The story so far: While looking for beer, Kate walked in on creepy Charlie Hederman forcing himself on Allison. After scaring off the boy, Kate puts aside her feelings of hatred to help out a girl in need. But she doesn’t stick around for a thank you. After giving Allison a sweatshirt to replace a ripped shirt, Kate leaves her. The year is 1987.
No girl deserves some jackass groping her and ripping her shirt, no matter how much I hate her. Still, I wasn’t going to bond with Allison. After handing her the sweatshirt, I didn’t hang around to hear her thank me.
As I’m walking away from the study, the front door swings open. A thin, nearly bald sixteen-year-old enters the house. It’s my friend, Julie, the girl I used to ride horses with when we were kids. She had to quit because she got leukemia and it got too expensive. Julie is in remission now. This news brings a tear to my eyes every time I think about it. She’s with her boyfriend, Peter, who hulks over her.
“Julie, hi!” I say.
“Kate!” she exclaims.
We hug, and her scalp brushes my cheek. A soft fuzz is growing on her head, like the top of a peach. When she was in chemo, all of her hair fell out. But Julie refused to wear a wig. She said she wasn’t going too “hide the disease.” There was no hiding it, though. After her hair, she lose weight, which she’s still trying to regain. Her shoulder blades poke into my arms. I don’t know how she did it, but Julie remained optimistic throughout her ordeal. Julie is the strongest person I’ve ever met.
“How are you?” I ask.
“Great. I’ve been waiting to go out for weeks and finally convinced my mom it’d be okay. The only person more nervous than her tonight is Petey.”
Oh right, Peter. It’s sometimes easy to forget him. Even though he towers over her, he’s so quiet that he always fades into the background.
“I’m sorry,” I say to Peter. “How are you?”
“It’s all good,” Peter replies.
Julie gives him a big hug. It’s so sweet.
“Guess what,” I say to Julie.
“Tell me,” she replies.
“Remember that camp I told you about?”
“The one in Vermont? Wait, did you get the summer job?”
I nod excitedly.
“Oh my God, Kate, that’s so amazing!”
Julie throws her arms around me. Her genuine show of affection catches me by surprise. I find myself tearing up. When Julie lets go, a drop rolls down my cheek.
“Kate, hey, why are you crying?” she asks.
“It’s just, I was inspired by you to pursue this job. I found out about it today… and now you’re here… It’s just all really special.”
“Kate, stop, or I’m gonna…”
Julie tears up. We hug again.
“I’m sorry, Jules,” I say, wiping my eyes, composing myself. “You came here to have fun.”
Julie, as always, finds some way to be optimistic.
“I am going to have fun.”
She takes a deep breath. “My makeup must look like crap. I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
“There’s one upstairs, in the master bedroom.” I tell her. “It’s supposed to be off limits, but you know Eric won’t mind.”
“Groovy,” Julie says. “Back in a jiffy.” She starts for the stairs, then pauses, looking back at Peter. “Hey Petey, it’s Journey!” Peter and I listen, and indeed, Journey’s “Only the Young” is now playing. She trots out of sight with a little extra bounce in her step.
“She loves Journey,” Peter tells me. “We saw them last fall. One of the few cool things we got to do. Her parents rented a loge.”
“Sweet,” I reply.
“Music really helped her. It really does have the power to heal.”
An awkward silence falls between us. We’ve never been good friends. Friendly, yes, but I’ve always found him a little pretentious.
“So, Kate, have you read the syllabus for A.P. English yet?”
“We’re supposed to read Candide before school begins. I read it last year.”
“I’ll, uh, be sure to hit you up if I have any questions.”
It’s the middle of June and Peter’s already trying to get a leg up in Mr. Denman’s A.P. English class. All I can think about are horses. This may not be a good sign for me when school begins in the fall.
“There’s still plenty of time,” I tell him. “ Life’s too short to be worrying about A.P. English in the middle of June.”
“Kate, I know all too well that life’s too short.”
“I, uh, of course you do.”
A couple of kids walk in through the front door, talking about someone puking in the driveway.
“She’s amazing, you know?” I tell Peter.
“And I admire you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Julie’s had some rough times, especially this year. But you… you never thought twice. A lot of guys would’ve bailed.”
“That’s because of Julie. She fills me with hope.”
I smile and nod.
“We’re gonna mingle,” she says. “See ya later?”
“Sure. If not, I’ll call you.”
We hug one last time, and then they’re off.
I return to the living room. Andrea is lounging on the couch singing “Only the Young” to herself.
“Where were you?” she asks.
“I ran into Julie Adams.”
“Oh, she is so lucky.”
I look at her, incredulous.
“I wish I had a boyfriend as devoted as Peter.”
Leave it to Andrea to look past the illness and think about something as superfluous as a devoted boyfriend. I look off across the crowded living room. For a brief moment this morning, after receiving the news about the camp, I worried about being away all summer. My fear was I’d miss out on some special moments with Brian or Andrea. Seeing Julie reassured me that I’m being presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity. Seeing Julie assured me that I’m doing the right thing.
Today’s artwork was by Larissa Marantz. Larissa is the owner of OC Art Studios, an enrichment studio for kids, and has worked as a children’s book illustrator, art educator, fine artist and muralist for the last ten years. When she’s not hanging out with her three kids, she’s in her art studio working on various creative projects. For more information about Larissa, visit her website www.LarissaMarantz.com or to find out about her children’s art studio, visit www.OCArtStudios.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @OCArtStudios.com, find her on Facebook, Tumbler or Instagram.
Journey’s song, “Only the Young” is found on the 1985 soundtrack to the film Vision Quest.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 20 of Legendary