Whisper 2.29

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Dear me,

Nothing–or at least few things–make me more nervous than opening the envelope that contains my grades.

And nothing–I mean, nothing–feels better than seeing those A’s staring right back at me!

Yeah! I did this thing! Master Controller!

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The ground was still blanketed in snow when I walked into the graduation ceremony, though the sun warmed the air.

“Congratulations, Marigold,” said Melvin Moon.

“Thanks for coming to see me graduate!” I said.

“Of course!” He replied. “I wouldn’t let my best friend graduate without offering my felicitations!”

I had to chuckle. My mind had been so full of Shannon lately that I completely forgot that Melvin and I were best friends.

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The ceremony lasted forever, and it was nearly dark when I got out. Plus, all the snow had melted!

But there I was, diploma in hand, my second degree! Phys Ed major, and summa cum laude!

Yes!

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Mom would be proud.

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Before I made it back to the dorm, I got a text from Shannon.

Congrats, babe. Party. Coming?

Hell, yeah!

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Shannon was nowhere to be seen when I arrived.

Instead, I was met by Becky Blackstone.

“Oh! I’d recognize you anywhere,” she said.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“You know me, right? I mean, no, we haven’t met. But Becky Blackstone? For sure you’ve heard of me. Famous like you, right?”

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“I’m not really famous,” I said.

She laughed.

“Get out! If you’re not famous, then how come I’ve been reading about you for the past four years in the same rags that have all the stories about my family?”

I had to admit, she was really cute. Maybe she was a little starstruck or a little full of her own status, but her enthusiasm was adorable. Plus she had the cutest mini-dreadlocks.

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We got to talking. She’d just finished her first semester as a technology major.

“I want to design video games,” she told me. While she was telling me about her idea for a game based on the jet stream, Shannon came in.

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She was wearing nothing at all. She looked kind of sad.

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“I see you two met,” she called to me. “I thought you might have something in common.”

“Right on!” yelled Becky. “Thanks for inviting me!”

By the time Shannon returned from getting dressed, I’d just given Becky my address.

We kind of decided that we wanted to spend more time with each other, and since I was leaving in a few hours, I invited Becky to come visit over semester break.

She seemed pretty excited.

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Shannon had disappeared again by the time I had to head back to catch the shuttle home.

Just as well!

I raced back in the rain, thinking about everything–about friendships starting and those that just continue. I thought about Shannon inviting over Becky so we could meet.

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All through the long flight home, I kept replaying my whole connection with Shannon, from our first meeting during my first time in college when we were so wrapped up in our own universe, then back to the time when I was home, writing her so often, to this up-and-down stint for my second degree, when it took me the whole time to figure out what Shannon meant to me and to understand what I meant to her. I thought about Becky, who’d be coming to visit in a few days. I felt like I was following through with Shannon’s wish for me.

When I got back home, the first thing I saw was the graduation gnome, tossing up his mortarboard in celebration.

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And then I noticed the plants! Did nobody tend the garden while I’d been gone?

Better get busy!

Me

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Whisper 2.21

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Hi, Shannon!

Back at campus, and it feels so good!

Can I keep writing you, even though I’ll be seeing you every day, or nearly?

See, I just got into the habit of it, and it feels good. I mean, talking is one thing–and it’s great, especially when you tell me stories. And writing, it scratches a whole nother itch.

I hope you write me, too. I love your letters, even when they’re just one word missives, like “Iconoclast!”

I heard my phone ring as soon as I arrived at the dorm. I knew it was you. ❤

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It felt so great to say, “Yeah! I’m here!” And your voice sounded different, closer, since you were just calling from across campus, not from worlds away.

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After orientation, when I called you again to see if you wanted to meet up at the café, I felt a rush of anticipation. To see your face again! I guess you know I missed you. I’d missed you for so long from home that now that I was here, and about to see you in a few minutes, all the missing-you rushed out and in its place was… sparkles.

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When I hung up, I wondered, “Are you excited to see me, too?”

Your voice sounded pretty casual.

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It was so great to see you. Something in my throat always catches when I look at you. You’re just so awesome.

We didn’t have much to say.

“Hey there, you,” you said. “Seems natural to have you here.”

Was that your way of saying I belong here?

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I liked your suggestion of reading together. On a blustery autumn day, with the storm blowing outside, reading together is cosy.

Plus, like you said, they’ve got that incredible collection of botanical journals.

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I never realized that acer macrophyllum was a wetland indicator species.

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This wasn’t exactly how expected our first afternoon would be. That’s expectations, for ya! It felt comfortable, though. Kinda homey to spend time together, reading, thinking our own thoughts.

You know, I think I’ll do college differently this time. For one thing, my major is in something I’m naturally good at and already skilled in, phys ed. And for another thing, I think maybe I’ll spend time with more people, make more friends. Last time, my whole college experience was painting, going to class, and you. This time, I want to broaden my sphere a bit. That’s why I decided to throw a party tonight. I’m glad you said you’d come.

Just because I’m expanding my circle doesn’t mean I don’t want you in it. The moon and sun share the night sky with the other planets, after all, even if the moon does reflect the sun’s glory.

And you know that I’m hoping to always be…

your moon,

Marigold

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Whisper 2.20

Hiya, Shan!

So I had a lot of time to think.

One thing, I decided that I wanted us to adopt Stray Cat and get her settled in before I return to school.

I figured it should happen any day now, since we’ve become BFFs already!

Then, of course, there was talking with Riley and making sure she was OK with me leaving again.

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I finally had a chance to talk with her late one night after the kids were asleep.

“I’m getting sleepy,” she said, just as I joined her at the table. “Think I’ll turn in.”

As soon as I told her I’d been waiting for a chance to talk with her alone, she said she wasn’t that tired. Bed would wait.

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We small-talked for a while about music, about Roxy, who’s growing up to be such a good kitten. About Zoey, who’s everybody’s sweetie. Riley said she thought Stray Cat would fit in just fine.

“I hope so,” I said. “You know, after we adopt Stray, there’s something I’m thinking of doing.”

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Not smooth, I know. But I didn’t know how else to tell her.

“You mean, going back to college?” she said.

Of course, she knew. I can’t keep anything secret from my IF.

“But how would you feel?” I asked. “I really think that what I want isn’t more important than what you want, and what’s best for the fam is most important of all.”

Have you ever known anyone that, when you look in their eyes, everything suddenly becomes clear and simple? That’s what Riley’s like.

“Dreams are important,” she said. “You know, we can’t always do what we want. And so that makes it all the more important that we do so when we can. And right now, you can. There’s nothing keeping you here. We did great last time you went away, and we’ll do great now. And you’ll keep in touch.”

“I’ll email everyday,” I said. “And we can chat online.”

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So just like that, it was settled.

We talked a bit about living arrangements. I’ve decided I want to move back to the old dorm. I really like the bed there. And you can stay over whenever you want, right?

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So it was settled. As soon as we adopted Stray Cat, and she was adjusted to living here, I’d head back to campus.

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I went out to see if I could talk Stray into coming inside.

But when I got out there, she’d already crossed the street. I called to her, but she kept on walking. I watched until she was just a tiny white speck in the distance.

Stray Cat’s left. She made up her mind to be a solitary. She’s chosen to live wild like Stray Dog before her.

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When I got back inside, I felt sad at first. I’d really wanted Stray to join our family. But it’s her choice.

Then I realized there was nothing holding me back, no reason to stay any longer.

“Guess I’ll take off, back to the university,” I told Bo.

“You mean, tonight?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve already been accepted. Why wait til next term?”

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“Can I have your laptop?” Bo asked.

I told him sure. I’ll buy a new one at the University Bookstore with my student discount.

The shuttle dispatcher said my ride would be there in an hour, just enough time for me to pack and say my goodbyes.

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“Don’t forget to study,” I told Bo. “Work on your skills. You’ll be heading off for college yourself soon enough, and you want to be ready!”

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He blew me a kiss. My brother may be crazy, but he’s a tender kind of nuts.

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“Don’t worry about us!” he shouted as I got into the van. “We won’t burn down anything!”

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I rolled down the window to shout my goodbyes to Patches and Riley.

“Be good! Have fun! Keep my brother out of trouble!”

Patches just laughed.

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Shannon, I’m so excited to be leaving, and at the same time, my heart got tight when I looked back at our house. Would they remember to water the plants once the frost left? Will they get along OK? Will Roxy be a big cat by the time I get back?

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Riley looked at me. I could see she was telling me that she’d miss and not to worry. I know she thinks I’m doing the right thing. I think so, too.

And soon, I’ll see you!

It just hurts my heart a little bit to say goodbye to our home, my family, and our sweet misted valley. The van pulled out just as the sun was rising.

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I heard tiny voices shouting. “Farewell, fine scholar,” it sounded like they were saying.

And when I turned, I could’ve sworn one of the gnomes was waving.

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Shannon, I don’t know if you’ll get this before I arrive! If you do, you can laugh behind my back at how foolish and sentimental I am. And if you don’t, we can laugh together.

Shannon babe, I’m on my way!

Love you,

Marigold

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Whisper 2.19

Hi, Shannon!

So, I guess you noticed that I’d been ignoring your suggestions that I come back to college.

I wasn’t really ignoring them. I was just pretending to ignore them.

Truth is, every time I got one of your letters, I had to stuff all my wishes to return to the university for a second degree. I mean, it just felt selfish to me. I wanted to go so badly, but I’ve already been, and Riley hasn’t. If anything, I felt, she should go.

And I’ll go again when Bo and Patches go.

But that might be too late for us, mightn’t it?

So, I decided to try the aptitude test again. Just to see what my options were. I mean, I wouldn’t have to go, but it might be neat if I could.

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The test was a piece of cake! I qualified for full scholarship and advanced placement in technology and phys ed. Plus I earned a few carry-over credits in communications, too.

I put on my graduation gown, just to remember how great it felt.

Man, I really want to return to college. I want that second degree!

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Bo and I talked about it while we worked together in the kitchen.

“I don’t see why not to go,” Bo said. “It’s not like I don’t know how to take care of myself. Plus, Riley’s like an aunt to me and Patches.”

He said I should go now and go with him and Patches. “You know you’ll want another degree as soon as you earn this one,” he said.

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I wasn’t sure how Patches would feel.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “If you want to go, go. If you want to stay, stay. Same difference, far as I’m concerned.”

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Once the kids went to school, I really felt my mom’s presence so strongly.

Did I ever tell you that I write to her sometimes? It really helps me clear my thoughts.

So I decided I’d talk with her, see what she suggested.

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“I want to go back to college, Mom,” I said. “But I also want to do what I need to here, you know, to take care of everything.”

It’s also important for you to take care of yourself.

“I love having my fine arts degree,” I continued, “but I want to be well-rounded. You know I love working out and being fit. I want to learn more about physiology.”

You should learn everything you want. It’s your life. Live it in a way that brings out your best.

“But I hate leaving Bo and Patches. And I hate asking Riley to take care of everything while I’m gone for two terms again.”

I’ll be here, too. Just because I’ve passed, doesn’t mean I don’t remain here to look after the family.

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Riley walked in then.

“What’s this you’re saying?” she asked.

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Oh, Shannon. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was thinking of leaving again already, so soon after getting my first degree.

I will talk to her, I promise you. We’ll have a long talk, but not yet. I need a little more time to get clear with my own desires, to figure out why I want this. Do I want it? Do I just want a way to spend more time with you? If so, that’s fine, too. But I need to be clear so that when I talk to Riley, I can tell her why I want this, why it’s so important to me.

And does it matter to you? Do you want me there, or were you just making casual suggestions like it might be an idea to consider, like trying applesauce for breakfast?

Let me know if you want me to come. I’ll think more and let you know what I decide.

It would be amazing to see you again.

Love,

Marigold

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