What Would They Do?
She had a big smile as she strode toward the platform. He studied her, thrilled to see how content she was, and his heart warmed. But the grin concealed a worried expression that broke his heart.
He understood what he had done was wrong and that he needed to make atonement. He carried his crown as he down the steps. The rest of the hall was silent after what he did.
The typical senior in Los Angeles, California, was Thad Hemsworth. He was the top wide receiver on the school's football team, had perfect grades, and participated in the band.
Everyone around Thad thought his life was fantastic. He was in excellent physical and mental health. But his life was meaningless until he met Kerry.
As a fresh transfer, Kerry was in Thad's sophomore-year class. She had a kind of cerebral palsy, which prevented her from communicating on her own, and she had a grin that could melt anything in her path.
Thad learned about her illness on a day in the school lab. Before class started, their teacher instructed the pupils to divide into pairs. Everyone naturally hurried to their pals, leaving Kerry, the new girl, sitting by herself. Thad realized he had to intervene.
Getting to Know Others
As the session started, Thad went to sit next to Kerry and observed that she had a text-to-speech gadget next to her phone. At first, Thad was perplexed and questioned what the device was.
Kerry rushed for the gadget, though, and spoke to Thad using it as the teacher instructed the class on what to do. He couldn't contain his excitement at how innovative Kerry's invention was. He was aware that he had to be her buddy.
Their Bond Grew
Through the years, Thad and Kerry's bond grew, and by the time they were seniors, they had become the best of friends. They spent time together at home and at school, with Kerry giving Thad's life a fresh perspective.
But as their senior year progressed, Thad saw something in Kerry's life. His friendship with Kerry would be put in jeopardy if he found out.
Another Best Friend
Thad discovered that Kerry had a different best friend who was equally important to her as he was, despite the fact that their connection remained as strong as ever.
Though the prospect of it all gave him the creeps, he refused to let it disrupt the special relationship he had with his closest buddy. But something one day would change everything for the two of them.
Thad wasn't sure what to make of Kerry having a buddy that was as close to her as he was. Although he detested the notion of having to share his closest buddy with another person, he couldn't assume Kerry wouldn't have any other pals.
But the more he discovered about her buddy, the more he understood the significance of his presence for his bond with Kerry.
As Thad learned who Kerry's friend was, his heart trembled inside of him. Kerry had known Ali, a former classmate since they were both five years old.
Thad accepted her invitation to spend the day with her and Ali. However, what was planned to be a straightforward afternoon at the movies would show Thad that his attempts to win over Kerry wouldn't go over well.
Ali, a friend of hers, had Kerry's disability in that he had cerebral palsy but could speak. He spoke the funniest jokes Thad had ever heard, was always smiling, and was entertaining. Thad noticed as he saw the two conversing that his closest buddy was laughing more with Ali than she had ever done with him.
They shared inside jokes that Thad was unaware of and had the funniest retorts for one other's remarks. He felt uncomfortable even just standing there.
Simply A Friend
As a buddy, Kerry had always appealed to Thad. For a very long time, he had thought of her as someone to whom he could entrust anything.
But he understood that his best buddy was all that for Ali after spending time with them. But Thad had no idea what was about to happen next as he watched the two.
Seeing Her Under A New Light
Thad had never considered a romantic branch within his and Kerry’s best friend situation. He had never viewed her in that manner.
But seeing her have a great time with Ali birthed a fit of rancid jealousy he didn’t know he was capable of. He skulked alone in a corner, unsure of what was happening.
Don’t Let Her See It
Thad didn’t know what to make of his feelings. His confusion quickly turned into panic when Kerry walked to him, asking why he was alone and quiet in a dark corner.
Seeing her come to him this way warmed Thad’s heart, but he stamped down the feeling. He needed to figure out what was happening to him.
Leaving Without Telling Her The Truth
“I need to go,” he said softly, telling Kerry he wasn’t feeling okay. Worried, Kerry asked if she and Ali could walk him home, but Thad turned down the offer.
“Stay,” he said with a forced smile. “Have fun, catch up. I’ll take a cab home and maybe some painkillers before hitting the sack.” Kerry was left stumped.
He Walks Away
The moment Thad walked away, he knew he’d made the biggest mistake of his life. He didn’t stop to look back or run and tell Kerry what was troubling his mind.
He quickly took his steps home, praying whatever was happening to him was just a fluke. There was no way he was romantically interested in his best friend of two years.
Suppress It Before It Eats You Up
As many would do in his situation, Thad suppressed any emotion that tried to steer him toward talking to Kerry - A mistake. He edged out all thoughts centering around her, occupying his mind with video games and music until he fell asleep.
Hoping things would be back to normal when he woke up, Thad closed his eyes, getting lost in the endless sweet waters of slumber. But even in his sleep, his heart would taunt him.
In His Dreams
Kerry came to Thad in his dreams. She was as beautiful as ever, asking if he was free for the evening so they could go to the store together.
How many times had they done that together? Thad agreed, and the two went to the store and had a good time. But the dream shifted, quickly becoming one of Thad’s most harrowing nightmares.
An Empty House
Inside the nightmare, Thad found out Kerry’s family had moved away to Chicago. Their house was empty, with towering shrubs eating away at the lawn and dead leaves all over the roof.
Thad’s heart thundered as he stood before the house, staring at its chapped paint and darkened windows. How could he let his best friend go without a fight?
Sleek with sweat, Thad came to in the wee hours of the morning. He shot straight into his bed, panting amid drenched covers.
A tightening vice seemed present around his neck, and he ate back a cry as he remembered the nightmare he’d had. Was it an epiphany presenting some hidden future to him?
A Superstitious Boy
Thad had never been a superstitious boy before. But the day’s events had done well to turn him into a believer.
Ali had so much in common with Kerry than he did. Even though Thad had always done right by her, he knew he was no match compared to her childhood friend. But there was one truth that gave him hope.
Make A Choice
Thad could fight for Kerry. Two things would happen: he would win her over, and life would be good again. But on the other hand, she would choose Ali, leaving him more distraught than he was now.
He was still thinking about what to do when his phone pinged a text. Reaching for it, he saw that it was Kerry. Blushing at how fast he opened the message after seeing it was her, Thad read it.
The text was simple enough. It began with a “Hello” and concluded with Kerry hoping Thad was feeling better. She wanted to come to see him in the afternoon.
Thad’s heart pounded as he read each text word out loud, making sure he didn’t miss anything. But Kerry followed up with another text that would ruin his day.
“Ali just transferred to our school for his senior year,” Kerry shared through her text. Thad thought that was the worst news he would receive that morning when another came, reading, “He just asked me to homecoming!”
“Homecoming,” Thad repeated, feeling a void birth within him. He’d wanted to ask Kerry out for homecoming and planned on it for a while. To surprise her, he’d even entered their names for homecoming king and queen. How could this happen?
“I am happy for you,” Thad texted, trembling fingers barely typing correctly. “I am happy for you, Kere,” He made an excuse about needing to be somewhere through the day and turned his phone off.
Thad set his phone down and sulked throughout the day. He had never been in this position before, wondering what would happen if he opened up to his best friend about his feelings and perhaps lost her or kept everything a secret and lost her.
Although Thad knew he wasn’t doing right by Kerry, he kept his phone turned off throughout the day. He asked his brothers to tell Kerry he wasn’t home when she came to see him.
The weekend ended with the two friends not seeing each other. But as Monday crept closer, Thad knew he’d have to face his fear once and for all.
A Different Monday Morning
Thad went to school as usual. But unlike many days he’d done this, he didn’t walk through the front door with Kerry by his side. Instead, he spied her on the other end of the hall laughing with Ali.
Although Thad’s stomach churned at the sight of Ali making Kerry laugh, his heart softened at the joy that exuded from her. As the days went by, with Thad spending each of them away from Kerry, a realization slowly hit him.
Prom Is Coming
The days kept counting, and prom got closer with each passing. But, when Thad saw Kerry, he realized he’d confused his emotions. What he thought was a romantic yearning was him fearing Ali was here to replace him.
Tired of staying away, he wrote Kerry a letter, explaining himself and apologizing for all he’d done. But before he knew it, homecoming was here. Thad stood by his lonesome as the announcer got ready to call out their year’s homecoming royalty. He hadn’t received a response from her.
A King With A Hurting Heart
“Homecoming King,” called out the announcer, “Thad Hemsworth!” the crowds cheered as the spotlight shone on Thad. His gut clenched as he knew what this meant.
Thad had already seen Kerry and Ali walking into the hall and remembered he hadn’t shared that he’d entered his and Kerry’s names into the contest. The announcer took a deep breath before calling out the homecoming queen, and Thad ate back a gulp of air.
All Hail The Queen
“Kerry Arivett!” the spotlight shone on Kerry, and Thad, already on the podium, saw as she shifted from utterly surprised to instantly graceful with one swift motion.
Thad’s eyes connected with her as she walked to the podium, and he noticed she’d glanced back at Ali severally. He rubbed a hand down his throat as she reached the stairs. What he did next left the hall in silence.
A New Development
Thad helped Kerry to receive her crown and then rushed off the podium. He wended through the dumbfounded crowd to Ali with his crown.
Thad looked at Ali with a smile. He knew Ali had done so much for Kerry while he’d only been there for two years of her life. He was glad such a person was in her life and knew he’d do anything to be his friend. But right now, there was only one thing he could do.
Long Live The King
Thad presented his crown, placing it on Ali’s head. He dusted his shoulders and shook his hand, turning to the crowd and presenting Ali as their homecoming king. Thad saw Kerry wipe a tear from her gleaming eyes on the podium as everyone cheered. “Go get her, tiger,” he whispered into Ali’s ear.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.