Title: Our Last Time: A Novel
Author: Cristy Marie Poplin
Willow Monroe and Kennedy Danes have been best friend's since drawings were assignments in school. They've been joined at the hip for years. They love riding bikes together, smiling for real, and laughing, even at the wrong times.
Once their senior year of high school rolls around, Kennedy becomes terminally ill. Though he has plans that don't involve sadness, he still needs to find a way to tell Willow he only has six more months to live.
Willow and Kennedy can never say the word 'goodbye'.They have this agreement to say Hello up until their last time spent together. The sixteenth of August in the year of 1997 is when Willow and Kennedy say Hello for the last time.
Nine years later finds Willow in the smallest hospital of Chicago, working as a registered nurse. There she meets Wyatt Blanquette, a curmudgeonly patient with untapped wisdom and heart, beneath a stony exterior. When they agree to be nice to each other instead of abundantly rude, Wyatt eventually shows the fact that he sees a light in Willow that cannot burn out. Everything changes once Wyatt reveals to Willow his heart-wrenching secret.
Willow's thoughts bicker, and she has to determine whether she should suppress the feelings she's afraid of reliving, or to let them be seen -- with her heart wide open.
May 16th, 1997, 3:51p.m.
I was wearing a strapless pink dress, and it was way too pink. It was magenta. Who looked good in magenta? I definitely hadn’t.
Kennedy seemed to like it, though, so I resisted the urge to rip it off of my body and set it aflame.
“How did you know my size?” I asked him.
He bought me a pink dress for prom, which prom was scheduled for tomorrow and I wasn’t excited about it. But I liked how he’d been smiling a lot more ever since I had agreed to go with him. He smiled a lot already, he just smiled more now. It was hard to think that prom was the reason behind it.
“I kind of went in your closet when you weren’t looking, and dug around until I finally found the only dress you had,” he sighed, but he was smiling. “You’re a size two.”
That dress he found was only worn when there was a special occasion. Which it would have to be really special, and my mother would have to fight me on it. Kennedy was lucky I loved him so much. This dress was fairly atrocious.
We stood in my large bedroom and stared at my reflection through my body-length mirror that was about a foot away from my queen-sized bed.
“The bottom is very frilly, but it’s soft. I’m glad you didn’t get me one that would make me itchy everywhere.” I turned around, then looked up so I could smile at him. He hugged me over the shoulders as I grabbed his waist.
“I rented my tux, but you’ll have to pick out my pink bow tie. And shoes, Will. We don’t have prom shoes,” he said. His eyes had widened as he looked down at me, and I smirked.
“We can wear our sneakers.”
“No, we should go get shoes now.” He wasn’t going to be even a little bit original for this prom. Well, at least, I’d feel like this big mimic wearing a hideous magenta-colored dress to prom.
“Hey…” I paused, as I backed a few inches away from him. I had an idea, but I was pretty sure it had been Kennedy’s all along. “Does your tux have ruffles? I’d be so happy if your tux had ruffles.”
His lips meshed into this half-smile thing, and my mouth dropped when he nodded. I was excited about prom now.
“I get it. I understand. And this is why you’re my best friend.”
He laughed. “And we’re going to take prom pictures, Will. We’re going to slow dance, and your head is going to rest on my shoulder. I’ll have to bend my knees a little so your head can reach my shoulder, though. And we’re also not going to get laid. We’ll be just like everyone else.”
We were going to prom to make fun of it and to do everything that’s typically done on prom night, and I wish I would have thought of it before Kennedy did.
“Should I tease my hair to make it really tacky looking? What if I wore a bow in my hair, too, Kennedy? And…” I paused, thinking. “Oh, and please tell me you got me a gigantic corsage, Kennedy. That would be so awesome.”
He grinned. “It was supposed to be a surprise, Will, but you’re way too smart for my little surprises. You figure everything out,” he sighed.
“We have to go get shoes now.” I dragged him by his hand, but he was willing to be dragged.
We rode our bikes to the closest shoe store in our small hometown in the pit of Tennessee. I hadn’t even taken the dress off, and I wore my Keds. Kennedy was wearing his Beatles t-shirt and a pair of long khaki cargo shorts, along with his high-top converse sneakers.
After placing our bikes in the corral, we smiled before locking elbows as we walked in the shoe store together.
“I have to get stilettos,” I whispered.
“And they have to be shiny,” he told me.
“And you have to get magenta-colored men’s shoes. It’s not fair for you to only have a pink bow tie. You need to look just as ridiculous as me,” I said, grinning up at him.
I was so excited because I knew Kennedy would let me dress him up. Even if he’d look ridiculous. We’d look ridiculous together.
“If you can find magenta-colored shoes in the men’s section, that’d be great,” he chuckled.
I was sure I’d find them.
I found some clear stilettos that were shiny enough to blind someone, and Kennedy nodded in agreement when I looked to him for approval.
I sat on the bench next to him before putting them on my feet. I held my feet out in front of me, and we stared at the heels in unison.
“How will I walk in these, Kennedy?”
“By standing,” he shrugged. “And maybe moving your feet step by step in front of you.”
“I’d fall,” I groaned. I had never walked in heels before, and I hadn’t thought about that before coming here.
“Hey, hold on a second,” he smiled. He got up from the bench and kneeled to scan the various boxes of stiletto heels. He grabbed a box of heels that were a size thirteen, and he sighed as he looked over to me.
“I don’t know what size I am in women’s, but this is the largest size I could find.”
He took his shoes and socks off and placed them next to mine on the ground below us.
“We can learn how to walk in heels together,” he said, as he took one of the yellow heels and successfully popped it on his left foot.
I laughed as he popped the other one on his right foot, and held his feet out in front of him like I had done. “Very Pretty,” he said.
He wouldn’t drink a milkshake through a straw, but he’d walk around wearing stiletto heels in a shoe store for me. He was a silly guy. He was my silly guy.
We had gotten up from the bench together, hand in hand. My elbow was bent forward, and my hand was held up grasping his so it would be easier for us to stand.
I was surprised we hadn’t lunged forward and landed on our faces.
“Ready?” he asked me.
I nodded. “I think.”
“That’s not ready, Will.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Kennedy, I’m ready.”
We took one small step forward, and the click of our heels made me smile.
There was about another five feet of room in front of us when he said, “You go forward on your own now. I’ll be behind you to catch you if you fall.”
I had let go of his hand, and he was standing behind me, now. I took a deep breath before taking a step forward.
“Keep your legs straight, Will.”
I smirked. “You keep your legs straight, Kennedy.”
He coughed, and I hadn’t had to turn around to know that he’d noticed and fixed his slack posture.
I had about two feet of room in front of me when I stopped and turned around to find Kennedy swirling his long arms around at his sides, about to fall backward.
My eyes widened as I went to grab his hands, and I said, “I got you.”
But I didn't have him. He fell backward, and I fell right on top of him. My hands were settled under his head so it wouldn’t crack open on the floor, and my body hit his body hard.
He groaned longingly as his hands met my waist, and he pulled my skirt down so I wouldn’t be exposed.
“Ow,” he muttered.
“Ouch,” I said, as I buried my forehead in his neck.
He chuckled lightly, and I met his eyes.
Then we laughed out loud, because we were okay, and it was funny.