The next few days went by extremely quickly, and I cried a little the night that I packed my suitcase and a lot the morning that Jed and I left. Gerald and Kira came over to see us off, but Roderick and Oliver were at work. Jed and I hugged everyone, and Annelies hung on my leg, begging us not to leave. I pulled her off and gave her one last hug, and then Mr. Parker held her as Jed and I got into his car. Everyone waved as we drove away, and as soon as we couldn’t see them anymore, Jed began to cry.
“It’ll be okay,” I told him, even though my own tears hadn’t dried. “Do you want me to drive?”
“It’s okay, I can see just fine,” Jed said, wiping his tears with one hand.
“Okay,” I said. “We’ll see them again.”
“I know,” Jed said. “I’m just going to miss them.”
“Me too,” I said.
When we got to my house, Jed and I went inside. He met my family and we all ate dinner together. Part of me wished that this was happening because we were dating, but I really liked our friendship too, and I decided to do everything I could to keep it.
That night, he slept on the floor in my room. Even though I had work in the morning, we stayed up late and talked.
“You’d think we’d get tired of talking after how much talking we’ve done in the past week,” Jed said.
“Yeah, you’d think,” I said.
“Do you think I should go to college?”
“Not if you don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to.”
We talked a little more, but when I was in the middle of talking, I heard a noise. I stopped and realized that Jed had fallen asleep. I smiled to myself and closed my eyes.
At work the next day I struggled to focus. I was too busy thinking about Jed and the Parkers and college to worry about shelves being stocked.
When I got home in the evening, I cut my practicing a little short and looked up ACT information. I decided to study and take the test in September, which I needed to register for very soon. I brought my phone out to my dad, who was in the family room with Don and Amy. We talked about it, and then we registered me for the test.
The next day after work, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a test prep booklet. Flipping through it, I saw that Terin had been right. None of it was too difficult. I had a feeling that both of us were going to win our bet.
Gray and his younger siblings started school on August 15th. The week before that, Gray’s friend Amoni came and visited for a couple days. I didn’t hang out with them much because I had to work, practice, and study, but I liked Amoni. He was funny, and he and Gray seemed to click.
When Amoni left, Gray was a little mopey. I tried to cheer him up by going over to Holly’s with him, taking walks, and taking Brooks and Daniel down to the creek, but nothing seemed to work for long.
“Are you sad because Amoni’s gone?” I asked on one of our walks.
“A little,” Gray said.
“Worried about school?” “Yeah,” he said, keeping his eyes on the ground.
“I’m worried that I won’t graduate.”
“Why? Have you failed classes or something?”
“No, but I got some D’s. But I might fail this year. I don’t know.”
“I can always help you if you need.”
“Holly helps me sometimes,” Gray said. “But she always has lots of homework, so it’s hard for her to have time to help.”
“Well I’ll have time.”
“You’re busy a lot, too.”
“I have time for walks and stuff. We could just do homework instead.”
“Maybe,” Gray said. “I like the walks, though.”
“We could do both. We could just walk one lap instead of 2 or 3 or 4 and then do homework.”
Gray nodded. “The work was easier at East Ridge.”
“Yeah. We didn’t go so fast.”
“I can explain anything you need probably. If you just show me what you’re working on.”
“How’d you learn so much?” “I had lots of help,” I said. “I had good teachers.”
“I usually like my teachers,” Gray said.
“I just don’t like being dumb.”
“You’re not dumb.”
“Dumber than my sisters.”
“School isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. My friend Jed is really smart, but he isn’t even going to college.”
“He doesn’t want to. He wants to be a writer.”
“I’m no good at writing.” Gray said. “My teachers have said so.”
“I’m not very good at writing, either,” I told him.
“Better than me.”
“How would you know?”
Gray shrugged, the hint of a smile at the corner of his lips.
“You’ll be fine,” I said, patting his shoulder. “I have no doubts.”
“Thanks,” he said.