accepting luke

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 03, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 03, 2017

A A A

A A A


Accepting Luke

 

Tap, tap, tap my pencil clicks against my wooden kitchen table where I spend my afternoons. I sign my name at the top of the paper, skip over “3rd grade Mr. F’s class” and then write the date, 12/14/10.

First math problem.

12x4 =?

I look up at the window as the setting sun meets my face. 36. As I move on to the next problem, I wrap my sweatshirt around my cold hands and tuck the soft, green blanket underneath my toes. The house is eerily quiet aside from the soft sound of water dropping from my mom’s shower. Ssssscrreeech. My body jumps when I hear a startling sound from outside the snow filled window.

Slowly, I move my chair backward, set the blanket down and slide in my fuzzy socks over to the window. As I’m wiping aside the fog which hides my view, I notice the glow of the colored Christmas lights reflecting on the white snow. I push my nose against the frigid glass and spy three large moving vans pulling into the driveway of our former neighbor’s white house.

I race up the stairs to tell my mom the exciting news when I find her getting ready for her holiday party.

“Someone is moving into Mr.Smith’s old house!” I gasp.

She puts down her mascara, takes a break from curling her hair, looks at me and exclaims, “Wow! That’s great! Who is it?”

Without allowing her to finish her sentence, I run downstairs into our mud room strewn with wet mittens and boots. I shove my hands into my ski jacket, put on my size 4.5 snow boots and race out the door. Entering the winter wonderland, I make it to the end of my driveway to discover what is happening right next door. I peer across the street to get a glimpse and see a man and a woman walking up the stone porch of their new home. Right behind them are two toddlers dressed in pink snowsuits.

“Lilly! Lacey! Let’s come inside we need to unpack our things.”

I can’t contain my excitement, there will be two little girls living right next door to me! My neighborhood is filled with annoying middle school boys that constantly ride their bikes and scooters, thinking they own the block. My mind is spinning with the possibilities of having girls to play with. My mind whirls at the thought of all the things we might be able to do together when we get older... Lemonade stands, playing on the swings in the park and watching all the Disney princess movies. I’m still imagining what could be in the future when I realize I can’t feel my fingers and need to return to the warmth of my house.

A blast of hot air hits my face as I step inside, I quickly slide off my boots onto the mat to ensure none of the clumps of snow stuck on my sock fall onto the wooden floor. Trembling with anticipation, I rush to share the good news with my mother. After filling her in about the new family next door, I return to my dreaded multiplication and try to ignore all the thoughts of my new friends.

12x11….?

Tap, tap, tap.


 

A few days later managing to find some free time after finishing all of my homework, I bake soft and chewy sugar cookies for our new neighbors to welcome them. It’s quiet in my house today, with no one home but my dog. All I can hear is the creepy sound of the wind blowing through the trees so I shuffle my best iTunes playlist and turn the volume up. The rhythm of the Katy Perry song plays while I decorate the golden brown cookies with classic red and green Christmas sprinkles. I occasionally slip some fallen icing into my mouth. Delicious.

By the time the dozen cookies were ready and the playlist was over, my mouth and teeth are purple and my stomach is aching. I rip a small paper towel off the rack and soak it with warm water to scrub my mouth hoping that the dye goes away.

When I’m satisfied, I slide the cookies onto a plate and head towards the door while making sure the cookies don’t slip.

As I reach the end of the driveway, I turn my head both ways like my mom has always taught me. Satisfied no cars are approaching, I rapidly run across the road. Suddenly, I stand before a bright red door and search for a doorbell. Baffled that there isn’t one, I quickly knock on the wood and backup to wait for a response.

After what seems like forever, the door gradually opens and I see hundreds of boxes and bubble wrap everywhere.

“Hi! My name is Logan I’m your next door neighbor! I baked you these cookies to welcome you here!” No response.

Curiously, I look down and see a little girl laughing when I focus on her sparkling bright blue eyes. She nervously runs away and shyly returns pulling onto a woman draped in a cashmere blue sweater. Repeating what I had said previously, the woman gladly takes the cookies, thanks me for my generosity and introduces herself.

“I’m Mrs. Tempa but please, call me Gene. So nice to meet you!”

We talk for a few more minutes until a loud screech causes us both to gasp. She apologizes and runs to her other daughter who’s lying face down on the floor. Mrs. Tempa suddenly drops my beautiful cookies onto the floor while they fall and break into a mixture of crumbs and sprinkles. I cringe in horror and lower my eyebrows in disbelief with what just took place. Still stunned, I quickly say my goodbyes and race home leaving their door ajar.

Trying hard to keep my emotions under control, I return home with my head down and eyes teary. I unlock the door using my extra key and then shut it behind me once I’m inside. When I return to the mess I’ve left in the kitchen, I look up at the metal cooling rack with only 3 lone cookies and a few broken pieces on the tray. I rip a cookie in half, stuff it in my face and grab the phone desperate to share the disaster. Ring, ring, ring, ring.

“Hello?” says a puzzled voice.

“Hi, Mom, it's Logan. When will you be home?”

“I’m still doing errands, what’s wrong?”

Afraid to tell my mom the truth, I ignore the sad feeling in my heart and assure her everything is fine and we hang up. My now cold cookie is all in my stomach and I slump my head on the couch and listen again to the sound of the wind moving through the bare branches on the trees.

 

---------

 

“Logan! Get downstairs and finish your algebra and social studies homework! NOW!”

As I roll my eyes and gradually lift up my cozy, warm sheets so that my mom won’t be annoyed with me for taking a nap after my tiring day at school. My backpack is heavy with textbooks as I make my way down the stairs to attempt to complete all the assignments that are due for the the dreaded A day.

Suddenly I realize how quiet yet depressing the house is with Brady and Maddy back at college. I close my eyes and almost fall asleep again before I hear the noise of my mom walking down the hall. My Chromebook is calling me and I log on to Miss Boehm’s algebra website.

“Logan!!” Mom yells again. She is very annoyed with me despite my busy schedule with school and sports.

“Yes, Mom?”

Silently, she hands me her phone and I grab it curious to see what she has to share. There is a text message our neighbor, Gena Tempa. Glancing at the message, I look up to see my mom smiling pleadingly.

“Mom, you know I can’t babysit with all this lacrosse and soccer going on. I won’t have time for homework!”

“Logan, you need money and it will be a good experience as an eighth grader to start babysitting besides, Lilly and Lacey love you!”

Ugh. Sigh. I reluctantly hand back the phone to my mom.

“I guess it would be a good idea to start being responsible plus, it would be nice to have some spending money.”

My mom’s face breaks into a smile from ear to ear and I can see the extreme pride in her eyes. As I prepare to complete my homework, I glance out the window seeing the beauty of the fall colors and watch the Tempa’s outside jumping in the crisp autumn leaves. While putting my pencil down, I smile to myself listening to all the laughter which mirrored my excitement for my new job.


 

Click, click, click is the only sound that plays over and over tonight. My fingers stop typing and I look at the clock at the bottom corner of the screen. 10:57 pm. Saturday, December 20th, 2015. Aggressively, I tap the reminders application on my iPhone and name it “Babysitting” for 3 pm. The need for a deep sleep is calling me so I put away my phone and close my Chromebook deciding it’s time to go to bed. As my eyes start to shut, I think about all the things I have to do the next day.

The next day arrives as the bright sun shines on my face when I wake up at 7 am for school. I groan while stomping my feet towards the bathroom and then complete my usual repetitive morning routine. Later, when I return home at 2:45, the house is quiet, not even our dog Coki makes a peep. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. My phone starts vibrating on the wooden coffee table next to me. I slide my laptop off my warm lap and lift the blanket to see what the interrupting sound was.

“Babysitting” is the only thing I need to see as I lean back on the comfy couch and groan. Multitasking, I grab a sweatshirt off the couch and a snack for the long night ahead of me with my papers in my hand. As I travel next door I realize there is snow on the ground just like the first time I knocked on their wooden red door. Distant memories appear in my head as I keep walking up the Tempa's front path and notice that all the Little Tikes riding toys are no longer scattered on their front porch. As I tap my knuckles on the familiar red door, I hear screams of laughter coming from inside which abruptly makes me grin.

My eyes widen when the door opens and before me is a seven year old boy dressed in a plaid button down and khaki pants. There is something familiar about this boy who giggles and tugs my arm as he pulls me inside. Gone are the toddler toys all around the house that I remember from five years ago. The sound of laughter fills the air when Mrs. Tempa turns the corner and greets me with the look of relief and happiness on her face. She gives me a warm hug and then pats her hands on her two kids heads causing them to grimace while they attempt to smooth their hair back down. My face erupts into a soft smile as I hand over a gift bag of something I had personally selected for the kids as a small Christmas present. This scene reminds me of the Christmas five years ago when I delivered them the homemade sugar cookies which ended up broken on their floor. She gladly accepts just before her kids grab the bag and scream with laughter as they rip apart the wrapping paper and pull out their favorite bedtime stories. They stand up and their arms embrace me with gratitude but suddenly I am confused as to why there is a boy by my feet. Where is Lacey? This makes no sense. Before I can utter a word Mrs. Tempa sees the confusion in my eyes and taps my arm and walks me over to the door. In a serious tone, she starts to tell me about Lacey’s transition into a boy. My head starts spinning in a hundred different directions when she informs me that Lacey is no longer referred to as a girl and is now called Luke. She senses my disbelief and repeatedly says she understands if I am feeling confused and upset. Rather than having time to process everything, I compose myself and return to Luke and Lilly on the ground excited to share their new books.

 

After I finally get the two troublemaking kids to stop playing with wrapping paper, we slow down and slump our bodies on the leather couch. I reach for the television remote and turn on Disney Channel on the flat screen TV. Surprisingly, they still have energy and want to play with their dolls on the floor. My body leans forward as I sit up just a little so I have a better view of the mess they are making. I take my eyes off the screen when I notice that Luke is no longer playing with her beloved princess doll, Bella, that I gave her for Christmas in 2013. My mind is so aghast by what I have seen that I stand up off and walk over and sit down next to Luke. Luke is engrossed in playing with his Lego pirate ship that he barely notices I am watching him intently.

“Where’s your princess doll Bella, Luke?” He stops to lift his big blue eyes to look up at me.

Immediately, he rolls his eyes and replies, “I don’t play with princesses anymore. I like pirates better now.”

Saddened by what I have heard, I quickly run out to the garage so that the kids don’t see my eyes start to water. As I step into the cold air, I look down to see a plastic toy bin hidden behind the door. Curiously, I pull it out to discover the princess I had given Luke three years ago torn and broken lying with other discarded toys. Gently, I place the doll on the ground and slowly look through the rest of the bin. I keep pulling out more and more pink dolls and frilly dress-up clothes that are stuffed at the bottom with dirt and grass stains.

When I hear the door knob start to jiggle, I quickly throw everything back into the crate and rush over to the fridge to make it seem like I am searching for a water. Luke startles me and I try to remain calm, despite that I am sad his once favorite doll is thrown into a heap of garbage. Luke senses my emotions and he walks over and puts his tiny arms around my waist. Tears start to return to my eyes when I feel his now short hair up prickle against my stomach. A tear drop falls from the corner of my eye and drips onto his cheek. Silently, I look down to find his face wet with tears and buried into my stomach. I tap his head and slightly move it back just enough so I can see his face. His cheeks are red and his long black eyelashes are stuck together with tears. My legs bend down to his height and I tell him it’s ok, that I understand. He wraps his small fingers around my hand and we walk  inside together. In a flash he smiles, as he returns to join his laughing sister.


 

Three hours later, Mrs. and Mr. Tempa return from their night out on the town. It's around 10 pm and Luke and Lacey are tucked up in bed. I’m half asleep on the couch watching Food Network after being sick of watching cartoon animals all night.

Startled, I jump up off the couch turn off the TV. Mrs. and Mr. Tempa walk through the door to greet me. Mr. Tempa asks me how the girls were and immediately Mrs. Tempa corrects him to say, girls AND guys.

Shocked by the greeting, I ignore the correction and reply with a smile and a “great!”

They grin and then Mrs. Tempa pulls an envelope out of her purse, hands it out to me and they both say their thank yous. As I wave goodbye, I slowly walk out the door into the dark foggy night.

Carefully, I make my way down the stairs making sure not to slip from all the rain. I take out my phone and click the flashlight button when I realize how dark it is. Making my way slowly, I walk down the driveway and turn my head left and right before returning to my house. I reach for the door and walk in, hearing the loud sound of a football game and laughter coming from my sister.

After a long and tiring night, I am grateful to see the scene of my mom, dad and sister standing around the kitchen table. A smile appears on my dad’s face when I walk towards him and lean down to give him a hug to ask him how his day at work went. He replies with just a groan. As I turn back, from the corner of my eye I see my mom standing at the kitchen island at the sink washing the dishes.

Just like my dad, she looks up when I walk up two steps to enter the kitchen. She slowly turns the water down and puts the dishes down in the sink as she wipes her hands on a paper towel. I walk towards her and she gives a big hug and a squeeze without even having to ask me how it went.

While still in our hug, she whispers “I want you to know how proud I am of you for doing this job. I understand how difficult it must be for you.” For the second time tonight, my eyes start to get watery and a drop of water falls from my face onto my mom's shirt. I pull away from my mom and look up at her face to see a slight smile appear. Wiping away the water off my cheeks and chin, my mom touches my arm signaling me to look up to what she was folding in front of me.

My eyes focus and look closer to see a shiny piece of paper crumpled up in her palm. She lifts it to me and I slowly remove it from her hand. I unfold the picture and see three little girls sitting on a porch in front of a big red door. The three girls smiling in the photo include me, Lilly and Lacey. I look up at my mom and smile, folding the picture into my pocket knowing I’ll treasure it forever.

 

Around every two weeks, I see my an iMessage from Gena Tempa, asking specifically for certain days and times that I am free to come over and watch the kids. The sight of the message just makes my head spin and my world whirl. I always reply with a yes but with a sigh, for I know how stiff and blundering it will feel sitting there and watching Luke no longer play with my toys.

Immediately, I close out the notification when she replies “Great! Luke can’t wait to see you!” because I can’t handle the feeling in my stomach.

The thoughts of her before he was him, as she ran up to me and dragged me to her room and showed me her new collection of princesses keeps running through my head like a distant memory. The confusing past was a constant reminder every time the day of seeing the Tempa’s started approaching.

Suddenly, on just one day, everything had changed. Today was the day before my eighth time babysitting them and my mom came home while I was silently watching Netflix on my laptop. My head jerks up from my screen when I heard her foot creak as she walks onto the wooden floor in my room. She walks up behind me and rubs her hand against my back. As my computer screen starts to dim, I turn my body towards her to get a better view of her face.

“Mrs. Tempa and I met today to talk about Luke, and she thinks it’s best if you come over today to see him.” My mom quietly announces. “I know you think he may be different now, but is still the same inside and I strongly suggest you consider talking to him.”

My face turns red and my eyebrows narrow as I avoid looking at my mother and exclaim I am seeing them tomorrow. My eyes return to the screen when I think about losing my only free time this week to relax. Her eyes turn watery and she looks down now telling me that I have no choice.

After what seems like only a few seconds,  I am now looking down at my feet stepping over each stone on their walk. As I’m watching each foot carefully, I realize what I have done. My hands get clammy and sweaty and my stomach starts to curl before placing my hand on the door. As the door starts to creak open, I look straight with my posture up. My eyes widen for I see no one there, my head then slowly moves down to see Luke standing below me, wrapped around my legs.

I bend down and put my arms around him awkwardly acting like everything is ok. Then, I pull away and see his eyes are red and watery. That’s when it hits me. My eyes see the face of Lacey still in Luke, even with short hair and a button down on, he's still the same. The big blue eyes are staring at me as I watch his long eyelashes hit his cheeks when he blinks. I still smiling at the sight of the one little freckle right below his lip. It doesn’t matter whether he's a girl or a boy, Luke is still the same person I knew and loved before and that’s all that matters. As I realize this, I jump back into his arms. As I close my eyes, I recognize and that my mom was right.

 

It is now Fall of 2016, my first year of high school. I sigh and complain about all the soccer practices, games and all the new stress of grades and homework. Although there is barely enough time in my packed schedule, I manage to fit in babysitting for the Tempas every now and then.

It’s a Saturday morning as I wake up to the sound of an island song alarm filling my room and the whole house. Without opening my eyes, I slump my arm on my dresser and slide my phone onto my bed and click the lock button. The bright screen hurts my eyes and then see the time, 8:36 am. My eyes pop open and I shove my sheets off of me and run into the bathroom.

In a speedily 7 minutes, I’m downstairs dressed in Morristown Soccer tee shirt and black shorts as I see my mom standing behind the kitchen counter as I hop up the stairs.

“Ready?” she asks.

As she shuts the Today show off the TV, we escape from the sweet smell of pancakes on the stove and cinnamon buns in the oven. As we head out the door, I realize it’s not imperative to wear a jacket, my favorite types of days. I shove open the car door and we head to ShopRite as I see my team already starting their service hours.

After 2 hours of hard work, my team and I head to the store's bathroom to change into pink to support breast cancer awareness month.

When we arrive at the high school, all we see is a huge sea of pink standing on the bleachers supporting the team. My mind fills with happiness at the sniff of burning grills and the sound of people screaming for the colonials. I look at my friends around me and laugh as we walk over towards the field.

Halfway through the game, we are losing by a mass amount and almost half the crowd has left. As I start to turn to walk down the bleachers, I abruptly feel the buzzing of my phone in my pocket. I pull my phone out and immediately slide my finger across the screen. Expeditiously, I rush down the stairs after ending the call quickly give my friends a hug and say goodbye.

Remarkably enough, my heart is still filled with the same happiness I felt when I walked in with all my friends as we pull away from the loud noise and smell of burnt cheeseburgers. Although I am leaving all the fun behind, I know I am headed towards an amusing rest of my day. A familiar anxious feeling in my stomach returns when my mom pulls up into their driveway and I see two little faces sticking to the big window aside the door. Before I know it, I am out the car and running towards the small gray house in front of me. As I get closer towards the house, I smile when I again see tiny blue eyes watching my every move. They scurry away once I get close to the door and start to screech when the door opens. I bend down on my knees and let the little boy and little girl run up and squeeze their bodies around mine. Then, I look up and see Mrs. Tempa laughing along with us as she's decked out in jewelry and a beautiful black dress. My hands grab both kids tiny fingers and walk them in as I see Mr. Tempa walk behind Mrs. Tempa and put his arm around her back. Just like Luke and Lilly, I give the Tempas a hug and say hello from not seeing them in almost over six months. Luke and Lilly get bored from our conversation of dinner and bedtime so they run towards their box of toys. I glance away from Mrs. Tempa fast enough to see in the corner of my eye the two of them playing adequately together even though Luke has pirates and Lilly has princesses all around her. I turn back to see Mrs. Tempa looking as well and when she turns back, we look each other in the eyes and smile. The parents leave for their birthday party and I spend my whole night laughing, having fun and not regretting any minute of it.

The clock suddenly reads 8:30 so we quickly rush up the stairs, get their teeth brushed and head into bed. I spend 15 minutes just trying to get the kids to stop bouncing off the walls even though we were having so much fun. Just like every night, I turn the lights out, turn on their speaker playing lullabies and rub their backs as they fall asleep. I lay my body up next to them as they start to close their eyes and pull their Frozen movie blankets over them. Suddenly, I find I am watching as their eyelashes gently lay on their faces. When their eyes close, I pray that nothing imperfect will ever happen to the kids dreaming beside me.

After two songs are over, I slowly move my hands to a stop and give each of them a tight hug, even though I know they are fast asleep.

 

The warm weather is gone and the depressing, gray skies have returned. The dreadful feeling of the harsh air hits my dry, cracked face as I walk outside. The cold feeling all over my body makes my mouth drop straight and force my arms to fold around my waist to keep me warm.

Suddenly as I start to see the shape of a boy waiting at the top of my driveway, the thought of sadness and exhaust slips out of my mind completely. I walk up behind him and surprise him with a hug. He laughs when he knows it’s me by the sound of my laugh and turns around to see my face. He is now so tall, I don’t need to bend down to reach his height. Luke is wearing a fancy polo collared shirt with khaki shorts for his first day of fifth grade. As I look up at his house in the distance, the mirror thought of first walking up when all the moving vans and scattered toys covered their lawn returns to my mind. My heart fills with happiness when I realize all that has changed since that moment when I saw two girls playing in the snow. My mind focuses back to the boy standing in front of me but he then quickly jerks away from me when he hears his best friend Nolan coming up the hill and walks towards him.

I see Luke laughing with a boy, who doesn’t judge him for who he is. The sight of this realization always crosses my mind and affects the way I treat other people. I no longer conclude someone’s personality by who they are or what they look like. Luke taught me this and I am grateful for it every day. Although this journey was very difficult for me to understand and accept at first, I know it was even harder for Luke and still is. Continually, I see them at least every month and they both have helped me understand who I am as a person today. I have and always will accept him.

 


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