Bonnie McAdams dropped her spoon on the table, temporarily forgetting about her breakfast.  She stared at the obituary page in disbelief.  Bobby Simmons was dead?  Big ol’ always smiling Bobby was gone?  How?  She read a little further.

Robert Simmons age 41 of Columbus, Indiana died Friday, January 27, 2012 after a brief, but courageous battle with cancer.

Holy shit…cancer?  He was younger than her by three months!  Bonnie ran her hand through her blond hair, rereading it.  He had died in Georgia where he had moved with his wife and two sons.  They were at his side when he passed on.  They were bringing him home to Columbus to bury him with his parents. 

Wow.  She couldn’t grasp that he wasn’t with them any longer.  He was part of her core group of friends growing up.  He was the goofball, always laughing.  No matter how bad things got, he would crack them up somehow. But underneath his boisterous, funny persona was a really deep guy.  Very few people saw that side of him.  She was one of the few he let in. 

He had moved away in 1994, right before she had had her daughter Alexia.  Sadly, distance and life took its toll and they had lost touch with each other. Her reverie was interrupted by a flash of pink running into the kitchen.  Alexia was once again running late for school.

“Morning Mom.” She said as she rummaged through the refrigerator. 

“Good morning Lexie.  I swear you’ll be late for your own funeral!”  Bonnie said laughing.  “Speaking of, I have to go to a wake in Columbus tonight; I won’t be home until after eight.”

“Who died?” Lexie asked between spoonfuls of yogurt.

“My friend Bobby.  Remember the one in Georgia with the two little boys?”  Lexie nodded. “Him.  I’ll probably end up going to the funeral tomorrow if Jack can cover for me.”

Lexie squeezed her mom from behind.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t imagine losing any of my friends.  I’ll be OK tonight.  I have to work until seven and then study for my pathology exam tomorrow.  I think I’ve got it, but Emma is a little unsure of some things.  Figured I’d help her out.” 

There was a series of beeps from the driveway.  “There’s Emma, gotta run. Love you!” she yelled, grabbing her backpack as she ran out the door.

“Love you too! Be careful! Text me when you get home!”  Lexie waved in response and was gone.

Bonnie leaned her chin on her hand watching Emma pull out.  Where had the time gone?  Lexie was already in her last semester of her senior year.  She was at the top of her class and getting ready to start college in the fall.  She looked just like her, but with green eyes instead of brown.  She was smart, funny, beautiful and wildly sarcastic.  She could be a total girly-girl, but burp and fart with the guys like it was nobody’s business.  The boys loved her, but she was too concerned with her grades to be bothered with dating much.  Her dream since she was little was to become a veterinarian.  She hadn’t strayed off that course yet.  She was very, very proud of her.

Bonnie finished up her coffee, rinsed her mug and placed it in the dish drainer.  Her cat Binky was hollering for breakfast (“meyelling” as Lexie jokingly called it).  She filled her tuxedo cat’s dish full of dry food and headed into the bathroom to get ready for work.

Bonnie managed Jack’s Paint Emporium down on Main St. in Columbus.  She had started there part time in high school and had worked her way up to store manager.  Jack and his wife Molly had never had children, so they treated her more like a daughter than an employee.  When she found herself alone and pregnant at twenty-three, they did all they could to help her get settled.  With her parents divorced and too busy with their own lives for her, they had stepped up in a big way.  She really didn’t know what she would have done without them.

Once Lexie was born, Molly helped her by babysitting so she could work full time.  They had even set up a mini nursery for her in the back.  As Lexie grew up and started school, her nursery became the area where she did her homework.  Now, she worked there part time after school like she had done in high school.  It was a true family affair!

Bonnie’s day went by quickly.  Seemed like everyone had been touched by Bobby in some way or another.  She heard two sentences all day.  “Did you hear about Bobby?” and “Remember when Bobby did…”  She had heard so many stories about him…and our gang.  It was Bobby and Heather, Gary and Jo and me and Tony.  Tony Stewart.  Her first true love.  Even though they had a painful breakup, she still followed his career.  She hadn’t spoken to him in almost twenty years…she never wanted to bother him.  She watched him on TV and cheered him every Sunday.  When he won the championship, her heart swelled with pride.  All his dreams had come true…and that made her happy.

Before long it was six o’clock and time to close up.  His wake was at Jensen Funeral home from 4-8.  It was only a couple of miles from her.  She changed into a simple black skirt, black pumps and a gray sweater.  After checking her makeup and quickly brushing her hair, Bonnie hopped in her car and headed northbound.  She pulled into the parking lot around six thirty, turned off her car and took a deep breath.  She hated wakes.  She wanted to remember Bobby they way he was, not the emaciated person he’d become. 

She got out of her car and walked toward the funeral home.  An older gentleman opened the door greeting her.  She followed the signs to his viewing room.  She walked in, immediately overwhelmed by the smell of flowers.  She saw familiar faces, nodding to them as she passed.  She approached Bobby’s coffin and knelt down.  There were drawings from his sons and pictures of the three of them together.  He was thinner, but looked like the same Bobby she had grown up with, albeit older.  She felt her eyes well up with tears.  She said a silent prayer to him, touching his cold hand.  She was so sorry that this was the last time they’d be together.She offered her condolences to his wife Heather and his family.  Three picture collages caught her eye across the room.  She bit her lip as she looked at the memories of a better time.  There were his children as babies, the pride and love radiating in his eyes.  Their wedding picture and the God awful teal green bridesmaid dresses we wore!   Her eyes found a picture from 1988, the six of them muddy on the boys’ quads after a day on the trails.  She touched it, feeling her eyes mist up.  Life was so easy them.

“That was a fun day, wasn’t it?”  Said a soft voice in her ear.  Startled, she spun around and gasped.

"Tony! What are you doing here?"

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