Katherine Edison is a high school senior from an affluent family, being her dad, a notable psychiatrist and her mom, the city’s counsilor and that being said, her family had been a great advocator of “Love Thy Neighbor” - a non-profit organization that helps and provides safe haven for refugees all over the world; not only do they foster refugee kids, they also sponsor adolescents who are interested of continuing their education. So when her parents said that it’s time for them to foster again, she was ecstatic; she likes kids and she loves the feeling of being the older sister in the house as she’s an only child, but she wasn’t expecting that the small child that she was supposed to take care of is actually a year older than her.
“I don’t normally question you guys about your decision but she’s almost 19, she’s old enough to be in college, so why do we have to foster her when we can just sponsor her?” Kat inquires over dinner.
Her mother hands her a plate of lasagna while her dad serves her some salad.
“We could do that, but we just thought that we could do it differently this time. Refugee kids like your age don’t get to have a proper home before they get to be introduced to the real world, outside of the life they’ve known for years.” Her mother explains and her dad nods in affirmation and adds, “It also came to our attention that some of those teenage kids, despite getting good sponsors, tend to manifest their trauma by unnecessary violence, exhibiting apprehensive behaviors and lack of trust with people, so on and so forth, of which the end result never favors them and we want to change that.”
Kat listens attentively while she eats, her eyebrows creasing, thinking that whilst her parents have a positive point of view on the matter but fostering younger kids is one thing, and fostering kids around her age is another, how will she be able to connect with someone who had it so much worse than she did?
“The program is still on it’s premature stages but I think it could be beneficial to us, especially you. I’ve already met her and I think she’s amazing, you’ll like her.” Her mother informs her as if reading her mind and then proceeds to explain the mechanics of the program and that they’re the first family to try it before it gets introduce to all the members of the organization as a form of a dummy run. “And it would be really nice if we can make it work and show everybody that it’s plausible.”
“We believe that by giving them a nurturing and loving environment, they will, in a way, see the world in a positive light.” Her mother explains further and her father nods, agreeing to his wife who had always been very keen on helping people of all ages. “And I think we could all contribute on that, right?”
Kat smiles and nods in affirmation. This is why she loves her parents, they’re nothing but a ray of sunshine and a beam of hope for anyone who is in need and maybe that’s the reason why she wants to be a lawyer, to help innocent people get the justice they deserve, like the way how her parents helps everyone else.
“So does this person has a name?” She asks, already planning on what to do on the spare bedroom across hers for the incoming new member of the family.
“Her name is Adena, Adena El-Amin.” Her mother answers.
Meeting Adena for the first time piqued Kat’s curiosity, in every sense of the word, and to say that she’s a little too overwhelmed is an understatement. How can someone be so beautiful yet so broken - she thinks.
“Kat, this is Adena.” Her father introduces her to the girl standing timidly next to her mom.
“Adena,” Her mom says, regarding the girl who is nowhere near comfortable, obviously wary of the unfamiliar surrounding, “meet our daughter, Kat.”
Kat extends her hand for a shake. “Hi.” She greets enthusiastically, wanting to appear more welcoming and trying not to scare the girl even more than she already is.
She takes the girl’s features in and she’s quite convinced that underneath all the apprehensive countenance was once an exuberant girl - If only the civil war in Iran did not kill her whole family leaving her to fend for herself at the age of eight, she’ll probably be meeting a whole different kind of Adena now, she thinks, too bad they had to meet like this.
The girl, Adena, didn’t move as quick but she takes the hand with so much caution and slightly gives it a shake. “Hi.” She says quietly.
Sensing the warmth of Adena’s palm against hers, a strange yet pleasant feeling settles on Kat’s stomach she’s quite certain that the girl felt it too with the way her eyebrows creases at their simple interaction.
A moment of quietude passes them both and Kat thinks she saw Adena smile, though only for a brief moment, but it warmed her heart in a way she couldn’t quite understand.
Her father’s voice retracts her out of her trance. “Feel at home, Adena, we’ll all help you get adjusted.”
Her mom walks further into the house, motioning for Adena to follow, “I’m sure you’ve been filled in on about the program?”
The girl nods and Kat’s mom continues, “So you will be staying here with us for two years until you graduate from high school and from there, with our help and guidance, you will decide what’s the next best thing for you to do, be it work or college, we’re here to support you.”
Kat keeps stealing glances over Adena who seemed to be in an excruciating pain right now, and she feels rather guilty for the uneasiness radiating from the girl, somehow, she feels obligated, like she has to do something to help end the girl’s misery, one way or another.
“Okay, enough with all these explanations which I’m sure she already heard before, I’m going to steal her from you guys now so we can have a totally normal teenage...” Kat steers the conversation and pauses, thinking what to say next and for the lack of proper wording she ends it with, “bonding.” and pulls Adena upstairs to her room.
“Sorry about that.” She starts as soon as she closed the door. “For someone who literally studies human behavior my mom and dad can be a bit dense sometimes. Here, let me take that.” She reached for Adena’s bag and put it on the floor beside the door.
“Right. Ahm so this is my room.” She says, presenting her simple yet well-decorated room. “Yours is the one across mine. Just a heads up though, we have a jack and jill bathroom so we’ll be sharing. I hope you don’t mind?”
Adena just nods and Kat’s not sure whether the girl understands anything she said or if everything she said is okay, for all she know, Adena probably doesn’t even want to be in her room or in her home, for that matter.
She clears her throat and tried again, “Ahm, I’m sure you’re tired and you want to rest, I just felt like I need to show my room first. Well, they did say that you’ll truly know a person when you see their room, so, tada!”
“Oh isn’t that about friends?”
Adena’s voice is heaven-sent and Kat is just so happy to finally hear the girl talk more than one word.
She smiles and assures the older girl, “Don’t worry, we’ll get there.”
“Hi. Sorry. Can I come in?” Kat can see the hesitation in Adena’s eyes as she asks but she needs to talk to her - she needs to know if she is okay being there with them, because earlier during dinner, though the older girl tried to engage and enjoy the conversation, Kat couldn’t help but notice the melancholic look in her eyes when she gets quiet.
She’s not a nosy person per se but she tends to worry so much and will not be able to let it go till she’s assured that Adena is all right.
She understands that being in someone else’s house and having to be living like a rent-free tenant with an extremely excessive baggage from the past can somehow feel a bit overbearing and could hinder any possible affinity within the household - so she had to make sure that Adena will also put an effort to make it, not only the program but their newly established relationship as a family, work.
Being within the older girl’s age group, Kat feels fully responsible for mediating between Adena and her family because who else could understand the older girl other than her? That is if Adena will let her - Kat hopes she does.
“Can I come in?” She repeats, seeing that the older girl did not make any attempt to move aside to let her in. “I promise this will be quick.” She adds, promising that she will not take up anymore of Adena’s time.
Though still unconvinced, the older girl opens the door wider and steps aside.
Kat first notices that Adena hasn’t changed into her sleeping clothes yet and then the bag that seemed to not been moved or opened since earlier. “Do you need help unpacking?” She offers, eyes on the bag that was still lying on the floor.
“No, thank you.” The older girl replies, tucking few strands of hair behind her ear.
Kat catches on the smallest action and she wonders if Adena does it out of habit or just when she feels unconfident about something, she decides on the former.
“Right, okay. Ahm.” She stumbles on her words, not quite knowing how to say what she wants to say without making Adena feel uncomfortable, like she’s cornering her or hovering on her space or something. She has this whole speech about getting to know each other better and getting along well considering that they will be spending two years together but being in the presence of the older girl and seeing how reserved she is, her usual composure waned.
Kat ends up asking “Are you okay?” with her voice full of concern and sincerity.
Adena stares at her with creased brows, unsure whether she heard the question correctly and she feels the need to explain herself further. “Sorry, I know you just met me and you basically know nothing about me or my family and that it’s hard feeling like a stranger in someone else’s house but I just need to know if you’re okay, being here with us and all. I want to know if you’re comfortable, if you find anything you don’t like in our house, in your room and I know my parents and I can be too much sometimes and I’d get it if you’d feel like we’re cramping your personal space by asking too much, you know, you can tell us...”
Kat realizes that she’s been rumbling and is getting rather lost along her initial intent to check on the older girl, so she stops and sighs. She looks at the older girl and she sees her, standing there in front of her, waiting and anticipating what she’s going to say next. Kat draws deep breaths before speaking with all the sincerity she could muster, “What I actually want to say is that I want to know you more, Adena El-Amin. I want to know more about you.”
And the older girl gradually lets her.
“Adena?” She calls out as soon as she opens the older girl’s bedroom door but finds it empty; though her school bag is already there and seemed lazily thrown on the floor, the owner is nowhere to be found.
School had just started three days ago and Adena had to retake her sophomore year since she had to quit school two years ago to work because her new foster parents at that time was just using her for the pay and allowances and Adena didn’t mind as long as she’ll get the freedom she wanted which she never really had with her other foster parents.
Kat was outraged to know that at first and felt bad for Adena and wondered how, at such a young age, the older girl handled everything that has happened in her life; and a feeling of some sort of overprotectiveness unravels within her - something quite different from the one she had with the kids they had fostered before - and she swore to herself that her family would be different because they are different.
But now, she feels like she already failed on that part.
“Adena, are you in here?” She knocks on the bathroom door and tries to twist the knob open, it isn’t lock. “Where are you, Adena...” she mutters to no one, scratching her forehead, a habitual action she manifests when she’s anxious.
Her parents are at a fund raising party in another city and Kat doesn’t want to worry them because she knows her parents and they’d worry their way back home so she can’t tell them that she had lost Adena in school and hadn’t found her since and it’s already eight in the evening; she had been looking for the older girl for over two hours in school and had hope that she’ll find her in the house but Adena isn’t there and Kat is getting so worried.
The notion that Adena is not happy with them and that she ran away terrifies Kat so much knowing that the world now is much more unrelenting to women of color, muslims and refugees seeking for help, all of which is in the corporeal form of Adena El-Amin and the thought of something bad might happen or already happened to the older girl weighs so heavy on her chest.
Then she hears shuffling sounds coming from the attic and she runs towards it, frantically calling Adena’s name and she finds her climbing down the stairs and waves of relief washes over her.
“Oh my God Adena!!!” Kat breathes and mutters, throwing herself at the older girl once she’s on the ground, the colliding force of their bodies sends them both backwards and if not for Adena who manages to hold on the railings of the staircase, they would’ve agonizingly met the floor.
“Hey...” The older girl greets her, voice unsure and shaky. “Something wrong?”
“Not anymore. I found you.” Kat replies, pulling back from the embrace and sets her hands on Adena’s shoulders. “As soon as I heard what happened in school, I came looking for you but you weren’t there. I looked all over for you, you know. I was so worried, I thought you ran off.”
“I didn’t.” Adena says, stepping away, ducking her head. “I’m sorry.”
Kat wonders if the idea ever crossed her mind, she heard from her mother that Adena has the tendency to close off and run away; not wanting to take the chances, she finds herself saying, “If other kids bully you again, tell me. I’ll gladly kick their asses for you.”
She had been bullied before when she was in fifth grade, jsut for the color of her skin, for being born differently than others, though her mother’s white, she inherited her father’s complexion and luckily, his resolution too, that their skin color would never define them and would never let other people oppress them. He had her take taekwando classes just for defending herself and she’s quite good at it and has a black belt to prove it - no one bullied her thereafter.
“Thanks but I know how to fight my own battles.” Adena says, circling around Kat whose brows are furrowed in confusion.
Kat, never been in a flight situation before, exclaims, “By running away? That’s cowardice, Adena. You should’ve...”
The older girl cuts her off. “Not because I ran off, I’m scared. There are things far more important than trying to...” Adena pauses, hesitates to trully speaks her mind and Kat takes a step forward, urging her further.
“How is defending oneself not important?” She genuinely asks, wanting to know what is Adena’s excuse for not defending herself. She’s been taught to be proud of herself and to never ever lower herself to other’s expectations and she does not understand why Adena would not even try to defend her own honor like her.
“Because, Kat, bullies are just ignorant people who are not very accepting of diversity.” Adena says, voice fierce and eyes unhinged. “They think they’re better just because one person did not qualify for their approval simply for being different and its just so pointless to even try to justify what it is that is so wrong with that kind of thinking. You, of all people, should know that.”
Kat blinks and smiles, one that is in pure awe in realization, while the older girl’s brows creases and asks, “What?”
“Sorry, I just amm...” Kat pauses and shakes her head, and admits, “This is the longest I’ve ever heard you talk.”
The older girl’s cheeks suddenly turns red and Kat smiles wider, finding it rather amusing that she’s getting all these reactions from Adena right now whom last week wouldn’t even bother to say more than a word.
“See, isn’t it nice to have a proper conversation for once?” Kat says, beaming from ear to ear.
“Come on Adena, it’s on Saturday. You basically have nothing to do that day, so why won’t you come out with me?” Kat whines as she throw chips at the older girl who was sitting on the floor, back on her as she lean against the edge of her bed.
This has been their usual evening bonding, right after dinner and before they go to sleep. Either Kat will go to Adena’s room or vice versa, they’d be in each other’s space doing separate things, sometimes without even conversing, and they’d be both okay with that.
And tonight, Adena is doing her math homework on the floor while Kat, who is supposed to be helping her, is just eating her chips on her bed, distracting her or at the very least, trying to.
“Adena....” She whines more, as she threw another chip at the older girl. “Please... come with me.”
“I don’t understand why you said yes to your friends when you know they’ll be having their dates.” The older girl replies, eyes still fixated on the book she is reading, while pen-pointing Kat. “And now you want to drag me in your chaperoning-your-bestfriends duties? Nope. Nuh uh uh. I’d rather stay in, thank you very much.”
“But you haven’t met them yet!” Kat pouts, though she knows it won’t even make any slight difference on Adena’s decision. “And I want you to.”
The older girl turns her head, resting her chin on the soft matress. “I don’t think meeting them while they’re on their dates is good, Kat. And besides, you should be bringing a date, not your...” Adena pauses and somehow, she understands.
Yes, they live under the same roof, eats on the same table and utilizes the same bathroom, yet they still can’t call themselves foster sisters without cringing at the word; so they don’t exactly know what they are right now - Friends? Acquaintances? Housemates? All seemed to be fitting for now, though.
But Adena ends up saying, “You can’t bring me.” before turning back to her book.
“Because, Kat...” Adena pauses and Kat can literally hear her sighing before continuing, “I’d much rather stay in and study that day than to go out.”
“But isn’t it, this, hanging out and studying every night together before sleeping,” Kat scoots and crawls towards the older girl and settles herself next to her. “the idea so we could go out and have fun during weekends?”
Adena laughs and shakes her head. “What even do you mean? Because you’re not being much of a help right now, you know.”
“Okay, I’ll help you with your math problems, but only if you say yes.” She proposes, taking the book from the older girl who immediately turns to get her book back but both of them stills at the realization of how dangerously close their faces are.
Adena blinks for a moment before looking away while Kat swallows the lump on her throat and sits upright, “Ah, so what is it going to be?”
“Fine! I’ll come with you, only because I need help with math.” The older girl replies in defeat.
Meeting Sutton Brady and Jane Sloan was fun, only if Adena and Kat didn’t look like they were totally on chaperone duty.
The older girl tugs on Kat’s shirt and whispers, “This doesn’t feel right, you know?”
Kat chuckles. “I know right? It’s like we’re just ruining their date.”
“Told you, you should’ve brought a date instead of me.” Adena points out, smiling forcefully as she sees Sutton and Jane looking at them. “You could’ve had a triple date instead.”
They are walking towards an ice cream shop called Dairy Bar where the trio frequently hangs out; feeling the need to have the control over the so-called double date right after they watched a movie that the boys specifically picked which isn’t on par with the girls’ tastes.
Kat can tell that Adena is not really having fun. She gets awfully quiet when no one talks to her and she doesn’t even try to join in the conversation when it’s about something she doesn’t know and Kat feels bad - maybe taking Adena with her friends on the their dates is really a bad idea.
She then suggests, “Do you want to go somewhere else then?” as she waves at her friend who are walking few steps ahead of them, informing them that they will follow them inside.
“Will it be bad if I say yes?” Adena stops walking and Kat rests her hand on the older girl’s shoulders, assuring her.
“Hey, it’s okay. I don’t think they will mind, to be honest, they seem to be enjoying their time with those guys anyway.” Kat sees her friends unlinking their arms from the guys at the same time before entering the shop. “But let’s get some ice cream first. I promise you’ll love their coffee crumble ice cream.”
Then she pulls Adena towards the shop and the older girl lets herself get dragged.
Thirty minutes later, Kat and Adena walks out of the icream parlor with their sweet cravings sinfully satiated. Sutton and Joan didn’t want them to leave but Kat reasoned that she still has to show Adena around the city.
New York has a lot to offer but knowing Adena and learning that the girl is more inclined to things related to art, Kat impulsively decided to take the older girl to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but not without asking permission first from her parents.
“Kat! You didn’t have to bring me all the way here. I would’ve been okay with just being back home.” Adena informs as she glares at Kat who only smiles at her with a hand outstretched in front of her. “Let’s just go home.”
“Adena, we’re already here. And besides, Mom and Dad knows we’re here and they’ll pick us up later when we’re done. I told them that we need some sisterly bonding.” Kat replies and somehow, she has this urge to gag at her own chosen words. “Come on.”
Adena didn’t say anything but takes the offered hand and together, they walk up the stairs, greeting the guards as they pass the security.
“These are amazing.” Adena exclaims in absolute awe, eyes wondering around the museum, scanning every artwork shown inside, and Kat is beaming in pure contentment, seeing how happy the older girl is by just being surrounded by various arts.
“You know, you should consider being a photographer.” Kat mutters, remembering how she had seen the photos Adena had taken for Sutton and Jane with their dates earlier. “You seem to have an eye for the craft.”
The older girl only smiles and walks over to look at another painter. “It’s beautiful.” She says and when Kat follows and turns to look at her, she stills, her breath hitches in her throat and suddenly, the world seemed to fall silent around them.
Adena is just standing there, eyes focused on the painting and all Kat can see is this wonderful woman filled with enthusiasm and passion for art and she’s radiating with so much warmth and it’s inspiring; and Kat can feel it all the way from where she’s standing.
“You’re beautiful.” Kat finds herself saying under her breath and when she realizes what involuntarily escaped her lips, she starts to panic and quickly walks over to the other next painting.
Fortunately for her though, Adena did not seem to hear.
“Hey Adena..” Kat calls out as they wait for her parents to come and pick them up.
The older girl turns around and Kat immediately regrets her action, but she has to ask or else she’ll keep thinking about it for days to no end.
“If you don’t mind me asking...” Kat pauses to briefly organize her thoughts properly before continuing, not wanting to say something that will offend the older girl, “why are you not wearing a hijab?”
She had been meaning to ask about it but never had the courage to do so. She knows Adena is a muslim but she never had seen her wore one since her arrival - the older girl always had her hair down and not covered, even with the presence of a man - so she always wonder what is Adena’s reason for not wearing a hijab, though she knows it’s not her business to know.
By habit, Adena drags her fingers and rakes it along her shoulder-length hair - one that Kat had noticed several times when the older girl seemed reluctant to share a part of herself, as if considering her odds.
Feeling guilty for putting Adena on a hot spot, Kat says, “Hey, you don’t have to answer that. It’s just out of curiosity, really.”
And then they were quiet for a moment and only the sound of the busy street can be heard from a distant.
Kat sees Adena stood up from the step she was sitting on and settles herself next to her and sighs.
The older girl, though reluctant to speak out, starts, “I was orphaned at the age of eight, barely knew how to read Quran at that time, though my father tried to teach me, I didn’t learn the whole verse.”
Kat can hear Adena’s voice breaking at the mention of her father and she knew it still hurts her just as much, many years later.
She listens as Adena continues, “My mother was the one who taught me how to put on the hijab, I didn’t get it at first but I diligently taught myself when I lost her, when I lost them.”
Even with the dim lighting of the street lamps, Kat can see sear threathening to fall from the older girls eyes. She wants to reach out, to wipe them dry, to keep those tears from falling - but she didn’t move and waits for Adena to tell more.
“I kept using it even after I was transported from Iran’s refugee camp to the asylum facility in between the borders of US and Mexico.” The older girls pauses, taking deep breaths, as she wipes the moist in her eyes, before continuing, “I had a hard time growing up, Kat. Faith is all I have but I still chose to stop wearing the hijab. It was when I was first fostered by two christian couples. They were good and kind, and they let me be who I am, but the neighborhood, not so much. They bullied me, even said some things to the old couple who fostered me, bad things. They did not deserve that you know, so then I decided not to wear it anymore not out of respect of my religion because I do still pray and my faith has never faltered, but when you experienced a lot of things from such a young age, and you realize that the world is cruel and you learn that wearing a simple cloth around your head in public can be used as a weapon against you...” Adena pauses and looks straight into Kat’s eyes as she adds, “I don’t want other people to have that satisfaction of using something I value to hurt me or anyone I care for. That’s why I chose not to wear it.”
Kat can feel her own heart breaking at Adena’s story, not knowing the gravity and the extent of the hardships the older girl faced by herself and hearing them now, she can’t help but be sympathetic. She finds herself muttering, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that alone.”
“Don’t be. They said ‘don’t let your past define you’ and I say, ‘Let them’. Because my past, no matter how heavy and dark it might be, is a huge part of who I am now. I may not be as brave as everyone else or as strong as everybody else, but this is me and I love being me.”
Kat stares intently at the older girl as she takes her hand in hers, and corrects her as sincerely as she can, “That’s not true, Adena, because you’re the bravest and strongest person I know.”
“So... I was thinking...” Kat says dragging her words out, as she slides inside Adena’s room, face bright and eyes dreamy. “Just hear me out first, okay?”
And Adena regards her with this look that is in between careful and curious. “Okay...”
“I think you should give it a try.” Kat nods, hoping that by doing so, she will look convincing and persuasive enough.
With her furrowed brows, Adena asks, not exactly knowing what she is talking about, “Give what a try?”
“Singing.” Kat supplies, and pulls the older girl to sit on the bed. “Talents night’s registration will start tomorrow and I really think you should give it a go.”
Adena stands up, shaking her head. “Oh no, no no. No, Kat. Singing? Me? Nope! Nuh uh uh.”
“Why not?” Kat stands up too. “I heard you sing, and you’re really good at it.”
The comment makes Adena look at Kat, wondering where she could’ve heard her sing, and as if she can read her mind, Kat admits, “We have a jack and jill bathroom, remember?”
The older girl shakes her head again and continues to refuse the suggestion. “Kat, no. I don’t even sing with an audience let alone in public.”
“But...” Kat starts again and Adena glares at her. “Fine. But atleast take this.” She walks out of the room and brings in a guitar case. “Mom said you’re good in playing this, and I want to hear you play using this and not the old one in my room.”
“You bought me the guitar? No way!”
Kat sees Adena clasps her hands against her chest, eyes a bit teary, as she open the case to reveal the guitar the older girl was eyeing out back at the shop they have visited last Saturday.
“And she might’ve mentioned that one of your foster parents broke the one you had before so here...” Kat hands the musical instrument to the older girl who is obviously reluctant to accept it, not till she points out that, “It’s a gift Adena, please, take it.”
“This is too much, Kat. I...” Adena breaks into tears before she can finish what she wants to say and Kat follows her urge to console the older girl.
Setting the guitar on the bed, Kat pulls Adena into a tight embrace. “It’s just a guitar, Adena.”
“It’s not just about that, Kat. It’s about everything you and your family is giving me. It’s too much.” Adena admits and cries harder, and Kat hugged her tighter, running her hand up and down the older girl’s back to try to soothe her.
And then she feels the older girl nuzzle against the crook of her neck and she freezes; feeling the warmth of Adena’s lips graze against her skin sends murky currents throughout her body and it’s only becoming unbearable with every second that passes them by.
Kat, then, feels like she had to pull away, like she had to peel herself away from the older girl because the longer their skin touches, the hotter it gets, as if she’s on fire and she’s burning and it’s just all too much - and so she did, detaching herself from the entanglement and putting a safe distance between them.
She clears her throat. “Well uhh, if you’re uhh... if you’re...” Kat stumbles through her words nervously, feeling rather stupid for being awkward when there’s no reason to be. She breathes and tries to compose herself, forgetting the momentary lapse of lucidity. “I mean if you’re that thankful, maybe then, you will consider the Talents Night?”
Adena wipes her tears dry and chuckles, fully unaware of Kat’s brief internal struggle. “Nope, still no. Don’t push it.”
She rolls her eyes and proceeds to pretend that she did not just blush during their significantly platonic hug. “Fine. Can’t blame me for trying though.” She mutters.
“Am I going crazy?” Kat asks as soon as she joined her friend on their usual table in the school cafeteria.
She just came from having lunch with Adena at the rooftop since the older girl prefers to spend her free time away from the rowdy crowd.
“Please tell me I’m going crazy.” Kat begs, taking the ice cream cup from Sutton and starts digging in.
Sutton answers, eyebrows rising at her as she devours her ice cream, “You’re not but I’m starting to think that you are.” while Jane worriedly asks back, “Why what’s wrong?”
“I have a huge problem!!” Kat exclaims, setting the cup down she emptied to the very base.
“Oooh is it a boy problem?” Sutton coos and normally, Kat would’ve been all-smiles but it’s not, so she still had this dreadful look on her face, Jane, however, threads carefully, “Is it a girl problem?”
Kat groans, ducks and hides her face in between her palms.
“Oooh so it’s a girl problem... Please tell us more.” Sutton teases, pulling her chair closer to her while Jane rolls her eyes but did the same. “Details please.”
Kat raises her head and admits, “It’s not just a girl problem. It’s more like sort of Adena- problem.”
Sutton and Jane asks at the same time.
“Why? I thought you two were getting along well together?
“I thought you like her?”
Kat groans again, much louder this time. “Yes we are getting along and yes, I do like her and that’s the big problem.” She drew a deep breath before confessing, “I like her. I like her more than I’m supposed to, more than as a friend, as a housemate or whatever it is that we are right now.”
“Oh so you have, like, a crush on her?” Sutton asks to confirm and Jane affirms “You have a crush on Adena.”
She shakes her head. “No, no, no. I do not think that this is just a simple crush.” She throws her arms around her friends and pull them closer, as if to reveal her deepest and darkest secret. “ I think I’m deeply infatuated by her.” And then she pulls back, whimpering, “God, of all people, why her? Why? And How? Last time I checked, I like boys!”
Kat has always been outspoken, unreserved and never the one to recoil from trivial matters of the heart but since Adena, she’s starting to doubt herself more.
Sutton and Jane looks at each ither and starts throwing questions at her.
“Do you like being with her?”
She answers, “Yes.”
“Do you miss her when you don’t see her?”
She thinks for a second and then replies, “Yes.”
“Do you get jealous when she talks talks about someone else?”
Her eyebrow creases as she fell in deep thinking and then says, “She never talked about someone else but I saw her talking to a guy one time during lunch and I got so unreasonably upset, does that count?”
Sutton and Jane chimes in, “Uh huh. Definitely counts.” And they resume asking questions.
“Have you ever imagined kissing her?”
Kat unabashedly blurts out, “Oh god, yes, many times. You have no idea!”
“Have you had sex dreams about her?”
Kat didn’t answer directly and she doesn’t have to, at least not with her friends, so she replies, “I’m doomed, aren’t I?”
Jane and Sutton looks at her incredulously, exclaiming “Oh my god!!! You dreamt about doing it with her.”
Sutton, ever the tease, asks “How was it?” And when Jane glare at her, she retracts. “Okay sorry.”
“So you like her, so what? What’s the problem? Your parents are as understanding as saints, I’m sure you’ll have no issues telling them that you might have a tendency to swing for the same team.” Jane simply voices out, trying to be as supportive as she can for a friend who she understands to be confused with her sexuality at the moment.
“Frankly? Yes? They are open minded like that. Kat replies, adding her main concer, “But the issue here is Adena. I have no idea if she’s straight or not.”
“Why don’t you ask her?” Sutton inquires, as if it is the most logical thing to do and Kat shakes her head.
“And risk everything I’ve built with her? No. No way.”
Kat didn’t manage to sleep that night.
“So how’s the ‘Adena problem’ going?” Sutton questions as soon as she sits in their usual table.
“Not good. I didn’t sleep well last night. I think I haven’t had any good sleep since I realized my feelings.” Kat gloomily admits as she rests her head on her arms atop the table.
“Do you, like, want to do something about it? Confessing to her, perhaps?” Jane inquires or rather suggests and Kat looks at her with a dejected face. “Oh right, you can’t, not when your parents are considering on fully adopting her.”
“Please, don’t remind me. I’m already heart broken as it is.” Kat burries her face further in between her arms.
“You know, I have never seen you this...” Sutton pauses, thinks of a better word and ends up saying, “unsettled.”
“Yeah.” Jane confirms. “You’re not even like this, disturbed, with your last boyfriend. What’s his name again?”
“Cody.” Kat supplies, remembering the guy she last dated. “It isn’t that serious.”
“And you think what you feel for Adena is?” Sutton asks and Kat falls into thinking. “I mean, have it ever crossed your mind that maybe, just maybe, what you feel for her is somewhat like pity or simply just pure admiration of how she is as a person.”
“I don’t think having sex dreams and imagining kissing someone falls on either of that category, Sutton.” Jane says as she caress Kat’s back to soothe her. “But she is right though, Kat, how can you tell if what you feel for Adena is real or serious, or if you’re just really sexually confused right now?”
Kat sighs, not having any proper answer to her friends’ questions, she find herself saying, “I dont know.”
Midway their conversation, an alarm blew off, blaring loudly inside the cafeteria and everyone wondered if it’s fire alarm, but Kat knew it isn’t, till another senior student, panickingly announced, “There’s a shooter in the school, run for your lives!”
At first, everyone thought it was a prank, but when a teacher, whom Kat remembers to be Adena’s art teacher, said the same thing and urge all the students in the cafeteria to run to the exit as previously rehearsed, Kat stood up and got ready to run the other way.
“Where the hell are you going? Sutton asks, pulling her hand, stopping her.
“I need to find Adena.” She answers.
“No, Kat. What you need right now is to run to safety.” Jane logically explains. “Come on, we need to go.”
“No.” She says, forcefully pulling her hand off her friends’ grip. “I can’t leave her. Her whole family died and they were killed right in front of her eyes with a gun. I am not going to let her relive that traumatic past alone.”
Whilst the rest of the school’s population run the other way, Kat ran the opposite, trying to remember Adena’s last class and where she could find her.
She hears gunshots, loud enough to halt her movements, but the urge and the need to get to the older girl is stronger than the fear of possibly running into the gunman, which lead her towards the second floor of Adena’s building, but then she remembers that the older girl might actually be at the rooftop; considering that it’s lunchbreak and she’d be likely to spend her free time alone, Kat takes the left turn towards the stairs. But a hand suddenly covers her mouth and pulls her towards the nearest available room. She’s ready to scream, to fight, to run away but her body calms when she she hears the familiar voice saying, “Hey, Kat, it’s just me.”
“Oh my God, Adena, you scared the hell out of me!” She exclaims, throwing herself at the older girl in full force, relieved to see her in flesh and safe. “But I’m glad it’s you.”
“Shhh.” The older girl sush her, pushing her towards the wall to hide them away.
They both starts to hear footsteps walking towards where they are and Kat - all the courage she had earlier from wanting to find Adena - dissipated.
She was going to say something but the older girl covers her mouth, shakes her head and put her point finger onto her own lips, to tell Kat to be quiet, to not say something, to not get any unwanted attention to themselves because they don’t know who is walking past by the little room they’re currently in.
Kat holds her breath, and so did Adena, but for two different reasons. Because whilst the older girl is scared for their lives, Kat, being with Adena and realizing how, despite the danger, her first instinct is to find her and now that she is with her, so close to her, being trapped in between the utility room’s cold wall and Adena’s warm body - everything finally made sense.
This isn’t just a sisterly love or a simple infatuation or admiration, it’s not just a petty crush, she might actually have fallen for her, hard, like really hard.
Fortunately, the gunman was subdued few hours later without managing to harm any students or teachers in the school. She and Adena lived through the mayhem, they were saved and got to go home to her parents.
Indeed, preparedness, readiness and awareness saved a lot of lives today. But with regards to her own feelings, Kat, not so much.
The school got closed for a week after the incident, as the administration wants to give the student time to calm themselves and to pay respect to those who were harmed and got killed in the incidents that happened in other places before and to commemorate them by doing something worthwhile.
Kat’s parents donated an ample amount to another non-profit organization in remembrance of a fallen angel that, during one of those many incidents, saved many lives by sacrificing himself.
Kat, however, opted for something else.
“Hey, wake up.” Kat nudges the older girl lightly, informing her, “We’re here.”
“Okay kids, we will see you later. Call us once you’re done.” Kat’s father says from the driving seat while her mother goes out of the car to kiss her and Adena’s cheeks. “You guys take care, okay? Keep us updated.”
Adena, in between of just waking up and seeing the peculiar look in Kat’s mother’s face, furrows her brows and coos, “Okay...”
“We’ll do Mom. I don’t think this will take longer but we’ll let you know.” Kat says as she takes the older girl’s hand in hers and pulls her towards what seemed to be a forest, and it makes Adena furrow her eyebrows more.
“What are we doing here?”
Kat simply replies, “You’ll see.”
They walk further down the entrance of the forest and a few people greets them, exchanging pleasantries and Adena figures that Kat, somehow, knew these people.
And then they started walking again and only when they stopped in a specific spot that Adena realize that someone in the group they met with is carrying two plants and another, a signboard.
Kat smiles as she sees it all donning to the older girl. “Yes, we are planting trees for the commemoration.”
Liking the idea, Adena smiled widely. “I’ll write on the signage.”
They finished planting the trees and putting the sign an hour and a half later, and they both have taken pictures of their hard work to send to the school’s website as a proof of their contribution to their school’s ‘Honoring the deceased’ cause.
“Should we call your parents so they can come pick us up now and then we can all go home?” Adena asks, wiping her sweat with a towel that Kat handed to her.
“Yeah, I’ll call them, a bit later though.” Kat replies, taking a paper bag from one of the ‘Plant a Tree’ member. “Because we have to do something else first.”
She drags Adena to a nearby young tree.
“Turns out that the organization has something called ‘Buy a Tree’ program where you buy a tree they planted before and you get to name them.” Kat informs while she’s setting her bag down on the ground, taking a sharpie. “Here.”
Adena takes the pen that was offered to her and watches as Kat took out another signage that is connected by two strings at both ends.
“I bought this one for you and your family.” Kat tells the older girl who immediately got teary eyed.
“You didn’t have to.”
“I want to.” She replies, handing the signage to Adena.
“Why...” the older girl’s voice broke as she starts crying. “why are you doing all these for me?”
“Because...” Kat pauses and contemplates whether to tell the truth - that she likes Adena and that she wants to do everything that can make her happy - but she settles with, “your family, wherever they might be now, also deserves a place to call home.”
Kat pulls Adena into her arms. “Just like you did.”
“I heard what happened.” Sutton already has her arms open for Kat to fall into. “How are you holding up?” She asks carefully.
“Heart broken. She doesn’t want to talk to me or do anything with me anymore. She’s really mad at me, guys.” Kat says, wiping the tears that escped her eyes.
Jane joins the hug. “Sorry to hear that. But I’m sure once you talk it out, you’ll fix it.”
Kat sobs. “How? When she literally overheard me telling my mom that I don’t want to be her sister, she just bailed and didn’t talk to me since. She’s probably thinking that I don’t want her in our lives, which is crazy, because that exactly the opposite of what I really feel.”
Few days ago, right after their week-long break, Kat’s mother talked to her again about their plan on adopting Adena, telling her how good of an influence Adena has been to her and her family, emotionally and socially wise, and that they would really love Adena to be a part of their family legally; but Kat, having all those confused emotional and sexual inclination towards the older girl all figured out, refused, not wanting to be just called as Adena’s sister.
But in her worse luck, Adena happened to be passing by her room and she overheard the conversation.
Wanting to explain the misconstrued situation, Kat followed Adena who ran out of the house but to no avail, Adena was already gone and had been out for the whole day and when she came back, she doesn’t want to talk to Kat anymore. She doesn’t want to even look at her anymore.
And that broke Kat - having Adena near but yet so far and so out of reach.
It’s only been three days and she doesn’t know how long she can last without having to talk to the older girl and clear out the heavy air between them.
The worst part was, Adena has no idea that after she left, Kat and her parents had a talk regarding her strong refusal for the older girl’s adoption.
Adena was not there when Kat literally came out to her parents when she said, “You can’t adopt her because I can’t be sisters with someone I have feelings for.”
And Adena wasn’t there either when she cried her heart out to her parents, telling them, “I haven’t even told her my feelings yet but I think I already lost her.”
That’s exactly how Kat feels right now - like as if she already lost Adena and it’s breaking her heart.
“Do you think us, talking to Adena for you, would help?” Sutton offers and Jane chimes in, “Yeah, we can talk to her for you.”
Kat pulls away from the hug. “Thanks but I think I’ll just mope around until she talks to me. I did this to us, so I’ll deal with this alone. Thank you, though.”
But Sutton and Jane knows their friend will not last long and will eventually drive herself to the brink of insanity for overthinking the entirety of the situation, and so, without Kat’s knowledge, they start planning on how they will get them both to be in the same space and at the same time.
Talents’ Night is just few hours away and Sutton and Jane is trying to peel Kat off of her bed, convincing her that she has to attend the event with them because they’ll be needing their wingwoman right after - an obvious lie that Kat can already tell.
“I’ll just meet you once it’s done. I’m still on my moping mood and you can’t force me to go even if you try.” Kat says, arms and legs sprawled on the bed, making a point.
“Don’t you want to see Adena perform?” Sutton inquires, thinking if they can’t change her mind maybe mentioning the other girl might.
“She’s going to perform tonight?” Kat asks back, pushing herself to sit. “I thought she didn’t want to sing?”
“Turns out she changed her mind. She’s going to sing and even play the guitar.” Jane answers and Sutton adds, “You know, the one you gave her as a gift, she’ll be using that.”
Kat eyes her friends. “And you know this because?”
Jane and Sutton looks at each other and Kat can already tell that something happened. “What?” She asks, voice irritated.
Her friends answers together, “We talked to Adena.”
Kat pushes herself out of the bed and puts both her hands on her waist, clearly outraged by her friends’ confession. “You did what now?”
“Okay, Kat,” Sutton is already at defense, leveling herself to her. “Please, don’t be mad.”
“We’re only trying to help.” Jane follows up, standing next to their blonde friend.
“I specifically told you not to do anything about this yet you did exactly the opposite. Great!” Kat breaks into a fit of anger. “Now tell me again, why the hell can’t I be mad?”
“I swear, we didn’t tell her anything about how you feel. We just told her that what happened is just a misunderstanding and that you guys need to talk.” Sutton tries to calm her down while Jane goes for the jugular, promptly says, “And if you don’t go to that event, you will never have that talk and you’re going to lose her forever.”
“What does that even mean?” Kat asks and Jane answers, “She’s leaving New York tomorrow.”
“What?” The dread in Kat’s face is so readable that Sutton and Jane feels rather bad for being the bearer of bad news but their friend, though they love her so much, can be so stupidly stubborn sometimes and they don’t want her to do something or rather in this case, not do anything, that she will eventually regret not doing later.
“Come on, you still have time to dress.” Sutton says and jumps right into rummaging through Kat’s closet to find something for her to wear.
“Go on, have a shower.” Janes pushes her towards the bathroom. “You’re not going to talk to your girl smelling like your bed, though your bed smells like lavander and lavander is nice, you know what I mean.”
“Oh what will I do without you two?” Kat asks, rhethorically.
Jane and Sutton glances at her through the file of clothes on their hands and replies, like it’s the most logical answer right now, “You’ll die single, obviously.”
Kat fidgets on her seat as she waits for Adena’s turn to perform. Meanwhile, Sutton and Jane, who knows how nervous she is right now, holds her hand and tries to calm her down at the same time. “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“Easy for you to say.” She tells them and then suddenly, “And what’s up with you two always saying the same thing at the same time. You’re like birds chirping in rythmn.”
“First of, question, what kind of birds exactly?” Sutton tries to cheer her up and Jane joins in, “Secondly, are we hitting the right note or do we have problems with our pitch? Because you know, we can always practice.”
Kat laughs, a nervous one at that. “Guys, what if...” She starts and Jane interjects with a firm hold on her hand, knowing exactly how her friend’s mind works. “Stop! You’re overthinking already. You need to make her first understand why you don’t want your parents to adopt her and in order to do that you have to be honest and tell her how you really feel.”
Kat restarts, “But, I mean, what if... just what if? What if after telling her all that, she rejects me? What if she doesn’t find my reasoning acceptable? What if she doesn’t feel the same? What if after I put myself out there, she’ll just take my heart and rip it apart and shred it into pieces?”
“Well if she rejects you after all that...” Sutton presses onto her hand and reassures her, “then we will be eating ice cream to drown your sorrows away. We’ll gain weight but who cares? We will be here for you, no matter what.”
“It’s her loss if she doesn’t accept you. Who wouldn’t want to be with you anyway?” Jane gives her a reassuring smile.
“Thanks guys. You’re the best.” Kat holds her friend’s hand tighter, conveying all the emotions she’s feeling right now with a long squeeze.
The MC walks towards the center stage and starts talking, garnering everyone’s attention. “And now, for our next performer, a sophomore student who’s willing for her voice to be finally heard. I present to you, Adena El-Alamin, to play her original song called ‘Brave’.”
The lights in the theatre hall dims and Kat can already feel her palms sweating. The hall is then filled with sounds of claps and cheering voices, encouraging the next performer.
She then sees the older girl walking towards the center stage, the lighting following her as she did so - and Kat feels her heart pounding so hard against her ribcage with anxiety, excitement and nervousness all together.
Adena sits on the chair provided for her and sets the guitar onto her lap, getting ready and comfortable on her seat but you can obviously see her nerves racking at her.
Kat sees her scan the audience for a moment, as if looking for someone and as if she did see what or who she’s looking for, the older girl smiled and she can’t stop herself from smiling back, their eyes meeting in an intense and meaningful stare.
And then Adena starts strumming her musical instrument, picking the right string for the right notes - producing a tune that Kat realizes sounds way too familiar and then it hit her, she had been hearing that tune every night ever since she gave the guitar to the older girl. Has Adena, perhaps, been composing all those nights?
The older girl starts singing, timorous voice coming out at first, and Kat can almost hear her heart beating as if it’s at the back of her ear. “I didn’t know what I was looking for, cause I’ve always been afraid to fall.”
And then Adena picks up some momentum and courage, closing her eyes, she continues, “She opened the door, now I can’t ignore that she takes me higher.”
“She kissed all the pain away, and said that love is gonna find its way. What was lost, well we found, through the ups and the down, I’ll stay.” Tears starts to swell in Kat’s eyes, remembering exactly how and when she said those words about losing something she loves and finding it again somewhere along the way unexpectedly and it never did crossed her mind that the older girl will remember that, let alone, use it for her song.
Her breath hitches as she sees Adena open her eyes and look directly at her. “She makes me brave, I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth, my youth. I’ve never felt this way.”
Kat can feel her tears heavily flowing down, staining her cheeks. She could hear her silent sobs as she listen attentively to Adena’s song by heart, filling her whole being with tender warmth with each lines and committing it to her memory forever - because Adena is singing and she is singing out to her and her alone. “She makes me safe. In her arms I know I’ll be okay. Oh, and I love how she loves me, I love how she makes me... She makes me brave.”
As soon as the song stops, the sound of everybody applauding and prasing the older girl and complimenting how well she sung it, fades in the background and all Kat can focus on is Adena.
She feels her hand gets squeezed by her two best friends.
Sutton, with her tears also on the brink of falling, says. “Hey. Go. You need to talk to her now.” while Janes wipes her eyes dry, encouraging her, “Go get your girl and don’t come back here till you have her.”
Now she understand why her friends went out of their way to just force her to come to the event; they know something she don’t and she’s not even upset that they kept it a secret from her.
Good thing she’s wearing pants and sneakers shoes right now because she had no idea that she’ll be running down stairs and hallways to be able to get to where Adena is, backstage.
The rest of the song rings on her ears as she runs. “Didn’t know that I wasn’t free, now I’m seeing things differently. It was dark in the haze, and the warmth of the raise, made my days brighter.”
Her steps halts as she sees Adena, just a few feet away, storing the guitar back in its case. “Now I know I’ll never be the same,” She watches her as the older girl zips the case and sling its strap over her shoulder.
And when Adena makes a move to leave, Kat storms towards her, holds her by the arm and spins her around. “One touch she break the chains in me and I’m proud, I’m bolder now cause...”
She hears the older girl’s faint call of her name before she surges forward to kiss her, claiming what she wants, what she needs. “She makes me brave, I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth, my youth. I’ve never felt this way.“ And she totally ignore the fact that there are few other students and some teachers with them in the backstage, carefully watching them - because the song is still playing in her head, over and over and over again - yet all she can think of right now is how soft and plump and wet Adena’s lips are, its so unreal.
Kat feels the older girl clutches onto her for frail support and she encircles her arms around her waist and holds her closer, tighter - grounding them both.
“She makes me safe. In her arms I know I’ll be okay. Oh, and I love how she loves me, I love how she makes me...”
And when she pulls back, releasing her claim on Adena’s lips, the song finally came to a rather sensible end. “She makes me brave.”
“Kat..ahm...I.. uh..” She hears Adena mutter incoherently as soon as their lips parted, it’s as faint as a whisper but loud enough for her to hear and then the older girl expels some air that she must’ve been holding since the kiss and Kat smiles softly.
She was about to say something when she hears a much louder sound like someone is clearing their throat and it pulled them both out of their trance.
Embarrassed, Kat leaves a courteous apology before pulling Adena out of the room.
They walked past Sutton and Jane who are both smiling out of proud and pride for their friend.
Adena lets herself get dragged towards the lawn just outside the theatre hall and the first thing that Kat hear her say once they stopped walking is, “You kissed me.”
“Yes! Yes, I did.” Kat courageously confess, letting Adena’s hand go to scratch at the back of her neck. “And that is exactly why my parents can’t adopt you. I like you Adena El-Alamin. I really, really do like you.”
Kat proceeds on explaining further when the older girl didn’t react. “Not as friends, not as housemates and definitely, not as sisters.”
And when Adena didn’t say anything still, Kat thinks she must’ve broken the older girl already. “Adena, please, say something, anything.” She begs.
“When I started writing the song...” Adena starts and Kat swallows the lump on her throat, anticipating what the older girl would say next. “it was actually just about you giving me this courage, this strength that I know I have but never allowed to show.”
The older girl walks passed her and Kat follows her with her eyes. “I’m in a country that doesn’t accept people like me, someone opinionated, blunt, and I grew up trying to suppress that side of me, just so no one will pay much attention to me because attention will either just give me comfort or pain.”
Adena continues, “And I’ve always liked girls.” Kat’s face lights up, hearing the older girl’s shy admission. “I knew that since I was ten. But I had to hide that part of me because it’s something more for people to raise their eyebrows at me and hate me along with the other reasons they think is unacceptable about me.”
“But I’m tired now... tired of always hiding away, of always running away, of being a coward...” Adena pauses and looks at Kat whose breath hitches on her throat at the beauty before her. “that’s when the song became more of a confession of sort.”
Kat can feel tears swelling on her eyes again as the older girl take steps towards her. “Because Kat Edison, I like you too, maybe more than you do.”
And with that, Adena pulls Kat in, with palm grazing her cheeks and a strong arm around her waist - and their lips met - more intimate and emotional than the one they shared backstage.
“Well, I heard you guys made quite a scene offstage?” Jane teases, eyes on the two hands clamped together in a tight hold as they walk toward them by the car.
“Ohh, no, we missed that.” Sutton dramatically chimes in.
“You’re not going to let me live through that, huh?” Kat supposes, knowing full well how good her friends are at teasing her.
“Obviously.” Janes says while Sutton agrees, “Hell, yeah.”
Kat and Adena laughs at their response and Jane asks to confirm what she assumes is right, “So I guess a congratulation is in order?”
“Ice cream, don’t forget the ice cream.” Sutton adds, hugging them. “I’m so happy for you guys. Oh my god, I have two baby gays as a friend.”
Jane joins in as well, hugging the three of them with her small arms. “Me too. So how about we go like this to the Dairy Bar?”
“We can’t tonight.” Kat says as their group hug loosens, and she explains further. “I told mom and dad that Adena is leaving. They want to stop her too, and I think they’re on the way here now.”
And as if on cue, a car stopped few feet away from them, honking their horn.
“That’s them.” Kat informs and her friends understands. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” She then remember the warm hands intertwined with hers, and corrects herself, “We will see you guys tomorrow.”
Jane and Sutton, as Kat referred them earlier, chirps at the same time, “You guys better.”
They all bid and hug their goodbyes and Kat regards Adena with the same look she had when their eyes met during the older girl’s performance earlier. “Let’s go home?”
“Home.” Adena repeats, heart warming at the realization that she finally found her home. She kisses the back of Kat’s hand and mutters, “Yes, let’s go home.”
Kat and Adena walks over to her parents’s car who now understands, as they look at them walking towards them, that even though they will not be able to adopt Adena legally into their family, they can already tell that she will be a huge part of their family still, even after the program ends; and quite frankly, seeing the radiant and contented smile upon their daughter’s face, they will not have it any other way.