Grandma never woke up. She slipped into a coma and quietly died in her sleep last night. I went to Jeff. I held him as we both cried.
Turns out, she had funeral arrangements already set up. We set the times for after school and had a quiet, small ceremony with beautiful flowers and her favorite song, which happened to be ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. Jeff said he’d be okay in the house alone. I texted him, but he didn’t always text back. I knew he needed space to mourn his own way.
I collected his homework for the two days he was absent. I owed him the favor. He wandered in his house, aimlessly looking at things for a long time.
“You miss her, don’t you.”
This led into hours of stories. I think those stories helped him more than anything. We laughed, we cried, we ate the last of her leftovers. I helped him with his math homework. We talked about college.
“I think I may stay local. My Mom might need me and you are here. You have this house to think of.”
“I think I may sell the house and get outta here.” Jeff said quietly.
“I got accepted to a good college up north.”
“I can go there too. We can be together.”
He hugged me. He didn’t want to leave me, but as he explained, going to college was the best thing for both of our futures. All I know is that I don’t want to be separated from him.
Prom was the most beautiful and perfect night ever. The gym was transformed with twinkling lights and puffy clouds to look like the night sky. Fake columns had been made to divide the room into wings. Tables were on both ends under the basketball goals, and the band was set up on a small stage on the visitor side with the bleachers hidden in a castle stone backdrop. Two thrones sat beside the band on a separate stand with stairs and its own decorative tower motif for the king and queen. I had seen the ballots and voted as I assumed most everyone else did, for Alyssa and Chris. Prom King and Queen goes to the most popular couple at the school right?
Jeff and I took our prom pictures, ate, danced. I loved the slow dances. Swaying with him, being so close, it was all great. I was on an island of music and warmth and peace. I closed my eyes and let it all just wash over me. It was perfection. It felt like every moment of my life had all been leading up to this. This was the pinnacle of my existence.
The next thing I knew, the music stopped and they were announcing the Prom King and Queen.
“Your 2010 Prom King and Queen are...” the drum rolled, it seemed forever, the teacher had trouble with the envelope. “Hannah Sparks and Jeff Henry!”
I nearly fainted. Our names weren’t on the ballot. Cheers erupted and I felt Jeff pulling me to the stage. Was this a dream? Alyssa put the crown on my head. “I am so sorry for the rumors. You are so brave. You deserve this.” I wanted to pinch myself. I couldn’t speak. Tears were in my eyes, but I couldn’t decide if they were joyful, or upset that this dream could not be real and I’d be waking up soon. All kinds of emotions swept over me, from happiness to embarrassment, from gratitude to guilt. I guess they were emotional tears. Most of all I was confused. When I found my voice, we had been called to the King and Queen dance. “How?” I managed to begin and end.
“Kelsie.” Jeff’s voice growled deeply in his chest. He hated to admit it, but it was her doing. I looked into his face in bewilderment. “She spread a rumor that week you were absent that you were about to die in the hospital from some giant tumor that they had to remove. It was making you fat.”
“What?” I said low, ducking my head even though no one was watching us now, as others had joined the dancing. “I wasn’t about to die,” I whispered, as if they could take the crown from me now.
“There was a time when the doctors said your kidneys were taxed and if you didn’t deliver, you might have kidney failure.”
“Your Aunt and I had a talk in the hall right then, because she blamed me, thinking it was my doing, if you get my drift. I set her straight. That’s when she broke down and cried.”
“Aunt Candice cried?!”
“I knew then how serious you really were. You had to get rid of.. that parasitic tumor.” We had twirled close to a couple and he used code in case they overheard.
“Kelsie is the one who coached me through it. I didn’t even get to thank her. She just disappeared. And now I’m even more in her debt.” The crown suddenly felt like a heavy burden.
“Well, she’s not here tonight.”
“She didn’t want to come because she both wanted to let you have this night all to yourself, bask in the glory, and to protest the unfairness of not allowing female couples.”
I thought about this. There was something more to this. Maybe Jeff had told her not to overshadow me tonight, not to be near me so this whole ‘pet project’ thing could be officially over. But I think it was something else. “She feels guilty.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“We’re going to have to do something nice for her.” I declared.
“I’m already thinking about it, but tonight, Hannah,” he turned my face to his, “Can we just dance?”
And so we did.
I slept most of yesterday after being up so late, or early, Saturday morning. Today I woke up refreshed.
Mom is coming home today. Of course, I mean to Aunt Candice’s because our former ‘home’ is probably rented by now. I’m sure some feathers will fly. I can’t decide if I need to be here to mediate between the two or if I should leave and go to Jeff’s.
It’s weird to think of his house without Grandma.
It’s also weird to think that in two weeks I’m going to be finished with high school.
Jeff and I decided to go to the college up north, together. He is selling Grandma’s house and putting the money in the bank for college. He said if I could give up a baby for my future and put the past behind me, then he could give up the house for his future and move on with his life. Aunt Candice is helping him find a good realtor and appraiser. She is so smart about these things.
This is the last week for extra credit and turning in missing work. I am making sure I get A’s in everything because that is the grade the teachers will enter as our final. Double A’s rock! It is sweet not having to take them. My one teacher caved to the pressure and is not giving us a final after all. She is new. What do you expect? Seniors rule!
I’ve been busy filling out applications for summer jobs too. It is odd filling them out right beside my Mom though. She is really trying to be civil and obedient and not cause any trouble with Aunt Candice. I think they must have had a serious talk; the kind with yelling and screaming that ends in an arrangement. It feels like a treaty was signed between them. Aunt Candice filled her in on what I had been through, I know that much. I came home from school one day and Mom just hugged me and wouldn’t let go. My shoulder was wet. Candice took her to get a few things from storage and I hear every day how she is going to get a job and pay her back that storage fee then look for her own apartment with a spare bed for me, even if it’s a pull-out couch.
I may stay here with Aunt Candice even if Mom gets an apartment over the summer. It is convenient to not have to pack again and the jobs I am looking at are much closer to Aunt Candice’s.
I had a talk with Mom about my plans. She is very impressed with how I’ve grown up. I had to. And I realized it was time she was on her own for a change, worrying about herself and learning how to live her own life, instead of living for me.
Finals week is over! I have watched so many movies in class... I don’t want to see another movie for a very long time!
Jeff took me on a celebratory anti-movie date. There is a little carnival that comes to town around Memorial Weekend every year. We rode rides and shared cotton candy and he won me a goofy stuffed duck.
We sat at the top of the ferris wheel when it stopped so some scared little kid could get off. We could hear the screams way up here. It must have taken a while to pry the little fingers from the bar because we were up there for a while.
“So here we are at the top of the world.” Jeff grinned.
“We really are.”
“Those stars are shining for us.”
“Why are you being so poetic?”
“I was hoping for just the right moment for this.” He reached into his pocket. The car rocked. I don’t know which made me more nervous. “Would you accept this ring as a promise to be mine, until such day as we make it all official?”
I gasped. The ring was plain, wrought silver in an intricate design. It looked almost celtic. My mouth went dry and my heart raced.
“Any time now,” Jeff coaxed. I laughed.
“I’m already yours.” I kissed him and the ferris wheel jerked to motion again. The car moved down and I broke the kiss before it became PDA. When we spun to the top we both raised our arms into the air. That exhilarated feeling is exactly how it feels to be in love.
I wore the ring on my right hand, saving the left for when I do get engaged.
Hanging it all on a promise seems dangerous, reckless, and unwise. But promises are all we have in life to hang our hopes on.