She walked toward the podium with a bright smile on her face. His heart warmed as he watched her, glad to see how happy she was. But behind the smile was a look of concern that tore his heart apart.
What he did wasn’t right, and he knew he had to make amends. He walked down the stairs with his crown in hand. What he did next left the entire hall quiet.
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’d 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.
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.
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.
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 threaten to destroy 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. Thad was happy he could be a part of such an energetic duo, but then the two shared something that receded his smile.
“Ali just transferred to our school for his senior year,” Kerry shared through her text-to-speech device. With a bright smile, she added, “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. He’d even entered their names for homecoming king and queen to surprise her. How could this happen?
“I am happy for you,” Thad said, trembling hands in his pockets. “I am happy for you, Kere,” He made an excuse about needing to be somewhere and left even though he knew he was doing wrong by his friend.
The weeks flew by fast, and before Thad knew it, homecoming was here. He stood by his lonesome as the announcer got ready to call out their year’s homecoming royalty. He still couldn’t believe Kerry had chosen Ali over him.
“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.
“Kerry Arivett!” the spotlight shone on Kerry, and Thad, who was already on the podium, saw as she shifted from utterly surprised to instantly graceful with one swift motion.
As she walked to the podium, Thad’s eyes connected with her, 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.
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.
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.
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.