I’ve been unsure about many things in my life except for one thing, that I have always loved him. Every single minute of every single day that I have been on this earth, my heart has belonged to him. It has never been a question, never a doubt. The love had taken on many different forms over the years, but it had always been a constant.
Everyone has their definition of love. There have been countless songs sung about it. A gazillion books, articles, and poems written about it. There are experts on love who will tell you how to get it, keep it, and get over it.
We’re led to believe love is complicated. It’s not the love that’s complicated. It’s all the crap that we attach to it and put in front of it that makes it difficult. If you’re smart, you’ll realize this before it’s too late and simplify.
Amanda Kelly spent her entire life trying to control every aspect of it, while striving for perfection. Her obsession with being perfect, along with her feelings of worthlessness, consumed her. The one thing she thought was perfect in her life was the bond she shared with her best friend, Noah.
Everything was going according to her life plan until she woke up one day and realized she had fallen in love with him. The one thing she couldn’t control was the affect he had on her. Noah had the power to give her one hundred lifetimes of happiness, which also gave him the power to completely devastate her. He was the one thing in her life that was perfect, but she couldn’t allow herself to have him.
Her life begins to unravel. Events take over and force her to let go of her dreams and desires. She needs to realize that a person cannot control the events in their life, only their reaction to them…but will it be too late for her to save her relationship with her best friend? Present Perfect is a story of how past events have present consequences and how perfect your present could be if you stopped fighting and just allowed it to happen.
Subject to editing/final changes
Amanda and Noah at age 6
Even at the age of six, I knew I would look hideous in it. The moms of all my friends were wholeheartedly embracing the conveniences of modern day America, like store-bought Halloween costumes. In 1996, my mom decided it would be a wonderful childhood memory for me and Emily to have homemade costumes. I blame Martha Stewart one hundred percent for causing my mother’s temporary insanity. Mom didn’t have a crafty or artistic bone in her entire body.
Emily wanted to be a princess. She had been taking ballet lessons since the age of five, so she had all the makings of a decent princess costume.
Mom grabbed a couple of Emily’s light pink tutus and hot glued one on top of the other for the bottom of the gown. The top was made of one of Emily’s hot pink leotards. Mom drizzled hot glue all over it, and then, threw handfuls of glitter at it. She topped off her creation with a tiara made of foil and multicolored marbles as the royal jewels. Emily’s costume didn’t look too bad. If you throw enough glitter on something, people get distracted by the dazzle and don’t notice the ugly as much.
I, on the other hand, wanted to be a cowgirl. A cowgirl costume was the easiest costume to put together. All that was needed was a pair of jeans, a plaid shirt, a vest, a pair of boots, and a hat. Ta- da, cowgirl! No hot glue or glitter required. I had everything I needed except the most important item.
Mom and I were at the store when I saw it. It was made of bright red felt, the brim was trimmed in white, and the word ‘cowgirl’ was stitched across the front. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My heart started to flutter.
I grabbed the hat and ran up to my mom beaming with excitement. “Mom, look at it. Isn’t it the most perfect cowgirl hat you’ve ever seen?”
“It’s a very nice hat, Amanda. Now go put it back. We’ve got more shopping to do,” she said while pushing the shopping cart down the aisle.
The smile dropped off my face. I ran up behind her, clutching the hat against my chest. “But Mom, I need it.”
“For what, sweetie?”
“Um…for my Halloween costume,” Sarcasm flowed through each word, accompanied by a smirk, and an eye roll.
“I’m making your costume this year, Amanda. You know that.” I followed behind her as she continued down the aisle, paying more attention to the items she was placing in the cart than me.
“I want to be a cowgirl. It’s the easiest costume to make. I already have everything except the hat. I need this hat, Mom,” I pleaded.
She glanced over her shoulder at me and asked, “Why do you want to be a cowgirl?”
“Because cowgirls are cool,” I said.
As if this wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world.
“Noah’s going to be a cool knight. I want to be a cool cowgirl and I will be if I have this hat. Please, Mom.”
She stopped and squatted down in front of me, bringing us eye-to-eye, and said, “Sweetie, you are going to be the coolest kid trick or treating this year.”
“So I can get the hat?” I felt the smile slowly crawl back across my face. I waited with great anticipation to hear the word, “yes” float past her lips.
“No. Guess what you’re going to be for Halloween?” She smiled at me with her stormy blue grey eyes filled with excitement. Standing, she started looking through the shopping cart. When she turned back around she was holding the biggest bag of bright yellow feathers I had ever seen. I looked up at her, my face twisted in confusion. “You’re going to be Tweety Bird! Isn’t that going to be fun?”
I was stunned. “I don’t want to be Tweety Bird. I want to be a cool cowgirl. Why can’t I be a cowgirl?” I whined.
“Because I already have all the things I need to make Tweety,” she said, tossing the big bag of feathers back in the cart.
“We could just put that stuff back, and you could get me this cool cowgirl hat.”
“Amanda, you’re going to be Tweety Bird this year. Stop arguing with me. You need to try and be more like your sister. She never gives me any trouble. You can be a cowgirl next year. Now, go put the hat back.”
With my shoulders slumped and my head lowered in defeat, I dragged my feet slowly as I made my way down the aisle to put the perfect cowgirl hat back on the shelf. “I don’t want to be stupid Tweety. I want to be a cowgirl. It’s my costume,” I grumbled.
“Amanda, hurry up! We need to get going.”
My mom was so obsessed with making the Tweety costume I had started to wonder if she thought I looked like a jaundiced bubble head with puffy cheeks and lips.
The construction of the Tweety costume was a hell that no child should have to experience. Mom had found the instructions on how to make the costume in a magazine. Unfortunately, she didn’t know where she had put them, but she was positive she would be able to figure things out.
I was standing in our family room dressed in a skin tight pale yellow leotard that Mom made me put on over shorts and a t-shirt. She walked into the room weighted down with an armful of supplies and dumped them out on to the floor beside me. “Whew! Ok, let’s get the show on the road,” she said, rubbing her palms together. I couldn’t believe how excited she was about this stupid bird costume.
She began setting out her supplies, as I gasped for air, and said, “Mom?”
“This leotard’s too tight. I can’t breathe.” I gulped in as much oxygen as the vacuum packed garment would allow.
“It has to be a little tight, Amanda. Otherwise the feathers will weight it down and make it sag. You don’t want to be a sagging Tweety do you?”
“I don’t want to be Tweety at all,” I muttered.
“Enough of that. I don’t know why you’re being so difficult. Your sister didn’t complain about her costume.”
“That’s because she gets to be a fairy princess like she wants to be.”
“Let’s get started.”
Mom pulled a few more things out of her tote bag, and then, walked over to the wall to plug in her hot glue gun. When she turned back around, the glue gun was pointed directly at me.
My eyebrows immediately shot up, I could feel my eyeballs pop right out of their sockets as beads of sweat trickled down my neck. My voice was shaky when I asked, “You’re not going to shoot me with hot glue, are you? I promise I won’t say anything bad about Tweety ever again.”
“Oh Amanda, you’re so dramatic. I’m not going to drip hot glue on you. I need to figure out where to place the feathers while you’re wearing the leotard.”
She pulled out a huge roll of duct tape, started ripping off small pieces, and rolled them up. She then stuck them all over me. Taking handfuls of the bright yellow feathers, she began to shove them against my body. I tipped over a couple of times when she got a little over enthusiastic.
After she helped me out of the torture chamber, I watched as she removed sections of feathers from the leotard, drizzled hot glue, and plastered them back on. Sighing deeply, I turned away, and went to my room. I couldn’t bear to watch any longer.
Each time I walked by the feathered monstrosity my face crumpled up in disgust. Halloween was in one week. There wasn’t much time left. I needed help from an adult if I was going to have any chance of changing my mom’s mind about this bird suit.
One night, before dinner, I found my dad alone in our family room sitting in his recliner watching the evening news. I leaned over the arm of the chair and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Daddy, can I ask you something?”
“Can it wait until the news is over?” His eyes stayed glued to the TV.
I pursed my lips together and stepped back. “I guess. How long is that going to be?” I asked, gnawing on my thumbnail.
He glanced at me out the corner of his eye as he aimed the remote toward the TV, and turned the sound down. Turning to me, he asked, “What’s up, sweetheart?”
Clearing my throat, I looked him straight in the eye. “Please, talk to Mom and tell her to let me be a cowgirl for Halloween.”
“Now Amanda, you know how your mother is once she gets an idea in her head. Besides, from what I can tell, it’s a pretty cool looking costume.”
Sweet baby Jesus, please don’t let insanity run in the family.
“But Daddy, you’ve only seen it laying on the coffee table. It just looks like a pile of feathers.”
“You know, Amanda, you are very lucky that you have a mom who loves you enough to make you a Halloween costume. There are children in China who aren’t that lucky.”
“Do they even have Halloween in China?” I asked.
“I’m sure they do.” His attention headed back to the TV as the volume rose.
I leaned across the arm of the chair, twisting my body so I was looking up, trying to redirect my dad’s attention back on me. “Maybe we could send them my Tweety costume and I could be a cowgirl?”
“That’s a nice idea, but they don’t know who Tweety is in China. They don’t get Sesame Street over there. Now, let me finish watching the news.” His eyes were focused straight ahead.
I pushed off of the armrest and stood. “That’s a different bird, Dad,”
Standing up straight, I stared at him for a few seconds, but he had already lost interest in my problem. I huffed loudly and pursed my lips together before turning and walking away, knowing I had lost another battle.
Halloween day finally arrived. We were allowed to wear our costumes to school for the party that day. That morning when I walked into the family room, I found Mom bent down picking up a pile of feathers that had fallen off my costume. This had become a daily ritual that made me smile and gave me hope. If the feathers didn’t stick, there’d be no chick. Maybe my cowgirl dreams would come true after all.
Clearing my throat, I said, “Mom, would it be okay if I didn’t wear my Tweety costume to school? I don’t want to get it messed up before tonight.”
She placed the armful of feathers on the coffee table, stood up quickly, and turned in my direction, trying to hide the pile of feathers behind her. She didn’t want to admit the fact that Tweety had a serious molting problem. She hesitated for a moment, running her hand behind her neck a couple of times as she glanced back at the pile of feathers.
“Sure, that would be fine. It will give me time to spruce it up a little before tonight. How about you go to school as a cowgirl. You mentioned about being a cowgirl, right?”
Only about one thousand times.
When the time had come to get ready for trick or treating, Mom had secured all the feathers back on the leotard. My cowgirl dreams had been dashed.
The rest of the Tweety costume consisted of an old pair of fuzzy bedroom slippers, spray painted gold for my feet. A few extra feathers were left over, so Mom decided Tweety needed a headband. Then she brought out this sizable jar of greasy neon yellow makeup that I was sure was laden with toxins. It looked like something she had from the 1980’s, when apparently, it was cool to smear your child with poisons. The last bit of humiliation to be added was a handful of glitter that she poured over me, coating my head, arms, and chest. I looked like the love child of Big Bird and Liberace.
The time had come. I tried to delay going outside for as long as possible, waiting for the sun to disappear completely from the sky. I figured darkness would be my friend. It was a warm night, so Emily and I didn’t need to wear our jackets. I was willing to risk a high grade-fever in order to hide this yellow-glitter- incrusted nightmare that I was wearing, but Mom wouldn’t hear of it.
Emily and I always trick or treated together. It was her job to hold my hand, ring the doorbell, and say trick or treat. All I had to do was collect my candy. This year, since she was 10 years old, Emily wanted to go with her friends. Mom made, what I felt was, a very poor parental choice when she allowed Emily to go with her friends instead of staying with me and continuing this sacred family tradition. Didn’t she think of me at all? Didn’t she understand that I would suffer a severe candy deficit, without Emily by my side?
We were standing at the bottom of the Dean’s driveway, I swallowed hard as I watched my sister walk away with her friends to another neighbor’s house.
Mom must have sensed my fear because she drew me in close to her side and whispered, “You can do this, Amanda. You’re a big girl now. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Your sister was five when she started going up to the doors by herself. I’ll be right here.” She let go of my hand and took a step away from me.
I continued to stand there, frozen. I felt abandoned and alone. I hated it. I was terrified of a monster opening one of the doors. I had never seen a monster in our neighborhood, but there was a first time for everything.
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t seem to move my fuzzy gold feet. I felt my face getting warm as butterflies took over my stomach. I was so scared to move. My eyes began to sting from the tears that were building up. Although, they could’ve been caused by the poisonous substance that was smeared across my face.
I took in a deep breath as I looked down, trying to find my courage, when I noticed a small pile of yellow feathers that had collected at my feet. My eyes followed the trail all the way back to my house. The street was covered with so many feathers, it looked like the yellow brick road. When I glanced up I couldn’t believe my eyes. Walking towards me was Andrea Morgan dressed in a full Dorothy costume with her little dog too.
I looked over my shoulder at my mom, then up at the Dean’s front door, then back at my mom.
“Go on, Amanda. Don’t be a baby,” Mom said.
Tears began to trickle down my face. I needed to make a decision. Time was of the essence. I needed to suck it up, walk up to that door, and get some candy before the rest of my feathers flew off, leaving me naked as a Tweety bird.
I looked back up at the Dean’s house. I saw my friends walking down the driveway, with their bags overflowing with deliciousness. Deliciousness that I wouldn’t be getting if I didn’t get a move on.
Then I saw him, my knight in plastic armor, with his light blue eyes peeking out from under his hood along with just a little bit of his dark brown hair.
I got excited every time I saw him. Noah was a lot taller than I was. I was pretty short for my age. A few kids at school liked to tease me about it, but not when Noah was around. He never let anyone be ugly to me.
He was coming down the driveway, by himself, and headed straight to me. His bag was loaded with candy.
When he got to me, he took the sleeve of his shirt and wiped my tears away. “Don’t cry.”
“I’m not getting any candy tonight. My feathers are falling off, and I’m going to be naked in the street.” I was sobbing so hard that my words came out like hiccups. We both glanced behind me. “See all the feathers?”
“Open your bag up.” Noah started filling it with handfuls of candy from his bag.
“Noah, you don’t have to give me all your candy.”
“I’m not giving you all of it. I’m giving you half.” He smiled at me and I knew everything was going to be alright.
After we made the candy transfer, he grabbed my hand and started pulling me towards the Stevenson’s driveway. I jerked my hand out of his and stopped. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to take you trick or treating and show you there’s nothing to be scared of,” he said.
I looked up at Noah and gazed into his trusting eyes. I reached out my hand timidly and he led me to the next house.
Noah walked me up to the front door and rang the doorbell. My heart started beating faster and my palms got sweaty. The door slowly opened and Mrs. Stevenson stepped out, dressed like a big fat cat. She made me laugh. Noah dropped my hand long enough for me to hold my bag open and for him to wipe his palm off on his costume. Mrs. Stevenson gave me two sour apple Blow Pops because of my bravery that night.
After a few more houses and my bag filled with candy, Noah and I walked hand-in-hand down the last driveway. Stopping at the bottom, I turned and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you, Noah.”
He smiled. “I’ll always take care of you and make sure you have candy, Tweet.”
It was the first time he called me by the nickname that would stick with me forever. And despite my total disgust with the Tweety Bird costume, I didn’t mind being called ‘Tweet’ at all by Noah. In fact, I loved it.
About the Author
Alison was born and raised in Charleston, SC. As a child she used her imagination to write additional scenes to TV shows and movies that she watched. She attended Winthrop University and graduating with a BA in Theater. While at Winthrop she began writing one act plays which she later produced. Throughout the years she continued writing and producing several one act plays, but then life got in the way and she hung up her pen for a while. On the advice of a friend, she started writing again. In January 2013, Alison sat down at her computer and began writing her first novel, Present Perfect.
Alison lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, Jef, and their two furry children (dogs). She’s addicted to Diet Pepsi and anything with sugar.
Alison’s philosophy: Don’t let your obstacles define you, let them refine you. At times life can get pretty overwhelming, but with a great support system and a lot of humor you can get through it. If you have humor in your life your spirit stays strong and you can tackle anything.