A/N: You have no idea how sorry I am for pretty much taking a month longer than I had originally told you I would update. Life has just been crazy lately, but I finally got some time to edit this and get it posted.
Unfortunately, this is the last chapter. I debated with myself for a long time whether or not I should write an epilogue like I planned, but I just didn't think it was needed and I preferred ending it this way. I hope you agree!
I just want to thank everyone who reviewed and read my story. It means a lot to me!
Chapter Seven: Together Again
"K-Keith?" I whispered. I couldn't believe that he was sitting right next to me. I had so many things I wanted to say to him, but right now I couldn't get any words to come out.
"Cat got your tongue, partner?" Keith chuckled.
"It's really you, isn't it?" I finally managed to choke out, even if my voice held doubt.
"I'd sure hope so, because if it's not, then there's some person out there impersonating me, and that's just plain creepy. Especially, since I'm dead."
At these words, I knew that it was Keith. I couldn't explain why I knew; I just did. At my sudden revelation, my momentary surprise vanished and extreme happiness flooded through me.
I could only do one thing—I flung myself at him.
But all I felt was air. Cold air.
Pulling back quickly, I glanced into Keith's eyes, trying to read them, hoping they held the answer, like books always do, but they didn't. His gaze only held a mixture of sadness and of worry. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice cracking.
"W-why can't—" I began, but he placed his index finger against my lips to silence me.
His finger was solid and soft and warm. So perfectly warm.
"I don't understand," I breathed against his finger.
He lowered his finger slowly, his mouth opening and closing as he tried to form what he wanted to say. "It's-it's not suppose to make sense…" As he struggled to finish his sentence, I looked down at his hand, which was now resting against his thigh.
I couldn't resist and softly touched his hand; it felt just as warm and soft as before. It looked and felt so human that I could barely process that fact that he wasn't really alive. When I looked back up to him, he stared into my eyes; his eyes which were just as green as I had always remembered.
"So," I whispered, "I-I can only touch your hands?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Some things, Natalie, will never have answers."
"Keith…why are you here?"
"Do you not want me here?" he asked. My heart sank to my stomach as I heard the apprehension in his voice.
"Why wouldn't I want you?" I gently squeezed his hand, reassuring him.
A small smile graced his face as he said, "It's not everyday that someone's dead boyfriend comes back as a ghost." His smile got larger at that.
"Ghost? That's what you are?"
"I suppose," he answered. "Although, I'm not really transparent or whatever people expect ghosts to look like. "
And he didn't. He looked just like he was alive. He looked solid, his eyes were shining, and his cheeks had a tinge of pink to them. He was wearing clothes that I remembered as his favorite: his gray t-shirt, his blue pants with holes in the knees, and his high-top Converse.
He was silent as I glanced him over. "It really was you whispering my name and leaving those roses all along, wasn't it?"
He grinned, his famous grin at that. "Yup."
"Why didn't you appear sooner?" I asked, wanting to add: instead you watched me grieve.
"I couldn't," he whispered, his voice full of hurt and sadness.
"It's complicated," he started. "I didn't just appear because I felt like it. I've wanted to be with you since day one, partner, but the thing was you had to believe it was me."
"And tonight I finally did." I smiled, remembering how just minutes ago I had admitted what I had hoped for so long: that Keith was here, with me. I scooted closer to him; I wished so much that I could just lean up against him. "Is that the only reason you're here?"
He shook his head. "No. You see, Natalie, I'm here because we need a proper goodbye, and, well…I also need—"
"Oh." I looked down at his hands, cutting him off. "Do we have to do it now?" I didn't want to have to say goodbye now—he had just gotten here. "Say goodbye, I mean?"
"No, we have a while."
"Just tonight. After that, partner, I gotta go."
"Yeah, forever." He looked so incredibly sad at this. "I'm sorry."
If we only had one more night left with each other, I wasn't going to spend it being depressed, or thinking about the future and how I would have to go back to living my life without him; instead, I was going to spend our remaining time together happy. "What do you want to do?"
Twenty minutes later, I followed Keith as we walked up his driveway. Suddenly, I grabbed his hand, stopping him. He looked at me expectantly. "Are you sure," I started hesitantly, "that you want to do this?"
"Do what?" he asked.
I kept my anger in check, even though I knew he knew what I was asking. "To see your dad. I just want to make sure that you're ready for this." I could see the expression on his face begin to turn angry, and I quickly tried to finish what I was trying to say. "I just don't want you to get upset at seeing your dad."
"It's fine," he said. There was a touch of anger in his voice and I knew he was trying hard not to get mad at me. "Look," he suddenly added, "if-if you were in my shoes, wouldn't you want to see your family one last time?"
I thought about his question for a few seconds. What if I had died and was lucky enough to see my mom, Dad, Cynthia, and Zach again?
Would I do it?
"Absolutely," I told him.
"It'll be fine," said Keith as we reached his front door.
I hoped I could believe him.
Just as I went to knock on the door, a though suddenly occurred to me. "Will," I whispered, "he be able to—"
"To see me?" interrupted Keith.
Keith sadly shook his head. "No, he won't."
"O-Okay. Just signal to me when you want to leave."
"All right, partner."
At this, I lifted my hand and knocked on the door and we both waited for Henry to answer.
A few seconds passed and as soon as Henry opened the door Keith visibly flinched. "Natalie," smiled Henry. "How're you?"
"Is something wrong with Honeybun?" he asked, glancing over me to where Honeybun sat parked at the end of the driveway.
"No, she's great. I just stopped by…to see how you were doing."
Sadness crossed his face. "I'm doing all right…I was hoping cleaning his room out would help me move on more than it did."
"I know what you mean," I whispered.
"Would you like to come in?" he asked.
Keith nodded. "Sure," I smiled.
Once I made sure Keith had followed me inside, I glanced around the living room. I had been here a few days ago, but there was something that looked different. It took me a moment to notice that there was a bunch of new pictures of Keith lying around. Keith seemed to notice too, and followed me around the living room looking at the pictures Henry had put up—there were pictures of Keith in all ages; I smirked when I saw the picture of Keith with his Creepy Crawler toy.
"You've been busy, Henry," I said, turning around to glance at him.
He shrugged, looking as if he was debating something before he said, "I wanna show you something."
I followed him into the kitchen. Covered on the kitchen table were stacks of pictures—all of Keith. "Oh my God, Henry, this is amazing," I said, realizing what he was doing with all of these pictures. He was scrapbooking.
He smiled at me, before excitement took over and he sat down on one of the chairs and started showing me some pages he had already done. "After we found all of those pictures, I spent all night looking at them, and then I remembered how Sandra always loved to make scrapbooks. And once I got the thought of making one of Keith, I couldn't stop—I went and made copies of the pictures, bought all of this stuff, and haven't really stopped." He laughed then—a real laugh. One that shook the room and flooded through me, making me want to laugh too.
I picked up the first page he had made—which was just a compilation of different aged Keiths. With Keith's full name, birthday, and day he died. "Henry, this is beautiful. I'm sure—I know Keith would love that you're doing this."
At this, Henry chuckled. "If Keith saw that I was doing this, he'd probably take the pages, tear them up, and tell me to never ever do anything this girly again." I laughed along with him, knowing that if Keith was still alive, he probably would do just as Henry said.
It was then that I remembered Keith was actually here, standing next to me, hearing and seeing everything. When I glanced up at him, his gaze was on the scrapbook page I held in my hand; by the glassiness of his eyes I knew this had been a bad idea.
I hastily put the page down, hoping it'd break Keith's stream of thoughts, but instead he only glanced over at Henry and really looked at him.
"Natalie?" spoke up Henry. "Are you all right?"
I nodded, turning my attention back to him. "Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, I was just thinking about…him."
"It seems that's all I do," whispered Henry, his voice was full of so much pain, I just wanted to hug him. He trailed his fingers over a picture of Keith. "I thought this would get easier, Natalie. I really did. But it just gets harder and harder. I want my son back."
At this, we both jumped as the front door slammed open. Henry got up quickly, running to close the door. "Must've not closed the door the whole way. Damn wind."
I knew it wasn't the wind that had caused the door to open; it had been Keith, who was now nowhere in sight.
I hastily made an excuse that I had to get home to make dinner, leaving Henry to continue making his scrapbook. As I walked out of the front door, I glanced around wondering where Keith had gone, and hoping he hadn't left me for good.
He wasn't in Honeybun, like I had hoped. Instead, I found him in the tiny shed in his backyard. I probably wouldn't have found him if it wasn't for the crashing noises I heard coming from inside first.
When I opened the door, I found Keith throwing random items against the wall. "Keith!" I hissed, making sure I didn't scream. I didn't want Henry to hear me; although, with Keith throwing things against the wall I was surprised he hadn't come outside to check on the noise already . "Please stop!" He didn't seem to hear me, or was ignoring me, as he picked up a box of tools and flung them next. "Keith, stop!" I said again, running up to him and grabbing both of his hand before he could do anymore damage.
He didn't try to fight me like I had expected; instead, he collapsed on the ground, his shoulders shaking with sobs. "Shh…it's all right, Keith. Shh…" I wanted more than anything to be able to hug him, but I could only whisper comforting words that I didn't think helped much anyway.
"It's-It's not all right," he said, his voice muffled, and he kept his face downcast, as if he was ashamed that he was crying. "It's just not." He lifted his head a little, but wouldn't look at me. "You-you were right. I-I shouldn't have gone to see him. I should've listened to you."
At this, he glanced up to look at me, and streaming down his face were tears, but they weren't normal tears—the kind of tears I had been so used to seeing recently.
Instead of the tears that everyone cried, Keith's, as they slid down his cheeks, they sparkled so brilliantly that they rivaled diamonds. How could his tears, which were expressing so much of his pain, be so strangely beautiful?
I couldn't help but stare at his strange tears. As soon as one would slide down his cheek, it disappeared before it landed on the ground, as if it had never been there. Almost like a shooting star, they came and disappeared in a matter of seconds.
"Why-why are you looking at me like that?" asked Keith between his tears.
"It's just," I started. Here I was, starting at his tears, when I should be comforting him, "your tears…they're beautiful." I hadn't meant to say it, but it was like there was something pressing me to say how beautiful they were. Once I said the word 'tears' shame seemed to cross his face and I instantly regretted bringing it up.
"I didn't mean to cry. It's stupid, I know." He hastily tried to wipe away his tears, but more kept on coming.
"It's not stupid, Keith. Far from stupid. I'm sorry…"
"It's fine," he said, "just another obvious thing to remind myself and you that I'm not alive anymore. That I can't be here. Natalie," he stopped to compose himself, "Dad, he looked so sad. Like…I can't even explain it. He's not supposed to be like this."
"Sweetie," I said, "he'll be okay; he's still grieving, but-but you just have to give him time."
Why was it that I believed Henry could move on, but not me? I felt like I would never move on; that I would never love anyone like I loved—love—Keith.
"He's lonely," said Keith.
"Yeah, he is," I frowned. And it was true; Henry was lonely. At least I had my parents and friends, but who did Henry have? "I'm sure someday, Keith, he'll find someone that will take his loneliness away…at least a little. But he'll always miss you."
"Will you promise me something, partner?" he asked.
I hesitantly nodded. I wasn't sure I should be promising him anything. It was obvious I hadn't done that good of a job making sure Henry was okay. "Sure."
"Can you promise me, that someday, you'll find something that won't make him so lonely?"
At the look he was giving me, the only thing I could do was say, "Yes."
After Keith had calmed down and we cleaned up the shed, we got back into Honeybun and I drove down roads that weren't familiar to me, but were to Keith. Twenty minutes later he had me stop in the parking lot near a park.
"Dad and Mom used to take me here all the time when I was little," he said.
"Really?" I asked. I have never seen the park before and took a few seconds to observe it. There was a slide, monkey bars, and some swings.
"You wanna get out?" asked Keith.
"Let's go." I tried to run fast enough to catch up to him, but he was too excited and too fast, and by the time I caught up to him he was already walking on top of the monkey bars. On top of them.
"What're you doing?" I called as he walked quickly back and forth.
"Walkin'on monkey bars. It's kind of obvious, don't you think?"
He could still irritate me; I didn't know whether or not to smile at this. So I did anyway, before I yelled, "Get down from there!"
He stopped suddenly, and before I could process what he was doing, he was hanging off one of the bars with only his legs supporting him.
I walked as close as possible to him. Our eyes were staring directly into each other's. "You know," he started, "even if I fell, it's not like it would do anything. If you forgot, partner, I'm kind of already dead."
"Always the joke."
He smirked at this, but I could see a sadness that he was trying to cover up. As his smirk faded, his green eyes seemed to bore into me. It felt like he could read all of my secrets and I wondered if maybe he could.
"I wish I could kiss you," he whispered. He lifted his hand to the side of my face and left it there. Even though his hand felt like ice, I made no move (nor did I want to) to pull away.
"You have no idea," I said.
He kept his hand there for a few more minutes, almost as if he was trying to memorize something, before he let go of the bar and landed on the ground. As he got up, he grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the swings.
I got on one, expecting Keith to do the same, but instead he stood behind me and began pushing me.
"You know," I started, "it would probably freak people out if they walked by and saw me moving in the swing without doing anything."
Keith chuckled at this and in that moment, I remembered how much I loved his laugh and how much I missed it.
"So, why is it that I can only touch your hands, but you can touch everything else? Like the monkey bars and the car and door handles?"
He continued to push me, but didn't say anything for the longest while. "I already told you, partner, there aren't answers to everything. Plus, to tell you the truth, I really don't know why."
"It just doesn't seem fair."
At my statement, Keith halted his pushing and said quietly, "As you and I both know, Natalie, life isn't fair. But part of me thinks the only reason you can touch my hands is because if you could hug me and…you know, kiss me, you'd become too attached. Maybe it's just a way to prevent that."
I turned around in my swing to look at him. "But I'm already attached."
"I know." He smiled sadly. "But, maybe, just maybe, if we could do those other things…like hug, you wouldn't ever let me go. You need to let me go. I need to let you go," he whispered.
As much as I didn't want to admit it, his words did make sense. What if I could hug him and do everything I use to be able to do with him? Like rest my head on his chest and kiss his soft lips…then, when he disappeared again, this time forever, it would feel like I had lost him all over again. "I understand."
I turned back around, and he started pushing me again. "Why did you take me here?" I asked.
"I just figured if I only have one night left, I want to visit the places that I'll miss the most. I didn't really have time to do that since I was so sick."
"Where to next?" I asked, not wanting to remember the horrible time when he was sick. It would be awhile before I would be able to talk about it and not get so upset.
He stopped pushing and stepped around the swing so he was facing me; he placed both hands on the chains of the swing set, before leaning close to me. "We are going to go where Honeybun was born."
Keith took me to his friend, Andy's, shop.
"Did you and Henry come here a lot?" I asked, sensing this was more of the reason why it was one of the places he'd miss the most than rather where he had built his beloved truck.
"Oh yeah," he said, as he carefully and quietly lifted one of the garage doors a few feet above the ground before beckoning me to follow him. "We spent a whole summer here a few years ago," he told me as I crawled underneath the garage door.
"Sounds like fun," I said, as I stood up, and began dusting myself off.
"It was," he beamed. "Plus, it was almost a way for Dad and I to grieve for Mom's death."
"That must've been hard."
He looked around the room before saying, "Yeah, it was." He picked it up some random truck part, glancing at it for a few seconds, before turning back around to face me. "You know the reason I love my truck so much?"
"Because, she's made of all these," he said, showing me the part.
"Aren't all trucks made out of parts?" I laughed, taking the part from him; I couldn't distinguish what it was.
"No," he said, averting his eyes to the ground, "because she's made out of all spare parts. So many people think that everything needs to be perfect, that everything needs to be new and have no flaws, but I think that's what makes life so special. Flaws. And Honeybun, she has flaws. She's not perfect." He looked a bit ashamed at his deep confession. "It's stupid, I know."
"It's not stupid," I said. "I just think someone's in love," I added, trying to add some humor to the moment.
He smiled at that. "All guys love their cars, partner."
"Just not as much as you."
At this, he looked directly into my eyes and said, "Of course not," and I wondered if we were still talking about trucks still…or something else.
Keith stared at me for a few more moments before he began walking around the tiny garage that he and his dad had spent so much time. I watched him silently and he would, every so often, pick up a spare part or tool that I assumed triggered some special memory; I felt like I was interrupting an incredibly private moment of his.
As I stood back, letting Keith wander around the small room, I reminisced about the first time Keith took me here. In the beginning, I just thought he was some weird truck geek, but it didn't take long for that to change. I tried to think back to the time when I had started to fall for him, and suspected it was very soon after he had taken me to Andy's.
After awhile I walked up to him quietly, grabbing his hand in mine before asking, "What're you thinking about?"
"Everything," he sighed.
"You want to share everything with me?"
He turned to look at me, taking his free hand and placing a loose piece of hair behind my ear before answering, "Okay." I waited expectantly for him to start confessing. "I just—I thought this would be so much easier. I've been watching you and Dad since…you know. And all I hoped for was you."
"Me?" I asked, a tiny bit confused.
"Yeah," he smiled. "I hoped with everything that I had that you would believe that it was me saying your name, me leaving those roses. You were all the hope I had to be able to come back, one last time, and really to have the chance to say goodbye.
"But now…it's so much harder. Everything I see...do…It's just so hard. Now that I'm here, I don't want to leave you or my dad or that stupid playground or this stupid garage. I just want to stay."
I took in a shaky breath at his words, knowing what I wanted to say, but knowing what I needed to say. "Keith, you gotta say goodbye. We have to say goodbye."
He took in a shaky breath as well. "I know." He faced me. "Wanna go back to our spot?"
I knew why he requested it; it was time for us to say goodbye soon. "Yeah, let's go to our spot."
When we arrived at our spot neither of us spoke, we just sat as close as possible to each other staring out of Honeybun's front window.
"It's crazy how fast time flies," Keith spoke up after a few minutes, his voice cutting through the silence like a blade, startling me.
"Yeah, I know," I responded. It seemed like it had been only a few minutes since Keith had appeared but truthfully, it had been hours. "Why is it that times goes slowly when you don't want it to, but fast when you don't?" I turned to look at Keith, as if he had all the answers.
"Maybe that's what makes life so special and interesting, partner." He smirked at me and added, "What's with all these deep questions tonight?"
"I don't know," I answered, but to myself I wondered if maybe the reason why I kept asking him these questions was because I expected that he would know the answer, now that he was…
Keith gave me one of his famous lopsided grins at that, and I tried to memorize it; memorize the way it was only a grin that he could produce and how it made his eyes shine like it was Christmas morning. I tried not to dwell on the fact that this was probably the last time I would see it for real. Any time after now would rest solely on the remembrance through pictures. "Partner," Keith spoke up again. "You want to stand outside? I just want to look out at the view…you know…"
"One last time?" I finished for him.
I followed him out of the truck and he stood as close to the edge of the cliff as possible. If I didn't trust him so much, I probably would've stood a few feet behind him. But I did trust him. I grabbed Keith's hand before glancing down at the lake. I hadn't realized how far down it really was; a flood of fear coursed through me, and I thought back to a few hours ago, wondering if I would've ever stopped the truck in time. I liked to think so.
"Keith," I suddenly spoke up. "I-I was wondering…there's something that's been bothering me and—and I was just wondering if maybe…"
I was momentarily caught off guard that he hadn't made a sarcastic comment at my obvious inability to ask what I wanted to. I figured that he could tell what I was trying to ask was serious. "Was it painful?"
"Painful?" he asked, but before I could clarify, understanding crossed his features and he said in a low voice, "You mean, death? Dying?"
I only nodded, not trusting myself to speak. He was silent for a while before he finally said, "No, it wasn't."
"You're not lying, are you?" I had to make absolutely sure that he was telling the truth. He shook his head. "What was it like, then?"
"I-I'm not really sure how to describe it," he started. "It was almost like this immense relief. I-I finally felt normal. I didn't feel sick. I felt good. Healthy. It was just this incredible feeling."
"I worried about it all the time," I said. "That you had been in pain, and I hadn't been there."
"I promise you, it wasn't painful."
He gave me a soft smile. "We have to say goodbye now, don't we?" My voice cracked.
"We need to say goodbye now." He looked so sad at this, and I was sure I had the same expression gracing my face. "Partner, I want you to listen to me, okay?" I nodded, not taking my gaze away from his. "I-I came back because you—we—needed a proper goodbye, but there's also something else I came to take away."
He took a deep breath, before saying, "Your guilt."
"Guilt? What do you mean guilt?"
"You know what I'm talking about. Your guilt about not being there…the night I died."
"Oh," I said in a tiny voice. How did he know?
He continued, "I know you blame yourself for not being there, but don't. I don't blame you. You were there for me all the time. You didn't need to physically be there for me to know that you were there. You have no idea how much you were there for me. Why you never realized it I don't know. Maybe I should've talked to you about it before. Thanked you more."
He was silent for a while, as if what he was going to say next was hard to say. "I've never been that good at letting people in. Especially after my mom died. I thought that by not letting people in, I wouldn't hurt and I couldn't hurt them. But that didn't happen. I couldn't not let you in. No matter how hard I tried. I just want you to know how grateful I am for you being there with me and for loving me."
Tears were streaming down my cheeks by now, and Keith looked extremely close to crying as well. I was crying so hard that I couldn't get myself to speak.
"Will you do that for me? Will you stop blaming yourself?"
"I-I promise," I cried. "I promise I'll stop blaming myself."
"Good," he smiled. He looked incredibly relieved. "That's my partner."
I gave him a small laugh at that. "I'm going to miss you; I do miss you."
"I miss you too. But partner, please stop letting my death make you stop living your life. Please follow your dreams. I don't want to be the reason you don't."
"I will. Is this goodbye forever?"
"Never forever," he whispered. "We'll be together again, one day."
"Never forever," I repeated, letting the words sink in and fill me up.
At this, he brought his free hand that wasn't grasping mine to wipe away my tears, before he slowly trailed his fingers across my lips. His fingers were cold, but his touch was as light as a feather; I shivered at it.
It was such a simple, innocent gesture, but it felt so incredibly intimate. "I love you," he whispered. Tears were running down his cheeks now; his tears still shone like diamonds, but this time I focused on his face, on him.
"And I love you."
As soon as I whispered those words, he was gone. Just like that. And resting in the place that he had stood was a rainbow rose.
The last one.
I was positive this was the last part to the message. It was closure.
Crying, I sank to my knees and with trembling fingers opened the note. It read: pour l'etermite, Keith.
Partner, I will love you always and forever, Keith.
It had been two weeks since I had last seen Keith, and not a day had gone by where I didn't think of him. Although, I still missed him desperately—my grief, however, was different. I didn't want to sleep away my life; instead, I actually wanted to go on living. I knew that I would always love Keith, but he had been right, I still needed to follow my dreams. I had promised him, and I was going to follow through on my promises.
That was why, for the past two weeks, I had been busy preparing for Duke. My parents were both happy with my new motivation for school, and life too. As well as preparing for Duke, I had fixed Honeybun up a little. I had repainted her and added some extra touches to her. I knew she had some old memories, but it was time I made some new ones. She was still Keith's, but now she felt like mine too.
With only a little more than month left before my first semester at college started, there were only a few things I needed to do: visit Henry and go to London, Ontario.
"I still don't understand," said my mom the day I was leaving for the weekend trip to London. "Why you won't let your father or I—or even Zach—to go with you? I'd just feel so much better about it."
I zipped up my suitcase and glanced at my mom. "I know, but the thing is Mom, I have to do this alone. For myself and for Keith."
She sniffed before saying, with a sigh, "My little girl's growing up."
I really appreciated my mom in that moment; I appreciated the fact that she let me go even though she really didn't want me to.
I said goodbye to my family before I got in Honeybun. I only had to make a few stops before I went to Henry's, to give him something that I had been planning on for the past few weeks.
Keith was worried his dad was going to live his life lonely, and I wanted to make sure I tried something to fix that. I knew that there was nothing I could do to replace Keith, but there was something I had thought of that might take some of Henry's loneliness away.
A few hours later, I was knocking on Henry's door. "Hey, Natalie," he said. I was happy to see that he had more shine to his eyes, and his smile seemed less fake, more real. "You're just the person I wanted to see."
"Really?" I asked.
He nodded. "I have something for you."
He went to walk in the house, but I said, "Wait!"
He looked at me expectantly. "I-I have something for you too. I think I should give you my gift first, though." I wasn't sure how long my gift would behave.
"Well, all right," he said, sounding rather amused. "Don't you want to come inside?"
I shook my head. "No. Just follow me."
He did so without any questions, and when we stood by the truck (he made comments about Honeybun's new improvements) I began, "So, there was one thing Keith always worried about, and he asked me to make sure of something before he passed away."
He looked intrigued at this. "What was that?"
"Well, he didn't want you to feel lonely, and one day an idea hit me. So I got you—" I swung open the car door, and staring right into Henry's eyes was a black and white cocker spaniel. I picked her up and handed her to him.
"Her name is Princess."
"Princess," said Henry, chuckling. He held Princess out in front of him and she kissed him, tail wagging. "Now aren't you adorable. Looks like you've got a new home."
I grabbed Princess' crate and a few bags with items I had bought for her. Henry glanced at the stuff and said, "How about we take Princess inside and you can show me what else you've got and I'll give you something."
Once inside, Henry placed Princess on the ground, but she wouldn't sit still—only followed Henry everywhere he went.
I showed Henry everything I had bought for Princess: bowls, collar and leash, food, toys, and a bed (Henry made an offhand commenting stating that with her name, Princess may get the luxury of sleeping with him on his bed). After we organized everything, Henry had me sit on the couch and close my eyes.
A few moments later I felt something settle on my lap and when I opened my eyes I was greeted to the sight of a scrapbook. I immediately knew what it was. "Henry, you didn't—"
He cut me off. "When I went to make copies of the pictures I had of Keith, a thought occurred to me. Why not make two?"
"Henry, this is so beautiful." It was amazing and it was obvious how much time and effort Henry had spent on it.
"I just thought that you'd like to have some pictures of Keith. Whenever you miss him you can just look at the book and remember that he had a great life, even though it was too short, and that he was incredibly loved."
I turned to face Henry. "Thank you so much," I whispered. "I will treasure this forever. I promise."
"I should be thanking you," started Henry as he picked up Princess who had been pawing at his leg to get him to pick her up. "For Princess. It'll be nice to have someone else around." He looked down at her. "Now, I have someone else to spoil."
I bit my lip for a minute before I suddenly blurted out, "I'm on my way to London. Ontario."
I expected to see surprise grace his face, but it didn't. "I'm not surprised at that. I was wondering when you were going to tell me you were going."
"You knew?" I asked, aghast. "I know it was something you had planned to do with Keith, but I just feel this is what I need to do before I start college. Kind of like a closure almost."
"I think it'll be great for you, Natalie."
I stood up, smiling. "I hate to leave so soon, but I want to start driving today. The truck show starts on Friday."
Henry stood up as well, cradling Princess to his chest. "Have fun. You'll need to come back and tell me all about it."
"Oh, I will," I said. "Just don't expect me to give very detailed descriptions on the trucks. I'm sure I'll think they all look exactly the same." He walked me to the door, and I noticed he looked like he wanted to say something. "Henry?"
"I just want to thank you again for loving Keith and for being there, Natalie."
"Henry, you don't need—"
He silenced me by pulling me into a hug. "Call me if you need anything, all right?"
Pulling away, I said, "I will," before walking out and getting into Honeybun, ready to start our adventure.
As I backed out of the driveway, I waved goodbye to Henry and Princess, knowing for certain that Henry, like me, was going to be all right.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! As always, thanks to Purple Shamrock 17 for being a great beta! Thanks again for reading; I would love to read what you guys thought! And of course, have a great Christmas and New Year!