How To Love
Author: Gabrielle Young

Chapter 3
Choices Define Character

Three: Choices Define Character

“One choice can transform you.” –Veronica Roth

September 13, 2012

She looks like hell. I’d noticed that Lily had looked tired recently but as I study her in lit, I realize how serious her condition. She had dark circles under her eyes; her cheekbones are protruding more than I ever remember. Her tan has faded and she looks deathly pale. Her mouth could permanently be stuck in that anxious line. She just looks incredibly sick.
I glance down at her stomach, covered by the loose light blue v-neck. I don’t see anything but I wouldn’t since rumor is she’s less than two months pregnant. I lift my eyes back up to her sad face.
The shock I felt in my gut when Hailey told me still resides but now I feel something stronger in my chest that blocks that from my mind. I’m not sure what the emotion is. It’s something like pain, disappointment, pity, confusion and anger. Anger. I look down at my hand and run that word through my mind a few more times.
Am I angry? Yes. I feel the red heat in my chest. It’s not at her, no I’m not angry at Lily. I’m mad at Nick. How could he just drop her like that? They’ve been together for so long. Yeah, I’ve always known that he didn’t really love her, but still. He had over a year invested in her. Shouldn’t he have at least considered staying with her simply for that? But no, according to Haliey, he dumped her the day she told him. And the baby. That’s his child.
I shake my head and raise my hand.
“Yes Braelyn?”
“I’m not feeling very well, can I go to the nurse?”
“Of course, do you need an escort?” Ms. Donna asks.
I stand, collecting my things. “No,” I say as I head to the front of the room. “No, I’m fine.”
Before I leave the room a shoot a look over my shoulder at Lily. She hasn’t moved an inch since I last looked at her. My stomach clenches and I leave.
I don’t go to the nurse, I go straight to the attendance office, stopping only momentarily to scribble myself an excuse in my mom’s handwriting. I hand it to Mrs. B and she tries to small talk with me, bringing up our next game. I attempt to smile and not be rude but I really just want to get the hell out of there.
Once I’m outside of the building I take a huge breath of fresh air. My hands are shaking. The sudden wave of anger crashed over me so unexpectedly. I don’t even know how to respond. I run to my car, jerk the door open and burn out of the parking lot.

Tape. Tape. Tape. Tape. I open the door of the in-school suspension room and ask Mr. Tyler if I can borrow his tape. Every kid in the room stares at me. God, what? Have they never used tape before? I give a freshman girl a weird look because she’s actually gaping at me with her mouth wide open. She closes her mouth and looks away.
Mr. Tyler, who is the crush of many girls in the school because he’s fresh out of college and knows how to dress, hands me the tape. I thank him, tell him I’ll bring it back and head out of the room.
Now, just which locker is hers? I know roughly where it is but I’m not sure which number it is. The seventh period bell rings and I watch, trying to be discreet, as Lily stops at her lock. 223.
I go into the bathroom and wait until the halls sound clear. I check that the coast is clear before walking over to her locker. 223. I look up at the number and reach into my front pocket, pulling out the tape. Then, I reach into my back pocket and pull out the rose.
I press the red rose to the front of her locker door and tape the stem twice. I pull out a piece of paper from my notebook, scribble a note and fold it four times before taping it by the rose.
I step back and look. Well, it’s as good as it’s going to get. I return Mr. Tyler’s tape and head to Psych late. I really like Psych class but today I don’t pay attention. Megan is sitting next to me, trying to make me laugh because we’re taking notes on sex drive but I ignore her mostly. When I’m very pensive, emotional or tired, I get quiet like I am now.
The period passes incredibly slowly. Time crawls and each time I pull myself from the daze, the period is still going. When there is finally only five minutes left when I glance up at the clock, I sigh. That was a loud sigh.
My teacher, Mr. Edwards looks around at me. I shrink down in my seat. Oops.
“Wake up Braelyn.” Megan says.
I shake my head, my face turning slightly pink.
I stare at Stephen Richardson’s back, tracing patterns in his argyle sweater with my eyes until the bell rings. I get up and book out of the room.
I head down the senior hallway, towards Lily’s locker. She isn’t there yet but the rose and note are. I diddle dally around the drinking fountain, filling up my water bottle. When I turn around, Lily is standing in front of her locker. She isn’t opening her locker or touching the rose or reading the note or anything. She’s just standing there, looking at the rose on her door. Slowly, gently, she reaches up and ever so carefully pulls the note down.
She unfolds it and stares at the inside of the note. Maybe she’s rereading it over and over. I only wrote two words: I’m sorry. When Lily looks up, I turn and walk away. I head to the parking lot and catch sight of her white 1963’s Chevy truck when I am throwing my backpack into my backseat. I look around for her. Quickly I pull out another piece of paper and a pen. I write down another note and run over to the truck, sticking the piece of paper under her windshield wiper.
I sit in my car and pretend I’m on my phone when she comes out of the school, her eyes red as though she’s been crying. Out of my rearview, I watch her get in her car and then get back out, pull the note out and sit back down.
I hear a knock on my window and look up to see Chaz. I pull the phone down from my face, feeling stupid, as she slips into my passenger seat.
“Do you have to work tonight?” She asks.
“No, I don’t. You?”
Chaz shakes her head. “Want to go do something?”
I shrug. “Yeah, sure.”
She leans back. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, sure. Why would I not be?” I say with a smile.
Chaz looks into my eyes, trying to intimidate me into telling the truth. I laugh a forced laugh at her.
“Was it you who put the rose on Lily’s locker?”
“You saw that?”
Chaz rolls her eyes and smirks at me. “Yes, I saw it. Everyone saw it, dipstick. Everyone I saw in the hallway was whispering about a rose.”
“People should mind their own business.” I say, starting my car and buckling up.
Chaz follows suit. “It’s hard to mind our own business when it’s out in the open. Where’d you get it?”
“I went down to my Uncle Mike’s.”
“Oh right, makes sense.”
“Where to?” I ask Chaz.
“I don’t care, all I ask is that we go somewhere that has food because I am starving.”
I pull out and head towards town. We have three options unless we want to leave town: the pizza shop she works at, the ice cream stand or the small town diner on South Main street.
“I like ice cream.” I tell her. She agrees.
As we head towards town the car falls silent. After a few minutes of this, she speaks.
“So what did the note say?”
I sigh. “It said ‘I’m sorry.’”
“Aw.” Chaz smiles. “That’s cute.”
She drops the subject after that and rambles on about Jared, her AP photography class and how her dad is heading to NYC for a conference in two weeks. I listen closely as we eat our ice cream and comment when necessary.
“Are you going to the bonfire this weekend?” Chaz asks.
“Yeah, probably.” I say. “It’s my team putting it on, anyways.”
“Oh, duh. I forgot.”
We do soccer bonfires on Saturday nights since we usually have games on Friday nights. It’s a tradition. We have bonfires all through the summer but we keep them going until it’s too cold to do it. It’s just to keep the summer spirit alive in the beginning of the school year. This summer, our bonfires were a little different than normal. Each year they get a little trashier I guess. Obviously, teenage hormones and people legally being able to purchase cigarettes and the fact that no one cares about letting their teenager take some alcohol.
Chaz comes home with me and we hang out, cook some dinner together and chill with my mom once she gets home. Since Chaz is there it’s easier for me to not act as emotionally confused as I am. My mom doesn’t notice that I’m slightly off and I don’t let her see. As soon as Chaz leaves I excuse myself for a shower and then just don’t come back downstairs.
I lay in my bed with the lights off, staring up at the old glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling. They don’t glow anymore, not like they used to, but I can still see them faintly. I think about Lily, and wonder where she is and how she’s feeling. God, I couldn’t even imagine. She’s only eighteen. How is she coping?
Obviously she isn’t, you saw her face. I tell myself, feeling stupid.
I wonder if she plans on keeping the baby or not, getting an abortion or giving it up for adoption. She doesn’t seem the abortion type, but I could see her giving it up for adoption. I mean, she is only eighteen.
I reach around to my bedside table and grab my iPhone. I get on Facebook and go to her profile. Her profile picture is still of she and Nick. It says that they are both single but she hasn’t changed the picture.
She hasn’t put up any pictures or made any posts that I could use to get a gauge on her mental or emotional state. Irritated, I toss my phone back to the bedside table and roll over to stare at my dark wall.

September 14, 2012

I get up early and grab a Hershey bar from the gas station, and another rose from my Uncle’s shop. I go in the front door before the school opens to everyone. I borrow more tape from Mr. Tyler, put the rose in the same place as yesterday and add another note, this one that says: “You are not alone.”
I slip the chocolate in the pocket of my tenth grade soccer warm up when I head into English class. I sit down at my desk and glance over at Lily. She looks the same as yesterday. It makes me feel sad.
I reach over and set the chocolate down on her desk. She looks up, surprised. I smile a kind smile at her and her eyes water slightly.
“…Thank you.” She says, emotionally.
“You’re welcome.” I smile again.
She puts the chocolate into her bag and Chaz turns to wink at me. I give her a “not now” look and she smirks and begins harassing Ms. Grayson. I slowly look back at Lily, hoping she hadn’t seen that. She’s still looking at me. Ugh, she definitely saw that.
“How’re you doing?” I ask after a few long moments of silent eye contact.
Lily sighs and I realize how stupid of a question that was, but she answers forgivingly. “I’m okay.”
I pause. “I’m sorry. That was a stupid question.”
“No, at least you care enough to ask.”
That comment hurts. “Has no one been asking?”
“Well, no one’s been exceptionally nice since…” She stops and reroutes herself. “Since everyone found out.”
“Has anyone been mean?” I ask, my heart sinking even more.
“Uh well, yes. What do you expect? It’s high school and I’m… pregnant.” Her voice cracks. “So how does that make me look? Like a little slut.”
“But it’s not like you’re the only one having sex.”
“Obviously. I’m just the stupid one.”
I want to reach out and touch her arm and reassure her. I wish I could say something better than “you aren’t stupid.”
Lily doesn’t answer she just shrugs.
“Well…” I begin awkwardly. “I- I’m here for you.”
Lily looks over at me like I’d just told her that I was giving her a million dollars. “Thank you.” She says in a whisper.
“Excuse me, Ms. Kasey, could you and Ms. Davis please pay attention?” Ms. Grayson asks, annoyed.
I face forward. “Sure thing Ms. Grayson.”

At the end of the period, Lily takes her time picking up her things, lingering around purposely. I stand and smile at her. She heads toward the door and we begin walking down the hall together.
I glance behind me at Chaz, who has a huge smirk on her face. When she catches my eye, she winks at me. I face forward after sticking my tongue out at her.
I look at Lily. “So, how’s your family?”
“They’re… alright. My dad’s been really good. My mom didn’t leave her room for two days after I told her. She’s trying to convince me to abort it or at least give it up for adoption.”
“Are you... going to do that?”
Lily stiffens. “No. I will absolutely not get an abortion. I don’t want to put him up for adoption but my mom…”
“What? What about your mom?”
“She’s going to hate me.”
We stop at her locker and she looks at the rose. She’s obviously distracted by it, which I’m glad for because I don’t know how to respond. She pulls down the note and begins to open it.
“Hey, listen, I need to get to class.” I say.
She looks up at me. “Oh okay. What do you have?”
“Gym.” I respond.
“Well, have fun.”
I walk away as she reads the note, my heart and head heavy. I put my hair up into a lazy ponytail for gym class and change into shorts and an old t-shirt. Chaz, Em and I end up on the same team for dodge ball because apparently it’s storming out.
Em gives out an irritated snarl. “If it rains tomorrow and ruins our campfire, I’m going to be angry!”
“I guess it’s suppose to stop at nine tonight.” Chaz says.
“Good. It better.”
I laugh, dodging a bright blue ball that was whizzing towards my head. “What’re you going to do, punch Mother Nature?” I ask, chucking a ball at a blonde on the opposite team.
“Pft. Yes. If she makes it rain and cancel our fire, I will find her.” Em uses the ball in her hand to deflect another ball.
I laugh and watch Chaz get hit in the stomach. I don’t particularly like gym class except for when we’re playing dodge ball, soccer or baseball. We don’t play softball but baseball is close enough. So, today I have fun. It helps me feel a little better.

In lit class, Lily talks to me. She asks about my independent novel. I tell her it’s really long. She asks about soccer. I tell her we’re two for two.
“That’s good. How’s the team this year?”
“It’s really good. We work together well. My other forward is amazing.”
Lily obviously doesn’t know what that means. “Who is that?” She asks.
“Emily Lewis.”
She looks surprised. “How old is she?”
“Yeah, I know. She’s amazing. She’ll definitely get a soccer scholarship. She’s one of the best players on our team. She was on varsity last year too.”
Lily looks impressed. “That’s really good.”
“It is.” I agree.
We fall silent and Ms. Donna keeps talking about the last chapters of Gatsby that we read for homework last night.
I turn back to Lily and study her face for a minute. She’s still so beautiful. Even obviously as anxious as I can possibly imagine, probably depressed, mad, tired and scared, she’s still gorgeous.
“So, uh… you mentioned ‘him’ earlier.”
Lily is confused for a moment. “Oh, the baby. Yeah, I have no idea it’s just what I picture when I think about him.”
“Do you want a boy?” I ask.
“I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s just what I picture.”
I nod, looking down at my converse. “So… if you ever need anything, just let me know.”
A slight smile spreads out over her lips. Somehow, it looks almost sad. “Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
“No one I know has been mean to you right?”
“None of your friends, no. Mostly just Nick’s friends and boys, some snobby girls have given me dirty looks.”
“Okay, good.”
Lily nods once.
“I mean… not good that anyone has been mean to you. That’s awful. I meant it was good that it wasn’t any of my friends. I don’t want to have to lose any friendships and friends usually don’t like it when you punch them in the face.”
Lily laughs once. I can tell it was forced and that makes me feel awful and shuts me up.

September 17, 2012

The weekend was long and painful. My game on Friday went well but I worked open to five on Saturday and Sunday I stayed in bed until noon. After that, I worked out, showered and drove around town, looking for something to do. I didn’t feel like being with anyone so I just drove for a few hours. I stocked up on roses and stuck them in a vase on my back porch.
I stuck a chocolate bar in Lily’s mailbox when no one was home with a sticky note that had her name on it.
Other than that, I spent a lot of time thinking. I kept returning to the same thought: I couldn’t even imagine that.
To be honest, I pity Lily. I hate actually pitying people, because I know how awful it feels to know that someone pities your position. I hate that. However, I couldn’t find any other emotion to have towards her. I just feel bad.
Today, my note on her locker says: “you’re beautiful.”
When she walks into English, she looks a lot better. It appears as though she’d gotten a few good nights of sleep and eaten a good meal. She greets me with a friendly hello and smiles.
I smile back. Yes, something is definitely different today.
In bio we’re doing a lab and she turns around and smiles at me. “Would you like to be my partner?”
“Yes, sure.” I respond. She smiles and turns around to listen to Collins as he continues to explain the lab.
Em watched the whole encounter and then has a dirty look on her face and I’m surprised.
“What?” I ask her.
She gestures with her head beyond me. I turn at look at Jessie. She’s deliberately looking away from me.
“What?” I ask, turning back to Em.
“She was giving Lily a look.” She whispers to me.
I roll my eyes, irritated. I scribble down on a paper a question that’s just occurred to me.
What do you think about Lily being pregnant?
I slide the paper over to Em’s desk. She pulls out a pen, clicks it and leans down, her hair falling around her face. She hands me back the paper when she’d done writing.
I feel bad. I know Nick was an ass.
Yeah, I can’t believe he just dumped her.
Em nods and then shakes her head in a sympathetic manner.
Collins dismisses us to begin our lab. Lily and I pick a lab table and start working on dehydrating our given onion cells. As we work through our lab, Lily and I have a good conversation. She opens up a lot. She tells me about her family, how she’s really close to her dad and that her mom is pushing the adoption thing at every available moment.
Lily says that she’s afraid to give her baby up for adoption. She explains how she doesn’t want to put her future on hold but that she can’t imagine letting her own child go. She talks very openly and freely.
I bet she hasn’t had the opportunity to talk like this with anyone so I’m happy to listen. She talks more and more as the period goes on. She describes the day she found out and how she was terrified to tell her parents but was sure that Nick would be on her side.
“Needless to say, that didn’t happen how I expected.”
Lily tells me that Nick told her to take a hike and that as soon as he graduates he’s out of here and never wants to hear from her or the child again.
I give her my apologies and express how she deserves much better than someone like him.
Lily shrugs. “He’s pretty much all I’ve ever known.”
“That’s sad.” I say, firmly. “And you should move past him as quickly as possible and find something to redefine your definition of love.”
Lily turns that over in her head and doesn’t respond, sketching a picture of the cells under the microscope. We are silent for a few minutes before I ask about her sisters.
Lily continues sketching. “They’ve been supportive. Both of them advised me not to get an abortion, as if I was considering it.”
“I agree. Have you been to the doctors?”
She nods. “Just to confirm I actually was pregnant. I have another one tomorrow, just a check up.”
Collins calls to us to finish up because the bell is about to ring. I quickly sketch one more cell and then begin cleaning up. Lily reaches towards the microscope, like she was planning on putting it away. I quickly snag it out of her reach.
“I’ve got it.” I say, rolling up the cord and putting it back onto a shelf.
She stays by my side down the hallway. I glance over at her, clutching her books to her chest, looking slightly nervous. Why?
I invite Lily to sit with me at lunch today, but she declines my offer.
“No, I eat lunch in the chorus room.”
“Oh.” I say. “Okay, well see you in lit.”
I stop by my locker and grab a rose. This one goes on her locker like all the others without a note. Just the rose.

We arrange our desks in a circle during lit, I position myself next to Lily, and we discuss Gatsby. It’s an open discussion, so it gives me time to talk to Lily.
I ask her about her music. She tells me that she likes chorus more than band, but still loves playing the saxophone.
“Yeah, we’re doing Pippin this year.”
I feel stupid. “What’s that?”
“It’s a musical.” She giggles. “It’s really weird, but I like it. I hope I can do it.”
“Why wouldn’t you be able to?” I ask.
She gets an incredibly sad look on her face. My heart sinks. “Oh. When is it?”
“That’s not too bad, right? You won’t be showing that much.”
“I might be. Some people start showing at two months. It’s not really what I’m worried about, though. It’s more that I might not be able to make practices because of being sick or tired.”
“Oh. Will you still do it?” I ask.
“Yes. I’ll audition at least.” Lily says. “You should try out. Musical is really fun.”
I throw up hands up super dramatically. “No way. I don’t sing or dance or any of that.”
Lily shakes her head. “No, I can tell you’d be really good at it. It takes a lot of character and facial expression and you have all of that.”
“I’m an athlete.” I say. “Not a theater kid.”
“Well, you should at least volunteer for stage crew, then.”
I look into her emerald eyes. “I’ll consider it.” I say, raising an eyebrow at her.
A swear, I see a slight pink color spread over Lily’s cheekbones. My heart skips a beat. That flush is absolutely beautiful. God, girl…

September 18, 2012

“So, I read the synopsis or Pippin last night online and am so confused.” I say from behind Lily.
She turns around, the rose I taped to her locker in one hand and the note in the other. She grins, putting the note in her back pocket and the rose in her locker.
“Oh yeah? Are you lacking some literary intelligence?” Lily mocks, shutting her locker and turning back to me.
“Probably, I’m stupid. I just don’t get theater, I’ve never done any of that.”
“But you’ve seen musicals, right?”
“You’ve never seen any musicals?” Lily asks, disbelief and shock on her face.
I shake my head. “When would I have needed to?”
Lily laughs, pushing off of her locker and heading towards English. I swing into step at her side.
“You’re coming over and you’re getting an education in theater.” She says, grinning.
“Okay.” I agree, perhaps a little more excitedly than I should. To save myself, I add: “I’m all for amelioration.”
Lily gives me a weird look out of the corner of her eye and we both laugh.
“No really, I’m down for that.” I say, hoping that wasn’t an empty invitation.
“How about tonight?”
My heart leaps and I have to stop myself from exclaiming yes. Tonight? Tonight I’m suppose to work after soccer practice. I can call in sick, but practice… I can’t skip practice; Mrs. B would have my ass.
“I have practice right after school.” I say, letting Lily go through Ms. Grayson’s door before I do.
We sit down next to each other and she turns to continue our conversation.
“That’s okay. I have an appointment at two so that’ll give me time to shower and clean my living room. What time does your practice end?”
“Five today.” I tell her.
“Perfect.” Lily smiles. “Come over after.”
“Okay.” I make a mental note to call work and tell them I went home sick. “Okay, uh… what will we watch?”
“Oh gosh, there’s so much. I suppose Rent is a must, oh and Phantom of the Opera. We’ll watch Newsies, West Side Story.” Lily pauses, thinking. “We might have to make this a few night thing.”
I will not argue with that.

After I shower, I pull my iPhone out to tell me mom I’m going to a friend’s. I get sidetracked because I have three text messages from an unknown number. I open them. It’s Lily. The first message says:
Hey Braelyn, it’s Lily. Let me know when you’re on your way.
The second:
Hey I might have to cancel.
The final:
Could you pick me up and we do this at your house? 3221 Former Rd. It’s the white house with green shutters.
I grab my duffle and slam my feet into my converse, not bothering to tie them. I text her back while walking out of the locker room:
I’ll be there in five.
I jump in my car and head the back road to Former. It takes me a little more than five minutes because I missed her house because I was looking for her white truck and it wasn’t there. So I had to go around the block. I look around for the white house and pull into the driveway when I find it.
Before I have the car in park, Lily is out the side door and heading towards me, a bag on her back. I kick the door open and meet her in front of my car.
“Hey are you okay?” I ask, stopping in front of her.
“Yeah, I’m fine. My mom just didn’t want company tonight. We don’t have to crash your house if you don’t want to.”
“No, that’s totally okay.” I say, moving towards the passenger door. “My mom hates it when I’m home alone, anyways. She never wants me bored.”
I open the door and hold it open for her, looking up at her. She is rooted in place, looking at me. I smile kindly.
“Are you ready? Or do you need to grab something?” I ask.
“N-no.” She says, shaking her head. “No, I’m good.”
She walks over and gets in the car, looking up at me as I shut the door and smile at her through the window. I walk in front of my car and get in, turning the key and backing out of her driveway.
Once we’re on the road I shoot a glance at her and her cheeks are red and it looks like she’s holding back tears. I’m silent and focus on the road. At the one and only red light on Main, I allow myself another glance in her direction. She looks a bit better.
“So which musicals did you bring?” I ask her.
“I just brought all the ones I have and thought we’d decide.” She smiles, her face looking happier that way.
I laugh. “Okay, sounds good.”
When we pull into the driveway, my mom’s car isn’t there. I try to get to Lily’s door before she opens it but I’m not fast enough. I grab my duffle and bring it inside with me, dropping it on the floor in the mudroom.
“You can take your shoes off here.” I say, kicking my own off.
I go into the kitchen to look for a note. There it was, on the bar. Mom apparently went to see Cathy and would be home around seven.
Turning around, I see that Lily is standing in the threshold between the kitchen and the mudroom, watching me.
“Do you want anything? I can make you something to eat?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Don’t be polite.” I tell her. “What do you want?” I ask, opening the fridge and looking to see what we have.
“I really am good.” Lily says. “Can I just have a water?”
I hand her a water bottle and invite her into the living room. I instantly start messing with the television, getting the DVD player on and ready. When I whip my head around to ask Lily what we should watch first, she’s standing awkwardly in the middle of my living room, the bag slung across her back and her eyes on me.
I jump up.
Wow, way to be chivalrous, Braelyn.
I mentally kick myself and take the bag from her. “Sit.” I say, setting the bag down next to the couch. She does. “What should we watch first?”
She shrugs. “Maybe Pippin.”
Lily reaches down, unzips the bag, rumbles around and pulls out a CD case, holding it out to me. I take it from her and return to the DVD player, sticking in the disk, with “Pippin” written on it in Sharpie.
I grab the remote and plop myself down next to Lily. “Okay,” I say, smiling at her, my heart stomach churning when her eyes meet mine. “Enlighten me.”
“I will.” She say.
Goosebumps ice down my arm as her words resonate in my head. Calm yourself. Jesus.
I sit back and watch the opening number, in which I’m introduced to the Leading Player, the narrator of the story. He invites the audience to join him in the telling of a story. He’s surrounded by what Lily calls his “troupe.” They’re odd, with eccentric makeup and strange costumes. It’s all really carnivalesque.
I’m quickly drawn into the story. It’s about the eldest son of King Charlemagne, Pippin, and his search for meaning, contentment and validation. He searches from war, to women, to politics, to knowledge, the church, art, and eventually ends up at the house of a widow Catherine and her young son. Here, here is where he begins to feel where he belongs; however, fearful of becoming ordinary and average and still longing greatness, he runs away despite his love for Catherine and the boy, Theo.
Depressed, he is addressed by the Leading Player and his troupe. They begin to tell him that he was doomed from the very start, that he would never find satisfaction, but there was one thing- one finale that would bring light and meaning to his life.
Pippin is handed a torch, told to think about the sun, and not to disappoint the audience. The troupe puts on a big, bright, exciting music number, tempting Pippin to set himself on fire in one last stunt of radiances, to bring him the meaning in life that he has been looking for.
For a moment, I think that Pippin is going to do it. He takes the torch and walks up to his own alter. I don’t even realize that I’m leaning forward, my hands clenched on my knees. Pippin doesn’t do it though, he pushes the torch away and demands to know why he has to be the one to complete the Finale, and why it cannot be one of them.
Ignoring the question, the troupe continues with their efforts to lure Pippin in. He begins to sing and Catherine and her son enter, causing a riot among the troupe as Pippin takes their hands. They troupe is angry at Catherine for interrupting their show.
Angry, the Leading Player orders the set to be removed, the bright lights turned off and Pippin, Catherine and Theo’s costumes removed. His orders are quickly obeyed. Moving behind Pippin, he pokes fingers at the imperfections in Catherine and Theo, mocking his choice of a life with them.
The Leading Player is pulled out of his rant by one of the troupe, bringing his attention back to the audience. He composes himself and turns his attention to the audience, addressing them specifically. He apologizes for being unable to follow through with their promise of a Finale. Then, he points out that among the audience are extraordinary people who would turn away from their common lives to perform in the Finale.
Then… the big revelation. The one thing I wasn’t expecting. “Anytime you want us, why- we’re right inside your head.”
I blink. What?
As his offer concludes, he ushers the troupe off the stage. He orders for the rest of the lights to go out and for the orchestra to cease playing.
The Leading Player leaves Pippin with one last thought: “You try singing without music.”
Alone, on a dark stage, barely visible, Pippin sings a verse of a song called “Corner of the Sky.” Once he concludes, Catherine asks if Pippin feels like he’s compromised, as the Leading Player said. Pippin says that he doesn’t.
“How do you feel, then?” She asks him.
Pippin responds. “Trapped… which isn’t a bad ending for a musical comedy. Tada!” He, Catherine and Theo bow, finishing the show.
The screen starts playing through the cast and I slowly turn my head to look at Lily. I realize it’s the first time I’ve done this since about half way through the show. She grins at me, raising her left eyebrow.
“They weren’t real?” I demand, amazed.
Lily shakes her head. “Nope.”
“So… wait.” I look down at my hands sitting in my lap, trying to figure out what just happened. “Hold on, let me think.”
I get up, pace twice in front of the couch, thinking. I can feel Lily’s gaze following me but I don’t care.
“Okay, I have two hypotheses.”
“So, they weren’t real. Either they were dead, sort of like ghosts returning after completing the Finale to tempt more potential victims. Or… Pippin was suicidal and they were a personification of his internal struggle.”
Lily looks impressed. “Good guesses.”
“Is either right?”
Lily shrugs. “I don’t know. I have no idea what it is.”
“WHAT?!” I exclaim. “You don’t know?!”
“No,” Lily says, shaking her head.
I process that. “Okay.”
“It’s more of a matter of opinion, I think.”
“Alright…” I pause, thinking again. “So… I can make my own judgment.”
Lily and I look at each other for a moment, she basking in the glory of opening ignorant eyes and I- well, hell, I’m still just shocked. A big grin spreads over my face: “SO… what’s next?”
Lily’s face breaks out in their bright radiance. “Anything.”
As we’ve just decided to throw West Side Story in, my mom gets home. She comes into the living room, takes in the sight of me in front of the DVD player, Lily on the couch and the sudden appearance of “WEST SIDE STORY” on the TV.
“Hello.” She says.
I stand up. “Hey mom. This is Lily Davis.”
Lily stands up and shakes my mom’s hand.
“Nice to meet you sweetie.” My mom says to her, smiling. Lily visibly relaxed at the obvious kindness in my mom’s voice. “You’re watching musicals?” She asks, to me.
I nod. “Yeah. Lily’s into theater and she’s illuminating me.”
“I love theater.” My mom says.
“You do?” I ask, confused.
“Of course. You just never took a musical turn, otherwise I would’ve taken you to shows.”
I raise my eyebrows, surprised. “Oh, well. Now I am, I guess.” I say, laughing and looking at Lily. She’s looking at me.
Ugh. Stomach, just stay where you’re supposed to be. You were put there for a reason; I don’t need you leaping up into my throat every time she’s looking at me.
Mom leaves us to shower, promising to return. I sit down next to Lily as our next show starts.
I can’t help but glancing over at her. She has one hand laid on her stomach, a faraway look in her face. I watch her closely and she doesn’t seem to notice.
A strange sensation overwhelms me. It’s something like the urge to pull her into my arms and never let go. Not just to never let go, but to stay there for all of eternity. It’s not just her though. It’s suddenly a tug towards that tiny little baby in her stomach. The same sensation. To hold him, too. Him, her. Lily’s baby. Forever.
It hits me that this is how Nick should feel.
Well, I decide, with a sense of finality. If he won’t, I will.
I reach out and set my hand on Lily’s. Her eyes meet mine and I try to express everything that I just decided to her through my eyes, my hand.
Everything, anything I’d do for you two. You don’t need to be afraid anymore, you’re not alone. You have me.


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