My Wednesday morning run felt like the re-reading of the last few pages of a horror novel, or more to the point, I kept re-living Monday over and over; thought about what would happen two hours later. Was it to be a day of blue skies, unicorns, and cotton candy or one of pent-up anger, confusion, and possible humiliation that would come to an agonizing apex? The thought that this would be my last day of school at Ferris was heavy, and on my way back as I stopped in front of the old house.
“Shouldn’t have said anything. Everything would still be....”
There I was, contemplating could’ve, should’ve, would’ve once again. I had never felt this out of sorts. One would assume I would have had similar thoughts about the surgeries, pain, and drugs I had to go through each day. One would think that if I had no fears during the time my genitalia was flipped six ways to Sunday, everything afterward was a cakewalk.
I decided to dress a bit more conservative that morning, to give Mrs. Myers a break from thinking up more phrases for ‘that is not acceptable’. I had to wonder if she wore a skirt with several petticoats, a corset, and an impossible hat on her head when she went to school. Either that, or she wore less than I did, partied way too much in her younger days, and was trying to redeem herself by taking it all out on me.
Krys stood at the front door as I walked down the steps.
“Whoa, who is this?” Krys exclaimed with her hands on her cheeks in an Oh my! expression
“I know what you’re doing.”
“No, seriously, who are you?” It was apparent she had a heaping bowl of sarcasm that morning.
“Okay, Krys.” I almost wanted to tell her she had to walk to school.
“Dead girl walking.”
“Point made,” I replied.
“Can I have your car?”
“Yeah, because I’m going to have to ask you to help move a body.”
“Matt’s?” she asked and threw on her jacket.
“Not sure yet,” I replied as we walked out of the house. “What’s the school policy on bringing a baseball bat and possibly hitting someone?”
“Suspension...but fingernails are not on the banned items list.”
I nodded as we got into the car. I fastened my seatbelt but didn’t turn the key. I just sat there.
“I’m fine,” I replied as I took out my keys.
“Okay. I’m afraid. Don’t want to be.” I contemplated staying at home for the umpteenth time.
“We could skip.”
“Lindsey would be lost if we... I’ll drop you off and I’ll just go—” I could have just let her drive to school again, since it came back with without any noticeable scratches.
“Bonkers?” I replied as I finally jammed the key into the ignition.
“A little late for that.”
Yeah, it was a little late for that, so I started the car.
“If Matt comes up to you, what are you going to do?”
Run away? Run him over? Run into his arms? I had no idea what would happen if we saw one another. “I’d like to say we could talk—set up lines we don’t cross and life goes on.”
“I told you to ignore him from the start,” she replied with a ‘told ya so’ intonation.
We arrived at the high school and I sat in the car and looked straight ahead, not wanting to face the inevitable. This was so much not like missing a test or fearing rejection. I had never missed a test and I had gone through rejection all of my life by one person or another
“You coming?” “Yeah,” I replied.
Ferris High School looked like a frightful, foreboding fortress of despair. All I needed to see were the guards standing at the gates.
Krys grabbed my hand to prevent me from shuffling my feet to the front door.
“Snap out of it. You said that he’s not going to do anything, so—”
“That’s wishful thinking.” I wanted to pull my hand away, not to walk in on my own power but to not go in at all.
The front doors were devoid of Matt, or any of his underlings. I entered unscathed—but this was Matt. He could have something planted in my locker, or classroom. I wouldn’t put it past him to go to my car, hotwire it, and somehow drive it to the center of the track field—adorned with various terms of endearment. I almost stopped to go back to the parking lot.
The hallway had a heavy feel to it, like it was haunted and filled with a doomed spirit—not me, but another sort of specter. Krys still held onto my hand as she led me on.
“If I let go of your hand, are you going to actually go to class?”
“Yes,” I replied as I opened my locker with a bit of caution. Maybe there would be something in there. Not a bomb, but some form of slander or perhaps a dead rat or a severed horse head.
“He is not going to booby-trap your locker.”
“Maybe…” I said as I closed my eyes and opened the door.
“Boom!” Krys yelled. “See, nothing.”
And, true to form, only my other books. No nasty surprises…for the moment.
“I’ll see you in class,” Krys said as she walked away.
I placed my books and backpack in and picked up what I needed for first period.
I closed the door and walked by myself down the hall. I felt alone even though there were over 1299 other students and teachers around me.
I turned around and thought, This is it. Here it comes…as Chris walked in step with me. “You doing good?”
“Yes, thank you.” I gave the best “happy look” I could.
“You sure?” he asked with an actual look of concern on his face.
“Just a little sick. Thanks.”
“Think you could race me today?”
“Is that a challenge, Chris?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I think you’ll win, but, yes, it is.”
“Can I think about it?” I asked as Krys, Lindsey, and Damon walked up on the other side of me.
“Sure, I’ll see you later then?”
Chris took notice of the group and stepped back. He was apparently caught off-guard before he could say anything else.
“Maybe, thank you.”
Chris waved and walked the other way.
“Looks like someone’s noticed you’re not attached,” Krys whispered.
I smelled a conspiracy. Matt would use Chris to gauge my mood—to see if I was distraught. Then, if I weren’t agitated enough, he would have Chris check on me again during PE. They would notice my confidence growing and he would lay down the coup de grace by the time cheerleading practice came around...and holy crap...I was becoming like Mom!
“Hey Jen, where’s Matt?”
Lindsey would have to be the one to ask—with Damon at her side on top of that.
“You’re not…with him?” Damon asked.
“It’s a work-in-progress,” Krys answered.
“It’s none of my business, sorry.”
“Thank you.” I replied. I had to admire his manners.
My eyes caught the form of someone I wanted to meet and avoid for the day. Matthew. He didn’t look back and continued walking down the hall.
“Jen, where are you going?” Krys moved to grab my arm but I slipped through.
“Sorry, but if I don’t find out one way or another, my days will be ruined.”
I shoved my way through the masses but I had to admit defeat—I had no idea where he went, or if I had imagined seeing him in the crowd like ‘Where’s Waldo’. I reached the main hall and I couldn’t find him. It was funny he knew my schedule; he had taken the time to know just about everything about me and I knew so little about him.
I left the main hall to go to my Trig class. If only I could get bogged down in equations and clear my head—but I couldn’t, as it was too easy compared to the massive story problem that had become my life. I kept going back and forth about looking for him or not—and how if I had just said nothing, everything would be—
“If we’re to make this work, we need to be honest with each other. right?”
“Yeah, honesty is important, but—” A lie.
I sat with Krys and Lindsay. I didn’t bring anything with me, as I was sure I wouldn’t be hungry. Fortunately, Krys had packed an extra salad—just in case.
“Sorry to hear about you and Matt.”
“What have you heard?” I asked Lindsey.
“Nothing, but he hasn’t been with you all day. He didn’t come to school yesterday either.”
“We’re working on a few things,” I replied as Krys handed over a rectangular-shaped box and a fork.
“Krys said that too when she went out with him.”
“Lindsey!” Krys hissed as she looked at me.
“I know about it. Krys just doesn’t like to talk about that week of heavenly bliss,” I said as I opened the box and took a bite out of a large leaf of romaine lettuce.
“It was not blissful. It was confusing, aggravating and— and it was nothing. Like studying poetry.”
“I love poetry,” Lindsey replied.
“But it doesn’t work in the real world,” Krys argued.
“It can show how people feel.”
“They could just come out and say it.” Krys stabbed at her salad with such force the table shook.
“Yes, yes they could,” I replied.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Krys replied as she finally captured an elusive radish chunk.
I nodded as Lindsey looked between the two of us.
“I’m a little confused,” Lindsey said.
“So am I,” I replied as I put my head down. Krys patted my hair.
“Does Matt write poetry?” Lindsey asked.
“No,” I replied.
I brought my head up with a sudden jolt.
“I need to go and talk to him.”
“Jen, just let him come to you. So we can kick his ass.”
“I can’t do that…I—”
“Yes, you can. You both said you need time to think.”
“Is this about sex?” Lindsey asked.
“If only,” I replied.
I skipped my fifth period class—wish I had told Chris— in an attempt to find Matt before I left for the man formally known as Dad’s office. It wasn’t too hard, as the halls were not heavily patrolled and I casually played the role of a student walking the hall. Since I wasn’t with someone else or standing around idle, no one ever asked me what I was doing in the hallway during class.
The blood rushed to my ears and my face as I thought through the possible scenarios—and they were all bad.
I couldn’t see a good ending coming my way, but there had to be some type of ending—whether it was a constant barrage of shite each day until graduation or being ignored which was just as bad to me as the first option. It just had to come to an end.
I walked out of the sciences wing and into the quad area and ran into Matt. It only took a few seconds for me to feel like I had made yet another big mistake. He looked at me and then past me. It was like he was set to finish what he started on Monday, and I ran back into the building, out the other door, and into the parking lot. If he called out for me, I didn’t hear it through the heavy drum of my heart beating in my ears.
“I’m here to see Mr. Kane, please, I’m his two o’clock appointment.”
The receptionist’s desk sat in the middle of what might have been an upscale shop or eatery within the River Park Square Mall. Now, the space was made up of glass walls and conference rooms. It didn’t have the appearance of boiler room politics, but he was always for keeping up appearances.
“I will let him know you’re here.”
She picked up the desk phone and made the call as I looked around the room. He had a lot of staffers and they were all running back and forth like bees dancing for the queen—or something like that.
“He will see you now. Follow me, please.”
We walked through the hive as the workers bent and moved around us until we reached a set of double doors, in the one room that was not a fishbowl.
He sat at a rather large desk with every note, paperclip, and pen in its proper place. There were ideas for campaign posters, signs on the wall, and a rather short—if I were into stereotyping—mafioso-looking man standing to the far side next to an office chair. His handler? No, more like a campaign manager. His expression was dour. Either he didn’t like me or someone was in need of more fiber in his gut.
“Miss Jennifer Monroe.”
I waited to see if he would recognize my last name but he didn’t react.
“Thank you, Abbie. Please, come in.”
Abbie closed the door as she left and I was once again in the realm of a condescending parental figure.
“Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Kane.”
His grip was firm, in a ‘I’d shake the talons of a convocation of eagles if they’ll vote for me’ manner.
“Are you looking to start in politics?”
“No, I’m more into business, small start-ups,” I said as sat in a set of chairs in front of his desk.
“High School,” I replied. Either Abbie failed to tell him the reason I was there or he had forgotten.
“It’s great to see that drive in a young person. How can I help you?”
“I just have a few questions, if you don’t mind.” I actually had questions, but failed to write any down. I had to rely on my brain to recall the softball questions I had planned to ask before dropping the bomb.
He looked at the man in the corner who nodded before he answered. “Yes, ask away.”
“Why did leave your family?” Unfortunately, my heart spoke first.
“Excuse me?” he asked as he leaned over the top of his desk.
“Your son and first wife. If that’s too personal, let me ask a different question. Were you ever going to tell him that he had half-sisters?” Not exactly subtle, but after all, I was winging it.
The campaign manager now stood less than two feet away from me. For an old guy, he was quite stealthy.
“Who are you?”
“Interesting that you ask that question, Dad.”
Dad put up two fingers to stop the old guy. He took a step back.
For the first time that I knew of, my father was at a loss of words.
“What’s wrong, not going to yell? Not going to put me down? Does that go against Danny Kane’s family values tour?”
“James?” It was like he had to remember what my name was. “James, what are you doing here?” he asked as he
stared at me. He was actually looking at me. I had his full attention for the first time since I accidentally scratched the car with my bicycle.
“Hmm, just like Mom. You two are so much alike. I used to think that it was just you keeping secrets. Now, you both do.”
“James,” he stated again, he just couldn’t let it go.
“In more ways than I think you would want your prospective voter base to know,” I replied.
He looked to the handler in the corner, both of them pondered what to do with me.
“Jennifer, or Jen, if you prefer.”
“What do you want?”
There it was. The stern jaw, the uncaring gaze, and the unwillingness to answer my questions. He was back in form once again.
“I don’t know, Mr. Kane. You’ve never asked me for my opinion before. You never asked me how I felt.” I stepped away from the desk and to the window before continuing. “Why?”
“Why did you write me out of your life?” I demanded the answer, dammit.
“Convenient scapegoat,” I replied with my back turned to him.
“Your mother was difficult to live with.”
“How would you know,” I shot right back. “You were never home. Oh wait, you were at your new home.”
“You were difficult to live with.”
I turned back to face him, to maybe see his resolve fade, to see some form of an apology but he merely straightened his tie and adjusted his suit—as if I were no longer there.
“Sorry that we didn’t meet your expectations. What are their names?”
“Your daughters. The ones who meet your criteria. Have you batted them around a bit yet?”
He looked to the old guy—whose face was so red I thought what little hair he had left was going to start burning. They both turned their attention back to me.
I turned to face him; he was now a few feet away from me. The feelings of wanting to tear him limb from limb were in direct conflict with wanting to throw myself at him and cry as he called me by my name.
“You need to leave.”
The campaign manager picked up the phone on the desk. “Or what, you’ll call the police? That will make for an interesting front page of the paper. How will they write the headline? Family Friendly Candidate was married to two women at the same time? Or maybe I can tell them about myself? I’m very sure the DNA test will be all they need. Sure, all of our lives will be screwed, but you know what? I think I could turn around from it. How about you?”
“Emily and Erica. Their names are Emily and Erica.”
“And they don’t know anything about me?”
He shook his head.
I took a step toward him.
“I have nothing more to say to you except that I will never forgive you and I hope you go to your death knowing that. Father!”
I slapped him across the face, knowing full well he wouldn’t touch me for a multitude of reasons. He only stared at me with an expression that was a cross of sheer shock and anger. True to my word, I walked out of his office without a sound.
I said nothing to all of the worker ants either, although I guess I didn’t need to—they would think of their own answers as to why my facial expression went from pissed to tears in less than fifteen seconds.
I drove back to Ferris to continue classes and for cheer practice. The still ever-present thought to look for Matthew attempted to take over, but it was best to ignore that little voice and continue on with life. After all, I had made ‘peace’ with my dad.
“How did it go?” Krys asked as we dressed down for practice.
“It went well.”
“You didn’t hit him, did you?”
“Hell yeah, I did,” I replied as I took off my dress.
“But before you did that, did you have a little talk?”
“A bit. He didn’t really want to tell me anything.”
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to….”
I shuffled through my locker for my clothes and shoes. “S’okay…I have no emotions for him. It’s done. He burned the bridge while I was standing on it in that office.”
Krys closed her gym locker and sat on the wooden bench between the lockers. “I’m sorry.”
“No, he’s the one who should be sorry. I have two sisters who will never know me. There’ll never be that little sliver of excitement they could have had if I was in the picture. It wouldn’t have mattered if I came to that office in any form, he still wouldn’t have cared. Of course, like this, I left him speechless when I left.”
“So, you’re okay?” Krys asked as she stood up.
Yeah, I felt okay about the visit. Pure closure and hey, if he wanted to come and get in my face I could at least think, See? We’re finally bonding over the fact we can’t stand one another. Ain’tcha proud? I learned it all from you!
“About him? Peachy. Everything else…not so much.” I had moved my car to another location. Matt would have to play a game of hide and seek if he planned to key it.
“Are you the new Lindsey?”
“Funny,” I replied.
“I’ll see you on the field.”
“Okay,” I replied.
She was right though; I was becoming like Lindsey— at least kind of like the old one. There she was, gaining newfound freedoms and being who she wanted to be while I stood back and felt bad for myself again. I didn’t want to be; this wasn’t how I wanted to feel.
I spent ten minutes going over the reason I wasn’t at practice on Tuesday with the cheer coach. She was aggravated about it, due to the coming game on Friday and our limited time to work on routines, but I assured her everything would be okay and I wouldn’t let the squad down. I also mentioned I could add a bit to the uniforms if she wanted to go over the details at a later time.
Lindsey and Krys lead the group in the new routine—or I should say Lindsey took the lead. She was a different person. Did she owe it all to Krys and me, or would it have been more correct to say she was like that all along and just needed the push to just go out there and be who she wanted to be?
We left Ferris at five thirty and drove back to the house for a quick dinner with my aunt and uncle. Lindsey sat with us for the evening.
“So, how was the meeting with Daniel Kane?”
“It was fine. He went over some of the things he wanted to do for the new generation and how the old one was not up to his standards.”
“You went to see your dad…on purpose?” Lindsey asked.
Uncle Allen held back a small laugh. “Yeah, that sounds like a politician—out with the old and in with the new…as long as the new is what I say it is.”
“Yeah, we didn’t see eye to eye on that either,” I replied to Uncle Alan with a slight grin.
“Do you think he will win?” he asked and then took a sip of tea.
“He’d never have my vote, if I could,” Krys replied as Lindsey stared at the rest of us with a glazed look in her eyes. Other families discussed sports or what was on TV the night before, we chose politics.
“No one is asking him the right questions. He’s for family values but what did he do for his family?” Uncle Alan stated with disgust.
“Oh, but he has or had two,” I replied.
“Exactly. No one looked at that. No one asked what happened to his first wife and son.”
I nodded. No one asked but me it seemed.
We spent most of the evening in Krys’ room listening to the radio and going over each other’s homework. Krys and Lindsey sat on the floor and I at her desk. Nothing too big—the average steps of asking each other what we got for question such and such. We all had different teachers for our classes, except for Krys and my first period, and every teacher was on a different page and addressed the curriculum differently. Between the three of us, we had three different viewpoints on certain subjects.
Then, there was a loud knock at the front door. I mean it boomed through the house a la a Saxon raid with a battering ram.
Krys looked up with a scowl and reached to turn the radio down…or up, I wasn’t sure. We didn’t hear the door open but we did hear a yell.
“James Fitzgerald Kane!”
Mom’s voice sliced through the air with such a heavy force the dead could have heard her scream.
“Dammit, Mom,” I muttered as I got up from the chair. I looked back to Lindsay and Krys.
Krys grabbed Lindsey by the arm. “We should stay in here for now.”
“I’ll be right back,” I replied as I walked out of the room and closed the door.
Uncle Allen stood at the bottom of the stairs next to Mom.
“Rachel, can you ratchet your voice down a notch or two? What’s happened?”
“Everything!” Her voice was three decibels shy of a Soundgarden concert during a power ballad. “James!”
The shrilling call reverberated through the house. It was just like being back at home.
“James isn’t here.” Uncle Allen stated.
“Yes. He. Is.”
“That’s not her name, why are you—”
Mom put her hands up, as if she were four years old rather than forty two.
“Allen, please, you don’t know— You need to just stay out of this—”
“It’s nice to see you too!” I called out from the second floor hallway. Mom raced from the foyer to the foot of the stairs.
“What did you do?”
“I’ve done a lot the past few days. Do you want the Cliff Notes or a fully-detailed report?” I asked as I stepped down to the middle of the stairway.
“I’m talking about the complete…sh-sh-situation you put us in by going to see your father!”
“I went to see the man who was formally called Dad, in order to ask him about the government and how it screws with the people!”
“James,” Mom began as she took a step up the stairs and I took one step back toward the top. “Do you know. How. Many. Lawyers. I have calling me?”
“Is this a rhetorical question or would you like me to take a stab at it?”
“I’ll give you the damn answer,” Mom yelled and slammed her hand on the banister. “Nine!”
“Only nine? He’s losing his touch.”
“No, James, you’re the one who has lost touch!”
Aunt Lydia stepped in from the hallway and stood next to my uncle. I turned around to see Lindsey standing at the top of the stairs.
“You still think I did all of this because of you or Dad? Mom, there are so many things wrong with that—”
“Do you know how we were able to afford all of this?” She threw her arms out at me. “All of the surgeries? The tutors? The pills you take?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked as Mom calmly lowered her hands to her side.
“The reason you’re not a mangled freak was a part of the divorce settlement! He paid for all of this, this drag show! You were to not have any contact with him. I. Told. You.
“I-I don’t believe you,” I stammered
“He wants to have me arrested!”
“Over me?” I laughed. “Oh, I feel so important now. No, it’s not about me. It’s about his campaign. You know what he can do with it? You know what you can do, Mom?”
“Please, please tell me, James, what I can do.”
“You can go fuck yourself!”
“What did you say?”
“She said go fuck yourself, Rachel,” Uncle Alan answered.
I turned around to face Lindsey and Krys. They stepped back as I ran up the stairs, into my room and slammed the door.
I locked the door behind me. No one was going to come in and talk to me. In fact, no one was going to get an answer from me that evening or the next morning. I looked out the window. I had left a situation in the middle of the night twice…it was time to do it again.
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