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It Just Happened
The date was April second. April second was the day her life changed. April second was the day my life changed. She found out she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
The first day of my junior year of high school I had AP Chemistry first and second period. All I could think when I walked into the lab was how am I going to stay awake? I saw the teacher standing by the door and walked over to her.
“Name?” She asked with an annoyed tone.
“James.” I said.
“James do you have a last name?”
“I’m not kidding. Give me your last name.”
“I’m not kidding. My name is James Bond and it should be the second or third from the top.”
It took her a moment to check the list and check off my name. She then told me, “See the girl with the blonde hair? That’s your lab partner for the rest of the year. No substitutions or swaps.”
“Alrighty.” I said and sulked off to meet my lab partner for the rest of the year, no substitutions or swaps. I sat down next to my new lab partner.
“Hi, I guess you’re my lab partner for the rest of the year, no substitutions or swaps.” She said with a smile.
“Hi. My name’s James, James Bond.”
“Your name is James Bond?” She asked with disbelief.
“Yes. My parents are huge James Bond fans and my father’s surname just so happened to be Bond. They where enthralled when they found out they were going to have a baby boy.”
She smiled and laughed. “Well my name’s Emma Craig. I moved here from Bath, England a few weeks ago. I came from a public school in Bath and I have no clue if I’m going to be able to keep up.”
“Well Emma, if you ever need help you know where to find me.” We both smiled and began to listen to the lecture.
When Mrs. Bingham finally let us loose with the Brunson burners and extremely dangerous chemicals it was chaos. The table next to us managed to melt the glass beaker spilling all of the contents onto the table leaving a small cat sized hole in the lab table. The table behind us exploded the contents of their beaker every where burning multiple innocent bystanders. We weren’t doing to well ourselves.
Emma had beautiful long blonde hair and she forgot to tie it back before we started. About five minutes into our experiment I looked over and her hair was sizzling and smoking. The smell of her burning hair was overwhelming.
“Emma.” I said.
“What?!” She cried. We were both becoming flustered with the assignment.
“My hair? Oh God.” She sprayed her hair down with the water that was sitting on our lab table for events such as this.
“Miss. Craig, I see that you did not follow one of my rules. Do you know what the penalty is for not following my rules?”
“Yes, Mrs. Bingham.” Emma said. People all around Emma and I began to snicker.
“And what would that be?” She asked Emma a cruel smile beginning to form on her face.
“I am banned from the lab for the rest of the semester.” I couldn’t let Emma fail.
“Mrs. Bingham, I distracted Emma and she forgot to pull her hair back.” I told Mrs. Bingham.
“Alright, Mr. Bond, detention for a month, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I‘ll be seeing you after school today to start your detentions.” She told me.
“Yes, Mrs. Bingham.”
“Oh, Emma, next time, I will kick you out of my class.” She chastised Emma and returned to the front of the room.
When Mrs. Bingham’s back was turned Emma whispered to me. “You didn’t need to do that. It was all my fault. I’m lucky I didn’t loose all of my hair. It’s actually a good thing that this happened. I’ve been meaning to get my hair cut short for such a long time. This was the extra push I needed.” She told me in a rush of words. I had a hard time following her.
“Well if it counts, I like your hair long.” I told Emma. I hoped I hadn’t freaked her out. I’d only known her for an hour and a half and I was already giving her creepy complements.
“Thanks, I’ll take that into consideration.” She smiled and returned to her lab report.
The bell rang a half an hour later and we packed up. I walked her to her locker. I watched her try to pull her books off the top shelf of her locker. She was up on her tip-toes. I reached up to help her and everything on the top shelf fell to the floor. I quickly stooped to the ground and started to collect her things.
“Calm down. I’m perfectly able bodied and capable of picking up my own books.” She laughed and took her pink notebook from me. She came a step closer, her hair brushed against my cheek, and she whispered in my ear ‘thank you’ and hurried off to her next class.
I was stunned and shocked. My heart pounded. My palms began to sweat and the bell rang. I was late for the third class of my junior year.
I couldn’t believe that I could have so much homework the first day of school. It was crazy. I slowly walked back to my locker and dumped what I needed to bring home into my backpack.
There was no need to hurry, I wasn’t going any where any time soon. I could sense that somebody was behind me. I turned around to see Emma’s beautiful smile and golden hair.
“I just wanted to thank you again for covering for me in chem. class today. Before you go report to detention, I owe you big time.” She smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and went to her locker to get ready to go home. I was beginning to wonder if Emma had this affect on all guys or if it was just me.
The next morning I couldn’t get to chem. class quick enough. Emma walked in ten minutes later with her hair pulled back into a low pony tail with a ribbon. It was almost like she was mocking Mrs. Bingham. She sat down next to me, my non-substitutable or swappable lab partner. I could never imagine substituting or swapping Emma for another partner. I hoped she felt the same way.
“I see you remembered to tie your hair back.” I said, half laughing.
“Yes I did.” She smiled.
“Your hair looks nice today.” I told her.
“Thank you James.” She said to me and began to work on our newest lab assignment.
Three broken beakers and two hours later we had successfully completed the experiment and lab papers. Mrs. Bingham came around to our table and looked impressed. She passed by without saying a word. Emma and I hi fived when she was over critiquing some other kid’s experiment.
This little ritual of chem. class went on for months. After I finished my detentions I’d go over to her house and we would study. Her mom would make dinner and ask the both of us how our days went. It was the same old answer every day.
One day Emma was showing me this amazing pianist on Youtube and we eventually ended up on his Myspace. We scrolled down through his comments and saw this Chris Townsend kid. Emma clicked on his name and it brought us to his page. The first song on his play list off of his CD was Stay Positive. We listened to it for a bit. The song was amazing and beautiful.
Emma turned to me and said that this would be our song. She also told me that every time we heard this song we would think of each other. How could I disagree with her?
The last week of Christmas vacation I finally worked up enough courage to formally ask Emma out. We had gone to many movies and the Christmas Dance together just as very good friends. We weren’t officially “going out” yet. We were sitting in her room reviewing for mid-terms.
“Emma.” I called over to her.
“I was wondering if you would like to go ice skating with me tonight.”
“Like a date?” She asked turning around in her desk chair to face me.
“I’d love to.” She smiled and came over to me and kissed me on the lips.
There was an out door ice rink set up for the weekend at the museum in our town. I decided to take Emma there. Later that day I picked Emma up at her house. She came down the stairs in an adorable blue jacket and white knit scarf, hat, and gloves combo. We had a great time.
April first came and went without a glitch. The next day I got to chem. and Emma was not in her seat. I worried the whole entire day. After school I stopped by her house and rang the bell.
Emma answered the door and told me to come in. She took me up to her room and told me to sit down. I did what she said. She did not look like she wanted to be disobeyed.
“James, I went to the doctor today.” She told me, sitting down next to me.
“And?” I asked trying to prompt her.
“They found something strange in my blood work. Some thing not good. They say that I have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. They need to do more blood work but-” I cut her off.
“You have cancer?” I asked.
Emma began to cry. “Yes, I have cancer.” She said matter of factly.
“You have cancer?” I said again.
“Yes, James I have cancer. There is noting I can do about it but accept the fact that I have cancer and start an extremely aggressive chemo. regimen and hope it works.”
“Are you going to loose your hair?” I asked her.
“Yeah. I guess I’m going to get that short hair cut that I’ve been wanting.” She laughed.
“Are you going to live?”
“They say I will since I caught it so soon. There is an 85% survival rate.”
“There is still 15%.”
“I know. I’m going to kick that 15% in the butt and make it wish it never thought of saying I was going to die.”
“Are you afraid?”
“I’m very scared. Are you afraid?”
“I think I’m even more scared then you.”
In the background I could hear our song playing, Stay Positive by Chris Townsend. At the same exact moment we looked at each other and said, ‘Stay positive’. That was the last time I saw Emma cry.
As the days rolled along Emma’s hair began to fall out. It started in small patches that she could easily hide by combing her hair differently. Eventually the bald patches became to noticeable and she got her head shaved.
One day after school Emma asked me to let her drive home. I had picked her up that morning and was going to drive her home so we could study but I was to smart to disagree. She had this determined look on her face and I wasn’t going to stop that.
We pulled up at the local barber shop and she said, “I’m tired of my hair, I’m getting it shaved off and you are going to stand there and help me get through it.” We walked into the barber shop and she told the man at the front desk, “I have cancer and my chemo, is making me go bald. I want you to shave my head.” The man at the front desk looked at her in utter disbelief. She was a paying customer and he couldn’t argue.
He walked her over to one of the chairs. He turned the electric razor on and began to shave what was left of Emma’s golden locks. When the man was done she looked at herself in the mirror, handed the man a twenty, and walked out of the shop.
I caught up with her at the car. “Do you want me to drive you home?” I asked.
“I think that would be a good idea.” We spent the car ride to her house in silence.
When we got back to her house she walked inside and her mother took one look at Emma’s nearly bald head and hugged her. Her mother did not cry, she only held on to Emma for as long as she possibly could before Emma broke away. Emma’s mother kissed her on the head and went back into the kitchen.
The next day when Emma and I walked into school jaws dropped. People finally realized what was going on with Emma Craig. They did not fully understand but they had a better idea now that Emma didn’t have hair anymore.
When we walked into chem. Emma walked over to Mrs. Bingham and just stared at her. Mrs. Bingham’s jaw dropped and she never gave Emma any more problems. Mrs. Bingham just looked at Emma with this pathetic look of sympathy and Emma hated that even more than her constant grief.
May came around and prom fever was in the air. Everybody was buzzing. I decided to ask Emma to prom.
I walk up to Emma’s locker at the end of the day as usual and pulled a single daffodil out of my backpack and asked her to prom. She smiled and kindly accepted the flower and my invitation.
May seventh came rolling around sooner than the both of us could imagine. I picked her up at her house. I watched her come down the stairs in a beautiful corn flower blue silk gown, we stood in front of the mantle in her living room for a quick photo opt, and then we were off to prom.
We danced. We talked to our friends. We ate and we had a good time. The last song of the night was our song. We looked at each other and I held her in my arms. I whispered in her ear, like she did to me so may days ago, but the words were different. I ‘love you’, I told her. She looked up at me and said ‘I love you too’ and rested her head back on my chest.
That summer her cancer took a turn for the worse. The doctors could not seem to get her into remission. She laid feebly in her hospital bed covered up to her neck in blankets. She was a feeble and tired version of the Emma I met so many months ago.
It was August second. I had just come back from eating in the cafeteria at the hospital. I sat down on her bed and kissed her head. She looked up at me and smiled.
Her smile was beautiful. She whispered to me, ‘I love you’. The monitors went dead. She was gone.