She confidently made her way to the podium. The man couldn’t help but smile as he watched her; she deserved to be happy. However, his smile was hiding a concern that broke his heart.
He knew he had made a mistake and needed to rectify things. He rushed down the stairs while gripping his crown tightly. What happened next left the people speechless.
Being A Senior
Thad Hemsworth was your average senior in Los Angeles, California. He had his grades in order, played in the school band, and was the best wide receiver on the school’s football team.
To everyone around him, Thad’s life was awesome. He had everything a teenager his age could ever wish for. But he’d always felt like something was missing deep within. That was until he met Kerry.
Kerry had been a new transfer who joined Thad’s class in sophomore year. A girl with a smile that could melt anything before her, she lived with a form of cerebral palsy that hindered her from speaking on her own.
Galloway AP – John M
It was a day at the school lab that Thad found out about her condition. Their teacher asked the students to form pairs before the class commenced. Naturally, everybody rushed to their friends, with Kerry, the new girl, sitting by her lonesome. Thad knew he had to step in.
Meeting New People
Thad went and sat with Kerry, and as the class began, he noticed she had a text-to-speech device next to her phone. Thad was confused at first, wondering what the gadget was.
But as the teacher gave the students instructions on what to do, Kerry reached for the device and used it to speak to Thad. He was beside himself with intrigue at how cool Kerry’s gadget was. He knew he needed to be her friend.
A Good Thing
Thad and Kerry’s friendship blossomed through the years, and by the time they were seniors, they’d grown into best friends. They spent time together at home and in school, with Kerry bringing a new perspective to everything in Thad’s life.
But there was something in Kerry’s life that Thad had noted as their senior year continued. His discovery would threaten his friendship with Kerry.
Although Thad and Kerry’s friendship was as strong as ever, Thad learned that Kerry had another best friend who was as close to her heart as he was.
The idea of it all rubbed him in all the wrong places, but he wouldn’t let such thoughts ruin such a beautiful thing between him and his best friend. But one day, something would happen that would come after everything they’d built together.
When Thad heard that Kerry had another friend as closer to her as he was, he didn’t know what to think. He hated the idea of sharing his best friend with someone else but couldn’t expect Kerry not to have other friends.
But the more he learned about her friend, the more he realized what his presence meant for his relationship with Kerry.
Thad’s heart quivered within him as he uncovered the identity of Kerry’s friend. It was one of her old schoolmates named Ali, and Kerry had known him since they were five.
She invited Thad to spend a day with her and Ali, and of course, Thad obliged. But what was supposed to be a simple afternoon at the movies ended up showing Thad he had no chance of winning the fight for Kerry.
Ali was like Kerry as he was living with cerebral palsy, although he could talk. He was fun and always grinning, with the best jokes Thad had ever heard. As Thad watched the two interact, he realized his best friend laughed more with Ali than she ever did with him.
They had inside jokes that went over Thad’s head and had the wittiest comebacks for each other’s comments. Just standing there made him feel out of place.
Just A Friend
Thad had always liked Kerry as a friend. For the longest time, he’d seen her as someone he could tell everything, someone he could trust and confide in.
But after spending time with Kerry and Ali, he realized that his best friend was all that for Ali. But the most challenging part was the realization that hit Thad while he watched the two interact.
Seeing Her Under A New Light
Thad had never considered a romantic branch within his and Kerry’s best friend situation. He had never viewed her in that manner.
But seeing her have a great time with Ali birthed a fit of rancid jealousy he didn’t know he was capable of. He skulked alone in a corner, unsure of what was happening.
Don’t Let Her See It
Thad didn’t know what to make of his feelings. His confusion quickly turned into panic when Kerry walked to him, asking why he was alone and quiet in a dark corner.
Seeing her come to him this way warmed Thad’s heart, but he stamped down the feeling. He needed to figure out what was happening to him.
Leaving Without Telling Her The Truth
“I need to go,” he said softly, telling Kerry he wasn’t feeling okay. Worried, Kerry asked if she and Ali could walk him home, but Thad turned down the offer.
“Stay,” he said with a forced smile. “Have fun, catch up. I’ll take a cab home and maybe some painkillers before hitting the sack.” Kerry was left stumped.
He Walks Away
The moment Thad walked away, he knew he’d made the biggest mistake of his life. He didn’t stop to look back or run and tell Kerry what was troubling his mind.
He quickly took his steps home, praying whatever was happening to him was just a fluke. There was no way he was romantically interested in his best friend of two years.
Suppress It Before It Eats You Up
As many would do in his situation, Thad suppressed any emotion that tried to steer him toward talking to Kerry – A mistake. He edged out all thoughts centering around her, occupying his mind with video games and music until he fell asleep.
Hoping things would be back to normal when he woke up, Thad closed his eyes, getting lost in the endless sweet waters of slumber. But even in his sleep, his heart would taunt him.
In His Dreams
Kerry came to Thad in his dreams. She was as beautiful as ever, asking if he was free for the evening so they could go to the store together.
How many times had they done that together? Thad agreed, and the two went to the store and had a good time. But the dream shifted, quickly becoming one of Thad’s most harrowing nightmares.
An Empty House
Inside the nightmare, Thad found out Kerry’s family had moved away to Chicago. Their house was empty, with towering shrubs eating away at the lawn and dead leaves all over the roof.
Thad’s heart thundered as he stood before the house, staring at its chapped paint and darkened windows. How could he let his best friend go without a fight?
Sleek with sweat, Thad came to in the wee hours of the morning. He shot straight into his bed, panting amid drenched covers.
A tightening vice seemed present around his neck, and he ate back a cry as he remembered the nightmare he’d had. Was it an epiphany presenting some hidden future to him?
A Superstitious Boy
Thad had never been a superstitious boy before. But the day’s events had done well to turn him into a believer.
Ali had so much in common with Kerry than he did. Even though Thad had always done right by her, he knew he was no match compared to her childhood friend. But there was one truth that gave him hope.
Make A Choice
Thad could fight for Kerry. Two things would happen: he would win her over, and life would be good again. But on the other hand, she would choose Ali, leaving him more distraught than he was now.
He was still thinking about what to do when his phone pinged a text. Reaching for it, he saw that it was Kerry. Blushing at how fast he opened the message after seeing it was her, Thad read it.
The text was simple enough. It began with a “Hello” and concluded with Kerry hoping Thad was feeling better. She wanted to come to see him in the afternoon.
Thad’s heart pounded as he read each text word out loud, making sure he didn’t miss anything. But Kerry followed up with another text that would ruin his day.
“Ali just transferred to our school for his senior year,” Kerry shared through her text. Thad thought that was the worst news he would receive that morning when another came, reading, “He just asked me to homecoming!”
“Homecoming,” Thad repeated, feeling a void birth within him. He’d wanted to ask Kerry out for homecoming and planned on it for a while. To surprise her, he’d even entered their names for homecoming king and queen. How could this happen?
“I am happy for you,” Thad texted, trembling fingers barely typing correctly. “I am happy for you, Kere,” He made an excuse about needing to be somewhere through the day and turned his phone off.
Thad set his phone down and sulked throughout the day. He had never been in this position before, wondering what would happen if he opened up to his best friend about his feelings and perhaps lost her or kept everything a secret and lost her.
Although Thad knew he wasn’t doing right by Kerry, he kept his phone turned off throughout the day. He asked his brothers to tell Kerry he wasn’t home when she came to see him.
The weekend ended with the two friends not seeing each other. But as Monday crept closer, Thad knew he’d have to face his fear once and for all.
A Different Monday Morning
Thad went to school as usual. But unlike many days he’d done this, he didn’t walk through the front door with Kerry by his side. Instead, he spied her on the other end of the hall laughing with Ali.
Although Thad’s stomach churned at the sight of Ali making Kerry laugh, his heart softened at the joy that exuded from her. As the days went by, with Thad spending each of them away from Kerry, a realization slowly hit him.
Prom Is Coming
The days kept counting, and prom got closer with each passing. But, when Thad saw Kerry, he realized he’d confused his emotions. What he thought was a romantic yearning was him fearing Ali was here to replace him.
Tired of staying away, he wrote Kerry a letter, explaining himself and apologizing for all he’d done. But before he knew it, homecoming was here. Thad stood by his lonesome as the announcer got ready to call out their year’s homecoming royalty. He hadn’t received a response from her.
A King With A Hurting Heart
“Homecoming King,” called out the announcer, “Thad Hemsworth!” the crowds cheered as the spotlight shone on Thad. His gut clenched as he knew what this meant.
Thad had already seen Kerry and Ali walking into the hall and remembered he hadn’t shared that he’d entered his and Kerry’s names into the contest. The announcer took a deep breath before calling out the homecoming queen, and Thad ate back a gulp of air.
All Hail The Queen
“Kerry Arivett!” the spotlight shone on Kerry, and Thad, already on the podium, saw as she shifted from utterly surprised to instantly graceful with one swift motion.
Thad’s eyes connected with her as she walked to the podium, and he noticed she’d glanced back at Ali severally. He rubbed a hand down his throat as she reached the stairs. What he did next left the hall in silence.
A New Development
Thad helped Kerry to receive her crown and then rushed off the podium. He wended through the dumbfounded crowd to Ali with his crown.
Thad looked at Ali with a smile. He knew Ali had done so much for Kerry while he’d only been there for two years of her life. He was glad such a person was in her life and knew he’d do anything to be his friend. But right now, there was only one thing he could do.
Long Live The King
Thad presented his crown, placing it on Ali’s head. He dusted his shoulders and shook his hand, turning to the crowd and presenting Ali as their homecoming king.
Detroit News/John Galloway
Thad saw Kerry wipe a tear from her gleaming eyes on the podium as everyone cheered. “Go get her, tiger,” he whispered into Ali’s ear. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental