Chapter 52: ILONA and the WALL ACT V of V of A FAREWELL TO GRADE FIVE
An Extra Special Supersized 52nd Edition of The Passport To The Wall.
“When you become rich and famous and rich, can I still get your autograph and such?”
Cecily bounces up and down on the laptop screen as she babbles on and on.
“Yes,” Ilona sighs, then giggles, “I will still give you an autograph, but only if you decide my book is your favourite, forever and ever, and not change you mind again.”
“DEAL!” Cecily shouts, “lets skype shake on it!” She moves her hand up close to the screen and mimics a hand shake motion. Ilona replies by pretending shaking hands as well.
“By the way,” Ilona smiles at Cecily, “you said rich twice.”
“Did not!” Cecily sticks her tongue out.
“Did to!” Ilona sticks her tongue out as well.
Both girls break into giggles and laughter, continuing on till they are gasping.
Ilona leans back in her chair, wipes a joyful tear from her eyes, and stares back at the screen.
“Thanks Cecily,” she states, “I needed that.”
“I could tell,” Cecily leans up to close to the screen, “Nadia’s letter really threw you for a loop. Which is really not surprising, I mean, the world famous writer tells you to become a writer. Like, wow.” She smushes her face into an extreme close-up. “That. Is. Massive.” Raising her eyebrows, she asks, “are you sure you don’t want to tell anyone else?”
Ilona scrunches her lips up into an ugly face. “No, no, I’m going to show them the letter tomorrow at lunch. I just got the letter today and I want to sleep on it.” She holds the ugly face. “Or maybe I am just delaying the inevitable. Trying to spend one more night as Ilona the reader before becoming Ilona the writer.”
“Well,” Cecily still has her face filling the entire screen, “that was profound. Maybe Nadia is right about you being a writer. But one question, don’t writers still read a lot and stuff? So this is just what they call like an evolution of who you are and everything?”
“Yeah,” Ilona stares at the floor, still scrunching her face, “I guess.”
“And,” Cecily continues, “isn’t starting a new life all the time a theme for you? You did do that already, so why so hesitant now?”
Ilona flips her eyes from the floor to look at the laptop. “Maybe I was just getting used to the new me, and now I am about to start another new me? Am I ready for this?”
“You were ready last time,” Cecily replies, “and you are now.”
Ilona breaks her twisted composure and laughs. “Touche! And when did you become so smart and stuff?”
Cecily sighs and plops back from the screen and into her chair. “When you lived with Cynthia as long as I did, you learn so much wisdom it all starts coming out of your ears.”
A loud knock coming from behind Cecily makes her half jump out of her chair. She whips her head back to the screen. “That’s my cousins! Gotta go to dinner now and it’s going to be great cause it is potato chicken! Bye Ilona! Lova ya!”
Ilona smiles at Cecily, “Love ya to you wascally wabbit.”
A few clicks later and she is back to her desktop, a picture of Ilona and her friends at Halloween, and she goes to close the laptop as she has done a million times before. When she tilts the screen to a certain angle, she stops, and notices her reflection for the first time ever, an imitation of herself, but in a more subdued way. Ilona breathes out. The real her is not this, but close, she thinks. The real Ilona takes her whole life to make one simple decision, to go up to a wall with a book. The real Ilona would know if she is a writer. The real Ilona, she sighs, would not be so hopelessly confused.
Getting into bed, she realizes she has no time for her nightly reading, and she glances forlornly at her book that just a few hours ago she was itching to get at. Her eyes snap to attention when she sees the title, a name that had vanished from her memory till now. Zen In The Art Of Writing. Ilona picks the book up from her open schoolbag and holds it, takes all the words on the cover in, then tilts her head towards the ceiling.
“God, a few hours ago I was all willing and able to give this writing thing a shot, all because of Nadia and my Mumma and Poppa. But then, once I was alone here in my room at the end of the night, it all seemed so, so…. difficult, different, and and, not me. I worked so hard this year to be me, a better me, someone who can love and is loved. I know I was like that before, but now it just is… better. And now this new life is about to become newer, all if I take my friends Nadia’s advice. But is this letter, and the fact I am reading this book, some kind of sign from you? A swift kick to my complacency as Maddie would shout?”
Ilona keeps staring upward, hoping desperately for a spark from above. Slowly she tilts her head back to the book, still resting in her hands.
“And maybe you have given me all the signs. My parents. The Trident book. My friends. The letter. This book.” She pauses and hugs the book. “Thank you God. Message received.”
Ilona puts the book back in her schoolbag and lays down to sleep, a happy smile on her face. The universe feels like it is moving in a wonderful way as she drifts off, one in which Ilona is dancing with an array of books, all written by her. This continues all through the night, bringing the most restful slumber ever.
For Ilona, her dancing books are a beautiful sight.
The next morning, Ilona awakens and remembers. Today is the last day of grade five. And the first day she starts her new chapter.
Triple checking seventy five times, Ilona makes sure Nadia’s letter is in her backpack. Seeing the blazingly wondrous almost summer daylight stream through the living room window, she realizes what the new Ilona needs to launch her last day at SummerFall. Grabbing her helmet and bike lock, Ilona steers her prized Christmas gift out of the apartment door and carefully down the stairs. With a heart full of glee, Ilona is zooming on her bike down her street, crossing the road with utmost caution, and zipping through the park at light speed. And ahead in her vision she sees the glory of SummerFall, never looking more beautiful with its brick and windows and gathering school kids. I made it, she thinks, and I became a new me twice in the process.
Minutes later, with her bike parked and all locked up, she meets her friends, already hooting and hollering at their usual spot for this last day, the wall.
Madison is doing a happy dance as Clara keeps shouting “Strawberries!” at her. Before Ilona can ask, the bell rings and everyone starts ambling into school.
For this final day, Mr. Micheals, all in an attempt to further prove he has reformed from jerkdom, lets all the kids just hang out and talk in class. Ilona, Clara and Susan sit in the corner and carefully, without anyone’s knowledge, tap into the school’s wi-fi and skype in Samantha. The conversation ranges from what the next episode of Clara’s Corner will be about to the amazing amount of time Collette’s snow fort stayed up to the excitement of Cynthia’s and Susan’s upcoming birthdays. “Yep! We were born two days apart!” Susan proudly states for what seemed to Ilona the fiftieth time this week, saying it as if she had something to do with it.
As lunch hour springs closer, they get ready to shut down the chat when Samantha suddenly has an alarmed look on her face. “Behind you…” She whispers to them.
Ilona, Clara and Susan all slowly twist their heads around. All three see Mr. Micheals standing just a step away from the backs of their chairs.
“Ummm, Mr. Micheals, hello, didn’t hear you coming,” Susan stammers out.
“I am like a ninja, except for flipping chalk,” Mr Micheals smiles, “and I take it this is Samantha? Hello young lady.” He waves at the girl on Susan’s laptop screen. “I have heard quite a bit about Susan’s girlfriend, and it is a great pleasure to finally meet you, in a fashion.” He turns to Susan, “may I?” She warily nods and Mr. Micheals pulls up a chair and sits down. “So you two met online. For people of my advanced age that is still a very new concept.”
Susan stares at Mr. Micheals in disbelief. “How did you know that?”
He chuckles. “I saw Clara’s Corner. Or as you called the latest episode Operation Clara’s Corner Trident Movie Edition. I knew that book was popular, I just never knew it was that popular!”
Now Clara stares at Mr. Micheals. “You’ve seen our show?”
“Of course,” he smiles at them, and Ilona can feel something genuine, even loving in the gesture, “and I must say, all of you girls,” he points one at a time at Ilona, Clara, Susan, and Samantha on the screen, “should be very proud of your accomplishments with the show. Excellent fun entertainment and insightful commentary. Hope you all keep it up in middle school.”
The lunch bell slams into the conversation, startling all the girls, even Samantha long distance.
“Well,” Mr. Micheals says as he nonchalantly stands up, “off to lunch now. Good to meet up Samantha.” He turns to Susan. “And I mean this from the bottom of my heart, Susan and Samantha, you make a very nice couple.”
Susan slowly lets a smile spread across her face. “Thank you Mr. Micheals. Thank you very much.”
Mr. Micheals nods back. “No problemo Susan,” and he walks away.
“That’s Mr. Micheals?” Samantha whispers on screen. “What? What? What?”
“We are stunned as well,” Clara whispers back, “he’s been so nice lately, but that was… interesting.”
“We’ll text later,” Susan whispers as well, “but we gotta go now. Love ya Muffin.”
“Love ya too Cupcake,” Samantha says before the screen goes back to Susan’s desktop picture, a shot of the couple together at the Trident movie premiere.
Frantic minutes go by as Ilona and her friends make it the gym for their final time eating lunch at SummerFall, even more amazing now with the Mr. Micheals news. “Miracles can happen,” Cynthia states in her usual calm way, while Madison is still convinced he has been replaced by a pod person. By the time they reached the wall, for the last lunch time ever, the conversation had switched off of Mr. Micheals and onto the bittersweet moment.
As they stand before it, Clara begins to cry. “Damn, we had a crap ton of good times here.”
Madison grabs Clara and gives her a massive hug. “We will kaboom at the new school, we will. And it will be awesome as well.”
Luke, holding Collette’s hand, shyly glances at her. “We, um, never kissed at the wall yet.”
“We haven’t?” Collette replies, astonished, “we have kissed at Ilona’s sleepover, my living room, your dining room, and behind the shed in the park.”
Susan lightly smacks the back of Collette’s head. “Idiot, get the hint.”
“Oh!” Collette’s eyes go wide, “sorry about that Biscuit.” She takes his other hand and they kiss.
“So wait,” Cynthia pipes in, “behind the shed? Really?”
“We were in the moment,” Collette blushes.
“Shortcake can be soooo impulsive sometimes,” Luke giggles.
All the girls laugh, and Ilona keeps thinking of when she should mention Nadia’s letter. Ilona’s eyes close tight for a second and her hands briefly form fists. She opens her mouth a bit and tries to bring forth the words, the ones that will announce her new life as a writer, when Cara speaks up. “I think Ilona has something important to say.”
Ilona eyes pop out. “How did, how did you know I have something important to say?”
“Because,” Cara says as she gently touches Ilona’s shoulder, “you had the same expression right before you shouted stapler and changed my life forever. But this time my spidey-sense tells me it is more personal, more you related.”
Madison and Clara reach over from their hug and each give Cara a high five.
“Well?” Cynthia raises both her eyebrows.
Ilona clears her throat. “I never mentioned it yet, but, well, Nadia replied to my letter.”
“Nadia?” Luke asks as the girl’s faces all register shock.
“Nadia?” Clara and Madison shout together, bouncing on the spot, still snug in the hug. “Our Nadia? The most incredible amazing world famous Nadia? That Nadia?”
“Yes that Nadia,” Ilona replies.
“Wait a minute,” Luke’s mouth flies open, “the writer of the book with the man with the trident on the cover? Wow!”
“Biscuit dear,” Collette says, finally recovering from her shock, “it’s called The Rise of the Trident.”
“That,” Cynthia starts and takes a deep breathe, “that is certainly unexpected. We all know how busy famous authors are, so none of us, even you Ilona, thought Nadia would write back.” She shakes her head. “But enough of the shock of all that. What did Nadia say?”
Ilona clears her throat again. “Nadia wants me to become a writer.”
Shock returns to all the girl’s faces. Luke slaps his free hand over his mouth.
“WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT,” loudly emits from Clara and Madison as they stop bouncing entirely and stand stiff as statues.
Ilona clears her throat for the third time.
“Nadia sent me a letter telling me to become a writer. That in a nutshell, is what happened.” Ilona puts her backpack on the ground and takes out the envelope and carefully plucks out the letter. “As Cynthia said, I never had a thought that Nadia would reply since she probably gets hundreds of fan letters all the time. But… to mine she did. Nadia said she loved my story, of how I used her book as a passport to the wall to meet all of you, my friends. She loved the story so much, with all the details of this crazy year, that she thinks I should become a writer.”
“Wow…” Clara and Madison say in unison. “Holy Tardis!” Susan exclaims.
Collette raises her free hand to make a point. “Technically, Nadia is incorrect. You did not really use her book as a passport, since that is not how a passport operat–”
“Shortcake…” Luke gives Collette a quick kiss, “I think you are missing the point.”
“Oh, yes,” Collette giggles, “my bad. Continue.”
“Ilona,” Cynthia says, “you seem, well, not quite at ease, with this suggestion of Nadia’s. Why is that?”
“Well,” Ilona stares at her feet, “I’m not really a writer. Susan is. She wrote her new Lost finale and look at how successful it is and–”
“To quote Maddie here,” Susan interrupts, “Horse hockey. My new Lost finale was mostly an act of righteous indignation. You were the one who not only copy edited and provided excellent character suggestions, but really helped shape and reshape it into what it is today. I handed you okay and you handed back excellence. So what’s your real reason?”
“Indeed,” Cynthia asks, “Ilona the writer, why not?”
Ilona lifts her eyes from the ground and stares right at Cynthia.
“I was all ready to give it a shot, I was, right after my parents saw the letter. But by the end of the night, when I was all alone in my room, I just started to wonder, was I really what she said, was I a writer? My new life this year did not seem to evolve that way. Then, right before I went to bed, I talked to God.”
“You pulled a Margaret,” Clara states.
“Yes,” Ilona laughs a bit, “I suppose I did. That talk helped push me into accepting the destiny that Nadia wishes for me, and I was all ready this morning to embrace it, but now, here, saying it aloud, it still feels not real.”
“If I may,” Cynthia puts a hand on Ilona’s cheek, “first off, that lonely feeling last night? That was the old old you peeking through and causing disruption. You are not alone Ilona. Not anymore. You have us. Even when you are at home by yourself and writing up some masterpiece of literature, we will always be with you, in your heart. Second off, being a writer is a very natural evolution from being a reader, so why wouldn’t that be your next you?” Cynthia’s smile spreads across her face. “And third off, deciding in your head to embrace your destiny is one thing, but proclaiming your destiny to the world is something else. That’s why you still worry so Ilona. But you should not. You want to be a writer, be a writer. We shall all cheer you on.”
“Besides,” Cara walks over and gently cups Ilona’s other cheek, “I was once a mistreated abused child with no one, now I am a loved young lady with a two families.” She grins. “And a world famous app, can’t forget that.” Happy tears form. “I have started a new life twice in so few months. I am proof it is possible Ilona.”
Cynthia points to the letter. “Can we see what Nadia said?”
“Yes, of course,” Ilona hands the paper to Cynthia. Clara and Madison, still in the awkward hug, shuffle over behind Cynthia, as does all her other friends. Ilona giggles at the sight of seven kids all anxiously reading what Nadia sent. Without looking up, Susan asks Ilona, “can you send me a copy of this? I simply have to show Samantha this.”
“Sure,” Ilona giggle some more.
“Amazing letter!” Collette exclaims. “Absolutely amazing!”
“The poem was really touching as well,” Ilona states.
Everyone snaps up from the letter and stares at Ilona.
“POEM?” Madison shouts. “You never friggin’ mentioned a poem!”
“Oh yeah,” Ilona reaches her backpack and pulls out the folder paper, “Nadia sent me an old poem as well.” She hands it over to Cynthia who carefully unfolds it. Everyone resumes reading over her shoulders. Susan gets tear-eyed immediately, Collette gives Luke a kiss, and Cynthia pulls the paper to her chest, hugging it. “This is my new favourite poem ever,” Cynthia smiles. Clara closes her eyes, “read it aloud Cynthia. Remember how you taught me to read by doing that?”
“Of course,” Cynthia holds the paper very majestically in front of her and reads.
Kindness in words creates confidence,
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness,
Kindness in giving creates love,
by Lao Tzu
circa 600 B.C.
“She sent you this for a reason,” Cynthia states, handing the poem and letter back to Ilona, “remember that, cherish that, live that.”
“Indeed,” Collette says, ” you always send a poem like that for a purpose.”
Ilona puts the letter and poem away in her backpack. Once finished, she stands up and sees all of her friends still staring at her. “Well?” Susan flips her hands in the air, “what Nadia said?”
Ilona looks across the collective faces of friends, all awaiting confirmation of what they all already know. All awaiting another rebirth of a new life.
“Yes,” Ilona proudly declares, “I am a writer!”
Cheers and high fives descend on Ilona, making everyone laugh and giggle and start texting. “What till Josh hears about Nadia’s letter!” Clara shouts as she frantically types on her phone, having finally dislodged from the hug.
Lunch hour flies by for the final time at SummerFall with much conversation happening and the usual strange occurrences. Collette loans Ilona her copy of Tevye and his Daughters, the book Fiddler on the Roof is based upon, which she had promised to do way back when they first met for the second time. Madison dares Cara to guess the ending of the Harry Potter series, which turns into her describing an elabourate scenario where Harry’s parents have actually been alive the entire time. This prompts Madison to do a “Kaboom!” but since no one is sitting down, she instead gives a punch buggy to Clara, who vows a Jelly-legs curse in retribution. Whipping out her laptop and having Susan hold it for her, Cynthia skims the internet for more information on the Lao Tzu poem. Talking to Susan as she does this is Collette and Luke, who ask about her possible trip to Los Angeles to see Samantha. Ilona is flipping through her next book when Clara hands her a glued shut note from Jackson. When she opens it, big letters from Josh’s hands read out “Goodbye! We Will Always Have SummerFall!” Clara laughs at what everyone can tell is a Josh joke.
Cara sees the note and turns to her friends, “I never thought about it, but what are the names of our next schools anyways?”
Collette immediately pipes in, “WinterSpring Middle School for grades six to eight followed by Trudeau High School.”
“Who names these names?” Susan asks, “some of them sound so stupid.”
“Some trustee from the 1960’s or something,” Cynthia replies, “Mama told there’s a plaque by the front door all about it.” Suddenly noticing the time on her laptop screen, she starts to put it away. “Times almost up for our last lunch time here.”
“GROUP HIGH FIVE!” Madison shouts.
Within seconds, all eight friends slam into a massive high five.
“Amen,” Cynthia says after they finish.
The school bell rings and they all shuffle off and back to their classes.
Ilona, Clara, and Susan end up in the back corner of the room again, this time making plans for the most awesome summer ever. Very soon charts and notes and goofy fake spreadsheets created by Clara, just to annoy Madison, pass back and forth between Susan’s and Cynthia’s laptops via e-mail. Ilona realizes that bit by bit, chunk by chunk, her July and August are filling up with all sorts of activities and birthdays and even possibly maybe her first comics convention. Giddy excitement multiplies for Ilona when she realizes she may now have to schedule her reading time. But that elated feeling vanishes for a second and she exclaims “oh no! I also have to schedule in writing time! My life is so complicated now!” Clara and Susan give her a mock stare and say in unison, “first world problem!” which makes Ilona laugh at her silliness.
As the clocks ticks down the last few minutes of official SummerFall class time, Mr. Micheals calls everyone’s attention to the front of the room, looking rather somber.
“While I may not have been here all year, I can honestly say this last little while has been a true pleasure for me. Finally really getting to know all of you, and hopefully becoming a better person in the process. Next year, I vow to you all, I shall be a far better teacher to my new grade five’s.” He breaks into a smile. “And now, one more attempt.”
Mr. Micheals picks up a piece of purple chalk, holds it steady in his left hand, and flips it high, spiraling, into the air. A hush falls and all the universe slips time into slow motion as the colourful stick reaches its fullest height and then descends. Mr. Micheals right hand reaches out, grasping for it, and just barely clutching the end. His fingers manage to twist about and land the chalk directly in the palm of his hand.
“Yes!” Mr. Micheals shouts. “Did it!” He thumps his arms in the air in triumph.
The whole class erupts into large, rambunctious cheers. Mr. Micheals takes a bow then exclaims, “thank you all! Class dismissed and have a great summer.”
The halls of SummerFall are soon filled with screaming, yelling, crying, jostling and running. Mrs. Travis and Mrs. Shuster do not even try to maintain anything close to order, instead they pass out high fives and hugs with love and care to everyone who needs one. Madison, Cynthia, Cara, Collette and Luke run up to Ilona, Clara and Susan and grab them. “Conga line of gratitude!” Madison bellows, which causes all the friends to begin parading down the hallway, aiming with surprising accuracy amidst the chaos by Clara, directly for Mrs. Travis and Mrs. Shuster. Each friend joyfully dances and jigs in the line right pass the teachers, only breaking ranks to hug each one.
“Make good art,” Mrs. Shuster whispers in Ilona’s ear as they embrace, making the happy tingling in her belly rise into her chest. Mrs. Travis finishes her hug and begins messing up Ilona’s hair and informs her, “I want you to tell our mutual friend, the world famous Joshua, that he simply has to stop by more often!” She then leans in close to Ilona’s ear and whispers, “and contrary to rumours, I am not yet forty.”
Ilona laughs as she leaves the two and joins her friends as they regroup at the end of the hall. After Madison high fives everyone for “a conga line of epic proportions,” Ilona notices Mrs. Travis calling over Collette. The two talk back and forth and Collette jumps in shock, then starts twirling in happiness, while Mrs. Travis looks surprised. A quick hug with Mrs. Travis follows and seconds later Collette is bouncing back to her friends and boyfriend.
“Wassup!” Madison shouts out.
Collette gives a quick kiss to Luke, than turns to everyone. “Mrs. Travis thought I knew! Mrs. Travis thought I knew! But I didn’t! But I didn’t!”
“Okay, Jacob Two-Two, what’s going on?” Clara gives the now bouncing Collette a quick jab to the shoulder.
Collette smiles at everyone. “My parents are having another child! They have been trying for years, I knew that part, but now it worked! I’m going to be a big sister!”
Congratulations and cheers rise up onto the still hopping Collette, who can barely contain herself.
“I’m going to be a brother-in-law,” Luke says in surprise, which causes Collette to kiss him again.
“Wait a minute,” Susan interrupts, “how in the name of Hogwarts did Mrs. Travis know?”
“Duh, because she knows everything,” Madison states.
“That was a good duh,” Clara replies.
“Duh,” Collette exclaims, still bouncing and laughing, “more like my mom asked Mrs. Travis about her sister, the pregnancy doctor.”
“Amazing,” Cynthia smiles, “The last day at school and the first day of two new lives.”
“Exactly,” Clara grins, “It’s like the circle of life!”
“And speaking of that,” Cynthia starts leading everyone back down the hallway, “we still have one last thing to do today.”
Minutes later, after clearing through the chaos of the departing students, Ilona and her friends exit out ‘their’ door and find themselves outside.
At the wall.
The wondrous sunshine of the summer day makes the wall look so much more beautiful than ever before. Its bricks gleam and sparkle and fill their memories with happy thoughts of all the books and kabooms and nutty conversations it hosted.
“Is it me…” Susan asks, getting misty-eyed, “…or does the wall seem, more, more… special right now?”
Madison walks up to the wall and flattens herself against it, spreading her arms into a hug. “You were always a good wall. We will never forget you.”
Collette starts crying and Luke holds her tight. “It’s going to be alright Shortcake. We will have a new wall at WinterSpring.”
“I know,” Collette says, “and hopefully someone will take over this wall and continue on the tradition.”
“I hope I will,” comes a voice from behind them.
All heads snap around and stare in shock.
They see Simon.
Ilona had not spoken to the bully in all this time. The bully she had beaten up. The bully now standing before all of them. And not looking threatening at all. He just looks like Simon.
“Sorry to intrude,” Simon glances between all the surprised faces, “but I just wanted to say two things.” He breathes in deeply. “I am sorry for how I treated your friend. That was wrong of me, and I knew that at the time, but, I just, my dad…” Simon begins crying and starts to turn away.
Susan walks over and hugs him, long and hard, with his tears diminishing. “Call me, I can help,” she says as they finish.
“Thank you,” Simon replies, “I am hoping to make right with all of you by continuing the tradition of reading and learning at this wall. If… if it is okay with all of you.”
“I believe,” Cynthia states, “I speak for all of us when I say we wish you much happiness at the wall.”
“Thanks,” Simons smiles a bit, “I have already talked to my friends about reading more next year, and they all seemed to like the idea.” He laughs. “Mrs. Chase was right. Read. Learn. Heal. Love.”
Ilona, who is standing back a step or so since she is not sure how Simon feels about her, jumps forward. “Mrs. Chase said that to you?” She shouts.
Simon falls back a step, startled. “Yeah, that day, well, that day you gave me what I deserved, Mrs. Chase gave me a copy of her favourite book, The Dia-”
“The Diary of Anne Frank,” Ilona finishes.
Simon and Ilona face each other. And they hug. Ilona whispers to Simon, “I’m sorry.” Simon whispers back, “I’m sorry too.”
As they leave the hug, Simon glances at everyone one more time, waves goodbye, and goes running through the now almost deserted schoolyard.
Cynthia shakes her head in amazement. “Mrs. Chase is truly an angel.”
A bagpipe version of Amazing Grace sings out from Cara’s pocket. She pulls out her smartphone and glances at Cynthia. “Mama is coming for us soon.” She smiles. “I am having dinner with my dad tonight.”
“Okay, times a wasting!” Clara shouts as she pulls her digital camera out, along with a tripod. “Group shot!”
After quickly setting everything up, the friends all gather at the wall. Clara jumps on Madison’s back, Collette and Luke hug, Cynthia puts her arms around Ilona and Cara, and Susan squats down in front with her arms spread wide.
Clara bellows “Say book with the man with the trident on the cover!” and hits her remote control, taking the picture.
Joy and laughter and love become the reality for the next several minutes as jokes and memories and wackiness inhabit the space at the wall.
Ilona and all her friends prance about, not fully wanting to let go of the moment, till a duel round of two versions of Amazing Grace tells them all the time has come.
With happy tears, one last group high five happens, followed by one last group hug, as they bid SummerFall goodbye.
Slowly, in ones and twos, they all depart, with summer plans still alive in the air.
Ilona makes her way to the bike rack, and as she finishes putting her helmet on, she sees Mrs. Aurora getting into her car. She throws Ilona a wave and shouts, “go break some hearts in middle school!”
“I’ll try!” Ilona shouts back and waves.
As she bikes into the schoolyard, she notices it is now completely empty. Zipping onward, Ilona bikes right to the wall and stops, dismounts, and stands before it.
Gently, Ilona puts both hands on the wall. “Goodbye, and thank you.”
A second passes by and she slowly lets go, smiling.
Ilona hops back on her bike, takes in the SummerFall schoolyard for the very final time as a citizen of its halls, and begins to pedal away. Where her new future awaits.
Blazing home in record speed, Ilona excitedly gets her bike back into the apartment and at a whirlwind pace completes her chores and makes dinner. At exactly the right time, the door swings open and a shout of “Hello Ilona! We’re back!” hits her ears. Ilona barrels into her parents, with her dad tilting his head back and forth, asking his usual question, ” How is our little one who is not so little anymore?”
“Almost grown up!” Ilona exclaims. “All ready for the excitement of grade six!”
“Good, good,” her mother says while playing with Ilona’s hair, “and grade six is going to be a bit different than what you might expect.”
“It is,” Ilona asks, “in what way?”
Her mother lowers herself down to Ilona’s level, looking deep into her eyes, still playing with her hair.
“We waited till today to tell you, our little Ilona who isn’t so little anymore, but your father and I, well, we are expecting a child.”
Ilona hears the word, and they sink into her soul. Her parents are having a baby. Her parents are having a baby.
THE FAMILY IS HAVING A BABY.
Ilona jumps into a hug with her mother, who barely succeeds in standing up straight in time, and holds her tight. “This is going to be amazing. We are going to hang out together, read together, write stories together, watch Harry Potter together.” Ilona looks up at her mother and says through happy tears, “I think I can hear the heartbeat.”
Her mom, lightly tussling with the strands of Ilona’s hair, “knowing you my darling Ilona, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Her dad, now stooping down to see Ilona eye to eye, pitches her cheek. “And we will add the babies pic to the wonderful family tree you made.”
Ilona smiles at her parents, but suddenly frowns. “But, but, how can we afford a baby? Will it be okay with no money?”
Her mom lowers herself again, looking the now distraught Ilona in the face. “Firstly, that should not be your worry. Your job is to grow up and have fun. Secondly, money is still very tight, but not as bad as it was way back when you asked for the Trident book. If you noticed, we got you a bike for Christmas. It is used, but not free. Your father and I have managed to get a better handle on our finances over the last many many months. It is still not perfect, but the issues from all those years ago are either resolved, or plans are in place to resolve them. Thirdly, we both have started looking for better employment. I shall miss the coffee cart and your father will not miss the drycleaners, but Cynthia’s father has already met with us about career counseling. And maybe some office work will open up at his law firm?”
Her dad laughs. “Instead of serving the people in those corporate towers, we might end of becoming almost one of them, in a fashion.”
“But, but, but,” Ilona sputters out, “how could you have made all these plans, and, and, I have no idea?”
Her parents glance at each other, then Ilona’s mom answers.
“After you asked for the book, we realized how much you knew, even without saying it, of how our life was. These walls are not so thick as to keep secrets from little girls. So we wanted you to be happy and live and grow and blossom like never before, and keep the adult business well away from you. As we should have done all along.”
“Mumma and Poppa,” Ilona reaches up and touches her parents cheeks, “as much as I love you, and love Arlene, and love this new little one, you are wrong about that. Maybe if we had all been more open, more of a family, all the badness of those years would not have been as bad.” She pauses for a moment. “I saw your face that day I danced in the kitchen. It was beautiful. And it was rare. That should never have been the case.” She pauses again. “From now on, we have to work together, for each other and for the newest kiddo. So that dancing in the kitchen and happy faces are never rare.”
Her parents stare at Ilona, then each lean forward and kiss her on the cheeks. “Deal,” her mom says. “Love you, little one who is now a big one,” her dad says.
They hug and Ilona feels the love.
Dinner comes and goes with Ilona regaling her parents with tales of her last day at SummerFall, and the amazing news of Collette’s parents also expecting. Much talk happens over that development, with Ilona’s mom asking about Mrs. Travis’s sister. Stories of the rest of day, filled with flipping chalk, a hug with Simon, and the best group pic ever, causes oohs awws from her parents. By the time cleanup occurs, Ilona is again, like that moment that feels so long ago now, dancing about the kitchen as she does the dishes. All while sharing the happy news with all her friends, via several loud phone conversations.
Nighttime descends and Ilona finds herself in her bedroom.
A happy sigh comes out as she thinks of the last twenty-four hours. And the insanity one simple letter from Nadia caused, telling Ilona to become a writer.
Her parents convinced her, but than she had doubts because she thought she was alone.
But she wasn’t alone, the universe showed her that.
Her faith convinced her, but than she had doubts because she thought she would be rejected.
But she wasn’t rejected, her friends showed her that.
Nadia. Mumma. Poppa. God. Friends.
All are on her side.
Ilona is now a writer.
She sits down at her desk and looks at the poem Mumma gave her and reads it one more time, breathing and thinking of every word.
La Vita Nuova – A New Life
by Dante Alighieri
In that book,
which is my memory,
on the first page,
of the chapter
that is the day,
when I first met you,
appear the words:
A New Life
Ilona puts the poem down next to her current read, with the slip of paper featuring all her friends phone numbers acting as the bookmark as usual, and opens up her laptop. The reflection greeting her onscreen is of a confident, loving, brilliant young lady who knows who she is. Seconds later, a blank word processing document is before her.
Time to start my new life, Ilona thinks.
Ilona starts typing.
The Passport To The Wall
by Ilona Stone
Song For This Chapter: The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell
Next Week, Chapter 52 + 1,
The Final Installment of The Passport To The Wall.
(which I promise will be much much shorter!)
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.