Although at first it was seemingly impossible to believe that the grief of losing my mom would pass, somehow, it did. Grace found an outlet for her grief, in the old family guitar.
I found my relief in the comfort of my mother’s friends, who were now my friends. Anywhere in town I went, it seemed there was either someone who knew my mother and offered their condolences, or was someone I had become friends with recently there to offer me a shoulder to cry on. Like I said before, it wasn’t long before the grief gave way to acceptance, and Grace and I slowly started back into our regular lives.
This was about the time I started thinking again of Carol. Her and I hadn’t got the chance to talk much lately, because she had been so busy taking care of her Gammy, and I had been handling the last affairs pertaining to my mother. But now, I wanted to see her again.
Rory greeted me at the door, and I asked her how Gammy was doing. “Well, she’s not getting any better. The doctors think it’s only a matter of time.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. How’s everyone taking it?”
“Well, I don’t know, some good, some bad. Parker and I are handling it ok, Carol is…well, struggling. Her and Gammy are really close. And Seiko, he’s handling his pain the way he always does. By being angry all the time. Not a very fun atmosphere around here I’m afraid.”
“I see. Well, is now a good time to visit with Carol?”
“Oh, yes, actually it’s perfect timing. Seiko just left to run some errands or something and won’t be back for a little while.” then she whispered to me, “Just so you know, they haven’t officially ended it yet.”
“Huh?” I guess Carol told Rory I knew about them.
“Yes. Don’t be mad at her, though, ok? Carol already has a hard enough time standing up for herself, and the added stress of Gammy’s sickness, well…”
“I see. Don’t worry. I’ll be understanding.”
She smiled. “You must be as great of a guy as Carol says you are. She’s upstairs.”
“Thanks.” I headed up the stairs.
Carol embraced me tight, then as she pulled away, put her hands on my face and stared into my eyes. Tears were brimming at the edges as she said, “You have no idea how happy I am to see you.”
“I’m happy to see you too. Are you ok?”
She pulled away and collected herself. “Yes. I’m hanging in there, I mean. I just had a really crappy day.”
“Oh. Is it anything I can help with?”
“Not really. Gammy fell today, but she’s ok, she’s resting now. Then I had a conversation with Seiko, it didn’t end very well.”
“Well, I tried to muster up the courage to break things off with him. But once we got onto the subject of our relationship, I sort of chickened out. We ended up in a fight about it though, and at the end of the conversation, instead of being broken up like I had planned, we are now just ‘taking a break’. I convinced him that maybe we needed a few days apart to decide whether we really want to be together. He at least agreed to it, but wasn’t happy about it.”
“So, you are broken up for a few days?”
“Yes. Something like that. I’m hoping those few days will help me to find the courage, the words to end it for good. But I need him to give me the space to do that. It’s too hard to find a way to when he’s right here with me all the time, taking up every minute I’m not spending with Gammy. That’s why he’s not here right now, he stormed out because of our ‘talk’.”
“I’m sorry. I know this is a really hard time for you right now. Dealing with Seiko and Gammy at the same time. You know, if me being around is making it harder on you, I can-”
“NO! Please!. Actually seeing you tonight has helped me. Your timing couldn’t be better. I know now, standing here with you like this, that this is what I want.” She smiled. “I needed the reminder that all of this hardship is for something good in the end.”
She stepped a little closer to me and looked me in the eyes, and when she did, it was almost too much to bear. It took everything in me not to just scoop her up and rescue her from all this heartache and sorrow. I wanted to tell her to go pack a bag, she was coming with me, and race her to my car. But I knew that wasn’t possible. “Carol,--”
Before I could say another word, Rory was behind me tapping me on the shoulder. She whispered to me “I just texted Seiko. He’s on his way back, if I were you, I’d be gone by the time he gets home.”
“Thanks” I whispered back to her.
Carol heard that, and she let out a big sigh. “Well, looks like it’s time to go back to the real world. If Seiko is on his way home, I’d rather not be anywhere else but in Gammy’s room, it’s safe there at least.”
“Ok. Well, I guess I’ll go, I don’t want to make things any worse. Please, if things get bad, call me, ok?”
“Ok. I will.”
So, I left Carol’s house, not feeling like we were any closer to being together. I mean, I guess she had made progress in finding a way to distance herself a little bit from Seiko, but really, I knew she wouldn’t leave that house with Gammy being so close to, well, the end of her life, and it just seemed like yet again, the timing wasn’t right for us. Time to busy myself with everyday life for a while, I guess.
The next morning, I was up early, with plans to shop and meet with a few people, and make an appearance at a club who asked for my presence there tonight. A nice full day was just what I needed to keep my mind off of matters of love. While at the consignment store I finally got to meet Mikinna’s man, Cody. He was such a great likable guy! We had a great time, and he told me I was welcome to come by anytime. By the way, Mikinna had a girl, named Aja!
The club was pretty dead, even with me showing up. But I didn’t mind at all, I had a few drinks and danced the night away on the table. I had a blast, and got to blow off some steam.
The next morning, I was surprised to find Carol on my doorstep. Apparently Gammy had some doctor’s appointments that Rory took her to, giving Carol some free time. Besides, Carol had some big news for me.
“I did it. We are officially broken up.”
“What? Wow! I mean, how did that happen?”
“Well, after that night you came over, Seiko tried to pretend like nothing happened. He was always trying to cuddle with me, and be all lovey-dovey. I reminded him we were supposed to be taking a break, and he was like, ‘Oh, come on Carol, you didn’t mean it’ and I don’t know what happened, I guess I snapped. I told him I did mean it, and since he couldn’t respect my wishes, it was over. For good. I guess I just needed to get mad enough at him to finally do it. And I did!”
“Woah! That’s awesome! What did he do? Did he get mad?”
“Well, yes. He was really mad. But then, it turned into tears. And he ran out of the room, and I haven’t seen his face since then.”
“Oh. I guess he was really hurt, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. I guess he was. And I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I didn’t care. He had made me cry enough times it was about time that he shed some tears for once.”
“Wow. I think I would feel the same way too. So…. what now?”
“Well, although I’m glad to be free of him, I’m not completely heartless. I don’t want to immediately start dating you and rub it in his face. And there’s also Gammy to think of. We are all staying in that house until she passes, so I want to make sure we can all get along long enough to say good bye to her.”
“Sure. I get that. Wow. I can’t believe it. You did it!”
“I know! And I want to thank you. For being so patient with me. And understanding. I don’t know if any other guy would have put up with so much crap from me.”
“Well, I’m not just any guy. And you are the only girl I see. Waiting for you seems only natural to me.”
“Aw. You are sweet. Well, I better get home and start lunch, I’ll talk to you later, ok?”
“Ok. See you around.”
“Yep. See ya.”
Wow. I can’t believe it! She finally is free! She actually broke it off with him, and with just a bit more patience, we can be together! I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my heart. I even got back to work on my inventions which I hadn’t worked on much since mom died, and I couldn’t keep the goofy grin off my face. I realized that my feelings for Carol only kept growing. I was so in love with her. And all my patience was about to pay off.
Apparently, there was a change in me that was noticeable to everyone. All of my friends and acquaintances noticed my brighter countenance, the spring in my step. And they all hit the nail on the head when they guessed what it was.
“You sure are more smiley. It’s a girl, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm… I’ve seen that look before, are you in love, Kenny?”
“Wow. You sure more chipper than usual. Alright, what’s her name?”
And that was just fine with me. Although I admitted I was indeed in love with someone, I never said a name, I wanted to be discreet for Carol’s sake. But she infiltrated all of my thoughts, and all I wanted was to find ways to be in her presence. Luckily, my next chance to make that happen came easy, as my sister had got promoted to Resident, and wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. Naturally, Carol and Rory were at the top of the list of invites! And they were both able to get away, leaving Gammy’s care to the boys for the night.
We danced, we ate, we had a great time. When the end of the night was near, I realized that all too soon, Carol would be going home and I didn’t know when I’d be able to see her again. That’s when I came up with a plan. I asked Rory to dance, then went for my idea. “Hey, Rory, I want to ask Carol to stay here tonight. Do you think she’ll leave Gammy for the night?”
“Well, she could, the boys said they would take the night shift tonight for us. So, she should be free and clear. All you can do is ask her!”
“Thanks. I will.”
As the party winded down, everyone started heading towards their cars. Rory went ahead to the curb, and winked at me as I stood with Carol on the porch.
“Hey, I talked to Rory, she said that Gammy is well looked after tonight. Do you wanna sleep here tonight? I’d like to spend some more time with you.”
“Well, uh, I guess I could. I mean, if Rory is ok with it.”
“Of course I’m ok with it!” Rory called out. Apparently she was eavesdropping. “Stay, have fun. You never get out. I’ll handle everything at home. See ya!”
And with that Rory got in the car and zoomed off. I’d almost swear she was making sure Carol couldn’t change her mind.
“Well, I guess it’s settled then, I’ll stay.”
I led her back inside, and up to my room.
“So, you ok with sleeping in here with me? Or would you be more comfortable sleeping in my sister’s room?”
“Um, definitely in here with you. I have an issue with my sleep and I would not want to freak your sister out.”
“Oh, that’s right, you still sleep-talk?”
“Yep. And when I’m stressed it’s worse, and lately, it’s been pretty bad. Will that bother you?”
“Puhlease! Having a pretty girl in my bed will totally be worth listening to the sleep-talk.”
I winked at her. She smiled.
“I’m so glad I don’t have to be afraid to be myself with you. It’s nice.”
“Right back at ya.”
We relaxed on the bed for a while, and talked about everything and anything. She talked about Gammy's health and the struggle to find a job. I told her about Mikinna and missing my mom. We talked like we hadn’t talked in a long time. When it was pretty late, She said, “Well, I’m exhausted. I guess we better get to bed. I’ll have to be back to the house early tomorrow.”
“Yea, I’m pretty tired too.”
Just then my sister burst into the room.
“Hey, Kenny, have you seen my scrubs---oops. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you had company.”
Carol jumped out of bed faster than I could blink. I joined her by rolling out of the bed myself. I didn't care, but I guess it was just a reflex. Carol was red in the face, I could tell she was embarrassed.
“Oh, it’s ok sis, we were just talking anyways. It’s cool if Carol stays the night, right?”
“Sure, of course! I’m so sorry, I’ll knock next time. I better get to bed, see you in the morning!”
And with that she made a quick exit out of my room.
“Well, that was embarrassing!” Carol exclaimed.
“Nah, Grace is cool, I promise. She doesn’t care.”
“Well, then, I guess we should get to sleep then.”
We sat back down on the bed. I could tell she wanted to say something but was hesitating.
“What is it? Hey, don’t worry, I didn’t invite you to stay over to, you know...”
“No, I mean, not that I don’t want to, you know, eventually, but I really just wanted you to stay over so we could spend time together, that’s all. Nothing more, no strings attached.”
She let out a sigh of relief. “Whew. Well, that’s good. Because I’m just not ready for-”
“Hey, I don’t think either of us are ready for that, I mean, we haven’t even kissed yet!”
She laughed. “Yeah, you’re right! Well, we could at least get that out of the way tonight, if you wanted to.”
She scooted closer to me, and pulled her to me and linked my free hand with hers.
“Hm, so a good night kiss then?”
“A good night kiss” she repeated.
Then I brought her close to me, and gently placed my lips on hers. One simple, beautiful, intoxicating, gentle kiss.
As we pulled away from each other, she looked into my eyes, and whispered one word. “Perfect.”
And with that, we settled into the covers and went to sleep. Not too long after we fell asleep, I was awoken by her sleep-talking. She was mumbling something unintelligible but sounded scared, like she was having a bad dream.
I gently put my arm around her, and whispered into her ear, ‘Shhhh… it’s ok.’
Without waking, she quieted down, and grabbed my arm and pulled it tighter around her. I settled in beside her, cuddling her to me. I fell into the most peaceful sleep I ever had in my life, with the love of my life beside me.