against the crisp air.
When I came out of the bathroom after changing I found Jason waiting in the sitting room waiting to escort me back to the house. He looked like a totally different person in his khaki trousers, blue pin striped button down shirt and navy blue blazer with gold buttons. I’m not sure I would have recognized him had we been in a different setting with more people. He had even combed his hair, a necessary task given the amount of hay that had been in it when we got back from our ride. We both smelled much better than when we got back from our ride. We no longer smelled of horses. A smell that I personally quite liked but many people would say is not a pleasant one.
*****

As we walked to the house I saw that it was lit up with twinkling fairy lights. Music could be heard faintly coming from inside. As we got close to the house Jason stopped mid stride and said to me, “may I have this dance?” This was far from what I expected. I didn’t think that we would dance until our party but I had no reason to turn him down so we danced together by the light of the moon. It was probably the most romantic thing we had done since I had arrived in California and although it lasted only a couple of minutes, it was a memory that I would hold near and dear for the rest of my life.
Once inside we found a place to sit by the fire. Well Jason found a place to sit and I sat on top of him. There was a limited amount of space for people to sit and I saw no reason for us to take up more space than was truly necessary. Jason made a much more comfortable seat anyway. I had felt slightly chilled when we were outside but sitting by the fire with Jason’s arms around me I couldn’t have been more comfortable. It was as if his body was regulating its temperature perfectly to match my needs.
Not long after it was time for us to sit down to dinner. I was starving by that point. Every time someone opened the kitchen door I could smell an assortment of different smells coming through. What I assumed was the turkey smelled absolutely magnificent. I had never smelt anything so wonderful in New York or anywhere else for that matter. The few days I had spent with Jason’s family had inspired me to learn to cook. At that moment I made myself a promise to begin paying more attention when Karen cooked dinner back home and possibly maybe even take a few cooking classes. My new dream was to be able to one day prepare a Thanksgiving dinner as wonderful as the one we were about to have for my family. It suddenly occurred to me that I could take a cooking class with my mother as a way to bond. I made a mental note to ask her about it when we got back to New York, maybe even on the flight home.
Dinner tasted even better than it smelled. I was glad we had had a light lunch because everything was fantastic. Delicious does not seem like the right word to describe it. It was more than delicious. It was like heaven on earth. I’m not sure I had ever enjoyed a meal so much in my life. It was as if I had not eaten in days and just tasted food again for the first time. The dining room was filled with a constant chatter and laughter that reminded me of the Thanksgivings I had had many years ago with my own family. It made me sad for a moment to remember those moments that I would never experience again but at the same time I knew that if my father had not left my life would have turned out differently and I may never have gone to camp and met Jason and in that case I would not be sitting in his aunt and uncle’s dining room surrounded by so much joy and love and respect. That was the thing, not only was everyone happy it was clear that they truly loved and respected each other. Even during the best of times my family had never been able to create that sense of genuine adoration that I felt with Jason’s family. At that moment I felt as though I belonged and I would not have liked to be anywhere else in the world. Jason’s mother’s pies were to die for. I had never been given so many pies to choose between and given how good all the food had been up until then I couldn’t decide. In the end I had a tiny sliver of all of them. I felt like a little piglet but it was worth it. The lemon meringue melted in your mouth while the key lime tasted remarkably fresh. Both the pecan and the chocolate pecan were gooey and delicious and the apple pie could have won a prize.
After dinner we all gathered around the television to watch Titanic. Even the little ones watched. Jason explained to me that it was a long standing family tradition to watch Titanic all together after Thanksgiving dinner. I was eager to oblige given Titanic had been one of my favorite films when I was younger. I had spent an entire spring vacation watching the movie three or four times consecutively daily. It was the first PG-13 movie I had ever seen and I felt so grown up for being allowed to watch it. That had been many years before and I had only vague memories of what the movie was about. I of course knew that it was about the ship sinking but I also knew that there was a lot more to it than that. I remembered very few of the fine details. Once again Jason became my seat. I felt like a child sitting on his lap but at the same time I was very comfortable. The movie was better than I remembered and when Rose and Jack were standing on the bow of the ship with their arms spread out as the sun set I felt Jason tighten his grip around my waist. I snuggled in closer and we both looked at each other. Jason suddenly got a mischievous cheeky grin on his face and he whispered in my ear that he had a surprise for me after the movie. I was instantly intrigued and kept wondering what he had planned. I knew we weren’t going to be able to stand on the nose of a ship and spread our wings like birds but I had a feeling that we were going to do something related to the scene we had just watched. We watched the rest of the movie in relative tranquility. It is impossible to say we were totally at ease given the nature of the film but we were relaxed to the extent possible. When Rose spat in Cal’s face it got more than a couple laughs out of us. It did exactly what it was supposed to and relieved some of the tension. Jason and I had refrained from kissing in front of his family up until Jack and Rose were reunited. At that point we couldn’t help it. I know that I was imagining what it would be like to go through what they were going through with Jason and I’m quite sure he was doing the same. I know I would never be able to do it. I was torn up enough whenever we had to say goodbye. The thought of losing him forever was almost unimaginable. It hurt me to even try and imagine it. Having the excessively analytical mind I do, I had long ago found one fault in the movie. The water that was supposedly leaking in from the ocean was unnaturally clear and particularly blue. I know that it’s a rather irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of things, but I couldn’t help noticing. I pointed it out to Jason and he told me that he had noticed the same thing a few years before. Once again I realized how meant for each other we truly were. By the end of the movie half the room was in tears and I was one of the ones who were bawling. I was heartbroken when Rose let go of Jack’s hand and yet it warmed my heart when she promised him in that same moment that she would never let go. They were obviously much more extreme circumstances but it reminded me of when Jason and I had to say goodbye and although we had to let go physically we were both holding on forever emotionally.
After the movie was finished the younger children were put to bed. Many of them had already fallen asleep and had to be carried and the ones that hadn’t didn’t put up much of a fight. It had been a long day and their little bodies were in need of rest. Once everyone under the age of twelve was in bed we began a game of charades. With so many people it was extremely exciting and entertaining. Everyone was guessing the most random things and we were all getting stitches from the amount of laughing we were doing. It was the most fun I had had during our time in California up until that point which is saying a lot because almost every minute since I had arrived had been fun.
When everyone finally decided to go to bed Jason and I said goodbye, but instead of going back to the cottage we went to the barn where we climbed back into the hayloft. In order for this to be possible I had to take off my heels, which then caused me to take off my tights so as not to ruin them. Instead of just sitting down though, we walked around to the other end and then Jason opened up a hatch that led out to the roof. He proceeded to wrap his blazer around me and then climbed out onto the roof. Moments later he was reaching in to pull me through. Once we were up on the roof he took my hand and led me to a flat part of the ridge of the roof and then came around behind me and as I had anticipated we reenacted the scene from the movie. His arms wrapped first around my waist to steady me and then up against mine as I spread my arms out pretending to soar like a bird. I was sure that if my mother saw us she would have a panic attack but I was so wrapped up in the moment that I didn’t remember to keep an eye out for her. Lucky for me and also for her she didn’t see us as she walked back to the cottage. We spent a few more minutes up on the roof before the wind started to blow and for our own safety we went back into the barn. As comfortable as the hay had been for a nap earlier that day we decided against sleeping in the loft. We climbed back down the ladder and picked up my tights and shoes and then Jason decided that instead of waiting for me to put them back on he would carry me so up I went and out we went. When we got back to the cottage we saw that my mother was in the sitting room reading a book. Clearly she had been waiting for us to get in. As much as my mother trusted us I knew that she wanted to make sure we weren’t up to no good. I saw her face relax when we stepped inside.
Having gotten up early and then experienced so much excitement I was admittedly ready to pass out in my bed and not wake up until the morning. I went upstairs to the attic where our bedroom was and got ready for bed while Jason helped my mom check that all the doors and windows were locked. They must have also spent some time talking because by the time he got upstairs I was already in bed. He came over and kissed me lightly on the forehead and then first on the left eyelid and then the right explaining that that was what his mother had done when he was little to ensure that he would have only the sweetest dreams. Once he had shared his cute little ritual with me he gave me one last kiss and then went to get himself ready for bed and got into his own bed.
*****

The next morning was another early one. We had to get back into the city to get everything ready for our birthday party the following day. When we woke up we packed our bags and carried them over to the main building where we had pancakes and French toast with the rest of the family. After breakfast we played a round of UNO with Jason’s cousins while the adults did the dishes and then it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and piled back into the car. I even had to say goodbye to Jason’s grandparents because they were staying in the countryside for a few more days. I felt a certain feeling of sadness as we pulled away. In the short time we had spent with them I felt as though I had become a part of the family. It may have been just my need to belong but I’m pretty sure that Jason’s family had accepted me and that if Jason and I were still together the following year I would be happy to celebrate with them again.
To everyone’s surprise I actually stayed awake during the drive home. I think that it was due to the fact that we were talking about the party. Most of the details had already been figured out by a party planner that Jason’s mom had hired but we were still had to go check everything out at the venue and make last minute arrangements. Jason also had to go with his dad to pick up his tux. I was not included in this last bit because just like I wanted to be able to surprise Jason with my dress he wanted to be able to impress me with his wonderful new tuxedo that he had bought especially for the occasion. I had no problem with this; in fact I was quite pleased that he cared enough to surprise me. Though I was not surprised that he cared, because Jason was just that sort of person, it still made me extremely happy.
The venue that Jason and his parents had chosen was this lovely hotel ballroom and from the moment I set foot in it I knew that it was perfect. They had already begun to put up the decorations and by some miracle there was a huge amount of orange the same shade as my dress. Of course I didn’t say anything so as not to ruin the surprise but I was unbelievably happy. The room looked incredible. I could just imagine what the room would look like filled with all of Jason’s friends. I was getting more and more excited by the second. We went into the event manager’s office and met with her and the party planner and discussed the menu. I had no doubt that it would be a great meal though because of Jason’s mom’s great taste.
While Jason and his dad went to pick up his tux I went with his mom and my mom for lunch and to the movies. We considered going shopping but we didn’t want to get trampled by the masses of people who were out shopping for black Friday. Instead we went back to the French café where we had gone on our first girls’ afternoon and it was just as good the second time around if not better. At the movies we watched some chick flick that none of us really had much interest in but was the only thing showing at the time we arrived. It was not the best movie I had ever seen but it wasn’t the worst either. It served the purpose of entertaining us which is what we wanted and when it was over we went back home and found Jason and his father waiting for us. Jason’s tux was already put away and they were watching some football game. In the spirit of the sport I tackled Jason on the sofa and then he fought back by tickling me and we began a tickle war. The room was filled with my squeals and giggles as he tickled me.
That night we made sure to go to bed early so that we would have plenty of energy for the next day. There was no way I was going to let a lack of sleep ruin my evening. It wasn’t too difficult to fall asleep either given how comfortable the bed was and how tired I was after the previous day.
*****

When I woke up the following morning I was fully energized. I had a hair appointment with Jason’s mom’s hair stylist in the late morning so I got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. Despite the fact that I had been with Jason and his family for an entire week I still hadn’t gotten used to their wonderful cooking, It was still a shock to me every time I walked into the kitchen and felt the heat radiating out and smelt the wonderful smells. That morning we were having eggs and bacon. I usually am not a huge fan of eggs but they smelled so good that I just had to try them and as could be expected they were wonderful. They tasted nothing like any eggs I had ever had before.
Jason actually took me to the hairdresser because his parents had things to do and my mom obviously didn’t know her way around the city. Jason’s mom’s hairdresser, Mike did a wonderful job. He highlighted my hair and made it super shiny and healthy looking and then cut it so that it was long and flowing but also structured to frame my face. If I could have brought him back to New York I would have. Mike was so funny and incredibly kind. He even offered to write down a series of instructions for my hair dresser back home. I knew that Teresa would never be able to do what Mike had done but I figured that with his notes she would get close and the closer the better. I would never have asked him to do it but since he offered I couldn’t help but accept.
After the hairdresser we went back to the car where Jason blind folded me and started driving. When the car finally came to a stop he made me keep my blindfold on and wait in the car for a few minutes. I heard him get something out of the trunk of the car and walk off. I had no idea where we were and I was extremely curious. After what felt like forever but couldn’t have been more than ten minutes he came back and opened my door. He helped me out and led me down a path. We then walked on what felt like grass for a bit until he told me to stop. He lifted me up for a minute and then placed me down gently on the ground. He finally told me to open my eyes and when I did I saw that he had laid out a picnic complete with a checkered blanket and wicker basket. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banana and fresh lemonade and oatmeal cookies for dessert. I couldn’t believe that Jason had planned such a perfect picnic. I had told him the first time we went down to the gazebo at camp that I had always loved picnics and in my opinion they were one of the most romantic dates. I had also told him that I had spent an entire month eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banana everyday for lunch. The fact that he had remembered was icing on the cake.
When we got home I was in for another surprise. The guest bed room where I was staying had been turned into a makeup studio. There was a mirror and stool and everything. It turns out that Jason’s mom had hired Stephanie, a makeup artist to come and do my makeup for the party as a birthday present. I was over the moon. I had always wanted to have my makeup done by a professional makeup artist. I was about to change into my dress so that Stephanie could match my makeup to the rest of my outfit when she told me not to so as to prevent messing it up. I had not thought of that but was very glad that she had. It would have been terrible to ruin my dress only hours before the party. Just like I had been amazed with Mike’s hair cutting I was astounded by the makeup. I could barely recognize myself. It was as if I had been totally transformed. Once the finishing touches had been put on my makeup Stephanie cleared up her stuff and my mom came in to help me get dressed. I didn’t really need help to be quite honest but I didn’t want to deny my mother the pleasure of helping her only daughter get ready for her eighteenth birthday party.
Jason was waiting for me at the top of the stairs when I had finished getting ready. I am pretty sure he let out a gasp when he saw me. He certainly looked impressed. I was glad that he approved. I defiantly approved of his look. He looked even better than he had the night before. The tux fit him perfectly and there was not a single crease in his shirt. He wrapped his arm around my waist and we walked together down the stairs. As could be expected his parents were waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs with the camera. We spent the next twenty minutes having our picture taken. We stood in every possible pose and in a variety of different rooms. His mom couldn’t stop making comments on how cute we looked together and his dad probably took a hundred pictures. My mom looked somewhat bewildered. I think that she was having one of those moments where she realized that I had grown up right before her eyes. I’m pretty sure she even got teary eyed at one point.
Once our impromptu photo shoot had come to an end Jason and I stepped outside where we found a limousine waiting in the driveway. Inside were a few of Jason’s closest friends and to my amazement, Lauren. Never in a million years had I expected Lauren to be in Los Angeles for the party. I had accepted the fact that we would have our own party back home in New York and that I would be spending the evening with Jason and his friends. I let out a squeal of delight when I saw her and she immediately came at me with a giant hug. My birthday wasn’t until the next day but I knew that it had already been the best birthday I had ever had. Everything was falling into place and there was nothing that could possibly make it any better. Jason introduced me to all of his friends and we instantly hit it off. They were all extremely friendly and I could see why Jason got along so well with them. Then again Jason seemed to get along with everyone.
The hotel looked even better at night than it did when we had seen it the day before. As we pulled up I saw people already getting out of their cars. I of course had never seen any of them before in my life but it didn’t really matter. They all looked like very nice people and if they were friends of Jason’s I was sure that they would be. Even if they weren’t, which I highly doubted, I had my best friend in the entire world with me and if the need arose I would rely on her to be my source of entertainment.
Inside everything was even more spectacular than the inside. The ballroom shone with a thousand twinkling lights and the dance floor was filled with Jason’s friends. The tables were all set with balloon center pieces and chocolates at each seat. There were also bowls of M&Ms, Jason’s and my favorite candy scattered throughout the room. In the back of the room there was a photo booth that already had a line formed outside of it. Jason, Lauren and I all headed straight for the dance floor. Jason introduced me to some more of his friends. They were all really cool and any fear of not having anyone to talk to was gone.
Once we were tired of dancing I headed over to the photo booth with Lauren. We took a bunch of goofy photos as well as some cute ones. It was a lot of fun and I think we drove a few people mad with how long we took, but it was my party so I felt the right to take a little extra time.
As we sat down for dinner Jason told me that he had something he needed to do. Next thing I knew he was up at the DJ booth with a microphone in hand. I had never heard Jason sing anything but the songs for his band so I was certainly in for a surprise. He actually started off with a little speech welcoming everybody and thanking them for coming and then he turned and looked straight at me and said “this is for the most beautiful girl I have ever met and I hope that these words will help her understand how much she means to me”. He then sang “Just the way you are” perfectly. It sounded even better than the real version and before he could finish I was out of my seat walking towards him to give him a huge hug and a kiss. As if he had known all along that I would do this he took my hand and spun me around so that I was facing the same direction he was and his arm was across my stomach. He then pulled me up against his chest and held me tight while he finished the song and when he had he spun me back around to face him, gently tipped me backwards and kissed me in front of everyone. I knew how much he hated kissing in public so that made it extra special.
Once back at our seats I couldn’t stop telling him what a great job he had done and how much it had meant to me. I probably drove Jason as well as the rest of the table and possibly the table next to us totally mad with my endless praise. Irrespective of that I couldn’t help it. I was just so amazed by everything that Jason had done for me. He was the best boyfriend anyone could ever ask for. I had known from the start that he was special but the week that I had just spent with him had shown me just how special he really was. In all the happiness I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as well because I knew that we would be leaving the following afternoon and I wasn’t sure when I would see Jason again after that. There were no more plans that had been made and everything was up in the air. I pushed the sadness to the side though so that I couldn’t enjoy the wonderful party and my last evening with Jason to the fullest extent possible.
After dinner I danced with Jason until I couldn’t dance any longer and then went out into the hallway to talk to Lauren. It had been a full week since I had talked to her and being teenage girls there was plenty to talk about. I told her all about what I had done in Los Angeles and about Thanksgiving and meeting Jason’s family and how comfortable I had felt with them. She of course had spent the entire time I was gone talking to Tim by every means of communication humanly possible given the distance. He had apparently written her more poetry and she had given writing a shot as well but apparently it was nowhere near as good as what he had written for her. They had already planned their first official date for when he moved back to the states. Apparently they were going to go to this Italian restaurant that had been Tim’s favorite when he had lived in New York before and then they were going to go take a carriage ride through central park and finish the night off by drinking hot chocolate at a side walk café that was yet to be determined. It was sort of cliché but admittedly cute and I found it sweet that they had put so much effort into planning it before he had even arrived. I would be a hypocrite to say I would not have done the same because in reality I had. I reminded myself that Jason and I had planned every minute possible of his stay in New York. We hadn’t quite stuck to that plan but we had done it and it had been plenty of fun.
Once we had cooled down a bit we went back into the ballroom. A slow song was just beginning to play and I could see Jason franticly looking around the room until he found me. Trying to keep his composure he walked extremely quickly over to where I was and brought me onto the dance floor. His hands felt wonderfully warm on the small of my back and I melted on the spot. He was an even better dancer then than he had been the night of Thanksgiving. We danced together the rest of the night until the music stopped. Jason and Lauren and I stayed at the party until the very end. We were the last ones to leave which gave me a bizarre sense of pride as if we had accomplished something.
The limo was waiting for us outside the hotel but instead of taking us home it dropped Lauren off at a hotel near Jason’s house and then took us to the beach.
Given it was the end of November the beach was kind of chilly but Jason had brought blankets to wrap around ourselves. For the second time in the past few days I took my shoes off so as not to ruin them. Having thought of everything Jason actually had a pair of flats for me so I didn’t have to take off my tights. Then we walked down the beach under the light of the moon and stars. There were barely any cars around so the only sound that could be heard was the waves lapping up against the shore and in the distance the sound of a fog horn. It was the perfect end to the perfect evening.
When we got back to the house every single light was off. The fire was completely burnt out and there were no smells coming from the kitchen. It was clear that the adults had given up waiting for us long before. We tip toed as quietly as physically possible upstairs, said goodnight and went to sleep. I dreamt of the party that night and was blissfully happy.
*****

I woke up the next morning with the same feeling a little child gets when they wake up on Christmas morning. I knew it was my birthday and I couldn’t wait to go find Jason but first I had to add something to the note I had written for him. During the night I had come up with a poem as I fell asleep and I wanted to write it down for him.
I sit in his arms and I am safe,
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.

We’re alone in the woods, just us and the trees.
I look up and smile, he smiles too.
I lay down my head, his shoulder’s so soft.
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.

There’s nothing but silence as I take a breath.
I look up again, this time for longer.
He looks in my eyes and whispers 3 words,
“I love you” he says.
Just 3 little words but I know that they’re true.
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.

He’s got me held tight, I can’t get away.
But why would I try?
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.
I look up once more, it’s just getting dark.
I know we should leave but,
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.

I start to get up but before I get far,
He pulls me back and places his perfect lips on mine.
There’s something about him that makes me feel safe.
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.

It’s time to go home but just remember,
If you asked me to I’d stay forever.
It was nothing compared to the lyrics he had written but it was the least I could do after everything he had done for me. Words would never do justice to the way I felt about Jason at that moment but they were as close as I could possibly get. I didn’t want to but right as I was about to put the sheet with the poem in the envelope I realized it wasn’t any good and I ripped it up. I needed to find some other way to get my feelings across. I felt a sudden surge of frustration. Nothing was making sense. I had woken up so happy and then all of a sudden I was in a downward spiral. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, because I did, more than anyone could possibly know but I just knew that something wasn’t right. We were going to have to say goodbye again and then I wouldn’t know how long it would be until I saw him again. I had no option but to go along with it but it just wasn’t fair. I had had such a wonderful time while we were together and no matter how often we talked not seeing him in person just wouldn’t be the same. I didn’t know what to do anymore. It wasn’t that I was afraid that he would find someone that he loved more because that is just part of life and I doubted he would do that and it wasn’t that I was afraid about the moment at the airport when we had to say goodbye. What was really worrying me was what would happen once I was back in New York. I wasn’t sure I would able to live with not seeing him. The week we had spent together was the best week of my life it had helped me to realize how much he meant to me. I had already gone through goodbyes twice and I wasn’t sure I could handle it a third time even if it was just temporary.
Suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to write.
When we are together nothing else matters,
There is no way to describe it.
I’m no longer worried about myself, or about you
I am worried about us as a whole.

When we are apart I am confused.
I don’t know the difference between left and right.
I know that we will see each other again but it’s hard.
The uncertainty of it all daunts me.

Just promise me two things.
I ask nothing more than that.
They are not difficult but they matter.
They are what will make the distance work.

Promise me you won’t forget.
No matter what happens never forget.
Don’t forget the love you feel when we are together
And don’t forget the memories we share.

The other thing I ask is honesty.
Be honest both with me and with yourself.
If something is wrong tell me,
I will be ready to listen.

With those two promises we can do anything,
We will make it through no matter what.
There will be hurdles but we can jump them.
We are a team and I will stand by you.
I knew that those words were true. They were not as sweet and fluffy as the ones I had written before but they were honest and more heartfelt than anything else I had written. I didn’t put it in the envelope with his birthday card though. I put it in a different envelope that I would give him right before we said goodbye and make him wait till I was out of sight to read it. There would be no need to talk about it I hoped. I had a feeling that he would understand without an explanation and we would be on the same page. After I had finished writing and gotten a grasp of myself I did the only thing left to do, I went downstairs to enjoy my birthday.
Everyone else including Lauren was already in the kitchen when I got downstairs and there was a huge banner that said “Happy Birthday!” It was beautiful with so many colors and clearly not store bought. It had been hand painted by Jason’s father who I discovered painted as a hobby. It turns out that a lot of the paintings in the house including the one in the bed room where I had been staying were his work. I gained a whole new level of respect for him after that. I knew that he was a man of many talents, but I didn’t know just how many. It was clear where Jason’s artistic instincts had come from. A few minutes later Jason’s mom sent us into the dining room where the table was set with paper plates and cups with balloons on them and party hats. Then she came out with an enormous cake with fluffy white frosting and sparkly silver sprinkle balls. It looked so pretty that I didn’t want to cut it and eat it except for the fact that I could imagine how good it would taste. Living up to and exceeding expectations as always Jason’s mom’s baking was incredible. I was so glad that we had cut it and were eating it. No matter how beautiful it was it tasted even better.
After breakfast I gave Jason his birthday card and from the expression on his face I think that he honestly and truly liked it. There was no fake grin or half hearted hug, just a genuine smile and thank you. I couldn’t have asked for him to have reacted any other way. He gave it to his mother to read and she was silent and attentive as she read it, a change from her usual loud and exuberant personality. That is how I knew she was really taking in what I had written and wasn’t just skimming over it. Instead of a birthday card Jason had written me a song so we went into the living room where his guitar was so that he could play it for us. It was so beautiful. More beautiful than the song he had sung the night before or any other song he had written. My opinion may be slightly bias given it was written for me by my boyfriend but in all honesty it was a great song. It was not sappy and slow but it was not heavy metal either. It was just an upbeat well thought out song.
Once we had finished our mini concert and all the birthday celebrating Jason and I went for one last walk together, we left the dog at home because we wanted to be completely alone. We didn’t say much during our walk, just walked hand in hand listening to the sound of each other’s breath. It was probably the best thing we could do in that moment. I didn’t know what to say but I didn’t want to be alone either. As we walked I thought about everything that had happened in the past week and how my feelings had grown stronger and there was more certainty in my life. I hadn’t answered any major questions or found world peace but I found balance in my own life. With that in mind I took in the beauty of Los Angeles and the joy I felt with Jason by my side and relaxed.
Back at home I went upstairs with Lauren to pack my suitcase. She had brought her suitcase with her to Jason’s house and was on the same flight as us so she helped me get ready. To her dismay I still wasn’t in a very talkative mood. I just placed things methodically into my suitcase, making sure that everything was perfectly folded even though I knew that it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run given how badly the TSA workers handle the luggage but it was my way of coping. Whenever I was in a bad mood I organized. My mother always told me that if I had to have a stress coping mechanism it was a good one to have. After my dad left my room was always perfectly tidy. There was never a hair out or place. All my dolls sat perfectly aligned on my shelves and if anyone moved them I would immediately put them back into position. It made it difficult to have friends over but there was nothing I could do about it. My mother even thought I was OCD for a while and sent me to a specialist to have me diagnosed but they told her that it was just a coping mechanism and very natural. After that my mother sent me to see a therapist because she was selective in the parts of what the specialist said that she chose to listen to. She heard perfectly the part about it being a coping mechanism and immediately felt that I needed to speak to someone but she chose to ignore the part about it being totally natural. As a consequence I was forced to meet with the school guidance counselor to discuss my feelings. She was totally useless, so then I started to attend weekly appointments with Dr. Macdonald a family therapist twice a week for a year. I went once a week on my own and once a week with my mom. The meetings on my own were actually of some use because I was able to talk not just about my dad leaving but also about any other issues I was having. The ones with my mother were rather pointless given she did most of the talking and thought she knew how I was feeling even though she had no clue. After the first year I told my mom that I felt the group sessions were a waste of time but that I would like to continue having private sessions. For once she understood me and I continued going to therapy for the next few years until my therapist told me that she felt that I had a grasp on things and that I was welcome to make an appointment and come back if I ever felt the need but she didn’t see reason for me to continue. I agreed and stopped going but that day in Jason’s guest room I felt like I was going in a backwards spiral. I decided I would call her when I got back to New York and make an appointment. I didn’t know if it would become a regular thing again but I defiantly needed someone to talk to.
By the time I had finished packing Lauren had fallen asleep on my bed. I hadn’t realized how fast the time had passed by but I took over two hours to pack my suitcase. As I zipped it up I heard someone at the door. It was Jason. He had come to call us down to lunch. I had been so absorbed in my suitcase packing that I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. All the emotion I had been feeling combined with packing had drained me of energy and I was glad to recharge. We woke Lauren up and clearly she was hungry too because she leapt up at the mention of lunch. That being said the smell that was coming from downstairs would have made anyone hungry even if they had just eaten. She went ahead while Jason and I hung back for a minute just hugging. We both knew that our time together was rapidly coming to an end and neither of us wanted to let go. As we hugged I took a deep breath in and inhaled the smell of CK ONE that lingered on his neck from the night before. I knew that he hadn’t put it on that morning because the smell was only faint but it was still present and it smelled wonderful. It was a smell I would never forget as long as I lived. It wasn’t a particularly distinctive smell but it was one that I would always associate with Jason.
Lunch was grilled cheese with tomatoes on Jason’s mom’s fresh baked bread. As silly as it sounded that was another thing I was going to miss. No matter how good a cook Karen was her cooking was nothing in comparison to Jason’s mom’s meals. Even the bakeries in New York didn’t have bread as good as hers. If she ever went into business baking I would be the first in line at the grand opening. It makes me sound like a little piglet to say that but its true and I’m not sure that anyone would argue with me. My mom had been asking her for recipes all week and although she was happy to oblige and my mom probably had 10 pages of notes on each recipe my mom just didn’t have the skills and experience necessary to make such delicious food. I ate more than I probably should have that afternoon but I promised myself that I would hit the gym as soon as I got back to New York and not eat all the junk that they gave us on the airplane, which they undoubtedly would. I’m not sure I’d ever been on a flight where they actually gave you a balanced and nutritious meal. I was much happier enjoying my food at Jason’s house and then not eating later on. It was probably better for me anyway. Lauren seemed to be in heaven as well. She had not had the pleasure of enjoying Jason’s mom’s cooking all week and was therefore shocked at how wonderful everything was.
After lunch we played one last game of charades before bringing all the suitcases down and piling into the car to go to the airport. I tried to be strong but as soon as I saw the sign that said airport 2 miles I started to tear up. The moment I had been dreading was quickly encroaching. There was nothing that could be done other than be thankful for all the good memories I had and know that I would see Jason again one day and that we would talk again very soon. I knew that we would both fall back into our usual routines and the daily communication would resume but it did not seem possible that we were saying goodbye for a third time. I didn’t even smile when we saw the sign that said “Airport left” and Lauren told the joke about the blond that went something along the lines of, “ there once was a blond who was driving to the airport to go to Mexico when she saw a sign that said, ‘airport left’, so she turned around and went home”. The rest of the car was laughing hysterically but I had heard it before and there was nothing that could cheer me up. I was just too upset.
When we unloaded the bags I was not even bothered by the fact that there was a whole line of taxi cabs honking on the overpass above us. I was in my own world away from reality and was deaf to the sound of their incessant honking. Jason noticed this because I had once told him that it was one of my biggest pet peeves and pulled me to the side. I refused to look at him because I knew that the moment I did I would lose all self control and the water works would start. I tried to tell him this but he wouldn’t listen, he took my chin in his hand and tilted my head up so that I was looking straight at him. Then he gave me one of most remarkable speeches I had ever heard in my life.
“Look at me now. I don’t care if you have tears in your eyes when you look, but I need you to look at me. You are the most incredible girl I have ever met. Your smile lights up a room and your personality is what makes you unique, but that is not what I want to tell you. I have already told you how special you are and you know that it’s true. What I want to tell you is more important than that. I am going to make you a series of promises that I will never break for as long as I live. Right now they are just words but over time I will prove to you that they are a reality. To begin with I promise you that this will not be the last time we see each other. We have found ways to see each other up until now and we will continue to do so. The next promise is that I will write you a letter every day until we graduate. They will obviously not get to you the day I write them but I will write a letter every day and date it so that when you get it you will know when it is from. Whether you choose to write back or not is up to you but I will not stop writing until you ask me to or until we graduate because after that I will see you again. This is not to say we will not see each other before that but regardless of what happens between now and then I will see you then. The third thing is that I promise to always be honest with you. I will tell you what’s on my mind and if something is wrong. Any question that you ask me will be answered truthfully to the best of my abilities. The last thing I promise you is that I will never stop loving you as long as I live whether we are together or not. No matter what doubts you have in your mind at any point in time. As long as you are willing to have me as your boyfriend I will love you, and I will love you even after that because you have changed my life and it will be a different sort of love but you are a person I will always respect and hold near to my heart. Now go back to New York with your mom and Lauren and never forget what I have just told you”.
By the end of it I was not just in tears I was distraught. I was so touched and knew that he meant every word that he had just said. At the same time I wished he hadn’t just done that because it made it all the more difficult to say goodbye. I reached into my coat pocket and handed him the note I had written him that morning. Between sobs I made him promise not to read it until I had gone through security and he couldn’t see me anymore. In that moment I also realized that he had just promised me everything I had asked for in the note and more. It was as if he had read my mind. With what he had just said I knew that there was nothing that could possibly tear us apart. He was the best thing that had ever happened to me and I would do everything in my power to keep him in my life.
We walked back over to the car where Jason’s parents and my mom and Lauren were waiting. They all took one glance at us and nodded as if they understood but didn’t say anything because what they understood is that they would never be able to understand. The way Jason and I felt about each other was unique and I’m sure nothing like any of them had ever felt. It is one thing to love a person and quite another to share the bond that Jason and I shared. We were more than just partners we were soul mates, I was sure of it.
We had already checked in online so we just needed to drop our bags off before going through security. Jason’s parents said goodbye at the entrance to the airport because they had to get back home to get ready for a dinner they had been invited to but Jason stayed by my side the whole time. He even tried to wait in the security line with us but the security guards wouldn’t let him. We were forced to say goodbye so I got out of line while my mom and Lauren held our place. We walked over to an area where there weren’t very many people and just looked at each other for a minute. I couldn’t make any words come out of my mouth. I had said all the important things and anything else was blocked by a lump in my throat. I held up two fingers in our secret signal and forced a smile. He pulled me close and whispered in my ear my three favorite words “I love you”. I tried to speak but he just put his finger to my lips and told me to be silent. He could see the pain in my face as I tried to speak and didn’t want to be the cause of any more pain. He then gave me a little shove towards the line and I started to move. For a moment I thought he was behind me but then I realized that he was gone. He had disappeared into the crowed and was nowhere to be seen.
*****

I walked back over to where my mother and Lauren were standing looking over my shoulder every so often in the hopes of seeing Jason again. At one point I thought I did but then I realized that it was just my imagination and that it was really just another person wandering through the airport. Jason was gone and I wasn’t going to see him again for a long, long time.
I was so entirely wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t even get nervous waiting in the terminal to board the flight. I just sat quietly watching the clock as time passed. I watched as the seconds ticked by, one by one, each tick of the second hand marking the slow passage of time. The seconds passed becoming minutes and before I knew it the minute had become an hour and it was time to get on board the flight. I wasn’t ready to leave. I knew that as soon as I set foot on the plane it would be real; there would be no turning back. The plane would take off and I would be leaving Los Angeles and leaving Jason, not forever, but for a very long time.
The flight back to New York was very uneventful. I spent a good part of it just staring out the window at the clouds. From up above they didn’t look like any specific figure but instead like a giant mattress just waiting for someone to lay down on it. I started day dreaming about mattresses and the giants who slept on the clouds and before I knew it I was fast asleep. I slept for several hours and unintentionally skipped the meal they were serving. I wasn’t hungry anyway so I didn’t mind. When I woke up Lauren and I played UNO several times and then played a round of go fish. We soon realized though that go fish is no good with only two people because if the other person doesn’t have the card you’re looking for it’s obviously in the pile and there is no real strategy required. My mom was a few rows up so I didn’t really see much of her. I assumed she was either reading, sleeping or watching a movie. I had already seen all the good movies they were showing and the movies I hadn’t seen were a bunch of rubbish. After we got tired of cards Lauren and I just chatted like we always did. Talking to her actually helped brighten my mood a bit and by the time we landed I didn’t feel so totally lost. I still missed Jason like you cannot imagine but I was feeling considerably better thanks to Lauren. That is one of the things I loved the most about Lauren. No matter how terrible you felt she was always there for you and would somehow make you feel better even if it takes all day. Once she found a person that needed cheering up she would do everything humanly possible to cheer them up. She didn’t do it forcefully though. You never felt any pressure from Lauren, just a willingness to help. The time my goldfish, Buddy died she helped me build a coffin out of colored Popsicle sticks for him and made a little mattress and pillow to go inside and a blanket that we laid on top of him. When the time came to put him inside she was the one who removed the paper towel that had been frozen around him given the fact that my mother had placed him in the freezer to preserve his body until the time came to bury him. She then wrote the eulogy with me and together we had a funeral in the backyard for the fish. She even went into the neighbor’s yard and asked if she could clip a couple of flowers that were growing in the middle of their grass so that we could place them on top of the grave. I had not been extremely close to Buddy, given he was only a fish but I had been upset and having Lauren there to help me give him a proper burial had made all the difference in the world. I would never forget that afternoon and the stone was in our yard for years afterwards marking Buddy’s final resting place.
At the baggage carousel we had to wait quite a while for our bags. The flight had been totally full and there were a couple of full flights that had come in just before us so the people who worked on unloading the plane were backed up. There was no rush to get home but I had always been an exceedingly impatient person so I was looking at the clock on my phone every two seconds. It didn’t make the time pass any faster but it gave me something to do. Lauren on the other hand was perfectly content sitting down and reading a book while she waited. That’s the other thing I loved about Lauren, she never lost her cool. The world could be crumbling around her and she wouldn’t even break a sweat. She once found out we had a French oral the day before it was due and instead of panicking like any normal teenager would, she simply went to talk to the teacher explained what had happened honestly and was given an extra two days to prepare. Of course this was in part due to the fact that our French teacher that year was really understanding and awesome but the way Lauren handled it was impeccable. Another time we were on the way to an interview for an internship at some large company on Wall Street when we got caught in traffic. If I had been driving I would be honking to no end even though I hated the sound and it would have made no difference but instead Lauren pulled out her phone, called the front desk of our school and asked for the telephone number of the Mr. Smith, the man we were going to meet with. She then called him and left a message with his secretary explaining that the roads were backed up and that we would be there as soon as possible. She then called her brother and asked him to Google an alternate route to the office going through the back streets. The entire time I was freaking out, concerned that we would not get the internships because we were late. Instead we both not only got internships, but ones in higher positions than we had applied for. They were impressed with our problem solving skills and the way we kept control of the situation when we were running late. I was eternally thankful that they only spoke to Lauren on the phone and that I was able to pull myself together by the time we got there. They had been right though, not only was Lauren able to stay calm regardless of the situation she was also able to solve problems in a heartbeat. Any problem that is except for math, for as long as I had known Lauren math was never her strength.
When we finally had our bags it was time to say goodbye to Lauren. She got into one cab and my mom and I got into another. We thought about sharing a cab but Lauren had to go to a dinner in the city with her grandparents who were visiting from Florida on their way to France and to get to our house it was easier to stay out of the city and avoid the traffic. I knew I would see Lauren again the next day anyway.
At home I went straight to my room. I had some work I needed to do because I had missed Monday and Tuesday. There wasn’t a whole lot of work to do and my teachers had agreed to give me till the end of the week to do it but I hated playing catch up and wanted to get it out of the way. The way I saw it there was no time like the present. I had made myself a promise to become more organized so I wanted to get started early enough in the day so that I would be able to make a real effort.
For dinner we were back to our old habit of Sunday night take out. I was breaking my promise but my mom understood. It was a huge disappointment after all the wonderful food we had had in Los Angeles but there was an element of comfort and familiarity in it. As much as I had enjoyed the time we spent in Los Angeles and even more so the time spent with Jason, I was glad to be home and have back the feeling of stability and certainty. There is nothing like being in your own territory. I loved traveling and seeing new places but “there’s no place like home”. I knew from the first time I saw the Wizard of Oz that this was true. Just like Dorothy had fun making friends in Oz but still wanted to go back to Kansas, I had had fun in LA but I was glad to be home.
At dinner my mom and I agreed that because of all the extra things we had done in Los Angeles, I would not have a second birthday party. This was fine with me. Although I would have enjoyed having a party with all my friends I had had the best birthday I could have ever imagined and there was nothing that could exceed it. I knew Lauren would understand as well. In a way it was a good thing that we weren’t having the party because we hadn’t been able to find a location yet and there were so many little details that we would have needed to figure out and to be quite honest I’m not sure either of us really had the time to do that. I knew that the upcoming weeks would be an endless period full of work and stress. I also knew that planning a party would only add to that stress and more stress is what you need the least when you are in your senior year of High School as Lauren and I were.
As the days passed I fell back into my usual routine, filling the empty space where Jason should have been with extra activities. I committed myself fully to helping with Romeo and Juliet, attending every single rehearsal even when I wasn’t needed. I also threw myself into the track team. Unlike many schools in the city our school was rather large with great facilities and we had an indoor running track so we were able to practice in the winter. I had always been on the team but up until that year I had never really done it full heartedly. Once I discovered runner’s highs though I was sold. I knew I would never do harm to my body by doing drugs so the feeling I got from a runner’s high was like a gift. When I was running I could think of nothing else. All my worries disappeared and I was on my own. Nothing else mattered except for putting one foot in front of the other and going as fast as I possibly could within reason. The third day back at school everyone else was still feeling rather sluggish after the long weekend and wasn’t really into running. Everyone that is, except for me. I was more ready to run than I had ever been. I needed to get away from my thoughts for a little while and I knew that running would be the best way to do it. I also had eaten a lot of extra food that I needed to work off. The coach noticed my extra energy and hard work and pulled me to the side at the end of practice that Friday to ask if I would join the Olympic development team. Apparently he had noticed my commitment since the beginning of the year and was extremely impressed. For a moment the idea of being on the Olympic development team and one day possibly competing in the Olympics sounded rather appealing but I knew that I would never be able to find the time to keep my grades up, continue all my other activities and join the team so unfortunately I had to turn him down. I knew that if I had asked my mom she would have said it was fine but I had to be sensible and there just weren’t enough hours in the day.
As I had promised myself I called Dr. Macdonald, the therapist when I got back to New York. She was quite surprised to hear from me given it had been so long since I had last made an appointment but as promised she made welcomed me back with open arms, so to speak. She wasn’t able to meet with me right away but I made an appointment for Saturday afternoon. I was already feeling a bit better on my own with Lauren’s help but I still felt the need to talk to some on the outside that wasn’t so involved in the situation. I was pretty sure she would tell me that over working myself was just another of my coping methods. This one having a greater impact on my over all state of being, as to whether it was a beneficial coping method or not was another question. When I did meet with Dr. Macdonald a week later I saw that nothing about the office had changed. She still had the same purple and blue color scheme with turquoise sofas and on the coffee table there was the box of tissues sitting in the teddy bear tissue box holder. I felt almost relieved that it was the way I remembered it. I had found over the years that familiarity was often welcome even if was not something of great importance that was familiar. Just knowing there were constants in my life made everything seem a little easier and a little more balanced. The actual therapy session was not as productive as I would have liked because I was having difficulties opening up. It had been a while since I had gone to a therapist and I found it difficult to talk to someone I didn’t know openly about what was going on in my life. Of course Dr. Macdonald started off by checking in on how things were going with my father and if I had had any contact with him since the last time we had spoken, which I hadn’t. As a result of this answer she started asking the stereotypical question every therapist asks, “How do you feel about that?” Clearly she didn’t understand that I wasn’t there to talk about my dad and was in fact there to talk about much more relevant things in my life and regain some control of my emotions, because deep down that is what was bothering me. I hated not feeling control. In that way it did relate to my dad leaving. I had developed my need for control when my dad left and that’s how I developed what later became known as my “coping mechanism”. Now that I was feeling out of control again I had found another way to create a sense of control over my life. Even though these techniques did give me a feeling of control it was only temporary and what I really wanted was a more permanent solution that came with understanding. I knew that once I understood the situation better I would be able to take control again. At the end of the first session we were finally on the same page and we agreed that I would start weekly sessions again until I felt like I had gotten to a point where I was satisfied. How long that would actually take was another question altogether. In the same way I had been happy to see that nothing had changed since I last been to Dr. Macdonald’s office I was glad that our appointments were going to become a regular occurrence because it meant more stability in my life.
The three weeks leading up to winter break passed exceedingly slowly, teachers decided to give us more work than before because they felt that otherwise we would fall behind during the break and the weather became cold and grey. It was my least favorite time of the year. I went back to my trying to make the bus driver smile but it just wasn’t working. I tried spreading holiday cheer and always smiled in the morning but it was all to no avail. If anything she was becoming more stubborn and closed. It was discouraging to see but I refused to give up. I would do whatever it took to get her to smile. I knew that she had it in her and I just needed to figure out what it was that would do the trick. I was so busy with all the work that they were giving us at school that I didn’t even have time to go skating, which was my favorite thing to do in New York during the winter. There were two bright sides. The first was that Tim had arrived which made Lauren unbelievably happy. She had been counting the days until his arrival since the day he came to school. They had been talking daily as she had told me a million times but once he was in front of her it was as if they hadn’t had any communication in weeks. She was absolutely euphoric, and the same could be said about him. I had been thinking about what to get Lauren for Christmas, but in reality there was nothing that would beat having Tim there. Having gone through the long distance relationship thing with Jason for so long already, I could understand that and didn’t even bother trying to beat it. This is not to say I didn’t put a lot of thought into her gift anyway and try and find something perfect, I just wasn’t trying to exceed the joy Tim’s arrival had brought her.
The other bright side was on a much more personal level. A few days after I got back to New York the first letter from Jason arrived. It was dated the day after we left.
My sweetest love,
As I promised I am writing you my daily letter. Not much has happened since you left other than the fact that there is a gaping hole in my heart waiting to be filled the next time I see you. The time we spent together was better than anyone could ever ask for and I will never forget any of it. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next few months but I know I will do it if only because I know that when I do I will see you again. You left a wonderful impression on my parents and they are so glad to have met you. They said to tell you that you are welcome anytime you want.
Forever yours,
Jason

*****

When the break finally came around I was exceedingly relieved. I had been waiting for the day to come for what felt like an eternity. It felt so incredibly good to be free of school for a long stretch of time. We weren’t actually going away for the break but regardless I felt as though I were in a totally different place. Without the pressure of school I was free to spend my time however I chose. I wasn’t bound to a schedule. The first day of the break Lauren, Tim and I went skating. To both my surprise and Lauren’s Tim was an incredible skater. It turns out that he had been taking skating lessons the whole time he was in Norway. It actually makes sense given how far north and consequentially cold it is. He was doing all these incredible tricks and showing off the whole time we were at the rink. Lauren and I tried to imitate him a couple of times but ended up falling flat on our behinds each time. It was quite painful but at the same time rather entertaining. We finally reached a point where we were sore from so much falling and more than a little cold so we went to get hot chocolate. All three of us ended up with whipped cream mustaches. We tried to take a picture but by the time we were ready Lauren had licked hers off, Tim’s was dribbling down his face and mine had just lost its fluffiness. The next day it was snowing so we stayed inside and played board games all morning. By late afternoon there was enough snow outside to really enjoy so we made snowmen (and women) and had a snowball fight. I didn’t have any snow gear other than my gloves though so I was very wet by the time we were done. I looked like I had gone swimming in my clothes in the middle of winter. When we went back inside I had to change immediately into dry clothes. I felt like a human icicle. I put on my fuzzy sweater that I had bought at an old thrift shop and some sweatpants and my bunny slippers and went downstairs to light a fire. For some bizarre reason our house didn’t have a central heating system so the most effective way to heat up the house was to light a fire. I had learned this from a very young age and by the time I was eighteen I was a pro at it. I knew exactly how to create a roaring fire from just a few little bits of kindling on top of some logs. A lot of people rely on fire starters and all that man made stuff which if fine, but I personally much preferred doing it the old fashioned way with just a match, some newspaper and wood.
The rest of winter break was pretty uneventful. The one thing I always looked forward to was the daily visit from the mail man. Christmas was low key but nice. It was the first one where my mom and I were really talking and sharing. We had always celebrated but it never really felt like much of a celebration. We went through the motions but they didn’t really mean anything. My childhood was filled with Christmases where the only thing related to the holiday that we actually did was put presents under a potted plant that we already had in the house. That year it was different though, we had a real Christmas tree with ornaments and a star on top. We baked cookies the night before even though I knew there was no real Santa Clause and we put a carrot on the front step “just in case the reindeer got hungry”. The way I saw it, it was better late than never. I would never be able to get back my childhood but my goal for the year remained to have what little bit of it I could. I had succeeded with the flying kites in the park and building snowmen and having snowball fights so I saw no reason why my success shouldn’t carry over to Christmas. As I fell asleep on Christmas Eve I actually thought I heard the faint sound of jingling sleigh bells. I knew that it was impossible but the child in me wanted to believe that it was true and so I went to sleep imagining that there really was a Santa Clause and that he was flying through the air and would land on our roof that night.
In the morning the cookies were gone, although I have good reason to suspect that that was my mother’s doing. Under our real Christmas tree there were the gifts we had laid out the night before as well as a couple more that had “magically” appeared during the night. Of all the gifts I got my favorite was a pair of pajamas with snowflakes on them. They were extremely soft and very warm. I put them on immediately even though it was the middle of the morning. We had waffles for breakfast with warm maple syrup just like when we were at Jason’s house and although they were not as good, they came very close. It was obvious that my mom had been practicing and it had defiantly paid off. It was the best breakfast she had ever made.
Going back to school in January was just as much of a pain as I had expected it to be and more. I had so much enjoyed being able to relax and having to go back to school had ruined that. If I thought that the work load before the break was bad, what we had to put up with after it was worse. It was almost the end of the term and teachers were feeling the need to get a few more grades from us in order to make an assessment of each of us individually. Well that’s what they said, but personally I felt as though they were doing it simply to see us suffer. They probably thought that we had too much fun over the break and they needed to somehow get that fun back. As they saw it we were almost adults and therefore should no longer have any more childhood experiences. What they were forgetting is that they were children once too and felt the same way as we did.
*****

By the end of January I had heard back from a couple of colleges including Yale. I had gotten into all of them at that point but I was still waiting to hear from Stanford. Over the Thanksgiving break Jason and I had agreed that we would try our very best to go to university together and if we couldn’t go to the same one, we would go to universities within an hour of each other. Neither of us wanted to continue living so far apart. We looked at which collages we had both applied to and which ones were our top choices and agreed that Stanford was our best bet. It was on both of our lists of top five collages and it was near his home so we would be able to go visit his parents. Every day I checked the mail in the hopes that I would get a letter from Stanford along with his daily letter and every day I was disappointed in respect to the Stanford letter. Finally in the second week of February I got a letter. They say you can figure out whether a letter is an acceptance letter or a rejection one by the thickness of the envelope but this envelope was neither thick nor thin. It was somewhere in between. I was so nervous that I didn’t even open it for awhile. I just left it sitting on the kitchen table unopened, taunting me. I knew it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t get in. I still had plenty of other options but at the same time it had gone from being on my list of top five, to being my number one choice. I would have done anything to get in. Ever since I had agreed with Jason that that was where we wanted to go I had been studying extra hard and trying to mold myself into the type of student they would want. I know that that is not the best way of doing things and that you shouldn’t change yourself to fit other people’s standards but the circumstances required it. Eventually I couldn’t wait any longer. I picked up the envelope and extremely slowly and carefully began to open it. Half way through I decided that I wanted to have Jason on the phone when I opened the envelope so I went in search of my phone. I had left it at home that day and consequentially had no clue where it was. I was pretty sure that the last place I had seen it was on the sofa in the den so that is where I looked first. It wasn’t there though so I went to look in my room but I couldn’t find it there either. Finally I remembered that I had had it in my hand the night before when I had gone into my mom’s closet looking for a white shirt and had put it down on top of a pile of sweaters. Just as I had suspected it was still there when I went to look. My mom had already laid out her outfit that night for the following morning and therefore hadn’t gone into her closet or had a need to touch the pile of sweaters. Once I had my phone all that was left to do was dial and then open the envelope with Jason on the line.
He picked up on the third ring and I told him what was going on. Apparently he had gotten a letter in the mail as well and had been waiting to talk to me to open it. We agreed that we would both open the envelopes and then on the count of three we would pull out the letters. My hands were trembling so much that I had to put the phone on speaker phone and put it on the table for fear of dropping it. I heard Jason say one, two, three and I pulled out the letter. When I read what it said I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. Jason wasn’t saying anything either. I stood there for a few minutes rereading the letter over and over again. It was only the sound of Jason’s voice making sure I hadn’t hung up that brought me back to earth. I asked him what his letter had said first and he said that he had gotten in, which made what mine said all the better. We had both gotten in to Stanford, what’s even better is that I had gotten a full scholarship because of my running. Obviously my coach had said something to someone because I hadn’t applied for one. It was certain now that Jason and I would not only see each other again, but that it would be with consistency. We would be going to the same school and be able to see each other every day. I’m not sure what I would have done had I not gotten in, but at that point I would never have to worry about that.
When I got off the phone with Jason I immediately called my mother. She was in a meeting, so I asked her secretary to tell her I called so that she could give me a call back. There was no way I was going to be able to wait until she got home to tell her the great news, she herself was Stanford alum and loved it. She had told me many times that the years she spent at Stanford were some of the best years of her life. Even though she had told me she would be supportive no matter where I went to University I knew that deep down she really wanted me to follow in her footsteps and go to Stanford. When upon getting back from Los Angeles I told her how much I wanted to go to Stanford and that it had become my top choice of school I saw her face light up. It was as if she had been waiting for me to tell her that. She immediately started trying to contact anyone she knew at Stanford in the hopes of somehow swaying their decision. It was not that I had bad grades and she doubted that I would get in on my own but she wanted to help, and I appreciated that.
The third phone call I made that afternoon was to Lauren. She had had to suffer through hearing me go on and on about how much I wanted to go to Stanford and I knew that she would be relieved to hear that I had gotten in. I had tried to keep calm but Lauren was just so easy to talk to and so good at making any situation seem better that I just couldn’t contain myself. I had told her about every little worry I had and about all the backup plans I had formed. When she answered the phone and I told her I had gotten into Stanford I heard her let out a little squeal of delight and then breathe a sigh of relief. There wasn’t much else to say after that so we agreed that we would talk the following day and hung up.
When my mother called back and I told her the news she was as happy as I had expected her to be and more. I could tell that if she hadn’t been at the office she probably would have been jumping up and down in excitement. When she got home that night she brought a cake to celebrate. I hadn’t told her about the scholarship over the phone because I wanted to save some of the good news to tell her in person. If she had been ecstatic before she became euphoric once she heard about the scholarship. I’m sure she believed that it was her calls to different members of the staff and board that had gotten me the scholarship and it is possible that they had contributed but I still believed that my coach had something to do with it as well. I had mentioned my dream of going to Stanford several times on bus rides to different meets and he must have over heard me at some point or another, I didn’t exactly have the best inside voice. Of course I didn’t tell my mother this; there was no reason why she shouldn’t feel as though she played a part.
After that day my life turned around yet again. I went to one last therapy session with Dr. Macdonald only to realize that I now felt complete control of my life. I knew where I was headed and there was very little that was up in the air. This is not to say that I didn’t still miss Jason but with a definite plan of when I was going to see him again things were much easier. The stress of where I was going to go to college was also gone which meant that I could stop pushing myself to the limit trying to get the highest grades. I was still giving my best effort in school but I did not feel the pressure I had before. The play was over so I no longer had that to occupy my time but I didn’t need it. I was learning to appreciate the silences. The one thing that stayed the same was my running. I still felt better than ever when I was running. It was the one area of my life where pushing myself to the limit felt incredibly good and gave me satisfaction. The coach offered joining the Olympic development team a couple more times but I turned him down each time. If I was going to learn to go easier on myself I had to do it fully and adding stuff to my to do list was not the way to do it.

*****

As the weather warmed up and winter turned into spring I noticed everyone’s moods lighten. Maybe it was the fact that we had all heard back from most if not all of the universities we had applied to and so we felt less stressed or maybe it was just the better weather or maybe it was a combination of the two. Whatever the reason there was an a lot more pleasant atmosphere at school and I didn’t dread going every morning. Even the bus driver’s mood seemed to have lightened up a bit. I hadn’t gotten a smile out of her yet but I was pretty sure that I had heard her mumble something that sounded a lot like good morning one day. There was no way of being sure but I liked to believe that she had. Since the weather had warmed up, I had started taking regular runs through central park. Whenever I went I always finished off by getting a hot dog at the cart where I had taken Jason while he was in New York. I even made friends with the man who worked there. His name was Joe and he was Greek- American. He had lived in the U.S all his life, first in Massachusetts and then in New York. He had a wife and three kids and when he wasn’t working he played on a coed adult baseball team. I found this entire story of his life out in a day. Apparently most people don’t stop to talk to him and just buy their hot dogs and leave so when I started a conversation it was as if someone had opened the tap and there was no way of turning it off. From that day on, whenever I stopped to buy my hot dog I made sure to have a conversation with Joe.
When spring break came around I was certainly ready for another break but I was not as anxious as I had been for winter break. I got home from school on Friday and there was an unfamiliar car sitting in the driveway. Parked next to it was my mother’s car. This got my attention. My mother hadn’t been home in the middle of the day unexpectedly since the previous autumn when I found out we were going to Los Angeles to see Jason for Thanksgiving. I let myself into the house and yelled out to my mom, “Mom I’m home”. She called back, “We’re in the kitchen honey, come on in”. I knew that there was another person there because of the car in the driveway but the person I saw sitting next to my mother at the kitchen table was definitely not who I wanted to see. The surprise that awaited me was far from pleasant. There in front of me sitting in my seat at the table was my father. I may not have seen him for ten years but there was no way to mistake him for anyone else. I knew my father, and that was him. I had always told myself that if he ever came back I would keep my composure and listen to what he had to say, but seeing him right there in front of me I wasn’t sure that would be possible. I could already feel a ball of rage building up inside of me and I knew that there were a million things that I wanted to tell him, instead all I said was, “that’s my seat”. To my surprise he actually got up and moved. I had no intention of actually sitting down; I just wanted him out of my seat. Sitting down would have meant being nearer to him than I already was and I wasn’t ready for that. I was in a total state of shock. I just stood where I was and listened to what he had to say because I couldn’t find anything remotely polite to say myself.
“Why don’t you come sit down sweetheart?” he said in what I figured was supposed to be a fatherly way but I told him I’d stay just where I was and that he was never to call me sweetheart again. He got the message and continued. “Alright you can stay where you are but please listen to me. I have come to realize that leaving you and your mother was the biggest mistake I have ever made. I was going through a rough patch at the time and did some things that I regret to this day but I never stopped loving you, or your mother for that matter. I made the mistake of running away when life gets rough, a mistake I hope you never make, and have had to live with the consequences ever since. The reason I never said goodbye was that I knew if I saw you again I wouldn’t be able to leave and I was a cowered and needed to get away. I moved to Arizona and found a job there and met a woman who I thought I loved”. Great, just what I needed, to hear about how my father was in love with another woman. “, but I was wrong. She was wonderful and so kind to me, but she wasn’t your mother. I realized that from the very beginning. I knew I couldn’t come back here though, not then at least. I knew that I had hurt you and I didn’t want to have to see the consequences of my actions. I slowly began to become more and more depressed until I realized that I had a serious problem. I went to go see a doctor who helped me sort through my problems. It took many years but I finally feel like I am in a place where I can be happy with who I am. Your mother and I have been communicating for quite a while now and we felt that it would be best if I came back to see you since I am moving back to the city. I know that it will be difficult and will take some time, but do you think that you can forgive me?”
The answer to that was simple, “NO!” Did he really think that he could just waltz right back into my life, tell some sappy little story and all would be forgiven and forgotten? What’s worse, my mom had known about this for “quite a while now” and hadn’t said anything! What was happening? How had everything gone so wrong again in such a short amount of time? I couldn’t believe that my mother was actually accepting my father back. Even if he wasn’t going to be living with us then, the way things were going I wouldn’t be surprised if he had moved in by the end of the month. I stormed off to my room and slammed the door. I wasn’t going to put up with it, I couldn’t. I had already begun to think of a plan and even though it wasn’t fully formed it was good enough for me. The first thing I did was dump everything out of my backpack and onto the bed. I was going to need my backpack for more important things than just carrying around books. Inside of it I placed my wallet, my cell phone, a few changes of clothes and my passport. Next I wrote a note to my parents “Well dad, you’ve only missed my entire childhood, but I guess if there is one thing that I’ve learned from you it’s that sometimes the easiest thing to do is run away. Hope you’re happy. As for you mom, clearly it’s easy for you to forgive so hopefully you’ll forgive me for this” .Then I snuck out my bedroom window and climbed down the tree that was just outside. Once I was on the ground I started to run. My parents hadn’t seen me and they probably wouldn’t notice I was gone for a good while but just in case I needed to get far away from home, fast.
I ran to the nearest bus stop and got on. I didn’t know where it would take me; I just knew it would do the job of taking me somewhere far away from my parents. My plan was to somehow get to Los Angeles. It was the only place where I had felt completely free to be myself and I knew that there was no way that Jason would turn me away. First I had to get some money though. I got off the bus at the first stop that had a bank nearby. I had a reasonable amount of money that I had been saving for college but since I had gotten a scholarship I wouldn’t need it for that. I took out several thousand dollars to cover the plane ticket and the cab I was about to take to get to the airport. I figured that the less I used my credit card the better because using the credit card would make it easier to trace me. I knew my parents would find me eventually but the longer I kept them off my trail the better.
Since it was still early in the day it wasn’t too difficult to find an available cab. I got one to pull over and told them I was going to the airport. Just like most cab drivers in New York, the one that was driving me didn’t ask any questions. He knew where he was supposed to be going and that’s all that mattered to him. That was the one good thing about taxi drivers in the city; they wanted to get you to where ever you were going as quickly as possible with as few complications as they possibly could. The more people they drove around, the more money they made, and we have all heard the saying that “money makes the world go round”.
The airport was busier than ever because people were travelling for spring break but I managed to get a relatively cheap ticket on some airline I had never heard of. Because I was no longer a minor they didn’t have to check for parental consent and I was free to do as I pleased. I was still scared of flying but it was more important to me that I get away from New York as soon as possible. I knew that what I was doing was completely unreasonable and that I would be in huge trouble when my parents found out but I didn’t care what my father thought, and my mother had brought it upon herself by keeping secrets from me and accepting him back without talking to me first. The one person I did feel bad about leaving was Lauren. She was my best friend in the entire world and we only had a few more months together before we graduated. After graduation we both had plans to go travel for a bit and get jobs and then we would be starting University and given she was going to be going to college in Scotland we weren’t going to be seeing a whole lot of each other. I would have called Lauren and told her what was going on but I knew that she would be the first person my parents would call when they found out I was gone and the less she knew the better.
I got on the plane as soon as the gates opened. Being on the plane made me feel as though I was already far away from my parents even though we were still on the runway, and hadn’t taken off yet. It was the knowledge of that the plane was capable of that provided comfort. I was extremely tired because I had had a track meet that day as well as gym class and I had had to run from my house to the bus stop so I dosed off just as the plane was taking off. I slept through the entire flight and was only woken up by the person sitting next to me who was kind enough to tell me that we would be landing ten minutes later. I looked out the plane window and saw that it was pitch dark outside. I had failed to think about time and was arriving in Los Angeles at eleven o’clock at night. I suddenly felt incredibly guilty. By the time I got to Jason’s house it would most likely be past midnight. There was no turning back at that point but I would have to apologize profusely. I knew Jason would understand me, and my hope was that his parents would too. I sincerely hoped that when they said I was welcome any time they meant it.
I didn’t actually know Jason’s address so I had to look for the camp directory that was saved somewhere in my emails. That was the benefit of having an iphone, you could look things up no matter where you were. It took me a while but I finally found the list, and more specifically Jason’s address. I wrote it down on a piece of paper that I then handed to the taxi driver when I got into a cab. Because it was so late it only took forty five minutes to get to Jason’s house which meant that I was on his door step by quarter past midnight. I was about to ring the doorbell when I heard a dog bark. Around the corner came Jason and Lilly. I broke into tears, but they were not tears of joy. With Jason, her arm linked in his was a tall blond girl who looked like a super model. There was undeniably something wrong with that picture. Never in a million years had I expected to see Jason with another girl. It just wasn’t like him to go cheat. When he saw me his jaw dropped and he let go of Lilly’s leash and the girl’s arm. He immediately started saying he could explain and that it wasn’t what it looked like, but I was in no mood to listen. I had had enough of people keeping secrets from me and the fact that I had come to him on the other side of the country because I felt like he could help only to see him with another girl made matters worse. Once again I started running. Jason came running after me but I was faster. I ran and ran until I had lost him and couldn’t run any farther. Then I just walked. I walked until I got to the park. It was the one place in the city I knew well other than the French café where we had gone for lunch several times. I fell to the ground and began to sob. Just when I thought that I had gotten my life back in order and everything was going right for a change I had been proven wrong.
I cried until I was all out of tears and then I fell asleep. It was totally irresponsible to go to sleep in the middle of an empty park, in a city I didn’t know, or anywhere else other than at home for that matter but nothing I had done since the minute I had set foot out of my house that afternoon had been responsible. When I woke up there was a bright light shinning in my face and behind that light was a figure that I immediately recognized as Jason’s. I tried to get up and run again but he had already gotten hold of me and although I was faster, he was infinitely stronger. It also felt good to feel his grasp tight on my arms, his body warm against mine. It was cold that night and in my rush to get away from home I hadn’t brought a coat. He lifted me up and carried me over to the gazebo. He sat down on the bench, his arms still securely around me and started to explain. It turns out the girl that he had been with was his cousin on his mom’s side who had arrived only hours before from London and couldn’t sleep because of jet lag so they had gone out for a walk. What he said did make sense when I thought about it, they both had the same blond hair and the girl had his mother’s blue eyes. I felt so stupid for having run away without understanding the situation first and started to cry again. Jason didn’t say anything more; he just held me tight and rocked me back and forth as if I were a baby until I had calmed down.
Once I had gotten a hold of myself and was able to speak I explained to Jason why I had run away from home. I could see the increasing worry in his face as I told the story but he didn’t say anything until I was done talking and then he told me that he understood why I was so upset and asked me what he could do to help. I told him that I wanted to stay with him and never go back home. I couldn’t deal with it any more. I had been doing just fine without my father around and having him come back only months before I was going to leave did not seem fair. I also told Jason that what I needed most was not for him to be rational and tell me that I should call my parents so that they would stop worrying but for him to just be by my side and assure me that everything would be alright. He told me that although he could promise to do that he wasn’t sure his parents would be able to do the same. I knew that he had a point but the fact that he was willing to help me and not pressure me was enough. It was his parent’s job to be responsible and rational and I couldn’t ask them to be any other way.
When we got home Jason’s cousin was waiting for us and so were his parents. His mother came running towards me and wrapped her arms around me. She looked me over from head to toe and as she did so I saw the look of concern in her eyes. It was more than I could take; it made me think of what I was putting my own mother through. In that moment I realized that she hadn’t done anything wrong, she had just done what she thought was best for me. I couldn’t hold that against her. Despite that, I still didn’t want to go home. Not until my father was gone. He hadn’t been a part of my life up until then and he didn’t deserve to suddenly become a part of it. We all went into the living room and between tears and gulps of air I told Jason’s parents and his cousin the whole story. Jason sat by my side holding my hand for support the whole time. When I was done Jason’s parents told me that they had to call my mom and let her know that I was alright, but they also agreed not to make me talk to her until I was ready. They told me I was welcome to stay with them for as long as I liked and that they were there if I needed anything at all. Then they and Jason’s cousin went to bed. Jason didn’t make any move to get up; he wrapped me in my arms and held me tight against his chest. It was the best thing he could do at that point. I didn’t want to talk anymore; I just wanted to know that someone was there and that it would all be alright. He fell asleep soon after and I could hear the sound of his breath, heavy but constant. I fell asleep in his arms listening to his breathing and we spent the rest of the night curled up together on the sofa.
*****

In the morning I woke up feeling disoriented. I couldn’t remember how I had ended up on Jason’s sofa, but then it slowly started coming back to me. Jason was still asleep so I went into the kitchen where I found his mom sipping a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. She told me that she had spoken to my mother and although she was not pleased that I had run away, more than anything she was glad to hear that I was alright. Apparently they had done everything short of calling the police. I had had my phone turned off since I left the house except when I looked up Jason’s address so I hadn’t answered any of her phone calls and when she called Lauren she had no idea where I was either. They had been hoping that I had just gone into the city with some friends and would be back later that evening but when at 6 am east coast time I still wasn’t home they started to think I had gotten hurt in some way and were about to start calling all the local hospitals. Luckily Jason’s mom had gotten in touch with my parents before that could happen. Although they wanted to speak to me they understood that they would have to wait for me to talk to them on my own terms. Forcing me into it would do no good.
It took a few days, but slowly I began to accept the fact that I would have to return home by the end of the week so that I wouldn’t miss school. On Monday I called home and had a long conversation with my mother. My dad had left and gone back to Arizona the day before and they had agreed that it was best if he stayed there for the time being. My mother had realized that it was wrong for her to surprise me the way she had and understood why I had run away. She told me that she would not punish me even though what I had done was extremely dangerous and I could have gotten badly hurt. I apologized for all the pain that I’d caused her and promised that I would try and understand where my dad was coming from. I didn’t have to see him until I was ready but it was agreed that I would start emailing him regularly so that hopefully he would slowly come back into my life. It was understood though that it would be on my own terms and that no one could force me to do anything I didn’t want to do.
On Sunday goodbyes were said once again but this time they weren’t tearful. It would only be a matter of weeks until we graduated and then Jason and I would be free to do whatever we pleased. Of course we wouldn’t wait until the beginning of the fall semester to see each other but even if we did it would be alright because over the course of our senior year we had proven that nothing could tear us apart.

*****

Epilogue:
That was many years ago. I am now an old woman sitting in a retirement home, or as I prefer to call it an assisted living community. Much has happened since those days so long ago when I was still just a child. Jason and I both graduated top of our class at our respective schools and to my great satisfaction the bus driver smiled on the last day of school. I had finally succeeded. We spent the summer together enjoying the freedom that came with having finished school. We went back to camp Kently where our story began, this time as counselors. We watched as summer romances budded and faded, often exchanging knowing glances. The looks that we shared said, “Ah, we’ve been through this before”. We began university that fall and spent the next four years working hard but partying hard as well. We got the full college experience, enjoying each other’s company the whole way along. I wish I could say we graduated once again top of our class and it was smooth sailing from there but that is not how life goes.
Although we were fine through the end of college, the summer after we graduated we hit a bump in the road. I had given up the idea of taking a gap year and was instead going straight to med school in Massachusetts. Jason on the other hand was much more interested in perusing a career in music and felt the only place that would be possible would be in Los Angeles. He had joined a new band and they were off to a great start. We discussed the idea of doing it long distance again but neither of us felt that we had the strength to go through it again. It wasn’t that we didn’t love each other anymore; we just couldn’t find it in us to withstand the distance again. If either of our dreams had been more flexible it may have worked out but given the circumstances we decided it was best to take some time off and if our paths ever crossed again we would see where it went. We weren’t opposed to getting back together in the future but for the time being it just wasn’t in the cards.
Jason and I remained friends after that summer but we both moved on. I did my residency at Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C and ended up marrying Richard, one of the doctors there. Jason on the other hand struggled as many new musicians do and eventually changed paths and went to law school. I never did feel about Richard the way I felt about Jason, but I still loved him greatly and we spent many happy years together. We had three lovely children who brought us endless amounts of joy and grew up to be wonderful members of society. Richard and I travelled the world together during retirement and it was not until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that we slowed down. I was heartbroken when he passed away only three months after being diagnosed. I lived on my own for several years afterwards but I grew very lonely and moved into the assisted living community, which brings us to where I am today.
Sitting before me are the most precious things in my life, my grandchildren. They are still young and have the rest of their lives ahead of them. I on the other hand, am coming to the end of my journey. My days are numbered and I cherish every day I have. I have just told my grandchildren the story of my senior year of high school. They have been incredibly patient as I recounted the endless details trying to relive each moment as I told it. I know that I will never get back those days I lived so long ago but the memories are enough for me. I wouldn’t change a thing even if it were offered to me. Retelling what was probably the most emotional year of my life fills me with joy as well as with pain. I can still feel each of the emotions I felt when I was a mere child with as much intensity as if I were living it now. I lost touch with Jason many years before. I often think of him though, and when I do I wonder what has become of him. It saddens me to think that I know nothing of the man who played such a major role in my life but that is the way things go. Sometimes things don’t turn out as we expect them to.
It’s been a long day, and visiting hours are coming to an end. The children have to go home and soon the nurses will be coming in to check on me and give me my evening medications. I could go downstairs to have dinner with everyone else or I could stay where I am and be alone yet again. I have had my meals alone for almost a month now. It’s just too draining to have to converse with the same boring people every day. Something feels different today though. There is a new resident and I am intrigued. We haven’t had anyone new arrive in quite awhile and I would like to meet someone new. Apparently he’s a lawyer from California. Before the nurses come though, there is one thing I must do. I slowly walk over to my bureau and pull out a stack of letters. On the top there is one much newer than the others. It arrived only a few days ago and has no return address. For some reason I didn’t feel like opening it when it first arrived. The time just didn’t seem right, but now it does.
Dear Jane,
I never stopped loving you.
Jason.



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This book has 2 comments.


on Jan. 17 2011 at 9:22 pm
Cheekymonkey GOLD, Washington, District Of Columbia
14 articles 1 photo 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.”

thank you so much! I am so glad you enjoyed it

on Jan. 15 2011 at 8:58 pm
.The.Skys.Rainbow., Glenbrook, Other
0 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Live.Love.Let Go.

absolutely amazing. it took me a while to finish it but incredible. very well written with great detail. keep writing <3


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