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“Climbing trees isn’t something that one should do after giving birth.” Aria smiled, stepping into the tree house.

I laughed. “You know what? I was thinking the same thing. But since you’re here, welcome to my oasis. To the left you’ll find nothing, to the right, a case of root beer.”

“Your interior design skills are impressive.”

“What can I say? I’m fancy.”

She bit her bottom lip and tilted her head. “I love you.”

“I love you."

* * *


Levi and I sat in the tree house for hours, sometimes crying, other times laughing until tears fell. He was the best kind of oxymoron. When I was with him I could be a sad kind of happy and be content with the feeling.

“Why did you eat lunch with him every day?”

“Because that’s what you would’ve done,” I replied. He tossed his emptied root beer can to the side of the room before he leaned into me and kissed my lips gently, sending a wave of happiness through me. “Can I read you the speech I wrote for him?”


I reached into my jeans’ pocket and pulled out a piece of folded paper. I opened it, and smiled. “Kent Myers wasn’t an asshole. Most of the people who crossed his path would disagree based on the way he treated them, based on his actions, but he wasn’t an asshole. He was a man who made mistakes. A man who tried to fix those mistakes all on his own, which sometimes led to him to making things worse. He didn’t always say the right thing, or always behave in the best light, but he tried. He tried to be good. He tried to protect the ones he loved.

“A few days before he passed away, he asked me if I could hold his shaky hand. I linked my fingers with his and he said, ‘Will he be okay?’ speaking of his son. ‘Will he be okay?’ he repeated over and over, tears falling from his eyes. I nodded to him and said, ‘Yes. You’ll both be okay.’ He closed his eyes and muttered, ‘He’ll be okay.’ He slept that night more peaceful than all the nights before. He didn’t say another sentence in his life. There are so many words in the world, and his final ones were crafted solely for his son. Today I want to make two facts known: Kent Myers wasn’t an asshole, and he sure did love his son.”

Levi moved closer to me, placing his lips against my forehead. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Always,” I replied.

That night our conversation came in waves. We went from silence to nonstop speaking over and over again.

“They named him Easton Michael Landon,” I told him quietly.

“What? That’s ridiculous.” He groaned. “I was really hoping for something more food related. Apple. Or Eggplant. Or…”

“Broccoli.” I giggled.

“God, yes. Broccoli Kale Landon. It just rolls off of the tongue.”

“Or Pepper Pea Landon.”

“Okra Potato Landon.” He laughed. “Clearly they should’ve asked us for our opinion.”


More silence.

“There’s a gift and a letter for you in your dad’s office. The gift is from me. The letter is from him. I wasn’t sure if you saw it or not.”

“I haven’t been in there yet, but I’ll pick it up when I leave. Thanks.”

More silence.

“So what happens with us now?” I asked him, knowing that he was leaving in a few days.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot, actually.” His voice was somber as he stared out the window, sitting still. My stomach knotted, afraid of what his reply would be. “But if I learned anything about the future, it’s that it doesn’t matter. The future’s not real. So it’s best to live in the here and now with you.”

It was all we had, the here and now, and that was good enough.

We stayed inside the tree house, not looking toward one another, but holding each other’s pinkie fingers. We stared out the window, into the night sky. It was right then that we knew. We knew we were small. We were tiny specks of paint on the universe’s canvas. Most of the world would never know of the love between Art and Soul. We knew that in a flash, life could be ripped away, leaving us only with death and loneliness. But, in another flash, love could heal, leaving us with only life and hope. Levi made me hopeful, hopeful for the tomorrows that we had yet to meet.

Right then, we were very much alive.

And we were hungrily in love.

Levi Myers taught me three important things about life:

Sometimes pinkie holding was the best kind of holding.

Sometimes forehead kisses were the best kind of kisses.

And sometimes temporary love was the best kind of love.

* * *


Leaving Mayfair Heights was hard. I didn’t know the next time I would be back, which made it even harder, but the one thing that felt as if it would be okay was Aria.

Somehow we would make it work.

When I got home, Mom was still Mom, which made me beyond happy. While she prepared dinner, The Pogues played throughout the house. I sat on my bed with the letter from Dad and the gift from Aria. I’d been debating which one I should open first, and after a little too much back and forth, I went for Aria’s gift.

I ripped the wrapping paper off and saw a painting she’d made for me. Attached to the canvas was a picture of my dad and me when I was a kid. We were smiling bright with our fishing poles, and I was holding up the old hiking boot that I caught that summer day.

Aria had painted the same photograph using her abstract skills, running yellows and oranges through the skies, making it look like the canvas was exploding with life.