By: Girl Bard
Disclaimer: Please see Part 1
May 16, 2002
Hanging up the phone, I walk briskly out of the bedroom. Kim is picking me up in about ten minutes so we can head over to Pressman for our graduation.
Graduation! I cant believe it.
Jaden is coming to the ceremony with Jason, Emma, Kims parents, Diana, and Joe. It is making me so happy knowing my brother and friends are sitting in the audience.
Just as I gather my things, making sure I have my garment bag carrying my burgundy robe, the phone rings.
"Now what?" I ask in half annoyance, smiling anyway knowing its probably Kim again freaking out about how her mortarboard is going to look stupid over her full head of hair.
"Hi, may I please speak to Jaden Phillips?" A kind voice asks. Its probably a telemarketer.
"Shes not in, may I take a message?" I respond politely. Even though I think telemarketers are annoying, I understand its their job and I try to respect them.
"This is Carl, from Avon." The man begins.
"Hi Carl, this is Grace. Ive met you a few times." Carl is the head of administration at Avon; the assisted living community where Jadens grandmother lives.
"Yes, we have met." Carl answers. Pausing for a moment, he clears his throat before continuing. I hear him shuffling through papers. "Ah, Jaden has listed you as her domestic partner, correct?"
"Yes." I tell him, knowing this cant be anything good.
"Grace, Im afraid I have some bad news."
My stomach clenches. Instinctively, I know what is wrong.
I mean, how couldnt I? There are only a few things it could be.
"Katrina has passed away." He states and I close my eyes.
"Oh Goddess." My hands shake with the news and I struggle to keep a strong grip on the phone. "How?"
"She never woke up this morning, and the nurse that is assigned to her room found her about an hour ago. It seems she passed peacefully sometime during the night." Carl finishes, his voice sad.
I dont answer, unsure what to do with this news.
"Im very sorry for your loss." Carl adds, and I smile cynically. They must train all healthcare people how to break this kind of news, because it always sounds so cliché.
"What do we do?" I ask, wondering how in the hell Im going to tell Jaden.
"Ive called the coroner and they are en route. Does Jaden have a funeral home she prefers to use?" He asks and I hear him shuffling papers around. "According to Katrinas file, there are no pre-planned funeral arrangements."
"I dont know." I tell him honestly.
"Are you planning to cremate or bury the body?" He asks, and I hear him writing.
"I dont know. I have to talk to Jaden, shes picking up my brother and friends because Im graduating from college today and I dont know how I can reach her because this isnt something you just tell someone when theyre driving on freaking route 128." I babble, feeling weak and nauseous.
"I understand." Carl says. "Please tell Jaden we will have Katrinas body transported to the city morgue and she can call them directly to make the funeral arrangements."
"Okay." I answer.
"And congratulations on your graduation." He adds and I nod, even though he cant see me.
"Thanks." Hanging up the phone I run my hands through my hair and look frantically around the room.
Kim will be here any second. Jaden is on the way to meet Jason at the train station, pick up Diana and Joe, and then go directly to Pressman.
I call Kims house, but there is no answer. Shes on her way here.
Pacing, I decide to wait until she gets here. Shell know exactly what to do, she always does. I stand by the window that overlooks the front entrance and wait for her car.
I dont have to wait long, and I see her little green Miata pull up in front of the house. She beeps twice and I run downstairs.
"Hey." She greets me with a big smile on her face. "Wheres your stuff?"
"Can you come in for a sec?" I ask her and with a sigh she turns off her car.
"Fine, but we better not be late." She grins to show shes joking and follows me back inside.
The dogs greet her like they havent seen her in years even though she and Emma were over for dinner last night.
"Whats up?" She asks between doggie kisses.
"Jadens grandmother died." I answer, the words sounding foreign to my tongue.
"No shit! When?" Kim responds as she stands up straight and ignores the wiggling dogs.
"Just now, a few hours ago. Jaden doesnt know yet and I dont know what to do. We have to be there soon or well miss the ceremony." I wring my hands together, twisting my wedding ring around.
It suddenly hits me that its Katrinas ring, and I feel sick to my stomach.
I know what I have to do.
"You go." I tell her. "I have to find Jaden and tell her whats happening."
"You cant miss graduation." Kim tells me firmly, her hands on her hips.
"Kim, I cant stand up there knowing Jaden has no idea whats happened. That isnt fair and she wouldnt do that to me." I state, equally as firm.
"But this is your graduation! Youve been working toward this for years." She protests.
"It isnt important. Its a stupid ceremony and a piece of paper. Jaden is more important to me and I cant keep this from her, even for a few hours." I soften my tone and take her hands in mine.
"Kim, if it were Emma youd feel the same way, I promise."
She ducks her head. "I know."
"Ill catch up with you later, okay?" I hug my best friend. "I love you and I would have loved to graduate with you. But some things just arent meant to be."
"Good luck." She offers, releasing me.
"See if you can grab my diploma, huh?" I ask with a grin as she heads out the door.
"Sure thing." She calls from over her shoulder.
I feel a pang of disappointment as I watch her drive away, and part of me thinks this isnt fair. I should be a carefree college graduate, in the car with my best friend listening to Beastie Boys or whatever crap music Kim is into lately. We should drive too fast to Pressman, get there just as the ceremony is beginning, and giggle the entire time we are changing into our hideous gowns and mortarboards.
During the ceremony, we would pass notes and snicker through the long, boring speeches. We should cheer for all of our friends, and for those who arent our friends, because hell; were never going to see them again.
We should pose for pictures, makes faces at each other, and have a carefree time knowing our life as undergrad students is finally over.
After the ceremony we should change as fast as we can out of our gowns, throw them in the back seat with our framed diplomas, and head out with our girlfriends to the beach; have a huge party and build a fire when the sun slips beneath the sea.
And I feel a bigger sense of shame and self-loathing. How dare I moan over a stupid, boring ceremony when the woman who raised the woman I love has died?
It is selfish and awful to feel this way. Instead of crying over what I cant have I should be thankful for what I do have. Jaden is alive. It could be worse; it could have been her that died. Thank Goddess it wasnt her.
Even that thought process isnt what I should be thinking about.
I hate feeling selfish.
I grab my keys off of the counter and get into my car. Hopefully I can make it to Diana and Joes house before Jaden does.
The drive over is quiet. Normally I have music on loud, but this morning Im content to just let my mind be numb.
I dont really remember any of the drive at all. I know it doesnt take me too long, and before I know it Im pulling my little blue car into their driveway that is void of Jadens Explorer.
It means Im either early, or too late. Ill hope for the latter.
I must look ridiculous. I didnt even change before leaving the house. We were instructed to wear nice clothing under our robes, but I didnt want to be hot on such a warm day in a fancy skirt so I chose to wear comfortable jogging shorts over my nylons and dress shoes. I have a simple black silk short-sleeved shirt on, and the outfit is pretty stupid looking.
Knocking at the door, their house is surprisingly quiet. Please, let Jaden not be here yet.
Just as I turn to leave, Joe whips the door open, surprise evident on his face.
"Hey Joe. Can I come in?" I ask and he opens the door. To his credit, he must sense the severity of the situation and doesnt even make a crack about my clothes.
"Sure, whats up?" He questions as Diana joins us in their foyer.
I ignore his question for the time being.
"Jaden isnt here yet?" Stupid question, of course she isnt or theyd all be gone.
"No, I expect her any time." Di answers. Her brown eyes are filled with concern and she gently touches my arm. "Jesus Christ, youre freezing."
She directs Joe. "Why dont you get her one of your sweatshirts?"
He nods in agreement and scampers up the stairs.
"Jadens grandmother died." I tell her and her eyes grow wide.
"Oh God." She hugs me briefly. "It will be okay, Grace."
"I dont know how shes going to take it." I offer, warm in Dis strong embrace.
Joe returns with his prized Red Sox sweatshirt and I shrug it on with a little grin.
"Ill return it in one piece, I promise." I tell him solemnly and he smiles.
Di quickly fills him in as I glance out the window.
I hear them talking and making plans, but I cease to pay attention my breathing catches as Jaden pulls up in the driveway.
I can see the confusion on her features as she notices my car in the driveway. Her and Jason get out of the Explorer and start their way up to the front door.
"Grace." Dis hand is on my shoulder and I look at her. "Joe will drive Jason home in your car and then drop it off at your house later, okay? Ill pick him up there."
I nod dumbly in agreement. "You and Jaden stay here as long as you need, the kids are at my mothers so it will be quiet. Well call you later."
"Thanks, Di." I tell her as Jaden knocks on the door.
The next few seconds are a whirlwind as Joe and Di leave the house with Jason. Jaden looks around with total confusion on her face as she sees Joe usher Jason into my car and leave, followed by Di in her car.
"What the hell?" She asks, turning to face me. "Nice outfit you have there, Flasher."
I give her a tired grin.
"Gracie, whats the matter?"
I try to tell her, but I cant. Hugging her tightly against my chest I press my head against her chest and reassure myself that she is alive and healthy. The steady rhythm of her heart is all I need.
"Grace, youre scaring me." She says, her voice wavering.
I pull away from her, but take both her hands in mine.
"Carl from Avon called." I start, my voice wavering. Jadens blue eyes widen and I hear her breath hitch, but to her credit she keeps her detective face on.
"And?" She asks cautiously.
"And." I begin, forcing myself to meet her eyes. "Your grandmother passed away sometime in her sleep last night."
Her face remains blissfully impassive. Not a muscle twitches or one hair moves out of place. She stays silent for a moment, then lets out a breath.
Oh? That was not the reaction I was expecting.
I feel her body temperature drop, and her hands suddenly grow clammy.
"Sweetheart?" I ask, but the life has disappeared from her eyes and all the color has drained from her face.
"Please sit down with me for a minute." I pull her numb body over to the closest chair and she weakly complies.
Her face is a perfect mask of resolve, and only because I know her so well do I notice her jaw clenching.
"Theres nothing we can do." She states solemnly. "But if we hurry you can still make your graduation." Jaden begins to stand but I tug on her hands and force her to sit back down.
She struggles with me for just a moment, until my hands move to her shoulders and I place myself on her lap.
"Relax." I order her, caressing her strong shoulders.
Tilting her chin, her eyes finally meet mine. They are a cold, unflinching blue, and the lack of emotion present almost causes me to shudder.
"We have to call the city morgue and make all the arrangements, okay Spots?" She doesnt respond. "I am with you every step of the way, Ill already told Kim I cant make graduation. I want to be with you."
It doesnt even seem like she hears me.
Gently, she lifts me off her lap and stands. "We should go then."
I follow her out and get into her car. Without a word she starts it and heads out of Diana and Joes neighborhood.
"Um, Spots?" I ask and she doesnt look at me.
"Can you take me home to change?" I question as I look at my bizarre clothing.
"Sure." She answers.
We dont talk the rest of the way home, but Jaden grips my hand like shes holding on for dear life. I dont know how she manages to drive so well with just her left hand, but she does.
I wont lie and say Im not worried about her. I know people deal with grief in many different ways, but this complete shut down is something Im not accustomed too. I just wish she would get angry or cry and at least act alive.
She is like a porcelain doll, frozen and stoic.
"Ill wait here." Jaden tells me as I hop out of the car.
"Okay. Do you need anything from inside?"
She shakes her head slowly, and I hurry upstairs to change. My legs are shaking every step of the way and my knuckles are white from hanging on to the railing.
Entering the apartment, everything seems louder to me.
The keys jingling in the doorknob, the clicking of the dogs toenails on the tiled floor, my labored breathing heavy in my chest. All the daily sounds that everyone takes for granted.
Simple things that we never really think we will miss.
And maybe we dont. Who knows what will be waiting for us after we die.
Shaking the morbid thoughts out of my head, I crouch down and hug both of my dogs close to me. I am so lucky to have what I have; I cant imagine my life without my Jaden.
Its almost as if I never lived in Ohio, and Ive always been here; the four of us a little family surrounded by love and friendship.
I change quickly, knowing Spots is waiting in the car and probably dying from the heat. She and I both hate air conditioning and try to avoid turning it on, so I can picture her sitting there, in a lovely navy suit, her dark hair sticking to the back of her long neck.
She is staring out the window, not really looking at anything, but thinking back to a time when she was child and the only thing safe to her was her grandmothers lap.
My heart aches for her.
I start to head out of the apartment, making sure to take my keys out of the doorknob. Bella stares at me, her intelligent eyes studying my teary face. I contemplate taking her with me, I know she would be quiet the entire time we were inside and Jaden would love to have her company.
But its too hot outside to leave her in the car. Scratching her ears, I give her and Bean each a chewy from their cookie jar. "Be good girls."
I leave the house and head downstairs. As I expected, Jaden is sitting, her unwavering blue gaze distant. She starts the Explorer as I get in and slowly pulls out of the drive.
"I called the morgue and they are expecting us." She asks in a low, velvety voice.
"Here." I offer, handing her a bottle of cold chocolate milk from the fridge. She quirks her lips at me before opening it and taking a long drink.
"Thanks." Putting the bottle in her cup-holder, she grasps my hand again before turning onto the highway.
Its like I am her lifeline, the tether keeping her widely bobbing ship safely secured to shore. I keep my grip firm and calm, sending every ounce of emotion I have from my body to hers.
Its all I can do for her right now.
It seems like weeks and days since I last laid down. Slumping down on the bed I invite Bella up and she slinks into my lap. Shes pretty big to be a lap dog, but she doesnt seem to know that.
I hear Grace cooing to Bean in the kitchen as she cooks something on the stove. I tangle my hands in my dogs soft ears, working the silky strands between my fingers.
I have so much more to do and I dont want to do any of it. I dont want to plan a funeral, bury my grandmother, and go through all of her possessions.
I just dont want to do it.
Lying back in bed, my eyes drift shut and I am only vaguely aware of Bella curling up against my side.
I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I know I feel the sensation of my clothes being removed.
Groggily, my eyes open and I find Grace gently undressing me.
"Trying to cop a feel while Im sleeping?" I joke and she gives me the most beautiful smile Ive ever seen. It makes her eyes crinkle, the moss color of her eyes so deep and lush I feel like Im looking into an Irish meadow.
"You were so peaceful, I didnt want to disturb you." She tells me softly as she lifts the covers back and helps me scoot under.
"Want some dinner?" Grace asks gently. I glance to the nightstand to see a plate of grilled cheese, complete with grape jelly. My favorite.
"That would be great." I tell her. I am unable to stop my eyes from tearing up as she serves me, even going as far to climb in bed and sit with me while I eat.
"Its okay Spots. Whatever happens, we can get through it." Grace tells me, and as I look at her I find I see less and less of the innocent girl I fell in love with and more of the strong woman shes become.
"I know." I answer, and I mean it.
I finish my late dinner in silence, relishing the feel of her strong hand securely gripping my bicep. Bella rests her head on my knee, her gaze never straying to far from my face. On the floor, Bean chews on a piece of grilled cheese crust Grace slipped her.
They are a constant reminder of the fact that I will never have to be alone again.
Part 5 is Coming Soon
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