Best friends Hailey and Alex have to come to terms with life and unfamiliar feelings.
|The next morning was Saturday and I awoke before the sun was even up. I knew I had to get to Alex’s house fast before he and his dad left for Miller’s pond. I dressed quickly and dashed out the back door, racing across the meadow that separated my house from Alex’s. Mr. Foster was just putting their rods and tackle into the bed of his old Ford pick-up when I came to an abrupt stop in front of him.
“Hailey.. What on earth? " he said, startled.
Trying to catch my breath, I said “Can I go with you and Alex fishing, Mr. Foster?”
“Well,” he said, scratching his head “Alex did invite Jacob Smith, but his dad called last night and said Jacob had a bad case of poison ivy and wasn't going to be able to make it, so I guess that would be all right. We haven’t seen much of you around this summer, Hailey. Where’ve you been?”
Not wanting Alex’s dad to know how badly Alex had been treating me, I lied and said “Oh, I’ve just been kinda busy. Family stuff, you know.”
“That’s great, Hailey. A word of advice to you: spend as much time as you can with your Grandpa Joe. I know he adores you and at his age.. Well, you never know how long the good Lord will wait before calling him home, you know?”
“Oh, I will.. I do .” I said nodding rapidly. The thought of Gramps going up to heaven was a sad one for me and all I wanted to think about now was Alex and the fishing we were going to do today. Suddenly the light that shone through the back door went dim and I looked to see Alex standing in the doorway, a strange look on his face.
“Dad.. Can you come here and help me for a minute?” Alex asked, his voice strained.
“Be right back, Hailey.” Mr. Foster said, tousling my hair as he would do a boy. I took pride in the fact that nothing about me was “girly”.. well, almost nothing. My red hair , which I had inherited from my mother, was disgustingly, naturally curly. Most of the time it was hidden beneath a baseball cap, but when I brushed it each night and day, it seemed to become even more curly. I had always nagged at my dad to let me get it cut short, but each time, I saw the look of hurt in his eyes, so I’d quickly drop the subject.
My mother had hair the exact same shade of red as mine and it cascaded down her back like liquid fire. At least that’s what I saw from the photographs that dad saved for me. Mom died shortly after giving birth to me. I asked dad a few times about the day I was born and he would smile and tell me how excited he and mom were and how proud he was when the nurse handed me to him.
His smile would fade however, when he got to the part about sitting beside mom’s bed, holding her hand and telling her how happy she had made him, when suddenly she said “ I love you and Hailey SO much.”
Then with a small sigh, she closed her eyes and she was gone. The doctors told dad it was an aneurysm, and that there was nothing that could have been done to save her.
The first time he explained all of this to me, I cried, telling him I knew I killed my mother. Dad held me close and told me it wasn’t my fault. The doctors suspected she’d had this thing for awhile and that the strain of pushing so hard had finally, fatally, ruptured the vessel. Mom died giving me life, this was true, he said, but there was nothing on this earth that she would have died for except me.
I swiped angrily at a tear that had escaped my eye. I hated crying; it made me feel like such a girl . I wondered what was taking Alex and his dad so long, so I opened the screen door and quietly entered the house which not so long ago had felt like home to me. Just as I opened my mouth to call out to Alex, I heard voices coming from the living room. Knowing it was wrong to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help myself from putting my ear to the door that separated the kitchen from the living room.
“But Dad.. I can’t be seen hanging out with Hailey!” Alex said, his voice becoming agitated. “She’s a girl!
“Alex Foster, I am ashamed of you.” his dad said. “Hailey has been your best friend since you two were five. She baked you cookies when you had the measles and rode all the way to the hospital in Denton with us, when you had your tonsils removed. How can you just turn your back on her now?” he said sadly.
“Dad.. You don’t understand! The guys’ll never let me live it down if they see her with us. I’ve finally gotten into a cool crowd ... Don’t let Hailey mess this up for me. I’ll never forgive you!” Alex said, his voice rising a bit.
“The person you’ll never be able to forgive, Alex, will be yourself. Right now, you think girls are just silly, mindless people who giggle too much and like to wear frilly dresses, which I may remind you is nothing like Hailey in the least.
Someday you’re going to see that a girl can be your best friend and share your hopes and dreams as well as your bad times. A woman is God’s gift to man, to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground and his head out of the clouds.”
“What are you talking about?” Alex said, perplexed. “Anyway, Hailey isn’t a woman , she’s just a regular, everyday girl.”
“She’ll be a woman someday, and you’ll be a man and I can bet that you’ll see nothing ordinary about her.”
With a sigh, Alex said “Whatever... So do we have to let her go?”
I never heard his dad’s reply as I ran out of the house, the back door slamming behind me. I ran all the way home; hot, angry tears pouring down my face. I ran into the house and upstairs to my room. Dad and Gramps were still sleeping as I ran into my room and slammed the door shut before throwing myself across the bed and crying like the girl that I was.