Chapter 44: A Time To Plant And A Time To Uproot
“That was so cool! And amazing! And, and, cool!” Jackson shouts, bouncing up and down on the heels of his feet. “When Hulk took down that alien monster! Dontcha think Ilona? Do you know we saw the Hulk when we were at Disneyland last month?”
“Most definitely cool and amazing and cool,” Ilona laughs, “The Avengers was all that and more. And yes, you have told me of your Hulk encounter many many times.”
Jackson is now bounding back and forth over the very small patch of pavement between Ilona and the kindergarten fence. “I can’t wait for part two! I can’t wait for part two! Can you Ilona?”
“I can’t wait for part two either Jackson,” Ilona says as she playfully tries to smack the back of the little boy’s head as he keeps moving.
“Missed me! Missed me again!” Jackson shouts triumphantly, this time running around in circles in the exact same space as beforehand.
“Maybe if I had a baseball bat? Then I would most definitely get you!” Ilona swirls her other hand into the swinging, still missing the constantly moving target of Jackson’s head.
“You always threaten that but never do it,” Jackson giggles while switching direction of his running. “Maddie will loan you a bat, you know she will!”
Ilona laughs as one of her hands almost connects with Jackson. “If it is used on you, she will quickly give me two baseball bats!”
Jackson stops suddenly and stares, which Ilona knows is because his mother has driven up. Grabbing his backpack, Jackson takes Ilona’s hand and they walk together up to the minivan.
“Hello Ilona!” shouts Jackson’s mother through the window.
“Hello m’amm!” Ilona shouts back.
After Ilona opens the minivan door, Jackson throws his backpack in and turns to her.
“Miss you already, Ilona,” Jackson says as he hugs her.
“Miss you already as well, Jackson,” Ilona says as she hugs him back.
Minutes later, Jackson is driven away and Ilona heads off for lunch.
Finding her friends eating away in the gym, she quickly gets up to speed with the topic being bantered about, the ongoing saga of Susan and Samantha.
“So I replied to her last text this morning on the way to school, and she still has not responded. What does that mean?” Susan asks before she finishes her sandwich.
“She’s still in class and unlike some people,” Clara says, pointing at Madison, “Samantha does not violate the rules and text during class?”
“We aren’t supposed to text in class?” Cecily says wide eyed.
Cynthia interjects. “No, we are not little one. And I will not tell Mama that you do. But as for Samantha, she is homeschooled remember? Her time is more her own.”
“Not necessarily,” Collette shakes her head, “Samantha might be homeschooled, but she still would have the rigours and discipline of whatever schedule her parents set to adhere to.”
“How do you know all this?” Susan says while taking her last bite.
“I researched homeschooling while gathering information on Samantha,” Collette states matter of factly while collecting her garbage.
All her friends stare at her. “For some reason, that does not surprise me,” Cynthia smiles.
“What?” Collette stares back, “of course I was going to gather information on Samantha. Had to make sure she is real and not an axe murderer. Honestly, you people know nothing about relationships in this day and age. True love does not just walk up out of nowhere you know.”
“Heya Collette!” a boy smiles at her, “want me to get rid of your garbage for you?”
“Sure Luke,” Collette hands him her trash, “Thank you so much.”
“No problemo!” Luke states as he walks away.
“I don’t know what’s driving me more crazy now,” Susan rolls her eyes, “waiting for Samantha’s text or seeing what else Collette has found out. Love is so anxiety producing.”
Everyone stares at Susan.
“I did not just say love. I did not just say love. I am to young to say love,” Susan babbles while looking down. “Let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about anything else,” she continues before popping her head up. “Hey, the movie of the Trident book is coming up! Do you think he will have a Trident in the film?”
Madison laughs. “I don’t know. I would LOVE a trident movie without a trident in it. Who wouldn’t LOVE that?” Madison raises her voice and makes a heart symbol with her hands even time she says the word love.
Susan smirks at her. “I know where you sleep Maddie, and will hunt you down.”
“Only if you can get past Fluffy and Hermione the super cat,” Madison giggles.
Ilona finishes her food and smiles at her friend’s antics. The remainder of lunch flows by, with everyone soon moved outside, all to resume their positions by the wall. By the time the school bell rings, two group high fives are done. One for Susan who just finished the book with the man with the Trident on the cover for the second time, all in preparation for the movie coming very very soon. And the other for Ilona, who completed the final book in the Divergent trilogy, Allegiant. Days before another double high five had happened, with both Ilona and Susan competing to see who would get Our Town down first.
Classes filled the afternoon, with Mrs. Chase flipping purple chalk this time, all while announcing the newest book the students will read. An election campaign had been held, where nominated books were discussed and debated and narrowed down to two. Drama by Raina Telgemeier, championed by Susan, and Z for Zachariah by Robert Leslie Conly, pushed forward by Clara, made the final cut with secret ballots being held. Ilona’s choice, Drama, was the winner by the smallest of margins, making her wonder if her vote was the responsible one. A thought she chose to keep secret so as to not cause chaos, event though she knows deep down her friends would not mind.
By the end of the school day, Ilona and her friends were all gathered as usual outside, but with some noticeable absences.
“Cynthia got called outa class by Mrs. Travis shortly after recess,” Madison explained, “Don’t know why, and I was gonna text her but I killed my phone battery earlier today. Dang games!”
“I’m not worried,” Collette says, “Cynthia is always involved with stuff. It is like her superpower.”
“A superpower that I am sometimes burdened with,” Cynthia sates flatly while walking up to the girls, Cecily by her side. Ilona can tell something is off, something is wrong, something is painful here, and she does not like it.
“What’s wrong?” Collette asks loudly, “those aren’t happy faces.”
Cynthia stares at her friends, then turns to Cecily, then back to them. “I was called out of class, as was Cecily, to go home.” Ilona sees tears drain over Cecily’s face, even as the younger girl keeps her head down. “We had to… we had to pack,” Cynthia says lowly.
“I don’t want to go!” Cecily shouts, plunging her arms around Cynthia, crying. “I want to stay here! I want to stay here forever! Please let me stay!”
Everyone stares in surprise. Ilona’s mind races. How can this happen? Cecily cannot, will not leave.
“Oookay,” Clara slurs out, “is she, like, leaving right now? Cause when Timothy left we had a goodbye dinner, gifts, email exchanges, and a million hugs. It feels like Cecily is leaving right this minute and–”
“She is leaving right this minute. She will be at the airport very very soon,” Cynthia interrupts, still holding a weeping Cecily.
“Why?” Ilona croaks out, feeling her throat squeeze shut. “Why?” she slips out again as tears drown her face.
Cynthia glances at Cecily, glued to her side, and puts on a strained smile. “They found some relatives, cousins Mama told us, who live in Vancouver.” Cynthia closes her eyes as she talks. “They want Cecily with them right away. So I was sent home… to help pack.” Her eyes pop open. “Mama is waiting in the parking lot. We only have a few minutes before we must go. Before Cecily must go. Before Cecily must leave us.” Cynthia heaves a huge sigh as the tears flow freely. Cecily finally looks up at Cynthia’s eyes, and pleads, “can’t I stay, please?”
Cynthia keeps the forced happy smile in place. “It is not in our power little one. This is something beyond us. Something that will lead to a new life for you.” She rubs Cecily’s back gently. “But now we must say goodbye to everyone, for Mama is waiting.”
Cecily slowly lets go of Cynthia and walks with heavy steps towards her friends.
“Group high five!” Madison shouts. “Gotta give ya the proper send-off! One that will be remembered forever and ever!”
Madison, full of pep and vinegar, leads the weepy friends into the famous group high five, which starts slowly, but quickly gains steam. Hands slam and slap each other with massive force, with Cecily even giggling a bit through the tears.
“And now,” Clara shouts, “a group hug to end all group hugs!”
With Cecily in the middle, everyone squishes in, giving the younger girl a breathtaking crush of love. More giggles are released from Cecily, whose eyes glow with happiness through the tears, and a smile stretches from ear to ear. For a second or so of perfection, all feels right for everyone. But the moment evapourates quickly with painful memories of the unseen afternoon coming back fresh and new.
“I don’t want to go…” Cecily starts crying again, looking around all her friends, hoping to see an answer amoung the faces.
Susan pulls Cecily into a small hug. “I know the feeling little one. I was younger than you when my mom and I left home, all to come to a strange place called Toronto I had only heard of. We were scared, but we persevered and made a new life for ourselves.” She takes Cecily’s chin and draws it up so their eyes connect. “And you shall do the same. A new regeneration awaits you. And you shall make it wonderful.”
“You really think so?” Cecily asks.
“I know it young Jedi.” Susan replies.
Slowly, with much tears and hugs, Cecily makes the rounds of her friends. Madison offers a nose honk of what she calls “of truly epic proportion.” Clara follows her hug with giving Cecily a twirl, shouting “it’s Wonder Woman!” Lowering herself abit, Collette stares directly into Cecily’s eyes, and recites an Irish blessing which ends with, “And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
With tears mingling with smiles as the goodbyes happen, Cecily finally turns to Ilona.
The two run into a hug and hold each other. Ilona clutches Cecily, not wanting to ever let go, squeezing the younger girl with all the love she can muster. Cecily wraps her arms around Ilona, hoping to keep her forever, using ever ounce of strength to stop the future from coming.
“I wish you were my sister,” Cecily whispers.
“You are my sister,” Ilona whispers back. “Goodbye Arlene…” Ilona tightens her grip on Cecily and whispers even more silently, “I’m sorry Cecily…”
“It’s alright Ilona. That is a badge of honour for me,” Cecily whispers back.
Ilona kisses Cecily’s forehead and the two stay, locked together, in the embrace for several seconds of eternity. Both girls, through tears, begin singing. “Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top,” is the muffled sound they make, but slowly stop as the pain becomes too intense.
Cynthia walks over and carefully hugs them, then quietly says, “It’s time to go.”
Pulling apart, Cecily keeps her eyes on Ilona. “Goodbye.” She glances at her other friends. “Goodbye all.” She turns to Cynthia. “Thank you.”
“No problem little one. It was a pleasure,” Cynthia smiles.
Ilona and her friends watch as Cynthia leads Cecily across the schoolyard, towards the parking lot. She wants to, desperately, to go along to the mini van and wave goodbye, but knows it will only upset Cecily even more. And she cannot do that. Not to Cecily. Not to her sister.
“Well,” Madison says with obvious false bravado, “that sucked big time. Now I wanna go kick something.”
“Ditto,” Susan mutters.
For the next few minutes the friends talk and comment amoungst each other, before everyone slowly peels off and starts heading home.
Ilona drags herself into the apartment, stares at the quiet mocking walls, and sighs. Pushing a little energy into her movements, Ilona somehow manages to make dinner and even accomplish some homework. The clattering of the door opening snaps Ilona away from her tasks and sends her running full tilt. She barely notices her mother and father not calling out their usual greetings, she hardly registers her mother already running towards her, she just knows that they are here, now, for her.
“Mumma!” Ilona squeals out through her tears.
“We know kiddo, we know. Cynthia called us.” Her mother states as she grabs Ilona in a hug.
“Cecily’s gone. And it hurts so much.” Ilona cries.
“It’s alright, kiddo, it’s alright. We are here for you. We are here for you forever.”
“Thank you, Mumma, thank you.”
Song For This Chapter: When She Loved Me by Sarah McLachlan
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.