Chapter Five

As I am in the midst of editing… how could I not love this quote??

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Chapter Five

Things returned to normal for Keri as Lonnie and her mom returned home from Seattle the following week. And then school started the next. It was her senior year and she only had two classes along with her Advanced Independent English class that she was continuing with Mrs. Walker, who had told Keri three years ago, that she was her “New Discovery.” During Keri’s freshman year, her English teacher, had assigned several poetry and fictional assignments, and each one that she had turned in, had impressed her teacher more than the last. So much so, that she had requested a parent conference suggesting that Keri would benefit more from an individual mentoring class, adding that she was offering to instruct her. She explained to them that she would have to bring up her  idea to the school board in order for Keri to qualify but she was sure that once they saw her work, they would agree to it.  Her parents had been thrilled and extremely proud.  Keri’s work was submitted, the board  reviewed  Mrs. Walker’s request, and they had unanimously approved it.

So the next year, Mrs. Walker instructed Keri by giving  her assignments that would challenge her and she had excelled. And the class had been extended for the years that followed.  Mrs. Walker had been teaching for over thirty one years, and had only offered an Independent Study class to two other students in the history of  teaching. Both had gone on to earn Scholarships at Berkley and become published authors.

Mrs. Walker started out by making Keri promise that she would keep a daily journal, even during the summers. She had honored that promise, having fun finding new styles of journals each year. This year, she had found a little leather bound one with a lock on it. She had saved up her allowance and purchased it right before the end of school this past year. She was on her third year now, and this past summer she had filled twice as many pages as required. The agreement had been that her teacher would not read the contents, but would just initial the pages when she turned them in once a week. If she wrote a poem within the journal, or something that she wanted to share with her teacher, she would simply copy it onto a separate piece of paper and turn it in. She had never minded before, in fact, she would have liked her teacher to have read some of her entries. But this year, since meeting Jack, she was happy that they had the little “no reading”agreement because she had new things to write about that she did not really want anyone to read, least of all Mrs. Walker.

Thanks to Mrs. Walker’s promptings, Keri had won a few small scholarships for young writers by submitting her work to different writing competitions that her teacher had found for her. When she had been in Junior High School, One of her favorite authors ,Ray Bradbury happened to live locally and for some amazing reason, Keri’s school had been fortunate enough to have him  come to an assembly as a guest speaker. Keri barely breathed the entire time he was speaking. She had read all of his books and loved each one. To hear his story and get to ask him questions was a pivotal moment in her young life and had inspired her to keep writing. And she did.  Sometimes, way into the wee hours of the night. Assigned or not, she knew, without a shadow of a doubt that she wanted to be a writer.

One day after she had turned in a new assignment, her teacher had found her in the school library studying. Keri looked up and greeted her teacher by sitting up a little straigher. “Hi.” They both whispered in unision smiling at one another. Keri had genuinely grown to not only admire and respect her teacher and her talents but to really love her. Over the years she had been one of Keri’s biggest motivators, it was hard not to appreciate someone who basically cheered you on and encouraged your passions. And in turn, Mrs. Walker had grown to truly love Keri as well. She dropped an assignment in front of her saying, “Keri, I think that this is your best work yet, and I want you to consider submitting it for a scholarship.” Keri looked up. “Reeeeally?” she asked. “Yes, her teacher continued, “I’m not sure what has changed but  your writing is even more exceptional lately and I can tell that you are writing from the heart more because this paper is magic.” She finished. “Thank you, Keri whispered beaming, as Mrs. Walker said, “See you tomorrow.”

Keri’s senior year was turning out to be amazing even without Lori. She loved  English,  and really only had one class that was a little difficult and that was Government, which was required in order for her to graduate. She groaned inwardly, everytime she thought of it, and had planned taking it in summer school but Lori had talked her out of it. Now she was cursing her best friend under her breath and was regretting that  very decision as she sat at her desk writing down her long homework assignment for the next day, wondering how Lori was doing in her own classes. At first they had spoken on the phone every day and then Keri had found some cute stationery to send her notes  on, and Lori had found some just as cute to send back to Keri. But lately, as both the girls grew busier, the phone calls and notes had lessened.

Most of Keri’s friends went to Rolling Hills High School or Miraleste, two neighboring schools, just outside of her own district. Though she usually was only attending half days this year, it had been nice to have a friend to catch up with in-between classes and have lunch with on the days that she stayed on campus. Last year, Lori  had attended  full  time, and had been around for Keri. It had actually been Keri, who had not been around as much last year, having to drive all the way to Buena Park two days a week to volunteer. Her mom’s friend, Betty had enthusiastically helped her get a volunteer position where her young daughter Christina went to school. Keri had shown an interest in Christina,  when they had met one afternoon when they were visiting at her house when she had come home from school. She had learned that the little girl was seven and couldn’t speak because she had a condition called Aphasia. Keri had fallen in love with the little girl and her  story had intrigued her. Betty had been happy to let Keri take her daughter on several outings after they had gotten to know each other. One day, they bought a balloon during one of their outings and Keri wanted to surprise Christina’s  mother,  with a new word. “Okaaaay, Keri coached  when she dropped the little girl off, tell your mommy what we bought you.” She prompted.  The little girl looked up with big eyes and pronounced “Ballooooon!” as clear as a bell. She looked proudly at her mom, as her mother cried. After that, Betty had invited Keri to Christina’s school and when she had been offered a position, Betty had kindly come and picked Keri up every Tuesday and Thursday all year long. She had even gone to the office at the High School and arranged extra credits for her. Now that Keri had her own car this year, she drove herself.

Everything seemed so different to Keri this year. She definitely felt the holes that had been left by her best friend not being there. Though, she still had her share of friends and one or two new ones in Government that she would join in the cafeteria or hang out with after school she missed Lori. Though, for the most part, she usually left at lunchtime to go volunteer or spent her Independent Study days in the library working on her English class. Unless, Jack got off early, and picked her up. On those days, she forgot all about missing anyone.

Keri actually had enough credits from the year before when she volunteered at the Speech School, but she had been offered a paying position there when she graduated so she had wanted to keep  her schedule  and continued to volunteer two days a week  to keep in good standing  there. Though she continued to earn more credits, she already had enough to gradutate. Jack had been proud of her when she had told him about the school. He loved to listen  to her stories about the children and what they were learning. But some days she noticed that he seemed to resent her having to go. He liked having her at his beck and call. She loved that he wanted her to be with him but would explain cheerfully, that it was important to her to keep that door open and that school was actually the whole reason she was able to graduate early. And yet, he would pout and Keri would laugh it off and think he was just being cute.

As Keri sat in class with her eyes fixed upon her teacher,  her mind was filled with Jack. His smell, his smile, his kisses, were like intoxicating vapor wrapping her heart so tightly she felt as if she would burst. She doodled as the lecture continued. First she wrote her name, and then his, and then her first name and his last next to it. The innocence of young love consumed her.

Always having been a good student, she was mystified and confused by the new silly feelings she felt.  She smiled as she slouched back in her seat. She was feeling so far away from anywhere remotely having to do with what her instructor was writing on the chalkboard.  She looked at the clock that seemed to be moving painfully slow and sighed.

Finally when the bell rang, she bolted out of her seat and fell happily into Jack’s arms, when she saw him. He was standing beside his motorcycle, and said“Hey baby” he whispered into her neck as he let his fingers gently wind through her hair and pulled her to him, kissing her as he handed her a helmet. She put it on, jumping on the bike behind Jack and wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. She breathed him in, resting her mouth on the back of his neck and lightly kissed the hair that fell upon his collar. She had waited all day to be in this exact spot. This is where she belonged. She thought. Hugging him as tight as she could, she laid her cheek against his back as they pulled away from her school.

The motor roared and filled her world as the wind danced past her bare legs. She could feel the heat of the bike beneath her. She playfully lifted her legs and wrapped them around Jack’s waist and he squeezed one of them and slowed the bike to a place on the cliffs. They jumped off and took their helmets off while Keri shook out her long tresses, Jack pulled a blanket from the leather satchel on the back of his seat. and lay it out and then they tumbled on it in a frenzy of passion and laughter. Kissing and groping and exploring with an innocence that only young lovers know.

“I love you” he breathed into her ear with a warm rush of words that sent a tingle all the way down her back as she breathed the same words right back to him. They said the words often now. Though she had waited a long time to hear them. Long after he had told her that he had liked her, she knew that she loved him, but she was not going to say it first. It meant too much to her, she wanted Jack to say it first.  One night after a day of sailing, as he was dropping her off, he had kissed her and almost said it but stopped short. Keri began probing, “What were you going to say?” She teased, laying her head in his lap and looking up at him. They had ended up having a serious discussion but he hadn’t said it that night. Nor for many more after that.

One late afternoon, he had picked her up in his car. At first she didn’t recognize him because she had been looking for the bike, but when she saw him sitting in his car, she ran over to it and hopped in. “Hi” she said happy to see him. “I wasn’t expecting your car.” He nodded. Suddenly, she saw that he seemed upset. Keri frowned and asked, “What’s wrong?” Jack vaguely told her that he had just had an argument with his mother but he didn’t seem  to want to talk about it. He had been very slow in sharing about anything to do with his home life and she had only gotten little pieces of information from Lori and her mom. But she knew it was a sore subject and not one that Jack talked easily about and so she didn’t pry. But today he seemed to need to talk.  Keri laid her hand on his knee and said “Talk to me.” He looked uncertain and and very uncomfortable but then suddenly, as if a dam had burst,  he began pouring out things he had never shared before. He told her  what the fight had been about, about his mother’s random outbursts, and a little about his very chaotic childhood.  As Keri sat and listened, her heart broke. He looked as if he wanted to cry. He told her that his mom had yelled such horrible words of hate to him, she literally had to muffle a gasp.  She couldn’t imagine her parents talking to her like that. And then he  told her that his mom had thrown something at him as he drove away, shouting, that no one would ever love him, ever. He looked so ashamed and lost as a tear slid down one cheek.

In that moment pieces seemed to all start to fall into place for Keri. Love had come so naturally for her. From the time she was a little girl, she had written poems about it, even before she had met Jack, she had written about Prince Charmings and being in love and whisked away . Her parents loved each other and they loved her. It was all just so natural. They had always said it to each other and she kind of had just assumed that everyone else had that same kind of love growing up.  But now as she sat with Jack, she realized in the hollow of that  moment that love didn’t come so easy for everyone.  Maybe, sometimes, it didn’t come at all. Now she knew why saying I love you had come so hard for him. Maybe it was because he had never felt loved before.

As she sat with Jack, she saw the small boy inside of him that needed to be loved by someone so badly and she knew for the first time in her life what being in love felt like. It wasn’t a contest about who “said it ” first, it was so much more than that. It went much farther back than today she had realized in that moment as she held his hands in hers. She had always assumed that parents automatically loved their children. But she had learned that  love wasn’t a commodity that you could buy or will into someone else’s heart. It was like….  something you could barely describe, it was like “magic.”

Jack  looked so hurt as he shared more about his mom than he ever had before. Finally, after a long time, still sitting in the empty school’s parking lot. She took his face in her hands and kissed it. Feeling the the love more than ever, she knew exactly  what was happening…. the feeling was like twinkling little electric currents running through her,  Even though she had waited for him to say it first, for so long, she whispered over and over “It’s okay,  because…….      Ilove you. She emphasized the word “I”, the more she said them, as if she was even more surprised of her feelings than he was hearing her say the words.  Keri realized that she truly knew in that very moment what falling in  love felt like and that she really , truly was in love. She knew it without a shadow of a doubt, and she had to say the words out loud. With his face still in her hands she held him away from her and saw the tears in his eyes as she said, “I love you, oh Jack, I do, I love you!” Her voice was hoarse with emotion.   He looked so young, like a broken little boy. She knew so well and not at all, and he whispered back so tenderly, “I have never said these words to anyone before, but I love you too Keri.” And then in the parking lot they held each other  and she knew that they had discovered magic.


Thank you guys… for reading….

This one… I submitted kind of fast after my editing job… trying to run out the door to go to work… so I will come back and fix the errors… but like I’ve said before… would love feedback! Anyone actually following the story? 🙂

Do you guys want more? I guess if you answer… I will know you really are reading… 😉


Chapter Four

I have been sharing pieces of my book. (It is already written, I am now in the process of editing it, which I have found is almost a longer process than writing it.) This won’t make much sense without reading the first three chapters. I am asking for feedback and guidance from anyone who has already published a novel. I appreciate everyone’s time! I have stopped blogging for the most part, until I have finished my editing. But please feel free to visit my archives, I have over 100 posts just waiting for you there.

Chapter Four

Keri woke up to her phone ringing. Her dad had left earlier that morning for another business trip and had told her that he wanted her to check in with him and her mother regularly while he was gone, and to still ask permission before just going out to sea again or doing other things that she would normally have to ask to do if they were there, and she laughed and  happily agreed.

Keri’s dad had not been so sure about leaving her for the next week but she assured him that she would be fine. She opened one eye to peek at her clock radio and groaned when she saw that it only said 8:13, she reached for the phone beside her bed. “Helloooo?” Keri said in a raspy voice that was obviously still not fully awake. “Where are you?!” Lori’ demanded loudly. “Huh?.” Keri answered sleepily. Only to be met with another retort, “Did you forget about todaaay!?” Suddenly Keri jumped out of bed. “Oh my gosh, Lori, I am soooo sorry!” Keri said now, fully awake, “I’ll be right there.”

Lori had a few registration issues that had come up at the end of the school year, and had to drive to UCLA to iron everything out so that she could get placed in the dorm of her choice. She had wanted Keri to come along for moral support and to see how to get there so she could visit, often Lori hoped. She was feeling slightly homesick and unsure about making new friends. “You will do just fine.”  Mrs. T had encouraged her, when she had found her daughter in tears earlier that week. Planning to drive the girls up that morning, they mapped out the best route to take. Deciding to make it into an all day outing, she  planned to treat the girls to lunch at her old hang out, called the Hamburger Hamlet that had been a favorite study spot of hers when she had gone to UCLA. The girls had been looking forward to the day and to take the walk down memory lane with her.

Now she was late and she felt horrible as she jumped in the shower and then raced to Keri’s. Matt had left his wallet in the backseat of Jack’s car the night before and Jack had found it that morning when he left for work. When he arrived at work, he had called the Taber’s and Matt answered, just having  noticed minutes prior that it was missing. He asked his mom if she could swing by and pick it up since Sarah’s family was picking him up for a day at the beach but he would need it later that evening when he went to the movies with friends. Lori groaned, complaining that now they were going to be even later. Keri felt secretly pleased for a chance to see Jack again so soon. When he saw the Taber’s car drive up, he ran out to the car and handed Mrs. T the wallet. Leaning in, he caught a glimpse of Keri and looked surprised as he said; “Good Morning!” Lori barely grunted something back, but Keri enthusiastically tilted her head so he could see her better and,  happily offered back in a slightly exagerated chippery voice, “Good Morning!”  Keri could hear Lori mumble a sarcastic mimick of the way she had greeted Jack and frowned but ignored her. Jack grinned back at Keri, obviously happy to see her. “Thank you for finding this.”  Mrs. T added gratefully, touching Jack’s arm. As they drove away Keri waved and watched Jack as he winked back at her and she felt it again, that warmth that she had felt a few times the day before.

Lori had not missed the little exchange and was annoyed. Keri seemed so happy. But Lori knew more than she was letting on and felt horrible about not coming clean from the start with her best friend. The least I can do is, tell her what I know and then let her decide, she would argue with herself. Lori knew enough about what had happened between Jack and Maddie to know she didn’t like it. They had met up at Montana State during a double date and began going out. Lori deciphered enough to know that it had been a very troubled relationship through out the time that they were dating and had overheard their mom talking to her sister during a few late night phone calls, trying to console her when Maddie had called crying after a bad argument. She had even had to come home after one particularly bad fight and Lori remembered hearing her sister sobbing through the walls and wondering what had happened that was so horrible that made her cry like that.

Jack had left a semester early to go help his mom with something and his plan had been that he would return again the following Semester and he and Maddie would spend the summer together when she returned. But her sister had landed a part time job a few months earlier, and could not leave as soon as school ended and if truth be known, she hadn’t wanted to because that is where she had met Dan.  Even though Maddie had broken up with Jack, he had been hoping that he could win her back over the summer. He had planned on taking her sailing and other fun places  but his plans had all been changed when Maddie happened to have plans of her own. All Lori knew was that Jack had expected Maddie to return home to him, and had not been counting on her bringing a fiancé back with her. She knew that her mom had been distressed over how to break it to Jack without hurting him or any possible drama, and she realized that without even thinking, her mom had probably just recognized that Keri had been the perfect solution. Lori remained miffed at her mom for knowing what kind of issues Jack and her sister had been having, and  not being more concerned about Keri.

But Lori felt that she had her old mom back since she had finally broken the news to him and he hadn’t been as devestated as had expected. Mrs. T was just so relieved having the problem of hurting Jack behind her. Lori knew that her mom had grown to love Jack, he had shared things with only her and no one else, and she had begun to understand his demons.  She knew more about his family dramas and why he acted the way he did, and so she excused some of his out bursts that had happened in front of  Maddie and even some that she and  Matt had witnessed.  She had been a kind of a self appointed surrogate mother and counselor to him when he needed someone to  just be there and listen to him.

When Lori had confronted her mom with what she knew, her mother had insisted that she felt that Jack had learned from his mistakes and had changed. And so Lori kept her feelings to herself.Though she struggled with what she knew.  As the weeks passed by, Keri seemed so happy with Jack. So Lori decided to keep quiet, hoping she was wrong and that her mom was right and that Jack had actually changed.

Mrs. T easily navigated  the girls around the campus. They parked and walked for what seemed like miles. As they investigated both old and new buildings. By the time they had gone to Lori’s meeting and explored the different aspects of the campus they were tired and starving  but they loved every minute of it. Lori’s mom told so many stories that day that both girls felt as if they had discovered a new side of her that they had never known. They chatted easily over lunch and laughed at the funny perdicaments she shared about her own first year away from home. By the end of the day, Lori felt more comfortable about moving away and Keri loved and admired Mrs. T even more.

Things seemed to go back to normal for the Taber family, before Jack and the boat occupied their driveway. Lori was planning on leaving a few weeks earlier than expected to take a class that she had found  she needed to have completed before the first semester began. Keri sat on Lori’s bed sulking as she watched her pack “I’ll probably be back in a few weekends.” She reassured her. “And you can always come up and visit.” she reminded Keri who agreed, “I guess” but stuck out her bottom lip as Lori laughed. Keri hopped up handing a stack of tee shirts she had just folded for Lori to add to her pile,  when the doorbell rang. Mrs. T was around back, outside in her garden and Lori was sitting under a pile of clothes so Keri jumped up and offered, “I’ll get it!” as she skipped down the stairs. She was surprised to see Jack standing there with a box of tools. “Hi” Keri said  sounding surprised. “Uh, hi” Jack replied “I borrowed these from the garage and was returning them before I forgot.” Jack stammered. He usually only found Mrs T home this time of day.”I thought that was your car.” He said pointing around to the side of the house where she normally parked so that she could easily maneuver around the progression of cars that ended up along the Taber’s long driveway.

Jack had been calling Keri sporadically  and they had gone out  a few times, mainly to just talk and get to know each other. She let him do most of the talking and slowly he had begun to open up. She felt that he just needed someone to talk to and she had been that someone. She had continued to spend most of her days with Lori but now Lori was leaving and she felt kind of lost. “It is good to see you Jack!” Keri sounded happier than she felt and opened the door wider, motioning for him to come in. Jack grinned, hopefully and stepped inside.

Keri and Jack were still talking at the bottom of the stairs when Mrs T came in wiping her hands and looked surprised to see him there, as he quickly explained that he had brought back the tools he had borrowed when he had been working on the boat. It had been slow at the station and so they let him off early and he told Mrs T that he had meant to bring them up earlier. She thanked him knowing that he had avoided coming, when he knew Maddie would be there. But Maddie had come and gone and was now visiting Dan’s family on the East Coast for a few weeks.

Mrs. T excused herself to go check the chili she had on the stove and asked if they would like a bowl as Lori came down to see who had been at the door. Mrs.T stirred the simmering pot as Lori and Keri pulled the bowls and placemats from the cupboard.  Soon Matt and Sarah arrived and they found themselves all sitting around the table once again, eating cornbread and chatting happily. Jack had slipped in directly across from Keri and she couldn’t help but notice how he was kind of playfully bumping  her feet with his, under the table. When she looked up, he was looking directly at her. She glanced away and then looked again as he she felt another nudge and then giggled and blushed as his eyes remained fixed on hers.

Keri helped Lori clear the table as the boys settled on the floor watching the game. After all the dishes were put away Lori said she had to finish packing since she was leaving in the morning. Keri wandered over to where the others sat watching TV and let her go up alone. Matt was on the floor, leaning back on Sarah who was sitting in one of the easy chairs in front of the TV, affectionately playing with his hair. Jack hopped up from the other easy chair he was sitting in so that Keri could sit. Something flipped in Keri’s stomach as Jack nestled back comfortably onto Keri’s. He had been complaining that his back was sore from having to work on a car upside down all day. He smelled like a combination of shampoo and gasoline from work. To her surprise, the scent made her feel funny inside.

Jack reached up to rub his neck again. Keri pushed him forward a little and he seemed kind of unsure as to why. But when she began massaging his neck and shoulders, he realized what she was offering and leaned further forward groaning with pleasure. Soon,  Matt had talked Sarah into doing the same, joking about how sore he was from a day at the beach. When Lori came down to get a soda she surveyed the scene at hand and rolled her eyes, going back up stairs with the unpopped can she had come down for. For a moment, Keri considered following her up, but  she was not in the mood  for a lecture and  was still a little annoyed that their summer plans had changed so close to it’s end so she just settled back and continued to glide her hands up and down Jack’s back as he pressed comfortably up against her bare legs.

As they both got into their cars that night, Keri mentioned something about going home to an empty house and how she actually missed her mom and little brother and would be glad when they returned soon. Jack offered to follow her home and Keri agreed. She had just cleaned the house knowing that her dad would be home in a few days and had left it sparkling. When he pulled up, she parked in the driveway. She went over to his car. She knew that he had planned to  just watch her go inside. They hadn’t even kissed yet. He had been a perfect gentleman. But something about the night made Keri want to ask him to come inside. And so she shyly asked, “You wanna come in?” Jack grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.”

As Keri unlocked the door, Jack followed her. Dropping the keys on a table by the door, she continued to the kitchen, Jack liked watching her as she turned on the lights and then  opening up the fridge offering  him something to drink. He continued to watch her as she poured them both some iced tea and went into the living room. “How about a fire?” he suggested eyeing the wood. It was almost September and the nights were getting a little nippy, especially near the ocean where she lived. “if you want to.” Lori agreed. When the fire was blazing, Jack went around and turned out all the lights. Keri watched him from the sofa, amused. As he sat down, he took the iced tea out of her hands, placing it on a coaster on the glass slabbed coffee table in front of them. He held her warm hands, still slightly wet from the condensation on the glass and looked into her eyes that looked trustingly back at him, her lips parted, just waiting for what came next. He tilted her head up and for a moment she thought he was going to kiss her but he brushed her bangs away from her forehead ever so gently and breathed. She held her breath waiting for what seemed like several minutes but she knew it had just been a few seconds, and then he said in a  soft, rough voice she knew she would always remember, “I really like you Keri.”

Jack’s words took her breath away, even more so than if he had actually kissed her. The words caught in her heart. She felt as if she would burst. He had emphasized the word “you” so tenderly. She savored the moment and then whispered, “I really like you too Jack.” Then reaching up, she touched his face. Ever so slowly, she leaned up as he leaned down and their lips touched softly, searching and then exploring, getting to know the other. Nothing in the kiss carried anything from the past. She knew at that moment. This was not a rebound kiss. Nor the residual pieces from a broken heart, it was somethng new. No one else mattered at that moment.  He was kissing her, not with the memory of Maddie in it,   but with the possibility of a new future and with the  tenderness of a new chapter, ready to be written.