The ride to our next destination was the longest, although I assume it was because we were going in circles. Looking up at the sky I noticed the clouds rolling in, covering the setting sun. I smiled as I saw the moon peeking over, as if it was playing peek-a-boo. The darkness was creeping in and so was the smell of rain. I closed my eyes as I stuck my hand out the window, catching the air like clouds in my hand.
"We have been going in circles. Are you lost?"
"Then why are we going in circles?"
"To confuse you. So set back and relax we are almost there."
"Wouldn't we have already been there if you weren't so busy 'confusing' me?"
"You are loosing it you know that?" I laughed.
We pulled up to Molly's house, which was surrounded by cars. I started to step out of the car until I felt Simon's hand on my shoulder. I pulled my feet back in and shut the door.
"You have to close your eyes." He said jumping out of the car and running around to my side.
"You have to close your eyes." I mocked.
"Your eyes are still opened."
"If I close them, when can I open them?"
"I will tell you, just grab my arm and let me lead you in."
"So I get to enter my surprise party like Stevie Wonder?"
"Daisy." He scolded me as he tapped his foot.
Smiling I closed my eyes, and took his arm. As we approached the back yard I could hear music and voices. As we finally entered the backyard I could no longer hear the voices, just Billie Holiday playing over the whispers. Simon dropped my arm and told me to open my eyes. The smiling faces were not really a surprise, my family stood to the side talking to Maggie. Molly stood over by the stereo smiling and swaying to the music. I began to walk towards my family when the crowd of people began to sing Happy Birthday. I stood in front of them, some strangers and some friends, feeling awkward. I waved and walked towards Molly. Now I realized the 45 minutes spent in the car was stalling, for my family to get there.
"It normally takes 10 minutes to get here."
"We were running behind, so Simon had to stall." She smiled.
"Welcome to the ball." She added.
"You guys are to wonderful to me."
"Hug me and mingle." She tearfully spoke as she hugged me, "It was all Simon's idea. I just helped."
"Sneaky guy that brother of yours."
"You look beautiful my little Sabrina."
I blushed as she walked away.
Looking around I realized I knew only half of the crowd. The other half must have been, friends of Molly's. There were daisies hanging from the trees on strings. My eyes landed upon a very tan very blonde girl talking to Simon. I had never seen her before, realizing this made my stomach turn.
"You look lovely Daisy." A girls voice rang out.
"Belle of the ball." Another voice shouted.
I stood gawking at the Barbie doll talking to Simon until I stumbled back into a tree. I looked around to see if anyone noticed then straightened my dress. Looking over at my sister I smiled. Her hair was neatly pulled back in a French braid. She wore a black skirt and a black top with red roses. That moment I realized my baby sister was soon to be a teenager. She could have easily passed as a 15 year old. The only things that gave it away were her candy necklace and slumped over posture. The thought made me smile as I walked towards her.
"Well look at you miss fancy." I smiled as I played with her braided hair.
"Mom, made me wear it."
"I figured as much."
"The room is going to be sort of spooky with out you."
I looked at my sister's teary eyes and smirked, "Yeah, but you will have more space for your things."
"Mom said I could come visit you if you said it was okay."
"You betcha." I whispered hugging her tight, "You know that necklace with the gold heart and rose Grampy gave to me?"
"It is yours now." I whispered, "Don't argue or ask why, just take it."
"Thanks Daisy." The 12 year old smiled.
Overhearing our conversation my mom smiled brightly. She turned around and hugged me not wanting to let me go. The necklace had meant more to Becca than me anyway. I was tired of everyone giving me such costly things. All I wanted to do was return the gestures that were given to me all day. The look on mom's face said she understood.
"Look at little Daisy Mayfield." She beamed, "Remember what I told you about throwing a beret into the sky in the middle of a street."
"Yes mom. I will buy a hat as soon as I get there." I giggled.
"I already packed you one. It is blue, I do believe Mary Tyler Moore's was blue."
"I still think it is cheesy, but I will do it." I smirked.
"You will be back for Thanksgiving and Christmas. No buts about it."
"When you become a big animator you will miss those holiday breaks."
"Mom, I don't see that happening anytime soon."
"I remember when you were 5 years old, watching Scooby Doo and telling us how horribly drawn he was."
"The Hanna Barbara of the late 60's through the early 80's was not the best of times."
"Then you always open your mouth and say something like that. Which makes your father cringe and Becca roll her eyes."
"Yeah. Are you sure I wasn't adopted?"
"You have to much of my talent to be adopted."
"Guess so." I grinned.
"We can't really stay, your dad has to be up early. Be home earlier than morning. Okay?"
"We love you Daisy." She said kissing my cheek. "I can promise not to cry tonight, but I am going to be a waterfall at the airport."
"I know." I laughed hugging my mom.
My father didn't have much to say, I didn't really expect him too. He came over to me and nodded. I nodded back and we hugged. Which was just the thing I needed from him.
"You look like a starlit tonight."
"Thanks daddy." I blushed.
"Be home before I leave for work okay?"
"Simon seems preoccupied." He pointed out looking over at the now dancing couple.
"I guess so."
"I wouldn't worry about it, you are the one with the necklace."
"Daddy, I am not worried about anything. Go home before mom drags you out."
"Good night pumpkin." He said kissing my forehead and winking.
I watched as my family exited the party. I felt awkward looking over at the blonde. She looked older. I assumed it was one of Molly's friends. Could she be the reason he was staying? Molly and Maggie stood behind me as I once again caught myself staring. If I could shoot fire from my eyes the blonde would be in flames. Shaking the thought from my head, I closed my eyes.
"Mindy." Molly said in my ear, "He met her at the shop the other day."
"The girl Simon is talking to."
"Oh." I felt my face turn red, was she reading my thoughts?
"You have been acting odd all day, did something happen between you guys?"
"No. I think I had got a crossed signal. I guess New York has got me all flustered and I started thinking things that weren't true." I quietly spoke as I watched them dance.
"New York is tomorrow. Are you ready?" she smiled.
"It will be fine, next time we see you, you will be a New Yorker."
"It is like when Sabrina went to Paris. She came back all sophisticated and such."
"I guess so." I blushed. "I love the dress and the ring. Thank you so much."
"Hello little brother." Molly shouted as Simon walked up behind me bubbly blonde in tote.
"Why are you shouting? Have you been drinking?" he scratched his head.
"No I was having trouble hearing her over the music." I replied.
"I see. So what do you think?"
"About what?" I stuttered.
"He has been beaming about it all week. Simon is so thoughtful." The bubbly blonde interjected.
"Sure is," I droned as I gritted my teeth.
Her voice was like finger nails on a chalkboard. I looked over to Molly and smiled faintly. Molly took the blonde by the hand and examined a ring on her finger. I rolled my eyes at every word she uttered. Her pouty lips were drowning in lip-gloss. As I stared at her I became more aware how unlike me she was. She batted her eyes and asked Simon for a drink. He smiled and took her empty cup.
"I'll go with you." I exclaimed.
"I need a soda." Walking away I heard her giggle and felt my skin crawl.
Entering the patio doors I started laughing. I felt like a fool for being so jealous of the Tinkerbell look alike who purred every time Simon moved. I was leaving tomorrow and he needed someone. Then the thoughts about her being the reason he wasn't leaving came back.
"Who is she?" I spit out as I watched her wide eyes watching us behind the patio doors. She looked like a Barbie doll trapped in a box.
"Mindy, I met her at the shop one night while I was working."
"Funny how you never mentioned her."
"You have been busy with the move. I guess I forgot to mention her. She wanted to meet you cause I talk about you so much."
"So she has heard all about me? But I am in the dark about her?"
"What is wrong with you? Why do you sound so mad?"
"I am not mad, I would just think you would tell your best friend about your new girl."
"She is just some girl I met about a week ago. We hung out 2 times." Frustrated he ran his fingers through his hair, "Jeez, why am I explaining? I haven't down anything wrong."
I grabbed a soda from the fridge and turned to look at him. After pouring her Diet Coke he slammed the can down on the counter. I glared at him and he shook his head. I didn't know how to explain my actions. I was upset that was all I knew.
"Great your going to be an idiot aren't you?"
"You are leaving tomorrow, Daisy. I have been working my ass off planning this shit for you and this is the thanks I get?"
"I don't know what is going on okay!" I shouted.
"I am not arguing with you. You have been acting weird all day." He frowned holding the soda for Mindy, "Happy Birthday, and your welcome for the wonderful day."
Simon walked out the door slamming it behind him. I stared at my reflection in the shaking windows. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Why on earth was I acting like a fool? I hated the feeling in my stomach. The only thing I hated more was the look on Simon's face as he turned to walk back outside. Ashamed I opened my soda and walked out the door.
I searched the crowd for Simon to apologize. I was a nervous wreck. The move to New York had been made out to be such a big deal. It made me feel like I was dieing. Here I was dieing of a horrible disease and everyone was buying me presents and treating me like a princess. Then my best friend brings a new girl to my Birthday party. It wasn't rational for me to be mad, but I was. I finally found his red hair through the crowd of dancers. I walked up to Maggie who was standing alone watching the couples dance. Smiling I approached her.
"I didn't know Simon could dance." I noted.
"Just like his father."
"Excited about tomorrow or dreading it?"
"New York is a big city, but I am sure you will be fine."
"That is what I keep hearing." I smiled as Simon walked up to us.
"Finished being a fool?" he questioned.
"I will let you two kids talk, I have to get back home." She smiled and kissed my forehead, "He is not in your mind Daisy, he doesn't understand unless you tell him."
I nodded and waved goodbye. I guess she was right, I couldn't expect him to read my mind. I guess sometimes even your best friend doesn't know what is going on with you. The whole thing would have been easier if I had understood it myself. I grabbed his arm and walked with him into the house. He looked at me confused and sat down on the couch. I sat down across from him in a pink chair.
"Mindy is leaving soon." He stated. "This is your night. I didn't think about how it would effect you if I brought a date."
"I didn't either."
"What is going on with us?"
"You are jealous of her aren't you?"
"I just wanted today to be fun for you." He frowned, "I'm going to be so lost with out you."
"Ditto" I smiled, "I remember your 15th birthday."
"Yeah I told you about it earlier." He mocked.
"No I remember what 'didn't happen'."
"What does that mean?" he brushed his fingers through his hair nervously, "I mean what does it mean if you remember it?"
"It did mean something."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" he faintly laughed shaking his head in disbelief.
"I didn't know earlier. I mean. I didn't let myself know."
"Okay." He looked confused.
The faint sound of music seeped in though the patio door. I laughed as I saw the group of people get drenched with rain. They rushed for the door and filed in. Grabbing their things and saying goodbye they were gone in a matter of minutes. Molly and a few others stood in the kitchen sipping wine and talking. Simon had walked outside while the rush of people said goodbye. I looked out to see him sitting on the patio staring into space. Walking out to join him I smiled and sat next to him.
"Mindy wasn't really that bad, she wished me luck in New York."
"Yeah, she can wear on your nerves though. Her squeaky voice and high pitched giggles."
"Well that is true, well I can't really say that. I just met her."
"No you can, it is true."
"Molly went to sleep."
"I know she told me."
"I guess the shows over." I smiled.
Simon reached over to turn on the boom box that sat beside him. It wasn't as loud as the stereo system from earlier, but it served its purpose. Sinatra's "Funny Valentine" echoed through the rain. He grabbed my hand taking me out from the covered patio. I slipped out of my shoes and touched my feet upon the wet grass. As we began to dance I realized how completely natural it felt. He was no Fred Astaire, but I was no Ginger Rogers either. I closed my eyes and tried to find the right words to say. He pulled me closer and I rested my head on his chest. Our clothes were drenched and neither one of us seemed to notice. The rain eased up and I could hear his heartbeat.
"Remember when Jeff asked you to the prom?" Simon said into my ear.
"He didn't really ask. He had you ask."
"Hardest thing I had to do, but karma was on my side."
"Karma made Jeff fake food poisoning and ask Sally out?"
"Funny thing karma. What about Lacey? Did she really cancel on you at the last minute?"
"You canceled for me?" I whispered, as my voice was hard to find.
There was no answer from my red headed boy, just a hand through his hair and a light pink shade on his face. He came to a stop and nodded his head. My mind was reeling from the things I had just found out. My stomach was in knots as I realized how obvious it all had been. The song changed and Simon and I sat back down on the patio.
"Guess we should go." I spoke to kill the silence.
"Yeah, you need to be back before long. You need your beauty sleep."
"Then lets go." He awkwardly pointed towards the door.
Simon and I walked through the house and locked up as we left. The rain stopped as we walked to the car. Sitting down in the car we both made squishing noises against the vinyl. Simon started the car and began the short trip home.
"This is the first time all day I have known where I was going."
"Oh do you?"
"Guess you do know." He smiled.
The clock on the CD player said 11pm and I was nowhere near ready for bed. My head was circling around what was going on between us. Looking over at him I could tell he was thinking the same thing.
"I…" he lost his voice as he stopped the car.
"I am sorry I didn't mention Mindy."
"No problem." I said looking out the window.
Killing the car he leaned back in his seat. The tension had grown in the 15 minutes it took to get home. I slowly opened the car door. Before I had my feet out the door his words tumbled faintly into the air.
"I love you, Daisy." Our backs turned towards each other I could barely make it out. It wasn't as if we had never said those words to each other. It was just, different.
I shut the car door and ignored his words. He paused and then lifted himself from the seat softly shutting the door. I stood on my side of the car closing my eyes as I leaned against the car. Looking up at the stars I smiled.
"The same stars are in New York." My words were jumbled.
"That's what I hear."
"It doesn't seem that far away when you look at it like that."
As his body hit the car I looked over to see him. We looked like bookends on each side of the car. Standing there, gazing up at the stars, I sighed. My mind was jumbled and nothing seemed to be right anymore. Moving to New York was now a horrible chore. I wanted to stay. I wanted to see what was going to happen with us.
"I wish I wasn't so afraid." He whispered, "How do you do it?"
"I just live."
"I live, but I have responsibilities. When dad died it left me to be the man of the house."
"No it didn't." the words fell from my lips, "You just think you have to be."
"I guess so, maybe you are right."
Simon walked to me and put his arms on my shoulders. My back was up against the car and I felt trapped. Staring into his eyes I noticed tears forming. I didn't know what to say, I didn't know what to do. He hugged me tight and then pulled away.
"I miss him."
"Everyone does, they just handle it differently."
"When will the pain go away?"
"I don't know. Most likely never."
"That is nice to know." He faintly smiled.
"No, I mean he was your dad. You will never get over that. You will just learn to live with it, learn to grow from it. I suppose."
"I have been such an ass about it. Snapping at mom and Molly. Never talking about our childhood. Asking mom to take his pictures down." He stared off into space, "It has been 2 years, 3 in September."
"I know. Admitting that you have handled it wrong will help though."
"I know. Thanks Daisy." He said smiling.
We stared into each other's eyes for a few minutes. It was awkward and nice at the same time. He then leaned in for a kiss. His lips were soft and cold. He fell on top of me and then the kissing became passionate. Leaning up against the car he kissed me deeper and deeper. I melted with each caress of his hand on my face. Pulling away I awkwardly found my voice.
"This isn't something that will be solved over night. No matter how hard we try." He stared down at me as the words softly fell from my lips. "I need to go, tomorrow is a very big day."
"Just like that?"
"Sorry. What are we suppose to do?"
"Damn it Daisy. You can't keep doing this." He paced in front of me running his hands though his hair. "You broke my heart when we were 15, you told me that kiss meant nothing and I believed you. It had always meant the world to me, can't you see that. I couldn't ever deny that. I just pushed it away."
"You are going to listen to me. Okay."
"Okay." I gulped.
"All through high school you were with a different guy. They broke your heart they cheated on you and I was there to fix it. It ripped me apart, but I was there. Then today I bring a girl, a very nice girl who likes me, to your Birthday party. You act like a lunatic. You made me feel like the bad guy. I asked her to leave, probably hurt her feelings. Why? Because that is what friends do, I guess."
"I know I am sorr…"
"I am not finished." He put his hands on each side of me trapping me between him and the car. "You tell me that a kiss that happened 3 years ago meant something, and I am suppose to just act like nothing has happened? Well I can't, I can't stand here and kiss you and have you once again tell me to forget it."
His face was red with anger. I had never felt so small. His face softened as he saw the fear in my eyes. Stepping back he sighed. Brushing his hair back with his hands he closed his eyes to gather himself.
"Why don't you admit you're in love with me?"
"The same reason you wouldn't admit why you weren't going to New York. Fear. If you ignore it, it will go away right?"
"Here we go again. New York."
"You know it was your dream too. We had this whole thing planned. Why does everyone but you remember that?"
"How am I going to afford New York Daisy?" he flung his hands up over his head, "How am I going to afford an apartment. Reality says I can't do it."
"You say you can't." I kicked the dirt and picked up the skirt of my dress. "Remember in 4th grade when it snowed?"
"We played outside in the muddy Texas snow all day." We both smiled, "I told you I wanted to be queen of the ice. Do you remember what you told me?"
"I told you if you tried you could be anything."
"How come if I try I could do or be anything, but you can't?"
"I never wanted to be an ice queen." He sighed, "New York isn't were I want or need to be. Nothing you say tonight is going to change that."
"Then why did you talk about it for so long like you were going?"
"It seemed like what I wanted, to go sing in dive bars and be a writer." He smiled, "I still want to be a writer, but I want to go to school. I can do that here. My mom hasn't got the money to support me. Moving isn't feasible."
"If that is how you feel, then okay. Sorry I pushed."
"That is how I feel."
I moved myself from the car and walked towards him. We both fell into a hug that lasted longer than any other I had all day. Pulling away we both dried our eyes and smiled. It had been a long day. I looked down at my wet dress and smiled.
"Sorry." I whispered.
"So am I."
"So I guess this is it?"
"Yeah, this is it. Your last night in this shitty town."
"This town is charming, not shitty. I am really going to miss it."
"If you say so," he smiled.
Simon and I stood out in front of my house talking until we decided to go to the park. It was our spot. The bridge. It had always been our spot. We sat on the wet bridge in our fancy clothes with our legs hanging off. It was the same thing we had done that very morning and every birthday morning before. It had never occurred to me that Simon might not be able to go to New York. I felt selfish as I thought about the last few weeks. Nagging him about not going. He had to pay for school on his own, he had to work, and in Simon's heart he had to be there for his mother and sister. It wasn't really fear that was keeping him from New York. It was his heart. If your heart isn't in it, you shouldn't do it.
"You remember freshman year when Danny tried to…"
"Yeah. Of course."
"You remember how you told me not to worry about it, just forget it happened. Blah Blah."
"I went over to Danny's that night after I dropped you off at home, I made a few threats and got your jacket."
"That is your last present. You want to go get it?"
"You went over there? He could have killed you or something."
"Nah." He said standing up.
We got up and walked to Simon's as the memories flooded in.
"Looking for a ride?" a voice came from a car pulling up next to me.
Startled I kept walking.
"Daisy Mae it's me." The voice said again as I turned to see Simon in his black volts wagon bug. "Get in and explain."
My eyes began to gush with tears as I told him about the horrible night that had just passed. There I was being stripped down in the middle of Danny's parent's living room. I kicked and screamed until finally he told me to leave. As I told Simon what happened his face darkened. I finally got myself together and realized my jacket was gone. I left my leather jacket at Danny's and there was no use in trying to get it back. As I paused to think about my jacket Simon looked over.
"What is wrong?" he said his eyes widened.
"My jacket." I said looking down at my feet. "I had been collecting the pins and patches on that thing for ages."
"Your Jacket?" Simon exclaimed. "You could have been raped and the only thing you are worried about is a jacket?"
"You can't find many of those patches anymore."
Simon started laughing. "I am going to kill Danny, so you might get your jacket back."
"No. You have to promise not to tell a soul." I said grabbing his hand.
"You don't expect me to just pretend that Danny never laid a finger on my best friend?"
I nodded. "You know if the rest of school hears they will make me out to be a liar. They already hate me."
"Fine." Simon said running his hand through his hair. "Not a word."
"You had it all this time?" I said sighting my Max Headroom patch.
"Yep." Simon said.
"I added some patches and buttons thanks to, Molly my vintage queen doing her magic." Simon said blushing, "you didn't really think I was going to leave your jacket over there did you?"
"I told you." I became speechless as I put it on, "Thanks."
"That is your very last present." He frowned, "I mean this year."
"I can't believe you kept it from me this long."
"Well at first it was because I didn't want you to know. Then it was because I wanted to find the perfect time."
"Perfect." I leaned over and kissed his check.
We were sitting in Simon's room on the bed. It was a place I had been a thousand times before. This night was different. Simon got up to turn on some music as I lay back on his bed. Smiling from ear to ear. Wrapped in my jacket I felt safe, I had missed it over the years.
"1 am and I am still awake." I laid down cuddling with Simon's pillow.
"It is your last night, live it up."
"It is strange to think the next year will be with out you."
I felt the bed shift as Simon sat down at my feet. He curled up behind me holding me closer than he ever had. My breath got caught in my throat. I finally eased into it then I turned to look at him. Both of us facing each other like backwards bookends. We both smiled and I felt relieved. I finally understood everything that I hadn't earlier that morning. It was all very clear. Simon wasn't going to New York. I was. Simon had always loved me more than just a friend, so did I looking back.
"What did you wish for when you blew out your candles?"
"To feel at peace before I left."
"So, has it come true yet?"
"I think so."
"Good." He smiled.
"What do you want to do with my last few hours of freedom?"
"Play the remember when game, and possibly get into dry clothes."
"Sounds great. Can I borrow some clothes?"
"Duh." He laughed getting up to get clothes.
It always amused me how we turned out backs to change. I often wondered if he had ever peeked. I know I hadn't, but that night it was tempting. As I slipped into a pair of sweat pants and a Bauhaus shirt I smiled.
"Yep." I signaled turning around.
The next few hours were spent playing the, remember when game. Which was one of our favorite games. As we sat on the bed looking at the ceiling talking about the past the minutes on the clock faded away. Soon it was nearly 4am.
"Remember when you fell out of the tree in the back yard and broke your collar bone?"
"How can I forget?" he answered in a tired voice.
"Remember when we kissed earlier?"
"Never forget it." He whispered.
"I hope not," I paused and sighed at the clock. "I've got to get some sleep."
"I know. I'll walk you back okay."
"No. I want walk home alone. I need time alone. The last walk from the Grey house."
"Not the last, I hope." He frowned.
"You know what I mean." I assured him as I got up and grabbed my damp dress off the floor.
We stood looking at each other for a good bit. The tension from earlier was gone, and I was no longer afraid. We would always be friends. Nothing could change that. Simon pulled me into a tight embrace as tears fell from my eyes.
"This is it."
"Daisy, I know today was odd and everything. I really wanted it to be special though."
"I know. It was, I will never forget it."
"Write me. Call me. Visit. You know all that stuff."
We both took a deep sigh as I turned to walk out the door. I gripped my jacket to me and held the dress under my arm. Molly would kill me if she saw it now, damp and soiled with mud. I sighed and smiled remembering the dance in the rain.
"You know that scene in Roman Holiday. When Princess Ann is leaving the car after her glorious day out with Joe." I turned back to Simon and watched him nod, "She just had such an amazing day with a guy that she truly felt affection for, but she is a princess and she can't stay with him. So when they are saying good bye she says, 'I have to leave you now. I'm going to turn around that corner. You must stay in this car and drive away. You must promise not to watch me walk around the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you.' Well that isn't word for word, but you get me?"
"Yeah." He smiled and sat down on the bed, "Then he agrees and she tells him she doesn't know how to say goodbye."
"Joe simply replies, don't say it."
"That is right. I am impressed that you remember."
"You have forced me to watch it a dozen times." He smiled.
"Well I am going to walk out this door and I don't want you to watch. I just want you to lie down and go to sleep. No peeking."
Simon lye down on his bed and closed his eyes as I turned to once again walk out. I opened the door and held my head up high. Only stopping to whisper.
"I love you too."
The next day on the way to the airport I smiled as we passed the little yellow house that had been my second home. There was my red haired friend getting in his car. We waved at each other as mother slowly drove by and I felt my heart skip as I remembered the night before.
3 years later.
Today is my 21st birthday and just like every year it starts with a whisper that only I can hear and a red haired boy smiling above me. The setting might be different, but the friend never changes. There is nothing better than 5am on my birthday morning.