When Stephen was fourteen, he finally talked his parents into letting him go to school. High school! His excitement was incredible, when I would have loved to have stayed home and be tutored. Little things tickled him to no end, like the sound of the principal blowing against the microphone before he made an announcement — “You know what it sounded like?” I did, having heard it for six years of school, and it had gotten boring for me, but to him, it was a novelty.
Even though he was going to school, our friendship continued as before. We didn’t talk about his school much, just about what we were reading and what our life would be like when we were married after I graduated from high school. We would have two children; a boy, Stephen Wade, Jr., would be first, to watch after his little sister, Bethany Lee (she shared her middle name with my mother and me). He had the candles from his fourteenth birthday cake, a 1 candle and a 4 candle, which I found really cool because I hadn’t seen them before. We’d use those candles on his cake when he turned 41.
He would work, of course (though we didn’t know what his career would be at that point), and I would be a stay-at-home mom, just like my Mom. We imagined ourselves living in his house, though we didn’t have plans for where his parents would live. We’d still have his hamsters, and we’d have a puppy in the back yard. Stephen Jr. and Bethany would love the tree house as much as we did, and have sleepover parties with friends there (one friend at a time — it was too small for more than two people to sleep in). Stephen had invited me to spend the night in his treehouse with him; I’d sleep on the cot, and he’d sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. I was so excited about the idea — I hadn’t been to a sleepover since the Twins had moved away. My Mom, unfortunately, wouldn’t hear of it. I couldn’t understand why, since she had let me go to sleepovers with the Twins, but she wouldn’t even consider it.
About a month into the school year, as we were talking, Stephen told me he was seeing a girl named Lana Livingston at school. She was a year older than he was. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach until he explained that he was only seeing her because I was too young to take to school dances and stuff, since I was 12, and everyone in high school goes on dates. Once I got in high school, he and I would date because my parents couldn’t say I was too young. This made some sense, and I agreed to wait. I didn’t even feel jealous.
He never mentioned Lana to me again, and our friendship and marriage plans continued as before. One time I heard from on of the teenagers in the neighborhood that there was going to be a Fall Dance at the high school, and I was devastated, realizing that Stephen would be there with Lana. I cried to my Mom about it, and she pointed out that Stephen wasn’t going to the dance with anyone; he’d gotten sick again and was in the hospital. Comforted, I calmed down.
When I started high school, Lana was in my four-person squad in the band. Both of us played clarinet, but other than that, she was the opposite of me in every way — thin, long dark hair. She would barely speak to me. I wanted to be able to talk to her about Stephen, and, hoping she’d open up, asked “You dated Stephen, right?” Her response was a curt “Yes.” Not a productive start to a conversation, but I tried again. “He talked about you a lot.” He hadn’t, of course, but I was trying to befriend her. She tossed her hair and said “He liked me a lot.” We didn’t speak again, about Stephen or anything else.