Agony in the Garden - Conclusion
“Hey Julia,” Audrie greeted her friend in the library before school. Every school day began with bible study, a comforting little ritual between two friends that grounded them both before the day started in earnest.
Audrie watched her friend as she shakily opened her bible. “How many cups of coffee did you have this morning?” she asked, noticing Julia’s trembling. Then, she noticed Julia’s eyes were dark and puffy underneath. “You really ought to go to bed earlier,” she gently kidded her, knowing full well Julia was not prone to staying up late.
“I couldn’t sleep,” the tall, dark haired girl grumbled. “Went to bed at a normal hour, but then I woke up a little before three and couldn’t go back to sleep.”
Audrie glanced at the large clock at the end of the library. “You’ve been up for five hours already then.”
“Yeah,” Julia sighed, not too happy that she’d been up for nearly a quarter of the day and it hadn’t even started in earnest. “I’m so glad that Coach Banning isn’t holding practice today. Either we know our stuff or we don’t at this point.”
Audrie chuckled. “A day of rest can’t hurt. How many more days of playoffs?”
“Tomorrow is the final showdown. And that other girl won’t be going with me, she didn’t make it into the final rounds.”
“I bet that’s a relief, you never did like her.”
“No, I don’t.”
“So,” Audrie started to ask, “what did Kelsey have to say to you yesterday? She didn’t get nasty with you, did she? She looked like she was ready to take your head off.”
“What she said is confidential,” Julia firmly replied.
“I can respect that,” Audrie affirmed.
“It’s really frustrating though,” Julia continued. “She thought I took it badly, but that’s not the case, she ran off before I could tell her my opinion, and it wasn’t bad.” She leaned back and sighed. “I hope I can catch her today and let her know it isn’t what she thinks. That ought to brighten her mood a bit.”
“Hopefully so,” Audrie prayed. “I think she could give Cassie a run for her money with her temper if she wanted to.”
Julia laughed. I’ve heard people say the same about me.
At brunch, Julia went into the quad and looked for Kelsey. Second period showed no signs of Justin, and she had a bad feeling that he wasn’t going to come back—his attendance had been perfect until that point. But as her eyes scanned over the quad, she noticed that the table was rather empty today—instead of four people, there were only two. Hmm, it’s just Natasha and Kacie. I wonder where Jessie and Kelsey went.
She felt a bit disappointed. Well, they could be anywhere. Sometimes they walk around at brunch instead of stay fixed in one place.
But when Student Council started, they still didn’t show. She pulled Natasha aside. “Hey, have you seen Jessie or Kelsey today?” she asked. Luke and Cassie watched her from a distance, regarding her with a strange look for talking to the goth.
Natasha shook her head. “I haven’t.”
“Any idea where they are?”
Natasha shrugged. “No idea.”
Julia pursed her lips. I bet they ditched school today. As I recall, they ditched the day after I yelled at Kelsey for being gay. Hmm. Damn. If only she came, she would have learned it wasn’t such a big deal. What were her words yesterday? She thought I was going to hurt her. I guess I have—but not the way she thinks I was. Damn, damn, damn. If only I could tell her my silence was of disbelief—happy disbelief—instead of shock and disgust!
“Hey,” Julia greeted Audrie as she sat beside her on the steps of the library at lunchtime. “Brought your lunch today?”
The small brunette nodded. “Last night was pizza night. I brought two slices—want some?”
“I wish,” Julia said, “but it’s too greasy.” She grabbed her own lunch, a pastrami on rye sandwich she had assembled at home with some apple and carrot slices. “I sure wish my stomach would stop acting up all the time.”
Audrie looked at her companion. She looked a bit better than she did at the start of school. “Julia, I say this as a friend, but I’m glad I’m not seeing you run to the restroom all the time like you used to.”
“You have no idea how hard it is to resist.” She grabbed a carrot stick and crunched down on it. “Especially when something makes me mad.” She grabbed an apple slice. “But greasy food, for some reason, seems to trigger my body to react regardless. If I eat something greasy I’m sick for days afterwards.”
“Hmm.” The short brunette grabbed a napkin she packed in her lunch bag and wiped her hands. “I do get sick of having to be vigilant of what I eat,” Audrie admitted. “Being so small, any excess appears instantly. That pizza was a nice change from the usual.”
Julia made a sour face. “Dang it, I guess the pastrami was pushing my luck. I’m already getting heartburn.”
“That’s not good.”
“I should have paid closer attention.” She looked off in the distance; she liked to people watch between sentences. Walking down one of the hallways, away from her, she saw Shana’s friends Leah and April walking, but no Shana. Hmm. Shana usually hangs out with them. I wonder where Shana is. Maybe they know something.
“Hey, I’ll be right back,” she told Audrie before departing the steps of the library.
“I wonder what she’s up to now,” Audrie wondered, watching her tall companion leave. She always seemed to be up to something covert anymore—sometimes she was in the know, but most of the time, she had no clue what her friend was up to these days.
It took quite a few rapid long strides to catch up with the two freshmen. “Hey, April, Leah?” she yelled. The two freshmen stopped and turned around.
“Oh, hi Julia,” Leah, the bubblier one of the pair, greeted. “What’s up?”
“Where’s Shana? I need to ask her something.” Like where her sister is.
“She’s at the hospital.”
Julia’s eyes widened. “Oh no! Is she alright?”
“Yeah,” Leah interjected. “A police officer came and got her right after brunch. Family emergency of some sort.”
Julia felt her stomach clench. Oh God. I hope everything’s alright. “Ah, okay. Thanks for letting me know.” Guess where I’m going after school today?
She returned to her spot on the steps next to Audrie. She tried to act nonchalant, but her pale color gave her away. “Julia, what’s wrong? You’re pale as a ghost.”
“Either Kelsey or her mother is in the hospital, and I have a bad feeling it’s Kelsey.”
Audrie patted her leg. “I drove in this morning—want to go after school?”
“Could you?” she said in a small, frightened voice.
“Of course,” Audrie assured her. “I’ll meet you in the west parking lot—that’s where I parked today.”
“Okay. I’ll see you there after school then.” She flipped over her watch. “Bell’s about to ring.” True to form, it rang less than a minute later. “See you.”
She wasn’t sure what they were covering in her afternoon classes; she wasn’t too sure she remembered, passed, or cared about the pop quiz, either.
Getting out of Audrie’s car, she couldn’t help but feel the slight but cold breeze whip through her jersey sweater. The sky had gotten gray, for a front was starting to creep up over the horizon; she wondered if it would bring rain. She wasn’t sure what to expect; she wasn’t even sure who had been hurt, just that it was someone in Shana’s family. They waited for the traffic to clear before they crossed the street; the hospital parking lot never failed to be full any time of year. This is the stuff of nightmares. How many poor souls have come here in the middle of the night only to find out their loved ones died?
She forced herself to take a deep breath. Don’t think melodramatically, Julia, she reminded herself as they came to the main entrance of the hospital. Calm.
The automatic doors parted themselves as soon it sensed the two girls approaching them. They walked into the lobby, a pleasant if generic office in a white room with teal covered chairs arranged opposite the receptionist’s desk. To the back were elevators.
“How may I help you?” a middle aged lady asked them.
Take a gamble—I’m looking for Kelsey. “I’m here to visit Kelsey Slevin. Could you tell me which room she’s in?”
The receptionist typed in a few things on her keyboard. “407. Take the elevator, then hook left. It’s towards the end.”
“Thank you.” They got in the elevator and went up to the fourth story; they were partway down the hall when they ran into Jessie. Her face was pale and there were dark rings around her eyes.
“Hi guys,” she tiredly said. “I guess you heard.”
“I had to dig a little,” Julia informed her. “What happened?”
Jessie stopped before them, rubbing her tired eyes. “Kelsey’s been sneaking out of my house at night to check up on her mother, and last night she ran into her estranged father. She got knocked out cold.”
“Yikes,” Audrie commented. “Is she going to be okay?”
“She’s concussed,” Jessie admitted. “She should be okay but she’s probably going to be here a few days. He got her pretty good.” She yawned. “Sorry,” she apologized. “You can go in and visit, but she’s probably still sleeping and you won’t be able to rouse her.”
“Where are you headed?” Audrie asked.
“Going to get a little lunch.”
“I’ll go with you,” Audrie offered. “Julia?”
“I’m going to go check on her first. Even if she doesn’t know I’m there.”
“Alright, see you in a few.”
She padded down the hallway alone. She wondered for a minute if she was lost when she passed by the nurse’s station, but the room numbers opposite suggested she was on the right path. Finally, she came to 407. She saw a little old lady sitting next to Kelsey, who was tucked in a hospital bed with an IV in her arm and a bandage of her head. She was dressed in a hospital gown, and she could see the outline of a rib brace underneath the skimpy gown.
Oh God, Julia despaired, biting her lip hard to suppress the tears that threatened when she saw the tomboy laying in the bed, bruised and battered.
“I’m Julia,” she introduced herself. “I’m a friend of hers.”
“I’m Ms. Slevin,” the old lady decided to introduce herself. “I’m her mother.”
That’s her mother? I thought maybe she was her grandmother. “I’m sorry to hear what happened,” Julia offered.
“Told her to stay away but she wouldn’t listen. Stubborn child.” It sounded a bit cold, but when Julia looked up in her eyes, she could see a little bit of a twinkle in her mother’s eyes.
I bet the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
There were two chairs in the room; Ms. Slevin sat in one of them, and the other one was free. That’s probably where Jessie’s been sitting. She pulled the chair closer to Kelsey’s bed and sat down.
She regarded the redheaded tomboy, who was very sound asleep.
“You can talk to her,” Ms. Slevin offered. “She may or may not hear you, she’s been in and out of sorts.”
Ms. Slevin nodded. “Yes. Got elbowed in the head really hard, poor thing. I’m relieved it’s not a skull fracture.”
Julia watched Kelsey breathe in and out. “I got knocked out playing tennis about a month ago. I was pretty tired for days on end afterwards. I bet she’s going to be groggy for a while.”
“I never realized tennis was a contact sport.”
Julia chuckled. “It is when you run into the supports holding the net up. I still have no idea how I managed that—I had to take her word for it. She was there when it happened.”
“I vaguely remember her talking about it,” Ms. Slevin recalled. “I’m going to go walk around for a minute. Are you able to stay until I get back? When she wakes up she gets really disoriented.”
“I’ll be here.”
She walked the older lady leave, then turned to regard her sleeping friend. “Hey Kelsey. I’m sorry we parted on an awkward note yesterday, I couldn’t find the words fast enough to let you know I wasn’t mad at you. In fact, believe it or not, the feeling’s mutual. I’m pretty stuck on you.”
She reached over and grabbed her hand, holding it gently in hers. “I’m sorry I took so long to tell you that. I hope it isn’t too late—oh God.” She bit her lip, which kept the tears back, save one. “Hang in there, bud. You’ll make it.”
Eyes fluttered open briefly. “Julia?” Kelsey rasped. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to visit,” Julia replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Like a big rig ran over me,” she admitted. “I thought you hated me.”
“No, no, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. You left before I could tell you I like you too.”
Confused eyes regarded her, puzzled.
“Shh,” Julia cooed, patting her hand. “Just rest. Your body needs it.”
“You got hit on the head. You have a concussion.”
“No wonder I feel awful,” she grumbled, shutting her eyes.
“Just rest,” Julia urged her. “I’ll be here.”
Kelsey slipped back into her tired slumber, and after a while, Julia rested her head on the hospital rail, her hand gently holding Kelsey’s.
“Why does Julia look so tired?” a voice asked.
“She said she couldn’t sleep last night,” a girlier voice replied. “I think she said she’s been up since 3 this morning.”
“I can’t imagine a hospital rail being too comfortable to sleep on.” A pause. “Where’d Kelsey’s mom go?”
A third voice added to the din. “Right here.”
Julia heard the voices, and she finally was able to shake herself awake. “Dang,” she mumbled, lifting her head off the hospital bed railing and releasing Kelsey’s hand. “Here’s your seat, Jessie.”
“Keep it,” the tall, broad shouldered girl offered. “I’ve been there all day.”
Audrie looked at her. “She looks like hell.”
“She’s lucky she didn’t get killed,” Ms. Slevin clucked. “Wrestling an ex-con to the ground isn’t exactly the smartest thing she could have done.”
“Her father broke into the house last night,” Jessie informed Audrie, who nodded.
“At least she won’t have to worry about him anymore,” Ms. Slevin continued. “He’s dead.”
I wonder how that happened, Julia silently mused. At least he won’t be plaguing them anymore. Kelsey is always looking over her shoulder.
She warily opened her eyes, her head feeling like it was swimming in circles around the room. Her head ached and her ribs pulsed with pain. She didn’t recognize the whitewashed walls or the fluorescent lights overhead. Where am I? she started to panic, turning her head to get a better clue of her whereabouts. Her mother was sitting beside her, and Shana was beside her. Her arm brushed against something long and cold. I’m in a hospital. How did I get here? “Mom? Shana?” she whimpered.
Mrs. Slevin patted her arm gently. “It’s okay, Kelsey. Just rest.”
Concern flickered over her mother’s features. “I told you earlier, your dad knocked you out.”
Kelsey pursed her lips. “He did?” She blinked a few times. “What was he doing at Jessie’s house?”
“You snuck out to your house,” Mrs. Slevin informed her.
“But nothing was amiss so I came back,” she protested.
“You must have come back again. What day is it?”
Kelsey sighed aggrievedly. “I remember going to bed Tuesday night. I’m gathering it’s not Tuesday anymore.” She smacked her lips. “Could you get me some water? I’m really thirsty.”
Shana went to go get a cup of water. Mrs. Slevin replied, “It’s Wednesday night, dear.”
“I’ve been out for almost twenty-four hours?” Kelsey queried.
“You’ve woken up here and there,” Mrs. Slevin informed her.
“Huh, I don’t recall waking up.”
“You were talking a little bit.”
Shana came back, with the doctor on duty behind her. Kelsey closed her eyes; the bright lights were making her headache worse. She heard him talk to her mother about her condition, saying something about amnesia and dizziness. Amnesia? I know who I am and where I’ve been, I don’t have amnesia!
“Open your eyes, Kelsey,” he told her, shining a light in her pupils, which made her flinch. The light was put away, and she shut her eyes again. She last remembered hearing her mother talk to the doctor about her prognosis, and she was going to have to stay another day. What’s another day if I can’t even remember the previous one?
“This is going to be a long day,” Julia sighed Thursday morning as she plopped her book bag on the table in the library.
“Last day of playoffs, isn’t it?”
Julia nodded. “I wish I could have slept better.”
Audrie looked at her with much concern. She didn’t recall Julia saying a single good thing about the quality of her sleep yet this week. “I hope you’re planning on sleeping in this weekend.”
Julia nodded. “I hope so, but knowing my mother, she’s probably going to wake me up early as usual.” She flipped her bible open. “At least she doesn’t know I went to the hospital to visit Kelsey last night. I’d really be in trouble then.”
Audrie sighed. What does that woman have against Julia being friends with Kelsey? “If you want to visit her I’ll drive you over.”
Julia smiled. “Visiting hours will be over by the time I get back,” she sadly lamented. “Maybe Friday, if she’s still there.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“You’re looking better,” the doctor announced after looking at Kelsey carefully on Thursday morning. “You’ve been able to stay awake for longer periods of time, your pupils react to light better, and your appetite seems to be returning.”
“When am I going to get some real food?” Kelsey grouched, none too happy about the stingy bowl of oatmeal she had gotten for breakfast.
“Patience,” the doctor replied. “You couldn’t keep the previous meal down.”
Kelsey sighed. Thank the gods I don’t remember barfing. “Or a real bed? Why won’t you let me walk around?”
The doctor smiled. “Not yet, but ask me again later.”
Kelsey sunk into the flimsy mattress. “How much longer do I have to stay?” she whined.
“As long as everything checks out, we’ll have you home by tomorrow morning.” He wrote a few things on the clipboard. “I’m going to have you taken to the radiology section for another scan of your head, I need to make sure the swelling has gone down and nothing unusual is going on. You took quite a blow there, young lady.”
Do I look like a lady?
“I’ll be back after lunch,” the doctor announced as he placed the clipboard on its peg. “Now rest.”
Kelsey eyed the doctor as he left. She turned, to see her mother looking rather amused. “What?” she snapped.
Her mother smiled even more brightly. “You are feeling better. You were so quiet yesterday.”
“I just want out of here,” Kelsey groused.
“You and me both,” her mother concurred. “Hard to get a good night’s sleep when the nurses come by poking and prodding you every two hours.”
“You weren’t the one being poked and prodded.”
“Oh, but I heard them, and that was enough to wake me up.”
“Have you been here the whole time?” Kelsey asked. “It is Thursday, right?”
“Yes,” her mother replied.
“Whew,” Kelsey sighed. “I was really freaked out when I woke up last night and had no idea what day of the week it was.”
“I’m glad you’re starting to become aware of your surroundings. You kept waking up here and there during the day yesterday, but you don’t seem to remember. Not that I’m surprised; you were awake for only a few minutes at a time, probably not enough time to fully wake up.”
“So, Mom, how did I end up in the hospital?” She rubbed her eyes. “I vaguely recall you telling me last night but I can’t remember fully.”
“You were staying at Jessie’s house,” her mother started.
“And I snuck out to check up on you,” Kelsey added. “Then what happened?”
“Do you remember being there?”
“Vaguely. Please fill me in, Mom.”
“Okay,” Mrs. Slevin relented. “I’m not sure what really happened; all I know is that I heard a blood curdling scream in the middle of the night, and I came running to see you had your dad cornered in the bathroom and there was blood everywhere.”
“I ran into him?”
“Yes, you found him.”
“And there was blood everywhere?” Kelsey pursed her lips. “Did I get stabbed?”
“No, he did.”
“You slashed him with a knife?”
Mrs. Slevin paled. “No, you went upstairs with the paring knife and when he lunged for you, you stabbed him.”
“Damn! I wish I remembered that.”
“Watch your mouth, young lady,” Mrs. Slevin warned, “and maybe it’s just as well you don’t remember.”
“So, you walk into the bathroom and we’re squaring off.”
“Yes. He elbowed you in the head and knocked you out. But as you fell, the knife dug into his temporal artery. He bled to death right there.”
“You mean I killed him?”
Silence. “He’s dead.”
“I killed him.”
“He had every intention of killing you.”
“If he was going to kill us, and he’s dead, then we won’t have to worry about him.”
“We won’t have to. Ever again.”
Kelsey smiled. “That is worth all the rest.”
Her mother sighed. Was it really worth seeing her eldest daughter recovering from a concussion just to know he was finally out of their lives permanently?
Julia sat in the school van, her head pressed against the window, blankly watching the dark scenery pass by. The playoffs were finally over. Second place, she thought to herself. The final games were tough, and when she finally faced off against the only other player to make it to the final round, she was exhausted. I could have had that game, she groused to herself. But then again, I was facing someone who was being watched by Olympic scouts, she sighed. I didn’t even stand a chance if they thought she was worthy of possibly going to Sydney and I’m not. An evil grin crossed her tired face. Then I probably just embarrassed the hell out of her then! Imagine that! Some two bit player from the crappy public school league gives an Olympic hopeful a run for her money. She shut her eyes. That game was so close. I could have had it.
It was very late by the time the van pulled into the school parking lot, where Rhett was waiting for her. He looked just as tired as she did. “How did it go?”
“Second place in the state,” she replied tiredly. “I can’t believe it’s already twelve thirty am.”
“Me either,” Rhett said, yawning. “Don’t they realize you have school in the morning?”
“What about you and work? Thanks for picking me up.”
“No problem,” he said. “Second place. I’m proud of you dear.”
“I could have had first place,” she sighed. “But I guess hearing that the girl who beat me is going to the tryouts for Olympics makes me feel a little better about my play. Theoretically, I didn’t stand a chance against her—I think I did a pretty good job of making her sweat.”
“I’m sure there have been scouts looking for you,” Rhett offered. “I bet the scouts are giving you extra attention now that you finished so high.”
Julia snorted. “If I was so good I would have heard by now.” Not that my mother would let me even if they were interested.
“Kelsey,” a voice quietly rumbled nearby. “Kelsey, wake up.”
Tired green eyes fluttered open. “What is it?” she mumbled. She tried to focus her eyes, and could see the lavender shafts of the day’s first rays of sunshine beaming through the hospital window. “It’s morning.”
Mrs. Slevin nodded. “The doctor stopped by a few minutes ago, he wants to see how you’re doing, and if it all looks good, he’s going to discharge you this morning.”
Kelsey smiled. Laying in bed all day except to get up and go to the bathroom was driving her nuts. Bedpan? I don’t think so! But she was dismayed to find how difficult it was to stay upright when she got up to use the bathroom. The room would not stop spinning, and she had to cling to the railing to keep from falling over. I hope I can walk today, she prayed.
She heard a knock on the door. The doctor poked his head in. “Awake, good,” he noted. “I want to you try to walk from your bed to the bathroom. Let me know if you get dizzy, I’ll be right here.”
She gingerly sat up, mindful of her sore ribs. She swiveled her hips and swung her legs off the bed, pushing herself off the bed so she stood. A little dizzy, but not as bad as yesterday. She took a few steps. I really hate being dizzy. She opened the door to the bathroom. I don’t think I’m about to fall over though.
The doctor shined a light in her eyes, checked her vitals, and looked at the MRI results from the scan the day prior. “It looks like the swelling is going down,” he said, closing the folder. “You’ll be discharged later on this morning.”
“About time,” Kelsey said under her breath.
“You got a pretty good concussion,” he stated. “You don’t seem to remember much before or after getting knocked out, which is normal for a Grade III concussion. I will have the nurses give you a list of what to expect and what you can and can’t do when you get discharged. You’ll probably be feeling physically lousy for a while, such as feeling headachy, nauseous, or dizzy. You may feel a bit unsettled emotionally and you may have some difficulty with cognitive skills for a while. I want you to come back for a checkup a week from today. I also have a list of symptoms of a worsening condition towards the back of this packet. If you develop any of these, I want you to get back to the emergency room.” He paused, then asked, “Any questions?”
They were filling out exit paperwork in the lobby when Kelsey spotted Jessie. “Hey,” the tall girl greeted.
Kelsey fidgeted in the wheelchair; it was standard hospital procedure to discharge patients in a wheelchair. I wish she didn’t have to see me looking like such an invalid, she grumbled mentally, but it’s probably just as well I’m in one, considering how dizzy I’ve felt today. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have school?”
“You’re the only one who can drive in your family,” Jessie started to explain, “and you’re not driving anywhere, so I came to pick you all up.”
“Aww, you didn’t—well, thank you.”
“Not a problem. My folks cleared it with the office.”
She closed her eyes and rested her head on her shoulder belt on the way home. It had been a very long day, and she was exhausted. She opened her eyes when she noted Jessie’s RAV4 was decelerating, and she saw there were several cars in front of her house. What the hell?
Jessie pulled up to the curb and parked. She came around and gave Kelsey a hand in getting out, and Kelsey leaned against her as she shuffled to the house. Mrs. Slevin opened the door.
“Welcome home, Kelsey,” Jessie replied, as Kelsey took in the appearance of the living room. Natasha, Kacie, and Shana were in there.
Kelsey nodded. She noted there was a sign hanging up towards the back of the living room welcoming her home. Home.
Afternoon was quickly turning into evening, night falling earlier and earlier every single night, heralding the approach of winter. The little coming home party left Kelsey feeling exhausted; she was glad to see her friends though. Kacie and Natasha had left not too long ago, leaving just her and Jessie; Shana was upstairs doing homework and her mother was in the living room watching television from the decrepit old set with rabbit ears taped to the top.
“You look exhausted,” Jessie noted.
“I am,” Kelsey admitted. “I feel tired all the time.”
“At least you’re able to stay awake longer than when I visited you Wednesday morning. You’d wake up, say something, then before I could answer, you’d be sound asleep.”
“I don’t remember Wednesday morning.”
“What do you remember?” Jessie asked.
“I remember waking up Wednesday night and wondering how the hell I got myself stuck in the hospital.” Kelsey rubbed her eyes. “Even that’s a bit fuzzy.”
“You took a serious blow to the head, Kelsey. You scared the crap out of all of us.”
Kelsey wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so she simply nodded.
Julia saw the little blue Volkswagen Beetle pull in front of her front yard. It was one of the redesigned New Beetles that had generated a lot of buzz as of late. Her friend Audrie came out of the car, locked it, and went up to knock on the door.
Julia answered the door. “Hi Audrie,” she greeted. “Come in.” She then went down the hall to announce to her mother that she was leaving to hang out with Audrie for a few hours.
Katharine followed her back to the front door, to make sure Julia was being truthful; her countenance softened when she saw it was indeed true. “Be safe, girls,” she urged before letting them go.
The blue Beetle pulled away from the curb. “Now, what are the directions?” Audrie asked.
Julia exhaled; she had been tense about the fact her mother might have said no. “She lives past the high school, the easiest way to start is to head out to school as usual and then I’ll give you further directions.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Audrie acknowledged.
“I was pretty frightened she wasn’t going to let me go,” Julia admitted. “It’s a good thing she trusts you.”
“Did she ask where we were going to be?”
“No, I just told her we were thinking about catching a movie so we’d be back late.”
“What’s your curfew? Mine is eleven.”
“I’m supposed to call after nine.”
Audrie glanced at the clock on the dashboard. “It’s almost six now.” She grimaced. “How are you supposed to catch dinner and a movie in three hours? That means you would have to get up part way through the movie to call them!”
Julia shook her head. “My mother and her idiotic rules,” she sighed. “I think her intention was to call her before the movie and give her the expected time we’d be out.”
“I still think she’s weird,” Audrie insisted.
“She probably thinks we’ll find some boys and take them to the drive in to neck,” Julia joked.
“Or maybe she thinks we’ll go to the drive in and do the same,” Audrie countered, causing Julia to inhale her spit, which launched her into a coughing fit.
“No offense Audrie, but you’re not my type,” Julia replied, laughing in between coughs. Audrie gently chuckled to herself too. Her friend had been so serious and secretive about everything lately…
“Now what?” Audrie asked, wanting further directions as they passed by the high school.
“Keep going until you hit an intersection called Ferry Landing Road.”
“I’ve never heard of that road.”
“Me either. I’ll keep my eyes posted.”
A few miles later, they found the intersection, turning right. It was a quiet street; it was mostly older residences, surrounded by tall, mature trees. It was modest but well kept neighborhood, but with a few exceptions as there were a few aged Victorians in dire need to paint and new lumber.
“This neighborhood has character,” Audrie commented. “Cute little houses.”
“And up ahead should be Hampton Road. Turn left.”
The little Beetle slowed down, waited for a few cars to pass by, then hooked left onto the quiet residential road.
“Okay, look for the white two story house with the azalea bushes in front.”
“Gee, that sounds specific.”
“There, just pull there. That’s Jessie’s RAV4.”
Kelsey was sound asleep on the couch. Natasha and Kacie had left over an hour ago, and she could hear Jessie putting around in the kitchen, but thought nothing of it—she was too tired to care.
She was startled awake by the sound of the doorbell, and she bolted up. “Who the—?”
“Sit still,” Jessie commanded her as she walked by the couch to get the door. She could hear faint murmurings in the entryway as she leaned back against the couch and closed her eyes.
“Kelsey, you have visitors,” Jessie informed her a minute later.
“Who else would come visit me? Kacie and Natasha have been here already,” Kelsey retorted, then opening her eyes. The tall, raven-haired beauty she was convinced was never going to speak to her was standing before her. “Julia?”
“Julia?” Kelsey cautiously took in the sight before her—was she hallucinating? Or did Julia really stand before her? She rubbed her eyes, hoping that if it was an illusion, it would disappear and reality would return.
She was still there.
“You came,” she said in a surprised tone.
“Of course,” Julia replied.
“But you haven’t spoken to me in days!”
“I visited you Wednesday in the hospital and I had playoffs yesterday else I would have come by and visited.”
Kelsey scrunched her brow. Julia had visited her in the hospital? “Why did you come back? I thought you hated me.”
“I don’t hate you, Kelsey.”
“Then why did you get mad at me the last time we met? On Tuesday?”
Julia’s eyes were downcast for a minute, but then she raised them so she could look Kelsey in the eye. “I was convinced you were going out with Kacie and that you wanted to talk so you could break my heart,” Julia confessed. “I was so convinced that when you told me you liked me the way I like you, I was caught speechless. I’m sorry I got tongue tied.” She looked at the empty space next to Kelsey. “May I sit next to you?”
Julia sat down, close to her. “Last time I saw you, you had a bandage on your head. Pretty bruise, but I suspect it was prettier in the hospital.”
Kelsey gently chuckled. “I have no idea what I look like right now.” She paused, and then her eyes widened. “What you do you mean, you like me the way I like you? Don’t you remember what I said?”
“That you had a crush on me? Yes, I do, and I mean it.”
It was Kelsey’s turn to sit there, speechless. “Are you sure?” she eeked out.
Kelsey swallowed nervously a few times. “What do you want to do?” she nervously asked.
Julia reached around and put an arm over her shoulders. With her free hand, she grasped Kelsey’s hand. “It’s uncharted territory for me,” she admitted. “But I don’t want to run anymore.”
Kelsey nodded. “How do you think I feel?” she weakly asked. “At least you’ve dated.”
“But I didn’t really like them—” Julia argued.
“But you know how to play the game,” Kelsey pointed out. “Even if you didn’t like playing it.”
“You’re not a game,” Julia protested. “I really do like you. I think I know why nothing ever worked out before. It’s hard to date guys when you don’t even like them.”
“I can’t even imagine pretending.”
“I just figured I was a late bloomer, and one day Mr. Right would come along,” Julia chuckled. “But when I saw you, it occurred to me that maybe that wasn’t the issue at all. I mean, gee, I’m seventeen, if I was to ever like guys, I would have by now, wouldn’t I?”
Kelsey smiled. “I know the feeling, Julia.” She yawned, then rested her head on Julia’s shoulder, shutting her eyes.
“I’ve kept you up a little too long,” Julia commented. “But can I ask you one thing before you nod off?”
“Hmm?” Kelsey murmured.
“Can I be your girl?”
Kelsey opened her heavy eyelids. Did she ask me what I thought she just asked me? That she wants to be my girl? “Yes, can I be yours?” She shut her eyes again.
“Yes,” Julia said. “Go ahead and sleep, I won’t keep you up any longer.”
Julia smiled. Of course I don’t mind being her pillow. God knows, with the way my mother tries to micromanage my life, opportunities like this are way too rare. “Yes,” she said, kissing Kelsey on the top of her head before shutting her own eyes. Getting home during the wee hours of the morning left her running on very little sleep throughout the school day, and she was happy to join her girlfriend in a little nap.
“That’s an awful lot of food,” Audrie commented as she helped Jessie around the kitchen. “Where does it all go?”
Jessie laughed. “Kelsey has a pretty hearty appetite.”
“You’d never know,” Audrie commented. “She’s certainly not fat!”
Jessie turned the stove off. “You better go tell them dinner is ready.”
“Yeah,” Audrie agreed, glancing at the clock. “Dang it, I need to tell Julia she needs to call her mom and tell her she’s not going to be home by nine.”
“That’s an awfully early curfew,” Jessie noted.
“Don’t get me started,” Audrie warned, “her mother is an absolute…uhm…she’s quite unreasonable at times. I better go see what they’re up to.”
She walked into the living room, to see her friend curled up beside Kelsey, holding her hand. Audrie shook her head and tiptoed back in the kitchen.
“Aren’t they coming?” Jessie asked.
Audrie put her finger to her lips. “Shh,” she urged. “Want to see something cute?”
Jessie gave her a quizzical look. “Okay,” she said, following Audrie into the living room. “Aww.”
“That’s what I thought,” Audrie quietly said. “I would have told her to chill out about it long ago if I wasn’t afraid she was going to freak.”
“You know, for being a former member of the Fundamentalist Four, you’re quite open minded.”
“I’ve had some mind opening this past year,” Audrie said, with a touch of regret. “But that’s a story for another day. You think we ought to wake them? They’re so cute together.”
“Hmm,” Jessie sighed. “What’s a little more sleep? Kelsey must need it, normally she’d be barging in the kitchen trying to figure out what’s for supper.”
“Yeah,” Audrie concurred. “It’s not often Julia can convince her mom she can go somewhere unescorted.” She frowned. “Err, I’m the escort,” she said disgustedly about herself. “But I’ll never tell.”
“You’re a good friend for her, Audrie. I’m glad you two have each other.”
“Same goes for you and Kelsey.”
“And for them.”
“Yes, for them.”
THE END (for now)
Agony in the Garden: This rewritten version was penned between December 20th, 2007 and February 8th, 2008.
There are a few loose ends I’ve left in this story, such as what happened to Justin and where Kelsey and Julia’s relationship is going to go. I have a sequel outlined, which is further than any of my other sequel attempts ever went. If you are interested in this sequel, please email me at warriorkat13 at yahoo.com and I will announce when it goes online, or if it has gotten shelved (which, unfortunately, is entirely possible with a forty hour workweek.)