Many important moments in our lives pass unmarked by solemn ceremonies or other rights of passage, such as weddings, graduations, and funerals. Usually, they are far more fleeting, passing almost unnoticed. Even so, and how ever brief, they are often the very moments that define us as who and what we are; and just as importantly, who and what our friends are. This story is a collection of a few such moments, like steppingstones through time, in the life of a very special person named Emily.
By Sarah Lynn Morgan
Admin Note: Originally published on BigCloset TopShelf on Sunday 4-10-2005 at 7:00 am, this retro classic was pulled out of the closet, and re-presented for our newer readers. ~Sephrena
The rim of the sun had just kissed the eastern horizon. The three people in the ninth floor room of the hospital could have been amongst the first to see it that day, but in those moments, all of their attentions were on each other. Resting in between his parents, the newest member of the family was staring up at them both. As bright as the sun was that beautiful spring morning, it could not compare to how brightly that morning shown in the love that the small family had for one another.
In the doorway of the room, a young nurse stood holding a blue blanket in her hands. It was fresh and warm from the ward dryer, because they were running very short of everything. Their laundry order had been delivered to the third floor by mistake, and it had yet to be collected and sent back down to the maternity floor where it belonged. In the meantime, they were doing as much as they could with the small laundry service in the ward.
It was the least of their problems. The nurse was exhausted from more than a dozen deliveries that they had handled that night; but, also from the veritable herd of cranky doctors who had been forced to make two and three deliveries at a time that shift, while they covered for their colleagues who inevitably could not be reached in time in the middle of the night.
As young and as new as she was, she could still see that now was not the time. This family needed to be alone now. She could tell it was a good family, and they needed to get to know each other; so, silently, she walked over and placed the blue blanket on the corner of the bed, and briefly caught the mother’s eye. Seeing the exhaustion there, the nurse knew that the color of the blanket young Edward was now so tenderly swaddled in had never really mattered at all.
It had been a near thing. Complications had come so late, and so suddenly, that they were made even more fearful for this couple by their very unexpectedness. They had tried so hard, and for so many years to have children, only to have their most precious desire almost taken from them at the last moment. It had been a near thing; but, even though they would now remain as only three, at least they had each other, and not the one left alone, as it had appeared for those horribly long minutes in the deepest part of the night.
The young nurse smiled warmly at them, thinking that even at the very end, they had been forced to deal with surprise. They had been expecting a girl. The crisis having passed, all the new father had been able to do was to clap his hand to his forehead in mock consternation and proclaim loudly to all present, “Oh No! You mean that I have to repaint that room again?”
The tone of sincere, but happy befuddlement had made them all, even the new mother laugh — a little.
The young nurse would have laughed again, when the father, on seeing how the new baby had been hastily dressed to meet his parents, proclaimed worriedly “You guys changed your minds again?” She was just too tired at that point, and so she had only smiled.
Edward Gordon, the newest member of the small family, seemed to their eyes to be as pleased to meet them as they were to meet him - even though he just lay there, listening with absolute intensity to the cooed words of loving welcome, and the beating of their two hearts…
“He’s beautiful Joan,” her old college chum said to her softly. Marjorie had flown in on the overnight, and she had arrived at eight that morning. Even though it was almost nine, her body was telling her that she should still be asleep. Her thoughts were coming slowly “Do you remember how Anna’s first had come out, and we were all calling him the California Raisin amongst ourselves, while trying desperately to find something nice to say to her?” Marjorie remembered with a moan of sympathy for their absent friend. “I mean, I’m not one of these folks who have to think that all children are beautiful no matter what, but he’s just a doll.” She squeezed her friend’s hand, genuinely pleased for her.”
“Also, I can’t believe how much of that beautiful blond hair he has at two years either,” Marjorie remarked.
“I know.” Joan giggled at her long time friend from the west coast. “I’m going to have to cut it soon, because Tom is getting a little sick of everyone taking him for a girl,” Joan giggled more loudly, “but I just love the way he looks so adorable and all. I can’t bear to get him his first haircut yet. It seems like I’ll have lost something that I can never get back.” Joan paused while staring at her son. “I guess as long as I don’t put any ribbons or anything in it again, Tom will let me have my way for a little longer.”
Marjorie giggled too. “God, I can see you are still terrible, Joan. If I did something like that to ours, my David would freak.” Marjorie then paused to take a sip of coffee, and watch little Edward play quietly by himself in front of the TV, which he largely ignored in favor of some stuffed animals he was talking to.
“Is he always so quiet?” Marjorie asked, even before she had thought about the question, and how it might have been taken as an accusation of oddness in the child, which she had not consciously intended.
“Not always.” Joan answered. “Don’t get me wrong, he has his moments. He also seems to be one of the most affectionate little guys my friends have ever seen, but when I put him down, he’ll play quietly and alone for hours. Even when he needed a change, he’ usually just crawled over to me and pulled himself up without crying or making any fuss. We’re very, very lucky, Marge.”
“You sure are.” Marjorie’s eyes shifted back to the boy, a little jealous, and a little struck by the child. “He sure is the most beautiful little thing I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad that even with David’s constant Job-hopping, I could finally make it back to visit Joan.” Hugging her friend, and beginning to feel the years apart melt into meaninglessness. “If your little angle will stay there for a while yet, lets us go into the kitchen, and I’ll make brunch for you! OK!”
“Someone else’s cooking? Lordy, girl, you don’t have to bend my arm.” Joan grabbed her close friend. “I’d do almost anything to eat someone else’s cooking, except for that Ronald clown’s, of course.” Giggling and talking, they moved over to the kitchen area.
Amy lived right next door, and was only four months older than Edward was. Her mother, and Edward’s were the same age, but Lilly already had three more by the time Amy had been delivered. Just as Edward would be Joan’s last child, Amy had been her last as well, but for Lilly it had been a choice. To have her tubes tied was the only sane choice she could make for herself, and she had done so without a single second thought. Lilly was like that; warm and loving, yes; but still very practical.
It was only natural that the two children had spent much of their young lives together. The only odd thing was how well they played together. It was a godsend for both the busy mother of the five year old, trying to rekindle her career, and to that of the busy homemaker and mother to four.
Most of the time, the children played so quietly and so well, that they tended to baby-sit each other for hours on end. Lilly had told Joan that Little Edward was no trouble at all, and it was true. The two could sit for hours; either playing together or more rarely, mesmerized by some Walt Disney tape in the VCR, without a peep. Squabbles over what to play, or do; or over who had what toy were completely foreign to them. When one had a toy the other wanted, that child would usually just sit and watch until the desired object was handed over, which was usually very quickly,
Adorable, and trustworthy as they were though, Lilly was ever careful about the two little ones. Having just finished folding the laundry, she was making her way up the stairs to see what they were up to, the sound of her steps on the stairs covered by the clock striking ten a.m. On reaching Amy’s room, she paused at the door to peek in. Surprisingly, the two were not there. Unworried, she paused to listen. It was only moments before she heard the distinctive little sounds coming from her room.
Pausing once again, this time outside of her own door, she peeked in.
There they were, having a tea party with several of Amy’s favorite dolls and stuffed bears. Lilly stifled a giggle at the way they were dressed. Both of the “girls” were dressed in her clothes. Both wore large hats, scarves, jewelry, and all the finery that one would expect of a high tea.
“Would you care for sugar and cream in your tea, Mrs. Bear?” Amy asked in a falsetto voice. Then nodding, she poured the bear an imaginary cup of tea. She, turned toward Edward, and in the same voice, asked “And you, Emily? Would you care for sugar and cream?” In his soft and gentle voice, Edward said, “Yes, Amy. Please.” Then as he turned to offer his cup to his playmate, and Amy turned toward him to pour, Lilly could see that they had been in her makeup as well.
Not wanting to startle the children, or make too much of it, she gently pushed open the door saying, “Oh, there you two are. Having High Tea with Mrs. Bear are you?” Lilly expected the boy to be a little embarrassed, but he just sat and smiled back at her, just as Amy herself did.
“And who may I ask is this little lady, Amy?” She asked brightly as both of the “girls” giggled.
“You know who this is, Mommy. This is Emily, my best friend in the whole world.” and then in the same upper-crust falsetto voice she had used before, she continued: “She and I have known one another for simply years!”
Giggling genuinely, along with “the girls”, Lilly casually walked around to her dresser, both to pick up her digital camera, and to position herself on the opposite side of the table from the two. “That’s very sweet,” she said, and then casually asked if she might take a picture of their little party. She heard both children agree before she turned and squatted down and focusing the camera on the two children’s faces.
Lilly was suddenly struck by something that she had seen almost every day for the last six years, and had somehow never been truly conscious of. Edward looked every bit the pretty young girl, as did her Amy. In fact, given his naturally attractive… No, that was not the right word. His naturally beautiful features, he was just simply that - beautiful. Quickly Lilly snapped the pictures of the smiling children, and slipped the camera to her side.
“So, when did you guys get so good with my Makeup?” She asked, causing the two munchkins to giggle hysterically back at her.
“We found pictures in your magazines, Mom!” Amy Laughed. “We also had that book from the den that shows how. Remember you let me look at it, Mom?” Then Amy’s voice took on a more serious note. “You’re not mad, are you?” She asked, as her eyes darted to Edward before pulling them back to her.
Looking at her makeup table, Lilly could see that everything was more or less in order, and that the children seemed only to have the makeup on their faces; a remarkable feat for kids so small. Then it also dawned on her, that not only had they put it on carefully enough not to make a huge mess, but also they had also done a very good job for their ages; much better than she might have done when she was as young. It was still undoubtedly the work of children, but all in all, a remarkably credible job.
“No sweetheart, I’m not, but you have to be careful, and not get it all over Mommy’s pretty things, OK?” she told them as brightly as she could manage. “Now be careful while you finish your tea, and Mommy will have to get you two little ladies cleaned up before ‘Emily’s’ mother comes to collect her.” Lilly once again felt she wanted to laugh at the infectious giggle of the two little ones. She’d call them scamps for getting into her things, but they were far too dignified, and beautiful for that honorific.
Walking to the doorway, she took several more snapshots before slipping the camera into her pocket. “Now, remember,” she said to them with dramatic severity, “you promised to let Mommy take off the makeup. You’re not to try and get it off yourselves. OK?” She waited.
“Yes, Ma’am” both little ones chorused. “We wouldn’t do anything naughty, like break a promise, Ma’am.” Edward said to her, his large blue eyes radiating sweetness, and sincerity.
“I know that sweetheart.” Lilly confirmed. “I just wanted to make sure you don’t get it in your eye, that’s all. You two look very pretty, and I’d hate to have to spoil a lovely tea party with a trip to the doctor. I’ll call you when it’s time to clean up.”
“Ok!” Both children chorused again, and turned to continue their party as if they had not been interrupted.
Downstairs some hours later, Lilly stared at the computer screen. It was remarkable. The pictures looked more like some TV ad for children’s programming, rather than two young children actually caught in the act. It certainly did not look a boy and a girl. Lilly sighed, and went upstairs to take Amy from her bath, and tuck her in for the night, still distracted.
“All done, Sweetie?” she called at the bathroom door.
“All done!” Amy squealed, and flinging the door open, quickly dashed passed her mother in a towel and jumped into her bead, and on top of her clean, and formerly dry pajamas.
“Oh, Amy!” Lilly moaned to herself, through a smile at her youngest.
After a good ten-minute tickle-fest, which was the usual punishment for such transgressions, the child was left only slightly more breathless and happy than her Mother was. Lilly had somehow managed to dress Amy, and bundle her into bed just the same.
“All ready for nice dreams, little one?” Lilly asked the beaming child.
“Yes Mommy.” She answered gleefully.
“Did you remember to brush your teeth, dear?” Lilly checked.
“Only about a hundred times for every tooth Mom. Front and back, sides, top, and bottom! I think I need a new tooth brush!”
Lilly Giggled. “Well I’ll tell you what. You just try to wear out that old tooth brush as much as you want, and I’ll be only too happy to by you new ones whenever you need them, OK?”
“Listen, Amy, I wanted to talk to you about something important.” Lilly said, feeling she had her child’s serious attention.
“Is anything wrong, Mommy?” Amy asked in return, not really worried.
“No, Baby. You were a very good girl today. I just wanted to talk to you about the tea party.”
“Wasn’t that great, Mommy!” The little girl sighed. “Emily and I had such a lovely time. And didn’t Emily look just Beautiful?”
Lilly stared at her daughter, unsure for a moment how she could redirect the conversation to where she needed it to be. “Well, she sure did. Very beautiful in fact, but I wanted to make sure that you understood that you need to be careful and ask me before you do something like that again.” Lilly watched her daughter’s eyes.
“Why Mommy?” Amy asked.
“Well, apart from the possibility that you might accidentally ruin some of Mommy’s pretty things, you might also have gotten hurt. You two are too young to be using eye makeup. Trust me. If you get that in your eyes, you’d be sorry. It really stings,” she told her.
“I know,” Amy said, “but we were very careful.”
“I could see that you were, baby, but there’s more to it than that. You see, Edward is a boy, and although I don’t mind you playing games here, some people might not like you both dressing up like that.” She once again watched her Child’s eyes carefully.
“I understand Mom. We don’t ever talk about the games Emily and I play together with the other kids. We know that they would be very mean to her. They are sometimes already.”
“What?” Lilly gasped out before she could think. Then, seeing her shock had worried the child, she quickly tried to continue more calmly. “Sorry, Sweetie. You’re telling me that you have been keeping it a secret when you play like that with Edward?” This idea of keeping secrets caused a sinking feeling in her stomach that she was trying desperately to hide.
Amy, sensing her mother’s reaction, was silently trying to figure out where she might have done something wrong, and she began to bite her lip. Still, she could not figure out that they might have done anything to upset anyone, so after a few moments she answered honestly. “Yes we do. Some times the other kids call Edward names. Sis… Sisters?” the little one said questioningly.
“Sissy?” Lilly asked concerned.
“That’s it, Mom. ‘Sissy.’ It makes Em so sad, because he just wants to be friends. So we just play them by ourselves mostly, and we don’t tell anyone.” Amy confided.
“Well, Amy, if the other kids would tease you, why do you dress him up, and put makeup on him? I mean the other kids are one thing, but his Mother might not be happy either.” Lilly asked.
“I didn’t Mom.” Amy said softly.
“What do you mean, Baby. That wasn’t you and Edward in my room this afternoon?” Lilly asked, not for a second believing that her child was really trying denial at this late stage.
“I meant that I didn’t dress him up. That was his idea.” Amy said simply.
Lilly had to think about that for a moment.
“What about the makeup, Sweetie; was it his idea for you to put that on him?”
“Emily did that too, Mom. She put it on, and it looked so nice, that I asked her to put it on me too.” Amy said slowly. “Are you sure you’re not mad?”
The child was clearly worried now, no doubt caused by the look on her mother’s face.
“No dear, I’m really not. I just wanted to be sure you would be careful, that’s all.” Lilly tried to smile. “You go to sleep, now. Tomorrow is Saturday, and we are going to go to the Zoo, OK” Lilly finished by running her fingers through her daughter’s bangs.
“Goodie.” Amy sighed, her concern rapidly abating. “I love to visit the animals.”
“I know sweetie. Good night,” she said, as she quickly pecked her daughter’s lips.
“Night Mommy.” Amy said, and rolled over.
From the door, Lilly asked another question. “Amy?”
“Yes, Mommy?” Amy answered in a voice already slow with sleepiness.
“How long have you been calling him Emily?” She asked casually. “Just today?”
“No. Long time, Mom. I always call her Emily when we are alone….”
Lilly walked back downstairs, and settled herself in front of the computer.
“Is anything wrong?” her husband asked.
“No.” Lilly said, “I’m just thinking. We are going to take the kids to the Zoo tomorrow.”
“Oh, goodie.” her husband said, but without the same enthusiasm her daughter had expressed.
Lilly snorted back, but her mind was elsewhere. A lot of little things had fallen into place. The time that she had found Edward and Amy trying on her Halloween Princess costume, for one; but also, the many times she had thought she heard her daughter call him “M” as they played quietly together. She had thought that was just some strange pet name, but now she knew it meant “Emily.” Most significantly of all, both children had conspired to, if not hide it all deliberately, to at least keep it quietly to themselves, and that was what worried her most of all.
Casually, she moved the cursor to select several items in a folder, and then to the printer symbol. “Honey,” she said to her husband, “I’m going over to talk with Joan for a few minutes. I’ll be back in a little while, OK?”
“Ok. The car needs gas.” he mumbled absently without looking up from his paper.
“It’s just next door, Honey.” Lilly whispered as she pecked the top of his head in passing.
“OK, check the oil too then….”
Recess was definitely the best thing about school. Ten out of Ten kids agreed. They got two a day, the first at nine thirty, the second one coming with lunch at around eleven-thirty in the morning. It was only a few days into the second week of school, and all the children were still settling into the new routines of organized fun. Amy and Edward were playing on the seesaw when they heard a scream from the direction of the monkey bars.
Dashing to see, they both came to find themselves standing in a circle around one of the second graders who was lying on the ground, with blood on the side of his face. It was Roger, who was only a year older than our pair, but who had obviously been showing off. Most of the children just stood, mesmerized by the site of blood on the unmoving child’s face, while a few had run for the teacher. Only Edward moved to Roger’s side. Taking a clean Kleenex out of his pocket, one that his mother had told him he should always have when at school, he began to press it over the wound on the side of the much larger boy’s head.
Roger whimpered at the pressure. “There, there, Roger.” Edward said in a calm voice, readily recognizing one of the biggest kids from his neighborhood. “You’ll be Ok. The teacher is coming.” All the while, Edward had been slowly and very gently moving Roger’s arm out from under him, where it had been pinned in an unnatural position by his fall. “Don’t cry, Roger,” Edward continued. “Mrs. Adel is coming now. You’ll be ok.”
Amy, now moving to Edwards’s side, placed her hand on her best friend’s shoulder, as she watched him comfort the injured boy.
“Owe! My head” Roger said, trying to fight the tears back even as he slowly became aware of his surroundings once more.
“You hit your head when you fell.” Edward said, as he adjusted himself to cradle Roger’s head on his leg, while trying to keep a gentle pressure on the wound. “It doesn’t look bad.” Edward said, while biting his lip at the lie.
Then more gently still. “Is your arm ok?” He asked the boy.
“Yah, I think so.” Roger said, trying to focus his eyes on Edward even as he lifted his hand and wiggled his fingers experimentally.
“I think you’re supposed to be still, so don’t move OK?” Edward informed him in a whisper. Roger only closed his eyes and ever so slightly nodded his head.
“What happened?” Mrs. Adel, the school’s head mistress, asked fearfully as she pushed through the crowd of children.
“He fell from the top,” one of the children said, even as she knelt to try to determine the extent of the damage.
“Oh God, Roger” she whispered, as she also quickly looked Edward over too, to determine if he was hurt or if the blood she saw was young Roger’s alone.
“Don’t move his head, dear,” she said quickly, seeing that one of the new girls was cradling his head in her lap.”
“I’m not Ma’am,” Edward said. “I’m holding it still, and pressing against the wound.”
“Good girl.” Mrs. Adel said gratefully, as she looked back to see the nurse and two other teachers racing in her direction. “Help is coming, Roger,” she said.
Roger nodded his head again, but on hearing the adult voice, began to cry once more softly, only to have Edward lean down close, and whisper. “It’s Ok, Roger. It’s really not that bad. You’ll be ok, I promise, so you just lie still. I’m sure it will stop hurting so much in a minute. The nurse is right here….”
It was just then that one of the older kids chimed in. “Would you look at that? Isn’t that the most special thing you’ve ever seen? Little Edwina is going to be a nurse someday. You’ll make someone a fine mother, Edwina!” The boy laughed viciously.
About half the kids laughed a little along with him. Amy didn’t know the older boy, but she turned to glare at him with a look that might have done a younger child actual harm. The older boy just laughed at her too.
“That will be quite, enough out of you, Sims.” Mrs. Adel snapped in a voice that left no doubt that Sims had just bought himself another little talk. “Recess is over for today, everyone back inside,” she continued in the same no-nonsense voice. The children moaned, even though it was only a few minutes until the bell sounded anyway, but all obediently began to move for the doors, except for the three on the ground.
Looking back at them, she could see the two girls looking expectantly at her. “That’s OK, dears; not you two. You can stay right there.” Soon Edward felt himself lifted to his feet by one of the male teachers, while the Nurse gently extracted Roger from his grip, and began to work on him.
“Don’t worry, dear,” the nurse said to Edward. “He’ll be just fine.”
Edward smiled at the woman, even as a few tears began to slide silently down his own face. Amy placed her arm about her friend’s shoulders, and began to lead them away.
“Come on you two.” Mrs. Adel said as she placed her hand on their shoulders to steer them toward another door. “Let’s get you two cleaned up,” she said firmly as they walked in the indicated direction.
“That was some good thinking you did there, young lady. Did you see him fall?” The head asked Edward.
“No, Ma’am,” he said. “Amy and I were on the seesaws, when we heard him scream. We just ran to see, like everyone else.”
“But then,” She continued for him, “unlike everyone else who just stood there, you knew to administer basic first-aide. I am very impressed, and very proud of you both.” She beamed at them. “So where did you learn your first aid; in the Brownies?”
Amy answered for them. “No Ma’am. We’re not in Scouts.” Amy had given up any desire to join the Brownies on the day they told her Edward wasn’t allowed in. “We saw it on a show on TV.”
“Well, that was very clever of you both, and I intend to make sure everyone knows it.” The head mistress said. “So you are Amy?” She nodded at the girl, “and what is your name, dear?”
“Edward, Ma’am.” The boy said. “Edward Gordon.”
“I beg your pardon?” Mrs. Adel said, confused for a moment, until she got a better look at Edward’s clothes. “Oh, I’m so sorry Mr. Gordon. I thought… ” Mrs. Adel did not finish, not wanting to embarrass the brave boy any further.
“That’s Ok, Ma’am,” Edward said softly. “Everyone does that.”
The clock in the square had just struck one, which meant they were later than they had told Amy’s mother they would be. They were fifteen, and had been over to the shops in the village for much of the morning. Due home by one, they were passing through the park, on the way back to Amy’s house. Suddenly, from behind them came the all too familiar taunts, but ones that they instantly knew was far more serious “Jesus, will you look at that now! Edwina is wearing pink lip gloss.”
Oh god, they had forgotten. “I’m so sorry, Amy.” Edward whispered.
“Not your fault, Em,” she said in despair. “I forgot too, just keep walking”
Quickly they were surrounded by almost a dozen of the neighborhood children who had been hanging around the park, and who began to examine Edward with some interest. “That’s Mascara on his eyes too.” One of the other girls said.
“You just leave her alone Betty,” Amy said fiercely, while forcing herself in front of her friend.
“It’s OK, Amy.” Betty began to say while trying to show Amy that she really did not mean any harm. “I mean, so he is wearing makeup, and that’s probably your white blouse too, isn’t it? It’s not that big a deal.”
It might still have been Ok at that point. The children who were looking at Edward were suddenly far more curious about a boy who would wear makeup and blouses, than they were in taunting him. One of the boys their age, William, even said, “Aw, let them be, will ya! It’s not like we’ve never seen the Gordon sisters before, is it?” He looked at the others. “Besides, most of you girls are probably just jealous, anyway. I mean… ” William said laughingly as he casually reached out to brush Edward’s long hair from the side of his face, “I fancy he’s a lot prettier than most of you other girls. So leave them be, and let’s finish the game!”
Some of the kids began to drift away, not finding the novelty that engrossing, but Betty and two of the girls stayed right in front of them, while another girl and two boys in their class stood a few paces away. “Well why don’t you two come back and hang around with us for a while?” Betty asked, cheerily, a sentiment soon echoed up by several of the others as well.
So, it might have been Ok, except that was when Sims and his gang showed up.
“Well bloody hell,” Simms said, and he began to laugh, and point at Edward. Amy once again tried to step in front of him, but Edward held her back.
“No, Amy.” Edward whispered in genuine fear that she might be hurt.
“Run, Emily.” Amy whispered back,
“I can’t outrun them, and it won’t help.” he sighed, softly. Sims was right in front of him now.
“Well I was right. It’s Edwina, and looking very pretty today too.” He was just getting warmed up to full taunt, when he froze.
When he continued, you could hear the satisfaction in his voice. “Well. Well. Well.” He breathed. “And the little Fairy has finally done it. He’s in drag too. Well isn’t that just too sweet.” He finished in a falsetto voice, with both hands on his cheeks, and with an exaggerated surprise and glee, to mock Edward
“Well Edwina? What are you doing? Cruising for a date for the pictures on Friday?”
His sarcasm caused one or two of the kids watching from farther away to laugh.
“Leave him be, you bastard,” Betty said, surprising everyone.
“What did you say, bitch?” Simms said with a dangerous look in his eyes.
Betty tried to hold her ground, but she was afraid of Sims, and rightly so. It showed. “I said leave him be. He’s not bothering you. He’s never done anything to anyone.” She stammered.
“Shut your hole, girlie. I’ll let you know when I need your permission to take a piss. Right now, I think we should take little missy here for a walk, and see if it’s really a girl or a boy in her knickers.” Sims began to advance on Edward.
It was Amy this time. “You leave her alone, you sick pig.”
“Her?” Sims laughed. “Well we’ll just see about that, now won’t we. Perhaps Edwina is about to have ‘Her’ first real date.”
Sims lunged to knock Amy out of the way, but Edward had seen it coming. Desperately, he also lunged to pull Amy back, only to be knocked to the ground cruelly in her stead. There was nothing he could do, because Sims out massed him so.
“Stop!” Amy shrieked, and launched herself at Sims Crying.
“Get off Bitch.” Sims said, as he swatted Amy to the ground as well, where she just sat there staring at him in horror.
“Hey…!” one of the other boys said, only to be tripped by one of Sims’s gang.
“What’s the matter?” The cruel boy asked sarcastically. “You afraid that I might kill Edwina, and then you’d have to find a real girl to snog, you little dyke?” He sneered, enjoying the look of horror on little Amy’s face.
In her shock, and her rage, Amy heard someone screaming at the top of her lungs. “Her name is Emily, you prick! You don’t even know her name, you fucking Moron!”
The echo’s had slowly faded away before Amy realized who had screamed.
Her response was to begin to sob uncontrollably. “Oh, Em, I’m so sorry….”
“What do you think you’re doing?” A calm voice said from off to her right.
It was Roger
Even Sims turned pale. He might be much older and meaner than anyone else, but Roger was at least twenty kilo’s heavier.
“Nothing you need worry yourself about…,” Sims started to bluff sarcastically, trying to put the larger boy off.
Seeing his three friends on the ground was enough. Roger had simply taking two steps in, and without another word, or even change of facial expression, punched Sims in the face as hard as he could. He punched him so hard that both of Sims’s feet had left the ground at the same time, and were still higher than his head when he and the unfortunate crony standing behind him once more made contact with the earth.
Everyone was in shock. Roger had never hit anyone before, and it was moments before anyone could believe what had happened so fast.
Sims wasn’t quite out, but only remained conscious enough to raise his head and stare in dull shock at Roger. Beside Roger, a girl was trying to wipe blood off her face without realizing what it really was.
“That’s it, Sims.” Roger said quietly. “I told you before to leave them alone. You had best look for some other town to live in from here on out, because from now on every time I see you I’m going to punch you just as hard. And, if you ever touch one of my friends again, I’ll pull your head off, I swear. Now I’ll give you one minute to get out of my sight, before I do it again right now.” Roger spoke each word slowly, without raising his voice, and without even blinking his eyes.
Frantically, the two remaining cronies began to drag Sims away.
Edward got up, and quickly rushed to Amy, pulling her up off the ground to hug her protectively. “It’s Ok, Amy. Shhhh,” he whispered.
“Oh, Emily, I thought…,” she continued to sob
Several of the other girls crowded around the two, and tried to help comfort Amy, but for several minutes, it was of little use. Finally, she began to calm down enough for Edward to look around at the circle of faces.
On seeing Roger standing there, he smiled gratefully, if weakly. “Thank you, Roger. If you hadn’t come along.” He could not think of anything else to say for a moment or two, and finally finished weakly, “I should take Amy home now.”
“No,” Amy whimpered. “Take me to the table, and let me sit down, please. I can’t let my Mum see me like this. She’ll totally freak”
Edward Reluctantly agreed, and steered Amy to a nearby picnic table under a tree. Thankfully, one of the other girls soon arrived with a wet napkin, to wipe Amy’s face. That seemed to revive her a little, as the girls worked on her.
“I am so sorry, Em. I forgot all about…,” Amy began to say.
“Amy, it was my fault. Don’t blame yourself for something that I did.” Edward said.
“That animal was going to hurt you, Em. Really hurt you. If Roger hadn’t come….”
“I’m OK, though. So, just try to calm down. It’s OK.” Edward tried again.
Roger chimed in as well. “I don’t think he’ll bother you again, Amy.”
Amy just nodded her head, before pulling Edward into another embrace. “Oh Emily, if anything ever happened to you, I don’t think I’d survive.”
It took just a little longer for her to loosen her grip on Edward again. “Sorry everyone,” she finally whispered. “I was just so scared for her.”
Betty answered for them all, who were staring at the pair with similar expressions. “We all understand, Amy. We were frightened for him too.” With that, Betty turned her attentions with the wet napkins to Edward’s face.
“Here, Hon, hold still. Your Mascara has run a little.” She began to dab the little smudges just under his pretty eyes, before she continued. “Good thing you only had a little bit on. You know, I think William was right. I’d kill for your eyes, and a little mascara does wonders for them.” She smiled at him a little.
“Thank you, Betty, but I’d better take Amy home now,” Edward said softly, as she let go of his chin. Suddenly he stiffened a little as he felt another hand on his shoulder, holding him down.
“Hold on a minute.” Roger took a moment for a breath before asking the question on everyone’s mind. “Emily?”
Edward sighed, as his shoulders visibly slumped.
Amy was quickly on the defensive, thinking that the ordeal might not be over after all. “Roger, please don’t tease him!” Amy begged him. “That’s all my fault, really”
Roger smiled reassuringly as he walked around to sit in front of the two, and reached up to pull Betty to sit down beside of him as well. “Amy. You know that I don’t tease him, or anyone else. You also know that no one teases him when I’m around either. I just want to know what this is all about finally, and why you call him Emily.” Roger then looked to Edward, and gently asked “Well, Emily?”
Edward sighed deeply, and was silent for a moment. He continued then, while looking down at his hands in his lap. “Well, I think you already do know everything there is to know, Roger. I mean it’s not like I’ve ever tried, or even been able to hide what I am.”
For a long while, he was as still as everyone else. Then he deliberately leaned behind Amy, and reaching into the small pack that she had strapped on her back, he pulled out a small pink case that contained his makeup and jewelry. One of the stops they had made that day was at the cosmetics shop, to refill some things he had been running low on. It had been the girl at the shop, who had shown him the new lip color. He pulled it out, along with his compact to inspect his face
Roger finally found his voice, somewhere amongst the burning he felt in his stomach. “What do you mean what you are? Are you telling us you’re Gay, Edward?” Roger asked him just a little unsure to have it all out in the open. None of the kids had ever known anyone that — different.
Edward laughed nervously and shook his head, as he put down his compact, and reached into the pack again for his brush, and a white hair scrunchie he had placed in there before they had headed home. As he thoughtfully began to brush his hair back, he said, “No, Roger. It’s not that simple.”
Everyone remained quiet as he quickly brushed his hair into a ponytail, and then tied it off with the scrunchie high on the back of his head. Then reaching into the bag once more, he took out a white ribbon, and deftly tied it into a bow over the scrunchie.
“I don’t understand, do you mean to tell us you’re not gay?” Roger asked again, as he watched the boy pull out a tube if tinted moisturizer, and began to rub it on his face.
“The truth is,” Edward said while visibly holding his breath, “that I’m not sure.”
Looking in the little mirror again, he checked the job before applying a little powder to his chin, cheeks, nose, and forehead. “I won’t lie to you. I did have a crush on that boy who stayed down in the Stony Brook Cottage last summer, but I never did anything about it. Mostly, I find that I fancy girls. I’m just not really sure what gay might mean for me.”
Throughout this time, Edward’s deft movements fascinated the children, as he quickly moved on to his eye makeup, and began to line his eyes softly and subtly with a liquid pencil on the top, and a regular pencil on the bottom.
“So you are bi?” Roger asked still confused. “Is that why she calls you Emily?”
Edward looked sadly at Roger, and said simply, “She calls me Emily, because that’s my name, Roger.”
For his part, Roger was trying really hard to understand, but his brows looked as if they were knitting themselves a sock where they met in the middle. The half dozen other kids looked no less confused.
“I’m a girl, Roger.” Edward said simply, and then began to work on his lashes, this time applying a much heavier coat of mascara to his long lashes.
He could see that the open admission even shocked Amy a little; as it was the first time he could remember saying that out loud.
At first, Roger had wanted to snap at him, for making fun of them, and saying silly ass things to make them all feel bad, but the transformation they were watching held them all spellbound, including Roger. When Edward finally had a faint touch of color on his lids, and brows; and then had blended a little rose color on his cheeks, he picked up the tube of bright pink lipstick, and quickly added a finishing coat to his lips.
Then standing up, he quickly pulled a little of the white top out of the waist of his pants, which everyone had noticed were really girls jeans, and bloused it out a little around his midriff, before once again reaching into the backpack, and pulling out a pretty silver metal belt. It was made of filigree in a very pretty floral pattern, and he placed it around his waist. He then pulled out a necklace with a heart pendant, and some small earrings, and put them all on too. Finally he kicked off his trainers, and pulled out some low-heeled casual shoes, and slipped them onto his feet, before taking a step back, and turning to face the awestruck children sitting on the picnic table. Looking very nervous, he held his hands together in front of him, and tried valiantly to maintain eye contact with them.
“Oh, my god,” Betty said, her hands slowly moving up and covering her mouth. “You look fabulous!”
“Thank you, Betty,” he said shyly, and blushed.
“Bloody brilliant.” George added in. He had moved from England within the last year, and many of his expressions were a source of amusement to his friends, but not today. Today his expression seemed to be ‘spot on.”
They all said he looked beautiful, which embarrassed him, but made Amy positively beam as she reached out to squeeze his hand.
“I can’t believe how you can do that so easily.” Roger said softly, as he stared in wonder at his long time friend. “I mean, you’ve always been good looking…. Now you look like any of the girls”
“I told you, Roger. I am a girl. I always have been. I think something got pretty messed up when I was born, but inside I’ve always felt - well - like this.” The girl in front of them raised her hands helplessly. The worst part was, that not only was she very pretty, a real knock out, but every move she made now seemed not only feminine, but down right adorable — even the helpless shrug.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Betty asked.
“Are you kidding?” Amy snapped, “With everyone shouting sissy all the time, and worse. Did you think he wanted a target painted on his back?”
“I can see that.” Betty said.
“What should we call you now then?” Roger asked softly, causing Edward to blush profoundly.
“Emily, if you don’t mind, Roger. It’s my name. It’s what I call myself.” The pretty girl looked at the ground for a few moments before continuing. “I never meant to lie, or to play a mean trick on anyone. I didn’t want to freak everyone out. I just can’t go on trying to remember not to be who I am. I’m sorry, but It’s just getting harder to do with each passing day” Emily said, and again looking down at the ground as soon as she’d finished speaking.
“Well,” William said suddenly, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m freaked. I mean really, Ed…, I mean Emily. I mean, there you stand looking…, hot! I’d have to say that I am quite thoroughly freaked out.” However, when Emily looked up at him, his look held far more compassion than horror. “But I don’t mind calling you Emily, either. If that’s what you say your name is, then it’s good enough for me. I’ve always thought you were the nicest kid in school, so what if you’re now the prettiest too.”
No one spoke immediately, but several of the girls did give William an odd look or two.
Emily looked at Roger, and could see deep concern in his eyes. “I’m so sorry Roger. All the times you’ve stuck up for me when the other kids were picking on me, and shouting all those awful names…. I just feel like I’ve stabbed you in the back. I suppose they were right all along, even with those despicable names” The pain in her moisture-laden eyes was genuine.
“Don’t be silly…, Emily,” Roger said quietly. “Nothing you did ever caused that, and I still couldn’t stand by and let anyone pick on you. You’ve always been good to me too. I never understood how you could just take it, without getting mad back, but I guess now I understand. It’s going to take some getting used to though. Not much I suppose, but some. You do make a very pretty girl, Emily. The real question is what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to take Amy home now,” she said, pulling Amy up beside her, and began shoving her things back in her pack. “Her mom is really cool about it. I suppose that if I never see you again, it’s because my mother killed me, or sent me to a home, but somehow I think I need to have a long talk with her right now. So, for what it’s worth, all I can say is ‘thank you.”
The other kids just brushed her thanks aside, as several of the other girls got up and hugged Amy and Emily both while wishing her good luck. Then to her great surprise, so did Roger. “You call me if you need me, Em.” He whispered seriously.
“Thank you all, for being so kind, and trying to understand.” Emily said sincerely, “You’re the ones who are Brilliant,” she said, paraphrasing one of George’s favorite expressions. “I’m very sorry to have caused you so much trouble.” Then, taking Amy’s hand, she began to walk toward home, feeling both relieved and nervous. Well it was definitely time to face her mother, before the word got back to her via the grapevine; but what she had said was very painfully true. She couldn’t pretend anymore. When you had to censer everything you thought, or said; or, when you had to watch even the way you moved, and talked; you just became tired. Too tired to keep it up, no matter how bad the consequences might seem. She knew that now.
“Mother, I’m sorry, but you’ve got it all wrong.”
Emily paused in her preparations, to turn off the alarm clock near her bed. She had it set for two p.m., to warn her that she had to be ready by two thirty if she were going to get to the movies on time.
“I’ve got it wrong?” Joan said frantically. “Just look at yourself. I mean I’ve tried to understand as best I could, child, you know that I have. We’ve spent the money for the doctors, even though your father thinks you’ve just charmed them, as you seem to do with everyone, and now, you’re still doing stupid things like going out again dressed like that. Do you think that Simmons kid was the only one out there? For the love of god, do think about what you are doing, before you get killed.”
Emily just calmly continued to ready herself, checking her makeup and outfit for the tenth time, while trying to pay as much polite attention as she could until her mother’s fear and frustration, spent themselves on her.
“May I talk now, Mother?” Emily said calmly, sitting on the bed beside where her mother had sat herself down in disgust. Seeing the love, and fear in her mother’s eyes, she felt bad for having upset her, but waited her out just the same.
“Of course, Sweetheart, I never said I wouldn’t listen, did I.? I just don’t want you, or anyone else to get hurt.”
“Mom, listen. I’ve been going out like this for a very long while now. The thing you don’t understand is that when I go out like this, I’m much safer than when I dress the way you want….” Emily had to place her fingers gently on her mother’s lips to keep her from interrupting. “The truth is, that when I’m dressed as I am now, people actually treat me kind of nice, and I really like it, Mom.”
Joan could only stare at the revelation.
“You see, it was when I was dressed as a boy, that I caught most of the trouble, because I looked so strangely as a boy, and acted so strangely when I was trying to be a boy. That’s when people wanted to beat me up - not now. I know that some people are still pigheaded and dangerous bigots, mom, but you raised me to be careful, and I always am.
Today I’m going to the matinee With Amy, Betty, Roger, William and George. I promise you that no one is going to bother me or anyone else with the boys there.”
Joan had come to realize that Roger had long ago appointed himself Emily’s protector. She knew he was big, even larger than her husband, which made her feel better, but it just seemed that leaving the job to a boy who was so young, and so polite, was a mistake. She still found her image of him hard to reconcile with the punch that the girls had described to her some months ago.
‘Listen to me!’ she thought suddenly and sharply frustrated by her own confusion. ‘The Girls’ Indeed… “Edward, you are one of the boys, and if anyone should find out….”
“Not where it really counts, Mom, in here.” Emily said, placing her hand on her chest.
“We have different opinions of where it really counts, Dear, and so will the rest of the planet Earth.” Joan snorted.
“I know that Mom, but you know that in the end, that may be the easiest part to change - if I decide to go that way. For now, it’s the part that gets covered up by my new clothes.” She finished with an irresistibly infectious smile. “So what do you think?” she indicated her outfit with a gesture.
Joan laughed slightly, in spite of herself. The image was a complete one, looking at the pretty skirt and top. “Emily” was a little small and thin, but she was very beautiful, and there was no denying it. “You look just lovely, honey. That was never the problem…. Or, perhaps it was….” Joan quit while she was losing badly.
“So you like my outfit? I had to baby sit for weeks to get the money for it. Is it good?” Emily enthused brightly.
“The outfit is fabulous, sweetheart; but my biggest worry is what will happen to you if you are found out. You don’t seem to be afraid enough what might happen if some boy…. I know it’s the easiest part of you to change. I just don’t want it to be someone else’s choice, and in some dark alley in the middle of the night. Can’t you see that?”
“Of course I can. But you see, mom, I know something for sure that you can only hope is true.” Emily smiled at her in that understanding way, which seemed to infuriate some small part of Joan’s maternal instinct. It was so hard talking to her, because you tended to forget who the adult was, and who was the addled adolescent.
Emily was waiting for her mother to look directly at her, so Joan did and was struck once again by her beautifully sincere eyes. “I’m a good girl, Mom. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Joan began to cry. “Shit,” she said to herself, as she pulled her daughter to her. “Do you know how hard this is for me?” she said hugging her daughter close. “And for your father? I thought he was going to slug that doctor who said you were a spoiled brat.” She laughed a little, in spite of the tears that slid down her face.
Emily said softly, “I know Mom. The only thing I can imagine being any harder, would be trying to be what everyone else thinks I should…, and then losing you both over this anyway.”
“Emily,” her mother groaned, “That was the first silly thing you’ve said. You’ll never lose us over this. No wonder the doctor thought you were selfish. It’s a wonder he didn’t order a C.A.T. scan.”
“Mom, the doctors were your idea, and besides, he was just the Endocrinologist. I thought Doctor James said that I was ‘a Remarkable girl.” Emily giggled silently.
Joan giggled aloud, in spite of herself, picked up a brush, and began to fix her new daughter’s hair a little more carefully, even though Emily had done a good job already. Strangely, it was one of the things in this whole situation that never felt out of place. It still gave her great comfort - to care for her in the same ways as when she was a child. Emily thought so too, as she just sighed, and closed her eyes while her mother gently worked.
“You will be careful, then.” Joan finished.
“I will.” Emily said pushing back, and kissing her cheek.
“What about School?” Joan asked.
“Well. I was going to wait till tonight, but all of that babysitting money didn’t just go to casual clothes, you know.” Emily had that gleeful mischievous look in her eyes. Jumping up, she pulled her closet doors far back, and did a credible game-show hostess impression as she showed her mother the half dozen school uniform jumpers, cardigans, and pants that hung there.
“Not all of them are new of course, just these four, but I still have three more from the girls, which need some mending and alterations. I should have plenty of stuff ready in time for school. You and dad don’t have to buy anything; I’ve taken care of that. I also told them you’d be coming in with me on the first day, to help with records and signatures on the course changes and such. They’ve been very nice. Worried a little like you, but nice.”
“You’re kidding me, Edward. You did all that?” Joan practically gasped, as she stared wide-eyed.
Sometimes her mother still slipped and called her that. It was Ok though. She was getting better all the time. “Of course I did, mother. I’m not a little girl any more, and I promised that I would make this as easy on you as possible. Besides, I only wish that you could have seen the headmaster’s face when I showed up in my denim miniskirt, and white blouse,” She chuckled gleefully at the memory.
Joan got up and looked at the clothes, and then at her daughter’s smiling face.
“Well, what do you think? Pretty cool, huh?” Emily beamed.
“Come over here, you little goon.” Joan laughed, and walked over to pluck the measuring tape from amongst the debris of her daughter’s latest sewing project; debris that she noted included several DIY sewing books. Joan quickly took a few confirming measurements of her daughter, then one of the outfits hanging in the closet for skirt length, and waist size. She decided that some of the skirts would do better if they were a bit shorter. Emily looked fantastic in shorter skirts.
“I’m going into the village, to pick up a few more things for you. I’ll just stop by the uniform shop while I’m there. I’ll finish the alterations on the uniforms the girls gave you too. I want to make sure they are good enough.” Joan smiled.
Emily tried to reassure her mom. “Everyone wears used uniforms from their upper class friends, mother. It’s no social stigma, really.” She squeezed her mother’s arm to reassure her.
“Perhaps so, Child, but I still sew much better than you, and I’m not having my daughter looking like a ragamuffin either.”
Emily squealed, and kissed her mother’s cheek, then squeezed her tight. “Thanks, Mom. You are so cool. Dad and I are lucky to have you, you know.”
“Damned lucky.” Joan said, amused by how someone as sweet as Emily could be so deft at getting whatever she wanted by simply being patient and nice. If other kids were half as clever at manipulation, there would be a ten-year-old prime minister within the year.
Just then, a horn sounded outside. “Oh, Mom, I gott’a go. Thank you, thank you.” and with two more quick kisses, Emily had dashed out of the room.
“Is your cell phone charged?” Joan called after her, only to hear a theatrical if typically exasperated teenaged reply. “Yes, Mootheeer!….” followed by a silly giggle and a slammed door.
She watched out of the window, as her friends greeted Emily, and Roger got out of the driver’s seat, to let her slip in beside him.
“Drive carefully,” Joan called out the window, causing the car full of excited teenagers to wave back to her. Roger had mouthed that he would.
Joan stood smiling at the image that remained in her mind for a few minutes. It looked, at the very least, as if Emily would have the social life that she and her friends could only wished that they could have when they were young. With a sigh, she turned back to her daughter’s room. Pulling out a piece of paper and a pencil from the desk, she began to make a list. Blouses, sweaters, at least two more new jumpers, knee socks, and oxfords were the minimum. The curtains would go, as well as the spread. She couldn’t paint the room today, but she would pick the paint up, and Tom would do it this weekend. He was good at that sort of thing, she mused.
He was good at helping her through all of this too. He had been very supportive of them both. He didn’t pretend to understand all of it, but he was gentle and kind about it even when he did not; and, just let some ass like that doctor say something stupid, and you would soon see where his heart really lay. On impulse, she also picked up the phone, and made an appointment for herself and her daughter at the salon tomorrow morning, just as she knew all of the mothers with daughters Emily’s age would be doing. One of those princess phones might be a nice surprise as well….
“Nervous?” he said, while squeezing her hand gently.
“A little, I guess,” Emily replied with a conspiratorial air.
“A little? Then why are you fidgeting so much?” he teased her gently.
“I’m just so happy, Dad,” Emily whispered a little more loudly. Behind them, her mother snorted openly at the pair.
Then Emily leaned toward her father and whispered loudly back. “Nervous?”
“I feel like I’m going to faint. My knees are shaking so bad, that I’m even afraid to try and get another drink of water. Even if I could, I think that if I made one more trip to the bathroom, they’d want to charge me rent….” He shook his head sadly. “Most of all, I’m sorry I that I gave that bag back that the woman let me use when I was hyperventilating; because I’m feeling distinctly queasy… since you asked.”
“You’ll be OK, Dad.” Emily patted his arm.
“Sure I will. New clothes, new room, new phone line, and a new car so that you won’t have to ride on the public busses….” He sighed. “I’m ruined.”
“What?” Emily gasped over her mother’s desperately stifled giggles. “What did you say?” Emily asked loudly, just as the school secretary came out and announced “Emily Gordon, the headmaster will see you now.”
“Sorry, Baby. Have to wait till later. We have Business to take care of. See how you like it” She was too stunned to see the satisfied smirk he gave his wife, not least of all for shifting the blame for the car onto her.
“What?” Emily mumbled; as her mother propelled her into the head’s office with hands on both shoulders.
“Settle down, people.” The homeroom teacher, who just happened to be the school’s football coach, could whisper louder than some folks could yell. He usually had no trouble with discipline - that was for sure.
“I would like to introduce our new student for this term, Miss Emily Gordon.”
Amy simply beamed at her, causing Emily to smile uncontrollably in return. It was such a wonderful day.
“Wow!” a kid in the back called out. “Who’s the hot babe, coach?”
“Well I’m glad that you asked that, Mr. Martin. Now do please sit down and remain silent for the rest of the year.”
The class laughed. It looked like Martin wouldn’t be taking medication to help him remain calm this year either. Everyone, including the coach was grateful for that; in spite of the petitions that they had all signed for that very thing. He was one of the good guys, if a little loud sometimes.
“Miss Gordon is, as many of you are no doubt aware, someone who many of you know well. I won’t go over all that you have been told, because you’ve all read the note on this school’s policies; and, I know from testing that you all comprehend what you read at least as well as our lawyers can write.” The class tittered at the familiar insult.
“I will simply add this. If I find anyone does in any way behave badly, or in a way that I find disappointingly beneath the standards that I have come to expect from you, I will have that student, male or female, as my ball holder when I try out kickers next week. They will be required to either sit on the ball, or hold it with their teeth; I’m not sure which yet as both suggestions by Mr. Martin have some considerable merit. However, I am sure that I will be offering unlimited tryouts, with special bonuses paid out by me, to students who are either legally blind or who lift weights with their feet.” The coach’s smile was genuine.
“Usually I would open the floor to the new student at this point,” he said, raising his eyebrows toward Emily, who only shook her head and mouthed “No Way” back at him and made hand gestures like a major league umpire calling safe, causing the class to laugh with understanding. “Very well then, If Miss Gordon would take her seat, I will take the liberty of informing you that Miss Gordon has not only been accepted into the sixth form Scholars program, here at the Trinity School, she has also been nominated for this years Miss Universe contest. I also happen know personally that she has received offers from several top universities, and that there is even good reason to suspect that she is being heavily recruited by the American CIA’s covert ops division… as a free agent contract something or other. So be careful, boys.”
“Did that cover most of it, Miss Gordon?” He smiled politely at her
“All except for that Nobel Laureate thingy, coach.” Emily replied dryly, and then giggled along with the rest of the class, at his sense of humor.
“Really?” the coach said, feigning surprise, by pushing his reading glasses down his nose slightly. “I look forward to reading your dissertation with unbridled anticipation, Ms…, err, I mean Doctor Gordon.”
Suddenly Emily froze in mid-smile, and went almost rigid. There on her desk, were more than a dozen flowers. A few were yellow and red roses, but most were pretty wild flowers that had been picked by the students in the fields around the school. Some even looked as if they’d come from the headmaster’s window box. Emily felt it coming, and still she couldn’t stop it. “Thank you.” was all she could manage without embarrassing herself before she gently gathered up the flowers and sat down.
“Don’t think too much of it, Em.” Martin said softly from the back wall. “I think that a lot of those folks just heard about that punch that Roger gave to that Sims prick, and they just want to be sure they stay on your good side….” She turned to smile back at him, to let him know that she was grateful for his attempt at distracting the other kids from her emotions, and then just sat trying to dab her eyes clear without messing up her makeup.
“Well, I’d call that a success.” The coach smiled at them all. “Save that is for Mr. Martins apt but ill timed misuse of the colloquial term for the male anatomy. There will be no detention this time, however, Mr. Martin, by simple virtue of the small but noteworthy improvements in your still woefully inadequate vocabulary.”
Everyone knew that the coach loved homeroom even more than football.
“And now for the mundane tasks of the day: Abu A’ dada?” The coach paused to smile at the boy. “A pleasure to see you again, Mr. A’ dada. Somehow, I don’t know what I’d do, if I had to start my day without you, Abu.” The unintentional rhyme pleased and surprised the Coach as much as anyone.
“Thank you, Sir.” The boy said.
“I will get to you in a moment, Mr. Martin. I assure you… Marie Claremont. Ah! You’ve come back to me as well I see. Good to see you, dear… ”
It was early in the party, when it happened. Emily had been to many parties, and most of them were a very nice time, where she had had a lot of fun. However, even though she had been to several where she’d met many nice guys and all, nothing really clicked. She’d danced with most everyone at least once, all of the guys, and even some of the girls who had asked her, but nothing ever came of it.
Then it happened. George came over smiling, with his older sister Victoria in tow.
“Hi, Em,” he said, giving her a little hug. “I’d like you to meet my big sister Victoria.”
Emily was awestruck. Victoria was a stunning raven haired, and dark eyed beauty, who looked like some fashion model’s dream. When she spoke, her voice was as soft and as warm as her hand, and her English accent gave her a lilt that held Emily’s whole mind enthralled, even as the soft tones sent an electric thrill up through her very centre….
“Yeah, and you thought all of us must look like me, huh?” George said with great self -satisfaction.
“Thank you, George.” Victoria said
“But unfortunately, I’m way too busy to stay here and gloat, so….” And he was gone.
“Are you feeling Ok?” Victoria asked.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry, it’s a little warm in here, and I’ve been dancing a lot.” Emily said, as Victoria took her arm and began to steer her toward the refreshments.
“I have to say that I’ve been very keen to meet you. It was almost the first thing I was going to do when I finally got everything together for my parents, and came to join them.” Victoria’s eyes flashed, as she seemed to drink in Emily’s face.
“Here let me get you something cool. I wouldn’t want you to give out on me, before I’ve even had a chance to have one dance with you…. So, what will you have?” Victoria stood smiling at her.
She was perfect, and it was all Emily could do to keep from shouting “You!” but somehow she managed to mumble, “Coke. Please.”
“You have such a sweet voice, Emily. No wonder you’re all George can seem to talk about in his letters. He was right about you being very pretty too. I’m glad I finally got here to meet you.”
Emily knew that she too was talking, responding to Victoria’s questions at least, but she couldn’t even hear her own voice, nor remember what she said. She only knew that when she did, Victoria would smile or laugh, and that those were the two most wonderful things she had ever seen.
Em had no idea of the stares that she and Victoria were attracting from her friends. Nor did she notice when someone gently pulled Amy away from William, to point out the two girls in the corner.
“Well, will you look at that!” Amy was stunned by her friend’s choice, but clearly, judging by the blush on her friend’s face and upper breasts, the choice had been made.
Her eyes never wavered from Victoria’s face in the full two minutes Amy watched her.
“You go, girl” Betty chuckled beside of her. “So what’s the pool up to now?” She asked absently.
“A lot, I think.” Amy said, sadly shaking her head. “I had Roger. I’d kill her if I weren’t so damned happy for her.” Amy smiled at Betty, before turning back to William who just said. “What is it?”
“Never mind, the music is starting.” Amy said to him.
Across the room, Victoria led Emily over to where the other couples had begun to dance. For just a moment, Emily hesitated as she began to slide her hands toward Victoria’s waist.
Victoria was faster, though, and took them in her own, even as Emily hesitantly reached for her. “Do you Mind?” she said to Emily as she lifted the girl’s hands up so that Emily could place her arms around Victoria’s neck.
“God, No!” Emily said with way too much enthusiasm, the admission making her blush and Victoria giggle.
“Well all right then!” Victoria said, grinning from atop the cloud she was standing on. “I’ll lead then, shall I?” She continued to look into Emily’s eyes while they danced, that is, until the younger girl’s head had sunk down to nestle against the nape of her neck.
In the far corner, George was counting a considerable sum of money. “I tried to tell you all, that you needed a ringer, but no. You don’t listen, and you’re all poorer for it.”
No one noticed. Everyone else was watching Emily.
It was six o’clock, and Emily was just coming down the stairs. Her father’s heart froze. He knew then that he had never seen a more beautiful young woman, nor would he ever again.
His wife spoke first. “Sweetheart, you should wait up stairs to make an entrance!”
“I can still do that from down here, Mom, and besides I’m ready, and I want to be with you guys.” She gracefully floated down the rest of the staircase, and into the living room. She definitely tended toward the feminine, Joan thought, her gown almost looking bridal. All across town tonight, mothers were trying to argue their daughters out of spiked hair and leather. Well, count your little blessings, she thought.
“Well, Daddy?” She smiled nervously at her father. “Did you get your money’s worth?”
For a moment, all he could say was “My goodness.” Then finally, he seemed to find his voice. “Many years ago, when I saw your mother at our wedding, I knew that I had found the most beautiful girl in the world. I know that she will understand that I’ve never doubted that for a single instant… until now. You look exquisite, Baby.”
“Oh, Daddy!” Emily said as she flung her arms around her father.
Joan reacted too. “Don’t start her crying, for god’s sake, it took us two hours to make her up. What on earth is wrong with you saying something like that, at a time like this?” Joan was completely flustered.
Tom recoiled as if he had actually done something wrong, and almost apologized before what she’d said dawned on him. “Hey! Wait just a minute, dear...”
“Oh hush, Tom, I think you’ve said enough.” his wife snapped nervously back at him.
“Ok.” her father said, conceding the argument, while clearly putting on his most uppity manner for them, “But I do so only for the girl.”
“That’s right, Mister.” Joan said just as forcefully.
“So who is this beau, you managed to ensnare child?” he asked with exaggerated innocence.
“Daddy! I told you that Roger was picking us up first, and then we would bring Vic to meet you.” Emily said, in exasperation for the hundredth time.
“Well, I just…,” he began, but her mother interrupted.
“I think they are here. Go into the dining room, Baby.” A moment later, the doorbell rang.
Her father quickly reached the door, and opened it, to see Roger standing there.
“Hello, Roger. I’m sure we can dispense with the usual speeches, now can’t we…,” Tom said to the young man, causing his wife’s eyes to roll upward a considerable distance.
“I’m sure that you can, sir. You see, I have some very good news….” Roger suddenly halted as Emily came drifting back into the living room, her white full skirted gown shimmering, as she seemed to float just above the floor.
“Hello, Roger,” she said in her exquisite voice. “Are you here to escort me to the Prom?”
Then, she just stood there smiling at them, until the silence had gone on quite enough for her rising level of discomfort. It seemed like everyone she knew had lost his or her minds completely.
“Roger, your mouth is open, dear,” she said no less softly.
The snap of Roger’s teeth sounded like a pistol shot in the small living room. “Emily. I’m sorry; I just didn’t know what to say. You look….” The poor boy did everything except for clapping his hands over his eyes just to keep them from falling out of his head. However, he quickly decided they were only eyes, and so continued to look appreciatively at Emily. “Emily, you look wonderful.” He finally managed to get out.
Her father had finally been able to look away from Emily, only to recognize the look of pure adoration on the face of the young man standing beside him. “Joan, you take Emily in the other room, while I have that little talk with this young man of our daughter’s,” he said only half jokingly.
“Tom, Please.” Joan hissed.
“Daddy!” echoed Emily.
Game set and match to the double X team, he thought. Two-thousand eight-hundred and thirty-four to nothing, but someday… He’d win one some day. He grinned to himself as he sat in his chair and reached for the paper.
Roger found his voice. “Sorry, Sir, but that won’t be necessary. Like I tried to say before; Em, she’s going to be here.” He rushed to get it all out.
“What?” Emily said.
“She’ll be here, Em. She caught another flight, and she’s already on the ground and on the way here. She should be here any minute.” Roger glowed to be able to bring her the news.
“Oh, Roger, please tell me you’re not teasing me. She’s really going to be here?” Emily said with eyes that threatened her makeup again.
“She?” her mother and father said in unison, as they both rose to move toward Roger in the vain hopes that simply being closer to him would make for better understanding.
Her Mother was the next to speak. “Did you say ‘SHE’, Roger?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I di….”
There was no mistaking the voice that came from the door.
“I don’t wish to intrude, but are you the parents of Miss Emily Gordon?”
Standing in the still open door, was a second vision of loveliness. This one a contrast with their own fair, and virginal white gowned daughter, was dressed similarly in a full flowing pattern, but hers was all in black.
“Who are you, dear?” Joan found her voice.
“You must be Joan. I’m Victoria, Emily’s date for the prom. Have I come at a bad time? Am I early?” she said with her stunning inflections, as she looked at her watch.
“No, you are right on time. Please, come in.” Joan somehow managed not to stammer unintelligibly.
“Oh, hello Roger.” Victoria smiled when she noticed him, and then offered her hand. “For a moment or two, I thought I’d got the directions wrong or something.”
Then she caught sight of Emily. Like everyone else that evening, she was temporarily at a loss for words, but her surprised expression quickly melted into a warm glow. “There you are, Angel. I’ve missed you so. You look smashing. Brilliant really. I’ve never dreamed anyone could look so lovely.”
“You came, Vic. Is it really you?” Emily said as she rushed to press herself into Victoria.
“Of course I did. I promised. Actually, it’s quite a story, but all worth it to see how beautiful you are. You look like a princess. No Emily, that’s not quite it. You look like princesses want to look.” Victoria clutched the fairer girl tightly to her. “For a while I thought I might not make it, but I got lucky.”
Emily finally began to loosen her grip on the older girl sufficiently to lean back far enough to see her eyes.
“So,” Victoria asked, “Are you too timid to kiss me in front of your parental units then?”
Emily only smiled, and with slow deliberation, and without ever allowing her eyes to leave Victoria’s own, turned her head from one side to the next.
“That’s good, that,” Victoria laughed, “Because I’m not afraid either.” and proceeded to kiss Emily after a fashion that has inspired writers of poetry through out human history. None of the others in the room were actually poets; unfortunately, so they were mostly shocked and uncomfortable, but that didn’t detract from that kiss in the least.
When they came up for air, Joan quickly took her daughter in tow, to once more repair the damage to her makeup, while muttering softly under her breath.
Her father managed to say. “Won’t you have a seat?”
“Thank you, no. I’ve been sitting for some time already. I’d prefer to stand for the moment, if you won’t think it rude of me.” The coolly self-assured girl explained.
“Anyway, you wouldn’t believe what I went through to get here. There I was sitting in the airport with my dad, when my friend Lucky, Bob Luckner my old college chum, shows up to see me off from his job right there in London. Well we’re sitting there in one of those little airport Café’s at Heathrow, when they start calling the passengers for our Virgin flight early. Well I’m thinking that this might just be super, because we might be able to get off a little early, and I won’t miss the ball after all. Of course, they immediately announced that the flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems, and that we would have to wait, or find other flights.”
The lovely girl continued, “Now I tell you I was horrified. I’d already spent two days trying to get on an earlier flight, and I was ready to have a go at the ticket agent right there, armed anti-terrorist police and all. So, now we are just sitting there, me knowing that I’m going to have to call this girl who means more to me than life itself, and break her heart. I’m crying, and my Da’s trying to calm me down, when Lucky chimes in that he’s got this brilliant plan.”
“You see, we’d been looking for flights on the list that left earlier. We’d never looked at those that left later. Lucky had noticed that the Concorde would leave from Paris in a few hours, and get into Baltimore, much sooner, and much closer to here. Well, I have to tell you we were stunned. So we rush to the counter, where Lucky gives these people in line ten pound notes to let us jump up to the counter, and I get booked on the flight and the high speed Chunnel Train to get me right to Orleans.”
Neither Man even considered interrupting the girl; whether because of her beauty, the story, or her lovely voice did not matter. Emily and her mother, who had silently entered from the other room a moment before did not interrupt either.
“Anyway, I have to leave right then if I’ve any chance at all, and my dad’s there having an actual stroke at the counter. I’m telling you. He’s just realized that he just paid about eight thousand pounds, for a non-refundable ticket to get me on the next flight on the Concorde to the States, and I’m probably not even going to make it to the gate.”
“Finally, my dad kisses me, and tells me that it will be worth it to get rid of my moping around so much because I’ve missed Emily so. Well we’re off, dashing across the terminal to get to Lucky’s car, knocking people over, when I realize I don’t even have my luggage. Lucky said don’t worry about it, pushes his phone into my hand, and tells me to call my dad, and tell him to call this number at his bank. They will up my card to whatever is needed.
“Before you know it, we’re in his car, racing out of London for the train in Ashford. Well of course, this female policewoman stopped us, because Lucky is doing his maniac at the wheel impression, and you know, he’s good at it. Well Lucky starts in on her with this story, about how I am racing to get to the girl I’m going to marry, and if I don’t make the train it will be too late, and how my dad just spent the family inheritance to see his only daughter happy. Well before you know it, Officer Helen Hardly, I promise you, is sobbing. Next thing you know, we are on the express, with an honest to god police escort.
Well we made the train, and I got to the Plane just as there were closing the doors, where I swear that someone had told Lackey’s whole story to the flight crew of the Concorde. The hostess comes back, and tucks me in, and in her beautiful accent tells me that the captain has assured me that we will be on time to meet my fiancé. She also tells me not to worry that my father has been contacted, and Air France has arranged to have my bags transferred to BWI, where they will be delivered to my hotel here by noon tomorrow.
Now I’m cracking up. I expect at any moment to have BBC3 to jump out with a camera on one of those awful joke shows, when the hostess comes back to me with a five hundred dollar bottle of Champagne that the other first class passengers have chipped in and bought for Emily and I to share, and they all start applauding. We are talking the story is, by this time, probably airing on the national news or something.
Anyway, we get the order to taxi, and I tell you it was as if the captain never even makes it to the runway. He gets his window, and we take off as if we have been launched from an aircraft carrier. So now, we are in the Air, and I get on the phone to try and make sure I can get a cab to reach you in time. Sure enough, I find out that it’s actually cheaper to hire a limo, which is what I do, and thank god I did because I never even thought about what it would be like to change into this dress in front of some cab driver.
Anyway, then I call my best friend Sam, and give her a list of things I’ll need to get ready, and tell her I have to borrow her favorite evening gown, and to meet me at the airport in just less than two hours. Lastly, I call Roger and tell him I’m over the Atlantic Ocean, going faster than a bullet to make it here on time. Well Sam meets me, and in minutes, I’m rolling around in the back seat of this limo half naked, when this driver, who looks like that movie character Shaft but is really about the sweetest man I’ve met, comes on the intercom to tell me not to hurt myself. Bless me, if he’s not trying to tell me that we have plenty of time, and that he will get me to my fiancé before the party.
Now I’m really thinking that there isn’t anybody who doesn’t know. It turns out the gate guy, for Air France had told him the whole story, about how I’m racing to propose in this most romantic of all proposals, how Tiny Tim needs the operation and the Lot. We are talking a bloody international conspiracy.
So I calm down and do up my face and hair, and I get all of fifteen minutes to breathe before I get here. Then I finally get here, and Emily takes my breath away again. I mean I think I’m going to be a feature story on CNN, except for the fact that everyone in the free world already knows all about it.” Victoria chuckled and turned back to walk over to Emily and this time very gently, and very carefully brushed her lips over Emily’s.
“Well, I hate to rush, but the Limo is waiting. We are all ready to go, so first of all….”
And with that the limo driver stepped to the door, and handed a corsage to Victoria, who may have been the first Prom date in history to be able to pin one onto the front of her dates bodice in front of her parents without feeling faint. After few pictures, they were off.
It was many minutes later when Tom turned to Joan and asked, “What just happened?”
“I’m not sure, Tom, except for agreeing that that girl is some kind of secret agent, and that she’s probably going to be on CNN tonight.” Joan sighed.
“Is that girl going to be our son in law?” he asked.
“That’s what it sounded like.” Joan said.
“Why didn’t she tell us Vic was a she?” he asked, totally defeated.
“The car, Tom. Payback’s a bitch.” John laughed.
In the back of the limo, Victoria and Emily cuddled close, while Roger, Amy and William just watched Victoria in awe. After a while, Roger leaned over, and asked the driver if he wouldn’t mind circling for a few moments. The driver looked in the mirror at Victoria, who nodded, surprised, but agreeing to Roger’s request.
“Sorry guys, but I didn’t want to say anything in front of Em’s parents, or they would have freaked.” Roger said weightily. “Unfortunately, we have a problem.”
“Excuse me Sir,” the driver said. “If you folks need privacy, you can close the privacy panel from the control pad.”
“Jackson, Isn’t it?” Roger Asked.
“Yes, Sir.” The driver said in that curious tone that adults use when showing excessive respect to children.
“Well the truth is Mr. Jackson; I want you to hear every word, Sir.” Roger said. “You’ll understand as I explain.”
Emily was sitting there, her eyes as large as a Japanese anime character. “This is because of me again, isn’t it Roger?”
“Yes and no, Em. So far as I can tell, none of this is ever your doing, but yes the Assholes are out in force tonight.” Roger reached over to pat Emily’s knee, before nodding to the boy beside him. “William?” he finished.
William took a deep breath. “Last night my dad and some of his cronies held an extra session of the school board. Now they only do that when the excretory exudates have had excessive momentum imparted to them by the rotary wind machine. He wouldn’t say anything to any of us, but he was so mad that when he got home he went into his office and pulled out a bottle of scotch, and began making calls until around three in the morning. We were able to figure out that some of the local bible thumping assholes, led by the mayor and the chairman of the board, made a move to ban Emily here from the prom… ”
Victoria interrupted. “Mr. Jackson?”
“Yes Ma’am” He answered.
“Wouldn’t you think that finding someplace to pull over would be a good idea?” she said.
“I do ma’am. I’m already looking for the place.”
“Good and Thank you. Go on William.”
“Well, like I was saying, the assholes were out in force. We are not sure why or how, but even with the schools non-discrimination policy, they were able to somehow ban Emily from taking part if she’s dressed like a girl Now the school is trying to keep it quiet, because they don’t want the students to walk out, or the other parents to get involved. But my dad couldn’t stop the Chairman from being at the door, and turning Emily away.”
Emily was silently crying now. “But why?” she asked in an almost normal voice. “What did I do?”
Roger leaned forward and said that it had nothing to do with her, that it was just some sad and twisted people trying anything to give some meaning to their pathetic lives. It didn’t stop Emily’s tears.
Mr. Jackson spoke up. “Children, I have to tell you right now, that if I think that there will be any danger to any of you, or to this car, I am going to turn this thing around.” he looked at them sternly. “Is that understood?”
“Too bleed’n right, it is.” Victoria actually sputtered. “I’m not taking this girl anywhere near that place, if those lunatic assholes are waiting for her. Are you all Crazy? She’s not going anywhere near them, or their twisted notions of the meaning of life. You can just bloody well turn this boat….” She was shocked when Emily put her fingers onto her lips, but she shut up immediately.
“Hold on a minute, Victoria. Hear them out. They have a lot of experience running interferences for me. I’m ashamed to say it, but they have.” she said, so sadly. “And if we still think there will be a problem, then we will go somewhere else. I don’t care if we wind up at some truck stop. I only wanted to see you anyway.”
Emily watched her girlfriend’s eyes as they smoldered in anger. Her first thought was for how much she loved her, and the second was that she was unsure. “Besides,” Emily continued, “I think that if you make it this far, just to have to turn around, your father will have a heart attack to go along with that stroke.”
“Oh god.” Victoria groaned. “Thank you for that pleasant possibility, Emily I think I’ll tell you what my dad would say though. He’s got lots of money, and only one daughter. I’m sure he’s never had any doubt about which was more important to him, just as I’m sure how disappointed he’d be in me if I were to let any harm come to you.” Victoria then took a breath. “He’d still have a stroke though.”
Then she shook her head, and said. “Go on, William.”
William, who had been sitting there quietly, slid forward to the edge of the seat. “This morning, my Dad, Roger, and I went over to see the headmaster. The first thing he did was to take Emily’s file, and lock it in Doctor Lane’s safe….”
“The school psychologist?” Emily asked.
“That’s right, Emily. The school psychologist has student records in there, and once it’s locked, no one can get to them except for him. Now the school board had a copy of your file too, but my dad is sure that one of his friends “lost it” somewhere near his shredder when he found out what the meeting was about.” William could see that Emily was still looking confused. “They don’t know what Emily looks like. The School pictures aren’t in, and, the Yearbooks aren’t back yet, and both copies of your records are sadly unavailable to them. Oh, and there was a minor glitch in your computer records too. For some inexplicable reason, a picture of Patrick Swazie replaced your school photo. No one can figure out how.”
Then William grinned. “Nice work, Amy.”
“You’re welcome,” Amy said proudly.
Victoria was still looking at them as if they were crazy, when Roger began to speak.
“William’s dad altered the list of students invited to the party. He took Emily’s name off, as ordered, but he also added the name Joan Lilly.” and with that he handed over an invitation for Joan Lilly and guests to the prom.
“Now so far as we could tell, there is a group of sign carrying Neanderthals, who are standing across the street, and who are not allowed to come any closer. There are a couple of sheriff’s deputies there to make sure they stay on their side. Our friend Mr. Martin has been doing an impression of an Indian rain dance, complete with feathers directly across from them for the last hour. The headmaster has refused to remove him, because he said it was a religious ceremony, and if he goes, then they all have to go. He probably just blew his bonuses for this year, but by the way he smiled when he said it, it made him pretty happy to do it.”
Victoria asked. “What did the signs say, Roger?”
“I don’t honestly know. Martin was dancing around, and doing that Hey Yah, ho, Yah Indian chant, and several of the cheerleaders were chanting right behind him. Then every once in a while he’d hold up a sign of his own. The ones I saw said ‘Save the Wales’, ‘Lord, protect me from your followers’, ‘We’ll paint any car for $239.99’, ‘keep off the grass’ and ‘We roll back prices everyday!’” Roger chuckled. “To tell you the truth, I was laughing so hard that I never even read what was on the other side. In fact, I would swear that I saw several of the yahoos looking pretty nervously at the sky for clouds.”
“Coach Thompson and several of his former players are standing at the door right across from the head, the chairman, and the reverend what’s his name. Mrs. Leigh hired them out of the student fund as chaperones. So far as I know, none of them have said a word, and the coach is just standing there smiling at the jerks. It’s pretty clear that if anyone so much as looks like they are going to touch you, then someone is going to end up in the dumpster, and they are probably going to throw an angry skunk in right after them.”
“The kids all know. Several of the guys, and their girlfriends have switched clothes, and keep coming to the door to wave at the jerks, which is almost as funny as the show that Dean is putting on out front.”
Victoria broke in. “Wait a minute, you mean that funny guy you people call Mr. Martin is actually named ‘Dean Martin.” She was laughing in spite if herself.
“Yeah, he is.” Roger said, “but he’s sensitive about it, because he thinks that the other Dean Martin is stealing his jokes, and he insists that he is funny in his own right, and he very much regrets his parents’ choice of names. He’s a little sensitive about it, so we all just usually call him Mr. Martin.”
Victoria laughed again, but there was very little humor in it. “It’s a bloody nightmare,” she finally said softly.
“It is, but the punch line is this. Freddy Thompson is carrying Emily’s invitation. We know they’ve asked about twenty kids if they will identify Emily, and so far as we can tell, all twenty will have to serve out their last two weeks or so in detention. At least two have been exempted from their English finals, though, by Mrs. Leigh for the creativity they showed in telling the assholes off.” William could not suppress his own laughter either.
“Emily, they don’t even know what you look like. No one is even thinking about going near you, because seriously, the coach would break someone in half if they tried. All the kids want you there. Moreover, to be honest, no one, and I mean no one is going to expect anyone who looks as beautiful and as adorable as you do. We think that you can just walk right in. What we propose is that William will escort Victoria in. They know Amy and me, from this morning, so we’ll go in together, and I’ll wait inside. And you, Emily, will walk in alone.”
“She’s not going alone,” Victoria said flatly.
William spoke again, “Victoria, they won’t be expecting a beautiful woman alone. They’ll expect her to have us with her. I promise you, that there will be ten good people, within ten feet of her the whole time. We really don’t think there is any chance of a problem, or my dad would have come to Em’s house to call it all off. Besides, he’s so proud of what the other kids are doing in standing up to the assholes, and the Head right there with them, that they both have tears in their eyes. Emily, what we’ve done is to give you the choice, and not the assholes. You are still invited, by all of the people who really matter, and they all want you to come. The choice is yours.”
Mr. Jackson spoke finally. “I just have one question. What in the hell are you kids talking about, and why would the moral minority give a shit about her.”
“That’s you Em” Amy said, with resignation.
“Mr. Jackson,” Emily said, “you’re right. If you want to you can turn the car back, and you can have dinner with us. Those people are mad just because I’m a girl.”
“And, just what the hell does that mean?” the driver demanded. “Were you Satan’s girl, or something?”
Emily giggled in spite of herself. “Not quite, sir, but in their eyes, probably. You see - I haven’t always been.”
“You haven’t always been what? The antichrist?” the driver asked as he stared at the girl.
“Say what?” the driver slowly pronounced each syllable slowly and distinctly, as if he were repeating a phrase in a foreign language.
“I haven’t always been a girl on the outside. In fact, to some, I’m still not. To me and my friends here, I am, but not to everyone.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re a guy? No chance in hell. You are one of the finest young ladies I’ve had in this thing in years. No way.”
“It’s true, Mr. Jackson. I’m sorry if it bothers you.” Emily said softly.
There was silence for almost a minute, before the driver spoke again. “So you’re her?” he chuckled. “Well, I’ll be god damned. I read about you. I can’t believe you were ever… . No Miss, it doesn’t bother me one bit.” He paused.
“Miss, are you planning on making speeches or something like that, for gay rights or lesbians for professional boxing or something?” the driver asked looking her in the eye.
“No, Sir. I just wanted to dance with Victoria, and my friends.” Emily said sincerely. “I think you can see how much they all mean….” Emily stopped short. “Why don’t we all go to the steakhouse, and….”
“No.” Mr. Jackson said. “What does bother me is them messing with you like they are. You don’t look like bad kids to me.”
“Thank you, Sir,” several of them said.
The driver began to slowly shake his head. “Like you take that there. Do you know how many times I’ve been called ‘Sir’ from the back seat of this here limousine; or Mister Jackson? I don’t think it’s more than three or four times, in all my years, and all of them tonight. I’ll take you.”
Jackson looked over each of them in turn, as if sizing each of them up anew. Then he turned to William, “Son, would you mind running back to the trunk, and getting me my leather coat, and the little black case you’ll find there. This is what we’ll do… ”
The limo pulled up to the curb, and everyone watched as the driver got out, and walked to the door. The first thing they noticed was that the limo had diplomatic flags on the front. The second was that the driver, in his leather coat, looked more like a bodyguard, than a driver. He opened the door, reached into the dark interior of the car, and drew out a beautiful young woman. She was dressed all in white, in a gown that flowed about her like wheat in a windy field. When she smiled and looked at the people standing near the door, there was an audible intake of breath there. Slowly, she lifted her skirt with her left hand slipped her right into the crook of Mr. Jackson’s arm as he escorted her to the door. She never once looked back across the street.
“Good evening, Miss Lilly,” The Headmaster said, as Mr. Jackson handed over the invitation. “Enjoy the dance.” He was beaming.
“Thank you very much, Sir, I’m sure I will.” Then turning to her escort, “Thank you, too, Mr. Jackson. For everything.” Emily said to the man as she released his arm.
“That’s quite all right, Miss. I always wanted to do that,” he said, reaching into his coat, and shifting the rolled-up gym socks that he was carrying under his arm. “If you need anything else, Ma’am, my beeper is on your speed dial. I’ll be right across the street with the car.”
Emily stepped a little way inside of the door, and turned to wait as Jamal walked back to the limo, and pulled away. Four minutes later, the same limo, minus the flags, and with the vanity lights turned off, pulled in from the opposite direction. Quickly, two couples popped out of the back, and headed toward the door.
“Ladies. Good to see you all.” The head said, calmly.
But the Chairman was eyeing Victoria. He had recognized the boys, but it was the strange look of anger and hostility in her face that held his attention for several moments. Finally, he shifted his attention to the young men. “William and Roger. Good evening boys. You haven’t by any chance seen your friend Mr. Gordon have you?”
Roger looked at the man very hard, causing him to step back a pace. “Yes sir, I did. Mr. Gordon is at home with his wife, waiting for their daughter to be returned safely to them.”
“Very funny Roger, but just try to remember that you are just another student here.” The chairman bristled.
Roger was holding his temper, which was a good thing, because the Headmaster had time to intervene by placing his hand on the Chairman’s arm. “Tom. He’s also the man who put a known criminal in the hospital with one punch because he threatened the girl. You’d be wise to let it go.”
“He wouldn’t dare…,” the Chairman sputtered.
“Tom,” The Headmaster said allowing his voice to show his frustration finally, “I’ve been sorely tempted myself all evening. Let it go. ”. Causing the Chairman to spin around on him.
“YOU’LL LOSE YOUR JOB FOR THIS!” The man vibrated.
“Tom, you’ll lose a lot more than that. I won’t even have to stand up to the board, or tell the newspapers what an ass you are. If this young man ever did lose his temper,” his eyes shifted briefly but poignantly back to Roger, “which I highly doubt he would over an old fool like you,;” then looking to the chairman again, “there are fifty people in this crowd who’d swear it was self defense.” Then turning his back on the sputtering chairman, he placed his other hand on Roger’s shoulder and said. “Run along, Son. Well done, and enjoy the party.”
A few moments later, the sounds from inside the prom suddenly died. There was a long pause of silence, and then everyone began to clap. The asses knew they had been had, but they were not sure how. The final confirmations were Mr. Jackson, who was leaning on his limo, laughing at them, and Mr. Martin who jumped into the middle of the street and held up a Fed-ex sign for the considerable crowd that had gathered, and screamed, “When it positively has to be there overnight!”
“I’ll be damned.” The chairman said, and made for the door.
Coach Thompson stepped right in front of the man.
“What are you doing? GET OUT OF MY WAY!” The Chairman sputtered at him.
“I’m sorry sir, but do you have an invitation?” The coach smiled pleasantly.
“What the hell are you talking about, man? Get out of the way or you’re fired.’
Thompson just smiled, and pulled an envelope out of his pocket and pressed it to the chairman’s chest. “Tenured,” was all he said.
“What the hell is this?” The chairman asked through his teeth.
“Retirement papers. You sign them, and I’m gone by the end of the year. Of course, there will also be the early retirement bonus, as specified in my coaching contract, which I would very much appreciate your signing over to me. Now, since I’ve been kind enough to go first, I think it’s only fair if you show me yours. Your invitation.”
“I don’t have a God Damned Invitation!” The Chairman was visibly vibrating like a cheap lawn mower that had long ago seen its best days..
“Doesn’t surprise me, Tom. I’ve known you for twenty years, and I would not want to invite you to a car crash, but I thought it only polite to ask. Now move away, or I’ll call the police over and have you removed.” The coach never broke his smile. He had finally found something he liked more than homeroom.
“This hall is owned by the school board. You can’t remove me.” Tom growled.
“You made the students rent it for the night, out of the funds that the student organizations raised. So!, unless there is an eminent danger of destruction to the property, under the terms of the rental contract, you have no rights here at all. You see, I sent two of my kids to good law schools. I told you we needed a better lawyer than your brother-in-law. You cheap prick.”
Inside, they had done a wonderful job on the hall. It was beautiful. Emily slipped her hand into Victoria’s arm, and walked to the top of the stairs that lead down to the dance floor. She paused there to look down, to see who was there, and found that the word of her arrival had already spread. Someone turned a light on her, and there was another gasp, and then a very faint murmur from here and there in the crowd. Most people just stopped and stared at her, until the music stopped.
Suddenly, several people began to clap politely, which spread to include even some of those students who had been unkind to her in the past
Suddenly, she felt Victoria’s lips on her cheek, and then near her ear, as the older girl placed a hand on the middle of her back. “Go down and say thank you, Princess.”
And with a gentle push, she found herself drifting down the stairs into the middle of all her friends.
Looking back at that night, the only thing she might have changed was that she would have wanted to dance with Victoria more. It seemed that she had to dance with everyone there at least once, including Coach Thompson and the Headmaster, who had both requested a waltz.
When the dancing paused to announce the king and queen, she tried to head for the girls room, but they held her in place. To her relief they did not announce her name as the queen. Therefore, she was quite confused when they came to pull her up to the small stage amid loud applause; that is, until she realized that the name they had announced had been Joan Lilly.
The only disappointed face in the whole crowd was that of Freddie the quarterback, who to the amusement of all, peevishly tore up his own invitation, and threw it on the floor.
The next announcement took most by surprise, even though most had voted for him. The boy chosen as the king came willing to the stage. Apart from his feathers for which he eschewed the crown, he looked quite dashing in his tuxedo and ceremonial headdress. His Acceptance speech was five simple words. “Did you hear the thunder?”
“Thank you, Dean.” Emily said, and kissed his lips gently in gratitude, and much to everyone’s approval.
“You are again welcome, Emily. Yum. Kissed by the hottest chick at the prom.” He whispered back as she hugged him.
It wasn’t the loudest applause of the night, however. That round of applause came later, toward the end of the evening, when from a dark corner of the hall everyone heard Emily squeal loudly. “Yes, Victoria! I will!” as Victoria slipped the ring that had been her grandmother’s onto Emily’s finger.
It was nine o’clock, and high time for the award, when the distinguished man turned on the microphone.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. Everyone here knows that the women we are gathered to honor this evening, is an eminently deserving candidate. This year’s award for humanitarian efforts within the medical community was made more remarkable by the fact that this has been the most successful, and hopeful year we have ever had. What is more, it is a crowning achievement, as each of the last five years have been more successful than the one before it.” He looked over at Emily and smiled warmly. “So, when I was asked by the Secretary General to present this medal in his stead, when he was called back to Africa, I was greatly pleased to do so.”
“Now, It is traditional to recount the highlights of our honoree’s achievements at this time, but we have been asked most graciously to skip this step by our honoree. In deference to her gentle good nature, and her humility - we will. You’ve all been reading about them for years anyway. Instead, I have asked a long time friend, and the current commander of our Central African Peacekeeping Force, General Roger Sloan, to say a word or two.”
Emily couldn’t move. She sat at her table right before the stage, frozen in place with her hands clasped at her breasts, while Victoria gently massaged her shoulders. She could feel it coming, and once again, try as she might she could not do anything about it. She always felt so silly when she cried in public, but tonight she felt more surprise than embarrassment as she watched Roger walk onto the stage. It was the first time she had seen him since he had been evacuated to the hospital in Geneva.
As the applause died, the large man on the podium spoke. “You all know that I’m not one for speeches.” A chuckle ran through the crowd at the obvious joke. “Even so, this is one subject about which I could speak all night. If I were ever to try to tell you of all the many ways, my dear friend Emily, has shown how much she deserves an award for her endless love, and for her boundless humanity, we’d never get to eat.” The crowd chuckled and applauded politely.
“So instead, I thought I’d tell a very short story of how we met. Now I know many in this room have heard all or part of the story before, but I think it’s worth repeating.” He paused to look at the crown. “I was, as is a habit of mine, injured….”
The crowd responded again, with laughter and applause.
The general was wearing a sling on one arm, and a new decoration for personal valor stemming from several weeks before when he rushed into a burning Humvee to pull one of his men out alive after one of his escort vehicles had hit a mine. Not his first award or injury received in that fashion they all knew. “Although, this time it was for nothing quite so noble. I had been showing off.” He let the crowd chuckle once more.
“I was lying on the ground, with my eyes closed, when all of a sudden I felt this little warm hand on my forehead, and heard a very sweet voice telling me that I would be OK.” The emotion in the big man’s voice was unmistakable. “I have to tell you that for a moment, I was afraid to open my eyes. I thought it was an angel.” There was some scattered but soft applause, as a few laughed along with him. “Then I opened my eyes, and found out that I was right”
He paused again, amidst the now universal applause, to seemingly, collect his thoughts. “I also remember that on the occasion described, an older but not wiser student made several mean comments about our Emily for trying to help when everyone else just stood by. Most of what that boy said that day was ‘galactically’ wrong, and does not bear remembering. I say most, because he did call her ‘special.’ That has always stayed with me, because for all his errors, he got that one spectacularly correct. In the intervening forty-five odd years, I have never found a better description of Emily.”
There was a tension in the room, hovering there with the quiet candlelight, as most of the guests seemed to be holding their breaths.
“For all those years, this woman has been thanking me for coming to her rescue. Most recently during our intervention in the subcontinent.” A few laughed at that, but most just nodded, or made some other quiet sign of approval.. “Don’t get me wrong, I would have gladly done that for her alone, but this time there were other justifications, as you are all aware.” More laughter began to fill in the gaps in the polite applause.
“What she has never fully appreciated, however, was how many times she has come to my rescue. When my Mary passed; when the plague surfaced in Calcutta, when insurgents burned the food for the refugees in Uganda... The list is virtually endless. Every time she ever told me, it would be Ok - it was. So you see: I am only the spokesperson, elected from amongst her many friends and admirers, almost all of whom share those same common experiences of her selfless love, her inestimable friendship, and her boundless humanity...”
Then, turning away from the crowd at large, and directly to Emily, he added: “Over the years, Emily, your compassion for everyone around you, as well as those you have never met; your love, and your gentle wisdom have saved me countless times. From that first time, every time you told me it would be all right - it always was. I doubt if one of us can tell you what something like that really means, least of all perhaps, a simple-minded solder like myself. I suspect, that one in a million could even try. All I can do is to stand here and tell you how much you have enriched all our lives, and how much I personally love you. You do know that don’t you, Emily?”
Emily nodded at him through the tears that filled her eyes beyond the point that she could actually see, which caused the whole crowd to go “awe”, which in turn caused then all, even Emily to chuckle affectionately.
“Oh, and I guess we also can give you this little medal, from the Secretary as well, to add his small thanks to our own.” Roger finished.
Amid the applause, Emily was able to stand and to thank everyone with her ever-gracious smile and bows, but in the end Roger brought the medal down to her, and placed it around her neck, even as she placed her arms around his.
“Comfortable?” Victoria asked.
“Hmm. Very.” Emily answered. It was late in the season, and quite cool at ten p.m., but they had the windows open so that they could listen to the late night sounds of the creatures with which they shared this end of the lake. The fire was warm, but Victoria covered Emily with a quilt anyway.
“That feels good on my legs, love, it’s nice and warm from the fire.” Emily sighed with pleasure.
Victoria just smiled that she knew.
“Dinner was delicious again too, and I’m feeling nicely stuffed. Thank you, Honey.”
“You’re welcome, angel.” Victoria paused just to watch the way the reflections of the fire sparkled in Emily’s eyes some more.
“Victor called while you were in the bathroom.” Victoria finally said, and only because it would make her beloved so happy.
Emily’s eyes shifted to her expectantly. Victoria smiled, “He’s coming and should be here late the day after tomorrow. He told me that Marie decided that she could come after all, and that she’s bringing the kids.”
Emily visibly perked up at the good news. “That’s wonderful, I’m so glad she decided to come. I was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to get away until next week. What changed?”
“Well, it seems that the new chief resident at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital has some latitude on when he decides to get away.”
Emily laughed, and it was still the most wonderful sound in the world to Victoria, even after all their years together. “They gave him the job? That’s wonderful, Vic. When did he find out?”
“Tonight, Angel. He called us about ten minutes after he got the news.” She grinned
“I’m so happy for him.” Emily said, reaching for Victoria’s hand. “And I’m so proud of him too. I always have been, but he really seems to be doing very well for himself these last few years. You were a good father, Victoria.” Emily grinned some more, because it was an old and cherished joke between them that stemmed from those times when things had not been smooth, as they sometimes are when you are raising kids.
“And you made a good Mother my love.” Victoria chuckled back. “But, all of them are doing very well. Thank god that’s one worry we don’t have. I’m proud of all three of them, and the grandkids too.”
Emily tugged her hand a little. “Let’s open a bottle of wine, Vic. I’d love a good bottle of wine to celebrate our good parenting.”
“Emily, you know the doctor said you should avoid any alcohol.” Victoria said her face suddenly sad and worried.
“Victoria, dear. It doesn’t really matter. Does it?” she said as gently as she could.
“No, sweetheart, I guess it really doesn’t.” Victoria’s eyes still looked sad, but she smiled for Emily anyway. “Red or White, Sweetheart?”
“Do you remember that bottle of red that we bought in Paris on our fifth anniversary?” At least in Victoria’s eyes, Emily’s smile was still as fetching as it ever was.
“You mean the one we drank on our sixth anniversary.” Victoria grinned right back.
“Nooo! Not that one, I mean the expensive one we put aside.” Emily still smiled.
“Oh! That one.” Victoria shook her head a little. “We drank that one the next night, baby.”
“Oh for goodness sakes! Victoria, you do know the one I’m talking about. It was the one you bought saying it would be a good investment, when you had the idea of building up a really first class wine cellar?”
“Ah, yes. I remember the one. That was the one I was carrying when we had that party on the old out of service Concorde aircraft they had on display in Paris.” Victoria Laughed aloud. “That was nice of them to let us onboard for a glass of Champagne with our friends.”
Emily leaned over toward, Victoria. “And then they got angry, and hustled us off when they caught you snogging me in the cockpit!” Emily laughed and kissed Victoria’s cheek.
“Kissing wasn’t the problem, dearest. It was where you had your hand when that poor girl walked it.” Victoria said giggling just as hard. “But I suppose the reason why doesn’t really matter now.” she continued to glow with the memory.
“No,” Emily said, “I guess it wasn’t too important then either, since you refused to leave, and locked them out of the cockpit until you were finished with me.” She laughed out loud too. “You were magnificent by the way. You would have made a great airline pilot.” Emily beamed at her wife. “How on earth did you ever arrange that, Victoria? You never told me.”
“I didn’t? Well it seems that at the time, the head pilot for all of Air France was a friend of mine. I had met him again the night before at that party, and it turns out I had flown with him once, when he still flew the Concorde. When he heard how the first flight had turned out, he suggested it might be good luck.”
“Really?” Emily’s Eyebrows rose by several inches. “Friends in high places. That was awfully lucky, Vic, and very sweet of him.”
“It was.” Victoria sighed.
“You’re stalling.” Emily said with great kindness, but waning patience.
“Oh! Sorry. We drank that one the night that Matt got his doctorate.” Victoria giggled.
“Well then, what about that good Champagne we bought out in California a while back? We had cases of that?” Emily said with true wonder in her eyes.
Victoria started giggling more loudly. “Do you remember the night that Jamal’s Youngest graduated from Yale Law, and he decided that driving you around for twenty years was enough?”
“His retirement party, well Not really, but I do remember it was one hell of a party.” Emily grinned.
“There you go, pet. Neither you, nor that Champagne went the distance that night.”
Emily began to giggle softly again, as she mouthed the word ‘Oh!’ to herself. “And several others, as I remember. You know, I’m starting to get a little worried about this drinking problem of yours.” She finished by leaning up and kissing Victoria sweetly.
“It’s not a problem, Angel. It’s just that I realized that the only place I like my wine better than in a well-stocked cellar is in a glass, chilled just so…, anywhere I can share it with you.”
“Oh, well I guess that’s nothing to worry about, then.” her angel sighed.
“Emily?” Victoria whispered softly.
“We do have the bottle of La Tour, the one we bought on our tenth anniversary.” Victoria giggled, as Emily lightly swatted her with a pillow.
“Right.” Victoria said, getting up. “I’ll just nip down and get it then, shall I?” and somehow managed to dodge the pillow the second time.
Sometime later, neither had spoken more than a few words, until the second glass.
Emily broke the silence. “God, this is good. Well worth waiting for.”
“Umm Hum.” Victoria agreed without taking her glass away from her lips, or opening her eyes.
“I’m glad all the kids are coming.” Leaning back, Emily sighed behind closed eyes.
For a little while, Victoria just watched her resting there, and then she said, “Is there anyone else you’d like to see?”
“No, Dear, just you and the kids. That’s enough. Of course, there are a lot of people who’ve been gone a while. I miss your dad, and my parents. I’ve made sure to keep tabs on everyone who was still around who matter’s, and I’m fine about it. Every one of them knows how I feel about them. That’s enough.”
Victoria thought for a while before she decided just to ask. “Any Regrets, Em?” Victoria’s voice was very serious.
Emily thought for a moment or two, and then looking right into Victoria’s eyes, and slowly shook her head once from one side to the other. It was a gesture that Victoria had long ago learned to trust as the final word on anything. “No. There were some sad things, I didn’t like, of course. But, no; not one thing I can say I’d definitely change.” Emily said, while trying to wipe her eyes without Victoria seeing.
Victoria leaned over, and wiped the other eye with the back of her finger. “A toast, Sweetheart. To Roger! I’m sure that he knew what he was doing. He gladly saved all those people, baby; and, I’m sure he was content with his choice.”
Emily just nodded, and sipped her wine. It had been many years since Roger had led a small group of forty solders up into the mountain valley between several thousand helpless refugees, and the rebel army intent on slaughtering them. No one really knew the details of how it had all ended; only that they had been outnumbered by a hundred to one in that valley, and that somehow Roger had held them long enough. It was all Roger, but the sacrifice still burned in the hearts of all who had known him, or his men.
“You always could read my mind.” Emily sighed finally.
“That was easy, love.” Victoria grinned. “All I had to do was think of how much you loved me.”
Emily smiled again, but silently.
The third glass was almost gone, when Emily started to giggle suddenly.
“What?” Victoria started to giggle too. Emily’s giggles always affected her that way. It was one of the things she had always loved about Em. She had never lost the will to giggle at, or to appreciate all the small silly things that turn the simple act of living into a life.
“Do you remember the day that Matt came home from high school with his football uniform, and you took him out into the back yard, and proceeded to show him how to be a linebacker?” Em asked her, while still chuckling deeply.
“Oh god, don’t remind me. I love American football, or at least I did until that day.”
Emily was losing it completely now. “I will never forget when you put on some pads, and started yelling at him to hit you as hard as he could, or you’d ‘kick ’is arse! Do you remember what you called him?”
Victoria was chuckling too, as she always did when Emily laughed, because that had always affected her that way too. “Oh god — no — I do. I don’t know what came over me. I called him a big pussy.”
Emily nodded her head while she giggled some more. “That’s it. Well, he got so mad at you.”
“Tell me about it, Em. You didn’t see his face.”
“When you two squared off, and you realized that I had raised the whistle to my lips…, the look of shear terror in your eyes…, when you saw I was about to blow… ” Emily was breathless for a full minute with the effort to speak, and howling with gales of laughter. “I thought I was going to pee my pants.”
“Thought, hell, I did pee my pants.” Victoria looked at her crazy wife. “And then he screamed and lunged for me, and he just picked me up in a bear hug, and said, ‘Thanks for the lesson, Coach’”
Emily was nodding her head, but finally said “Not quite exact, though. He screamed, and then you screamed when he came lunging at you, and then he grabbed you up like you were a toddler.” Emily was laughing again.
Victoria wrapped an arm around her beloved. “I thought I was done for sure. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Emily’s giggles began to subside. “You were thinking you wanted to be a good father, dear, and that he loved you so much that he’d never really hurt you. You were right on both counts.”
Victoria just nodded, and smiled. “Thank god.”
Emily sighed, and tried to explain. “What would I change, Victoria? I wouldn’t trade that look in your eyes, or just that one single day for another hundred years without you. It’s been a good life, dear. It’s been better than I ever dreamed or hoped for. You made it that way for me. I can’t say thank you enough for something like that, so ‘I Love You’ will just have to do.”
Tears began to fall onto Emily’s hand, causing her to look over to see the anguish in Victoria’s tortured face.
“Please, Victoria, don’t be sad. It really is OK. I know you’ll miss me, but you have to keep your promise to be happy.”
“I never promised you that.” Victoria’s broken heart was a terrible thing to hear in her broken voice. “I’d never make a promise to you that I knew I couldn’t keep.” Victoria’s tears continued to fall on the hand she held clasped so tightly in her own, as Emily watched the top of her bowed head.
“I’m sorry.” Emily said. “I know you didn’t, but you did promise you’d try, and that you’d take care of yourself for as long as you could, so that you can be here to look after the kids while I’m gone.” Emily now had her other arm around Victoria’s neck, and could only feel her head nod, even as she listened to her soft sobs against her neck.
“That was a wonderful promise, my love.” Emily said, and then feigning a British accent, “you know I quite fancy you, you know. I do. If I had a choice in any of this, I’d stick around so that I could marry you. That way, I’d be able to dance with you as long as I wished”
Victoria groaned softly through her tears. “Don’t do that! Terrible at that. It hurts my ears.”
Emily just held her for a long time, until she had to lean up for a Kleenex.
“Do you remember that bottle…?”
“I’ll get it, my angel.” she paused only to throw another log on the fire.
It was almost eleven o’clock on a glorious June morning. The young couple came over the small ridge, and down along the side of the cove, finding the walking easier in the field, even if it was warmer than under the trees. It was their third year here and they planned to complete their hike around the lake this year if they could. And, even if they could not, they knew as only young people do, that there would be many more happy summers together.
Suddenly, the young man looked up to see a lovely cabin nestled in the trees at the head of the cove. “Look at that,” he said, drawing his wife’s attention to it. By unspoken agreement, they changed direction toward the cabin.
“Gosh, no one’s lived here for years. Do you think it’s abandoned?” The woman asked as she tried to peek in a dirty window.”
“No, it’s not. Look over here. Someone had recently replaced these windows. No one lives here, but someone has made sure to take care that it stays weather tight.” He observed.
“It’s beautiful inside.” The girl said, looking through the newer and cleaner windows. “Look at the woodwork over the fireplace, and over the doors. It’s just beautiful, John.”
“Yah it is,” he said, peering in beside her.
Slowly they pushed away from the window, and walked around the porch that faced the lake. They found more large windows, and to one side a swing, before continuing around another separate porch that overlooked the wooded side. In the back, they came upon another sight that halted them both in mid-step.
“Would you look at that,” the man said in soft amazement. “What kind of flowers are those?”
In a sunny area, covering a small backyard were thousands of beautiful flowers, all gently swaying in the wind. Purple and white, but all mixed together.
“The purple are violets, and the white, well they look like some kind of Lilly,” she answered him in a voice that was equally amazed. “It must have taken a lot of love to make this garden, John. Look at all of them.”
“I see, but honey, no one’s been doing any gardening here for a while. They must be growing wild. They are just beautiful. Probably they grow out every year from the beds over beside the cabin, do you see?” He pointed to the where you could just see the old flower garden.
“Oh, yes. I do.” She looked over the scene in silence for a moment more. “Like I said. A lot of love went into this garden to make it grow so beautifully.”
“John?” she said in that funny tone she got when she was thinking.
“Oh, here we go!” He sighed, but with no hint of displeasure in his voice.
“Don’t tease me, please,” she said.
“OK, Angel. When we get back I’ll look into it.” He smiled and shook his head.
“Thank you, dear,” she said, leaning affectionately against him.
“I like it too, really. It’s so wonderful and warm. I bet they want a fortune for this place.” He began to think seriously about the possibility.
“We can afford it, my love,” she said as she affectionately rubbed his arm. “The very last thing I want is to be too old to enjoy the piles of money we still have in the bank!” she said, laughing at his look of worry.
Then he smiled too. “You are right, as always.”
“Only I’d love to keep the garden, just as it is. It’s so beautiful.” She told him, as her eyes swept over the garden.
“Me too, baby.” he assured her. “We’ll do just that.”
They stood for a few moments more, watching the flowers sway together in the gentle breeze, and the insects humming about while making sure that there would be many more beautiful summers to come.
“We have to keep going, hon,” he said, as reluctant as she to leave the area.
“Is it too early for lunch?” she asked playfully
“It’ll make the afternoon hike a bear. Are you sure?” He asked, even as he un-slung his pack.
Much later, the sun had moved along the sky visibly when she finally gave that sigh. “I know, but let’s take some pictures before we head out.” she said.
He just nodded.
Once again, the quiet peacefulness had returned to the little cove. The only sounds now coming from the lapping of small waves on the shore, the animals and insects who made the happy place their home, and the faint rustle of Lilies and Violets as they danced together forever to the music in the wind….
Sarah Lynn Morgan
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