Chapter 20: Apologies
“I was wondering when you were going to ask that question. My mother told me, okay, lectured me, several times about talking to you.” Cynthia rolls her eyes, in an attempt Ilona recognizes as being light and airy. “But when she is right, she is right.” Her face changes and Ilona notices a more serious, almost hurt look, crossing her features.
“I have to begin by telling you something, from the soul, and that is,” Cynthia closes her eyes and small tears form at the corners, “I am sorry.”
Ilona hears the words, understands what they mean but not their meaning here. Her mouth opens and shuts once or twice, but Ilona quickly closes it after what seems like a hundred times.
“I am sorry, truly sorry, for not already being your friend.” Cynthia’s tears built up some more. Almost to the point of falling down across her face.
Ilona feels the pain her friend, the one who was always the glue of everyone for all time, is going through. She does not fully comprehend the hows and the whys of what is happening, but knows she must become the rock for the rock.
Raising her free hand, Ilona carefully wipes the tears from Cynthia’s eyes, letting the water gently pool in the palm.
“It is alright, it is okay, everything is fine. You have nothing to apologize for. My life is so much better now.” Ilona pulls her face up close to Cynthia, whispering even lower now so as to not wake up the girls.
“Now,” Cynthia opens her eyes and stares at Ilona, “Now is the operative word.”
Despite the strangeness of this conversation, and maybe because of the influence of her new friends, Ilona could feel herself starting to understand what Cynthia is saying. And maybe even why she is so upset.
“Here you are at school with us, in classes with us, in the schoolyard with us, breathing the same air as us, and we,” Cynthia waves one hand towards the sleeping girls, “and more specifically, I, did not even notice you.” She sighs and shakes her head. “You were obviously lonely, looking for friends, looking for love, looking for a new life. All that pain and unhappiness bundled up inside you. One of God’s creatures needing help. And I did not see you, did not reach out to you, did not relieve your hurt. And that is why I am sorry. I should have found you first.”
Everything sinks in for Ilona.
All this time, she had never considered her first meeting, or even the rest of her relationship with the girls, from the flipside. And she could never fathom that Cynthia would feel any guilt over Ilona, but in so many ways, and in so many thoughts, it all makes sense.
It also dawns on her that Cynthia, and by extension all of the girls, knew the life Ilona had before the book came into her life, before she walked up to the wall, before it all changed. For her, this now common knowledge did not bother, but instead liberates. They accepted her, baggage and all, and are still here. They really and truly like her, love her, and want to be her friend.
“Ilona, do you, can you, forgive me?” Cynthia asks, with Ilona clueing in of the seconds that have ticked by as her world shifts around her.
“Cynthia, forgiveness is not needed or required. You are not perfect, and neither am I. And you should remember, maybe the universe was just waiting for me to take the first step?” Ilona quietly replies while reaching out and taking Cynthia’s free hand. “Maybe this was the way all it was supposed to happen?”
“You have been eavesdropping on Collette, Susan and I haven’t you?” Cynthia laughs. She slowly starts swaying their hands in the air, back and forth, rather playfully.
“Yes I have. After awhile you have to seek the answer to the deeper questions of life, the universe and everything, and for that I turn to you three,” Ilona says happily.
Cynthia finally smiles again, with the tears now almost completely dry.
“I love doing this,” Ilona states with a grin, “Talking with you. Swinging arms. Chowing down on cake. Staying up waaaay past my bedtime. And having deep thoughts.”
“If you want some deep thoughts, we can talk about something Collette, Susan and I have entertained many a time,” Cynthia asks.
“What is it?” Ilona inquires.
“What are your thoughts on God?” Cynthia questions.
Ilona starts to answer. This leads to another long discussion, winding and cake filled, which does not end till almost two thirty in the morning when sleep finally overtakes Ilona and Cynthia.
Waking up the next morning to the sound of Clara doing a Tarzan yell and Madison throwing a Perry the Platypus stuffed animal at her, Collette pops up right away, shouting “I am now eleven! Now the real party begins!” All the girls, still groggy and bleary eyed, crawl in their sleeping bags over to Collette and slap half done high fives onto her.
“To tired, I high five like a Hufflepuff!” Madison whines.
They all look up as the voice of Cynthia’s mother comes down the stairs.
“Collette! Something is at the front door for you!”
The excitement of the mystery causes them all to rise. Almost everyone struggles out of their sleeping bags, with new found energy propelling them onward. The exceptions is Clara and Madison, who sensing the waste of time of shedding the sleeping bags, and the fun they can have rambling up the stairs while still inside them, stumbles along trying to beat everyone to the front door.
Within a minute all the girls have somehow managed to make it to the door, where Cynthia’s mother is awaiting Collette.
“Happy eleventh birthday!” Cynthia’s mom flings the door open.
Collette looks down and screams in happiness.
Floating above the doorstop is a white balloon with a drawing of an owl on it. Hanging from the string under it is a piece of parchment.
“My Hogwarts letter came!” Collette shouts as her friends pile on with a group hug.
Song For This Chapter: One of Us by Joan Osborne
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.