Chapter 41: Cecily Sings To Air ACT II of IV of FAMILIES
Zipping carefully along the sidewalk, riding bikes over the mostly cleared sidewalks, is Ilona followed closely behind by Cecily. And Cecily is singing her heart out to a tune Ilona recognizes immediately, and knows who probably taught it to her.
When they stop at a corner to cross the street, Cecily pulls up beside Ilona.
“Amazing Grace!” Ilona nods, “you sing it so well.”
Cecily smiles in embarrassment. “Thank you. Cynthia and Mama taught me the song.” Her eyes beam out happiness, “I think it is beautiful.”
“It is. You should look up the story behind the song. I did and it is incredible.” Ilona glances both ways, then stops and asks Cecily, “you want to go anyplace special? Or even extra-special? Just you and me?”
Cecily almost pounces off of her bike. “SummerFall! The wall! Yes!”
Ilona laughs. “Okay the wall at SummerFall it is then! As Maddie would say, tallyho!”
Minutes later, Ilona and Cecily are turning into the schoolyard and are surprised that the entire playground has been ploughed clear of snow and ice. Quickly recovering and realizing the wonderful gift of a wide open area, the two let loose with wild abandon. Biking hither and yither, crisscrossing each other, and blasting out screams of joy, the two friends occupy the whole of SummerFall with their antics.
Finally stopping from mutual exhaustion, they mock collapse off their bikes right near the part of the field where Madison did her famous snow rant.
“That… was… awesome!” Cecily sputters out, then reaches out and squeezes Ilona’s nose. “HONK!”
“Honk bacatcha!” Ilona wheezes back, also reaching out to return the squeeze. Cecily giggles and squirms away before finally sitting up. Ilona copies her and sits up as well, with the two friends facing each other, giggling.
“Before we go too crazy,” Cecily says as she pulls out an old smartphone, “I better text Cynthia that we are here.”
As Cecily punches away on the buttons, Ilona sees the pure happiness on the young girls face. “You must love living with Cynthia and her huge family. All those people coming and going. All those antics her brothers get into.”
“Yeah,” Cecily replies while hitting send, “I am an only child, so suddenly having so many siblings is crazy and fun.” She stares at Ilona for a second. “You’re an only child like me, aren’t you Ilona?”
Ilona smiles lightly and reaches out and touches Cecily’s hands. “I had a sister once, her name is Arlene. Let me tell you about her.”
For the next several minutes, Ilona and Cecily sit across from each other, holding hands, as the story of the life and passing of baby Arlene is recounted. When the tale is finished, Cecily jumps up and knocks Ilona backward with a hug. Spiraling to the side because of Ilona’s stuffed schoolbag being in the way, the two end up laying on their sides, embracing, half on the snowy field, half on the concrete playground.
“I am so sorry for what happened to Arlene,” whispers Cecily, “life sucks sometimes.”
“It is alright Cecily, it is alright,” Ilona takes one free hand and starts gently touching Cecily’s hair. “Sometimes I talk to Arlene. Once even in this playground here. I tell her of the good times and the bad times and about all of my friends,” Ilona says quietly.
“Even me?” Cecily whispers.
“Yes,” Ilona gently laughs, “even you.”
Cecily looks thoughtful for a second, than asks in a quiet voice, “can I sing to Arlene? I love singing and maybe she would like to hear a lullaby? Babies like lullabies don’t they?”
Ilona smiles and keeps playing with Cecily’s hair. “Yes they do. And I think Arlene would love that,” she whispers.
Cecily and Ilona look up into the sky, full of white clouds standing still in a light blue sea. Ilona still touches the younger girls hair as Cecily’s voice rises from the schoolyard, filling the air with her beautiful sounds.
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top.”
Cecily continues, the music flowing out and lifting upwards, reaching to the awaiting sky. Moments of beauty and love pass between the three as the lullaby makes a perfect day more perfect. As Cecily sets the last notes free, she and Ilona bring their gazes from the sky and back to each other. Ilona leans her head slightly forward and plants on Cecily’s forehead a light kiss.
“Do you think Arlene liked it?” Cecily whispers.
“Of course she did, Cecily, of course she did,” Ilona replies quietly.
The two stay in silence for several more seconds, with Cecily enjoying Ilona tussling her fingers through her hair. “This is wonderful, just hanging out like this, ” says Cecily, “but we should sit up now, cause the snow is freezing me.”
Ilona and Cecily laugh as they slowly, clumsily, stand up, shake off the accumulated snow, and warm themselves up a bit. Ilona even removes her heavy backpack from aching shoulders and the two wipe it clean of snow as well.
“Let’s head to the wall, just like in our original plan!” Cecily exclaims.
Standing side by side, with the bicycles on the outside of their grouping, they jointly carry Ilona’s schoolbag between them. Leaning the bikes against the wall and the clunky bag right beside them, they settle a meter or so away, with the usual position of backs against bricks.
“It’s always good to have fun,” Cecily says, “the last few days of school before March Break started were so sucky.”
“Why?” Ilona asks with concern.
“Oh, its just that idiot boy. He still keeps calling me Dora all the time and talks fake Spanish and tells me to go back to Mexico,” Cecily rambles everything out quickly, ” I think he just wanted to get in some last minute insults before school let out.”
“Do you want us to do something about it? Madison would gladly lead the charge.” Ilona states.
“No, no, it’s okay,” Cecily replies, “I just ignore him a lot. As Cynthia says, it’s obvious he has issues.”
“True, very true,” Ilona looks down, “but sometimes Cynthia forgets that people have a choice, of whether to do good or not.”
Cecily stares at Ilona, who sees the look out of the corner of her eye. She immediately snaps her head up and looks at Cecily, who calmly starts talking.
“People having a choice, that is something I have wondered about a lot over the last few months.”
Ilona reaches up and touches Cecily again. “And?” She asks.
“My parents gave me up. I never talked about it before, but Cynthia of course knows all about it.” Cecily explains. “I don’t know why, but one day just a few weeks before Christmas, they drove up to a police station. They seemed… worried, like something was really wrong, or something.” Cecily starts fidgeting with her hands, twisting and turning her fingers constantly. Ilona reaches out with her other hand and softly holds Cecily’s impulsive hands. “They told me to go into the police station and tell them who I was. I didn’t want to, but they were very very insistent, so I did.”
Cecily stops for a second, letting Ilona’s hands soothe away the pain.
“I was so scared. Walking up the steps, going through the doors, making my way to that big desk with that really tall policeman. But I did as I was told.”
Cecily’s eyes have tears forming. Her words sputter out.
“The police went outside. My parents were gone. They tried to find them. But they couldn’t. They had disappeared. Like they had never existed. Or something.”
Cecily’s eyes pour out all the hurt and pain from that day.
“Why did they leave me? What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong?”
Cecily cries and cries as Ilona pulls her into a hug, squeezing the younger girl as much as she can, trying desperately to make it all better. Trying to somehow make Cecily’s world brighter, right here in the schoolyard, just through sheer force of will.
As Ilona kisses Cecily’s forehead, this time with tears flowing down her cheeks, she whispers, “Nothing is wrong with you. You are as God made you. And you are my friend.”
“But why did they leave me?” Cecily whispers back.
“I do not know. But I think, and I think you do to, that something was wrong. And as you said earlier, they had to make a choice. A choice that probably hurt them as well. We might never know why they did what they did, but it feels like they were trying to protect you.” Ilona says quietly, then kisses Cecily’s forehead another time.
Cecily stares into Ilona’s eyes, tears still drenching both their faces. “I know that, deep down, I know that. At least I hope I do. It just feels so weird to no longer have them around. Gone like that. I guess me being alive is the only proof my parents were ever real.”
Ilona takes both her hands and squishes Cecily’s cheeks, all slippery with tears, and smiles. “Oh, you are real alright. I choose to believe your parents were wonderful people who loved you and had to save you from something, and, hopefully, someday, you will all be together again.” As Cecily smiles in return, Ilona continues. “And besides, they probably really miss you everyday, and miss your beautiful singing as well.”
Cecily laughs, “my mom and dad loved it when I sang. My mom used to sing to me all the time, from when I was really little to even the night before everything happened.” Cecily eyes become lost in the past. “That night she sang my favourite song from forever.”
“What song was that?” Ilona asks.
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top,” Cecily smiles at the happy memory. “I just realized that’s why I picked that song a few minutes ago.”
“Maybe,” Ilona says, “that choice was a sign from Arlene?”
Ilona and Cecily look at each other, pondering all that has happened, and what might now, possibly happen. Than the friends turn their heads back to the sky, still filled with clouds standing unmoving against the blue backdrop, and they whisper together “Arlene?” The sky gives no reply, and after another few seconds, the friends return their thoughts back to Earth.
“So let’s talk about something really really cool,” Ilona says with a fun smirk, “Whatcha reading these days?”
For almost the next two hours, book talk fills the time in an instant. Cecily fills Ilona in on what is her favourite book is, for this week at least, with Bone being the current winner. The conversation turned intense when the topic of the wonderment of Judy Blume came up, with Ilona and Cecily trying to top each other with trivia about the volumes and volumes of her work. Each friend took turns shouting, louder and louder, “Praise be her name!” whenever she was mentioned. As they laughingly joked for what seemed like fiftieth time about the miracle of Freckle Juice, Cecily’s smartphone rang out Amazing Grace, but with a more upbeat tempo than Cynthia’s phone used.
“It’s Cynthia. She’s telling us to stay where we are. A surprise is coming,” Cecily says.
“A surprise?” Ilona echoed.
Cecily suddenly points off to the far side of the playground. Two teenage girls have just turned the corner from where the parking lot is, and are heading towards them. As they move closer and closer, Ilona stares at their faces. The first girl, possessing light hair almost touching her shoulders, does not register to Ilona at all, but the second girl, with longer dark hair and a face that feels exotic, is rapidly making her mind speed up with recognition.
By the time the teens are almost standing before them, Ilona is already on her feet and running towards them.
“Hello Ilona! Long time no see!” The dark hair girl shouts.
“JOY!” Ilona screams, slamming into a hug of epic proportions.
The teen and preteen embrace, with Joy lifting Ilona off the ground, and the two twirling around and around, having the time of their lives.
“Gasp! Getting dizzy!” laughs Joy, as she finally plops Ilona back down. “You have certainly gotten bigger since the last time I saw you!”
“I know! That was, like a million billion years ago!” Ilona shouts as she jumps up and down on the spot.
“I see Maddie has taught you how to exaggerate very well!” Joy laughs even more.
Cecily tugs at Ilona’s arm and points at Joy. “You know you two look alike?” she says wide-eyed.
Joy gives Cecily a bewildered look.
Ilona laughs, “she says that all the time!”
Song For This Chapter: Your Stone Walls by Lawrence Gowan
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.