Alexis Grace’s “Kiddo” EP plus a short story

INTRODUCTION

In general, I’m pretty stingy with the songs I buy on iTunes. What I buy are songs I know I love and will listen to multiple times long after I purchased them. With Alexis Grace, I got “I’m so done” after seeing the audio video on YouTube… not sure how long it took me to make the decision, but probably no more than 48 hours afterwards 😛

It’s funny to say that I didn’t really notice her on “American Idol” until the semifinals where she was labeled “the dark horse”… yet I don’t remember what she sang, even after I’d seen it once or twice in the past couple years. I don’t know how Alexis made such a big impression on me in a short time.

Her “Dirty Diana” performance was electrifying, and “Jolene,” I loved… and the fact she was eliminated by it, not given “The Save”… Compared to some other American Idol contestants I was sore about leaving prematurely, I may have jumped the gun on this and got a little emotion… revisiting “Jolene,” the vocal wasn’t as good as I thought it was. That is to say I’ve heard it performed better 😛

So… the short of it is… I’d written a lot of boy-crazy fiction up to that particular point where the central theme was two characters getting together and staying together through a lot of hardship… for once, I wanted to write a story about a friendship between girls. Something fresh and different. And right away, I had the idea that it’d be about one helping the other through cancer treatments. A couple days after her “Idol” departure, Alexis became the “IT” girl for my story. …more on that later…

ALBUM DISCUSSION

[wrote these live while listening to the tracks]

I’M SO DONE

I’ve heard this at least half a dozen times since I bought it on iTunes… plus once on YouTube and once in the official video (kick-ass, totally would recommend it). Very dynamic, hits like an adrenaline rush. The only other time I experienced this side of her was when she performed “Dirty Diana” on “American Idol”… that was great, but she’d gotten so much better these past couple years. I’m still figuring out the lyrics and hoping she’ll get around to posting them online.

NEVER HAD YOU

It looks like having strings in the background will be a core element for the album… and it’s a nice touch 😉 An easy-going song about lost love with an melancholy edge that steadily gets more emotional, for her and the listener. [If I’m in the right mindset, I can imagine there’ll be a couple times where it’ll have me in tears by the end… not the case this time, though]

JAMES DEAN

Continues the vibe of the previous song, but with much happier content. I believe I got the download for subscribing to her site, but have only heard it a couple times. Maybe it’s the cover art it came with, but it makes me think of laying outside in the grass with that special someone warmed by the sunlight. It feels like the type of warm & fuzzy relationship a lot of us would want to aspect to.

BARNEY’S SONG (I’VE GOT THE WORLD)

This one has a really great melody, infectiously happy. The first time I’ve noticed a bridge after the chorus that repeats throughout. Enjoying this one a lot that I don’t mind not quite grasping the central message of it. That’ll come in time, of course. But it also has me thinking that, aside from the opening track (which is like dynamic 80’s pop/rock), most of these songs would also fall into the country category because there’s a lot of good storytelling.

WILL YOU MISS ME

Love hearing the strings come back for this one. Gives it a little something extra, makes it more boppy. Easy-going but makes me want to get up and dance like Molly Ringwald in “The Breakfast Club”. Her vocal range pushed a bit more and it does very well in those airy higher notes.

*** and in case anyone is interested, my short story “Jolienne Carine” is posted below***

[The way I wrote this was inspired by “The Great Gatsby”… I began with a character sketch where my character/the narrator explains the exposition of the story, later meeting its main subject and becoming directly involved. But with much better consequences ;)]

Her beauty was beyond compare.

That was the extent of my knowledge of Jolienne Carine. She was the crown jewel of our freshman class, the girl that every boy wanted to date and the one girl all of the others idolized. We either wanted to be her friend or be just like her.
In southern California, where your tan once decided your rank on the high school food chain, her flawless ivory skin made her stand out. Tanning soon became a thing of the past. The queen bees before her were tall as the basketball and volleyball players of the opposite sex. Jolienne towered over no one in height and belittled nobody that wasn’t in her league.
In spite of her ivory-skin, her heart-shaped face lit up every room she entered and everyone instantly knew of her presence. The streak of pink that broke the outline of her corn silk hair started trends throughout the school. I never tried, knowing full well I, like many other wannabes, wouldn’t succeed. It wouldn’t look right and otherwise wouldn’t result in the desired effect.

Despite the rumors that floated around the school of her existence, I had never seen her for myself. On September 16th, that changed.

Based on the stipulation that she was far ahead of the college-prep curriculum, the faculty decided to transfer her into a few of my advanced classes. The classroom parted as she handed the notice to the teacher. Gracefully, she strode down the aisle that divided the two sections of desks. She carried herself well, sheer confidence following her like a shadow. The other 24 students frenzied, asking her one by one to sit by them. I believed it was because she was a novelty. If she sat next to you, you could tell your friends that in some way, you got the “royal treatment,” even if she didn’t speak to you. Despite their meager attempts, she ended up in the front row, fourth desk from the left in front of me.
In English, she took a seat in the back with some of the field hockey players. She also sat with a few athletes at lunch and she performed like the best of them, despite her height of five-one, in gym. Nobody, not even our gym teacher Mrs. Williams, anticipated the spike she had.
In History and Science, she also joined us, but made herself less conspicuous in Science. Chemistry was not an easy subject and sitting with the athletes wouldn’t do anyone much good. With their busy schedules, they barely had time for entire class periods. When they had away-games, they had to leave the class 20 minutes into the hour to catch the bus. So despite the sea that parted in front of her, she took a seat at one of the front tables. The classroom had six tables in three rows of two, each holding four students, with one sitting on each of the four sides of the rectangular table. Across the aisle from me, Jolienne took the same seat that I had at my table, which faced the blackboard. Electricity hung in the air whenever we had a class together, but here, the chemicals obscured that somewhat. The entire class was more worried about passing than the new addition and couldn’t afford to be distracted otherwise.
Being one of the few exceptions, I used this time for taking notes and stealing occasional glances at the ivory beauty with sapphire eyes. All day, I’d admired her features from afar, but this was the closest I’d seen them. For the first time, I saw the cherry blossom lip-gloss, the hot pink eye shadow and the rose of her cheek. Her wardrobe suited her well, highlighting the features of her face. Her dress was navy, had two straps enveloping her narrow shoulders and ran down to her ankles. Then on her feet were maroon knee-high boots. In gym, she had worn an old pair of tennis shoes, but even they looked good when compared to our drab gym uniforms. Between her features and acute fashion sense, I understood then why so many girls admired her and joined them with my increasing admiration.
At the end of chemistry, Mr. James notified us of an upcoming quiz the following Friday on electron configuration. Surprisingly, she, unlike the majority, didn’t groan in response to the news. In fact, she was not among the most vocal of students. Even in concert choir, where her mezzo-soprano voice resonated beautifully, she only gave “thank you’s” in response to the praise she received.

When she roamed the halls, other people were always with her. The girls asked her for the latest fashion tips and the guys approached her in hopes of being her date on Saturday night. I never saw her with the same guy twice, but that wasn’t cause for alarm. More rumors floated around after the short-term relationships than before. The latest “victim” told stories about why Jolienne was the girl to date and the girls would always ask her why she broke it off. The answers varied every time. Either he “just wasn’t my type,” he “didn’t interest me” or he “couldn’t see past the exterior.” Even when they knew they had no chance, the “victims” followed her like lost puppies, looking for a second chance. After a week or two, they gave up and continued about their business. At the end of one gym class in late October, one of the girls that tried out the hairstyle and failed asked her about her sporadic dating pattern. Her final comment on the situation was: “boys are unbelievably immature at this age. I wouldn’t waste my time with them until college.”

Out of curiosity, I watched as she excelled in the Honors program. Chemistry was the biggest surprise because few had the tenacity for it. This being the halfway point in the school year, some of the students worried about their GPA’s asked for her help. She helped the first few that asked and their grades jumped a letter grade as a result, but after serving the first five, she’d had enough. Strangely enough, this bad mood continued for at least a week after she’d said no.
As time passed, she grew increasingly aware of her fan club and started dismissing more and more people. “I’m not as special as you think I am,” I once heard her say. Then her bad mood escalated from there. Conventional wisdom told me that she wasn’t doing this to be mean. Rather, it was something personal, something that had to do with her and no one else. The following gym class, when everyone else had left the girl’s locker room, I crept down the hallway and saw her tiny frame shake as she sobbed into her gym locker. Something was clearly wrong.
After having that cry, she looked better in chemistry, but the sunshine was gone. She no longer lit up a room when she came through the door and it seemed like I was the only one who noticed this drastic change. Little by little, people stopped speaking to her and she didn’t make an effort to keep any of them around. Was it because nobody cared to notice her anymore because of her rudeness or was something array in her life? Either way, I sympathized. Not that I knew anything about being the center of attention, but I knew what it was like to have something change in your life that temporarily changed you.

The Friday before spring break, Jolienne entered chemistry with a smile. It faded temporarily when she handed a notice to Mr. James and had a short conversation with him about it. She skipped to her lab table, paying no mind to what, undoubtedly, was big news. Seeing as it was our last day before the holiday, the class played a game with the periodic table. Each row of tables became a team and the objective was to name the most properties of a given element. After the tables were pushed together, four people were sitting at the front, one person sat at each side and as fate would have it, Jolienne and I sat side by side facing the blackboard. We exchanged nods to casually introduce each other.
The first element, of course, was Hydrogen. I took out a piece of paper, which we passed around to write down all of our names. When it came full circle, I wrote the first property (atomic number of 1) and passed it over. A few of the other easy choices were written down (it being a gas, a nonmetal, highly combustible). By the time Jolienne got it back, five properties were listed. She scribbled down its electron configuration, atomic weight in moles and a couple of random facts. The other teams could only list five properties, so we won the round.
Oxygen was the next element. Jolienne scribbled down “atomic number of 8,” smiling at me with her sapphires before passing it to me. I added to the list it being a gas, a non-metal and the 2nd most plentiful gas in the atmosphere next to nitrogen. It passed around the table, but only two more properties were added. Jolienne sighed in blissful disbelief, putting down the electron configuration and it being a product of photosynthesis. I laughed as she smiled at her “superior knowledge,” more than tempted to blurt out “show-off.” Before she passed the paper to the center of the table for collection, I intercepted it to write down cyanobacteria generated it in the early stages of Earth’s existence. She mused, “Now who’s the show-off?” As I turned my head in her direction, I saw her eyes close as she playfully laughed. I couldn’t help but join in for a moment.
Upon the third collection (Nitrogen was next); Mr. James shook his head while maintaining a smile. “Now Jolienne, just because you’re doing better than most in this class doesn’t mean you can list every fact of the periodic table you know.”
She lightly giggled, “Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t the only one.” We exchanged a glance and giggled about our inside joke. The bell rang shortly after.
As I swung my bag over my shoulder, she asked, “What are you doing for spring break?” I turned to gaze at her innocent smile and quickly realized that she was not only talking to me, but she actually seemed interested.
Still recovering somewhat from the electricity that returned to the air, I answered, “Going to see family on the east coast. Probably going up to New York City to see Wicked, or so I’ve heard. My younger sister wants to see Mamma Mia. So do a few of my cousins around her age, so we just might do that instead.”
“I would have to say that New York is one of my favorite cities in the world, but there’s nothing like my hometown in Laguna. All of those cerulean waves, the warm breeze with a hint of moisture and the seafood, oh it’s to die for.”
“Oh my god, I love seafood. The last time we went to New York, we went to a restaurant that had the most amazing salmon imperial. The fish was cooked perfectly, nice and flaky and the crab… it was like going to heaven and back.” We both giggled and gradually made our way to the exit. “Are you doing anything for the holiday?” I decided to ask just to hold up my end of the conversation.
She managed a shrug. “I’ll have to see what happens. I have a few appointments that I have to go to. What between the dentist and doctor’s office for my yearly check-up and the homework I have on top of that, I doubt I’ll have the time to visit any of my favorite outlets in the area.”
“Well, I’m sure everything will be fine.” I offered as a friendly sentiment.
“I certainly hope so.” She looked away for a brief moment and maintained her smile. “I need to drop a few things off at my locker before I meet my mom in the parking lot, but I’ll see you after spring break. It was fun matching wits with you.” Her sapphires sparkled as her smile lit up her heart-shaped face. She seemed coy, but the air of confidence I got from her originally still remained.
“Yeah, same here.” I called after her as she walked away.
That was the first time we spoke to one another. I instantly realized why everyone wanted to be around her at the beginning of the year. Her cheerfulness was contagious and just as addictive. Although I looked forward to the trip to New York, I had reason enough to want the holiday to end so I could see how we would get along.

Jolienne wasn’t in chemistry when we returned from the holiday. I didn’t see her in gym. There was no sunshine at the athletes’ table in lunch and choir didn’t have its angel. At first, I paid her absence no mind. Then a week passed and there wasn’t any sign of her, not even a word. Surprisingly, nobody seemed to mind the absence of their queen bee. In fact, a couple of girls, who came back with blonde highlights, started rocking the boat.
The teachers didn’t even acknowledge the fact she was gone. But if it was something serious, they would have informed us through the PA system or a hand-out in homeroom as was the case with car accidents and teen suicides. How bad could it possibly be if the faculty hadn’t called attention to it? Then I remembered the note she handed to Mr. James at the beginning of our last chemistry class before spring break. Her crying in her gym locker just before that class. Maybe something was going on, but the teachers were keeping quiet to respect her wishes.

After readjusting to the world of academia, I resumed my volunteer hours at Riverside Medical Center the following afternoon. The front desk receptionist directed me to the east wing on the third floor. Once there, I received my assignment: Room 31-B. As I often did, I followed the hall to the room and didn’t look at the name on my clipboard until I arrived. I began my introduction, “Hello, I’m a volunteer here at the hospital and I’ll be helping to take care of you during your stay…” I stammered over the name, “Alex… Carine.” Instantly, I thought of Jolienne and wondered if there was a relationship between the two. Then when I lifted my eyes from the clipboard, I realized that they were the same person. In the only occupied hospital bed lay Jolienne Carine, who hadn’t changed except for the fact all signs of pink were gone except for the streak in her hair.
She tilted her head to one side. “Wait, I know you.” Her voice was light and airy as it always was with a subtle hint of curiosity.
“Jolienne? What are you…?”
“Shh…” Her voice rose higher than I’d ever heard it. “Don’t say my name out loud.” She calmed down to a whisper as I came closer. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.”
I sat in the vacant chair by her bed. “Your real name is Alex?”
No longer whispering, she calmly explained. “Yes. I traveled abroad one summer for my French class and Pierre, one of the boys in my host family, gave me the name. When I first arrived, he kept telling me how I was ‘jolie,’ which is French for ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful.’ Somehow, the name caught on and nobody’s known me as anything else. Only my family calls me Alex because that’s the name on my birth certificate… and I’m not necessarily the prettiest girl in my family either.” She turned away for a moment.
“That’s hard to believe with the way people treat you at school. Why do you say that?”
“I’ve always lived in the shadow of my two older sisters, at least in my parents’ eyes. They’re tall with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Plus they’re on championship high school basketball teams, now college basketball. And they went to private school. My parents couldn’t afford to send all three of us.”
“Funny, I never would have thought. I mean with all of the girls at school who envied you when the year began…”
“Yeah, funny.” She lightly sighed. After biting her lip, she managed a grin. “Do you want to know a secret?”
“Yeah sure.” I moved my chair a few inches closer.
“I never intended for any of the popularity that followed me around. It just happened, but I really enjoyed the feeling. After a while, though, I tired of it.”
“I don’t see how.”
“I’m sure you’ve noticed how boys used to follow me around.” I nodded. “If I knew what it would turn into…? I wouldn’t have taken them all on just to break their hearts.”
“Then… why did you?”
“I either dated them because I needed to get out of the house or because they seemed nice. Then the way they followed me around afterwards… like they were hopelessly in love with me when plenty of other girls would give them the time of day.”
Then she giggled, the sunshine somewhat returning to her face. “I admit it felt nice to be the center of attention for a change. My parents are so busy pulling resources to pay my sisters’ tuition, pushing them to stay on top of their studies so they could keep their places on the basketball teams. Even when they’re not home, they were always more important to them than I was. At least, it appears that way from where I stand.”
Somewhat lost, I pressed on, “then why did you start pushing them away, the people that followed you around, I mean?”
With a mix between an airy and weak laugh, she replied, “Too much of anything does you no good, I suppose—including popularity. Boys wanted to date me and other girls wanted to be like me. They know nothing about me, so they were never real friends.” She sighed, “and part of the reason is why I’m here.”
“So, why are you doing here?”
She rolled her eyes. “My parents checked in me a few days into spring break and I haven’t been able to leave.” Then she noticed the clipboard in my hands. “Your paperwork might say a thing or two behind their reasoning.”
I rolled the first sheet over and read the comments scribbled down upon Alex’s admission. “It says here that you ‘woke up with a fever, nausea and paleness.’ Also you ‘felt faint and it was apparent you were sweating the whole night as your sheets were dampened’…”
“The fainting, I remember.” She casually nodded. “It happened so fast. My mom came in to wake me up for our day of shopping in San Diego, one of the few days a year that she was free from work. She said my face felt moist and even for me, I looked pale. When I had the thermometer under my tongue, I tried to get out of bed with my stomach in knots and then… I was on the floor. I woke up here and have been here ever since.”
“Have you had a lot of tests done already?” My eyebrows crinkled, somewhat unsure.
“At first, it was just the usual things. They took my temperature, my blood pressure, and measured my heart rate. I went to the doctor’s for my usual appointment only a few days before and I was perfectly fine. The past few days, they’d been taking blood samples to analyze for all kinds of things.”
As I looked through the few papers attached to my clipboard, I added, “There’s no diagnosis yet, but it says your white blood count is unusually high.”
“They’ve told me that several times this week, but have yet to do a thing about it. They’re probably making sure they’re right about what I have.” She sighed, somewhat impatient.
“How are you feeling now?”
“I’m a little anxious about what’s taking so long and not knowing what’s wrong with me. And maybe I’m a little tired, but only because I’ve had trouble sleeping these past few nights.” I inched closer to take her left hand in mine, careful not to stroke the needle connected to her IV drip. She smiled pleasantly at me. “Thanks.”
My eyebrows came together in concern. “Nobody’s come to visit you at all?”
“Nobody even knows I’m here. I’m trying to keep a low profile, at least until I know what I have. And my parents… they work all day and come see me for an hour or so every night. It’s always at the end of visiting hours. It’s as if they don’t have time to sit at my bedside or annoy the doctors to the point where they’ll give me something to go on.”
We let a few moments of silence go by. Alex looked discouraged about the whole thing, but based on everything I’d heard so far, something was definitely going on. I knew for a fact that a high white blood count was desirable, but not this high. In the meantime, I sympathized with the situation with her sisters even though I was the oldest in my family.
When she broke the silence, Alex caught me off guard with her next question. “Would you mind telling me your name? I realize we’ve never been properly introduced.”
“Oh right.” I laughed weakly, “I’m Casey. Casey Carlton.”
“And you… you volunteer here? What is it that a hospital volunteer does?”
“I’m usually given a patient to look after during their stay and it varies from out-going surgeries to long-term stays. When someone doesn’t have anyone that comes to see them or stay with them during long-term, I usually get assigned to them so they’re not so lonely. Sometimes I’ll take down information like current statuses, what I asked you earlier about how you were, so I have something to tell the doctor that comes in here. I’d been doing this for a year now, so they let me change IV’s and bed pans on occasion.”
“I see.” Her voice was just as it was the last time I saw her in school. It was airy and somewhat musical, inviting and kind. She seemed more interested than most in my story, though many have asked. “Why do you do this? I mean you’re only a freshman. There’s plenty of time for volunteer work later on in high school.”
Before I could answer, giving her my life’s story, the door to her room opened. A tall, dark-haired doctor with a height of at least five-eight walked in with his own clipboard. “Hello Alex, how are we feeling today?”
“I’m good, thanks.” She sat up more in bed, intent on getting some answers.
“I see you two have met.” He exchanged a look with me.
“Actually, we go to school together,” I clarified. “So what’s the deal here?”
He shuffled through the pages on his clipboard as he explained. “Three weeks ago, she was brought in because something seemed…questionable. It disappeared, so we released her, having no just case.”
I quickly remembered when Alex cried into her gym locker and gave that note to Mr. James. Something had been wrong then, too, but clearly, she was trying to hide it from her peers.
The doctor cleared his throat. “A few days afterwards, we readmitted her because her condition worsened. We’ve been keeping her here for observation because she really didn’t look well when she was brought in and we wanted to make sure this condition wouldn’t go away this time.” He paused as if trying to figure out how to break the news. “I suppose there’s no easy way to tell you this…”
“Wait,” she gasped, “what about my parents? Have you told them anything yet? If not, they should really be here for this.” That seemed an odd request, given the way she talked about her folks earlier, but maybe deep down, she cared about them and vice versa.
The doctor quickly noted, “I already gave them the news and as soon as possible, they said they’d be here to support you.” Briefly, Alex rolled her eyes, but I was the only one who noticed. “Alex, I’m afraid you have… chronic lymphocytic leukemia.”
The air disappeared from the room, leaving both of us unable to breathe and our minds couldn’t function. Before turning a subtle shade of blue, Alex exhaled and swallowed. “What?… How?… I don’t understand.” Her thick eyelashes flickered with uncertainty.
“Right now, we’re trying to narrow down possibilities for treatment.”
“What kind… of treatment,” she stuttered, her small frame shaking almost enough to make her teeth chatter. Gently as I could, I tightened my grip on her hand. Her eyes flickered to me for a moment, the sapphires dripping with rain.
“For the time being, we’ll invest in chemotherapy.” He came to her other side and asked her to lean forward. Then he examined the lymph nodes around her neck. I didn’t notice until now that they were quarter-sized. “Given your symptoms upon admission, there were a number of possibilities, but there are few things that can explain this.”
“Tell me something…” Alex bowed her head and looked up at the doctor through her eyelashes, still trying to come to grips with the situation. “What are my chances? How long do I have to be here?”
“I’ll tell you right now that you won’t be returning to school anytime soon. There’s no way of knowing how long these treatments will take. Based on your medical history, though, you’re in good shape to make a decent recovery.”
She nodded, still lost for breath. “Thank you.”
He patted her shoulder as an assuring gesture, but she refused to keep eye contact with him. “I’ll leave you two alone.” I nodded, but maintained eye contact with Alex to the point when the door closed behind him. In an instant, Alex clasped a hand over her mouth as emotions poured out. Sobs escaped her lips until she surrendered, her face falling into her hands. Sorrow rushed down her shoulders as they shook disjointedly.
Immediately, the shock wore off and I had to move from my position. Slowly, I leaned onto the bed, easing my arms around her shoulders. She turned towards me so her face buried itself in my shirt. Mutually, we tightened the embrace. I moved one of my hands to the top of her head, placing it tightly under my chin. The other hand eased up and down her back in a smoothing motion. “I’m so sorry.” That was all I could think to say. If she weren’t so shaken up, I would have given her my typical line: everything’s going to be okay. I didn’t have a clue how this would turn out.
“Why did it have to come to this?” She muttered. “I did nothing to deserve this.” Then she eased out of the embrace to wipe her eyes. “I mean…” Her sapphires flickered to me. “I wanted some recognition, but this is hardly what I had in mind. Even now, I doubt my parents would bother to…” She wiped her eyes again.
I put a hand on her shoulder. “Is there anything I can do… aside from keeping quiet about this?”
Gratefully, she managed a giggle and a nod. “That would help… how often do you come here?”
“Three to four days a week typically…” I thought for a moment. “I could always come by for visiting hours after school and on weekends too.”
Her smile grew. “I’d appreciate that. Because if I’m on my own… I could use the company.” For the duration of my volunteer hours that day, I maintained the embrace. We couldn’t think of much else to say to one another. Occasionally, Alex would put her IV-pierced hand on mine, which rested on her shoulder.

It was strange returning to school the next day. Everyone had gotten over their “day after spring break” blues and everything was back to normal. I found it more difficult to settle back into routine because of the other day. This changed a lot of things. I used to view high school as a realm ruled by queen bee Jolienne. She was gone and would be gone for the rest of the year. For some reason, nobody seemed to care, not even the girls that tried to adopt her fashion tips. The current trend was highlighting and tanning was “in” again. None of the teachers brought up her absence, but they probably received memos or knew otherwise that she wouldn’t return to complete her freshman year.
When I returned to the hospital, a few books and papers were stacked at the foot of her bed. She shrugged it off. “My mom brought them by. During her lunch break, she went to my school to bring my assignments. It was a short visit.”
“Did she say anything to you otherwise?” I asked as I took my seat by her bed.
“Well, she said that they were going to do everything they could to help me. Namely, she’ll make sure all of the expenses are taken care of so I get the best treatment.” She rolled her eyes. “I can’t help but think this is something trivial to them.”
“I’m really sorry, Alex.” I shook my head. “It’s strange. The whole school is going on without you and doesn’t seem to care that you’re gone.”
“I wanted to keep this quiet, so only the teachers know why I’m gone. I’ll do the homework for as long as I can manage, but I’m sure I’ll reach a point in the treatments where I’ll be too sick to even sit up in bed.”
“I could always help you out with that… if you want.” I shrugged. “I’m better than most in chemistry.”
“I noticed.” Her lips curled into a small smile. “But I couldn’t ask you to do that. You’re doing a lot for me as it is.”
“Like I said, if you need anything, you just have to ask.”
She bit her lip. “Tell me what else I’m missing… aside from the fact nobody seems to miss me.”
“Well, everyone’s getting excited about the upcoming dance, I suppose.” I shrugged again. “We also have a concert coming up next month for choir. I’m more excited than most about it. Mostly because we suck at it as a whole.”
“Really? I was always under the impression we were great.”
“It’s close to the end of the year. Nobody seems to care about how much work they put into it. But unlike most, I actually put a lot into it. Because music is my thing.”
“Really…”
“As long as it’s in a crowd, I love singing in front of people. I play a little keyboard on the side even though I can’t really do it that well. I never had a proper lesson.”
She tilted her head, appearing somewhat amused. “It’s strange.” She smiled pleasantly. “I’m that way with acoustic guitar. I like to play within the confines of my room. Nobody quite knows about that side of me because I feel it’s something I want to keep personal. Do you know what I’m saying?”
“I do… maybe I’ll bring my Casio by one of these days and we could play together.”
“That would be great.” She slowly drifted off to sleep. “I’ll ask someone to bring it by next time they come see me…”

During regular visiting hours on Saturday, I went over some of the choir pieces and Alex gave me her overall opinion. I also chipped in a few trivial bits about the class’s progress. The two Latin pieces were sketchy for most. “But I’m nit-picky that way. We did a section of Mozart’s Requiem for the winter concert and it was such an amazing piece. Now nobody seems to care about Beethoven.”
“Doing music in another language is never easy, especially if you’re not too familiar with it. That’s my experience at least. If I had gone to private school like my sisters, I would have done songs in Spanish, French, Latin and maybe even Japanese, or at least have to learn a couple of the languages.”
Curious as ever, I asked, “What are they like? Your sisters, I mean.”
“Tara has a darker shade of blonde hair that’s close to brown. She’s the oldest by a year or so. When she wasn’t competing, she liked to cozy up with a good book.” She paused. “Come to think of it, I think she was the one who taught me how to read. With mom and dad gone all the time, I spent a lot of time with them. As they got older, though, they spent less time with me and more with my parents as they drilled them on their SAT preparation and community service projects so they could graduate with honors.” She giggled. “I don’t think it did them any good, though. Their scores were 1100 or 1200 at the highest, but those basketball scholarships go a long way.”
“And your other sister?”
“Tara was the more nurturing type. Megan was all over the place because she had boundless energy. That’s why she was enrolled in sports in the first place, to channel that energy into a medium. It might have also been easier to manage. With at least two of us involved in sports, more scholarship money would be coming our way.”
“It’s strange, though.” I stroked my chin. “Both of your parents work, the scholarship money coming to your sisters, it sounds like they’re just scrapping by.”
“Either that or they’re trying to save up as much as they can for other things. I might end up taking a lot of that with what this whole thing is going to cost.” I squeezed her hand and her attitude improved. “Thank you. I’m slightly jealous, but I do love my sisters. I miss not seeing them as much because they’re always away at school.”
“College gets out next month,” I reminded her.
“True, but I don’t know what my parents have planned for them. Usually, they come up with something to keep them busy over the summer. At least for Megan, because it proves difficult for her to keep a part-time job. She always has to be doing something to keep her busy and that’s where athletics come in.” She let her hand drop when she changed the subject. “Tell me about your family.”
“I live with my parents and my younger sister, but my mom’s side is huge. So many aunts, uncles and cousins. We definitely know how to throw a party.”
“That sounds great.” She smiled pleasantly.
“It has gotten a little suffocating lately with my cousins getting married and having kids of their own. The weddings are outrageous and can go on for hours. I’m usually ready to go after two. I’m not one for huge affairs or just dances in general.”
“Why not? That sounds like fun.”
“It would be… if I had someone to dance with. It’s not quite the same when you’re related to the guy.” I looked away, somewhat embarrassed.
“Are you not going to the dance because of that too?”
“I’m still debating about it, but I can’t say for sure if I want to go.”
“I’d definitely be going if I weren’t stuck here. But if you do change your mind, could you take a lot of pictures so I can see what I missed?”
“Sure, I guess I could do that.”
I nodded and she did too. “Thanks.”
A moment later, the doctor came in with a tray of food. “How are you ladies doing?”
“Pretty good,” we said together.
He put the tray on Alex’s lap. It had a sandwich wrapped in plastic, a can of Coke and a bag of chips. “Here’s your last meal for a while. We’re beginning your radiation treatments tomorrow and as a precaution, you can’t have anything in your stomach beforehand.”
“All right.” She nodded, understanding perfectly what it meant.
He quickly turned to me. “Visiting hours end in about 20 minutes.”
Suddenly feeling a little wary, I asked, “Is the policy for visiting hours going to change?”
“You can still come in to do your volunteer work, but I’m afraid it’ll be off-limits for the next two days. We’ll run the treatment for the next five days. Within the first two, we’ll see how she responds. I’ll be sure to have someone call you if there’s any change in when you can return. I wouldn’t advise you be here for the first few days of treatment. You might not like what you see. I usually don’t encourage hospital volunteers to see the harsher stages of cancer treatment.”
“I guess I understand,” I confessed. And it was true. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to stomach seeing Alex’s state when she started going under radiation. As a friend, though, I planned to stick by her.
After the doctor left the room, Alex sighed heavily as she lay down. “I guess there’s no avoiding it now.”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine. Usually when you go through something like this, facing it isn’t quite as bad as the actual waiting process or even learning about what you have.”
She sighed, “That’s what they tell me.” Her head turned towards me. “What do you know about it?”
“Let’s just say a couple years ago, I found out I had to go under the knife. Finding out about it and waiting until the actual moment… that was the worst part. The recovery immediately afterwards, not so much. I didn’t feel good, but at least I wasn’t scared. Maybe because I was too weak afterward to be scared.”
“What did you have?” Her eyebrows temporarily crinkled together.
“It wasn’t cancer, I can tell you that. I don’t have much time to really tell you the whole story.”
“What can you tell me?” She sat up and gave a shrug before opening up the bag of chips. “At least to give me something to think about before tomorrow.”
“My family helped me get through it, but I had to endure the rest of the battle myself. Afterwards, my life changed quite a bit. What changed physically didn’t change anything about me as a person, but it was a growing experience. Compared to that, anything was going to be much easier. I guess I gained a new prospective on life. That’s why I’m doing volunteer hours here, so I can help someone through an ordeal much the way my family helped me.”
She nodded; her eyebrows still cross as she thought it over. “Yeah, I think I understand what you’re saying.”
At that point, I decided it was a good time to take my leave. After she moved the tray out of the way somewhat, I gently threw my arms around her. She held on to me as tightly as she could manage. “Thank you for doing all of this for me. I appreciate it.”
“Good luck tomorrow.” I put my hands on her shoulders as I loosened my embrace. “You’re going to be fine. I promise.”
She grabbed my right hand. “I hope so.” Her sapphires shivered with uncertainty, but slowly stopped as she found comfort in my eyes.

One week later

I woke up on Saturday morning around 10 am. Usually by this time, someone came in to wake me up, but the house sounded empty. As I turned to get back to sleep, I started feeling something like fire burning in the upper right part of my back. After a minute or two, it started getting more and more painful. The burning wouldn’t stop no matter what position I took in bed. When I decided to lie directly on my back, I nearly laughed at myself over the irony; it didn’t help back then and it wouldn’t help now. The last time I’d felt pain like this was a couple of years ago. Immediately after I came out of the surgery, I was in this position and I would have given anything to be moved from it. In fact, I couldn’t even turn on my own that entire week.
For a moment, I worried that something was wrong with me and I’d have to go to the hospital for it. I quickly dismissed it. Everything checked out fine when I had the procedure done, so it really wasn’t worth worrying about. At last, I found a position, but there was some pain radiating from the area that couldn’t be helped. As I fell into a dream, I found myself whispering in pain for the duration. I woke up a few hours later with the still pain vivid in my mind, but physically, it was completely gone.
When I got downstairs, there was a note by the phone, saying that I could visit Alex whenever I wanted. The past few days, I’d been denied because she wasn’t doing too well with the treatments. I set aside what happened this morning and decided to make the trip. Before walking out the door, I grabbed my keyboard; having a feeling I might need it.

“How’s she doing?” I asked the doctor before going into her room.
“Most of the nausea has stopped, but she’s still very exhausted. She just woke up, but I think its best that you don’t stay too long.”
After he left, I opened the door. “Alex? Are you up for a visit from a friend?”
After the door slowly closed behind me, my heart sunk when I saw her. She was always ivory-skinned, but she looked beyond pale now and already being a tiny, little thing, she looked even smaller. Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned her head in my direction—a simple feat that appeared very difficult. Her lips finally gave way to a smile as they pronounced my name. “Casey… you came.”
“Yeah, they were bound to let me in sooner or later.” I giggled.
“It’s good to see you.” Her open-mouthed smile closed somewhat as I took my usual seat. “I’ve missed you.”
“I guess nobody else has come to visit?”
“My sisters came by a couple days ago. It was one of my better days, but they didn’t stay long in fear of exhausting me.” Her sapphires lit up as they locked on my eyes. “I told them all about you. It was funny… they actually said that they’d like to meet you.”
“Really? But I really haven’t done all that much.”
“Their exact words were ‘we have to thank her for doing more than we have been able to with our busy schedules.’”
She giggled and I joined in, “Nobody’s paid me that much a compliment before.”
“I’m surprised…”
“I’ve been doing this volunteer work for a year now, but I never got this close with anyone… You’re right. Maybe I have been going out on a limb for you.”
“Well I’m glad you have…” Quickly she changed the subject, “So what have you been doing since I last saw you?”
“Not much… going to school, finishing everything up. And we’re working on the finishing touches for the concert.”
“How’s that going, by the way?”
“It’s good as this crowd can be. Seriously, the majority is out for an easy A. They could care less about doing justice to the pieces.”
“Has anyone asked about me?”
I shrugged. “I haven’t told them anything, so why would they ask? Life goes on, I suppose.”
“I guess I really am yesterday’s news… and those girls never really were my friends. They were just after another fashion trend. I was different and they were drawn to me because of it.”
“I’m really sorry, Alex.” I patted her shoulder.
“It’s okay. I know I have at least one friend.” She smiled up at me. “That’s all that matters right now.”
As I took hold of her hand, I asked the obvious question. “How are you feeling?”
She shrugged, turning away somewhat. “Better than these past few days… it’s never quite as bad as you think it’ll be, but I wasn’t expecting non-stop nausea for a couple days.”
For a moment, I rose from my seat and checked out the IV drip. A number of complex formulas were written on the bag. “You’re not just on saline anymore, huh?”
“It’s unfortunate, but they didn’t have a choice.” She shook her head, trying to keep tears from spilling over her cheeks.
Quickly, I returned to her side and hushed her as I brought her close for an embrace. “Shh, shh, it’s okay. You can get through this.”
“I know, but…” She softly pushed against my embrace to loosen it, giving me the signal to back away somewhat. “They had to readjust the chemicals and the dosages a few times to figure out what would work. What I’m on now, it just makes the nausea come less.”
Slowly, she regained her composure by taking a few deep breaths. I almost cringed when I saw how difficult each breath looked. “Did they have to put you on oxygen yet?”
“Only during the first day when I was in the worst shape.” She compressed a hand to her forehead.
I patted her arm. “Do you think you need it right now or are you good?”
“I’m fine. I’m still getting used to being tired all the time, that’s all.” She sighed, closing her eyes as her head tilted away from me.
“Do you want me to go so you can get some more rest?”
“Not yet…” I waited a few seconds, not knowing whether she fell asleep or was just resting. Her breathing was soft, but each inhalation seemed to take a lot of effort. I eyed my keyboard and decided to use it to pass the time. So, I plugged it in and set it to the lowest volume as I played the opening sequence of Coldplay’s “Clocks.” Its familiarity could make things easier to handle. Not knowing many of the lyrics, I hummed along as I attempted the verses. After a while, undecipherable words replaced soft breathing in the bed.
After coming to the end, Alex giggled. She hadn’t changed her position, but definitely heard everything. “That sounded nice… mmm…” Part of me thought she might be delirious based on her tone, but I decided to keep playing whatever came to me for another hour. When the giggling and soft singing stopped, I started to take my leave. “I guess I’ll see you later?”
“As soon as I can.” I peeked around the other side of the bed at the dusty brown acoustic guitar. “Maybe we can play together in a few weeks when you get better.”
“Sure…” She dozed off.
Before leaving the room, I checked out her IV stand and noticed she was hooked up to morphine. I knew then that this wasn’t going to be an easy fight.

Weeks passed and Alex responded well to the treatments. Some of her hair started falling due to the radiation, so she wore a scrub’s cap whenever I came to visit. I played through the major scale on my keyboard with a few adjustments here and there, if only to pass the time. Alex promised that when she got stronger, we could try a duet between my Casio and her guitar.
After school ended in mid-June, I skipped over to the hospital to see her. The pictures from the dance developed and I thought I’d bring them to cheer her up. “Everyone looks so beautiful.” She flipped through the pictures one by one. “Looks like everyone had a great time.”
“I did too and I don’t usually enjoy dances myself.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, did something change?” She tried to hide a grin from me, but I wasn’t fooled.
“Yeah. I actually had someone to go with. Oliver Renson from choir asked me to go with him, so of course I had to say yes.” I smiled, but her eyes were still glued to the pictures.
She stopped at the picture of me and Oliver together. “He was in the tenor section, right?”
“Yeah. He has a really pretty falsetto, but he’s a nice guy. I mean really nice. I enjoy spending whatever time I have with him.”
“Well, if you have a boyfriend now, shouldn’t you be spending your free time with him instead of me?” Her small shoulders rose and fell in a shrug.
“He understands how I feel about my volunteer hours here and he won’t notice the difference if I’m here for volunteering or visiting. I haven’t told him any details, though.”
“Sooner or later, he will find out and there probably is no avoiding that. No secret can stay locked up forever.” She flickered her sapphires at me. “At this point, I could care less if anyone finds that I am here. It doesn’t change my condition.” I braced her shoulder with my hand and she put her hand on mine. “Thank you.”
She let a few moments pass before opening her mouth again. “Casey, would you mind answering something for me?”
“Of course.”
Her head slowly turned to face me. “What brought you here years ago? I want to know what happened.”
“Why the sudden interest?”
“Because… I don’t know how much time I have left. I thought it over and in case I take a turn for the worst tomorrow or the next day, I want to know before…”
I scratched my back with my free hand before beginning. “When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. My spine had a 20 something degree curvature. I needed surgery to fix it before it got any worse.” A laugh escaped my lips. “It’s funny how I can stand being here after what I went through with the procedure. All of the needles and the blood and… oh, the list goes on. Let’s say it wasn’t the best week of my life.”
“I see.” The edge of her lip curled into a smile. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Actually, I don’t mind so much now. I’ve had a few years to think it over, get used to the changes and such. It was a life-changer for me, though. My eyes were opened to so much as a result of that.”
“I’d like to hear about it.”
“Because I had to go through the surgery in the first place, my family came together to support me. My mom stayed with me in my hospital room during my stay so I was never completely alone. When I found out that so many people who went here had no one, I decided to volunteer. It was my hope that by being here, I’d make them feel more at ease. If anything, I was someone they could talk to, so they could take their minds off whatever procedure they were in for.”
Alex whispered, “That’s so nice,” as she lay back in her hospital bed. Her eyes closed and she soon drifted off to sleep. I covered her with the blanket before walking out of the room.

Two months later

As Alex predicted, she took a turn for the worst the following day. I arrived at the hospital only for her doctor to show me the door. The only thing I could do was leave messages every day, hoping that I’d receive a call that’d allow me to return. Each day, the tone of the receptionist or the doctor became graver. Her condition continued to worsen and things were looking bleaker by the day.
When August arrived, I was calling twice a day. On top of that, Oliver came by when I was in the middle of the second call. Halfway through the month, I was biting my nails nervously when I got the news that chemotherapy was no longer an option. Due to overexposure, her body didn’t respond to it anymore. The door closed as tears started falling down my cheeks.
“How much time does she have? I need to know.” My voice strained against the tears.
“Casey, I told you this morning, it’s hard to say. We only know that we’re running out of options.”
“There must be something you can do.” I shivered. “Please, let me at least see her. Alex probably thinks I’m too busy to be with her anymore.”
“She takes comfort in the fact you’d been calling to get in touch with her, but I’m afraid I cannot permit this. I’m sorry.” My heart sunk when I heard a click at the other end.
“Casey?” I turned around, my hand still grasping the phone tightly. “What happened?”
My hand refused to release the phone even as I tried to walk towards Oliver. He then decided to come to me, wrapping himself tightly around me. “They won’t let me see her, Oliver. I can’t sit around anymore.”
“Is it bad?” His soft voice hummed in my ear.
“It must be if they’re barring me from the hospital. I want to see if there’s anything I can do to help.” I pushed against Oliver so he’d release me from his embrace. “I don’t want her to think I’ve given up on her. Who knows if they’re even passing this on to her? They could just be saying that to keep me at bay.”
The position of his eyebrows reflected his concern. “You really must care about this patient. I’ve never seen you like this.”
I wiped my eyes. “We’ve gotten so close and she once said that I’m the only true friend she has left.”
He braced my shoulders, his face kind, but strong. “If it means that much to you, I’ll go with you to the hospital tomorrow.” I could only nod as I returned to his arms for another tearful embrace.

Luckily, the doctors were more lenient the next day. As the door to the hospital room closed behind me, I saw two girls near Alex’s bed. The one sitting down had dark blonde hair tapering down her back. The other, standing beside her, had bright blonde hair that ran halfway down her back with a thick layer of bangs over her forehead. They could only be Alex’s sisters, Tara and Megan.
Tara caught sight of me and her grim expression instantly brightened. “Hey Casey, I’m glad they finally let you come.” Her stride was relaxed with restrained enthusiasm as she wrapped her arms around me. “Alex told us so much about you.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” I shook her hand after she released me from her tight embrace. “Have you two come here much?”
“The staff tends to give more visiting rights to the immediate family, but you might as well be for everything you’ve done for our sister.”
Megan got up and gave me a hug of her own. She wiped her eyes while a smile tried to break through. “She talks about you all the time. Saying that you’ve helped keep her spirits up.”
“How is she?” I inched closer to the now vacant chair next to the bed.
“Not much better than yesterday,” Tara confessed. “She sleeps all the time and when she’s awake, anything simple like breathing or sitting up takes a lot out of her. They’ve had no choice but to put her on oxygen.”
I barely recognized the figure lying still in the bed. The rose had completely gone from her cheeks, the eyeliner and lip gloss had worn off and if it were possible, her whole body appeared a lot smaller. As I sat down and took a hold of her hand, my body shuddered when I felt the limpness of her hand. With her condition, she couldn’t make a fist even if she wanted to. Tears found their way to my eyes as I spoke. “I’m here, Alex. I’ve been trying to get back here for ages. They might just be trying to protect me, but I can’t stay away anymore. I just wish I knew if there was a way I could help.”
Tara braced my shoulder and tried to distract me by asking questions. “So you’re a hospital volunteer? It must be hard work, dealing with people that are sick, especially if they’re in this condition.”
I shook my head. “None of the patients I spent time with had it this bad. I don’t know how or why, but I’ve gotten so close to Alex. Closer than I’d gotten to any other patient. Maybe because I knew what she was like before all of this happened.”
Megan picked up the lonely acoustic guitar that had gathered plenty of dust at its place beside the bed. “I remember sometimes when it was late in the afternoon. Mom and dad would be out working or getting home from work. I could hear Alex play through the wall to my bedroom while I was trying to study for the SAT’s. On the nights before the tests, I didn’t appreciate competing with that, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her to stop.” She set it down gently on the bed. “Because I knew it made her happy.”
“Was she not always happy?” I asked, curious as ever.
“The attention’s almost always on us,” Tara explained. “It’s perfectly natural to resent someone when you’re in her position, but she always supported both of us in everything we did. Occasionally she’ll return home from school wearing a particular smile. It was for show, mostly. She didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself, wanting us to focus on our own situations.”
Megan added, “Mom said she left for school in the worst of moods on her last day. She sent her with a note, saying that she might be kept for testing for an unknown condition. Sometime in mid-April, mom sent her to the hospital to be tested because she really didn’t appear well, even though she claimed that she was perfectly fine. She didn’t feel sick, she said.” She took a moment to collect herself, but her expression reflected a hint of happiness. “When she returned home from school that day, mom said that she hadn’t looked that happy in a long time.”
“That was the day we met, officially.” I chimed in. Tara and Megan turned towards me with expressions of awe. They apparently saw a connection.
For the time being, I could have cared less. Alex lay perfectly still even when I squeezed her hand in both of mine. I whispered various things to her, but kept repeating how sorry I was to not have been by her side and that I wished there was something I could do.
I was so caught up, in fact, that I didn’t notice the doctor come in until I heard someone clear their throat. All three of our heads snapped in his direction. “Good afternoon, ladies. I have some good news.” We all stood up together. “We have one more chance to save Alex. A bone marrow transplant might help reduce her symptoms. If you’d like, I could test all three of you to see if we have a match.”
Despite what this entailed, i.e. a large needle drilling through my bone, I immediately volunteered. Luckily, my parents gave me permission to sign myself up as a possible donor, seeing as you needed parental consent if you were under 18. Because Tara and Megan had already volunteered to give blood, I was the next possible choice and sure enough, I was a perfect match. Alex’s sisters each hugged me in thanks before I left that day to get a good night’s rest.
The next 10 days were spent preparing for the removal of the marrow from the back of my pelvic bone. I didn’t like the idea of going under the knife again, especially after the surgery I had to go through. The scar that divided my back in half had barely began to fade away. But those thoughts only crossed my mind for the first couple of hours. Knowing Alex’s current condition was enough to motivate me beyond my gripes and fears. The first couple of days, a different person told me that this procedure wouldn’t guarantee Alex’s full recovery. At this point, I was willing to try anything. In actuality, she got the better half of the deal because the marrow could just be transplanted through IV, meaning she didn’t have to go through any more pain. Towards the end of the 10-day period, I donated some more blood to myself in case I needed it for post-donor surgery. Through the whole process, Tara and Megan gave me their full support.
As they wheeled me into surgery, my thoughts were only on Alex and the last time I saw her: barely able to move or breath, face paler than her normal ivory tone, the sunshine completely gone. I believed that this would put an end to the struggle, simply because I had no other choice, but to hope for the best.

Epilogue

Six months later

“What do you think of this one?” I’d spent the past five minutes placing three different tops in front of myself while looking in the mirror. My current top had dozens of polygons curving a pattern into the overall shirt’s design. I’m not one for sleeveless tops, but this one fit my medium-build perfectly.
“You look awesome.” Alex smiled as she got up from her chair in the dressing room. “The blues really bring out your eyes. Oliver will love it.” She walked around me to catch every side. “It fits really well too.” I shrugged, turning slightly to the left and then to the right to get a good look at myself. “You should definitely get it.”
“This would look so much cuter on you.”
“Casey, when are you going to give it up? You are an amazing person. Me, I’m just a pretty face. That was the image ‘Jolienne’ placed in everyone’s head, but certainly, I’m nothing special. I didn’t save a leukemia patient’s life.” She rubbed my shoulders and back as we looked into the mirror together. “Someday, inner beauty will be the trend that will catch on.”
“Is this your way of saying that you’re passing the torch to me?” I giggled.
“There was never a torch, Casey. Popularity fell into my lap and I graciously accepted it for as long as I could handle it.”
“You’re taking this whole ‘Amber’ thing pretty well. Hoop earrings and Pooka shells. I bet it won’t last to spring break.”
“As far as I’m concerned, she can keep the crowds. Nobody cared that I disappeared from school and things didn’t return to normal when I returned. Trends come and go as they’re meant to.”
After picking out the perfect outfit, Alex insisted on giving me a makeover, as she put it, to “enhance my best features.” She instructed me to wash my hair, after which, she gave me a much needed hair cut for my shaggy brown curls. At first, it was only a couple of inches she took from the bottom to erase the split ends. Then once she started getting into a rhythm, a lot of hair fell on the floor. “Trust me, this look will do wonders for you. I know it did for me.” She gave a brief shrug. “At least for a while.”
Little by little, she applied a little foundation and blush to brighten my cheeks, a touch of cherry blossom lip gloss and a dash of powder blue eyeliner to go with my new top. At last, she brought me a mirror. My hair hang just a tad shorter than shoulder length and the ends curled under. As I tossed my head slightly to the left, a chunk of blonde shimmered in the mirror. A streak of that color coated a small portion of hair behind my left ear.
“This is your look, I couldn’t…”
“Maybe you’re right and I am passing the torch.” She shrugged, but a smile broke through her façade. “With this, I can almost guarantee you that Oliver won’t be looking at anyone else at the restaurant.”
We walked to the mirror in the hallway just in front of the entry door for a better look. Her corn silk hair was back to its former glory with a small streak of pink on the right side while my streak of blonde was on my left. I managed a giggle. “Wow, who would have thought the two of us, friends?”
“Not in a century, they’d say.” She giggled enough for the both of us.
A light tap on the door broke through the atmosphere and Alex opened it for Oliver. He gazed up at me, nearly awestruck. “Wow…” He blinked while trying to maintain his calm expression. Only a smile shined through. “You look great.” As he took my hand to kiss it, he purred, “Trés jolie.” Alex and I exchanged a glance and hers was clearly internal laughter.

END

AFTERMATH…

since writing this, I’d written about these characters on two other occasions…
One was a “Less than Zero” fanfiction where my character does an internship working with Julian when he’s in rehab… and when his negative attitude prompts her to quit, Alex pays Casey a visit and kinda gives her the courage to try again… neither knowing he broke out of rehab to apologize…
and in another, I brought her and Julian back in addition to another character [the story’s core inspiration]… Alex’s presence is brief, mostly in hearsay and she makes a couple of appearances. meanwhile Julian is in community college and the two of us (now a couple) hadn’t spoken in some time over a small disagreement that eventually resolves.

Yeah, it is one thing to write about your impression of a person and another to really know them.
Writing about this character, she’d become like a good friend. Alexis has liked and even replied to my tweets on occasion (any response I get from anyone still blows me away.. it lets me know I do these things right on occasion), but I know it’s not quite the same as us actually friends.
Either way, I hope if she reads this that she enjoyed it :shrug: unless some sort of miracle occurs, this may be the only experience I’ll have of someone with some degree of celebrity who inspired my writing to actually read it.

…now that I think about it… the writing isn’t perfect, but if I ever tried to get this published, I’d change a couple names to dissolve some of the similarity…
the only really true for it from my standpoint is that I had scoliosis and had surgery to correct it when I was 13.

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