Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

Or am I Yuriko?

Or both?  Or neither?

Today, I think, will be a day for reflection.

I was looking back at some of my old diary entries.  I remember one where I was in a great mood, I was dancing around in my seat, calling people willy nilly silly billies, just having a great time.  I didn’t know my name, didn’t know who I was, everything before my finding day was an utter blank.  And yesterday some of that mystery was solved.  I found out I’m a half-Japanese girl named Yuriko, that my birthday is September 3rd, that my birth mother is named Emiko, and… and…  it’s really such a let down.

Maybe I didn’t want to find out who I really was.

Before I knew who I was, I could think anything I wanted about my past.  Maybe I came from another dimension and dropped here out of a rift in the sky, and all my memories are in the other dimension.  Maybe I was born in a test tube in a government agency, and they wiped my memory when they were done with me.  So many different possibilities, and yesterday I find out that it was so much worse than all that, so much more normal – my birth mother was pregnant, had me, couldn’t take care of me, and abandoned me.

I’d almost rather not have known.

I don’t know why she left me, I don’t know why she hurt me like that.  What would life have been like with her?  Maybe good, maybe bad, but I don’t know.  And I’ll never know because she took that away from me!  My own birth mother left me!

And I know I found Dave and Sabby and my new family and I love them to death but my birth mother is supposed to be mine, and instead I found out that she’s not, she gave me up, she didn’t want me.  Me!  I’m so cute!  Who wouldn’t want me!  Well, except for maybe the cat.  I’d say “was it my fault?” but I was an infant!  It wasn’t my fault!  It couldn’t have been my fault!  Could it?

I hate her!  I hate her and wish I’d never known!  I wish they’d never came to my door and told me!

Be careful what you wish for, they say, you just might get it.

Maybe she had a good reason.  The rational part of me understands that being a single mother having a child in the middle of an evacuation couldn’t be an easy thing no matter what.  The rational part of me understands that maybe she didn’t feel like she had much of a choice, and maybe she thought she was doing the best for me.  The rational part of me understands that she might have been young, and who knows what was going on with my birth father, and maybe she decided that that was the best thing to do.  And maybe she was right.

And I still hate her.

Emiko Nakamoto.  The woman who ruined my life before it even started.

Sabby talked to me today.  She could see the bitterness start to take hold.  She could hear the hatred in my voice when I talked about Emiko.  She told me that having those kinds of feelings never lead to anything good.  I told her she’s not the one whose mother abandoned her!  And then I immediately regretted it.  But the hurt on Sabby’s face…

I’ll never forget that.

She went to her room and took a bath.  She’s never done that because of me.  Never ever.  Afterwards she sat me down and told me in clipped, measured tones that her parents did indeed abandon her and that she spent her childhood in foster homes and that there was a reason why she was a “wild” child and that she understands that I’m hurt and having a hard time processing that I found my birth mother but don’t I ever dare to assume that she doesn’t understand what it feels like to be abandoned by parents.

I actually burst out crying and told her I was so sorry.  She told me she understood but I had hurt her very deeply, and that this is what having these feelings of anger and resentment and hatred leads to, and that I’d better check myself before I cause actual damage I can’t easily repair.  That she’d get over it but I only had one chance to get to know my birth mother and I’d better not wreck it because I can’t get past my own hatred.  Then she walked upstairs.  I’ve never seen her look so…   hurt.  And doubly so because of me.

I messed up.  And I still hate Emiko Nakamoto.

But you know what?  Emiko Nakamoto doesn’t exist anymore.  She’s Emiko Johnson now.  She apparently married at some point, and not Robert Landry.  Does she have children?  Did she give any of them up?  She seems to want to talk to me.  Does she regret it?  If she had it to do over again, would she?  I don’t know.  I hate someone that doesn’t exist anymore.  Would I like her now?  Would we get along?  Could I even treat her as a friend, if not as someone I could be close to?  I don’t know.  And if I keep this up, I never will.

I hate Emiko Nakamoto.  Emiko Nakamoto is gone now.  Would I like Emiko Johnson?   I don’t know.  But I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Now I need to go buy Sabby a chocolate milkshake.

Love you all!!! ❤️

 

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily! 

I think.

So it started out as a pretty normal day.  I woke up.  I was feeling a lot better, I think I’m getting used to the new normal.  Jack and I talked a lot last night.  Things are going just a little better for him.  Apparently his parents marched over to the school, demanded to see the principal, and read her the riot act.  She tried to defend the bullies, but that didn’t fly.  It’s not clear how it’s going to turn out, but it’s certainly starting to be different.  I still miss his arms, but he’s sooo nice to talk to.  I could get used to that.

So, anyway, I ran.  I ate breakfast – I got used to the hotel buffets, but Sabby still makes a mean breakfast.  I started school.  Around noon there was a knock on the door.  Sabby went to answer it.  A few seconds later she called me down into the living room.  I signed off my lesson and went down to see what was the matter.

One of my old social workers was sitting there.

I hadn’t seen them for a while.  They closed my case when I was officially adopted, other than a few checkups every now and then, they were content that I was happily adopted and were perfectly willing to leave me alone.  She had a serious look on her face, well, what you could see around the mask.  And she had some papers.

“What… what’s going on?”, I asked.  I was nervous now.

“Sit down, please,” she said.  “You too, Mrs. Smith.”

We sat.

“So, as you may or may not know, our DNA databases are incomplete.  We have data on many people in this country, but not everyone.  You also know that we haven’t had very good matches on your DNA, and those who are closest don’t know anything about you.”  She paused.  “We found out why.”

I gasped.  “You…”

“A few days ago, we had a hit.  A very close match.  Someone uploaded results into our database that would make them a very close relative.  Because of our interest in finding out who you really are, we were able to pull the records and contact this person.”

She leaned closer.

“Lily…  We found your mother.”

Tears spring to my eyes unbidden.  “You… you found…”

“There’s more,” she said.  “After talking to her, we were finally able to find out what happened.  She was a single mother, pregnant with you, in New Orleans, at around the time Hurricane Katrina hit, in 2005.  She evacuated to Houston, where she had you.  She was unable to take care of you, and put you up for adoption very soon after.  You were adopted shortly after.  The records on that are unclear.  We don’t know by whom.  Yet, anyway.”  She had a frown in her voice.  “That could take a long time to unravel.  There are some… irregularities.”  She shook her head, like clearing out some cobwebs.

She handed me some papers.  “Your mother’s name is Emiko Johnson.  Your birthday is September 3, 2005.  Your father’s name is Robert Landry.  He doesn’t know about you, which explains why those who were a close match didn’t know who you were.  Mrs. Johnson is a Japanese immigrant, maiden name Nakamoto, and that’s why we didn’t have sufficient records to match on her DNA until now.  Your given name is Yuriko Landry.  Her phone number and address are on these papers.  Of course, it’s your choice as to whether to contact her or not, but she is hoping to hear from you.”

She stood up.  “I understand all of this may be a shock.  We’re still working on finding out who adopted you.  Some of us have taken a personal interest in this case.”  She sighed.  “You are most unusual.  Please call me if you have any questions.”  She handed me a business card.  “Have a nice day.”

She let herself out.

I didn’t move.  Finally Sabby stood up, sat down next to me, and wrapped her arms around me.  I just started bawling.

I didn’t know everything yet.  I didn’t know who adopted me.  I didn’t know why I lost my memory.  But I knew who I was.

I have a name.

I have a name.

OMG I have a name.

Finally I collected myself enough to read the papers.  Sabby read them along with me.  I’m half Japanese!!  I know who my mother is!  I..

I looked at Sabby.

“I want to meet her,” I said.  “I want to know why she abandoned me.  I want to know why she left me.  I want to…  I need to know.”

Sabby nodded.  “I understand.  Where does it say she lives?”

“Houston,” I said, looking at the paper.

“Do you want to call, or should I?”

I handed her the papers.  “Please call.  If you want to.  I don’t… I don’t know if I can handle it right now.”

She took the papers.  I looked at her with tears in my eyes.  “Sabby…  she abandoned me.  I don’t know why.  Maybe she’ll have a good reason.  Maybe I can forgive her.  Maybe…  maybe we can have a relationship.  But…  but you are here, now.  She isn’t.”

“I feel like I’m saying this a lot,” she said quietly, “but don’t worry about school for the rest of the day.  This… this is a lot.  Do you still want to be called Lily?”

I nodded vigorously.  “Yes.  I chose Lily.  I didn’t choose Yuriko.  It’s a pretty name.  I don’t mind it.  I’ll use it when I need to.  But I’m Lily.  And my last name is Smith.  It will always be Smith.”

Sabby frowned.  “I need to call the lawyer too.  I don’t know if this complicates things or not.”

“Do you… do you think it will affect my adoption?”

“I don’t think so.  But it looks like you were adopted by someone else, who might or might not have abandoned you.  There’s… there’s nothing normal about this.  And you were also issued a birth certificate and SSN, which is now… incorrect.  I’m not sure what to do.”

“Well, I’m sure they’ll figure it out,” I said, frowning.  Great.  Another wildcard.

I went upstairs and grabbed my phone.  I texted Jack.

Jack?  I have big news.

No response.  I guess he was at school.  I knew he’d text me later.

I told Beth the news.  She was happy for me, but she hoped she could still be my sister.  I told her she’s being a silly billy, of course she’s my sister.  She asked me if I would have other siblings.  I said I don’t know, but I don’t know them, and I know her, and they’re not going to take her place.

In the evening, Jack texted me back.  I told him everything.

wow, he said.  that’s a lot.

It is.

Are you going to meet her?

Sabby is making the arrangements now.

I hope…  I hope you find the answers you were looking for.

Me too, I said eruditely.  I’ll keep you up to date.  Love you.

Love you too, he said.

And then I texted Liz.

Girl can move.  And fast.  I had barely hit send on the text when she barged into my room.  “OMG you found out who your mother is and found out who you are?  That’s BIG NEWS Lily!  And you’re half Japanese too!!!  Wow!!!  Are you going to meet her?”

I nodded.  “I want to find out why she abandoned me.”

Her face turned serious.  “I would too.  But what if she has a good answer?”

I sighed.  “Then I’ll have to forgive her, I guess.”

“It doesn’t sound like you want to.”

“I haven’t known who I am for over a year and it’s her fault!!!  It’s all her fault!,” I said, with venom.  “I wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for her… for her selfishness!!!”

Liz looked taken aback.  “I’ve never seen you… angry.  I mean actually angry.”

“I am!  How am I supposed to feel?  Social worker just waltzes into my house and tells me my birth mother didn’t want me, and she wants to talk to me, and… and…  GGRRRRRR!” I growled and buried my face in my pillow.  “I could scream!”

“Well a pillow is a good place to do it,” she said sagely.  I giggled in spite of myself.  Liz had a way with words.

“I’ll talk to her,” I said finally.  “I’ll listen.  I’ll keep an open mind.  And she’d better have a good answer.  If she doesn’t, that will be the last time I ever speak to her.  And what about my fa – Robert?  He never even knew about me to begin with?  How am I supposed to approach that?”

“You’re strong,” she said.  “You’ll do the right thing.  Maybe she regrets it.  Maybe she didn’t feel like she had a choice.” She frowned.  “A mother generally doesn’t give up a child without a very good reason.”

“I hope so,” I said.  “I don’t want to hate her.”

Sabby knocked on the door.  “I talked to Mrs. Johnson,” she said.  “She will come here.  This weekend.  She will come alone.  She’s promised to answer any question you have.  Are you okay with that?”

“No,” I said, truthfully.  “But I need to know.  I’ve been waiting a long time for answers.  And that’s the least she owes me.”

“I’ll make the arrangements then,” she said.  “Are you going to be okay?”

“No,” I said, again truthfully.  “After last week, and then this week, maybe I’ll never be okay again.”

Liz rubbed my back.  “You will,” she said.  “That’s what makes you Lily.”

“I wonder what ‘yuriko’ means,” I said quietly.

“Maybe ask her,” Liz said.  “She promised to answer all of your questions.”

“I think I will.”  Liz gave me a big hug.  We chatted a little bit about Jack before she had to go back to her house for dinner.

After Liz left, I looked up Katrina on YouTube.  It was horrible.  Hundreds of thousands of people displaced or evacuated.  A stadium full to the brim of evacuees.  Thousands of homes destroyed and flooded out.  And a lot of people evacuated to Houston.

Including my birth mother.

My birth mother.

My birth mother.

OMG.  I have a birthday.  You know what this means?  I thought I was 15 when I was found.  I was 14.  Not that it matters, but it’s good to finally know.

Oh well.  Worst case, nothing – or at least very little – changes.  At least we know I’m a citizen now.  Best case – I get a whole new set of family to add on to all of the other family I’ve collected over the past year or so.  I guess it could be lots worse.

Love you all!!! ❤️

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

I’m feeling a little better today.  I cried myself to sleep a little but I was able to sleep, and I had okay dreams.  No nightmares or anything like that.  The cat decided to crawl up and sleep next to me, and she rarely does that, so that was nice.  I don’t talk much about the cat.  We get along.  She washes her butt and plays with stuff and scratches things, and sometimes crawls on your lap and purrs.  Just a cat.  Her name is Cat.  They let David name her.

I guess it fits.

So I went to work this morning, after running.  Back to the daily grind.  The owner was very happy to see me and put me right to work.  He did see something in my eyes, though and asked me what was wrong.  I gave him a very brief version.

He thought for a bit, and said “You’re young.  Remember.  Love is a choice.  In India we had arranged marriages.  That’s how I met my wife.  And we love each other.  We have for years.  She chose to love me and I chose to love her.  It was hard work, but it happened.  If you choose to love each other, nothing will tear you apart.  Not distance, not beliefs, nothing.  But if you don’t, then everything will.  You have to decide how badly you want it.  Both of you.”

I thanked him, and went off to doot doot and stock shelves and do all the stuff that you do at that job.  He’s a little different, but he’s a nice enough guy.  He always tries to take care of us – it’s like we’re his extended family.  We take care of him, he takes care of us.  Oh, I had a little souvenir for him that I bought.  He appreciated it and put it on his desk.

It was a little harder to be cheerful and bubbly but I managed it.  I was a little meaner to the occasional karen than usual, though.  The owner just stood there and smirked.  He hates karens as much as everyone else.  Of course, there’s a limit to how mean I’m allowed to be.  And that’s fair.  Karens are people too.

Even if they try their best not to act like it sometimes.

After I got home, Sabby sat me down.

“I don’t think I’ve ever told you how I met Dave, did I?”

I shook my head.  “I figured you’d tell me when you wanted me to know.”

“You can ask me anything, Lily.  Dave too.  The worst we’ll say is we don’t want to talk about it.  But you’re always welcome to ask.”

I nodded.  She looked pensive.

“I told you I was a wild child,” she said sadly.  “When I was your age, I had a few boyfriends.  I didn’t… I didn’t make the kinds of decisions you did.  My foster parents were always there for me, but they didn’t tell me the things I told you.  I was always out, drinking, doing other things that weren’t good for me.  It was a very… dark… time of my life, Lily.  I had no reason to live and I was just trying to get from one day to the next.”

I sat and let her continue.  Emotions were warring on her face.  I guess some things don’t ever truly go away, just dull with time.

“I met this boy, though.  He seemed to have it together.  He got good grades in school, was quiet, kept to himself.  Something about him attracted me, and I wanted to make him another one of my boyfriends.”  She paused.  “He refused.”

“He refused?”

“Yeah,” she said, quietly.  “He told me he thought I was beautiful and that he was truly sorry for all the things that had happened to me, but he didn’t want the kind of life I was heading for.”  She shifted in her seat.  “Do you remember when I said I was faced with a choice?  Whether to stay with the past or to move on to the future?”

I nodded.

“He was that choice.”

My breath hitched.  “Really?”

She nodded.  “I had to choose.  Should I go for the life I had, or the life I wanted?  And what kind of life did I want anyway?  Thankfully he never completely closed the door.  He just said that he didn’t want the kind of life I was heading for.”  She sniffled a bit.  “So I dumped all of my boyfriends.  I stopped drinking and doing other things.  I started taking school seriously.  It was hard.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  But…  but he noticed.  And eventually he agreed to go on a date with me.”  Her eyes were far away.  “He was wonderful.  Everything I’d ever dreamed.  And soon I’d fallen for him.  Hard.  But he hadn’t fallen for me, yet.  He was still cautious.  He didn’t know if I’d go back to the life I had before I met him.”

She sighed.  “He was right to be.  But he came around eventually.  And he was worth it.  He’s not a perfect man, Lily.  He’s got his faults, just like you and me and everyone else.  But I fell in love with him at your age, and I never fell out of love with him.  It’s been years now.  We have two… three children and a nice house and he’s still everything to me.  I love him just as deeply.  Maybe more.”

I stayed silent.  It was a nice story, but I didn’t know where she was going with it.

“He was worth everything I gave up.  Absolutely everything.  All the boyfriends, all the drinking, everything.  He was worth more than all of that.  Someday, Lily, you’re going to have to decide what someone’s worth to you.  Maybe Jack.  Maybe someone else.  But there is no relationship at all that is without sacrifice, without giving something up.  There’s always a price.  And if he’s worth the price, whoever he is, pay it.  Pay it and don’t look back.”  She sighed.  “But whether he’s worth the price, and what the price is, is something only you can decide for yourself.”

“How did you get so wise, Sabby?  You were sooo right about.. about earlier.  I didn’t know how right you were.  I couldn’t.  How?”

She sighed.  “School of hard knocks.  I did everything wrong before I did everything right.  You’ll understand that in time too.  I told you, you made better decisions than… than I did.”

I believed her.  I would have believed nearly anything she told me at that point.  Before she’d earned my respect, but now she’d earned my trust.

“I think God every day that Dave gave me a chance.  A chance to prove to him I was willing to pay the price to be with him.  And what I didn’t know was that in paying the price, I was freeing myself as well.  Sometimes that happens, Lily.”  She sighed.  “Sometimes you think you’re paying a price but what you’re giving up was already costing you far more.”

She patted my knee.

“What do you want for dinner?  Your choice.  Spaghetti, spaghetti, or spaghetti?”

I pretended to think.  “How about spaghetti?”

“That’s a great idea, Lily.  I hadn’t thought of that.”  And she went off to make spaghetti.  I didn’t mind.  She makes the best spaghetti ever.  With meat sauce and lots of parmesan and mushrooms and OMG is it good.

I had Sabby on my side.  She knows things.  She is my rock.  And I love her.  But now I more than love her.  I trust her.

After dinner I asked Dave if I could talk to him.

“Sabby told me how you two met.”

He nodded.

“I have a question.  She told me she had a bunch of boyfriends and wasn’t… behaving well.  But eventually you came around and fell for her too.  What made you give her a chance?”

He looked thoughtful.  “You don’t ask easy questions, do you, Lily?”

I chuckled.  “The easy questions aren’t worth asking, are they?”

“I suppose not,” he said.  He leaned back in his favorite chair, and thought for a bit.  “People are complicated, Lily.  Some are just rotten through and through.  You peel away their rotten layer and all you find is more rot.  But some people are just rotten on the surface.  They have this layer of horrible hurt and pain and they act out and lash out and behave in horribly irresponsible ways.  You’d think they were awful people.  But then you look deeper and you find out that they’re actually really wonderful people and no one’s bothered to dig deep enough to see that.”

I nodded.  I’d seen Sabby’s chewy center.  I wouldn’t call what she has on the surface “rot”, but then, I didn’t know her back then either.  She’d described some truly self-destructive behavior.

“You can’t ignore the rot.  It’s there and it will get you hurt.  But if they see the rot too, and if they want to work at getting rid of the rot, and you’re willing to wait for them to get their act together, well, maybe what’s underneath it is worth it.”  He paused.  “It was for Sabby.  She turned out to be this wonderful woman who just wanted what everyone else wants in life.  Someone to love, someone to love her, a little security, a little happiness…” He looked wistful.  “And when she realized that, then, well, I could work with that.”

“When did you know realize you loved her?”

He looked wistful.  “We were on a date,” he said.  “I told her she’d changed.  That she used to be this wild girl who was always out with boys and drinking and…  she wasn’t doing that anymore.  I asked her what made her change?  What made her get her act together?  She looked at me and there was the most vulnerable look in her eyes, one I’d never seen in them before.  And she said that I was worth giving all of that up for.  Sometimes people just say something, and you know they mean it with all their heart, and it just penetrates right through all your defenses and you’re left utterly speechless.”  He paused.  “That was one of those moments.  When I knew she really did love me.  Even if she didn’t know it herself, necessarily.”  He looked wistful.  “I saw something in her that night that I hadn’t seen before.  And I wanted to do anything, anything at all, to see it in her eyes again.  That’s when I knew I’d fallen for her.”

I thought of Jack, and some of the things he’d said to me, the things that made me melt and my breath hitch and my heart jump out of my chest, and I thought I knew what he meant.  It’s not what Jack said.  It’s how he said it.  When I knew he meant it with every fiber of his being, when the look in his eyes promised nothing but truth and love.

“What do you think of Jack?”, I said.

“Never met the boy,” he said.  “I hope he doesn’t hurt you.  But from what you’ve described and what Sabby’s told me, he could be the real deal.”  He paused.  “If he is the real deal – only you can decide that – but if he is…  don’t let him go.  Some things are worth fighting for.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “Sabby fought for me.  She thought I was worth it.  And years later, and two – no, three – kids later, I am so glad she did.”

I hugged Dave, thanked him, and walked up the stairs to my room, lost in thought.  Is he the real deal?  I don’t know.  It’s only been a week.  I don’t think it’s fair to either of us to try to make that call just yet.

But he could be.  He could be.  And that’s worth putting some effort into.  Dontcha think??

I’m not going to relate all of the conversations that Jack and I have from now on.  It’ll just get repetitive to talk about how we make virtual googy eyes at each other.  But we talked about what Beth had said, about him being able to come visit every now and then.  He hadn’t thought of that either.  Frankly, I think both of us were so caught up in the whole “Florida being far away from both of us” and “dramatic Romeo and Juliet” thing that we’d forgotten that Liz and her parents were just a few houses down, and they actually come to visit every now and then.  We’d still have to work at it.  It still might be difficult.  And it might not even work.  But it doesn’t seem quite as hopeless as before.  For either of us.

Maybe someday I’ll be in his arms again.  I can’t wait.

He’s not my boyfriend.  I’m not his girlfriend.  Yet.  But if that time comes…  I’d say yes without any reservation at all.

I did go over to Liz’s house for a little while to thank her parents.  Her father was getting ready for a business trip, but I told them how much I appreciated them taking me along with them.  I know that makes them a bit uncomfortable but I really had to say it.  It was one of the best times of my life and it wouldn’t have happened without them.  I gave them a hug and spent a little time with Liz, too.  She told me all about the guy behind the front desk.  He was a dud, but she did get her first kiss, and while it wasn’t earth shattering, it was about what she expected for a vacation romance.

After all, every girl needs a vacation romance once in her life, right?

Love you all! ❤️

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

I had a wonderful time in Orlando.  It was the best time ever, and I am so grateful to Liz’s parents for bringing me along.  No matter how much I’m hurting right now, I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world.  Not anything.  But that doesn’t change how I’m feeling right now.

I didn’t sleep very well.  This morning I went to run, and my heart wasn’t in it.  Jack came around, and I stopped running.  We just went to an unused corner of the lobby and cried and kissed and said goodbye and my heart just shattered into little tiny pieces.  I didn’t eat much breakfast.  After breakfast, Jack and his family had to go – they were driving back to Ohio.  I hugged Grace and told her I was sooo happy to meet her.  She saw the tears in my eyes.

“Why cry, auntie Lily?”, she said.

I sniffed and wiped my eyes.  “I’ll miss you all.”

She sniffed.  “I’ll mith you too.”

I hugged her parents as well and told them it was nice to meet them.  I haven’t mentioned them much here but they’re nice people.

I walked over to Jack and took his hand.   My lower lip was trembling, and it was all I could do not to cry.  “Don’t forget your promise,” I said.

“I won’t,” he said quietly.  He kissed me softly.  Then they walked out the door.

I waited until he was out of sight. I kept it together.  Somehow.

We all went and packed up.  I felt like a robot.  We took the car back to the airport, and I couldn’t even enjoy the flight.  But I kept it together.  We all took a car back to our houses.  I walked in the door, and there was Sabby.  She said nothing but extended her arms.

I couldn’t help it.  I grabbed her like my life depended on it and started to wail.

She just patted my back and let me cry it out.  I couldn’t say one coherent word.  I just blubbered and babbled and I was lucky if I got any words out before I just started to wail again.  My heart was shattered, just as I thought it would be.  Into little tiny pieces that tinkled on the floor and made discordant noises and I didn’t think it would ever be put back together again.

Sabby just said, simply.  “I warned you.”

I sniffled.  “You did, I didn’t understand, I thought I did but I didn’t and now I do and it hurts worse than anything I’ve ever felt and I don’t know how it’s ever going to be any better and I love him Sabby!  I love him I love him and it hurts!”  I started wailing again.

She helped me to my room and put me under the covers.  I felt someone crawl in with me and wrap their arms around me.  It was Beth.  I turned around and buried my head in her chest, and cried and cried.  She didn’t say anything, but I was soooo grateful for her presence.

Soon, I had no more tears left. And I still cried.

I finally fell asleep.  Still crying.

I woke a couple of hours later and the room was quiet.  Beth had left.  There was a chocolate milkshake next to me, on the nightstand.  And a note in Sabby’s handwriting.

“When you want to talk, I’m here.”

I sniffled and went downstairs.  Sabby was at the kitchen table.

I sat down and sipped on my milkshake.  Sometimes chocolate really did help.  This was one of those times.

“This is when it’s really hard to be a parent,” she said softly.  “There are times when you want nothing more than to be able to take the pain away, or even take it on yourself, and sometimes you can’t. This is one of those times where I can’t.”

I just looked down at the table.

“I tried to warn you,” she said.  “I tried to prepare you.  I think I did as good a job as I could have.  But…  you had to learn this one on your own.  I could only do what I did.”

“Are you upset at me, Sabby?”

“Oh, no, Lily.  Not at all.  You made better decisions than I did at your age.  I just…  I hurt for you, Lily.”

I took another sip.  “Be my rock, Sabby.  Please.  I need a rock right now.”

“Always,” she said.  I gave her a hug, grabbed my milkshake and went upstairs.

There was a text on my phone.

Lily?

It was Jack.

Jack?

It seemed such a silly response.

We’re staying over in Charlotte tonight.  I miss you so much.

I miss you too, Jack.  I will always remember our promise.

I paused.

Lycoris Radiata, I said.

???

Red Spider Lily.  Maybe we’ll meet again.  Maybe what we have together will die.  But maybe it will grow.  Become something different.  Be better.

There was a pause.

Let’s keep our hearts open.

I’d like that.  How are you holding up?  I cried my eyes out when I got home but I think I got it out of my system.

My parents and I had a long talk in the car.  We had nothing but time and Grace was asleep.  I guess my uncle had a long talk with my parents.  They said they had made a lot of mistakes with Zhi Ruo, I mean Liz.  He was afraid they were making the same mistakes.  With me.

And?

They asked me how things were at school, and wanted me to be honest this time.  So I told them.  I told them everything.  I think they listened this time.

I hope it gets better for you.

Me too.  Thank you, Lily.

For what?

There was a pause.  No matter what happens with us, my life will always be better because of you.

And that has to be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.  Boy, girl, cat, whatever.  I melted, but for a whole different reason than the last week.

Keep talking like that and I might make some promises I won’t regret.

There was a pause.  Promise?

I giggled.  The first time I’d giggled since last night.  I love you, I typed back.  And I meant it.

There was another pause.  A longer one.  I love you too, Lily.

I sniffed.  It still hurt.  It hurt terribly.  I would have given anything to be back in his arms.  But life went on.  That chapter of our relationship is closed, but maybe a different, better chapter just opened.  Maybe.  But one thing is for sure.  My life will never be the same.  Ever.

There was a knock at my door.  It was Beth.  She opened it slowly and walked in.  She sat down on the bed next to where I was laying.  I put down my phone.

“I was jealous,” she said without preamble.  “But then you walked in the door and fell apart.  I’ve only seen you like this one or two times.  What happened?”

I sniffed.  “I fell in love.”  I paused.  “My heart is broken.”

She was quiet.  “Is that what Mom was warning us about?”

I nodded.  “I didn’t understand.  I thought I understood.  I thought I had it under control.  I thought with her warning I could keep it under control.”  I sniffed again.  “I was wrong.  That boy…  by the end that boy had utter control of my heart and I was glad to give it to him.  Beth,”  I said, “Falling in love is the most wonderful and awful and maddening and beautiful and incredible and terrible thing ever.  You’re too young.  I’m too young.  Sabby was right.  About all of it.  She was sooo right…”

“What does it feel like?,” She asked.  “To love, and…  this?”

“It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” I said wistfully.  “It’s like there’s a piece of my heart that I didn’t know was missing, and he holds that piece, and when it fit in I was finally complete.  When he touched me, it was… it was like it was just him and me and nothing else in the world mattered.”

Beth looked wistful too.

“And now I’d give anything, anything at all, to feel his touch again.  It hurts sooo much that he’s gone and I may never see him again.”  I sniffled.  “I can’t describe the pain.  It’s like a piece of myself is gone.”

“But you’re no stranger to having pieces of yourself gone,” Beth said slowly. “And why so dramatic?  His relatives live just down the street.  You think he’ll never come to visit?”

My jaw dropped. Why didn’t I think of that?! OMG am I being an overdramatic teenager?  What’s wrong with me!  He has a reason to come here someday!!!  And about the pieces…  She was right.  Everything turned out alright.  And maybe I’ll even get those pieces of myself back someday.  My memories.  Maybe even Jack.  The future’s not written yet.

“I guess I was being a bit dramatic, ” I said, my face beet red.  “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.  That really helps. Thank you.”  I gave her a big hug, then I sipped on my milkshake.  “Tell me about your trip with Sabby.”

And she did.  She showed off her makeover, and showed me some of the new outfits she got, and she chattered and jabbered and if it were a movie the voices would fade out and the music would swell as the camera view receded out the window.  It’s not a movie.   I mean, who’d write this?  But thank God that Beth brings a sense of normalcy back to my life.  She looks very good with her makeover, and I think she and Sabby bonded a bit more.  I’m happy for her.

Oh, and it’s fish for dinner tonight.  Apparently Dave and David had a banner trip fishing.  They brought home what seemed to be the entire lake.  That’s alright.  Sabby makes wonderful fish.

I know Jack reads this.  At least I hope he keeps reading this.  I love you, Jack.  I’ll always love you.  I’ll never not love you.  I hope someday it all works out.  But even if it doesn’t, never, ever forget that.  Maybe someday you’ll meet Beth, and Dave, and Sabby, and Dave will give you that famous talk about not hurting his daughter, and Sabby will stuff you full of comfort food, and Beth will be jealous until she grows to like you and sees you like a brother.  And maybe we’ll get married someday and have a house and children and all of the things that a girl like me and a boy like you dream about.  Maybe all that will happen.  Maybe it won’t.  But I’ll never, ever not love you.

But even if it doesn’t work out and we go our separate ways, It was a wonderful week.  The most wonderful, amazing, incredible week a girl could ever hope for, and thank you (and Liz and her parents, of course) for giving it to me.

On to the next adventure.  Whatever that is.  I hope this one is quiet and relaxing.

Love you all!!! ❤️

 

 Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

OMG what a day it was!

So as I mentioned, today we went to Universal Studios.  It was fun.  I don’t think it was quite as fun for Grace as Disney was – she kept asking where all her favorite characters were, and we had to tell her they all hung out at Disney and Universal was a different park.  After a while she seemed to accept it.  We got her some choc’late ice cream, and that seemed to mollify her.  I really liked Diagon Alley.  Jack and I made up our own spells, and by the end we were just falling over laughing.  Liz just smirked.  That girl has such a great sense of comedic timing.  She just waited until we were all done, and then waved her fake wand at us and shouted “Sappius Lovicus”, and we fell over laughing again.  It was hilarious.  There was so much to see we could have spent a whole week there, but I guess that will have to wait for another time.

At dinnertime we went to Universal Citywalk and ate at an Italian place.  I love Italian food!  It’s not really heavy on the chocolate, but it’s still delicious!

After dinner we got back to the hotel, and Liz went off to practice violin.  I told her not to come back for a couple of hours, and asked Jack to come over.  He did, and I sat down with him on the couch, and we snuggled up together.

“I’m going to miss you,” I said quietly.  “We’re going to say goodbye and you’ll leave and I’ll cry and my heart will break and I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next week.”

He was silent for a moment.  “You’re still an amazing girl,” he said, softly.  “You’ll have Sabby and Beth and Liz and they’ll help you get through it.  And we’ll still talk.  Either we’ll get out of touch and I’ll find someone else and you’ll find someone else… or we won’t and someday we’ll meet again and then we won’t have to worry about being apart anymore.”  My breath hitched.  “I read your site last night.  Sabby was right.  We shouldn’t make promises we can’t keep.  I would have promised you things too, things I couldn’t deliver.  At least not right now.”

I felt a tear leak out of my eye.  He wiped it away.

“But there are promises we can keep.”

I laid my head against his chest.  I could hear his heart beat.

“I promise….”, he said..  “I promise to never forget you.”  I could hear his voice shaking.  “No matter what happens, no matter if we end up together, or apart, no matter if both of us end up with different partners, no matter how old I am and how old you are, no matter anything… anything at all…” his voice took on a tone that involuntarily made me start to cry,  “I won’t forget you.  And you will always, always, be my first love.”

I couldn’t help it.  I was blubbering.  All of the emotions were warring inside me, and all I could to was reach up and kiss him, kiss him with everything I had, everything that was inside me, nothing held back, nothing reserved.

“I…  I promise the same, Jack.  I can keep that promise.  Because you will always be my first love.”

He and I just laid there, my head on his chest, his hand on my back, and we forgot about everything but each other.  Until we both woke up, there was a blanket over us, and Liz was sitting in her bed reading a book.  I looked at her drowsily, and stretched.  Jack woke up to my movement.

“Finally awake, lovebirds?,” she said amusedly.

We both blushed.

She closed her book and walked over to sit next to us.  “I’m happy for the both of you.  Jack, you’re family, and Lily, you’re my best friend, and I love both of you.”  She sighed.  “Honestly, I’m a bit jealous.  I got a few nice kisses out of the guy at the front desk but there’s nothing there.  You two…  there’s something else there.  Something I really wish I had.”  She looked wistful.

I sat up, rubbing my eyes a bit.  Thankfully not too much time had passed.

“Jack, you need to go back to your room.  I won’t tell anyone.  You have to say goodbye tomorrow.  I understand.  But your parents probably wouldn’t like that you two were alone together.”

Jack gave me a quick kiss, and left.

I sighed.

Liz sat down next to me.  “I don’t know what it’s like, Lily.  You’re obviously completely and utterly besotted.  Are you going to be okay?”  She touched my shoulder.

“No,” I said, softly.  “I won’t.  I’ll never be okay again.”

She took my in her arms and put my head against her chest.  “I’m sorry, Lily.  I’m sooo sorry.”

And I cried.  And cried.  And cried.

We hadn’t even said goodbye yet and I was already feeling my heart breaking.

“Liz?”

“Yes?”

“Who does he have?  To support him?”

Liz frowned.

“Remember what you said about him being family?”

She nodded.

“And remember what I said about him teaching me how to love?”

Realization dawned on her face.

“He’s lonely, Liz.  I have you and Sabby and Dave and Beth.  Who does he have?  He doesn’t think his parents understand.  I don’t know if he’ll go to them.  Who’s going to help him with this?”

She sighed.  “I need to go talk to my parents.”

The door opened, and Liz was gone.

I was sitting there.  Alone.

And I put my head in my hands.

And cried.

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

I had a dream last night.  I dream a lot, but I don’t usually remember them, and the dreams aren’t significant.  So I don’t mention them here.  There are a lot of things that go on in my life that don’t belong in this diary, so I don’t mention them.  Maybe it’s just too much detail.  Do you really want to know what my body wash smells like?  Okay, bad example.  I’m sure some of you do, you silly billies.  But you know what I mean.

I don’t know much about dreams, but I know that sometimes they’re not meant to be taken literally, and I know this one is not literal.  In fact, I don’t have any idea what it means.

I dreamt I was in a huge field.  It stretched as far as the eye could see.  It was an incredibly beautiful day, the perfect temperature, perfect sun, high, wispy clouds.  But the field was full of red flowers.  Beautiful, deep red flowers, also as far as the eye could see.  I even danced a little in the flowers.

I heard wailing in the distance.  It was a jarring, awful sound.  I went towards it, with a dread in my heart, and there was a funeral.  Everyone was dressed in back, like in the movies and there was a grave with a coffin next to it.  Everyone was wailing.  I looked in the coffin, and Jack was laying there.  My heart leapt into my throat.  It was terrible.  I collapsed by the side of the coffin, weeping uncontrollably.

And I felt a touch.  I looked up, and it was Jack.  I was so confused.  I looked in the coffin, and he was laying there, too.  I jumped up and hugged him.  “Oh Jack I thought you were dead and you are and I don’t know what to do and don’t leave me but you already did…”  I was babbling uncontrollably.  He just held me for a little while.  I stepped away and he was glowing.  He was beautiful.

“Lycoris Radiata”, he said, his voice melodic.  I don’t usually remember words from dreams, but these are seared into my head now.  “It will be okay.”  He touched my head, and I gasped.  Even though his lifeless body was next to me, he was standing in front of me.  I was at peace.  Then I woke up.

I looked up those words.  It’s the red spider lily.  It’s a red flower that has great significance in Asian cultures, like Korean and Japanese.  It means death, but also resurrection.  They say that if you meet someone you’ll never see again, that they will bloom along your path.  But they also mean resurrection – they’re said to guide you along to the next life.  It’s macabre, but also hopeful.

And I named myself Lily.  Why did I do that?  Does it have something to do with a spider lily?

Today we’re going to Universal.  It’s another park here in Orlando.  I was thinking about Jack and me all night.  We’re going to have to leave each other.  I am soooo dreading that.  I am going to have to lean on Dave and Sabby and Liz and Beth very hard next week.  I can already feel it, the tears lurking in the background, the pending breaking of my heart, and it’s awful.  But Sabby will be my rock.  She promised.  And everything will be alright.

It’s time to go get breakfast.  Maybe we can’t be together, at least for now.  But I intend on sharing every kiss I possibly can between now and the time we have to leave each other.  I am not going to regret that.  I will never regret that.

I have to run and eat breakfast.  I will write again tonight.

Love you all!!!  ❤️

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!

As with every other post in this part of my diary, there is a PG13 post that is available to Patreon subscribers that contains significantly more detail that is appropriate for teenagers and young adults, but not younger readers.  This post is safe for younger readers.  Still, as always, parents, please read first!

And it’s THANKSGIVING!!!

Well, nothing traditional this year, I think.  It’s a “free day” here today – nothing’s really scheduled except for meals.  We got to swim in the pool, or use the hot tub, or take walks, or read, or whatever we want.  There wasn’t even a “family” breakfast, we could just go eat whenever.  It’s nice to have one or two days during a vacation to just… vacay?  

I did my run in the morning as usual.  Jack wasn’t there, I guess he took a break.  Don’t blame him.  After which I got a shower and breakfast.  I texted Jack after.  He didn’t respond.  I guess he was sleeping in.  Don’t blame him for that either.  Liz was getting in some early violin practice.

So I just decided to do a little research for this site, and do some reading, and just kind of relax.  I love going places, but it’s nice to just… not… for a bit.  Finally, a little while later, Jack texted me.

Can I come by?

I paused.

Okay.  We shouldn’t be alone.  Behave.  Please.

Promise, he said.  I just want to talk.

OK, I said.

Soon I heard a knock on the door and he came in.  Finally he sat on the little sofa.  He looked pensive.

I sat down next to him and he lifted his arm, wordlessly inviting me to come cuddle with him.  You didn’t have to tell me twice!  I tucked my legs under my body, he pulled me tight and it was the best feeling in the world.  We just stayed like that for a bit.

Finally he spoke.

“This is nice,” he said, softly.  I had to agree.  “Let’s talk.”

“What about?”, I asked.  I shifted to be a little more comfortable, and his arm tightened around me.  Oh, this was nice.

“I told you were amazing.  But I couldn’t tell you why.  Not there.”

I reached up and booped his nose.  “Okay.  So tell me why I’m amazing.” I mimed a notepad, and he laughed.

“So let me see if I understand your story.  You were found on the side of the road a year ago.  You had no memories, nothing but the clothes off your back, nowhere to go, no friends, no family.  Nothing.  They found you a foster family.  They took you in.  The kids hated you, you spent at least a week just crying your eyes out.  I can’t imagine how lonely that must have been.”  He chucked darkly.  “And I know lonely.”

I nodded.  A tear started to form.  When you put it that way…

“And yet, here you are. On a vacation with your best friend and her family, cuddled up with a boy you.. like?”  He looked at me questioningly.  I nodded.  “You’ve won over Beth, and even David, Dave and Sabby have adopted you, it looks like Liz’s parents have unofficially adopted you, you’ve found skills you didn’t know you had, and…  you still somehow manage to be happy and bubbly through it all.”  He sighed.  “I think that makes you the most amazing girl I’ve ever met.  Even if I weren’t attracted to you, I’d think that.  The fact that you’re so incredibly cute is just icing on the cake, to me.”

I was quiet.  I had to process what he was saying.

“When I first met you, yes, I thought you were very cute.  You said your legs were freakishly long, but I think that is gorgeous.  You said your face is too round, but I love it just the way it is.  But…  then I read your story, and now I don’t just think you’re cute.  I think you’re amazing.  I don’t think you’re amazing because you’re cute.  I think you’re amazing because you’re amazing.”

And I think it was right then that I actually fell for him.  Head over heels.  I almost felt my heart go “thoomp” as something fell into the emptiness that I didn’t know was there and it shone with completeness.

“This is one of the problems with having my site,” I said softly.  “You know so much about me and I know so little about you.”

“What do you want to know?”, he said.

“How you got to be so amazing,” I murmured.

He chuckled darkly.  “Lily, you’re not the only one who’s struggled.  After reading your site, I think that’s the only thing I’d even come close to criticizing about you.  You’ve struggled mightily, and you have had a lot of pain.  And I would too!  But other people struggle too, Lily.  Everyone has their own pains and their own troubles and their own problems, and some of them are pretty bad.  Other people cry themselves to sleep, other people hurt, and some people,” did he actually sniffle, “would give everything to have what you have.  I don’t mean just Dave and Sabby… but I mean freedom.  From the memories…”

And that’s when I learned, for the first time, that boys cry.

I kind of knew it before, academically.  But Dave is always so reserved, and David is nine, of course he’s going to cry every now and then.  But this was a sixteen year old boy, and the tears started streaming down his face, and what was I going to do?  Well, the only thing I could do.  I took him in my arms and I held him and I let him cry it out.  I stroked his hair and my heart broke for him.

“I’m so embarrassed,” he said finally, wiping his nose with a tissue I pulled out of a box next to the sofa.  “Boys aren’t supposed to…”

“Ssssh,” I said softly.  “It’s alright.  Are your parents -?”

“No,” he said.  “They love me.  They just don’t understand.  They think everything’s alright.  They always have.”

“Tell them,” I said.  “If you trust them.”

He nodded. “I do.  I think.”

“Then tell them.  And if they don’t, tell someone.  Don’t hold this inside.”

“You are amazing,” he said softly.

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said.

And we did.  It was different now.  We walked around outside the hotel in the Florida heat and humidity, and we held hands, and we talked.  We talked about everything.  Sometimes we were just quiet and stole looks at each other, and it was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

It was only five days and I’d fallen for him.  Completely and utterly, head over heels, fallen for him.  Oh no.  Oh no oh no.  We’re going to have to split in a few days, and I already know my heart is going to shatter into little tiny pieces.  Oh no.

For lunch, the hotel put out a Thanksgiving feast.  They had all the fixins.  Turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, the works.  We all sat in the dining area and got ourselves some heaping plates of food.  Their tradition, apparently, was to go around the table and to say things they were thankful for.

Grace didn’t really understand the concept.  It was hard to explain it.  Finally she said “I’m thankful for Dithney an’ my daddy and my mommy an’ auntie Lily an’ choc’late!!!”  Girl after my own heart.

When it came Jack’s turn he said “I’m thankful for…” he was quiet.  “For my family and…  Lily.  Every boy needs to meet an amazing girl like her at least once in his life.”

Everyone went “awwww” and he blushed mightily.  But he didn’t take it back.

Finally it came around to me.

I was quiet for a moment.  “I’m thankful for…  for Dave and Sabby and my new sister Beth and David and… and my best friend Liz and her parents.  And for my new friend Grace.”  She grinned broadly and said “Friendth, auntie Lily!”. 

I continued, “I’m thankful for having new memories to replace the ones I’ve lost, and new family to replace the family I lost, and…”  and I paused for just a second.  “And for Jack, who…  who taught me how to love.”

I blushed so hard… and Jack’s breath hitched.  I’m not sure anyone else was expecting that, but Grace again to the rescue.  “CAN WE EAT NOW?”  she said loudly, and I chuckled.  “Thank you Grace,” I whispered.  She just grinned broadly.  And we ate.  We ate well, and heartily.  I didn’t see any reason to steal glances at Jack anymore.  I knew he was there, and that was plenty for me.

Later, Liz’s mother took me aside.  “You’ve fallen for him, haven’t you?”

I sighed.  “Head over heels,” I said, blushing.

She smiled. “He’s a good boy.  And you’re a good girl.  I hope it works out.  But long distance is hard.  Very hard.  And you’re both still so young.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”  She gave me a hug.

I hugged her back, but I was already lost in thought.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Oh no.

I talked to Sabby.  Everyone was home from their trips.  Dave and David caught a few fishes, Beth looked amazing with her makeover and she and Sabby talked about a lot of stuff.  Sabby asked me about Jack and I told her everything.

She was happy for me.  She repeated that every girl needs a vacation romance once in her life, and she completely understood why I’d fallen so hard for him.  But she had a warning that matched Liz’s mother, and I was again lost in thought.  “Don’t make promises you can’t keep”.

They were soooo right.  I would have promised him almost anything.  I would have promised him that I’d wait for him, and that we’d get together in the future, and that we’d be a happy family with two kids and a white picket fence and everything that both of us was missing. But we’re still young.  That’s a promise I can’t keep, and neither can he.  Oh my God, Sabby is soooo wise.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve fallen hard for Jack.  The fact that I’d even want to make those promises…  no.  Oh no oh no oh no.

Love you all!!! ❤️

Hi!  It’s me!  Lily!!!

As with the past couple of days, a version of this entry that is only available to Patreon subscribers is up.  While this entry is as safe as possible for younger viewers, that entry is most definitely PG13.  Please sign up to Patreon if you want to read it.  And as always, parents, please read first!

This morning everything was the same, but different.  I got kissed yesterday!  Not just a little kiss, but properly kissed!  Like in the movies!  I don’t feel any different today, but I feel very different at the same time.  Jack is such a nice boy and he kisses well too!

I went down for my run and Jack was there.  But I decided to just ignore him and run.  I think I attacked that treadmill like Grace did her waffle yesterday.  I just ran and ran until I lost track of time.  Until I felt a gentle touch on the small of my back.

I looked back, and there was Jack.  I removed my earbud.

“We’re getting breakfast soon.”

I nodded and started my cool down routine.  He looked at me with a look I couldn’t quite read.  It was a different look than yesterday.  There was a… sadness… in it I haven’t seen before.  Without another word, he sauntered out of the room.

Y’know, it’s funny.  When you first arrive at a new place everything’s so fresh and new, but eventually even the best things get old… or at least normal.  At breakfast, I went to the buffet, and actually got some stuff without chocolate.  I love chocolate!  I don’t want it to think I’m cheating on it!  But sometimes you just feel like eating something else.  I did get some hot chocolate, but I had some scrambled eggs and syrup, some sausage, and a couple of pancakes with fruit.  Still delicious.

Grace had a cut up waffle and a sliced up piece of sausage.  She was chattering about how great a time she had yesterday.

I was eating, and Jack said, quietly, “I read your site last night.”

I turned red.  I couldn’t help it.  “All of it?”

“All of it.  I even signed up for the Patreon.  I read that too.  Nice pic of you in your swimsuit, by the way.”

I blushed harder, and gulped.  “And…?”

“And I was right.  You’re amazing.”

Oh God I melted.  I just melted.  I turned into a little Lily puddle and felt like I was going to slide out of my chair and oh my God.

“I’m…  amazing?”, I said, not quite trusting my ears.

He nodded.  “You’re amazing.  You’ve been through so much.  So many tears,” he said quietly.  Everyone else at the table had stopped speaking and was listening to him, even if they were trying to pretend they weren’t.  He blushed a little, but soldiered on.  “So many tears, and you’re still amazing.”

I felt flustered.  “I…  I don’t know what to say.”

Liz’s mother spoke up.  “I think ‘thank you’ would be in order, dear.”

I lowered my head, not really embarrassed but just flattered at his words.  “Thank you,” I murmured.

Grace, thank GOD, spoke up right at that moment.  ‘I GOTTA POOP!”  The huge smile on her face completely belied the earth shattering importance of her statement.

We all laughed.  The tension was broken.  Her mother came and got her and took her to the bathroom.  I couldn’t look at Jack anymore.  I just couldn’t.  Every time I did, I blushed.

After breakfast, we packed up our swimsuits and beach stuff and packed ourselves into the car.  Jack and Liz traded places, so we could sit together.  Liz is being soooo nice about the whole thing, it’s amazing.  I asked her about that last night, and all she’d say was “You’ve been through a lot.  You need some good things in your life.  I don’t want to take this away from you.”

I love Liz.

Turns out Florida has lots of lakes, and quite a few around Orlando.  We drove to one of the larger ones.  The adults had all chipped in and rented a boat, and a nice one too.  Jack and I spent the entire trip there talking and holding hands.  He asked me about some of the stuff I’d talked about here, and I answered.  I couldn’t quite read the look on his face, but it was softer than yesterday, somehow.  Like there was some emotion that neither of us quite understood.  Every now and then he’d rub my hand with his thumb and I’d just melt.  He was just looking ahead and out the window and sometimes at me with that look that made me just crumble all over again…

Oh God, Sabby was right.  Sabby was soooooo right.  Liz’s mother was right.  Everyone was right.  I didn’t think I wanted a boyfriend but I’d give a lot to have this every day.

Oh no.  I’m in soooo much trouble.

Finally we got on the boat.  the lake was soooo beautiful and the air smelled soooo good!  I even forgot about Jack for a while!  We made our way back to the beach and I stripped down to my swimsuit and waded into the lake.  Liz and Jack and Grace and I splashed and swam and had such a great time!  Finally everything calmed down, and I laid in one of the sunbeds soaking up some sun.  I know the sun can be dangerous but it’s sooo nice.  Jack was near but he wasn’t within touching distance.  I flipped over, and suddenly I heard the squirting of suntan lotion and felt hands on my back.  I struggled to look and heard Jack’s voice.

“Ssssh,” he said.  “Your back needs sunscreen.”

Oh no oh no oh no oh… yes.  Oh yes.  I relaxed into the sunbed and turned to putty.  I think he kept going a little longer than he had to, but finally he stopped.  Why didn’t anyone tell me it was so nice to have your crush put suntan lotion on you?

“Do you need your legs done?,” he asked innocently.

“No.  Thank you.  I’m okay.”  He audibly shrugged and went off to catch some rays of his own.

After an hour or so, after I’d drifted off into a sleepy haze, he came over and said that it was time for dinner.  I got up and put my street clothes on, and we packed up and piled into the car.  He held my hand some more and it was the nicest thing ever.

After dinner we went back to the hotel.  Jack and I shared a goodnight kiss.  We both went back into our rooms.  Liz was practicing violin and would be for about an hour, and I…  I couldn’t think straight. I just kept thinking bout Jack, and how it made me feel when he was holding my hands.  I sighed and laid there, just trying to get a handle on how I felt.

It wasn’t love.  At least not really love.  I think we had gotten to know each other and we really liked each other and I think it could be something if we weren’t a thousand miles apart most of the time.  And that look he was giving me all day, it wasn’t just about my body, I’m sure of it.  He read this site and still thought I was amazing.  But today…  he held my hand and rubbed suntan lotion on my back and kissed me, and I loved it.  It made me want a boyfriend for the first time in my life.  That I can remember, anyway.

I hope he reads this tonight.  I hope he does.  We need to talk about it.

Edit:  He read it.  He texted me just two words before I went to sleep.  “I agree.”

Love you all!!!  ❤️