“To say farewell to a loved one, send them off with a bouquet of sweet peas.”
From the diary of Ada Charm
I’m in my room that I share with my sister, Maggie, packing up the last of my things, when Mama calls me down for dinner. I look over what I’ve packed so far. I’m almost done. I just need to put a few more things in. I turn to go downstairs, but then grab the framed photo of my mama, sisters, and I. I put it in my suitcase, then go downstairs.
As I walk down the stairs, I’m hit with the delicious smells coming from the kitchen. I’m leaving in the morning for college, so Mama has made a feast of all my favorite things. Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, tomato salad, peach cobbler, and banana pudding. I know I won’t be eating this well at school, so I plan to enjoy it.
Of course, there’s a large floral arrangement on the table. It’s beautiful. The vase is filled with pink and orange flowers, along with sweet-smelling herbs. I’m sure they mean something significant, and I’m sure Maggie could tell me exactly what each one signifies, but I’m much more interested in the food.
“Okay girls,” Mama says, coming over to the table with a pitcher of tea. “Let’s sit down and eat.”
Maggie follows Mama with glasses, and Linden and Willow come in from the living room where they’ve been playing a board game.
We fill our plates and eat quietly for a few minutes. Until Maggie, true to form, tries to start a fight with me.
“I really think we should go with you in the morning,” Maggie says. “We could help you get your room set up and unpack everything.”
I roll my eyes. “We’ve already been over this a hundred times. It doesn’t make sense for you guys to go with me. We would have to drive two cars and it’s two hours away. I don’t have that much to unpack. There’s not a good reason for you to go,” I say.
“The reason is that you’re going away to school and who knows when we’ll see you again,” Maggie says.
“You’ll see me next weekend,” I say, laughing. “Stop being so dramatic. I’m not going to the moon, just to college.”
“I’m not being dramatic!” Maggie says, her cheeks flaming.
“That’s enough girls,” Mama says quietly. “We have discussed this already. Ivy is going by herself. She is old enough and I’m fine with it. We’ll tell her goodbye in the morning before she leaves. No more arguing. I don’t think you want to spend Ivy’s last night fighting.”
“Yes Mama,” Maggie and I say.
“Now. Raise your glass for a toast,” Mama says holding her iced tea in the air. “To Ivy and all the adventures she’ll have in college. To Maggie, beginning her senior year. To Linden, beginning her first year of high school. And to Willow’s last year of middle school.”
“Cheers,” we say, clinking our glasses together.
“What are you looking forward to doing most at school?” Linden asks.
Partying. Meeting guys. Not what I’m going to tell my Mama and little sisters, though. “Hmm. I’m not sure. I’m taking some interesting classes,” I say.
“Like what?” Willow asks.
“Well, it’s my first year, so I have to take the boring, core classes, but I’m looking forward to psychology and anthropology.“
“When I go to college, I’m going to take fashion classes and art classes,” Willow says.
“You can take those classes, but you also have to take the core classes. Otherwise you can’t graduate,” Maggie explains.
“Maybe I’ll just move to New York City and become a famous fashion designer,” Willow says. “Linden you can come with me and be my assistant.”
“I’m sure Linden wants to do something besides be your assistant,” I say.
“I want to be a veterinarian,” Linden says, quietly.
“You would be very good at that,” Mama says, smiling at Linden. “Maggie, are you looking forward to your senior year?”
“I’m looking forward to it being over,” Maggie says.
I roll my eyes. “Oh stop. Your senior year is so much fun. You have senior day and prom. And the last month you barely have to do anything in class. It’s the best.”
“I would rather just graduate a month early,” Maggie says.
“Well, I’m not ready for that. I’ve already had one of you graduate, I’d rather not think about the next one quite yet,” Mama says. “This summer went by entirely too fast.”
“But we didn’t have any crazy family member show up to destroy our lives, so that’s better than last summer” I say, remembering two of my aunts showing up and wreaking havoc on our town and family. Learning we had extended family, but then finding out they hated us was hard. Mama has stopped keeping so many secrets, though.
“Are you all packed?” Maggie asks, quickly sidestepping a discussion of our aunts.
“Mostly. I just have a few more things to put in,” I say. “Don’t worry, Maggie. You’ll see me all the time. I’ll come home every weekend and you’ll get sick of me.”
“You say that, but I bet you’ll join a sorority and go to parties every weekend. We probably won’t see you until Christmas,” Maggie says.
“I might join a sorority,” I say. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“A sorority would be so much fun,” Willow says. “Maybe you could fall in love with a guy from your brother fraternity and get married. That would be so romantic.”
“I don’t think Rob would appreciate that,” Maggie says.
“Oh, yeah. I guess I didn’t tell you guys,” I say. “I broke up with him last night.”
“What?” Maggie exclaims. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. How did he take it?”
“He took it pretty well. It makes little sense to keep seeing each other. We’re going to different colleges. He’ll be a few states away and isn’t planning on coming back very often,” I say.
“That’s very mature of you. It sounds like you made a smart decision,” Mama says.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine. Eventually,” I say. I’m kind of sad about breaking up with Rob, but I don’t think I love him, so it’s for the best. Plus, I know I’ll be meeting plenty of new guys at school and Rob was starting to act super jealous.
“Poor Rob,” Willow says, with a sigh. “His heart is probably broken. What if he never gets over it?”
“Oh Willow. You’re such a romantic,” Maggie says, laughing. “I don’t think Rob has enough brain cells to suffer a heart break.”
“Hey! Too soon,” I say. “I broke up with him, but he is still a nice guy.”
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” Maggie says.
We spend the rest of dinner talking about what school supplies Linden and Willow still need to buy. And whether they need any new clothes. I know I should be enjoying my last dinner with my family before I start college and move out, but I’m too preoccupied to pay much attention.
It would hurt Mama and my sisters to know how excited I am to be leaving tomorrow, but I can’t wait to be on my own. I can eat what I want and sleep when I want. And I won’t constantly have a younger sister needing something from me or nagging me to do something I don’t want to do.
“Ivy,” Maggie interrupts my scattered thoughts.
“Huh?” I say.
“We’re going to take the cobbler out to the porch. Are you coming?”
“Sure,” I say, getting up and grabbing extra plates. I will miss my family. And really, they’re great. The least I can do is give them my full attention for the next few hours.
We eat peach cobbler while we talk and laugh. After a while Willow turns on some music and then we have a ridiculous dance party. Eventually we all collapse, giggling, onto the porch.
“All right girls,” Mama says. “I know that Ivy is leaving tomorrow, but it’s getting late. Everyone needs to get around for bed now.”
The four of us go upstairs and crowd into the bathroom, brushing our teeth and washing our faces. I remember a couple of last-minute things I need to pack and throw them into my suitcase. We all call goodnight to each other and by the time I crawl into bed, I’m ready to fall asleep. Maggie wants to talk, though.
“Are you nervous?” she asks, fluffing her pillow.
“No, I’m just excited,” I say, staring up at the y-shaped crack in the ceiling.
“Really? Because I would be a nervous wreck,” Maggie says. “I’m nervous for you.”
“I’m a teeny bit nervous I guess, but mostly I can’t wait.”
“But everything will be so different. What if you hate your roommate?” Maggie asks.
“Then it will be a really long year,” I answer. “We’ve emailed and I’ve looked her up on Facebook. She seems fine.”
“I just think moving in with a stranger seems awful.”
“Well, I think it will be interesting. I’m excited to meet new people and have new experiences. I know that kind of thing scares you, but it’s exciting to me,” I say.
“I don’t want to argue with you on your last night home. I’m just imagining how I would feel in your situation. I don’t know if I can handle going to college,” Maggie says.
I roll my eyes. Maggie always acts like a delicate flower, but she’s just as tough as I am.
“I think you should go. It would be good for you to get out in the world and figure out if you want to take over the shop or not,” I say.
“I know it would be good for me, I just don’t really want to do it. I don’t see the point. I’m happy working in the shop and learning from Mama.”
“If you don’t care about getting a degree, you would still get life experience, which is important,” I say. Sometimes Maggie drives me crazy.
“I guess I have a year to decide,” she says, yawning.
“But you have to start applying to schools and for scholarships soon,” I say, adding my own yawn. “I just think you should think about it. Maybe we could be roommates next year.”
“That would be fun.”
“It would,” I say. “I’m about to fall asleep, good night.”
“Good night,” Maggie says.
I lay awake for a few minutes thinking about everything Maggie and I talked about. Now I feel more nervous. Maggie’s right. Everything will be different and I might hate it. I’m fairly confident that I won’t though. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between us. I’m confident, but Maggie always underestimates herself. Maybe it’s just our unique personalities, or maybe it has something to do with the abilities that Mama says we have.