I woke up several times during the night. I sat up and looked out the window each time. There wasn’t anything out there, it was a quiet night. No storms, but I continued to wake up every hour or so. The only reason I could come up with were dreams of Matt—although I wasn’t sure if they were dreams or nightmares. I could tell him on Monday I was thinking about him all night and I wouldn’t be lying.
I walked over to my desk, turned on the light, and sat down in front of my notebook. Could I make a dress for myself for prom? I had never been to a dance before. I didn’t even know how to dance. I’m sure Matt didn’t know either, but I was stacking all of my dreams on him and, maybe, I was losing myself in the process.
I wanted to take it slow with him but I wasn’t being very successful. I had a lot of faith in him that he could act like a gentleman...I just wasn’t sure I wanted him to.
The clock radio read 4:30 AM. I supposed it was time to head out on my run and clear my head from the night before. However, with every step I took, random thoughts kept coming at me. How long could I keep Matt in the dark? Was he in the dark? Was my father just a bastard bigamist? Did I forget to put socks on?
I arrived back at the house to see Krys sitting at the kitchen table, already dressed for the day.
“Good morning, Jen.”
“Krys,” I replied, out of breath and sweaty.
“Did you know you snore?”
“You do...like a wild boar,” she replied and got up from the chair.
I suppose that was the real reason I kept waking up at night.
“Lindsey wants us to come by today, are you up for it?”
“Spending time with Lindsey? I’m fine with it.”
“I mean, do you have anything planned with Matt?” she asked while looking at the floor.
“No, Krys, I—”
“I’m sorry I called you a confused freak.”
“I know. I’m not mad about that. I was more worried you hated me.”
“I can never hate you,” she replied as her lifted her head and put her hands on my shoulders. “Do you really think he’s changed?”
“I’m not giving your relationship my blessing. Just, I want you to be happy and careful. Come here.”
She pulled me down to her level in small hug.
“Lindsey wants to go over some new dance ideas.”
“I’ll get ready.”
An hour later, I walked out of my room in jeans, a T-shirt, my flannels, and a backpack with a change of clothes. I joined the family for breakfast.
“What’s your agenda for today?” my uncle asked.
“Going to Lindsey’s,” Krys answered. “Working on some new routines.”
He nodded as he took a bite of bacon. “Daniel’s rising in the polls.”
I feigned ignorance to what was said. I simply acted like the man meant nothing to me—just some twisted cheat of a politician who would say whatever he wanted, and no one would bother to dig a little deeper to see what happened in his past. No one would look for the kid who was left in the rain after he told his little league coach, “Don’t worry, my dad’s coming for me”.
We drove a few miles up the street and passed the school on our way to Lindsey’s.
“I get the feeling that cheer practice may have to wait,” Krys sighed.
“Why? I asked as I saw Lindsey sitting in the front yard with a miserable look on her face.
“Let’s find out.”
We got out of the car as Lindsey got up and laid her head on the hood.
“Just run over me, please.”
“Come here, Lin,” Krys grabbed her hand and went to hug her. “What’s the issue?”
“I hate my life,” she mumbled into Krys’ arms.
“No, I mean, I really hate it,” she whined. “I’m going to be alone for my senior year. Might as well go out and buy a few cats and start early.”
As much as I wanted to say something, I remained quiet as I followed Krys and Lindsey into the house.
The Nichols’ abode looked like an ode to the life of a hunter. The foyer had a stuffed squirrel on a shelf. The living room had more trophies on the wall than were animals at a petting zoo.
Lindsey’s room was pretty much like Krys’—except with a lot more clutter. It made me feel like I owned nothing at all.
Lindsey closed the door.
“Okay.” She took a deep breath.
I set my backpack on the floor and sat down on the bed next to Krys.
“Okay, you see...I feel like I’m being left behind.” Lindsey threw her hands in the air in frustration.
“Look at me, Krys! I still look like I’m a freshman!
You’d think in three years....”
“Think what? That in three years you’d become a completely different someone?” Krys glanced at me for a moment with a horrified look on her face.
I simply shrugged at the comment.
“I mean, you look fine.”
“Fine? That’s the one word I didn’t want to hear.”
“Lindsey,” Krys began, as she stood up and turned Lindsey toward a mirror. “Here’s your biggest critic, right there. Now, tell her the problem.”
“Well, some of us are not as smart, tall or endowed as others.”
The two of them looked at me through the mirror. “What?”
Lindsey continued. “Maybe I should dye my hair.”
“Like you said—to be different, Krystal. To be different.”
“Wouldn’t you rather be you?” I asked.
“And look where that’s gotten me.” She turned around and stood in front of me. “Can I be like you?”
“You don’t want to be like me,” I replied.
“Well, at least the hair color, how about that?”
It didn’t matter if we disagreed.
“I bought some hair dye and…” Lindsey picked a plastic bag off the floor as I looked over at Krys.
Lindsey took a small box out of the bag and handed it to me.
Krys turned to Lindsey. “Let’s get started.”
Lindsey’s hair went from a mousy brown to a dark red that afternoon. It looked like the Lindsey I knew had gone away, at least in an emotional sense it seemed. Out with the bubbly, questioning girl with the toothy grin and in with a serious young woman—who tried to hide said grin.
Lindsey then had us work with her to go through just about every stitch of clothing she owned.
Too junior high-ish.
Too cute. Apparently, the cute factor was low on her totem pole.
“I should have done this last year. Look at this.” She held up a poodle skirt I never saw her wear before. It did look cute…and because of that, it was promptly thrown into a large black trash bag.
“I’m going to have to buy some new clothes.”
“Or wear your cheer uniform more often.”
Lindsey looked back at the mirror several times.
“This looks great!” she said with a slight squeal and the grin—there was the Lindsey we all knew! “Okay, time to move on and get on with my life. Come tomorrow, I am going to be a new person. I’m going to go out, meet people…maybe find that right guy.”
“Your life does not revolve around finding the right guy, Lindsey,” Krys stated as she tied up one of the bags.
“I know, but it can’t hurt. What do I do?”
“I suppose, being yourself is out of the question?” Krys asked.
Lindsey jumped in place a few times. “Who’s up for cheer practice?”
We stayed at Lindsey’s house well into the evening hours—just about to the point I was ready to fall asleep as I got behind the wheel of my car.
“We created a monster,” Krys stated as Lindsey waved at us from the porch.
We both waved back to her as I started the engine. “Maybe she can be used as a force for good?”
“Nope. She is going to walk into school tomorrow in something that is either going to send her grandmother to an early grave or have every guy staring at her. Both is more like it.”
“Isn’t that what she wanted?” I asked as I looked behind me for cross traffic.
“Yeah, but-but this is Lindsey.”
“I think she’ll be okay.” I thought it went okay. We didn’t spill hair dye everywhere, the house didn’t explode, and—a bonus—no one was killed.
“I just think this is going to end badly.”
“Badly as in....” I turned the car onto the street and shifted it into first gear.
“She never kissed Chris.”
“And one doesn’t have to have a physical relationship with someone to enjoy their company.”
“Really?” Krys asked with a glare. “So can you forego doing anything whatsoever with Matt?”
“If I wanted to.”
“Would he accept that?”
“I think he would. I can’t speak for him.” No, he probably wouldn’t, but I really didn’t want to tell her.
“Think about it Jen,” she continued. “She still has Hello Kitty underwear. Let’s take a five-year-old, stick him in a doctor’s office, and tell him he’s old enough—he’s experienced enough to crack someone’s chest open and rearrange some organs.”
“She could be a social prodigy—the butterfly that breaks from the cocoon and takes flight.”
“Only problem with that metaphor, Jen, is that you’re not supposed to help the butterfly.”
“What’s the plan then?” I asked as I turned onto our street.
“We’re Lindsey-sitting. I’ll take first shift.”
We turned onto the block to see Matt’s car parked on the curb.
“Look who’s here,” Kyrs mused.
Matt was sitting in the driver’s seat. I wondered how long he had been waiting,
I nodded as I pulled into the driveway.
Matt slowly got out and stood next to his vehicle.
“Is he going to just sit there and wait?”
“I think your dad may have frightened him last night,” I replied to Krys as I got out.
Matt waved to me and I motioned for him to come up to the house.
“Stay right here. I need to put some things away.”
“Okay.” He replied
I followed Krys into the house and closed the door. She turned to me and took my backpack.
“I want you back in thirty minutes,”
“I will,” I replied, “Thank you.”
“No long kissing session, got it?”
I walked back outside and made a beeline to Matt.
“I’m sorry about last night. We had an impromptu family meeting.”
“I understand,” he replied.
I took his hand as we walked down the street. “How was your shopping trip?”
“Not eventful. Didn’t find anything that I liked on me.”
“Interesting that you say that,” he let go of my hand,
reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small, white box. “I actually went shopping too, and I got you something.”
He handed the box to me and I slowly opened it to reveal a pair of gold and amethyst earrings. They appeared Native American in style, with loops and long amethyst rods.
“I can’t take this from you,” I replied as I handed the box back.
“Why not?” he held it out to me.
“You’ve only known me for a week, you can’t buy things like this for me.” I said, even though they looked gorgeous.
“I think I’ve gotten to know you now, don’t you think?”
“Not all of me,” I replied as he picked one of the rings out of the box and motioned it toward my ear. I took the earring and proceeded to put it on. I then followed with the other one.
“They’re beautiful,” he said. “Just like the rest of you.”
“No, thank you. I’m not good at relationships. I don’t really know what keeps them together. I don’t want to be distant but I don’t want to come across as clingy either. I want to be truthful though.”
I nodded and looked at his face. He was very boyish, cute, as he tried to show a softer side. He rambled on for a few moments before I reached out and placed a finger on his lips.
“Did you hear that?”
“That’s the true heart of Matt Tracker, opening up from its enclosed space. Most likely for the very first time.”
He grinned at my little commentary. I removed my hand from his face. “I was waiting to see when it would come out and say hello.”
“I really like you.” He took no time in holding my left hand.
“Do you really?” I asked as I touched the earring in my right ear.
“Yes. I’m not good at hiding feelings when they want to break out and the one I have had for the past five days is that I absolutely adore you,” he said as he squeezed my palm.
“You said like…” I could think of a few other synonyms, if he needed any.
“I think I need to build it up to you, to show I’m serious.”
“How serious?” I asked as he looked at me in almost a trance-like state.
“You want the moon? I’ll give you the moon.”
I had to laugh at that. “Not the most original thing to say, but can I still hold you to it?”
“You can hold me to anything you want…as long as I’m holding onto you.”
I took his other hand; we were entwined and I looked at his face. The hands that once flicked my ears or shoved me to the ground were now holding mine without a glimmer of regret. I should have hated him. I should have spat in his face or even better, slammed him to the ground. I could’ve gotten away with it once. He probably would not have fought back. After all, he said I could take a shot. Then
I could wail a bit on Damon and Chris and then stand at Tyler’s grave and spout out a bit of piss and vinegar toward him—or what was left of him. But, while I was pondering, Matt let go of my hands and wrapped his around my back. I found myself doing the same. I couldn’t fight him if I wanted to. I took a moment to give him a deep kiss before I stepped away.
“I think we should take it slow, I mean, yeah, I said I adore you and I do, it’s just that—”
“You’re right. We should.” I nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, but, how slow?” he asked with a look of bewilderment on his face. “I don’t want to smother you or push you away. I actually had something kind of prepared, but, then I got the earrings and I—”
“Let’s take it a day at a time.”
“So, the earrings are a bit too much then?”
“Would you prefer to give them to me later?”
He reached out and touched the right-hand earring. “No. Later for me would be ten minutes from now, so it’s best that you keep them on.”
“I will, for you,” I replied with a reassuring smile.
He started to say something but I stopped him with another kiss.
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