Chapter 45: A Time To Tear Down And A Time To Build
“Hey Ilona! Watch this! Look at what I can do!” Jackson shouts as he puts his hands on the ground and flips his legs up into the air, wobbles a bit, before his feet rest against the kindergarten fence right behind him.
“That’s very good Jackson. Very acrobatic of you,” Ilona says with a smile, followed by a sigh.
Jackson stares upside down at Ilona, than frowns. Seconds later, he flips himself back around and has his feet planted firmly on the ground.
“Ilona,” Jackson says, “I miss her too.” The young boy throws a hug around her. “Cecily was my friend, even after she said she was gonna punch me, and I never got to say goodbye.” He pulls up from the hug enough to look at Ilona’s face. “That sucks,” Jackson states, “big time.”
Ilona gently touches and slides her fingers through Jackson’s hair. “Yes, I know Cecily was your friend as well. And yes, I know you miss her just like I do.” She keeps her tears in check. “And yes, you not having a chance to say goodbye was not right. In fact, you are right about everything.” Her voice cracks for a second. “It all sucked. Big time.”
Jackson’s eyes go wide. “When Clara got home and told me, I cried. It was so sad. Mommy hugged me and sang to me and tickled me, all to make the hurt go away.” Ilona can see deep into his eyes. “I told her it worked, but I don’t think she believed me. Mommy always knows when I’m lying.” Jackson’s stare peers back at her. “Always.”
The sounds of the schoolyard around the corner barely infiltrate the moment between the two, for the next several seconds, as they unite in grief. A honk snaps in and both turn to face Jackson’s mother, just pulling up in the mini van.
“You gotta go now Jackson,” Ilona says as the two leave the hug, “your mother is waiting, and you wouldn’t want her to blame your girlfriend for making you late?”
“Nope!” Jackson shouts as he picks up his backpack. “That would just needlessly complicate our relationship,” he states as he grabs Ilona’s hand.
“Needlessly complicate our relationship?” Ilona repeats breathlessly, “where did you get that from?”
Jackson beams as he pops into the minivan. “Joshua paid me a whole dollar to say that to you. Said you would have a funny look on face when I did. And he was right!”
Jackson’s mother, sitting in the drivers seat, shakes her head. “Remind me to have a talk with your brother when he gets home. Then remind me to ground him for a month.”
“Yay! Joshua is getting grounded!” Jackson shouts, raising his arms.
Ilona closes the mini van doors and waves as it drives away. As it turns the corner, she realizes she is still standing by the side of the road and has to go back for lunch. Where no Cecily will appear. As it has been for the last week that she has been gone, with no word from her whatsoever. Vanished like she never existed, except for the pain left behind.
Ilona sighs as she takes the first heavy steps back towards SummerFall, a journey she makes only because she has to.
Lunch in the gym attempts to be lively, with Madison and Clara yakking back and forth with their hand puppets, alternating between asking Susan about Samantha and inquiring of what plans they are going to make for the Trident movie premiere. Answers from Susan include they are still texting, a lot, and movie details are still awaiting information from the local theatre. These topics fly by Ilona with little comment, which is the same reaction from most of her friends.
By the time they all reach the schoolyard, Madison and Clara have started doing old comedy routines, all prominently featuring the puppets. Cynthia pitches in some punchlines, mostly awful, all to break the mood, but to little effect. Ilona does not even want to look at the puppets, or anything else happy right now.
“Well, let’s all go and assume our usual position at the wall. Try to get back to normal and crack some good books open. Reading is great therapy, after all.” Cynthia bubbles up, waving all the friends towards the wall.
As they all straggle over, a loud voice slams in from behind them.
“Hey nerds! You all are still mopey over Dora getting deported? Hope they keep her in Mexico this time!”
They all look over and see the boy, the one from grade four that Cecily had told them about, the bully who always called her Dora. And now he is walking away, laughing hysterically, at the genius in his mind sense of humour.
“Ignore him,” Collette whispers to everyone, “he has problems.”
Ilona hears Collette’s words, feels them and knows how right they are, but she also heard the words from the bully. Hateful words used to pick on someone smaller, make her feel pain, all for his disgusting amusement.
Cecily, her wonderful friend and sister who sings beautifully to the clouds, is gone.
This bully, a terrible evil troll who spreads venom everywhere, is still here.
This is not fair. This is not the way the universe should work. Someone has to fix this injustice. Now.
Ilona drops her book, the one with the man with the Trident she is rereading for the upcoming movie, and balls her hands into fists.
Running straight forward, Ilona barely hears a shout that sounds far away, one that implores “Ilona don’t!” The last word hits her ears as she reaches the bully, who turns around and reacts with absolute fear as she descends onto him.
Both of her fists strike, almost simultaneously, smashing into his face and immediately drawing blood. Falling down and crunching against the pavement, he howls in pain and fear. Ilona grapples on top of him and continues raining down punch after punch, smacking his face, neck and chest. Tears make her vision blurry and panting causes her breath to be ragged, but Ilona keeping going, making black eyes and bloody lips the bully’s new reality.
He has to pay, he simply has to pay for Cecily being gone.
With another blow about to fall, Ilona’s arm stops moving, followed by the other arm. Straining all the strength she can muster, Ilona tries to release herself from this unseen barrier to her justice. Something gives on one side, but is suddenly reinforced, and is now pulling her off target. The same happens to her other arm, with the result of Ilona being pried off the bully that she now, for some reason, can hear screaming.
Ilona turns her head to see what teacher dares to stop her, and is angry when one arm is occupied by Susan and Madison. Whipping her head around, she sees Collette and Clara jostling with her other arm.
“Let me go!” someone shouts and the voice sounds like hers.
Pulling and dragging and forcing her away from the enemy, Ilona cannot free her arms, no matter how much she trashes around, no matter how much she screams. Her rage stops for a briefest of moments and her lungs fill her chest for one long second as she spies Cynthia before her.
With tears wetting her face and infecting a sad smile, Cynthia reaches up and touches Ilona’s cheek, a gentle calmness leaving her fingers.
“It is alright Ilona, we all miss her. We all miss Cecily. We all miss her love,” Cynthia whispers in a quiet soulful way, bringing a small wave of calm to Ilona, one that with each breathe spreads more serenity through her. By what seems like the hundredth deep wheezing out her anger, Ilona finally feels her body lessening in tension. Slowly, tentatively, her friends let go of her arms, and they fall tired to her sides.
“Thank you,” Ilona says through tears to Cynthia, who quickly pulls her into a hug.
“We will see Cecily again. I know it,” Cynthia whispers in reply, gently rocking Ilona in her arms.
As they pull out of the hug, Ilona turns to her friends. “I am sorry for how I acted. I am sorry for causing all this trouble. Thank you all for saving me.” Ilona says through a cracking voice, tears stinging her eyes now.
Madison playfully punches her in the arm. “More like you should be sorry for taking my job, cause right now I am mad at you. I’m the one who should have decked that jerk. I am the one with the righteous fists of fury.”
Clara punches her other arm. “And despite your best efforts, the puppets survived. You are such a crazy Muggle.” She holds her puppet up, and except for a few wrinkles, it is still a very much alive.
“Well, someone else should apologize as well for excessive violence,” Collette states in a tone while giving Susan a glare.
Everyone looks at Susan, who stares back at Collette.
“Not going to apologize. That jerk deserved what he got. Ilona just beat me to giving him a pounding.” She looks at Ilona. “But I did help peel you off of him, because you did really lose it.”
Clara interrupts and glances between Collette and Susan. “Am I missing something? Why does Susan have to apologize? What violence did she do? Me confused.”
Susan gives everyone a proud face. “While I was getting Ilona off of that idiot, I gave him a quick kick right in someplace nasty.” She smiles at the thought. “And I do not feel sorry at all.”
Collette gives a peeved mean eyes to most of her friends. “Just for the record, I do not approve of violence. Flattening tires is one thing, but outright attacking people? Completely against.” She starts pointing her finger at everyone. “Did you all hear what Simon was shouting and screaming while he was being beaten? He was begging Ilona to stop.”
Susan shakes her head at Collette. “And do you recall what Ilona was shouting at that ass while she smacked him? It was ‘How dare you!’ over and over again.” She narrows her eyes at Collette. “And she is right. How dare he go after Cecily, who did nothing to him? He made his choice and now he must live with it.”
Cynthia steps between the two. “Let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?”
Madison chimes in. “Yeah, and speaking of making choices and all that crap, here comes Mrs. Travis with that brat kid leading the way.”
They all watch as Simon, still limping and crying and scratched and bruised, leads Mrs. Travis over to them.
Ilona stares at Susan, eyes still puffy from her crying. “I actually shouted ‘How dare you!’ at him?”
“Yep!” Susan replies, then asks Collette, “how do you know his name is Simon?”
“Very simply,” Collette replies, “When Cecily told us about his bullying ways, I gathered information on him. His name is Simon and he has been acting out for the last year,” she stares at Susan, “even since his father took off.”
Before Susan could respond, Mrs. Travis and Simon are before them. “Office!” She says sternly to Ilona in a tone she is sure none of her friends have ever heard before.
Minutes later, Ilona and Simon are in a meeting with the Principal, who quickly dissects all that happened. A stern talking to is given to Ilona, who is then told to wait in the main office. Finding herself sitting on the same couch that housed her and Josh all those months ago, she notices Simon is still in the Principal’s office.
Ilona hears a thump sound as someone lands on the couch beside her.
“Doing hard time, eh? So what are you in for? Stealing cars?” Mrs. Chase smiles as she settles in beside Ilona, then flips her red hair behind her ears.
“No,” Ilona says with some shame, eyes hitting the floor, “I got into a fight. My first one ever. I beat up a younger boy, who is a bully who picked on an even younger kid lots of times, and now I feel bad about it. He has problems, I know that now, and maybe that is why he is so mean.” Ilona stares at Mrs. Chase now. “Was I right? Was I truly trying to stop a bully? Or am I just angry because Cecily is gone?” Ilona sighs. “Life is so confusing sometimes.”
Mrs. Chase laughs. “Yes, life can be so confusing sometimes. Trust me, I know that one from personal experience. Ask me sometime about when I was in grade ten.” She touches Ilona’s hair. “As for whether you were right or not, that is something you will have to decide for yourself. Part of growing up is making choices and having to live with the good ones and the bad ones and the ones that splat right in the middle.”
“Splat?” Ilona laughs, for the first time in forever.
“Yes, splat! That is a highly trained teachery word!” Mrs. Chase uses her other hand to wag a finger at Ilona. “And that teachery training told me to come here now.”
She again flips her hair behind her ears, all with Ilona’s hair still dancing with her other fingers. “I heard about what happened, and I know you all miss Cecily. A lot. As do I.” Mrs. Chase points at herself. “And I also know you have been on a quest, a magnificent quest, to find out what everyone and their pets favourite book is.” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a paperwork book and hands it to Ilona. “This is my absolute favourite of all time. A classic I read for the first time back in my magical grade ten year of my life.”
Mrs. Chase gives Ilona a smile full of love and hope. “And maybe it might help you with the issues of love and loss you are living right now.”
Ilona pulls from the kind face Mrs. Chase is gracing her with and looks down at the book now inhabiting her hands. She has heard of it, but knew next to nothing about it.
“The Diary of Anne Frank?” Ilona says with some awe, than turns back to Mrs. Chase. “Is Anne Frank a real person? And is this really her diary?”
Mrs. Chase takes her free hand and joins it’s mate in Ilona’s hair, smushing it up a bit. “Read. Learn. Heal. Love.”
Ilona nods in agreement, and she and Mrs. Chase talk on the couch for the rest of the lunch hour.
The day goes on, with Ilona’s fight becoming legendary for the rest of the afternoon. She moves on and goes about her business and chats with her friends, all while waiting for the final bell of the day. Once home, she completes her tasks and knows of the trouble coming her way when her parents arrive. They understand her reasons, but are nonetheless very cross with her, resulting in a one week grounding, the first time she has ever been punished by them.
When the weekend finally crawls up the next day, Ilona retreats to her room and begins to meet Anne. Page after page of this young girls life and thoughts and feelings become part of Ilona’s soul, bringing much tears and sense of everything to her.
On Sunday night, the last page is completed, with Ilona just staring at the cover for a long time. Jumping out of bed, she runs into her parent’s room.
And hugs them.
Song For This Chapter: At Seventeen by Janis Ian
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.