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Chapter no 38 – CLARA

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A few months later

I walk to the back of the living room and slip my hand inside Miller’s. We’re both nervous. We’ve worked so hard on this film, and I really want Jonah to like it.

My mother turns out the lights and takes a seat on the couch next to Lexie and Efren. Jonah is seated at the edge of the love seat, anticipating the video more than any of them.

We decided in the end to make a mockumentary. There was way too much seriousness in our lives when we started this film, so I really wanted something fun for a change.

Our time limit for the entire thing is just a few minutes, so it was harder than we thought to execute something with a beginning, middle, and end in such a short amount of time, but I’m hoping we pulled it off. We just don’t know if anyone else will appreciate the humor in it.

Miller looks at me, and I can see the nervous energy in him. We smile at each other when the film begins to play.

The screen is black, but then words flash across it in bright-orange letters, revealing the title: CHROMOPHOBE.

The scene opens on a character, aged seventeen. The name KAITLYN flashes across the screen. Kaitlyn (played by me) is sitting in an empty room on a stool. A light shines on her as she stares off camera, nervously wringing her hands together.

Someone off camera says, “Can you tell us how it all started?”

Kaitlyn glances into the camera with transfixed fear. She nods nervously. “Well . . .” It’s obviously hard for her to discuss. “I think I was five, maybe? Six? I don’t know exactly . . .” The camera zooms in closer to her face. “But . . . I remember every word of their conversation as if it happened just this morning. My mom and dad . . . they were

standing in the living room, staring at the wall. They had all these . . . these . . . plastic paint swatches in their hands. They were trying to decide on a shade of white to paint the walls. And that’s when it happened.” Kaitlyn swallows but continues, despite her reluctance. “My mother looked at my father. She just . . . looked at him like the words about to come out of her mouth weren’t about to ruin our family forever.” Kaitlyn, obviously disgusted by the memory, wipes away a tear that’s sliding down her cheek. She sucks in a deep breath and then continues speaking on the exhale. “My mother looked at him and said, ’How about orange?’

Her own recollection causes Kaitlyn to shudder.

The screen fades to black, then cuts to a new character. An elderly man, gaunt and gloomy. The name PETER flashes across the screen. This character is played by Gramps.

Peter is sitting in a green midcentury modern chair. He’s picking at the chair with his frail fingers, loosening some of the fuzz. It falls to the floor.

Again, a voice somewhere off camera is heard. “Where would you like to begin, Peter?”

Peter glances into the camera with dark almond eyes encased in years of accumulated wrinkles, all different in depths and lengths. The whites of his eyes are bloodshot. “I’ll begin at the beginning, I suppose.”

The screen cuts to a flashback . . . to a younger version of Peter, in his late teens. He’s in an older house, in a bedroom. There’s a Beatles poster hanging over the bed. The teen is rummaging through his closet, frustrated. Older Peter’s voice begins to narrate the scene.

“I couldn’t find my lucky shirt,” he says.

The scene playing out on-screen is of the frustrated teen (played by Miller), walking out of his room and then out the back door.

“So . . . I went to find my mother. To ask her if she’d seen it, ya know?”

The mother is standing at a clothesline in the backyard, hanging up a sheet.

“I said, ’Mom? Where’s my blue shirt?’

The screen is back on the older version of Peter now. He’s staring down at his hands, twiddling his thumbs. He blows out a quick breath, bringing his eyes back to the camera. “She looked right at me and said, ’I haven’t washed it yet.’

The screen now shows the teenage boy again. He’s staring at his mother in utter disbelief. He brings his hands to the sides of his head.

“That’s when I realized . . . ,” Peter’s voice-over says. “I was left with only one option.”

The camera follows the teenage boy as he stomps back into his house, back to his room, and back to his closet. His hands push apart the clothes in his closet until the camera is focused on a lone shirt, just hanging there, swaying front to back.

“It was the only clean shirt I had.”

The camera is back on older Peter. He presses his sweaty palms against his thighs and leans his head back against his old green chair. He stares up at the ceiling in thought.

A voice from off set calls out to him. “Peter? Do you need a break?”

Peter leans forward, shaking his head. “No. No, I just want to get it over with.” He releases a puff of air, looking back at the camera. “I did what I had to do,” he says with a shrug.

The camera follows the teenage boy as he rips the shirt off the hanger. He yanks the dirty T-shirt he was wearing off and then angrily puts on the clean shirt he just removed from the closet.

“I had to wear it.” Old Peter is staring at the camera now with a stoic expression. “I couldn’t go shirtless. It was the fifties.” He repeats himself in a whisper. “I had to wear it.”

A question comes from off set. “What color was the shirt, Peter?” Peter shakes his head. The memory is too difficult.

“Peter,” the off-camera voice urges. “What color was the shirt?” Peter blows out a frustrated breath. “Orange. It was orange, okay?”

He looks away from the camera, ashamed.

The screen fades to black.

The next scene opens on a new character, professional in dress. She has long blonde hair, and she’s wearing a crisp white shirt. She’s straightening out her shirt when she looks at the camera. “We ready?” she asks.

“Whenever you are,” the off-camera voice says.

She nods. “Okay, then. I’ll just start?” She’s looking at someone else for direction. Then she looks at the screen. “My name is Dr. Esther Bloombilingtington. I am a chromophobia expert.”

A voice off camera says, “Can you define that term?”

Dr. Bloombilingtington nods. “Chromophobia is a persistent and irrational fear of color.”

“What color, specifically?” the off-camera voice asks.

“Chromophobia presents itself differently in every patient,” she says. “Sometimes patients have a fear of blue, or green, or red, or pink, or yellow, or black, or brown, or purple. Even white. No color is off limits, really. Some patients may even find themselves fearing a number of colors, or, in more severe cases . . .” She looks deadpan into the camera. “All colors.”

The off-camera voice poses another question. “But you aren’t here to speak about any of those colors today, are you?”

Dr. Bloombilingtington shakes her head, looking back into the camera. “No. Today, I’m here for one reason. One color that has resulted in alarmingly consistent results.” She lifts her shoulders with an intake of breath. Her shoulders fall as she begins to speak again. “The results of this study are important, and I feel this needs to be shared with the world.”

“What needs to be shared?”

“Based on our findings, we have discovered that the color orange is not only the cause of most cases of chromophobia, but our research proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that orange is, by far, the absolute worst color of all colors.”

The off-camera voice asks, “And what proof do you have of this?” Dr. Bloombilingtington looks very seriously into the camera.

“Aside from several dozen likes on our Twitter research polls and quite a few views on our Instagram stories regarding this subject, we also have . . . the people. The people and their stories.” She leans forward, narrowing her eyes as slow, dramatic music begins to play. “Just listen to their stories.”

The camera cuts to black.

The next scene opens back up on the first character, Kaitlyn. She’s holding Kleenex now as she speaks. “As soon as my mother said those words to my father . . .” She lifts her eyes and looks at the camera. “He . . . he died.”

She brings the Kleenex to her eyes. “He just . . . he looked at her, shocked that she would even suggest orange as a color for the living room walls. As soon as she said it, he dropped all the little plastic color swatches on the floor, and he grasped at his heart and he just . . . he died.”

Kaitlyn has a look of bewilderment on her face. “The last word he ever heard spoken aloud . . . was orange.” A sob breaks from her chest. She shakes her head back and forth. “I’ll never be able to forgive my

mother. Who suggests orange as a wall color? It’s the last thing he heard. The last thing!”

The camera goes black immediately after her outburst.

It opens on a flashback of young Peter, driving in an older blue truck. He’s wearing the orange shirt. His face is twisted and contorted with anger.

“I wanted to wear the blue shirt but had no choice,” older Peter narrates. “I knew Mary preferred blue. She’d even said it to me the day I asked her out. I told her I liked her yellow dress, and she twirled around for me and said, ’Isn’t it pretty?’ I nodded, and then she said, ’I like your shirt, Peter. Blue looks good on you.

The camera is focused on old Peter now, sitting in his green chair. His eyes are even more bloodshot than they were in the beginning. “When I showed up at the theater . . . she was standing out front. Alone. I parked the truck, turned it off, and I just watched her. She looked so pretty, standing there in her yellow dress.”

The flashback shows young Peter, sitting in his truck, wearing his orange shirt while he watches a pretty girl waiting, alone, wearing a yellow dress. He winces.

“I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let her see me like that.”

Young Peter cranks his truck and begins pulling out of the parking

lot.

The camera switches to old Peter now, in his green chair. “What

was I supposed to do?” He’s so angry he’s rising out of his seat, but he’s too old to come to a full stand. “I couldn’t just walk up to her in that shirt! Leaving was my only choice!”

He falls back into his chair. He shakes his head, obviously regretting a choice that had a profound impact on the rest of his life.

“Peter?”

Peter looks up to the right of the camera, at whoever belongs to the off-set voice.

“Can you tell us what happened to Mary?”

Peter winces, his eyes somehow finding a way to pull in even more wrinkles.

“What happened to Mary, Peter?”

Peter half stands again, angry, throwing an arm out. “She married Dan Stanley! That’s what happened!” He falls into his seat again, sadness consuming him. “They met that night . . . at the theater. The night I was supposed to take her out in my blue shirt. They fell in love. Ended up having three kids and some goats. Or sheep. Heck, I can’t remember.

They had a lot of ’em, though. I used to have to drive by their farm on my way to work every day, and them darned animals looked so . . . healthy. Like Dan Stanley took real good care of ’em. Just like he took good care of Mary, even though she was supposed to be mine.”

Peter reaches over to an end table next to his chair. He grabs a Kleenex. Blows his nose. “Now here I am.” He waves his hand around the room as if he has nothing to show from his life. “Alone.” He wipes his nose again, looking into the camera. It zooms in on his face. There’s a long, awkward pause. Then Peter says, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’m done.”

The screen goes black again.

The next scene opens on Dr. Bloombilingtington, her eyebrows drawn together in concern.

“What do you hope people gain from this documentary?” the off-set voice asks her.

She looks into the camera. “What I hope for . . . the only thing I hope for . . . is that everyone watching this comes together in the banning of this atrocious color. Not only does orange ruin lives, but the word doesn’t even rhyme with anything. People try to rhyme words with orange, but . . . there’s no perfect rhyme. There just isn’t.” The camera zooms in on her face. Her voice is a serious whisper. “There never will be.”

The screen goes black.

New words flash across the screen in every color but orange. They say, If you or someone you know has ever seen the color orange or spoken the word orange out loud, you could be a sufferer of chromophobia. Please contact a psychiatrist for an official diagnosis. If you would like to donate to or be a part of our campaign efforts in the banning of this color from our language and our world, please email us at [email protected].

The screen goes black.

The credits begin to roll, but there are only three of them, since me, Miller, and his gramps played every role.

Miller held my hand through the whole thing. His palm is sweating. I know the entire video is only five minutes long, but it felt longer. It certainly took a lot longer to make.

The room is quiet. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad sign. I look over at Jonah, but he’s still staring at the television.

Lexie and Efren are staring at the floor.

My mother is the first to speak. “That was . . .” She looks to Jonah for help, but he’s still staring at the TV. She continues talking. “That was . . . unexpected. The quality was great. And the acting. I mean . . . I don’t know. You asked for honesty, so . . . I don’t get it. Maybe I’m too old.”

Lexie shakes her head. “No, it’s not about age, because I am so confused right now.”

“It’s a mockumentary,” Miller says defensively. “They’re supposed to make fun of documentaries. They’re funny.”

Efren nods. “I laughed.”

“No, you didn’t,” Miller says. He walks over to the light and flips it

on.

I’m still waiting for Jonah to say something. He finally looks away

from the television, bringing his eyes to the two of us. He just stares for a silent moment.

But then . . . he starts to clap.

It’s slow at first, but the clap picks up speed as he stands. He starts to laugh, and I can sense Miller finally begin to ease up with Jonah’s reaction. “That was brilliant!” Jonah says. He puts his hands on his hips and stares back at the television. “I mean . . . the quality. The acting.” He looks back at us. “Who played Peter?”

“That’s my grandpa,” Miller says.

So good,” Jonah says. “I thought it was fantastic. I think you two might have a shot with this one.”

“Are you just being nice?” my mom asks Jonah. “I can’t tell.”

“No. I mean, I think we all went into it thinking it was going to be something a lot more serious. Maybe something more personal. But when I realized it was a mockumentary, I was speechless at how well you pulled it off. You nailed it. Both of you.”

Miller and I both sigh with relief. We worked so hard on it. And I know it’s silly, but that’s the point.

I’m not offended that no one else understood it. We really only cared what Jonah thought, because his name is going on it as the sponsoring teacher.

Miller scoops me up into a hug. I can feel the relief emanating from him as he sighs against my neck. “I’m so glad that’s over,” he says. “I thought he was going to hate it.”

I’m relieved too. This is good.

Miller goes to the laptop that’s hooked up to the TV. “Okay, I have one more video.”

I tilt my head, confused. “But we only made the one . . .” Miller looks at me and grins. “This one’s a surprise.”

He pulls up a different file, and as soon as the television connects to his computer, Miller rushes to the lights and turns them off.

I don’t know what he’s up to.

I’m still standing in the back of the living room when Miller wraps his arms around me from behind. He rests his chin on my shoulder.

“What is this?”

“Shh,” he says. “Just watch.”

The film opens with Miller staring at the camera. He’s holding it himself, pointing it at his own face. He waves. “Hey, Clara.” He sets the camera down. He’s in his bedroom. He takes a seat on his bed and says, “Okay, so I know you said you don’t like anything elaborate, but . . . I kind of started this before you told me that. So . . . I hope you like it.”

The screen goes black and opens up to footage of the two of us. It’s all the B-roll he’s taken over the last several months. Clips of us sitting against the tree at the park. Clips of us working on our video submission. Clips of us at school, at his house, at my house.

The montage of clips ends, and in the next scene, it actually has sound. It’s Miller, fumbling with the camera. He’s at his truck, and he slams the door, pointing the camera at himself. “Hey, Clara. I think you should go to prom with me.” He whispers it when he says it, then sets the camera up on the tripod. He points it at me.

It was the first day he had set up the camera, when we were at the food truck. He walks away to go order our sandwiches, and the footage shows me making silly faces at the camera.

The next scene is the day we skipped school. He’s setting the camera up, pointing it at the tree. I’m leaning against the tree, staring out at the water. Miller isn’t in the shot at first, but then he sticks his face in front of the camera. “Hey, Clara,” he whispers in a hurry. “You should go to prom with me.” Then he backs away from the camera and slips between me and the tree, like nothing was amiss.

I had no idea he was doing any of this. I turn around to look at him, but he urges me to keep watching the television.

The next three scenes are all from while we’ve dated, with him sneaking in random promposals while we’re together and me having no idea he was doing it.

Then a scene opens up to him standing in line at Starbucks. He points his camera at me. I’m sitting alone in a corner, reading a book.

Oh my God. This is the first day we kissed.

Miller turns the camera back on himself as he’s standing in the Starbucks line. “You’re so cute, sitting over there reading your book,” he whispers. “I think you should go to prom with me.”

“Miller,” I whisper. I try to turn around and look at him again, but he doesn’t want me to take my eyes off the television. I’m just in shock. I wasn’t expecting any of the footage to be from before we were dating.

In the next scene, Miller is outside, leaning against a pole. I don’t recognize the location at first, but when he wipes away beads of sweat from his forehead and pulls the sucker from his mouth, I realize he’s standing in front of the city limit sign. He’s looking into his camera when he says, “So. Clara Grant. You just drove by, and I know you saw me standing out here on the side of the road. Here’s the deal. I have a girlfriend, but I stopped thinking about her when I go to bed at night, and Gramps says that’s a bad sign and that I should break up with her. I mean, I have had a thing for you for a long time now, and I feel like I’m running out of opportunity. So I’ll make you a deal. If you turn your car around at the bottom of that hill and come back, I’m gonna take that as a sign, finally listen to my gut, break up with my girlfriend, and eventually ask you out. I might even ask you to prom this year. But if you don’t turn your car around, then I’ll assume you and I just weren’t meant to—” His eyes flash up, and he catches sight of something. He grins and then looks back down at his phone. “Look at that. You came back.”

That portion of the video ends, and now I’m crying.

When the next scene begins, I don’t recognize it at all. The camera is pointed at the floor and then at Gramps.

Gramps looks a few years younger in this video. Healthier than he looks now. “Get that out of my face,” Gramps says.

Miller turns the camera on himself. He looks younger too. He’s skinny, probably about fifteen. “Gramps is excited for the show,” Miller says sarcastically into the camera. Then he points his camera toward the stage.

My heart is thundering in my chest when I recognize the set.

My mind also starts to race. Twice, Miller’s grandpa tried to tell me about something that happened when they were at the school when Miller was fifteen. And twice, Miller was so embarrassed by it he shut him up.

Miller kisses the side of my head because he knows I’ve been wanting to know this story since the first day I met Gramps.

The camera cuts off. When it cuts on again, it’s the same night, but it’s the end of the play. The camera is on me now. I’m fourteen, standing onstage by myself, delivering a monologue. The camera slowly pans away from me and onto Miller.

His gramps must be holding the camera now.

Miller is staring at the stage. He’s leaning forward, his hands clasped beneath his chin. The camera zooms in on him as he watches me onstage. The camera stays there for a solid minute. Miller is hanging on to every word I’m saying onstage, completely engrossed. Gramps never once takes the camera off him, but Miller has no idea his gramps is filming him.

The monologue is the end of the play, so when I deliver my last line, everyone in the audience begins to clap.

Miller doesn’t.

He’s immobile. “Wow,” he whispers. “She is incredible. Epic.

That’s when he looks at his grandpa and sees the camera pointed in his direction. He tries to snatch the camera out of Gramps’s hand, but Gramps pulls it away. He angles the camera so that it’s showing both of them. Miller rolls his eyes at his grandpa when he says, “I think you just fell in love.”

Miller laughs. “Shut up.”

“You did, and I got it on camera.” He points the camera at Miller again and says, “What’s her name?”

Miller shrugs. “Not sure. Clara, I think?” He opens the playbill and scrolls through it, pausing on my name. “Clara Grant. She played the role of Nora.”

His grandpa is still filming him. Miller isn’t even denying what his grandpa is saying. Everyone in the audience is now clapping for the actors as they walk out onstage, but Miller is staring at the camera. “You can stop now.”

His grandpa laughs. “I think it’s cute. Maybe you should ask her

out.”

Miller laughs. “Yeah, right. She’s a ten. I’m like a four. Maybe a

five.”

Gramps turns the camera on himself. “I’d give him a solid six.” “Turn it off,” Miller says again.

Gramps smiles at the camera. He points it at Miller one more time. When they announce my name and it’s my turn to take a bow onstage,

Miller bites his lip, trying to hide his smile.

“You look lovesick,” Gramps says. “Damn shame, because she’s out of your league.”

Miller faces the camera. He laughs and doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he seems smitten. He leans forward, closer to the camera, looking directly into it. “One of these days, that girl is gonna notice me. You just wait.”

“I’m not immortal,” Gramps says. “Neither are you.”

Miller looks back at the stage and laughs. “You’re the worst grandpa I have.”

“I’m the only grandpa you have.” “Thank God,” Miller says, laughing. Then the camera cuts off.

Tears are streaming down my cheeks. I’m shaking my head, in complete shock. Miller still has his arms wrapped around me. He brings his mouth to my ear. “And you said promposals were stupid.”

I laugh through my tears. Then I turn around and kiss him. “I’m obviously wrong a lot.”

He presses his forehead to mine and smiles.

Someone turns on the lights. We separate, and my mother is wiping her eyes. “Now that’s what you guys should have submitted.”

Lexie is nodding in agreement.

“Doesn’t meet the criteria,” Jonah says. “It wasn’t all filmed this year.” He looks at Miller and winks. “It was great, though.”

I stare at the blank television in disbelief. And then, something strikes me. “Wait a second.” I face Miller. “You said you named your truck after a Beatles song. But Nora was the name of my character in that play.”

He smiles.

“Do the Beatles even have a song called ‘Nora’?”

He shakes his head, and I can’t even believe this guy right now.

He’s never going to be able to top this.

 

 

An hour later, I’m still on a high. Not a real high. A Miller high.

He promised he’d feed me because I’m starving, but he’s heading in the opposite direction of town.

“I thought we were going to eat.”

“There’s something I want to show you at home, first.”

I’m sitting in the middle of his truck seat, leaning my head on his shoulder. I’m looking down at my phone when I feel the truck begin to slow down. We pass Miller’s driveway, though. He pulls off to the side of the road in the dark.

“What are you doing?”

He opens his truck door and grabs my hand, pulling me out. He walks me a few feet and then points at something. I look up at the city limit sign.

“Notice anything?”

I look down, and it’s cemented to the ground. I laugh. “Wow. You did it. You moved the entire city limit.”

“I was thinking we could hang at my house and order pizza with Gramps tonight.”

“Pepperoni and pineapple?”

Miller shakes his head, drops my hand, and begins walking back to his truck. “So close to a perfect ten, Clara. So close.”

Five minutes later, me and Gramps are acting like Miller ordering pizza is the most exciting thing we’ve ever witnessed. We’re both sitting on the edge of our chairs. I’m biting my nails. Miller has the phone on speaker, so the room grows tense when the pizza guy says, “I don’t think we deliver that far out. Our delivery area is inside the city limit.”

“I do live inside the city limit. By about twenty feet,” Miller says confidently.

There’s silence on the other end of the line before the guy says, “Okay. Got you in the system. We should be there in about forty-five minutes.”

When Miller hangs up the phone, we both jump up and high-five.

Gramps can’t really jump up, so I give him a low five.

“I’m a genius,” Miller says. “Five months of hard and very illegal work finally paid off.”

“I’m kinda proud of you,” Gramps says. “Even though I don’t want to condone anything illegal. But I mean . . . it’s pizza, so . . .”

Miller laughs. The alarm on Gramps’s medication timer goes off, so I walk to the kitchen to get him the pills he needs. I’ve been helping Miller out with Gramps while he’s at work. There’s a full-time aide here during the day, but it’s getting to where he needs help during all the other hours too.

I like getting to spend time with Gramps. He tells me so many great stories about Miller. About his own life. And even though he still jokes that his wife skipped town, I love hearing him talk about her. They were

married for fifty-two years before she died. Hearing the stories of the two of them helps reaffirm my belief in love.

Jonah and my mother help too. It was weird for a while, seeing them together. But they’re a good fit. They’re taking it slow and have decided to wait before making any big moves, like moving in together. But we have dinner with Jonah and Elijah almost every night.

Jonah is a completely different person with my mother than he was with Aunt Jenny. Not that he wouldn’t have been happy living a life with Aunt Jenny and Elijah. But my mother makes him light up in a way I’ve never seen before. Every time she’s near him, he looks at her like she’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen.

I catch Miller looking at me like that sometimes. Like right now, as I stand in the kitchen, prepping meds for his grandpa.

I take them to the living room and sit next to Miller on the couch.

Gramps swallows his meds, then sets his glass of water on the table next to his chair. “So? I guess you finally saw the video of when Miller fell in love with you?”

I laugh and lean into Miller. “Your grandson is a romantic.”

Gramps laughs. “No, my grandson is a nitwit. Took him three years to finally ask you out.”

“Patience is a virtue,” Miller says.

“Not when you have cancer.” Gramps stands up. “I’ve been waiting to die for seven months now, but it ain’t ever gonna happen. Guess I might as well get this over with.” He uses his walker to slowly make his way into the kitchen.

“Get what over with?” Miller asks him.

Gramps opens a drawer where he keeps a lot of his paperwork. He rifles through it and then pulls out a folder, bringing it back to the living room with him. He tosses it on the table in front of Miller. “I wanted to wait and have my lawyer tell you about it after I was dead. Thought it’d be funnier that way. But sometimes I think I might never die, and you don’t have much time left to apply for college.”

Miller pulls the folder toward him. He opens it and begins to read the first page. It looks like a will. Miller scans over it and chuckles. “You actually left me the rights to your air in the will?” Miller asks, looking up from the papers.

Gramps rolls his eyes. “I’ve been telling you this for ten years, but you keep laughing at me!”

Miller shrugs. “Maybe I’m missing the joke? How can you will someone air?”

“They’re air rights, you dumbass!” Gramps pushes back in his chair. “Bought them when I was thirty, back when me and your grandma lived in New York. Bastards have been trying to get me to sell them for years, but I already told you I was giving them to you, and I don’t break my word.”

I’m just as confused as Miller, I guess. “What are air rights?”

Gramps rolls his head. “They don’t teach you kids anything in school. It’s like owning land, but in bigger cities, you can actually own parts of the air so people can’t build in front of your building or on top of your building. I own a small chunk of that air in Union Square. Worth about a quarter of a million dollars last time I checked.”

Miller chokes on nothing. He keeps choking. Sputtering. I pat his back before he stands up and points down at the folder. “Are you kidding me?”

Gramps shakes his head. “I know how much you want to go to that school down in Austin. My lawyer said it’s gonna cost you about a hundred and fifty thousand to get a degree. Plus, you’ll have taxes to pay when you sell the rights. I figure you’ll have enough left to help with a down payment on a house someday or maybe travel. Or buy some film equipment. I don’t know. I ain’t making you rich, but it’s better than nothing.”

Miller looks like he’s about to cry. He paces the room, trying not to look at his grandpa. When he does, his eyes are red, but he’s laughing. “All this time you kept saying I was inheriting air. I thought you were just being you.” He walks over to his gramps and hugs him. Then he pulls back. “And what do you mean you’ve been waiting to die first before telling me about this? Why?”

Gramps shrugs. “I thought it’d be funny. Me getting in one final joke after I’m dead, when you weren’t expecting it.”

Miller rolls his eyes. Then looks at me, smiling. I can tell we’re having the same thought, and nothing makes me happier than knowing we might be in the same city after I graduate next year. At the same school. We might even have some of the same classes.

“You do realize what this means, right?” I ask him. Miller shrugs.

“The University of Texas? Your school color will be orange, Miller.”

He laughs. So does his grandpa. But Miller doesn’t realize the jokes aren’t over. I’m saving one of them for prom.

I bought the perfect dress for our special occasion. It’s the most atrocious shade of orange I could find.

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