Flat-Out Love, стр. 57

Flat Finn is not coming. Boys are not allowed, according to your sister. He is taking the day off (again) in the front hall closet behind what is either a badminton set or a fishing net.

You won’t believe how different Celeste is when you see her. Yes, she’s still extremely quirky and unusual (in a loveable way, of course), but she’s different. She’s happier. Your parents had a meeting at the school with that guidance counselor who I unreasonably hated so much, and he was “extremely impressed and relieved” at how nicely her social skills are coming along. Finn, she is so much more grown up now. Really self-sufficient. Don’t take this the wrong way, but she hasn’t been as obsessed with you and when you’re coming home. (I, however…) I think other parts of her life are taking over. True, she still only has this one real friend, but it’s a start. And she’s going online now and searching for normal teenage stuff, which totally annoys your dad, not to mention Matt. She wants to go to the movies and shopping, etc. Don’t worry, though; she still curls up on the couch with TheIliad or something equally snooty.

To be honest, I miss her sometimes. The “old” Celeste, I mean. I’m still with her plenty, it’s just that she is so much less dependent on other people. I get nostalgic for the Celeste who was so glued to me, the one who looked up to me, the one who freaked out over lip-gloss and a simple trip to the grocery store. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? I don’t want that for her. I want her to be who she’s becoming, you know? Lighter and freer. It’s like she was locked in one place, and now she finally sees that movement is possible. She’s not sure which way to turn yet, but she can see the options.

To answer your question from the other day, Matt is fine. I haven’t seen him a lot recently. We’ve both been mobbed with end-of-semester work, but I could use his help with Calculus II with Calculations. I’m dying in that class. He always explains stuff so clearly. Things have still been off since the night of Celeste’s meltdown. Ironically, she came out of it somewhat healed, while it drove a wedge between Matt and me. I feel bad because we were friends. I guess we still are… It’s different though. We used to hang out all the time, and now I barely see him. Not that he’s mean to me, or anything, but I don’t get the impression he wants to be around me anymore. He keeps leaving me little notes with information about apartment rentals. Obviously he can’t wait to get me out of here. I don’t know. Maybe he’s just trying to be helpful. I wish things were better between us. It feels…  It just doesn’t feel right like this. It’s abnormal.

You know what’s funny? It’s like you’ve become some diary that I write to. A figment of my imagination. But you’re easy to talk to. Write to. Whatever.

There is no need to panic; I’ll take all of my teddy bears with me and remove the sparkly heart curtains before you get home.

Miss you,

-Julie

 

Julie-

See if Mom will get little pictures painted on her nails. I think she’d look fab with looooong painted talons, don’t you? It’s totally her.

From everything you’ve been telling me this year about Celeste, I’m not surprised to hear that she has made so many changes. You came into her life and shook up her world in a way that allowed her to still be who she is. You saved her, Julie.

I don’t know what to tell you about Matt. Maybe you feel things are abnormal because HE’S abnormal? Kidding. I shouldn’t joke, because I can tell you’re upset. I’m sorry if your feelings are hurt. He’s as mixed up as the rest of the family. I do know that he cares about you. I can promise you that. If he’s being awful, I’m quite sure that it’s not because of anything that you’ve done. He’s just not good at handling people. Or himself, for that matter. Wait it out. Trust me.

Don’t you DARE take the stuffed animals and adorable curtains with you. I am so overloaded with testosterone (grunt!), and those items will help me to embrace my feminine side. A kinder, gentler Finn.

I miss you, too, and I have so much to tell you. I know you think that you already know me—and I love that you can say anything to me—but I just hope that you’ll feel the same way when reality kicks in.

-Finn

 

Finn-

There is nothing you could say that would change what you mean to me.

-Julie

 

Julie-

I’ll hold you to that.

-Finn

 

**********

The neon red nail polish was slightly alarming, but Julie didn’t protest as the manicurist continued lacquering her toenails. Celeste had chosen the shade and insisted that the four of them all get their fingers and toes done in the same color.  She had said, “Sharing the same color will indicate that we are all connected.”

“Like gang colors,” Erin had added.

Despite Erin’s reluctance to spend part of the afternoon holed up in a salon, she looked moderately relaxed as her feet soaked in a soapy bath next to Julie.  She even tilted her head back into the soft neck rest.

Julie looked across the room at Rachel and Celeste, who were peering at the pages of a magazine in between giggling at something on Rachel’s BlackBerry. Was there any possibility they were snickering over boys? Rachel’s top-of-the-lungs demonstration that she knew the entire periodic table of the elements confirmed that Celeste had been right about Rachel being a bit of an odd duck. But anything other than that wouldn’t have made sense. This pair of awkward, struggling kids had found each other for a reason.

Erin lifted her head and squinted. “Do you suppose I’m required to get Celeste a handheld device of some kind?”

“I don’t think there’s a parental law, no,” Julie said.

“I haven’t been very in tune… attentive, really… to Celeste’s needs. I do realize that. I’m starting to, and I know that I need to. I enjoyed taking her shopping last week. Thank you for suggesting that. And for today.”

Julie smiled softly at her.

“I was pondering taking Celeste down to the Cape with me one weekend this summer. A mother and daughter mini-vacation. Do you think that she would like that?”

Julie nodded. “Very much.” She glanced at her electric-colored toes. “Maybe even a vacation for the whole family?”

“Mmm… That sounds lovely. I’ll look into that. I don’t remember the last time we’ve all spent a longer span of time together.” Erin dropped her head back again.

A family vacation. A foreign concept to Julie. Her father had left her two voicemails and sent three emails in the past few months, all via his secretary. Julie had ignored the first batch of messages, and finally had her own secretary—a Miss Celeste Watkins—respond with a terse email explaining that Ms. Seagle was currently engulfed in important business matters, but would be arranging a never-to-happen dinner appointment shortly.

“So,” Erin said, “Matt says that you’re looking for an apartment?”

“Oh. Yeah, I am. I figured it was about time I got out of your hair.”

“Nonsense. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, although I imagine you’re ready to expand on your collegiate experience.”

Julie felt that stabbing pain in her chest again. It was all Matt’s idea for her to move out. “It might be easier for me to be closer to campus,” she said quietly. “Dana asked me to live with her. Her roommate will be gone right after finals, and I can move in then.”

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