Chapter 10: Had To Grow Up
We tried really hard to stay “friends” at school. Fortunately, we had so few classes together that it was easy to avoid the “let me look at them all day with those eyes” while in class; but it was hard to see the other girls flirting with him—after they learned that he had broken up with Karen Anne. The break-up was not mutual with Karen Anne sputtering so much you'd think her head would explode or she would pass out and have to be resuscitated . I never thought of her vindictive before but she kind of held a grudge towards Mike after that—or at least it appeared that way to me.
So during school we kept our cool as the country guy with the broad shoulders and his emo-friend. His emo-friend who at times would walk a bit too close to him. Yeah, so we failed at times, but no one would dare say anything about it to our face. Not Melissa, KA or the student body.
But after school, either at his uncle’s house or at mine, if we were alone then we were not just ‘friends’. I will honestly cannot describe to you how it feels to lay next to someone and feel the warmth of their skin against your own. We would snuggle most of the time—just to lie next to someone who thought the world of me.
There were close calls and all of them were usually at Micheal’s as his uncle would see us looking guilty and sweaty. He wouldn't say anything else, just a nod and a wave of his hand after he told Micheal what he wanted him to do. There was one particular time when I tried to wear everything underneath—to get into the full being. I figured that in time I would have to know how to wear one and well, I left a bra at his house—I still think Micheal hid it—and didn’t think about it until after I got home.
My parents never came up to my room; as they assumed we were playing video games or watching TV. However, mom had some suspicions:
"How serious are you with him?" Mom had blindsided me with this question after Mike had left the house and I had hugged him instead shaking his hand or giving a high five or a fist pound--the manly things.
"What do you mean?" I asked as I stepped into the living room. Mom was in her chair with her reading glasses on and a modern tome in her hands.
"You know exactly what I mean, Kris."
"And that means?"
Did she want the truth? Did she really want to know about everything we had done? I mean, there was quite a list and all of it would cause her to turn red in the face and hide and tell me to stop talking.
"Are you having sex?"
I took a few small steps back and tried to not look her in the eye. I didn't have to say anything but I followed my visual confession with a meek sounding, "yeah."
Mom turned her head back to her book but then closed it and took her glasses off.
I was about to get an earful.
"I'm not happy that you're doing this behind our backs."
I sat down on the couch and tried to avoid making eye contact.
"What? Tell dad that I'm--I'm doing it with a guy?"
"What are you doing, exactly?"
"Would you like me to record them for posterity or as evidence?"
“Not amused.” She replied as her eyes bore a hole into my soul.
“Look, what do you want me to do, go on the pill?”
“Do you need to you?”
“I have no idea how screwed up my body is right now mom. I’ll grow another head from out my of ass faster than I’ll grow a pair of breasts; let alone ever get pregnant.”
“Mom, seriously. You can’t except me to go out and find some girl who’s going to like me for who I am.”
“Karen Anne did.”
“Oh, if she only knew…”
“But Micheal does?”
“Yes, and quite well.”
There was another time where Michael took us out to the country and we laid in the back of his truck for what seemed like hours—looking at the night sky until we heard a car approach in the distance. The car stopped a few feet away from the truck and we stayed out on sight as the sound of footsteps on the gravel dirt echoed in the darkness.
The footsteps stopped and the sound of a screech was heard. Mike covered me up and then he then sat up tall to see a middle-aged man with a screwdriver.
“Oh, I thought this was abandoned—I was going o take the brake light, I”
“No, it’s not.”
I peeked out of the blanket as Mike just looked at the guy.
“Sorry, to bother you…Just enjoy the night then,” The guy said as he walked back to his car.
We never did no go back to that spot…and I would never have told my parents about that either, as that would give them an earlier reason to do things like:
“I’m making an appointment for you on Friday.”
“Oh great. I can’t wait to add yet another set of pills to my collection.”
I stood up and walked out of the room, but mom stood up and blocked me.
“What about condoms? Are you using them?”
“Are we really still having this conversation?”
“Yes, what if you do get pregnant?”
“Then we will make it into one of those gossip magazines as the family with the first pregnant male in Tennessee.”
* * *
I didn't tell Amanda to get a gun permit or to start learning how to use a katana but I had to let her know sometimes you need to get away the problem.
“That’s why I’m here.”
“To get away from—?”
We sat in the corner of the UC building, tucked away behind large-backed chairs.
“My parents.” I replied with the least amount of emotion as I could.
“Both of them?”
“Imagine being told from the first you could comprehend English that you were special. You were so special that no one could know about you and that you had to undergo procedures and prescriptions to fix what was wrong with you?”
“Kind of…no one tried to put electrodes on my nipples and tell me God hates me, but—“
“But they told you what to do?”
“Well, all parents do that. I just mean they wanted me to be alpha male but I was, am—alpha bitch or female…depends on how I felt.”
“Jacob’s wanted me to drop out of school; said he’d take care of me.”
“Sometimes,” I hesitated to say it, but did with a slight hint of sadness, “you have to take care of yourself and do what you want to do. Do you want to drop out?”
“No, but if I did, maybe I could get away from him.”
“But he wants you to—oh, you leave school and wait for him somewhere?”
“Well, I’d go to work,” she replied. “I’m not a huge fan of the classes I’m taking.”
“Amanda, you’re making excuses for him.”
“I am not.”
“If he really cares about you, then he will let you let you say your peace and allow you to walk out of his life. I mean, is that what you want?”
“I just want him to stop…to stop hurting me.”
“Sometimes they don’t. It’s so heavily ingrained…like it’s programmed in them to think we’re inferior. They see this partial person, someone who becomes their little project. Let me guide you through this Hell called life and as long as you listen to exactly what I say; eat what I say and never waver from it then I’ll be happy. ”
“You’ll be happy?”
“They’ll be happy, you won’t be but you’ll be conditioned to accept it so you won’t ruffle any feathers.”
"Oh," Amanda replied with a blank look in her eyes.
"Can I ask you another question?"
"This...situation is kind of...well, not exactly something that one would share with just anyone, expect maybe a friend or the police maybe, so I--"
"You looked different--in a good way--and when I talked to you I could feel that you'd gone through a lot and were ready to go through more."
"We have to accept the responsibilities of out actions."
"But, I am not responsible for what others think of me or how they react." I leaned my head back and laughed for a moment. "To think, that just over the weekend I was so freaked out about my old girlfriend seeing me like this that I kept having panic attacks."
"What made you stop?"
"This is who I am. You need to be you and break away from him."
"I can't do that...I-"
"You can do what you want to do. You don't need him to tell you what to do."
"Just cut him off?"
"I don't know him, but by the sound of your voice, I would."
"What do I do?"
I jumped up from my seat. "Stand up!"
She stood up with a bit of fear in her eyes.
"Say your name."
"Umm, Amanda Marks?"
"No, tell me who you are. your full name."
"I'm Amanda Marissa Marks"
"I'm Amanda Marissa Marks."
"I need you to be louder--Yell, like Jacob's way over there--Let him know that you are who you say you are, that you're in charge of your life and you don't crap from anyone. Let him be afraid of you."
"My name is Amanda Marissa Marks and I don't shit from anyone! Including you, Jacob!"
Amanda had a new-found look in her eyes.
"You've crossed the bridge. Go live."
"Thank you." She moved forward and hugged me.
It was after nine, I had stayed so long with Amanda trying to help her…trying to play “Dr. Phil” at the least and trying to be a kindred spirit at the most. I had practice dealing with people who didn't understand me. I worked hard to not let them both me—even the nurses who would look at me and say “bless your little heart” like I was some kind of creature to be pitied because I had so much going on “down there”.
I made my way back to the dorm, thinking the entire way that maybe I should have enunciated my point to say her peace and walk away. Not to argue, listen to begging or partake in some back and forth that would break down into a shouting match or worse, a one-sided brawl with Amanda being the loser.
I just wanted her to be strong, to fell like everything could be hers--a never half empty kind of life--the kind I had felt since that morning, with a few exceptions.
I arrived back at the dorm; the lights were out. I flicked them on. maybe expecting to see Micheal wearing just chaps (I have no idea what they are for, but, I would not have minded seeing him in just those) to surprise me but he wasn't there, which wasn't like him. He apparently had gotten the mail from the campus post office before going where ever he was.
I wanted to call him then but I was late to come back due to talking with Amanda so if he wanted to go somewhere with...well, most likely with Danny, I guess it was okay.
The mail had one letter in it that was peculiar: It was from the University Administrator's office; did not a stamp but was addressed to Micheal. It was already opened. I put it down, as it wasn't my business.
I got dressed for bed, which was still a pair of shorts and a long t-shirts; and looked at my arm in the mirror—there were a few small bruises. The thought of going to Mrs. Peterson’s office in the middle of the night and painting in a rainbow of colors crossed my mind—so did slamming her down with a baseball bat. However, as much as I wanted to do both there would be nothing to gain in the long run and I would only be stooping to her level and she would be able to say that I was some crazy thing or other with a vindictive streak. Actually, I did have a vindictive streak towards people who pissed me off…and so for tomorrow I would wear the camisole with the short skirt.
The door opened and Micheal walked in, looking like he had been hit by a freight truck with a bandage across his head.
"What happened?" I raced over to him and he let me hug him but he looked away and then down.
“I’ll be right back. I just have to go to the bathroom. Hang on.”
I let him go as he opened the bathroom door, went inside and locked it.
It was something I never saw before. I never saw Micheal get flustered or show signs of being pained, or maybe I just never noticed them.
“Are you okay?”I asked through the door.
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s…Everything’s okay.”
He opened the door, stepped out and again avoided looking at me directly,
“What’s going on?”
“Eyes. Here, Micheal Please?”
He looked at me and gave a small smile. “You beautiful no matter what you do.”
I lead him over to his desk and he sat down in the chair.
"I was out with Danny...and..."
"And what, did you guys have an accident?"
“No, I—have a confession to make.”
Every. Single. Negative thought that I could think of exploded in my head like a warehouse of firecrackers going off; spontaneous and wild:
He was dying.
My parents were coming for a visit.
Aliens finally invaded.
We were invited to be on “Jerry Springer”.
He had secretly been texting Karen Anne all this time and the trip to MSU to use a computer to record a football was simply a pathetic ruse to be able to see her….which is why we sat on the MSU side.
“I got an after-school job at a warehouse, working with Dan.”
“He needs the money, we need the money. That surgery isn’t going to be cheap and—”
“It’s three days a week and a Saturday.”
“What are you doing?” I asked as I rocked back on my heels.
“Warehouse, I missed a low ceiling.”
“Doesn’t look like you missed.”
“I know, but—sorry, I didn't want you to have to worry.”
“I would worry more if something happened to you.”
“Well, I wanted to make it a surprise to you—come back in with a little money we can save or use.”
“Thank you. You’re really thinking about the future.”
“Actually, I’m kind of thinking about that nearly see-through thing you got. I heard it calling to me.”
“Really?” I asked as I stepped towards him, “what did it say?”
Micheal stood up form the chair and scooped me up into his arms. “I rather show you.
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