You can't decide whether money changes things or not; it does. You can decide, however, whether it changes things for better or worse.


59. Fifty nine

Alex goes home on Friday night because we're having my half birthday thing on Saturday night and we don't want it to be blatantly obvious that he was staying with me. We're not exactly lying or keeping it a secret that he's been staying here, but we don't really want anyone to know because it sounds a lot more complicated than it is. About half an hour before everybody comes over, I feel like I really don't want to have this little celebration. Do I really care to have everybody over to celebrate something that technically isn't very important at all when I could go and be with Dad? I start to feel guilty that I left the hospital early just so I could come home and do my makeup and things like that. That was really shallow of me. 

But as I'm worrying, I look at the picture of me, Alice, Carrie and Johanna on the wall. It's a picture from when we're at a sleepover for Carrie's half birthday last year and we all looked so carefree and happy and I relax a little. I've been at the hospital non stop recently, Dad would want me to take one night just to be with my friends and have fun. I have no reason to worry, there are no complications with Dad and even if anything were to go wrong, Jennifer has promised to call me straight away. I'm sure there won't be any problems anyway. I take a deep breath and sigh. Tonight is about having fun. 

They all arrive and it's a very casual night which I love. We all just sit in the living room and watch films and we have snacks and purely soft drinks because none of us want to get drunk, we all want to have fun because it's genuinely nice to be around each other. Alex and Johanna get along just fine, they're so friendly and you can tell it's just friendly and it's nice to see them that way again. Everybody talks to everybody and for the first time, I feel like the group of us are a group. There are no divides. It's not Carrie and Alice, Johanna and Jem, me and Alex or any other combination like that. It's all of us being friends and it's so nice. 

I don't even worry too much about the whole Alex/Jem thing. I sit with Jem and hold hands with Jem and just act like Alex is a friend and I guess he is just a friend. Tonight's just not the night to worry about romantic feelings towards anybody and that's so relaxing. 

"Okay." Johanna grins. "Now it's circle time."

"What the hell is circle time?" Alex asks, frowning at her. 

"Circle time is where we all sit in a circle and we exchange stories and stuff on whoever's half birthday it is." Carrie says excitedly.

We rearrange the couches and the chairs so we're in a sort of circle and I feel happier than ever about knowing them all. I'm on a chair by myself and I can see all of them in front of me. Jem and Johanna are squished together on an armchair and Carrie, Alex and Alice are sat on the other couch together and one by one, they start talking about me and telling stories about me. Johanna, Alice and Carrie all do a joint sort of speech, saying the nicest things about me and how they're thankful for my friendship and things like that. Then Jem talks about how coming to stay at Johanna's was a great decision and how he finds me fascinating and all these nice things and I never ever knew people could see me that way. Then it occurs to me that maybe they don't know quite how I see them as well and I find that kind of strange. 

It's Alex's turn next and he stands up just like everybody else did. He smiles at me and then looks at everyone else again. 

"I have spoken to Kaya so many times during high school but I've always been stupid and obnoxious enough to never really notice her. The first conversation I remember having with her was when I got us lost during cross country-"

"You're admitting that was your fault?" I smile at him knowingly. 

He laughs. "Yes, resentfully. Anyway, that was the first conversation I remember having with her and that's because she was kind of mean to me. She was mean and stubborn and she really stood up for herself and I was pleasantly surprised by that. She always seemed kind of quiet but seeing her be that confident and strong just stuck in my head and after that, I couldn't really stop thinking about her. And I guess I haven't really stopped thinking about her since."

I glance at Jem to see how he's reacting to this but he's just smiling a gentle smile which is a relief and I look back at Alex who is smiling too. It's a small smile, a smile as if he's thinking about things that only he understands. 

"I am not afraid to say that I love her." he shrugs, still smiling that smile. "I never would have guessed that we'd have clicked the way we did because even through getting to know her the way I do, I still have not found a single similarity between us."

I laugh a little at this. We always used to talk about that, how we had no idea what drew us to each other because we're completely different. 

"And to be truthful, nobody has ever infuriated me more. Nobody has ever made me so angry or so sad or so confused. But also, nobody has ever made me so happy and positive and nobody has made me see the world in a way that I feel like I've been missing out on. She has taught me things without meaning to and she has made me so, so proud. I am so proud of her and I am so proud to know her and I am so proud to love her." he smiles at me and a tear spills onto his cheek. "Kaya, you are a wonderful person and you are my best friend."

I jump out of my seat and hug him close, burying my head in his shoulder and hiding my face from everybody. He hugs me back and whispers "I love you" so quietly that nobody else can hear.

"I love you." I whisper back. 

"Okay, I am so so sorry to break up this little emotional moment but can we please order the pizza now because I am starving." Johanna says, grinning at us. 

I laugh, wiping my eyes. "Yeah, sure, the number's on the fridge."

Jem and I are in the kitchen later on, topping up the drinks and getting plates and things like that and he leans against the side, smiling at me. 

"I'll miss you when I go back to England."

I blink. "Why are you smiling?" 

He shrugs, still smiling. "Because it's just best that I go back, isn't it?"

I shrug too. "I'm going to miss you a lot."

"Yeah, but it's what meant to be isn't it? It doesn't feel unfair."

I look at him for a moment. "What are you trying to say?" 

He sighs but he's still smiling. "Kaya, I have loved being with you but I feel like maybe I'm not the one you should be spending time with. I saw Alex up there talking about you and he is so in love with you. He absolutely adores you. It's him you're meant to end up with, not me."

I smile at him and hug him tight. "You are the nicest person I've ever met."

He chuckles. "And you are the nicest person I've ever met."

And I am so relieved after that. It was always going to end between Jem and I and we always knew that. I'm just glad that when it happened, it happened nicely. Nothing's awkward between us as the rest of the night goes on, we're just friends and that's a relief. We're all in the middle of our pizza when my phone rings. It's Jennifer and I hush everybody, answering frantically. 

"Hello?" I say, my heart beating frantically. 

"Kaya!" she says. "I'm glad I caught you. Your dad's hand just moved."

"What?" I demand, shaking. 

"His hand just twitched. That's a good sign that he might wake up soon. Are you able to come here?" 

"I'm on my way." I tell her and then look at everyone, my eyes wide. "Dad's going to wake up soon."

A plan is arranged suddenly with us barely exchanging two words. It's agreed that everybody's going to sleep at my house that night. Alex jumps up and drives the two of us to the hospital. He waits in the waiting room and I rush straight to Dad's room, ready for him to open his eyes and ready to see him properly again. When I get there, his eyes are already open.

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