I woke up on Tuesday morning absolutely ecstatic. There were only 5 days until Tom and I were to leave for our road-trip! I got on my computer and finished my mix tapes, before deciding to go check my mailbox in the main building.
I hadn't checked my mail in a while, and I was sure that there would be a few things from family members. When I got to the office that housed student mail, I gave them my key, and they brought my box. I had two letters: one from my sister, and one from my grandmother. Everything else was campus ads or spam.
I brought my letters back home, and opened the first to read it. My grandmother "just wanted me to know how proud she was of me, and how excited she was to see me at Thanksgiving and Christmas!" I pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote a quick reply. I told her I was "doing great, and about to head on a road-trip with a friend. School was fairly easy and the campus was beautiful."
Next came the letter from my sister. We called, texted, and Skyped daily, but we both enjoyed sending written notes as well. In my last letter to her, I had told her about Tom, and how close we were. Our communication hadn't been as frequent since then, because she had finals at school.
Her letter said:
I'm glad you're having a good time! Tom sounds great, do you like him? Does he like you? Spill it, tell me everything!
Write back when you get the chance,
I laughed at how dramatic she was being. Couldn't I just have a male friend without being in love with him?
I pulled out a second sheet of paper to write a response to her, just as my phone rang. It was Tom.
I picked up the phone, "Hey! What's up?"
All I could hear from the other end of the line was a deep breath, and then, "Gabi," It sounded like he was going to go on, but his voice broke. Fear clenched in my stomach. Tom was crying. Something was terribly wrong.
I was out the door and half way to his dorm before I even knew what I was doing. I ran to his door and didn't even bother to knock, unlocking it with the key he had given me after one too many incidents of him locking himself out. "Tom!" I shouted, my voice high in panic. I heard a small noise from the bedroom.
I cautiously opened the door, and found Tom sitting on the bed staring out the window. Part of me relaxed. He wasn't hurt....physically. He looked up at me and his eyes met mine. Shock and agony were written all over his face.
I rushed over to him, kneeling in front of him and grabbing his hands subconsciously. "What's happened Tom? Tell me what's wrong," I pleaded.
"It's my gran," he whispered, as if not trusting his voice, "she died." With that last word, tears spilled over and cascaded down his cheeks. He spoke as if down a tunnel somewhere far away.
"Oh Tom," I said, standing up and sitting next to him on the bed, "I'm so sorry." I put my arms around him and he laid his head on my shoulder while he cried.
We must have sat there for something like 45 minutes, before I heard his breathing slow back to its normal pace. "I nearly forgot about our trip," he said, sitting up, "I can't go, I've got to go home."
"Tom," I replied, not wanting him to feel guilty about anything, "it's really no big deal. We can go some other time. You need to be with your family."
"Thank you," he said, wrapping his arms around me, "for being so understanding. You're incredible."
I was startled by how much I liked him hugging me. We had never full on embraced before, just one-armed side hugs. Having his arms around me felt good. The letter from my sister ran through my mind.
Tom sounds great, do you like him?
He pulled away much sooner than I would have liked, and looked at me right in the eyes, "You can go Gabi, I don't want to keep you from anything you have to do." I could see in his eyes that he didn't really want me to go, so much as the gentleman in him was trying to be polite.
"No, you don't need to be alone right now," I said, "Why don't you spend the night at my place tonight?"
He looked taken aback. We had always hung out at each other's dorms, but never had one of us spent the night at the other's home. "Come on," I pressed, "you can take the spare bedroom."
Finally, he relented. His grief had won out over his selflessness. I waited in the foyer while he got his things together. He returned a few minutes later with a t-shirt, a toothbrush, some deodorant, and a tube of body wash. "Okay," he said as we headed out the door.
Once we were back at my dorm, he put his toiletries and spare shirt in the extra bedroom. I put the kettle on, knowing how British Tom was and figuring that a cup of tea would help. He came back and we drank our tea together, neither one of us saying anything. The silence was broken by Tom. "I was thinking," he started. He was obviously worried about how I would respond to whatever he was trying to say. I had never seen him so unsure of himself.
"What?" I asked, trying to get him to spit out whatever he was saying.
"Well, I was just thinking that maybe you could come with me to my parents' house."
"Tom," I began, not trying to offend him or let him down, "I can't. I mean, I've never even met your parents. And funerals are something you should be with your family for. It's too private."
"Gabi," he pleaded, "please. It would mean the world to me if you would come. It would make things easier to deal with if I had you by my side."
"Funerals are a family thing Tom," I said gently, "I don't belong there."
"Gabi," he said again, "you are my family. I can't do this alone. Please, come with me." He looked into my eyes and I could tell that he was pouring everything into that look. He knew I couldn't resist when he asked me for things.
"Okay fine," I breathed, "I'll go with you. When are we leaving."
"Tomorrow. Is that okay?"
"Yeah," I replied, double checking in my head that I had everything I needed already packed.
He hugged me again. A 'thanks' was whispered into my ear.
After that, the night passed uneventfully. We ate dinner (leftover chicken rice casserole), and then watched TV. I kept glancing in Tom's direction to make sure he was okay. It didn't feel right that 45 minutes was all it took to get over his grandmother's death. I was waiting for the shock to wear off.