Chapter 37: Love You Forever
Ilona stands outside the kindergarten room, giddy with excitement and feeling a warm glow in her tummy.
Carefully, she knocks on the door, just like she was instructed by Mrs. Chase, and listens for the signal. A few seconds of eternity later, a slight ringing sound gives her the go ahead to turn the doorknob.
Entering the room, Ilona sees the chaos of what seems like thousands of kids running and screaming and rampaging about. Toys and games and learning activities litter the floors and counters and everywhere the eyes can see. Ilona takes it all in, and quickly realizes the room is different from when she was here years ago. Not every detail is one she can recall from back then, but it is obvious some things are newer and shinier.
Spying the teacher, who is mediating between two small children arguing over something, Ilona walks over.
“Hello Mrs. Aurora, I am Ilona, here for the Grade Five Reading Partnership,” she states, just like Mrs. Chase told her to.
Mrs. Aurora looks at Ilona and smiles. “Good to meet you Ilona, now if you could just give me a second…” The teacher plops both kids into small chairs and tells them to sit and wait. They both scowl in return.
Mrs. Aurora, who she knows is new to SummerFall with this being only her second year here, is young and full of peppy energy, Ilona thought. The teacher strides into the disaster zone of shouting squabbling small ones and gently takes the hand of a boy Ilona immediately recognizes. Leading the boy through the chaos, navigating expertly around countless arms and legs jostling everywhere, Mrs. Aurora within seconds returns to Ilona.
“Now then, I believe you two already know each other? Met several times, hang out in the same social circles?” Mrs. Aurora says to Ilona and the little boy.
“Ilona! The boy shouts, jumping up and giving her a hugely massive hug.
“Hello Jackson! Or should I just call you Muskrat?” Ilona returns the hug, then takes one hand and messes up the boy’s hair.
“Muskrat is my superhero codename! Josh said so!” Jackson shouts, gleaming up at Ilona.
“Jackson it is! Would not want your enemies to know where your headquarters are!” Ilona states with an oh so serious face.
“Exactly!” Jackson breaks out of the hug and hops on the spot.
Mrs. Aurora smiles at them. “Looks like I made the right match up here!” She picks up a pile of storybooks from the counter and hands them to Ilona. “Here we go. Have fun you two!”
Following in behind Ilona, Jackson babbles on and on as they exit the room and head into the hallway. “How you doing? This is so cool! We are reading together and everything! I loved watching Clara’s Corner on Youtube! Mommy and daddy wouldn’t let me and Josh into the basement cause they said it was girls only! Did you really get that guy kicked offa the net? That was so cool!”
As they sit down on the old brown couch, Ilona smiles at Jackson’s endless comments and questions. “So many things bouncing out of you today Jackson! And much as I would love to chat and answer everything, we do have lots and lots of books Mrs. Aurora wants us to get through. But before we begin, what book are you reading right now?”
Jackson screws up his face, as if deep in thought, before suddenly remembering. “Walter The Farting Dog!”
Ilona laughs. “I read that one as well! It is a classic. Right now I am deep into The Hunger Games! That one is very scary and very intense.”
“Oooooh!” Jackson stares at Ilona intently. “Josh and Clara read that one as well! Can’t wait till I am big enough for that one!”
Ilona holds up the book pile and shows them all off to Jackson. “Well, lets start with the ones you are big enough for right now. Anything strikes your fancy?”
Jackson’s eyes scans the books paraded before him and shoots his finger at one. “Mommy always reads that one to me. And she read it to Josh. And she read it to Clara. I like that one. Alot.”
Ilona looks at Jackson’s choice and smiles. She remembers her mother reading this to her when she was little, all those years ago.
“Okay, we will start with Love You Forever. My mommy read this to me as well,” Ilona tells Jackson.
Ilona spreads the book open, with each side resting on one of Ilona’s and Jackson’s legs. Jackson peers down at the drawings as Ilona reads the words.
Time slows down as page after page flows by, with this tale of love filling the air around them. Ilona finishes and before she can close out the last page, Jackson quietly asks her.
She looks into his young eyes and sees the happiness living there.
“Okay, for you Jackson.”
Ilona starts at the beginning again, reading aloud words and emotions living on the pages, making them sound like music. Jackson listens intently and follows Ilona’s hands as she describes each picture, making the million times told story all exciting and new. As the last syllable on the last page is uttered, Jackson repeats his request from earlier, all in a tiny small voice.
She sees his eyes full of hope.
“Okay, for you Jackson.”
Ilona flips to the opening page and her gentle voice carries the tale once again to Jackson’s eager ears. The melody of the book envelopes the brown couch and floats it away from SummerFall and into a place of just her and him. Before she reaches the final word, Ilona already knows what Jackson’s request will be.
“Okay, for you Jackson.”
As she turns back to the first page, Jackson moves his hand tenderly into Ilona’s. She feels his small fingers warmly touch hers. Ilona once again transports the two of them into the world of this story.
For the next several minutes, all becomes Ilona, Jackson, Love You Forever, and an old brown couch. And each time the tale is done, it starts anew. Over and over. Page after page. Word after word. Drawing after drawing. Ilona and Jackson. All is right with the world.
After countless unsaid agains and unspoken okay Jackson’s, Mrs. Aurora pops into the hallway.
“My my my! I completely lost track of time with you two! Sorry about that! So, how was it?” Mrs. Aurora asks.
Jackson immediately beams a smile at his teacher. “Ilona read me Love You Forever! I love that one! Alot!”
“That’s good, but time to get back to class now Jackson. Thank Ilona for all her reading and being so nice.”
Jackson and Ilona get off the couch and he turns to her and exclaims “Thank you!” A split second later Jackson wraps his arms around Ilona in a hug tight with all the strength of a little boy. “You smell nice,” he whispers to her.
Letting go, he races to the open door, stops just before entering and flashes a smile and a quick wave, before bolting back into the room.
Mrs. Aurora looks at the surprised Ilona and smiles. “I think someone loves you.”
Song For This Chapter: Kiss From A Rose by Seal
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.