It never stays in one place
Day by day it changes and it grows
But you always recognize its face
(Fallen, by Ron Sexsmith)
(Revised and reposted)
He was still there, and tomorrow... and how he did all the little jokes with all of them... I had an idea that made me smile and I twisted around.
"Everyone really liked Carson's balloon?"
Val came back about four and said I was boring if all I wanted to do was look at wind, but she kissed my cheek and smiled anyway and said I smelled nice.
Carson gave Brenda a lift over and I saw them pull up and called out to Mom to please get the door? When they came in there was a ~huge~ gust of cold air. Definitely fall.
Brenda plonked down in the armchair and smiled at me and I smiled back. She looked really happy, all grinny.
Carson said "Scoot up!" and sat behind me so I had to twist around again to get my legs...
Before I could think anything she hugged me back down lying across her lap and kissed me on the nose. Missed and tried again.
While I closed my eyes and just lived happiness, I heard Brenda giggle.
Carson lifted her head and whispered, "I told her." And kissed me again, or kept kissing me. It didn't matter.
It turned into a cuddle and I guess it wasn't really more than a couple of minutes, but anyway, after, I looked at Brenda and smiled.
She was all red and giggly and staring at us, or maybe just me. Val was there too, leaned over the back of the chair on her arms, looking at us and grinning like a big sister.
"Amazing, isn't it? And ~he's~ the boy!"
I would've made a comment or something, but Val broke up. Then Brenda and Carson started to laugh too.
Brenda told us how Carson asked her to skip her last class and she skipped practice and they'd spent over an hour talking. I guess Carson telling.
I could feel Carson all relaxed and happy even though I thought she woulda been at least a little tense or something after that.
Brenda said she was shaking and almost white, but finally said, and she tried to sound like Carson: "I'm transsexual do you know what that means and I'm in love and he really wants you to know 'cause he misses you and it's me I'm the reason and I'm sorry it's my fault!"
Val broke up again and Carson made a noise, but it was ~exactly~ the way she talked lately, all one lonnnnnng sentence and I made a sound and she pretended to hug me too tight to laugh.
But Brenda wasn't finished and hunched everyone into listening again and saved me.
"But h- she didn't tell me ~who~ she was in love with even though I was pretty sure," and she grinned at me for a half-second.
"And I said who and she looked at me like I was talking Japanese or something and said 'Who?' and I said 'Yes, who is it?' and she says 'What who?' and she'd completely forgotten what she said!"
I knew what she must've been feeling right then, from all the changes, and I switched from smiling at how funny she was when she talked to making sure she was okay, even with them still laughing.
So I put my hand on her cheek, even if she was laughing instead of embarrassed.
Mom said they could stay for supper but Carson couldn't because her family was going out somewhere that she had to go. She said she'd call later and gave me a kiss and hug to remember her by and I watched her drive away and waved. She did too.
Val said, "Let's go to my room...." and we all thumped upstairs.
They did, anyway, and when I finally got there Val pulled me off balance onto the bed and I flopped down and got my leg out of the way and grabbed her blue bear to hug instead of Carse.
I looked to see what well and Brenda broke up.
It was Val's old 'You're more girly than me' joke and Brenda was naturally going along with it. Val described everything she thought I did and Brenda and her giggled, and I ignored them.
Brenda always had a weird sense of humor, anyway.
I was tired, so I curled up with her bear and went to sleep.
When I woke up, Val was sort of scratching my shoulder and Mom was calling up to say it was suppertime.
Brenda was on the floor leaning on the dresser and watching us. It was so nice to have her back, just to hang out....
But she was...
She was looking at me like she was looking at a bug or something, like I was different... stupid bad different.
While I was trying to sit up again I started to get blurry eyes and made to hide them, but she saw. She still stood up to give me a hand.
I was too quiet, trying to think of what I even meant... or wanted to... to say. She...
It was too hard.
I could just wait and they'd leave and then I could... not be there, with them. I'd sit until they were gone. I could go in my room and say I wasn't hungry if anyone asked. I wasn't.
"She needs a hug."
Val was snarky and I felt even worse. It didn't hurt. I was just suddenly so tired I couldn't have stood up in a million years.
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry, baby...." Val pulled me in and hugged me and rocked. She was crying.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it..."
I should've cared more.
It's like a switch flipped and I was sad. ~click~
Then ~click~: I was happy again. Or normal, anyway. Even then it was like I was so close to being lost. I could feel the sadness all the time, even when I wasn't. I could remember how I wanted to die, and it made it all the time, a little.
And it was so hard to get back, the other click back to happier. It happened, but it was so hard.
Mom and Dad took me in their room and sat with me. They didn't tell me to cheer up or anything but Mom told me what was for supper and told Dad about the balloons and what we'd done during the day and he smiled almost like it was real.
I thought about Paul. Dad's arms felt a lot like his. Dad didn't talk like him, but he was like him, even more.
I felt so stupid.
Supper wasn't cold 'cause Val and Brenda had finished it, or re-heated it or something, and even though I was red-faced and quiet I made myself sit and prop my foot up on an old cushion under the table and eat a little with them, even if I still wasn't hungry.
I knew I had to eat. Even if it was like dust. I knew I had to drink more.
Brenda would go home after supper and then that would be it.
That's what I thought about. She was sitting there, but she'd be gone, like ever since I got sick. Hurt. Whatever. It wasn't her fault.
Val and Carson would hang out with her and Val didn't even like me anymore. Dad was like Paul because he had to be, or people would say he was a bad father....
It was a dull voice in my head, on and on, talking to myself, hating myself....
Finding reasons to leave.
Mom said something and when I looked she said it again, and I listened. Tried to.
"I'll get them, okay?" She touched my arm when she stood up and I watched her go and heard her on the stairs. I looked at everyone, and they looked like a funeral. I looked down.
"Look, these are the ones... Carson got him this one on Sunday and his nurse, Paul, gave him ~this~ one today, when we were checking out."
Mom was smiling at me and showing off his Dora balloon. And my Strawberry Shortcake one.
I remembered how much Carson's made me smile, just from being silly.
And Carson. And Paul.
And Mom, that afternoon.
I looked up at them and remembered. There was- it was like a true feeling....
How wonderful I'd felt when I looked up from the flowers and saw Strawberry.
The crying was like I was... ~cleaner~, like people could look at me and they wouldn't be hurt, and I wouldn't be ashamed of how I looked, or being me. I felt ugly and stupid, before.
And it was like I could think and feel and see... and before, I wasn't, not... not really. All I saw was sadness and pain. All I wanted was to be alone.
That's what it was like, feeling better, compared.
Brenda was holding my balloons and gave them to me. I tried to smile.
"I feel like such a baby...."
"It's okay. I think it's sweet." I looked back at her. She was smiling up at the balloons.
They were still new and special. How they meant so much, Paul and Carson in them. All the feelings they brought.
"Carson gave me the Strawberry one, and Paul...." Nice wasn't a good enough word. I looked at her like I could make her see.
"He's a ~wonderful~ man, he's a nurse, and he gave me the Dora one 'cause his name tag has her on it. They- all the nurses all have cartoons on their tags."
And I told her about the cartoons on his yellow smock, the first day. About that he pointed at his smock and kinda, how he started talking to me because of her. And because of Carson, since she gave her to me.
I told all of them, I guess, because they didn't know all of it, except Mom.
I got red and tried to disappear when I thought of how stupid it all sounded. I'd been on the right ward....
But Val hugged my arm, and Mom smiled like it was all normal, and Dad looked at me like he was proud.
I don't know what Brenda looked like, because I hid. But I felt good.
Dad looked proud.
We went back to Val's room after she promised Mom and Dad ~again~ that she wouldn't pick on me, and Mom said something about how she thought we'd gotten past all this when I got as tall as her....
Val closed her door and I lay down flat because my hip was sore and Val and Brenda sat on the bed too and bounced my balloons.
"How's your leg doing?" Brenda touched my foot and wiggled it a tiny bit. Which hurt, and she stopped and made a sorry face, but it was just my ankle.
I managed a grin okay. "Pretty good. It's almost all closed and about maybe three quarters of the stitches are out and it's way better." I smiled less as I thought about how ugly it was. Really.
"Don't do that." Val shook my head. Hair. I looked up at her and she nodded. I looked at the balloon she was holding and smiled again, or stopped.
"Oh! Your foot! Is that a new cast? Oh, I'm sorry!" Brenda ~really~ looked sorry.
I'd forgotten they didn't know about my foot and it wasn't a too interesting story, but it ended with Paul and coming home, so it was still a good one.
"How come he... how come she got you Strawberry Shortcake?"
Brenda looked funny for a second and pulled it down from Val and sniffed it, then let it go again and smiled at me. And nudged my sore foot again.
"Ow. What?" Oh. Why? I was still trying to figure out how she got to Carson's balloon from my story.
I looked at it and tried to remember why, if I knew.
"I dunno. Maybe she just knew it'd make me laugh." I smiled. "Or maybe she's just the opposite of the Hulk."
They both remembered the other balloon from before. They both said 'Nawww,' too.
"You need Hello Kitty."
"Strawberry Shortcake, Dora the Explorah, and Hello Kitty. You can't have those two without Hello Kitty. She's iconic, they're iconic. And maybe Sailor Moon...."
"GIRL icons!" She slapped at Val.
"Thelma...." She ducked away.
"How did you ~ever~ get into university!? It's ~VELma~!"
Val just laughed. Brenda looked at the balloon again.
"It doesn't smell right. Here...." She passed it over and Val smelled it too and looked thoughtful.
"Wait...." She left the room and Brenda looked at me like it was a big mystery, which was kind of funny, since neither of us were wondering, I bet. I grinned.
"This might work...."
"Hey!" I almost reached for it, across the whole room. Valerie had the shampoo I'd found under the sink a couple of weeks ago.
She smeared some of the stuff from the cap on her finger and sniffed it.
"Perfect!" She offered her hand to Brenda and then to me, and I sniffed it too. "Just like her, remember?"
"Yeah, that's just right...." Brenda smiled and nodded and looked like she was remembering good ice cream.
"Her?" I thought it smelled like shampoo. Carson said she liked it too.
"Strawberry Shortcake, girl! She always smelled like strawberries! Just like this!"
I had a horrible thought. Well, not horrible. Too cute. And therefore horrible.
Brenda and Val were both looking at me. I went as pink as the shampoo.
Valerie got this incredible grin....
They threatened to call Carson and ask her, after I slipped a bit and said her name.
And I ~knew~ Val already knew, she was just waiting me out.
"I think, Carson... I think she knew about Strawberry... how the dolls... smelled...."
They nodded. Val thought I was an idiot that I hadn't. At least I'd known she was a doll!
"Well, she liked how my hair... smelled."
Val started giggling. Really high pitched.
Brenda almost bounced off the bed before she grabbed my good foot and said something like "Dededededeeee!"
Val giggled, and smelled my hair... and giggled.
"YUP!" And giggled some more.
"It's ~YOU~!" Brenda got her big girl words back and waved the balloon like a rattle. "~YOU'RE~ STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE!!"
"No! I'm... I'm ~Dora~!" I tried to grab that one but Val pulled the ribbon away and it bounced up to the ceiling. And she giggled even harder.
"No you're not!! Nah-nah! ~Paul~ is Dora. ~You~ are STRAWBERRY! Carson smelled you, so ~you~ are!"
Valerie was almost coughing she was giggling so hard.
"I'm not! She gave me a Hulk balloon too! I'm not the Hulk, so I'm not-"
"She wasn't saying anything with a stupid Hulk thing! That was before, anyway. She gave you ~Strawberry~ because you're just like her!"
Val finally could speak, too.
"Annnnd you smell ~just~ like the Princess of Berryland!"
Brenda collapsed in giggles too and rolled off the bed with a thump.
Val rolled over and reached back to pull the door open a crack and coughed and yelled, "Just Brenda getting drunk!" and closed the door and sat back to grin at me.
"Strawberry Shortcake." Then she started to spazz again and suddenly sat up and waved at nothing.
She jumped off the bed almost on Brenda and yanked open her closet and stood there, looking at it. Around it. Then she grabbed a pretty big box off the high shelf on one side.
"Yesssss...." She pulled the flaps open and put it down so she could dig. "YES!"
She had a little doll, like just about four inches.
End of Part 11
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