16 Years

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When my daughter slams the door to our brownstone, I instantly know what — who — has angered her. I’d like to say it’s solely because she is my daughter, and that’s certainly part of it. I’ve watched her grow from a feisty toddler with fiery red hair and a lisp to a quirky and passionate young woman who feels everything a little too much. In truth, these are the things she and I have in common as well. I recall being her age, feeling things more deeply than my friends — the death of a celebrity, the lyrics to a song, the ending to a good book — and wondering why these things had to end, why they couldn’t go on for all eternity. I could recall the pure bliss I felt at the beginning of summer, the excitement I felt when fall came around, the giddiness of the spring when the robins started chirping, and the sadness as the daylights grew shorter and the nights stretched on.

I could recall even more clearly the person who held me close as those nights stretched on — the boy who felt those things right along with me, matched my passion with his own and made me feel less alone in a world that didn’t feel enough.

My girl has already flopped herself on her bed when I come into the room. She holds her pillow tightly to her chest. Her tears are seeping into the fabric, leaving dark tracks on light pink. She flashes her hazel eyes to me and looks away quickly. “I’m fine,” she mutters, turning her other cheek to the pillow, refusing to look my way.

I take a seat beside her on the bed, stroking her hair gently. She sobs with such fervor a part of me wants to tell her to calm down, but I know better. Experience has taught me that my daughter does not take kindly to those kinds of suggestions.

“You want to talk about it, baby girl?” I ask softly.

She heaves a sigh, refusing to meet my eyes. She’s so much like her namesake, her godmother, my best friend in the entire world. She’s stubborn and bratty and dramatic.

But she is also like her mother. She needs to talk to make sense of what is happening inside of her head. She needs to get it out, because if she doesn’t, then she’ll be like her father and let it fester until she has a meltdown over something insignificant — like a paper cut or a burnt piece of toast. I stifle the giggle at the memory of my first fight with her father, when he sliced his finger on an envelope and proceeded to yell at me for not giving him a letter opener, only to finally admit his reason for being so angry.

I shudder as the memory comes back in full, and thank my stars that my daughter is still looking in the other direction. I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and watch as she props herself up on an elbow, leaning far over to her nightstand to turn on her radio. I hold my breath, waiting to see what she chooses to soothe her. That alone will give me an answer — or at least confirm my suspicions — of what has her so riled up. When Tom Petty’s voice fills the room, I release a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding.

I was right. I’d like to say it’s solely because I know my girl, but it’s also because there’s something else she and I share outside of our noses and tendency to feel things too deeply. Heartache recognizes heartache.

And misery loves company.

“He said he thinks it’s best if we just keep things low-key until after winter formal,” she says on a heavy sigh. “He does this every year.”

She doesn’t necessarily need to tell me these things. I know what’s going on in my daughter’s life. I’ve watched for the past two years as she’s thrown herself at this one boy, fallen so head over heels in love with him that she’s forgotten which way is up. Then I’ve watched him toss her aside, walk away from her, completely eviscerate her heart and her mind by saying that he needs time. Once he’s had his time, he calls — he always calls — and explains that he needs her. And she comes running.

She always comes running.

I inhale, bracing myself. “Baby, you have to stop letting him—”

“What do you even know about it, mom?” She whips her head in my direction, her eyes on fire and her cheeks red. Her anger is palpable, even as Tom Petty plays on — a voice she and I usually find soothing. “Do you even know what it’s like? To love someone so much it hurts? So much it kills you?”

Any other parent would scoff. My parents did at one point. My mother didn’t believe me when I said the words, when I tried to explain to her that he was in my bones, that losing him was like losing a part of my soul.

But I know better than to scoff, to roll my eyes, to tell my girl that she’s being dramatic. Maybe she is just being dramatic, but isn’t that the point of being a teenager? To fall deeply in love once or twice or three times? Or to love one person with so much of your being that you don’t know where you end and where they begin? I can’t fault her for feeling, not when I have had those exact feelings, have shed the same tears, bled out for someone else because I cared more about them than I did myself.

Which is why I know that now is the time to have this conversation with her. She’s barely seventeen years old, her entire world has been perfect up to this point. Her father and I have laughed and danced in the kitchen and given her something to aspire to.

But her father is not the only man who holds my heart — something he has had to come to grips with throughout the course of our relationship. He’s not done it willingly, and at times I’ve watched him war with himself, with his emotions and his head and his heart, but he always comes back to me. I love him for a billion reasons, and I love him even more for coming back to me time and again.

He saved me.

“Do you know your daddy is only the second boy I ever kissed?” I ask her. I brace myself for her reaction, but she says nothing. Her eyes are inquisitive like her father’s. Her frown line across her forehead is so much like his. She’s the best and worst parts of both of us, and I am so honored to be her mother.

“You’re, like…” she pauses, chewing her top lip, just like her dad when he’s confused. “You’re beautiful, mom. How is that even possible?”

I huff out a laugh. “Oh, Darcy, baby… looks have nothing to do with it.” I pause. Feelings hit me all at once, the same ones he used to make me feel when he walked away, when he told me he needed time to think or room to breathe. My heart squeezes instinctively, the way it used to when he was near, across a crowded room staring at me, setting my world on fire.

Darcy twists and sits up, the way her godmother used to, and huddles next to me, our knees touching. She laces her fingers through mine, and I take an inventory of us both. She’s so tiny and delicate, so full of emotions and fire. I’m calmer now, though the song playing now has sparked something within me — the way he used to, when he knew I was nearby. I take a deep breathe and study my girl’s black nail polish and the scar on her index finger from the time she tried to bake Christmas cookies and burnt it on the stove. Even the way she scars is long-lasting, a testament to the fact that she is a unique, old soul, full of so much hurt and heart that any person who meets her is instantly affected, caught in her storm.

“Mom?” She says it tentatively. She knows me so well, understands my feelings and emotions in a way that only three other people have ever understood me. She’s my daughter, of course, and we understand the intricacies of our relationship. But she is also my best friend, much like her godmother. She is me, and I am her. “You don’t have to talk about it,” she tells me, her voice soft and understanding, the way I knew it would sound when she saw the mess I became even at the memory of the boy who stole a piece of my soul and never gave it back.

“I have to talk about it, baby girl,” I tell her with a sad smile. I give her hand a reassuring squeeze. “You have to know you’re not the only one to bleed for a boy who plays on your heartstrings.”

She studies me even more intently at that, looking for the slightest hint of what I may mean. She doesn’t know, though, because I’ve never told her. The only people who know about this story are the ones who lived it — me, of course, and her father, her godmother, and the boy who started it all.

The boy who stole pieces of me, and took the ones I offered to him willingly, hoarding them and guarding them from me, refusing to give them back.

“Once upon a time I thought a boy held the answers to all of my questions,” I tell her. “I was… well, I was actually fourteen at the time, so a little younger than you.” I wet my lips. I can feel my throat trying to dry and close up, the words trying to stay bottled up within me, fearing their escape. She needs to know, my heart whispers. She needs to know so she can let go.

“What happened?” She asks.

A million memories flash through my mind at her question — memories I’ve kept buried for so long. I recall them instantly, with clarity, in this moment. I recall them the way I would recall the words to my favorite song, right down to the bridge and the way the track skips on the CD I keep in my bedroom closet. It all comes back to me as if it happened yesterday, and not…

“Sixteen years ago, I thought a boy held the answer to all of my questions,” I answer her. I feel a tear slip down my cheek and swipe it away quickly. “I was in love with a boy who didn’t love me back, and it nearly killed me. I nearly let him kill me.”

“This story doesn’t have a happy ending, does it?” She asks me. “At least, not for you and whoever it is you’re talking about.”

I stare outside her window at the city, contemplating all the roads that brought me here, all the unconventional life events that ordered my steps and my path. Would I do it all again, if it brought me here, to this moment with my daughter and the steady voice of Tom Petty fueling me?

Damn straight.

I shake my head, another tear falling down my cheek. I raise the bottom of my left pants’ leg, to the answer to her question, to the best way I can explain what I am about to tell her.

Veni vidi amavi, it reads. We came, we saw, we loved. My best friend has an identical one on her left ankle.

And so does the boy who broke my heart.

“It doesn’t,” I finally answer her, smiling sadly as I stare at the words on my ankle. “But there was never a happy ending for us.”

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Without Reason contest/giveaway!

I promised myself that if I didn’t find an agent by the end of the year, I was going to self-publish in 2016.  With that in mind, I am now hosting a contest/giveaway for my newest book, Without Reason!

The rules are fairly simple.  I have four options for the cover art for the book.  I want YOUR (yes, all of you!) help picking the one you like the best.  The one with the most votes wins.  AND, from all of the people who take the time to vote, I am picking one person to win a free signed copy.

A brief synopsis can be found below the pictures.  To vote, just put in the comments section your choice — cover one, cover two, cover three, or cover four.

Thanks for your help, writing community!

Cover 2Cover 1Cover 4Cover 3

Synopsis:

It came as no surprise to Simone Perrier that she fell madly in love with Jacob Wessner. The summer before college felt different, like something big was about to happen. Just hours before she was set to move across the country, she spotted him in a crowded bar. She wasn’t looking for love, but it certainly found her, and the next ten years of Simone’s life were nothing short of a roller coaster.

WITHOUT REASON details from Simone’s point of view the highest and lowest points of her decade-long love story with Jacob, providing unique insight into a relationship between two people who just can’t seem to get it right. Simone speaks to her own indecisiveness, trying to choose between her life with Jacob, the fatally flawed man who loved her more, and Ian Colston, the man who seemed to calm the chaos Jacob caused. In the end, Simone is left with a choice between the two, but she realizes even the simplest of answers can cause the greatest heartache.

better place

“I never knew things could be so bright.”

I turned to look at her.  She was standing at a spot in the Space Needle where the sun was brightly shining through.  She looked like an angel.  I forced myself to not think about the terrible, awful things I’d done to her.  She was beautiful, untouched.

Not even by me.

“You made everything bright again for me,” she said.  “You made my life a better place, Jake.  I can’t… it’s crazy, right?  Our relationship is so dysfunctional.  But… you made everything better.”

“I could say the same thing for you,” I told her.

“Yeah, well, you don’t say it often enough.”  I stood beside her as she looked out at Seattle.  It was an unusually sunny day in the city, but I wasn’t complaining.  It gave me a chance to take my girl out, see the sights.  We hadn’t had much time to ourselves.

I sighed.  That was my fault.

“Don’t do that.”  Her eyes never left the view.  Even without looking at me, she knew I was beating myself up.  “Don’t hate yourself because you have a job and you’re busy.”

“I heard that inflection,” I told her.  “You can get a job, Simone.  It’s not like—“

“It’s not like we’re moving back to New York in a month?”  She asked.  “What would be the point of taking a job when this is temporary?”

“We can stay out here,” I said.

She shook her head.  “I want to go home, Jake.  I miss my friends.  I miss my family.”  I saw her lips pout as she stared out at the view.  “I miss us.”

“We’re still the same people, Simone,” I said.  “We haven’t changed.  You’re still the girl I fell in love with one summer.  I’m still the—“

“The guy who put my heart back together and broke it all over again?”

“Are we having a fight?”  I asked.  “Is that what you want to do?  We can have a fight, but I’d prefer if we weren’t in public.”

“I’d prefer if I were back home, but alas, we can’t always get what we want.”

“You moved to Seattle with me, Simone,” I told her.  “I didn’t force you to come.  I told you that you could stay home and I’d be back.”

“We did the long distance thing already, Jake,” she said.  “We broke up twice.”

“Once,” I countered.

“So the day you slept with the TA for my history class was what, a break?”  She sighed.  “We aren’t Ross and Rachel.”

“I would hope not,” I said, remembering the episodes of Friends we watched together over the years.  “I don’t have the energy to chase you all the way to Paris.”

“She got off the plane,” Simone deadpanned.  “Granted, you haven’t had a movie night with me in forever, so you haven’t seen that episode recently.”

“Do you want to have it out here?”  I asked.  “I’m trying, Simone.  I’m really, really trying, and all you seem to want to do is argue.”

“I don’t want to argue, Jake,” she said sadly.  She finally turned to meet my eyes.  “I just… I wanted to tell you how much better things are with you, but this really is the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever been in, and yet it’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in.”  She leaned against me, resting her head on my chest.  I wrapped my arms around her, sheltering her as best I could – though as of late I hadn’t been doing a good job of that.  “You’re my one in ten million, and yet I can’t help but feel like you’re still looking for that.  Like I’m not enough, even though I moved out here, even though I put grad school on hold so we could be together out here.”

“I’m not,” I said firmly.  “I’m not looking for anything, Simone, outside of you.  Look, I’m sorry I keep fucking up.  I’m sorry I keep sleeping with anything in a dress.”  I chuckled bitterly.  “And I’m sorry I forced your hand to move out here, but I promise you, things are going to be different.  Things are going to be better when we move home.  You’re going to go to grad school and I’m going to be a hot detective and we’re going to rule the world together.”

She laughed.  “You sound awful sure of yourself.”

“Yeah, well…” I trailed off, searching for the right words.  “I can do anything with you.”

“Ditto,” she said.  “But… can you do me a favor and start telling me these things without me having to almost start an all-out brawl in public?”

I smiled at her.  “Why don’t you tell me?”

“No girl wants to tell her boyfriend that she wants to be appreciated,” she said.  “I just… I want you to think of you, Jake.  I want you to do what’s necessary so you can get ahead, but I want you to think of me, too.  Of us.”

I kissed her forehead, hugging her tight to me.  I remembered in the early days of our relationship when I was so scared of crushing her – how tiny she was, how fragile she looked.  But she was stronger now, full of sugar and spice and piss and vinegar.  I’d put her through hell, but she stuck by me in spite of it.  I shoved my hand in my pocket, felt the velvet box that I’d been holding for a year.  I was waiting for the right moment, wanted to do things right by her, make up for all the shit I put her through.  Now seemed as good a time as any…

“Oh!”  She squealed, releasing me.  I dropped the box, my hand flying out of my pocket.  “Can we get sushi and red vines and binge watch that new fairytale TV show?  Hadley says it’s super complex and you have to watch everything together.”

I smiled.  There would be a better moment, less public, when I could finally ask her to spend the rest of her life with me.  “Yeah, let’s get out of here.  Want to pick up sushi on the way home or have it delivered?”

She shrugged, looping her arm through mine.  “I don’t care.  Though the sushi place that delivers has those spring rolls you really like.  Hey, Hads said that Cinderella makes an appearance, too…”

I smiled as she chatted away about the new show and all the characters she was excited to see.  She was a simple girl – woman, really.  She’d grown so much since that first night on the beach, and I’d had the privilege of watching her grow.  She was beautiful then, but now… she was even more radiant, bright, full of life.

And it didn’t matter if it happened tonight or another eight years from now, I knew I would be spending forever with her.

prologue – fairytale tragedy

Crisp autumn leaves littered the ground as I made my way down the familiar driveway.

“I’m pulling in now.”

“See you soon?”

I hesitated, my breath catching in my throat when I heard the words.  “See you soon.”

I ended the call, placing my phone in the cupholder, where it’d been for the duration of my three hour drive.  I kept it on silent, much to the dismay of my colleagues, supervisor, and close friends.  I never heard it ring unless it was directly next to me, the incessant buzzing forcing me to take the call.

I lived a non-stop life, going a mile a minute.  I’d been like this for years, pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion, only to take a day or two off before going at it full speed again.  I drove the people in my life crazy, but I thrived off of the frenetic energy in my life.  I wasn’t happy unless I was throwing myself headfirst into something – a work project, a personal project…

A relationship.

My breath hitched again as the thought crossed my mind.  I focused on driving, though I only had a few more feet before I would be forced to park, get out of the car, and finally confront the one thing – the one person – I’d been avoiding for years.  I knew how long it’d been, how long I’d been dodging calls and ignoring the emails.

But I wasn’t about to admit that to myself.

The garage door was shut, just as he’d told me it would be in his most recent email.  I parked outside of it, looking around to see if he’d shown up yet.

And of course, he hadn’t.  He’d just finished telling me that he’d be a few minutes late, caught up with some last minute work business.  He was always true to his word – even if all he was doing was telling me he’d be a few minutes late.  It would be no more than five minutes, and I knew I would see him.

For the first time in a decade.

I pulled my bottom lip into my mouth, worrying it until it started bleeding.  I tasted the tangy copper in my mouth, knew that if I kept it up my lips would be chapped.  I hadn’t packed lip gloss for this weekend, didn’t even know if I’d be around the whole weekend to really need lip gloss.  Nevertheless, I quit chewing, pursing my lips instead.

I could do this.

I opened my car door and stepped out into the cool autumn air.  More leaves rustled as the wind picked up, chilling me to the core.  I tried to ignore it, that nervous feeling in my chest.  My heart was beating rapidly, my breaths were becoming shorter…

I was panicking.

Of all the things I could do, losing my composure was not one of them.  I tried desperately to get my breaths under control, to calm myself down.  I tried to think of something – anything – else, but it was no use.  Our two minute conversation was already replaying in my mind, and thoughts of what would happen over the course of the next few hours – or weekend, I had chosen to take a few days off – clouded my mind.

I slammed my car door shut and made my way up the walk, pausing only to grab the key from underneath the ficus plant that sat outside the front door.  He told me it would be there and, true to his word, there it was.  I would eventually learn to stop doubting him.

But then again, my reservations were not without basis.  I had history to back me up.

Feelings of nostalgia hit me like a ton of feathers as I walked inside.  No, they weren’t bricks.  These memories were not rough, not hard, not cold.  They were soft, pleasant to the touch, but weighed me down nonetheless.  They sat on top of my heart, crushing me, reminding me of a time in my life that, in hindsight, was certainly not better, but simpler.

The feathers tickled my nose, reminding me of the smell of brownies wafting through the house.  They curled around me, like the red blanket that was still draped across the back of the couch.  They surrounded me, floating through the air like the snow that fell the last time I was here.

I moved to the kitchen, taking a trip down memory lane – allowing myself one weakness, finally, after ten years of pushing weakness as far away as possible.  I felt it all coming back to me at once, those feathers pelting me.  They didn’t hurt though – a pleasant surprise.  I anticipated the bricks, anticipated having the wind knocked out of me.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

          And there’s where you danced with him in the kitchen, the voice in my head reminded me.  I saw us glide across the floor, felt his hand at the small of my back, leading me, showing me the way.

          There’s where you had a flour fight.  I smiled at the words, remembering the flour from the cookies I was trying to bake ending up everywhere but in the bowl.  I remembered my hair being coated, my face white as a sheet from the flour, but my cheeks bright and red from laughing so hard.

I moved through the kitchen to the stairs, walking up them until I got to the next floor.  There’s where he told you he loved you, the voice said.  I remembered him sitting with me in the middle of the floor outside of the bathroom, fresh from a shower but nonetheless determined to tell me how he felt – a first for him, he claimed.  That was something I actually believed, even a decade and a dozen lies later.

          There’s where his parents slept.  My chest tightened as I felt that familiar tug.  His mother loved me like one of her own.  I hadn’t been around when she died, showing up only for her funeral before hightailing it back home.  I couldn’t risk seeing him, being alone with him.  I allowed my bitterness toward him taint the relationship I had with his mom.

I wiped away a stray tear as I continued my trek, knowing where I was going but nonetheless feeling the butterflies all over again as my feet carried me forward.

          And that’s where you told him you loved him, the voice reminded me.  It was nearly a month after he’d uttered the words, so many days afterward when I’d finally confronted my feelings for him.  I’d been scared, afraid of what saying those words out loud would mean.  I didn’t want to get hurt, didn’t want to have my heart broken.

And in the end, that’s exactly what happened.

I stared at the perfectly-made bed in the center of his room.  The walls were the same color blue they’d been the last time I was here.  The comforter was still black, the floor still white carpet, save for the stain I spied by his night stand, where I spilled my red nail polish the day of prom.

There were so many memories, but they didn’t hurt, didn’t make me feel like I was going to die from the pain.  It hurt to breathe.  I felt myself gasping for air as I turned and made my way back down the stairs, my trip down memory lane finished for the time being.  There would be a new set of memories that I knew I would have to deal with when he arrived.

          Here is where you said good-bye.  I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, taking a seat in front of the door to the study – his father’s study, the same study where I found out the truth about everything.  I remembered my words to him clear as day as I sat there, taking in my surroundings.  On the wall opposite the stairs, near the kitchen, was a growth chart.  His height throughout the years.  I studied the pink crayon mark more than five feet up the wall, where his mother measured me on my first visit.

I studied the place where our feet stood ten years before, where he told me the truth about everything, and I ran away from him, telling him I never wanted to see him again.

And then bright and early one morning, I received an email from him.  In a moment of weakness, I responded, extending an olive branch.  We made peace via email.  And now, he wanted to make peace with me face to face.

I hoped.

I shivered involuntarily, pulling my coat tighter as I stood.  I stared out the window, trying to keep warm by folding my arms around me.  Like that’ll do you any good, the voice inside my head said.  It sounded like another version of me – a me who was older, more aware of her surroundings, someone who would certainly never have come here.

“I shouldn’t have come,” I said quietly.

“I’m glad you did.”

I whirled around, taken aback by how different, and yet how familiar the voice was.

He studied me intently, looking me up and down.  I did the same, my eyes scanning down the body I once knew like the back of my hand.  I called him my map once, covered with freckles, places I longed to discover.  He loved me so completely, and I shared his passion.

And now… we were strangers.  It amazed me how quickly it’d happened.

Once upon a time we were strangers, people who didn’t understand one another.  Time went on, though, and we fell into a pattern.  I learned his habits.  He learned my quirks.  We studied each other, fell harder for each other and allowed ourselves to get caught up in it all.  We went from strangers to lovers – people who at one point did not know one another suddenly knew each other completely, inside and out.  He was my fortune teller and my fortune.  He was the sun, and I was drawn to him, caught in his warmth.  I was his captive audience of one.

I was his everything – literally, everything.  I didn’t understand until much, much later just what everything encompassed; but when I did, I flipped the switch.  My sun became my night, a darkness I could not escape fast enough.  He went from being my safe haven to being my worst nightmare.

And just like that, the two people who knew one another inside and out became two people who knew nothing of each other.

I lived that life for ten years, pretending he didn’t exist, pretending that I didn’t care.  I took care of only me, looked out for only me.  And in a moment of weakness, the ten years of care I took with myself were ruined completely.

I realized all of this as I studied him, and a thought came unbidden into my mind that I could not erase, could not walk away from.  Yet it was true – the truest thought I’d had in a decade, and brought on by him.  The irony was not lost on me.  The liar became the beacon of truth.  My darkness became my light.

I could not outrun him.  I could not live a life where he did not exist.  The years I spent running from him were useless.  He would always find me, and I him.  There was not a place in the world that existed where we could be without one another.

My carefully laid plans were ruined, and it was all because of him.  But I couldn’t fault him that.  It was to be expected.  He’d ruined my plans once, long ago.  He had an aura about him that demanded attention, and I knew this would be no different.

I thought back to the first time I saw him, the first time I talked to him, and smiled.  It would go without saying that the boy who came into my life with a crash and the loudest of noises would re-enter it in the same fashion.

“Hi.”

I do not know John Green

I do not know John Green.

What I do know, however, is that in some aspects, he got it right when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars: the pain, the agony, the grief that follows when you lose the person that you love.  It’s unbearable.  It’s… the big, fat ten.

He also got it right about how it’s not important that a million people love you, or that you touched and inspired a million people.  You just have to be loved and inspired by one.  My mom didn’t reach a lot of people.  She didn’t inspire millions of people with her fight or her smile – but she inspired me.  She touched me, and that, I think, was enough for her.

My last letter to my mom was intended to be just that – the last piece I ever wrote for or about her.  While I think it was fitting at the time, I’m coming to realize that my story – and, in turn, hers – is still going.  I may not want to write about my grief all the time (at present I’m mulling over a piece on how mangled my heart is, and yet how I’m still open to the possibility of love and isn’t that the strangest and most brave thing a person can do?) but I will want to write about her.  I will want to write about how she inspired me, how she made me who I am today.

My mom was my best friend.  For years now – eight years, three months, and twelve days, if we’re going to be exact – I’ve struggled with how I wanted to write her story.  But her story is my story, and mine is hers, even in her absence.

My writing is what kept me going – even when I wasn’t sure what to write, I wrote.  I knew if I could do at least that, it would keep me from going crazy.  It would keep me from losing my mind on days when the grief was just too much for me to bear.

And I think that the best tribute to my mom – the only fitting one that I can really think of – is to show how I’ve evolved since she left.  I want to show how the strength she imparted to me is still there.  I may have days where I want to stay in bed all day (April 15 and April 21, for instance) but I also have days where I need to get out of bed, and go and make a difference, even if it’s just a tiny one.  My mom didn’t raise a quitter, and she certainly didn’t raise me to wallow in my grief.

So it is in that spirit that I write this.  I write about how I do not know John Green.  I write about how, in spite of not knowing John Green, I can say with certainty that he knows me, and he understands the grief I have felt for the last eight years, three months, and twelve days.  I write this, the hopeful final prologue to the book that I will write for my mom – and for any girl out there who has ever lost her mother.

We are a tribe, ladies.  I cannot say that I am honored to be in this tribe, but I am honored that I am here with you.  I hope that I can do you the same justice that John Green did for me.