Do you know those really corny romance movies, the ones where the boy met the girl when their young, their friendship grew into more as the years went by, well that was my life, or at least what it used to be? I met Kellen Remy when I was five years old, he was kind and shared his snack with me, ants on a log, my favorite. We had the same kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mathison at Ridge Elementary, and from the first day, I had made a bond for life. Flash forward to fifth grade, and Kellen remained my best friend, coming over for playdates and joining coed soccer teams so that we could do sports together. By the time we reached sixth grade, he was still coming over, but the atmosphere around us had changed, and I found myself wanting to hold his hand a lot, which he was happy to do. That was also the year we had our first dance, and of course, Kellen asked if I wanted to go with him, which to that, I said yes, the smile on my face wide and my heart in my chest swell.
I remember Mrs. Remy picking me up that night and how I wore something sweet, a dress in his favorite color, blue. I answered the door only to find he had worn a blue button-up with a tie, my favorite color, orange. He looked so cute in his little tie, a big smile on his face, and when he took my hand and left the car heading inside the gymnasium, it felt amazing and exactly where my hand should be. We danced that night together; my arms draped over his shoulders and his hands respectfully on my waist. By eighth grade, we had had our first kiss, many in fact, and still, there was no one I’d rather spend my time with more than Kellen. He was my best friend and boyfriend, and I thought, no, I knew, I was the luckiest girl in the world to have him. If we weren’t at school or doing homework, we were exploring outside, and if it was raining, we were at the movies, either the theater or one of our houses. He always did the gentlemanly thing, buying my popcorn or candy, and I remember thinking he was so rare for someone his age.
Not only was he kind and thoughtful, but he was trustworthy and reasonable, we never fought, and that was because it never came to that with him. He was patient with me and always asked how I was feeling. He was like my angel, and I truly believed I loved him before I even knew what love was. In high school, people expected to see us together, if he was there, I was there, and that was just how it was with us. Most of the kids we went to high school with, knew us back in preschool, the same way it was in every little town, and ours was none too different. Sophomore year started like any other, and again, Kellen and I fell into our routine of meeting at the break, and lunch and stealing a make-out session during the tutorial, if the teachers would let us out. I always said I needed to use the bathroom, but I knew Ms. Norman was catching on to me, but I didn’t care, not if I was able to leave in the end.
Yes, my life was perfect, beyond perfect in fact, I was thrilled thinking it would never change, that he was it for me, because I knew he felt the same. Who would want it to change when your boyfriend was as hot as a movie star his dirty blonde locks long and always brushed to one side of his forehead, and his cool blue eyes the envy of many, and as kind as a humanitarian, always looking out for people and never afraid to do the right thing. Life was simple and we both seemed to like it that way. Of course, we were optimistic about our future, Kellen dreaming big and wanting to be a brain surgeon. I always thought that was so weird of him to say, but he was smart, and he had good grades and the drive to get into any school he wanted if he kept it up. Having someone so motivated for a boyfriend, only rubbed off positively. He pushed me to do better in school and I did, getting little treats when I passed a quiz with something higher than a C average. They usually turned out to be sweet little kisses, but I didn’t care, I wanted them, needed them and I was happy to do anything for them.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or be, but I knew that if I had Kellen there beside me, I would be happy, satisfied and loved for the rest of my life. The first day he texted me he was sick and staying home, I thought nothing of it, everybody gets sick and Kellen was no different. That evening I showed up at the Remy residence and his mom Claire let me go see him, sitting with him for a while before he went to bed. I wasn’t supposed to, but I kissed him on the lips anyway, and he grabbed my hand pulling me down to kiss me again. We stopped in time, not wanting to get caught, but when I left for the front door, his mom eyed me curiously, and I thought for sure she knew what we’d done. He came back to school the next day and everything went back to normal, why wouldn’t it, it was just a little cold, not nearly something to obsess about, but when he got sick again, the symptoms worse and his head burning up, his mother took him to the doctor, in which I insisted on being at too.
They couldn’t find anything wrong, said it was a virus most likely, and when we all returned home, we were content with the doctor’s diagnosis. Looking back, I wished I would’ve asked more questions, probed the doctor more, made him run more tests, but as it was, we didn’t think anything was wrong, he told us not to worry so we didn’t, and we went on with our day to day lives. All these memories were painful, but they were a part of me now, the love story that would change my life and the path I chose to take after. When I think of how happy I used to be it almost seems unreal, like it was just like those stupid movies, and something bad was bound to happen, it always did, life could never just be perfect, no, something always had to derail the perfect existence.
Winter formal was on its way, and like any other couple, Kellen had bought out tickets and asked me to go, with flowers and a big sign. He did it at lunch and all our classmates watching and I accepted his proposal, ending up in his arms for a passionate kiss. We were an “it” couple, and that didn’t mean anything to me except that I had landed the best boyfriend in the world. Late at night when I felt my heartbreak again, I clung to that feeling, the thoughts and memories of how it used to be, who I used to be and why I was, where I was. Without him, I wouldn’t have had such a divine purpose, without Kellen Remy, Paige Dawson could’ve very well have been some mediocre person, who didn’t nearly reach the potential she had inside her and lived as superficial nonexistent life.
By Christmas, like some sick joke being played on him, Kellen Remy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor that was too far for surgery and would kill him before summer, there was no point and Chemo so all there was left was time to spend with the ones he loved. He told me after he gave me his present, a black and white picture of us, taken by his mother on his last birthday. It was after he’d cut his cake, and he was holding me close, his eyes gazing down and a big smile on his lips as he leaned down to kiss me. She had caught the moment perfectly, and if given any other time but then, I still would have cried, but I maybe wouldn’t have clung to him as I wept tears of heart-wrenching grief. He held me tight and whispered beautiful things in my ear, things that made me cry harder and crush myself desperately to his body, but no matter how hard I held him, no matter how much I loved him, it didn’t change the fact that he was dying. How could this be happening, where did it all go wrong? Even as I wept in his arms, wailed for the future we would never have, he remained calm, Kellen to the core even when he had every right to cry and be mad.
He held me for so long, and when my mom called to check-in, I didn’t have to leave. I fell asleep next to him Christmas night, and before I did, I prayed, prayed like I knew someone was up there, prayed that whoever it was, heard me and saved him for me. New Year’s came and went, and I was stuck to him like a conjoined twin. I was basically living there, shacked up with him for as much time as he had left. My parents understood everything at the time and allowed me to be with him day and night, if I was wanted, and I was wanted. His parents were so supportive, and I was shocked but pleased to see they had given us time to be alone. It was strange to think they knew what we were doing, but I wasn’t about to lose the love of my life without going all the way with him. He had been my first real friend, my first boyfriend which included my first kiss and so it only seemed right that he was my first with that too.
I’m pretty sure my parents knew two, but I figured if we were being safe, they couldn’t complain, how could they fault me for that. They also couldn’t fault me for going to a tattoo parlor with Kellen, the day before New Year’s so both of us could get matching tattoos, his idea. It was small, but special, the infinity sign looped with the word love in the center, something we both go and thought of together, as corny as it was, it was perfect, and held just how much we loved each other. My mom was worried after she saw it, but everyone loved it and it was in a private enough place that no one would see it, not unless they were taking off my pants or something, and that was never going to happen. The tattoo was my pelvis, the small intimate spot perfect and safe in such a private place, and Kellen had loved the placing. Kellen had gotten his right on his chest, close to his heart the tattoo is done elegantly and so much more symbolic and again, I cried big wet, sad tears after I saw the finished piece.
I was determined to be there every step of the way, thick and thin, it would always be us against the world, against this tumor. By the beginning of the next semester, the news of Kellen’s condition had spread, and people began to show up at the house. Kellen was okay to have visitors and he wasn’t in any pain, so his mom let some of our friends come and visit, hang out, tell him how much they loved him or how he had changed their life in some way and it all was too real. I wanted him all to myself, but Kellen wouldn’t have that, he saw whoever came and made a nice talk with each one, me clinging to him like a possessive child the whole time. I was angry, hurt, sad and depressed, I was all of it, and when I woke that morning in February, just days before his seventeen birthday, and found him not breathing but his face peaceful, soft and unmoving, realized he was dead, his arms wrapped around me, my whole world ended.
Losing Kellen so fast, like that, so suddenly left a hole in my heart I swear would never grow back. Every second, every word, every kiss was a reminder of what incredible thing had been taken from me. I had lost my other half, one I’d lost before eventually saying I do, my dreams of walking down the aisle, Kellen waiting at the end, ready to give our lives to each other forever brushed away like dust in the wind. Where did that leave me, where did I go from there, how did I just move on from that, I had no clue? I didn’t go back to school for the rest of that year, instead, I homeschooled, which was another way of saying I sat around my house trying to feel again. My parents didn’t know what to do for me, and my older brother Connor tried his hardest to get me to open, but after everything, I just wasn’t ready yet, wouldn’t be for a while.
All summer I allowed myself to travel deep into my mind, measuring how I was feeling, what I was feeling, and whether I knew what to do next in this new harsh reality I was given. Connor tried his best to get me out of the house, promising me a gig as a junior lifeguard at the local pool he worked at, but I opted out, not wanting to run into anyone and must talk. It seemed everyone wanted to know how I was doing, but I didn’t know, I was barely figuring that out myself. Mom wanted me to go see a therapist and I said I would when the time was right, and it wasn’t right just yet. Mrs. Remy called to check up on me frequently, and I remember thinking that was so backward, I should be the one to do that for her, it was her son she lost, but even so, she did, and my mom tried to hand the phone off to me, but I never could take it, I couldn’t bring myself to talk, not to her, not right now.
It was about in late August I finally started to come around and most of that had to do with the dreams I’d been having lately. Kellen seemed to be in every single one, his face always smiling and his eyes sincere when he looked at me. At first, it would make me sad, and I would wake up crying, my heartbreaking all over again when I realized he wasn’t sleeping next to me, that he was gone, but as time went on, I stopped and started listening to him. I could never really hear him, his voice always as low as a whisper, but soon it was his lips I began to watch, reading them and understanding finally, and he was always saying something about brain surgery. It didn’t matter where we were in my dreams, when he showed up, he was whispering, and it always circled brain surgery.
By and by I would wake up and reflect, trying to figure out why he could be saying the same things if he was a creation from my mind, I couldn’t tell why he would be so repetitive, why didn’t he say anything else and then one day, it just clicked into place. I woke and knew what I had to do, what he had been trying to tell me. Sitting up straight in bed, my mind finally grasped why he had been blunt, that I needed to become a brain surgeon like Kellen had wanted to be. The thought was so profound, so absolutely correct I cracked a smile. In a light bulb moment, that sad unsure what to do part of me turned into something else. Split from my mind and feeling like a whole this new piece taped and formed a rigorous new part of me. It was as if the spirit of Kellen had solidified as a piece of me and I could tap into it, find such focus that I wasn’t sad anymore, more motivated if that made sense.
I went back to school for Junior and Senior year, and I will admit, it was hard in the beginning, not because I felt too sad, don’t get me wrong, I was sad, but it was difficult with everyone treating me like I should be too sad. This new drive didn’t fit that mood and people seemed to react to it strangely. The grieving girlfriend was the part I should’ve been playing, but I had changed into someone new, my priorities clear and steadfast in completing them. The school was now an obstacle, a game I needed to finish with the top grades. I was determined to graduate top of my class and I guess that intimidated a lot of people. It felt like overnight I transitioned into something even more elite than how I had been when Kellen was alive.
The morning I gave my valedictorian speech in front of the whole graduating class and their families, I shared a glimpsed into what it felt like to be. Although my parents understood at the time what I had been forced to go through, as I spoke and they listened, I think they truly understood what Kellen had meant to me, and how losing him had gotten me here, saved me even, in some sick way. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd and I finished and people rose to clap, my heart crapped open again and for a split second, I swear I felt him smiling at me, the feeling so like what it used to be, I searched the crowd of my fellow graduates as if he’d be there, looking up at me smiling as he clapped. I took my diploma that day, and his, giving it to his parents, who waited after the ceremony to take it. Kellen’s mom Claire gives me a huge hug, and I finally got around to apologizing for acting the way I did right after his passing. True to the loving mom she was, she didn’t want to hear any of it, so happy to see me graduating and going on with my life. As we left the high school field that day, with my arms around my parents and Connor giving me genuinely kind compliments, I registered I was on to a new chapter of my life and although he wasn’t there physically, Kellen was there mentally, and he was going to see me through anything.
With my grades I was accepted to Sandford, ranking high in my class and proving I was completely devoted to winning. I became a tutor part-time, helping some of the other students struggling, as well as becoming assistant to my biology teacher, Professor Morris. Indeed, my plate was full, nonetheless, I found time to do it all. Of course, it was a lot easier when I kept socializing to a minimum, yes, I went out sometimes, going on runs with groups, and eating lunch with classmates, but I never stayed out late and I certainly wasn’t dating anyone, although quite of few guys had plucked up the courage to ask me out. Me, being as kind as one could be, said no, but they didn’t seem to take it so hard, which was good, but the truth was it was never going to happen.
I know it was fickle and not at all what anyone would understand, but as of college I still wasn’t interested in even thinking about guys, not when I had Kellen in my dreams. After I had made my revelation, Kellen seemed to open, the version of him in my head becoming more complete, more like him, not some whispering phantom that said only a few words. I know it sounded crazy and I was sure if I told my parents about it, or that it was the reason I still wasn’t dating, they would’ve been concerned, maybe even scheduled for me to speak to someone out there, so I kept it all to myself, not wanting to worry them, or ruin a good thing while I had it. What if I told someone about this and Kellen disappeared from my dreams, I was sure I would be devastated all over again, it was something I feared every time I shut my eyes like I would fall asleep and he wouldn’t be there.
Every morning though when I woke, it was with a smile and a newfound drive to concur the day. My roommate was a nice girl. The girl’s name was Matilda, Matilda Sampson, but she insisted on being called Tilly. She was a tall girl, taller than me, with eyes alight teal in color, and thick lashes and rosy lips. She was beautiful, and her hair color almost matched that of Kellen’s, the highlights of blonde catching and reflecting sunlight just like he used to do. Tilly was an Oceanography major, concentrating on the earth sciences and planned to work with marine mammals in the form of research and excavation. The subject sounded fascinating and completely different from my premed classes. It was nice to have someone else as driven as I was and it seemed fated that we were roommates, sharing a small space politely.
The two of us made a pact, and every year after we returned from summer break, we shared a room, filling out forms and getting room changes, so that for the four years we were at Stanford we stayed roommates. Tilly became the closest thing to a best friend I had. These days it was nice to have someone solid there with me. She could never take the place of Kellen, but she was the only other person besides my parents I spent the most time around since him, and that was significant all on its own. In those four years, we achieved great respect for each other’s majors and took studying seriously, both wanting to be the best in class as possible. It was easy to be more productive when Tilly was pushing for it too, the tasks almost completing themselves at that point. We had each other to lean on, and even though I didn’t tell her about Kellen coming to my every dream, I knew she wouldn’t judge me if she did.
Both of us graduated with honors and when I accepted my diploma, I had someone to search for in the sea of caps. Of course, my parents were there, and Connor and his girlfriend had made it, but when my eyes looked from Tilly to my family to Remy’s parents standing with mine, the floor almost dropped from under me. I felt the tears and knew there was nothing from stopping them. They had come to see me graduate, come to see me walk across another stage and except my honors. I should’ve expected this, should’ve known they would want to be here as much as I wanted them too, but seeing them standing there, clapping for me with tears streaming down their faces, I felt him there again too. That was the moment, I had realized I’d underestimated how much they had loved me, not just because I had loved their son but because they loved me for me.
Yes, it was safe to say I had come around and when I took my MCATs that summer, passing with high scores, I knew Kellen would agree. I had made it through such a bitter pill to swallow, only to rise and made his dream, and now mine, well on the way to coming true. I was halfway there, the finish line just a mere few years from being completed. I was doing this for the both of us, not just for me, and it felt like nothing I had experienced before. Kellen was still with me, there in my every dream, living a separate life in fantasy, and that time with him, even if it was in my head, only made me appreciate him even more. He was my angel in the long hours of the night and no matter how crazy it sounded, I never wanted it to end, never wanted to live a day without him. Come this fall I was heading off for med school, my application being accepted at the prestigious Harvard University in Boston, a feat I knew I could accomplish with the help I had from my other half.
Tilly was going to some College in Southern Florida for her masters, but we told each other we would stay in touch, call every night and tell each other about everything from that day. It was nice to know she wanted to stay so close and the added support was a bonus, one I wouldn’t take for granted, but I knew I had this in the bag, knew like all the rest, I was bound to succeed. Packing all my things again and heading off, I had nothing but high hopes for this new chapter, plus Kellen was excited as well, the thought of me being in med school making him even happier for me than anything else we’d accomplished. Packing my favorite picture of him in my carry on, the one he’d given me on my last Christmas with him, stayed safely wrapped and tucked in my large bag. It was the first picture I took out when I moved anywhere and the last thing I packed when I left. This trip would be no different and as I said my good-byes to my parents and Kellen’s, I prepared myself for the new world that awaited me, one that held promises of me becoming the best brain surgeon I could be, that Kellen had wanted me to be.