Chandler the Cheerful

Chandler

When did she first meet him, anyway?

Salix couldn’t exactly remember when she’d first met Chandler. He was just always there, in the background.

That’s him below by himself on the space explorer jungle gym, while Shug meets Tommy (whom I sometimes call Timmy) and Quinn (whom I sometimes call Tommy) as she chatted her way towards the three child friends required for the Social Butterfly aspiration.

Sugar Maple

Quinn (in the glasses) and Tommy still come over nearly every day.

Chandler’s been to nearly every party held at Cradle Rock. There he is at Poplar’s birthday party, sitting at the end of the table.

Poplar

There he is! The one with with epaulettes over his narrow shoulders.

The night Salix headed down to Rattlesnake Juice Bar to see whom she might meet, Chandler was there, too.

Salix

Salix is starting to notice that he’s always looking in her direction.

Even on the day that Salix asked Ted to be her boyfriend–that fateful fatal day–there was Chandler, crossing the street in the background.

Ted

It’s getting like “Where’s Chandler?”

And when Salix was left wondering why she should even bother trying for another chance at love, Chandler in his studded freezer bunny jacket just happened to be jogging down the street.

Salix

“Can’t I just give up?”

And now, after living in Salix’s periphery all these years, Chandler is moving into the center of her life.

Chandler

“Thanks for calling. I got here as quickly as I could.”

He’s running straight towards her now, not meandering some oblique path off to the side.

Chandler

They’re a very romantic couple.

Salix is in that giddy phase of discovery when every new detail she learns about Chandler makes her happy.

For example, he’s got awesome eyebrows.

Chandler

“Yeah. It feels nice to be noticed, finally.”

“I love your nose, too,” Salix tells him. “I think it would balance out my nose well.”

Chandler

“Your nose can be my nose’s boyfriend!”

On their second home-date, they discovered that more than just their noses go well together.

Chandler

“Don’t you think that was about the most fun a person can have? Next to working out, of course.”

Chandler, clumsy, art-loving, cheerful Chandler, is bringing a new kind of happiness to Salix. It was what her mom had tried to tell her about back when she was in her mean-guy phase. “…Find somebody that makes your toes tingle who doesn’t also bring a dose of pain.”

Chandler dished out laughter. He served up good spirits. He brought out her own good nature. And, she was tingling from her toes to the top of her head. They were good together.

It’s a lucky thing, too, for one more departure has been waiting for the Boughs.

Poplar got up from the bed that she and her niece fell in the habit of sharing since the days when Salix was grieving for Aspen.

Poplar

“I hear you, you old hot head.”

She was as ready as she could be. She’d painted those bright sailboats on the blue sea. She turned from her meanness as long as she could. She was ready now just to relax and let it all go.

Poplar

She’s got such a bright strong spirit.

Salix slept, but Aspen came to be the sole mourner for her departing sister.

Aspen

“I just need to rest a moment.”

Salix has experienced so much loss: Her grandma Linda. Her dad and mom. Her aunt Madrona and uncle Lamont. Her friend Minsk, who left just the other day. A whole train of neighbors and friends. Most recently, her boyfriend and first love, Ted, not even an hour after he’d become her boyfriend.

And now, her aunt Poplar. Salix was, for Poplar, the one person in her life with whom she had never fallen out of friendship.

Grim

“Looks like it’s time, all right.”

Sleep, Salix. Let your mom’s spirit see Poplar through this one. You’ve watched this final reaping more than most.

Aspen

Peace, Poplar. I’ll always love you, steel-heart.

Salix woke to witness death after Grim had left, after Aspen had returned to her grave, and after Poplar’s tombstone had been engraved and moved to its place in the long row of ancestors and friends, next to Ted’s.

Salix

“I know I should be feeling sad… but I’m too happy. Is that awful of me?”

When she woke, she thought for a minute that she might shake off her happiness to feel the full weight of losing Poplar.

But happiness was all through her, a gift from Chandler, a piece of cheerfulness that had been handed to her with a note promising a long and happy life.

Salix, you’ve wept enough tears for generations. There’s nothing awful in feeling what it is that you truly feel, especially when that’s the shininess of a new love with a guy who loves you back and who makes you feel honored. You’ve earned your healthy cheerful love, babe. Cherish it.

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