Nerd Romance — The Farewell (Part 2)
“Bye, you!” “Bye, you!”
If you haven’t read Part 1, do it now.
tl;dr: K and his sister are about to depart for their new home in New York state, leaving E and their old home and friends behind.
“Thanks, Mr. Baker!” Jenn yelled across the street as she saw their soon-to-be-former neighbor retrieve the keys she had left in his mailbox. Baker waved and went back into his house.
Jenn checked her watch, sighed, and trudged to the Renault mini-wagon, packed with boxes, suitcases, and assorted sundries deemed necessary for the first couple days at their new house in upstate New York. K was standing and leaning with his back against the passenger’s door; E was leaning against him, her head on his shoulder while he gently stroked her back. Why can’t this moment just last forever? Maybe he’ll get back to see me graduate, maybe we’ll get together somehow next summer, but we don’t really know, do we?
“Kids, I hate to break this up, but Max and the gang were behind schedule, we’re probably going to get caught up in rush hour, and I don’t want to be trying to find a strange motel in a strange town after dark, okay? So… final kiss, final hug, say ‘auf wiedersehen’ and we’ll get rolling, okay?” Jenn opened the driver’s door, got in, and started the car.
The hug lasted much longer than the kiss. “See you later, doofus,” E whispered. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“See you later.”
“THE CAR IS RUNNING, PEOPLE, AND WE DO NOT HAVE A LOT OF CASH FOR GAS!” Jenn shouted through the open window. “BABY BRO! IN! NOW!”
E backed off to give K room to open his door and get in. He buckled up, then leaned out the open window to give E a last kiss.
Jenn put the car into drive, started to take her foot off the brake, put her foot back on the brake, and put the car back in park. She muttered something E could not make out. Jenn stuck her head out the driver’s window and yelled, “YOU BASTARD, GOGO!” at someone just getting out of the VW Bug that had pulled over a few car lengths in front of them. She unbuckled, threw open her door, jumped out, and screamed, “YOU BASTARD, GOGO!” again.
E stepped over and stuck her head in K’s window. “What’s happening?”
K shook his head. “No idea. I don’t know who that is,” nodding toward the young man starting to walk in their direction.
Jenn screamed at him again and ran at him.
“K, do something!”
“He’s big enough to be a football player, I think he can handle himself!”
Jenn launched herself at the man, wrapping her legs around him while putting both arms around his neck. He staggered back a few steps, then held her to him.
“I think he’s crying.”
“I think they both are.”
Jenn, move your head a little so I can see… oh wow, didn’t expect this! “Ah! I know him! That’s Mark Johnson.”
“Theater club. He played Judd in Oklahoma and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. We just saw him.”
“In the play? I wasn’t really watching, E.” He watched as Johnson continued to hold Jenn off the ground. “By the way, thank you for never doing that with me.”
E snorted and lightly punched him on the arm. “Honey, if I just went for a rushed hug with us both upright I would knock you over. I’d be scared you’d rupture something just picking me up.”
K unbuckled and motioned her back from the door. “Hold on a sec.” He opened his door. “Okay, c’mon, you might as well sit down while we’re waiting.” He patted his lap.
Are you kidding me?! “K, we had this discussion five seconds ago! I will squash you!”
“No you won’t.” He gently pulled her into the car with him and seated her on his lap, sideways, with her legs still hanging out the doorway.
We’re close enough to the curb, I can at least put my feet there to take some of the weight off. “Doofus, you are going to lose all sensation in your legs inside of five minutes!”
“I’m not driving, I’ll be fine.” He put his arms around her waist and gave her a sideways hug. In front of them, Johnson had set Jenn on the ground but kept his arms around her; she had her hands on the back of his head and was holding his face close to hers. They seemed to be in intense conversation. “So, while we’re waiting, want to tell me a story? The one that went sideways at the play?”
Sure, you idiot, if you want to get your shirt soaked with tears. She took a deep breath. “Okay. So. Once upon a time, long ago, in a land far away, there was a princess.”
“A beautiful princess?”
“It was open to debate. Her dad always told her she was pretty.”
“And since he was the king — ”
“Look, doofus, you want me to tell this, or you want to kibitz? Anyway, she looked up one night, and saw a new star, shining bright and pretty in the sky. And she thought, I don’t know where he is tonight, but my prince — ”
“Her handsome prince?”
“I will start bouncing on your lap if you don’t shut up! Fine, where my handsome prince is tonight, but I know that no matter where he may be, or whatever he is doing, he can be looking up at the same star at the same instant, and we are both connected at that moment. And that no matter how far away we might be in distance, we will always be linked…” She stopped and felt around in her shorts pocket as best she could. Tears were leaking down her cheeks.
“Hold on, honey,” K whispered, “Mom keeps a stash of tissues in the glove box.” He reached around her as best he could, popped the glove box open, and rooted around in it with one hand. “Or maybe some leftover paper napkins from Dairy Queen. Drat!”
“‘Sokay, honey, I got my hanky. Your hanky, the one you gave me, you know what I mean.” She wiped her face and blew her nose with the men’s handkerchief she had pulled from her pocket. “Okay. Sorry!”
“Hey, I should have figured.” K was dabbing his eyes with one of the paper napkins. “Go on, I want to hear the rest.”
She took a deep breath. “So, no matter how far apart we are in distance and miles, we will always be together in our hearts when we look up at the sky and see that star. And… that’s about as far as I got. Sorry.” She blew her nose again. “I may want one of those stupid napkins after all. Your handkerchiefs aren’t great at holding snot, honey.”
“I just needed something to clean my glasses, E, that’s all I ever wanted them for. Until I started dating you — ”
“ — until we started hanging out together, they worked fine.” He blew his nose on a paper napkin, looked around for the car’s trash bag, couldn’t find it, and dropped the paper wad on the floor. “Just toss ’em on the floor, I’ll get rid of ’em when we get to a rest stop. Hey, do you think that’s why she never tried to wiggle out of detention stage crew?”
What? Oh, he’s trying to distract himself. Or me. Or both. “Um, sure, I guess. You mean Jenn and Mark, right?”
“Yeah. She sure kept him a secret. I don’t try to keep track of her boyfriends, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember him, if he’d ever been over at our house. I can’t believe Jenn fell for an actor instead of some dumb jock.”
“Mark’s a National Merit Scholarship Finalist; I remember from the school newspaper. So he’s a dork like us. Weird, huh?”
They sat in silence. Jenn and Mark went into a lip lock that seemed to last a very long time.
Oh crap, that reminds me! “So, remember that poem I promised you back in… dang, it seems like forever ago now. When we went camping. So I brought it, but you have to promise not to look at it now.” E pulled a somewhat-crumpled envelope out of her shorts pocket. “Wait to open it until you miss me very, very much!”
“I miss you now! And we haven’t even left yet!”
“Shush! Wait until you get to New York and get settled in, and miss me more than anything ever. Then you can open it!”
“Because this will make me feel better?”
I wish! “No, doofus, because then you won’t mind how terribly, horribly, abysmally awful this poem is! Why do you think it’s taken me so long to give it to you? I never seemed to find the right time.”
K took the envelope, then seemed at a loss. “I’ll put it in my pocket after you get out. I can’t get to my pants right now.”
“And you can’t feel your legs, either, I bet. Here comes Jenn, I’m going to make my exit. You guys are definitely going to get caught in rush hour traffic now.”
E hoisted herself off K and out of the car, closed the car door behind her, and leaned into the window to whisper, “Be nice to her! She’s really fragile right now.” She looked up as Jenn got back in the car. “Bye Jenn!” She kissed her boyfriend. “Bye, you!”
“”Bye, you!” Should I say “see you later”? Jenn put the car in gear and pulled out. I should have told her, “See you later!” He watched her in the sideview mirror as they pulled away. He waved behind him, and E waved back. He saw her give one of the paper napkins to Mark, then the car turned the corner and he lost them. He noticed the envelope in his hand and put it into his pocket, then buckled up. “You okay? Want me to drive?”
Jenn wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I’m fine. No big deal. Just some guy I was going to U of I with. Now I’m not.” She wiped her nose with her hand again. “Get me a tissue from the glove compartment. Couple tissues.”
That’s not gonna work. And I’m not gonna give her some crappy paper napkins. K worked until he got his handkerchief out of his back pocket, then handed it to Jenn. “Here.”
She took it, looked at it, looked at him, then pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. She blew her nose, wiped, blew it again, and handed the handkerchief back. “Thanks.” She looked at him for several seconds, then leaned over and hugged him. “I’m sorry, baby bro!”
“Me, too, Jenn!”
She put the car back into traffic and headed south.