To Be a Different Someone: Chapter 12 "For The Love of Him"

My morning run that day never happened, at least not in a physical manner. I had several dreams that I ran all over the city, the country, maybe a bit of the world. I wasn’t avoiding anything. No boogieman or demonic figure was chasing me down—and by that, yes, I meant my dad. I was moving toward something, but I never saw what it was.

I decided to wear a long blue dress that day, as I wanted to enhance the color of the earrings. I could’ve taken them off—but I refused to, even the day before when they were striking against my ear and the side of my face. Except for when I took a shower, they remained on.
I had to read The Canterbury Tales as part of my homeschool curriculum so I researched the styles of the time and came up with a dress that was almost floor length, albeit a few inches to spare for my shoes. I thought maybe, just maybe, Mrs. Myer’s would faint at the sight of it. We drove to school and no sooner had we walked into the building we met up with Lindsey—or at least someone who sounded like Lindsey—but didn’t look like her. The new girl was quite beautiful, as was her fashion taste. Different enough to take the 'Mrs. Myers Dress Code Abomination of the Day Award' away from me.
“How are you?” I asked.
“It’s going good. I like it...and that’s all that really matters.” Lindsey wore what could be considered a medieval princess gown. No sequins or loud sparkles, just blood red and it, too, ran to the floor. I was sure it was not in her closet the day before.
“Fantastic,” I replied as Krys adjusted one of Lindsey’s earrings.
“I mean, I feel different, and that’s good. Like I get to be like somone else, but me, you know?”
Damon walked up next to us, his eyes darted back and forth. “Is the drama department performing Holy Grail?” he asked no one in particular.
“Damon, hi.”
He reached into his back pocket. “I got those addresses you wanted.”
“All of them?”
“Yeah, it was a little hard to get the one for Kane, but I found his campaign office is located on Riverside…he lives in a large house on the North Side, near Windermere.” He handed a piece of notebook paper to me.
“Thank you,” I replied.
“I’ll see you in class.” Damon took a short glance at Lindsey before running down the hall.
“Thank you very much.”

Damon came through. He had written down the address and phone number to my dad’s campaign office, along with the other candidates…and their personal homes. Overkill? Maybe. I only needed one particular address, but if I said I only needed that one it would be a bit too suspicious. There was also another number at the bottom of the page, all by its lonesome. Most likely it was Damon’s phone number.
“He looked cute,” Lindsey whispered.
“That’s Damon Mercer and I thought you hated cute.” I folded the note to make a crease.
“Cute clothes. Guys, that’s something else. What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing, so you should talk to him. Here.” I ripped the section off and gave it to Lindsey.
“It’s a little early for Valentine's Day, Cupid,” Krys mused as we stopped at her locker.
“Couldn’t hurt,” I replied.
“Should I call him?” Lindsey asked as she stared at the page.
“Go for it. But be prepared for him to not know what to say at first.”
“Did Matt know what to say?”
“He tries his hardest everyday.”
I glanced to see Matt appear from the side hall and broke away from Lindsey and Krys to meet up with him.
“Good morning,” I said as we shared a short hug.
I took his hand and lead him back to Krys and Lindsey.
Matt attempted to avoid looking at Lindsey but didn’t succeed. Lindsey cheeks flushed a bright red. Krys noticed as well but played it off that she didn’t.
“Lindsey, right?” Matt asked. “Are you two doing a report on the Middle Ages?”
“Yes, I mean, no. No, it’s something I put together.”
He squeaked out his reply. “You look, you look nice.”
He then turned to me. “And you look, beautiful. May I walk you to class?”
“Thank you, and you may,” I replied as we turned around and walked ahead of Krys and Lindsey.
The four of us looked rather unique. Lindsey and myself appeared like we were going to a Renaissance Faire, while Krys and Matt were dressed for, well, school.
“I’ll see you later,” I said to Matt as we reached my classroom.
“You shall,” he gave me a quick hug. I moved in and gave him a short kiss.
Krys moved past us and into the room. “See you at lunch, Lindsey?”
“Yes, I may be a little late, I—”
I nodded to her, waved to Matt and then stepped into the room as I didn’t want to get run over by everyone else
trying to enter.
“I see you got him trained,” Krys stated as I sat down at my desk.
“I’ve been giving him a few pointers.”
“Did you ever think we’d see the day?”
“No,” I said with a slight laugh, which was ironic because everything he did in the past was as funny as being impaled through the spot between eyes by a rusty knife covered in Tabasco sauce.

Matt’s biggest adventure that didn’t include me up to that time revolved around stealing three cars and driving them to different locations on the north side of Spokane. He then took a cycle, rode through downtown and onto Sprague Avenue where he tore down the streets at a frightening speed before pulling the bike into the parking lot of the University Mall and leaving it parked in a space as he went inside.

Mrs. Myers shuffled to her desk. As she took her time to sit down, her eyes loomed over the classroom, possibly thinking, “What will Miss Monroe surprise me with today?” Our eyes met for a brief moment and I looked down at my desk. Mrs. Myers made a sound, something like a hmmpf just as the bell rang.

I walked with Matt to my second period class. I was pretty sure he could be a gentleman…but, could I really be a lady about it? The issue gnawed at me. When would I tell him? Did I really have to? Could we live our lives
together so unbalanced, secrets-wise? I had all the cards—I knew just about everything about him and he knew next to nothing about me unless I told him. Of course I had to tell him; it wouldn’t be fair to leave him in the dark, and if he ever found out through some surreptitious method then it would crush him.

We said our short goodbyes in the hallway and he turned back down the hall.
I sat with Krys at lunch; Matt’s homeroom was at a different time, so we could never enjoy it together—well, for maybe two minutes during the switch, but, alas.
“Would you be satisfied if I said we both bonkers?” I asked.
“Slightly.” Krys held her thumb and first finger close together as a visual on how this close I was to being committed.
“Fine, we’re both bonkers, mental….”
“Would you like a thesaurus?”
“He’s unique,” I piped up, for no reason at all.
“There are over eight hundred guys here, and all of them are unique—some even more so.”
Two could play that game. “I don’t you see you vying for any of their attention.”
“My tastes are a bit different.”
“You mean older?” Krys—for the longest time—thought high school boys were immature. In a way, she was right, but she wasn’t exactly a grown up herself.
“I know you’re trying to help me. Thank you, but I got this, it’s fine. He’s taking it slow and—”
“Are you?”
“I’m trying to,” I replied with a loud sigh.
There was a lull in our conversation, one that was usually filled in by Lindsey. “Where is Lindsey?”
I looked across the lunchroom and saw her sitting with three guys I did not recognize. “We threw her to the wolves.”
“I think she can handle it.”
“We should go over—”
“Feel free. I’ll watch from here.”
I got up, brushed my hair back from my face, and walked toward Lindsey’s table.
The three guys were all attentive to her, even as she repeated a like or um for the sixth time.
“Hello, Lindsey.” The table turned toward me.
“Hey, Jen. Guys, this is one of my best friends, Jennifer.”
I was kind of thrilled to be elevated to best friend status and I smiled at the group.
“Sit, sit down,” Lindsey waved at me to sit across from her and to the left of one of her admirers. “Jen, this Stephen, Frank and Paul.”
The three guys turned their attention to me for a moment until Lindsey spoke again.
“Well, we were talking about how there is never enough time to talk to people at school. We have like three minutes to get, uh, from one class to the other and when in class we’re all told to, like, sit down and shut up. How else can we get to know everybody in such a large school?”
If I hadn’t known better, I’d think Lindsey was drunk...on some form of medication or hypnotized by watching some news show on PBS. She was talking social commentary. She was making good points, but with entirely the wrong audience as they were staring at her chest and not looking at her face.
“You should have run for student council,” I stated as Lindsey glanced at Stephen.
“A little late for that.”
“Maybe, but you could bring it up so it could be considered at the next meeting.”
“Hey, are you with Matt Tracker?” Paul asked as Frank continued to stare at her chest.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I didn’t get defensive or pissy. I really wanted to hear his thoughts.
“Because he’s crazy,” Paul replied.
“Off his chain,” Stephen interjected.
“Raced a stolen car and killed someone.” Frank barely moved his head toward me.
“Thank you for looking out for me,” I stated as I looked across the room in my attempt to avoid eye contact. “Okay, well, Lindsey, Krys had me come over to ask you something, but you know, I can’t recall what it was, so, if you gentlemen would please excuse us?”
“Okay,” she replied as we both looked at Krys, who was reading a book. “See you guys.”

We walked a few feet away before I put my arm on her shoulder and whispered. “You should avoid the wolves... especially the ones with only a quarter of a brain amongst the three of them.”
“But they were so nice.”
Lindsey spent the remaining time during lunch rehashing all of the compliments she had received as well as gushing over how she wanted to borrow my dress.
“I’ll make you one,” I volunteered.
“And Krys too?”
“Sure, if she’ll want to wear it.” We both looked at Krys and awaited her reply.
She dog-eared the page in her book. “If it’s okay with the two of you, I’ll pass. I don’t want to feel like I’m at a Robin Hood audition.”
Lindsey continuously looked over her shoulder, as if searching for someone.
“Who is it?” Krys asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re looking back so much you’re going to get whiplash. Now who are you looking for?”
“Damon,” she replied, with a full-toothed grin.
“Why…because you think he’s cute?”
“Well, yeah, he is.”
“I think we’ve exhausted the word cute for the rest of the semester,” I replied. “All in favor of not saying it again?”
“Do you think you can get Matt to talk to him for me?” Lindsey asked.
“Just go talk to him. You could probably get his full attention if you sneeze in his general direction.”
“What do I say?”
“Hi, my name’s Lindsey and I am hopelessly in love with you,” Krys said.
“You don’t think that would be too much?”
“It is,” I said as I stood up. “You would have had him at hi. I’ll see you two at practice.”

However, I never made it to cheer practice that afternoon. Matt found me in the hallway, placed a finger to his lips in a shush motion as he took my hand and lead me out the front doors and to the parking lot. We walked to his car and I stopped to look back at the school…I thought I was back at the library in Missoula.

He unlocked the door and I took that as my cue to get in and throw my books into the backseat.
“Where are we going?”
“Someplace pretty cool…at least I think you’ll like it. I’d have given you a blindfold but that makes this look even more like a kidnapping.” He started the engine and quickly pulled out into the street.
“You look like you enjoy nature,” Matt stated as he accelerated the car.
“I do.”
I must have said something wonderful because he gave this bright, beaming smile I had never seen coming from him in my entire life. “Like flowers and rivers?”
“Very tranquil.” Unlike the drive, as Matt veered across lanes and took multiple short cuts.
“Then, my dear Jennifer, you will love this.”

Four minutes later, we arrived on the lower side of the South Hill—Manito Park.
I stepped out of the car and looked ahead at the trees and the landscaping. It was October but there was still wondrous color in the park’s tree-lined garden—the displays of reds and yellows were simply amazing.
“Shall we?” he asked.
“Of all the places to skip school and go to.”
“I know, right? We could fly all over Spokane and raise Hell or make a trip out west to Seattle and be back in the morning.”
“And instead we’re here. It’s beautiful.”
“So are you,” he replied as he took my hands.
I ran up to a lone horse chestnut tree and stood beneath its golden leaves.
“What do you think of the colors?”
I walked back to him and took his hands.
“It doesn’t really matter what I think—” he replied.
“Shhh. Do you hear that?”
Matt moved his head in an attempt to hear whatever it was.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Because you shouldn’t be talking,” I whispered.
We moved closer together and looked into each other’s eyes. I was staring into his pupils—not in fear or in pain— in complete and total devotion.
“I have a few other things to show you,” he said as he stepped away, still holding onto my hand. “Come on.”

I nodded as we walked through the grounds and the vista changed with every step. We passed by what would be a rose garden in a few months and I thought how wonderful it was going to be to see them in full bloom with the two of us taking a wanderlust waltz through that wonderland. The garden was a long section of the park with a path leading to a stone cut fountain in the center. The grass was a light green, which contrasted with the dark colors of the fir trees bordering the perimeter.

I looked at him every few seconds with a beaming grin on my face and it got brighter as we approached a secluded area with a pond and a Japanese-style wooden bridge spanning over it.
“This is so beautiful.” The multi-colors of the leaves— shades of pink, red, and purple danced around in the slight breeze.
“I always wanted to get married in a place like this. Maybe to someone like you.”
“You’re definitely thinking farther off than prom, aren’t you?” I asked as we stepped onto the bridge and walked to the middle.
“I used to never think ahead…just lived for the day, no matter what happened…to me or to others.”
“Others?” I asked as he looked down at the water.
“I had a friend named Tyler. Good guy, you probably would have thought he was kind of funny, well, I did at least.”
We stood at the center of the bridge and looked out over the water. I swear I saw a fish.
“He…he died…and I think I may have had something to do with it.”
I turned my attention back to him “How would you have anything to do to with it?”
“I could have been a bit more of a friend. I didn’t listen when he asked for help.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He had this...this friend...” he stammered for a moment. “Well, more than a friend, named Alex. We all thought he meant Alexis, because, because that’s what he called her... but one day...Alexis...really, Alex, was beaten down. Kind of torn apart by some worthless assholes...sorry.”
I took his hand and tried to look at his eyes, but he had them closed.
“They left him in a ditch to die...Tyler tried to help him...but they slammed him down a few times. Ty, well, he was a big guy and smart in a fight they weren’t able to pummel him...but they hurt him. I killed him though.” His eyes teared up.
“How did you kill him?”
“I told him I wouldn’t help him with his pissed as I was at what happened, I wasn’t going to do that.” Matt sniffled a few times but kept his composure. “He yelled at me...told me what he thought of me, said I was no different than those guys and I had the memory of a gnat if I couldn’t remember all the crap I used to do to James and then not help him. He said...he said he’d take care of it himself.”
I looked to the deck of the bridge with a knot in my chest; yet another secret to add to my morbid collection.
“Alex died a few hours later...Tyler...didn’t take it well. We were all in the car with him, Damon and Chris. The last thing he said was, I don’t blame you, man...I don’t blame any of you. Thanks for trying. And after that, he floored it and-and we ran into a tree. Ty died...and I-I took the blame for it—or at least I made sure no one would find out how it really happened. I couldn’t let his parents know why he did it. If I told his parents that he killed himself over the death of his boyfriend, his mom would have had a heart attack and his dad would have knocked me on my ass for saying it.”
I put my arms around him. “You didn’t kill him, Matthew. You were his friend.”
“You’re the first person I’ve told that to,” he replied as he crossed his hands over mine. "I think I ruined the mood.”
“No, you just proved you have a heart,” I said as I patted the center of his chest.
“He was a good friend. He made me want to turn my life around.”
I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes. We stood together for what felt like an eternity.
“Thank you for telling me about Tyler and thank you for bringing us here. It’s so pretty.”
He took a hold of my hands and stepped back. “So are you.”
“Matt, I have to tell you something but I don’t know how to say it.”
“You can share anything you want with me. I’ll understand.”
Oh, how I really wanted to believe. “I can’t hold you to that.”
I looked at his eyes, walked a few steps away…and I ran.

I sprinted from the bridge and back to the rose garden. If I wanted to, I could run all the way home but I stopped. There was no way to delay the inevitable. I could hold onto that one, special moment—a mental snapshot that would stay forever…but, I had to tell him the truth.
Matt caught up with me and I turned to face him with my tears streaming down.
“What’s wrong?” He held onto me with a deep hug.
“I have to tell you—something. But I—”
“You have a boyfriend back home?”
“No. And if I did, he could never compare to you.” He repeatedly tried to pull me closer as I tried to push him away but it was so hard to do so. Not because he was forcing me, it was due to my inability to want to make him move away.
“So if that’s not the problem, then—”
“We’ve met before.” I closed my eyes and every muscle in my body tensed up.
“What’s wrong? So we met before…although I don’t remember you.”
“Actually, you do remember me.” I took that moment to move out of his amorous, emotional embrace and stood a few feet away. Matt looked at me with a quizzical expression on his puppy dog-like face. “If we’re to make this work, we need to be honest with each other. Right?”
“Yeah, honesty is important, but—” he stated as he took a step toward me and I took a step back.
“But nothing. I’m about to tell you something that will either bring us closer or you’ll never want to talk to me again.”
He sighed. “Okay, tell me.”
“You used to humiliate me and you pretty much helped to make sure that my life was completely miserable. You were very successful at the time.”
“So, what was your name, Gertrude?”
“James Kane.”
He shifted his eyes and stifled a small laugh. “Is this some sort of revenge plot that Krystal put you up to?”
“If only it were that simple,” I replied.
“I know you’re like, smart and all, but don’t you think this is kind of an over-the-top way to show it?”
“Stop being a pussy, Kane. That was your popular missive.”
He put his hand on his forehead. “But you have… you’re….”
“Reconstructive surgery, there’s a longer story behind that, but, Matt—”
“James Kane?” he asked with a bit of disdain to his voice.
“Yes,” I answered.
“But now, you’re not?”
“I’d want to think I never was. Does knowing change anything?”
“Yes, it changes things a Hell of a lot.” He clenched his fist; I wanted to believe it was just a stress reaction.
“I know it’s a huge step—”
When Matt’s hand lashed out and struck the side of my face, it hurt, but not as much as the pain I was seeing in his expression.
“Matthew, please I—”
He struck me again and this time he put a lot more force into it. I fell to the ground in front of him.
“James, James Kane? The James Kane? You’re still a pussy.”
“Please don’t say that.”
“I can’t believe I fell for this. How long did you have this planned?”
“I didn’t plan anything,” I answered as I slowly stood back up.
“So-so-so you leave Ferris, go to Montana and go all Rocky Horror, and you come back to do some sort of perverted test?”
“No. Anything bu—”
Matt then lunged and tore the earring from my left ear.
The pain was immense and I screamed out. Matt then walloped me across the face again.
“That’s for tricking me with this-this...shit!”
I cupped my bleeding ear in my hands but kept my eyes on Matt.
“I don’t know what to call you. James? Jen? Transsexual homo?” He threw the earring to ground.
“Well, James, I said I’d give you a chance to hit me. You asked me what I’d do if I saw you again.”
“I don’t want to fight you,” I cried.
He then reached and ripped the other earring out. I had a stream of blood on both sides of my face and fell to my
knees in pain.
“This is just sick.”
“I didn’t want to tell you, but you opened your heart about Tyler and I wanted to be truthful with you. No secrets.”
Matt turned and walked away.
I started to get up when he swung around and threw me back to the ground.
“Why the Hell did you pick me?”
“Because I love you.”
“That’s bullshit!” he screamed as he threw the other earring to the ground.
I calmly looked into his eyes as he continued. “Why tell me now? You could’ve had more fun playing with me.”
“It’s not a game, Matthew. I had to tell you. I wanted to tell you the first day I came back, but I didn’t know how you felt about me.” The pain in my chest was greater than the pain in my ears.
“I feel nothing for you. Don’t you say a word to anybody. Don’t you say one damn word about anything!”
“If that’s what you want.”
He refused to look me in the eyes. “Freak!” He stormed away.

It took a few minutes before I tried to get up. Matt had left me. I picked up the damaged earrings he threw to the ground—the crystals were shattered and the metal star pattern that made up the body was twisted and bent, kind of like how I felt.
I like to think I heard him crying somewhere…but I couldn’t hear a thing through my own tears.

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