Chapter 32: Libby
“What do you want to do before you die?”
I sit my elbow on my knee and drop my chin into my hand, staring down at a blank sheet of paper in a journal. Liv had called me down here so we can work on something that she’s always wanted to do, ending the call before I had the chance to ask what. And now that I’m here, I know: A bucket list. She wants to put together a bucket list.
Her question runs through my head, curling into a question mark and settling deep into my mind. What do I want to do before I die? It shouldn’t be this hard. There are so many things to do in this world that one life can’t take care of it, but not even one thing is being written down on this paper. Liv’s is blank, too.
“I’ve got it!” she yells, her face brightening. She hunches over her journal and her pen scrapes along the surface of her paper, writing down her first thing. When she sits back up, I bend over to read it.
1. Wear nothing but high heels for an entire day.
I laugh, leaning back over to my side of her bed and covering my face with my hands. “No clothes?”
I slide my hands down to my cheeks and watch as she purses her lips. “Yes clothes.”
I grin and settle back into my position of setting my head on my hand and gazing down at my bare paper. I guess her thing isn’t that bad. But is that all it is? Wishing to do something? Something adventurous? Something bold? Something just to say you did it?
My mind wanders to last night when Mom and I were watching one of her favorite Disney movies, and I find myself writing down my first wish.
1. Paint Roses Red.
Liv shakes her head, but a giggle escapes her lips. She writes mine down as her number two, and I go ahead and write hers down as mine. Why not? We spend the entire day and the day after that writing thing after thing of what we were going to accomplish before we died. It sounded so new and fresh and exciting that the question of whether we’d ever be able to do it one day never came to mind. Who cares about probability when you’re too busy having fun?
We end up with 49 things each on our list. Some are the same, and some are different. But who would’ve thought that one thing could change an entire summer? Even a few lives?
“Bentley, do you happen to have any roses in here?”
I’m walking around the perimeter of the shop, studying the few flower arrangements his wife Debby must have set up by the display cases at the front. Pansies, snap dragons... no roses.
Bentley laughs behind the counter in the middle of the store, shaking his head. “I don’t believe so dear, although I am pretty surprised that there aren’t.” My shoulders sag, but then he says, ”But there is a floral shop right across the street. Pretty handy to Debby, as you can see,” he chuckles.
I smile and call for Jere immediately. His little head pops up from behind the counter next to Bentley, and he peeps a, “What?” as he does so. His light brown hair flops on his head as he skips towards me, and I ask, “Wanna go get some flowers with me?”
He shrugs his small shoulders and reaches up to take my hand. My heart skips a beat, surprised once again to see how comfortable he is around me.
When we leave the floral shop, we somehow seemed to score red paint as well, which saved me a trip to the market.
“Libby, why are we getting white roses and not red?” Jere asks me, confusion written all over his face. “I didn’t even know they had blue roses,” he adds, holding up the single blue rose I bought for him. “Didja know it’s my favorite color?”
I look down at his blue shirt and blue light-up shoes. “Nope! Did you know it’s my favorite color too?” His light blue eyes grow wide and I laugh, shuffling his hair with my free hand before walking through the shop’s open door.
“Didja get them?” Bentley calls out from the back of the store, and Jere replies, “Yes! Grandad, look at these!”
I smile, thanking whoever lives up there that I have these two people in my life now.... Two people I didn’t even know existed two months ago.
“So what’re you guys gonna do with red paint and white roses?“Bentley asks.
“We’re going to-”
“We’re gonna paint the roses red!” Jere interrupts, too excited to contain his words. “Y’know, like Alice at Wonderland!”
Bentley shakes his head. “Is this another one of Libby’s crazy adventures?”
Jere furrows his eyes. “What’s an ‘adventure?’”
“Something fun you do that takes you on a long journey.”
“What’s a j-”
“Hey guys,” a familiar voice calls out from the front of the store. A large smile pulls at my lips, but then I remember the way he’s been for the past few days - so offhand about everything and absent-minded. So... not Liam.
Bentley catches my eye and gives me a sad smile. He sees this, too.
“Daddy!” Jere cries, running to Liam and is immediately picked up and thrown in the air, creating a huge giggle to come from his tiny body.
“Hey bud,” Liam chuckles, setting his son back down on the ground and following him to where we stood watching. “What are you guys up to?”
“We’re about to paint roses red,” Jere states simply, and when Liam looks up at me to see if he’s serious, I shrug. To be plain, I’m scared out of my mind that my hopes of the old Liam returning will be shot down. He nods and smiles, but then something must’ve clicked in his mind because his smile suddenly drops and his gaze parts from mine.
Liam, I think to myself. What’s wrong?
But not too far from now I will ask him exactly this; not too far from now, I will find out what’s really going on in Liam Nottes’ head.