Dear J, despite what Blue pulled on her prom night, the past few weeks have been amazing. Leela and I have been spending a lot of time together. That is, when she can sneak away from the bakery and I can put my musical compositions aside.
My music has taken on a new tone. Gone are the melancholic chords of the past. Since visiting Jillybean’s grave and working things out with Leela, I can’t help but write songs that sound happier. It’s a good thing these compositions are for a romantic comedy. Even Josh noticed the difference when he took the music to orchestrate it, and he had to rib me a little. But I could tell he was happy for me.
One day recently, I took Leela to a park, high above the city. The air was crisp as summer was giving way to Fall. There was hardly anyone there as we walked and talked. At one point, Leela quipped that it was a banner day since only one person (an officer patrolling the area) asked for an autograph.
She waited patiently as I politely chatted with the police officer, answering the usual questions and assuring him he wasn’t bothering me.
The time seemed to fly by as, for the first time and finally, I told Leela about Jillybean and how I got the scar that crosses my right cheek in ugly lines. Telling her all of this was not as hard as I’d imagined it would be. Maybe this was because I’d already broken the mental block I’d had by visiting her grave and telling Blue all about it. It had left me with a sense that even though Jillybean would always be with me in spirit, what had happened was all truly in the past now.
Leela expressed real appreciation that I’d confided in her. It was strange because it seemed like I could really feel the empathy she felt, almost as if it was coming out of her in waves which washed over me, pulling my soul even closer to hers than it had been before.
That’s when she told me a story of her own that, like me, hadn’t often been shared.
Leela was in high school when she met Ruby’s father Marc. For her it was love at first sight and she pursued him relentlessly. He was a grade ahead of her and thought of her as a little girl. So, in order to get his attention, she joined the church choir. Not because she thought it would be fun or that she could sing, but because Marc’s mother sang alto.
Leela made a point of sitting next to Marc’s mother and became friends with her. Over time, it paid off as one evening, when Marc’s date had stood him up, his mother suggested he take out that ‘nice girl’ Leela.
The rest was history. Eventually, as the school year went on, Marc and Leela became an item. It was when Marc was graduating and getting ready for university that Leela found out she was pregnant with Ruby.
Marc and Leela got engaged but the plan was that he should still go to school. Sadly, the couple drifted apart and Leela felt more and more as if Marc’s future was ruined because of her pregnancy. She agonized over the situation for weeks, before deciding to go to his university to break it off with him.
Once she got there, she found that he hadn’t been faithful to her. Even though she was going to break up with him, it was devastating for her. As she ran back to the bus station to go home, he followed her, fearing something terrible would happen to her since she was so upset. Before he could catch up with her, he was tragically hit by a car. In four days, he was gone.
Leela didn’t think she’d ever be the same after that. It was Marc’s mother that came through for her after Ruby was born. She watched the baby while Leela went to university during the day. Eventually, Leela worked her way up and was able to open her own bakery.
“And what happened to Marc’s mother?” I asked.
“She isn’t with us any longer, but I do miss her,” Leela answered with a small smile.
As we embraced, I finally understood more about this fascinating woman and what made her tick. We had more in common than I had ever realized.
Smiling down at her, I also realized I’d never felt closer to another human being in my life. I think I was beginning to understand some things.
That’s when Leela leaned in to me even more and whispered what I’d always wanted to hear. “I love you, Leo.”
She loved me. This was real and it was happening to me.
I picked her up and kissed her. “I love you, too.”
Blue’s First Diary Entry:
Dear Diary, this is my first ever entry. My dad told me about the family tradition where one person per generation is to keep a diary or journal of their life and then pass it on to the next generation.
This book already seems pretty full, but I’m not going to let that stop me from telling you every detail. Okay, maybe not every detail. But a lot of things.
I’ve read Grandma Capra’s diary but I haven’t read Dad’s yet. He said he’s not quite done with it and would feel more comfortable if I waited until he gives it to me officially. He did tell me I should start writing, though.
Of course, I do write for school, and I have written some little short stories because I was bored. I’ve found that I enjoy getting my thoughts out because they just seem to crowd my brain and it just clogs everything up.
I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll tell you about today.
Every morning, Leela takes Ruby to the bakery with her. I meet her there and we do a few chores for Leela, then we come to Aunt Rachel’s because it’s our duty to take my cousins Thea and Phyllis to school with us. We all go to the same school even though Ruby and I start about an hour earlier and get off about an hour earlier.
So, before school, Thea and Phyllis have to wait for class to begin. After school, Ruby and I have to wait for their classes to get over with. It’s kind of a drag, but Aunt Rachel bribed me riding lessons (for Ruby, too), so I’m willing to put up with it.
Today, Ruby and I didn’t have to wear our uniforms because we were going on a field trip and it was going to be cold. We like to dress alike but in different colors. Ruby is my best friend and I pretend she’s my sister. Having her around is like having a real life twin just like Dad had. Well, almost.
Aunt Rachel was giving us that irritated look that adults get when kids aren’t cooperating. You know, the one that’s right below the surface because they’re still trying to be patient? Yeah, that one. When Dad gets that look, I can always tell he’s trying to keep his cool because there’s this vein that bulges on the side of his temple.
I imagine if I finally manage to do something that really pisses him off royally, that vein could pop right open and burst. Not that I want that to happen, but it’s crossed my mind when he’s grounding me.
“Will you guys look at the camera? At the same time, I mean?” Aunt Rachel said. “Thea, stop fidgeting!”
“I don’t want a picture,” Thea complained loudly, her lips turning into a pout.
“This picture isn’t for you, it’s for me and Daddy. Now cooperate. We would be done already if you’d just do as I say.”
I rolled my eyes and lightly pinched Thea (who was standing in front of me) in the back of the shoulder. She yelped and glared at me but I just smiled innocently at her like nothing had happened.
Ruby seemed to be the only one who felt like sympathizing with Aunt Rachel this morning.
After school, something out of the ordinary happened. Dad took me fishing and much to my dismay, he said that this time Ruby couldn’t come with us. Dad let me drive and I knew the way since we were going to our favorite fishing spot. But all the way there, I could feel the dread rising in the pit of my stomach, getting bigger and bigger until I almost couldn’t stop myself from asking him what I’d done this time.
Almost. Instead, I bit my lower lip harder and harder as my mind flew through the recent past, trying to figure out what wrong thing I’d done that he might know about. I’m not that bad of a kid, in my opinion, but I’m far from perfect either.
When we got there and finally had our poles ready, he stood right behind me. As you can imagine, this only compounded my growing alarm.
After only a few minutes, he put his gear away. Whatever this was, it was going to be big.
I pretended I didn’t notice that he wasn’t fishing anymore. Maybe if he saw me in deep thought, he’d put off whatever he was going to discipline me about.
“Honey, there’s a reason I brought you here today. We need to talk.”
Maybe I could make a mad dash for the car and leave him there. By the time he got home, he’d be even angrier but I could shut myself away in my room and pretend I was doing homework.
No, that was a bad idea.
Maybe I could make that mad dash for the car and just drive until I ran out of gas? Then, in a few days, I’d let him find me and we’d have one of those reunions you see on TV all the time. You know, where the parent finally finds the runaway kid and they’re just so happy to see them, that they hug their child and make them promise never to do it again?
Except, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t go down like that.
I turned to him, trying to keep my eyes large, the face of sweetness and innocence. “Yes, daddy?”
He studied me with a quizzical expression for a few minutes before dropping the bomb that he wanted to marry Leela and what did I think about that? And what would Ruby think about that? Should he have a talk with her, too?
“Yes!” I shrieked. “I think it’s about time! And yes, you should talk to Ruby about it.”
We stood there, grinning at each other like a couple of Cheshire Cats from Alice in Wonderland.
All in all, this is one of the best days in my life. Daddy and I spent the next half hour sitting in front of the lake, talking about how he should propose.
I can’t wait to tell Ruby! We’ve been hoping and planning for this since grade school.