Unwritten Rules Chapter 2: "Moonlight Shadow"

I met Sam on a Sunday morning before my sophomore year. We went to the same church and she was a friend of the other girls in the class, since they all went to the same school. She didn’t talk very much and I retrained from my usual barrage of a unique knowledge of humanities (read: useless facts) about how Jonah never really cared about anything except for what he knew, I stayed quiet. Not cool, not reserved, not “ooh, check out the mysterious guy in the corner”—because no matter what I’d say or do, the other girls in the room had known me for almost two years prior. I was at their collective mercies on what they would tell her if she asked.

All we really did was say “hi” to each other from across the table. And well, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything to occur. She went to one school, I went to another. Sure, there was the phone and I’d see her every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night…but I didn’t expect anything to occur. When class was over, I left the room by myself as she stayed and talked with the girls in the class.

The following Wednesday, the youth group climbed into a large van and we went out to Pattison’s North, a roller-skating rink, located on the other side of Spokane. It was a forty minute drive, so picture, if you will, ten teenagers and two chaperones in a large church bus, jabbering about everything and anything and there I was, sandwiched between the body of the van, and Samantha’s on my right. I will take this moment now to say that I did not complain. Even though we were squished four to a row, I didn’t voice one objection.
Inside the roller rink, I was a rolling risk…I didn’t really know how to skate (still don’t) and I’d usually use one foot to actually move the skate, the other would be almost glued to the floor. This caused me to fall to the side several times and come ‘this close’ to breaking my left ankle on numerous occasions. It took over an hour before I could once again get the hang of alternating my steps and actually ‘skate’.
It was during a ‘slow song’ that Sam came up to me and asked me to skate with her. I didn’t hesitate and took her hand…but I was freaking out in my mind because I really liked her…well, okay, more than like, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much.

Hadn’t she been seen how many times I slammed myself to the ground, or the wall or the little benches on the side?

It wasn’t too long before my hand became so sweaty that it was hard to hold onto hers. She compensated by tightening her grip and every so often looked at me and smiled. It was one of the greatest moments in my life (Yes, yes it was). We continued skating together even after the song was over. Unfortunately, we would have to leave the rink and head back to the church and the dream would be over.

II. Moonlight Shadow

Jason arrived early on Tuesday morning. He blasted the horn three times as I ran down the stairs with my backpack and flew out the front door.
“Took you long enough.”
“You just got here.”
“Yeah, yeah—but I need to get there early.”
“Why?”
“Try to plead to Dr. Norby about my chemistry paper.”
He floored the accelerator to turn around, then shifted into first and drove down the hill.
“You didn’t finish?”
“Dude, I was working on Algebra until one.”
“Ouch.”
“By the way, you look well-rested.”
“I spent all night putting everything that reminded me of Sam in a box.”
“So, you can one day look through it and see all that might have been?”
“I can’t just throw it all out yet. I have several letters, a couple of dozen heart grams--”
“Okay, whatever. Just remember, Jeannie. Find Jeannie today.”
“You really think I have a chance?”
“Sure, like I said, you two are like on the same level.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Well you can be. She’s an egghead, you are too...sort of. She likes to sing. You like singers, right?”
Jason accelerated faster down the gravel road. Normally, I would be worried but he knew the roads quite well and it kind of brought that “Dukes of Hazzard” feel on sometimes. But I wasn’t willing to shout “yeehaw”.
“Yeah…”
“And there you go.”

Not that I was succumbing to peer pressure or anything, but I decided to go ahead and try and talk to her. I would go against the common core of contemporary courtship and just talk to her. Trouble was, Jeannie and I seldom talked outside of council business. I couldn’t say I knew anything about her.

I walked into the school and down the hall, only to slam right into Jeannie. There was no ‘slow-motion’ type of feeling when we struck. Our books and binders were sprawled out all over the hallway, so I wasn’t thinking “Hallelujah! My prayers have been answered" by literally running into her.
“Sorry about that. You okay?” I asked as I started gathering up textbook and papers.
“It’s okay, I—“
I hurriedly picked up her things and handed them over. There was no lull, no, sparkling in our eyes…because she was looking down at getting her pen, not at me…but, I wasn’t expecting her to fall head over feet for me.
“Thank-you.”
“Where are you rushing off to?”
“Chemistry.”

I looked behind her to see someone else I had never seen before that day. He looked like a senior though.
“You okay?” He asked her as he completely ignored me, which was a good reaction for me at that time. I mean he could have started up with a “watch where you’re going” threat to me. But that wouldn’t have worked out as everyone around us saw who was not watching. Not that that would stop him from trying to be the one to stand up for her.
“Thanks, Eric,” she replied to me with a slight smile, the courtesy one, you know.
“No problem,” I replied as they walked away together, with Jeannie accelerating her pace with every step.

I didn’t bother to pay too close of attention to them as they walked away but the fact that his arm was around her waist and she wasn’t fending him off gave me a pretty good indication that they were, for a lack of better words, “together.” I gathered up my books and continued my way down the hall to my first period class. To confirm what I said earlier, I really didn't know her.

I kept my mind on Mrs. Balum’s lecture on Dante’s Inferno. While the title, “Divine Comedy” was a misnomer in my opinion, I could feel myself going through a similar experience. Sure, the umpteenth degrees of teenage angst are in no way like the nine circles of Hell…but, when you’re living through said angst, it comes pretty darn close. Tragically, Jason was not the best Virgil to assist me in my descent.

“Hey Strad, what I said about Jeannie, forget it she’s--”
“I kind of figured that out.”
“Sorry, man.”

I stood in front of the sole soda machine that we had in high school and tried to make a withered dollar bill fit into the slot.
“If I’m destined to be a lonely person throughout my high school years and beyond, so be it. I’m in good company: Ernest Hemingway didn’t need anybody.”
“Didn’t Hemingway cut off his ear?”
“That was van Gogh--and he gave it to a girl he loved.”
“Hemmingway…yeah, he drank himself to death, right?”
“Whatever, but that’s how I’m going to take life now...by myself.”
The machine eventually accepted the bill and I tapped the button for a Pepsi…and nothing.
“So that’s it then? Samantha dumps you and you become reclusive…and eventually a drunk with one ear?”
“Better to live the life of a hermit than a love struck fool.”
I tapped the button again, and nothing.
“You need to write that down: for he who place paper in cookie make fortune.”
“No, what I need is to do something with my life--fill my mind with something else than....than...”
“Sex?”
“Love, lust, liking....damn it, where’s my drink?”
I stepped back, clearly suffering from acute insanity, as Jason slammed his hand on the machine and then pressed the same button.
The can landed at the bottom of the machine with a loud “thunk”.
“Sometimes it’s a bitch, eh?”

I had been brought up to not think of life in that manner. It’s not a series of rocks being thrown at you but of one you slam into on your own. We’re all given the same road…it’s just how we navigate it and who we listen to that sets us apart. At that point in my life, Jesus himself could walk down the hallway with me and tell me everything that I would need to know and I’d still probably tell him that I didn’t really care.
Could I have tried praying? Sure, and I like to think that the thought occurred to me, but I could not believe the fact that I was ‘with’ someone I went to church with. I mean if that wasn’t the pure definition of “equally yoked”, then I didn’t have a clue what was. And besides, asking the Almighty to find me a girlfriend sounded a bit presumptuous.

I spent third period up in the grade school copy room. I was a teacher’s assistant to Mrs. Jantz, the High School Home Economics teacher and I usually spent my time running photocopies for her other class periods or taking inventory of materials in the Home Ec room. The grade school copy room had more space to lay out my file work (sometimes over thirty different pages to copy and duplex) and get everything finished without letting someone interrupt me to make a “quick copy”. It was almost like having a quiet time…except for the drone of photocopiers and the smell of electro-static toner.

I was able to set my paperwork out and play my version of ‘Solitaire’ by arranging the pages into various stacks all over the four tables at my disposable. After copying over 250 pages I then had to manually sort, collate and staple the pages into ‘workbooks’ for the classes.
I was halfway into my work, with my brain running on automatic pilot when the door opened.
“Hey!”
I looked up to see the same girl from yesterday. Only this time her hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
“Hello.”
“Hey, I didn’t get your name yesterday.”
“Eric.”
“Why are you in here?”
“I’m an assistant for Mrs. Jantz.”
“Oh.”
She closed the door behind her and walked in.
“Who are you?”
“Rebekah, I’m assisting Mrs. J.”
“Oh, Mrs. Jorgensen. Almost took that assignment, but Mrs. Jantz asked for me, so-“
She sat across the table from me.
“Oh, so making copies?”
“Yeah and then making into workbooks.”
“I remember these. Always wondered who made them.”
“The genie’s out of the bottle now.”
“No more secret of the ancients, eh?”
“No.”
“Bummer.”
I looked at her for a second as she smiled. She looked like a freshman or a very young sophomore. Still couldn’t place her from anywhere.
“The copiers are free if you need them.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.”
“What happened?”
“What happened what?”
“Yesterday, when you were on the sidewalk...What had happened between you and--”
“Her name was Samantha.”

I’m not exactly sure what made me want to start talking about my personal life to someone who was still, for all intents and purposes, a complete stranger to me. But, here she was, sitting across from me, asking questions and being interested.

“Almost two years?”
"Yep."
“I’m sorry.”
“She left me a letter, a poem--badly written--but it was a letter telling me that we were over. She even wrote down the flight number, knowing full well what I’d do.”
“You went to the airport and tried to talk to her?”
“Wouldn’t anybody?”
“That was a mean trick she pulled.”
“Trick?”
“You said she knew you’d do it. I think she wanted you to feel a little more pain when you saw the plane take off.”
“I don’t want to think she’d be that manipulative.”
“Do you still think about her?”
“Trying not to.”
“I’ve never had that experience.”
“You don’t want it.”
“What if I said I did?”
“What? Depression?”
“No, love, or at least the thought of missing someone.”
“I’m sure you’ll meet the right guy, or girl. I'm not one to judge, you know.”
“Right.”
There it was: the awkward conversation break. I couldn’t think of anything to stem the silence…all I could really do was look at her.
“Does she keep you busy?”
“Who?”
“Mrs. Jantz.”
“Ah, yeah…I’m waiting for her to ask me to copy the Bible, or enough workbooks to equivocate, I mean…”
“I understand. Don’t get a paper cut, now.”
“That comes with the territory.”
She then got up and walked backwards to the door. “I better get moving, before Mrs. J…”
“Did you need to make a copy for her?”
“No. I just thought I’d say hi.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied as she opened the door and slipped out.
I knew her first name at least.
* * *
I turned in the stacks of collated and stapled workbooks to Mrs. Jantz and for the remainder of the morning, I pondered how I could find out who she was….I even did this during a student council meeting.
“Eric?”
“Yeah?” I looked up to see ten eyes staring back at me, with Jeannie being the closest.
“Are you going to call it?”
“Yes. I call this meeting of the ASB Student Council to order. Roll Call, please.”

If I failed to mention it earlier, Jeannie was the council secretary, and as such, she kept multiple notebooks latched in a binder. She was a stickler on keeping information about everyone in the high school. In sixth grade, you'd call her a gossip. In business and in the mafia, she'd be the most trusted personal assistant. In my situation, she was all that as well. She was usually ready before the other members of the council: Nick, Molly, Jamie and myself, ever stepped into the meeting room. Considering her new found love-life, I kind of wondered if she would lose her zeal for proficiency.

"The secretary will now read the minutes from the previous meeting."
"Motion to suppress the rules at this time, Mr. President," Nick quipped.
I looked at him for a second, wondering if he was doing this to throw me off or to test my knowledge of the rules or something else.
"State your reason."
"We have less than five minutes before bell."
"Motion to suppress the rules has been entered. All in favor by a show of hands."
Everyone raised their hands, including Jeannie, as she hastily wrote everything down.
"None opposed. We will jump to current business."
"Mr. President."
As much as I kind of like being called that..."You are recognized and have the floor."
"Thank you. I have been asked to bring up an issue with opposite sex day on Friday. The office will not allow it due to it violates the dress code."
"The Council will cede to the office."
"Mr. President?"
"We're overruled."
"But that's not the way we need to do this."
"I believe we need to table this motion."
"We have been asked to represent the student body."
As I said, Nick knew the procedures and he was also very active in the pulse of what the students were talking about. And I really wanted to throw back a sarcastic barb on how the wise sage Mick of Jagger once said: "You can't always get what you want", but the others were looking back at me were waiting to see what I would do.

The strange issue was WHY we were even debating this. Never mind the fact that I didn't care about opposite sex day. The issue was that whatever we thought of it, it ran against the school rules. What next? Since sixty percent of the student body (myself included) preferred to start school at ten AM, then we should do so? Forget about the rules? Fight the power?
"We do represent the student body. We will need to talk to Mr. Richards for approval. Create a case for us to bring to him tomorrow so, if we can persuade the office, the student body can be advised and wear dresses and coconuts all they want."
Molly and Jeannie looked at me with stern expressions. Sure, it was okay if Bugs Bunny said or did it, but if I...
"Sorry. Any other new business?"
"Point of order!"

After the ending of the council meeting, I stayed sitting at the table...wondering if my inability to care about school politics was in direct contrast to my ability to not really give a care at all. If I could just have the week stop or just skip over to the next week so everything would be calmer. Perhaps I could take a sick day or...hey, throw myself off the loft over-looking the gym and be out of commission until it all passes. Of course, the only person who would visit me would be Jason and he'd find every way to call me on being stupid for my actions....that, and I would be angry at myself for not finding out who Rebekah was.

However, duty called as I had to be outside for one of the Spirit Week games. On that day, it was an egg relay between the classes. Freshman vs. sophomore followed by junior vs seniors...the winners taking on one another for bragging rights. Knowing fully well how this was going to end, I gave the rules: the eggs were to be tossed back and at increasing intervals and then stood back away from the carnage (feel free to make up an egg joke as you wish).

Nick, Jamie and Molly acted as the referees as Jeannie stood next to me.
"What's your plan on the opposite sex thing?"
"Don't have one. What have you heard?"
"Well, Nick's kind of right...most of the student body wants it because it will distract the faculty."
"And it's humorous, in a 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' sort."
"Yeah, I have heard that at least one is planning on wearing a garter belt and fishnet stockings."
"If it's worth doing, it's worth over-doing, I suppose."
"Maybe. I think it's un-becoming, personally."
"How so?"
"It's not right."
"I agree. I'd look terrible in a dress...and so would a lot of other guys."
"Are you saying some of them would look good in a dress?"
"Don't even want to go there,” I replied as an egg flew over our heads.
"We should have hard-boiled them."
"Mm-hmm."
* * *
“His name is Paul,” Jason stated as we walked to his car.
“Whose name is Paul?
“The guy with Jeannie. He’s a senior who just transferred in from Davenport.”
“Should I congratulate him?”
“Just thought I’d tell you.”
“I met him earlier today.”
“Yeah, I heard. He threatened to kick your ass.”
“No he didn’t.”
“Hmm…my Magic 8-Ball-“
“And by that you mean the rumor mill-“
“-Must be off a bit...or that’s what he said to save face in front of Jeannie.”
“First, Jeannie’s not shallow. She’s not going to want him to lie that she was being attacked or slandered and, second, a lot of people saw it happen.”
“People are morons. Truth’s squat if the story’s good.”

We got in the car and in a few moments pulled out into the busy street, busy as there were buses and students all around us. A group of girls in particular crossed right as Jason accelerated. He slammed the brakes, causing us to lurch forward.
“Get out of the road!”
One of the girls turned back and flipped us off while the other two darted the rest of the way across the road.
“Oh, you wish!” Jason replied. “Pre-teen psycho bitch.”
I looked back at the three of them as we drove past. All three turned to look at me. I didn’t know two of them, but the other looked like Rebekah.

I spent Tuesday night doing a little homework and a lot of time sitting at my desk with the TV on, pummeling opponents to death playing 'Mortal Kombat'. Sure, I could have found a better outlet for my frustrations: I could have tried drinking or throwing myself off the ridge in the woods behind my house; but it was best to not go “too extreme”. However, my aggression grew the more and more I was defeated by the system controlled character. Didn’t matter who I used or what I did….endless fatalities. At that moment I did something I never, ever did before in my life: I threw the controller at the wall, dislodging the connection to the console. I turned the TV off and hated the reflection staring back in the glass.
“If she could see you now. Would she feel saddened or happy that you feel as miserable as you do now?”

A stupid thing to say, I admit. I didn’t know how she felt.
“Why do I still think about you?”

Another not-so-brilliant rhetorical question. Considering how long we were NOT going out at that time. Yes, she had sent me a letter…which, had I opened it in time, I could have tried to go and find her and talk things over…at least to know that we left each other on good terms. Maybe not a “one day, I’ll find you again someday and pledge my undying love for you” but more of a “we can go and get a coffee of something…you like cappuccino?” kind of thing.

Like the love-struck schmuck that I was still on that night I went over to that box I described to Jason and looked over everything:
A crystal pendant
Several notes, still folded in the quad-fold way that only girls can do.
Pictures from dances at both of our schools.
I even went as far as to the recall the cross pendant that she gave me...the one I always wore around my neck. I now had several reasons to rip it off my neck and three to keep it on:
It meant something still, relationship or not.
My head was literally too big to get the thing off without snapping the chain.
I liked it.

I decided to do the unthinkable for that moment: I removed a few pictures and the pendant and then took the rest of the items: the notes, a card for my birthday, and the letter she sent; out to the trash. Whining and tolling for her was not going to bring her back. I didn’t have her address and I didn’t have her number, so if it was meant to be, then I’d find her again one day. That being said, it was time to move on and I couldn’t do it if I had all of these memories staring back at me.

Moonlight Shadow



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