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.”
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……. ” I “ love 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… 😉