Our Featured Author for this week is Julie Christensen, author of "Searching for Meredith Love" and "The Truth About Dating"
This week's free sample is an excerpt from "The Truth About Dating"
Buy it on Amazon/Kindle for .99 cents or Amazon UK or Nook
My lastest Match.com person wanted to meet. Horace suggested a meeting for the next night, at the café in Barnes and Noble. I agreed. I was getting so worn out by Match.com dates that I barely even felt any jitters.
My neighbor was coughing next door. I’d started to listen for him, nightly, because I’d begun to worry that he might die without anyone noticing. I’d made him another batch of food over the weekend. He’d taken it without a thank you, and returned all my Tupperware a few days later. The containers were so clean they looked brand new.
I knew I was pushing the envelope, but I’d scheduled a house viewing just before my meeting with Horace. My realtor, Flora, picked me up at work and we drove together to the home I’d found on the Internet. The neighborhood was a little bit bad. The house was on a block where jobless men stood outside all day and talk into parked cars filled with more idle men. As I started to undo my seatbelt, my realtor hit the power locks and locked me in. I looked over at her. When we had first met, she had said, “There are two things we must have clear. First, you will not work with another agent while you are working with me. And second, if I make an appointment to see a house with you, you must go inside. I don’t care if we spend three seconds in the house, I have to leave my card.” Her requests seemed reasonable and I’d agreed.
Now we sat, locked in her car, and she said, “Quinn, I cannot in good conscience show you this house. You’d be liable to try to buy it and I simply could not sleep at night, knowing that you were living in this neighborhood.”
I looked around. There was garbage on the street. The house itself had a sink in the yard and a broken window with a piece of cloth stuffed the hole. Sheets hung where curtains would normally be. The other houses had junk in their yards. Two of the cars parked on the street had flat tires and violation stickers on the window. I could see her point. Probably that’s why it was in my price range. “But what about your rule?” I asked.
She whipped out her cell phone. “I’m calling the realtor,” she said. “Hi, Martin, this is Flora. Yes, I am sitting in my car right now, outside your property on 24th Street. My client is a sweet young woman who is looking for her first house. This property just isn’t a match for her. She is all alone and she’s got no family in town.” Flora listened to Martin and rolled her eyes at me. “No, she’s allergic to dogs. And what dog will protect her on the walk from her car to her front door?” She paused. “Yes, I’ll have her take a look at that property. She can decide if it’s a better match.” Flora snapped her phone shut.
“What property?” I asked.
“Nothing you’d be interested in,” she said as she started up the engine.
So I made it to the café with about twenty minutes to spare. I did some window-shopping and finally arrived at our agreed upon time, six o’clock on the dot. Horace was not inside. About 30 seconds after I had taken a table, he appeared. Were these men hiding somewhere across the street, and waiting till they saw me before they came inside? Was that shyness? Or were they planning on bolting if they didn’t like what they saw? My profile picture showed me dressed up, it’s true, but it was a pretty realistic idea of what I look like.
Horace’s picture had shown a man with blond hair, green eyes, and a warm, friendly smile. In real life, he had the hair and eye color, and also, a hunchback. I stood to shake his hand. He didn’t look younger than 44. In fact, I would have guessed his age to be about 48. He was noticeably shorter than me. I was certain that wasn’t on his profile. “Hi Quinn, it’s nice to meet you.” He spoke with a lisp.
As I sat back down, I wrestled with my vanity and my sense of right. Get to know him first. You liked his personality. “So, tell me about France What was it like to live there?” I asked.
“It was the best.” He coughed. He had a hacking, croupy cough. The waitress came to take our order. “Do you want something to eat?” he asked as I ordered a red wine.
“I’ll order food.”
I didn’t want to be committed to dinner with this guy. “I don’t want any food.”
“I insist. I’ll order food.”
“I’m not hungry.”
He ordered a beer and left it at that. “I just got back from Australia. That country is beautiful.”
“I’ll bet. You know, I saw a really neat film from Australia not too long ago. ‘Rabbit Proof Fence.’ Did you see that? It’s a true story about the government’s policy to take children of mixed race and raise them in camps to be culturally white. It’s about three little girls who escape the camp and travel thousands of miles by foot to get home to their aboriginal mother.”
“I know all about that policy and the fence. Australians are racists.”
“Well, the policy is no longer in effect. I don’t think you can call an entire group of people racist.”
“Even they say they are racist. It’s in their museum.”
“Their policies were racist. But I don’t believe every person in that country is racist.”
“Well, sure, the Aborigines aren’t racist.”
I took a sip of my wine. “If you are going to make a blanket statement like that about a country, then you might as well make it about ours. We have racial problems. Is every white American racist?”
Horace looked taken aback. “No, of course not!”
“Well then, how can you say it about the Australians?”
He spoke slowly and clearly. “Their own museum says that about them.”
A little Izzy in an angel suit appeared on my right shoulder and said, Don’t fight with him. Let it go. I took a deep breath and I let this go.
“Tell me about France.”
“Well, it’s a lovely place. I spent a lot of time in the south.” He drew a map of France on a napkin and gave me a geography lecture.
“Did you spend much time in Paris?”
He coughed again. “Of course. I lived in Paris for several years.”
“What did you think of the Centre Pompidou? I’ve heard that it’s kind of controversial.”
“I saw many things there and I loved them all.”
“But did you like the Pompidou?”
“I’m sure I did. I can’t remember everything I did.”
I thought, If you don’t know what it is, why don’t you just ask me? You “taught” me about French geography for ten minutes and now you can’t ask me what the Centre Pompidou is? I was getting the feeling that he had to be the parental figure. Maybe that’s why his dating range was so low. “The Centre Pompidou is the museum of modern art. It has all the brightly colored tubes coming out of it.”
“So what do you do?” he asked.
“I’m an audiologist.”
“Huh?” He laughed at his joke. “Actually, I saw an audiologist not too long ago. I have an inner ear problem.”
“Yes, I had fluid in the inner ear. I couldn’t hear anything. The ear doctor had to puncture the drum to drain the fluid.”
“That sounds like your middle ear,” I said.
“Actually, it was the inner ear.”
I thought, Actually, your inner ear is imbedded in your temporal bone and it’s supposed to have fluid and if you wanted to puncture it, you’d have to take something like an ice pick and drive it into your skull. And then, I suddenly had an epiphany: I was not having fun Internet dating. I didn’t like meeting strangers and pretending to be more outgoing than I really was. I didn’t like making banal conversation with men who were probably not listening to a word I said and were just judging me based on my looks.
“So, you haven’t mentioned age tonight,” Horace said, unmindful of my inner thoughts.
“Should I?” I asked. I really just wanted to leave.
Horace smiled. “It’s just that I expected you to comment on how young I look. Everyone is always shocked when they learn my true age.”
“You already told me you are 44.”
“But if you didn’t know, how old would you guess I was?”
I wrestled with truth/meanness and lies/kindness.
“Come on. What would you say?” said the short, lisping hunchback in front of me. If he thought he looked young, who was I to burst his bubble?
“Thirty-five is what everyone says,” he told me.
“So, Quinn, why don’t you tell me about your travels?” he asked.
I took another sip of my wine and congratulated myself for ordering no food. The wine was half gone. I would be out of here in less than fifteen minutes. “I’ve lived in Venice and Barcelona. And I traveled to Czechoslovakia…”
“It’s the Czech Republic, actually.”
“Actually, in 1992 it was still called Czechoslovakia, but they voted to split on my last day there.”
“Have you ever been to Israel?”
“No, but I’d like to.”
“It’s incredible. If the Palestinians would just leave, it would be perfect.”
“Well, it’s their home, too.”
He shook his head. “Actually, it belongs to the Jews. They have lived there for thousands of years.”
“They weren’t the only people to live there, for thousands of years, and they weren’t the first either.”
“Yes they were.”
“There’s evidence of prehistoric man there. And as far back as we have names for groups, there were many different tribes living there, including the Jebusites, Midianites, and Canaanites.” Do I normally know stuff like this, Reader? No! But I had literally, the day before, started reading a tourism book about Israel. It was like…I was fated to contradict him!
His face faltered. “Well, they’ve been there longer than the Palestinians.”
I swallowed the rest of my wine. “Do you think that we should give this country back to the Native Americans?”
“What? No, of course not!”
So, I’d hit a nerve. Interesting. “Because you’re saying that about Israel. That the Jews were there first, as were the Native Americans.”
“It’s completely different. Judaism is a religion. It’s sacred. God chose them to live there.”
“I’ll bet the Native Americans would say God chose them to live here.”
He shook his head. “You’re wrong.”
He smiled and extended his hand across the table. “Let’s shake on agreeing to disagree,” he said.
“I can’t shake your hand,” I said.
“Because, you’re sick. You’ve been coughing on your hand all night.”
“Are you seriously not going to shake my hand?”
“I don’t want to get sick.”
“This is ridiculous.” He held his hand out. “Shake my hand.”
“Not unless you wash it.”
“You are seriously not going to shake my hand?”
“So, tell me about your job.”
“I can’t believe this. You won’t shake my hand?”
I shook my head.
“What if I dunk my hand in my whiskey,” he shouted. “Then will you shake my hand?”
Adjacent tables were looking at us. “Get over it,” I said, quietly. “We’re past that now and talking about your job.”
“I’m not done with the hand conversation. God, you’re so American.”
“You’re American too.”
“I’m going to go wash my hand.”
“Let’s just shake hands mentally.”
“No, I’m going to wash my hands.” He left for the bathroom. I wondered if he was really going to wash his hands or not. When he came back, he held out his hands. “Washed.”
I leaned my nose in to smell them. There was that cheap, public bathroom soap smell on them. I put my hand out. He pulled his away.
“I’ve changed my mind,” he said. “I don’t want to shake hands.”
I looked at my watch and said, “Well, I should really be going.”
“Wait. Let me get you another wine.”
He turned and called our waitress. “I’m going to order some food. And I’ll have another beer and she’ll have another wine.”
“I don’t want any wine.”
“She’ll have another wine.”
I looked at the waitress and said, “No, I won’t.”
“I insist you have some food.”
“As I’ve said, no.”
He had a desperate look in his eye. Maybe he thought that force-feeding me food and alcohol would make the date go better. “I’m going to have another beer,” he announced. “Please, let me get you a glass of wine.”
I stood up. “It’s been a pleasure, but I really must go.”
“I’ll walk you to your car,” he said, standing and pulling out his wallet.
“Nope. I’ve got it from here.” I put money on the table to cover my drink.
“I’m really fine.”
“I’m walking you to your car,” Horace said.
It was getting kind of funny, to see him try to take over and fail. “You aren’t,” I said in a friendly tone. “Good-bye.”
“Wait,” he said. He had followed me onto the sidewalk. “When will we see each other again?” He looked angry. He was like a spoiled child, expecting to get his way.
“I don’t think we’re very compatible, do you?”
“Yes, I think we are.”
I was floored. “Well,” I finally said, “I don’t. So, good luck with your life. I’m sure you’ll meet someone who’s a better match for you.” I turned to leave. I walked about half a block and paused at a window display to discreetly look behind me. He was walking away, in the opposite direction. He was such a freak, though, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to double back. I took out my cell phone and called Ann, who was my contact person tonight.
“It’s me. He was a weirdo and angry that I don’t want to see him again. I’m talking to you as I walk to my car. If it sounds like I’ve been tackled from behind, it’s probably him. Horace.”
“He didn’t understand basic infection control. He didn’t listen to anything I said. He’s racist. He is several inches shorter than me, he only dates younger women but looks four years older than his age, and he is hunchbacked and speaks with a lisp.”
“Maybe you should try to date women,” Ann said.
“I’d almost consider it,” I said, finally reaching my car and locking myself inside. I sighed. “The first liberal I’ve met in Omaha. Practically the only liberal on Match.” I checked my watch. “God, he went on and on. I had one glass of wine. I need to wait fifteen more minutes to make it an hour before I can drive. I don’t want to walk around the market in case he’s stalking me.”
“Fifteen minutes seems like adequate time to tell me every detail of tonight’s date. Oh, and the house? How did that go?”
“They were both a bust. Poorly maintained, bad location, and, I’m no engineer, but I think that, over time, major structural damage would have been revealed in both.”
“Why don’t you just get a dog?”
“I know the right man is out there,” I said.
“Just probably not in Nebraska,” Ann said.
My blog is julielivingthedream.blogspot.com
Talia Jager, author of
Damaged: Natalie’s Story
By Talia Jager
I was seventeen and a senior in high school when I met him. He was the new kid in school. His light brown hair was just long enough to hide his big brown eyes. I first noticed him in the office getting his schedule. I watched him from afar that day, admiring his style. He wore jeans, a T-shirt, and a flannel tied around his waist.
I caught him stealing glances at me throughout English class, which I was delighted to know we shared. Our eyes locked and his mouth curved up in a half smile. I bit my lip trying to hide my own smile.
I felt heavy-hearted when the day was over. I yearned to go up to him and say hi, but I was too shy. I would have to be satisfied by looking forward to the next day when I would see him again.
I was walking down the hall when he ran into me, literally, knocking me to the ground. “Oh! I’m so sorry,” he apologized outstretching his hand to help me up. I put my hand into his, which was warm and strong. Tingles shot through my body.
“Thank you.” I blushed, feeling flustered as I was inches from his body. Our eyes were locked again and I noticed what a beautiful shade of brown they were.
He looked away first, “I really am sorry.” He bent down and picked up my books.
Handing me my books, he gazed at me for a minute. The bell brought us back to the present, “I’ve got to go.”
I watched as he hurried down the dimly lit hallway. He was much more striking close up. I stood frozen until he disappeared around the corner. Finally, I was able to shake the spell he seemed to have over me and went on my way. From that perfect moment on, whenever he saw me in the halls, he would smile and I would smile back. “Do you like him?”
I spun around coming face to face with my best friend, “Yeah, Sophie, I do.”
Sophie’s beautiful tri-colored hair hung half way down her back. The red shirt that hung snugly on her body brought out her natural red highlights. Her eyes were hazel and they danced when she laughed. We had known each other for years and she was a terrific friend. We always had fun together and more importantly, we were always there for each other.
I was drawn to this boy more and more each day. I wanted desperately to be his girlfriend, but I wasn’t sure he was interested in letting it go that far.
As I was rushing to English class, I ran into him outside the classroom. We both laughed, “I guess we’re late, huh?”
He grinned, “Yeah. We can’t keep running into each other like this.”
“Do you… ah…”
The door opened and our teacher, Mrs. Leon stood there, “Would the two of you care to join us?”
I blushed and scooted to my seat. A few of the kids snickered. I glared at Mrs. Leon, temporarily hating her for interrupting. I was positive he was about to ask me out. Fuming about it for the rest of the period, I didn’t hear a word she said.
When the bell rang, I purposely took my time getting my things together, hoping he’d want to finish our conversation. He hopped over a chair and strode up to me, “As I was saying, would you like to go out this weekend?”
I smiled feeling the blood rush to my face, “On a date?”
He laughed, “Yeah, on a date.”
I nodded, “Sure.”
“Good. I’m Josh. Joshua Kory.” He stuck out his right hand.
Taking his hand in mind, I responded, “I’m Natalie Jarrett.”
“How about I pick you up at seven on Friday night?”
“Sounds good,” I answered as I quickly jotted down my address. As I handed it to him, I deliberately let my fingers graze his hand.
Sophie called me later that night, “Where do you want to go tomorrow night?”
“Actually, I can’t tomorrow,” I told her.
“Well, why not?” she asked.
“I’ve got a date.”
“You’ve got a date?”
“Yeah,” I smiled thinking of him.
“With the new kid?”
“Uh-huh, his name is Josh.”
“But, we always go out on Fridays,” she pouted.
I was glad she couldn’t see me rolling my eyes, “So, we’ll go out on Saturday.” She agreed and we hung up.
I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I couldn’t stop thinking about Josh. How he looked at me. How his eyes glistened when he smiled. I couldn’t believe someone so good looking had asked me out. Out of all the girls at school, he had chosen me. I imagined us at our prom, how gorgeous we’d look together, and how all the kids would talk. That image was the last thing going through my mind as I finally drifted off to sleep.
When I got home from school the next day, I grabbed a snack and hurried upstairs. I took a shower and after turning on my iPod, stood in front of my closet for what seemed like ages. I finally decided on short black shorts and a red sleeveless top. I put on deodorant and a dab of perfume. I opened my make-up drawer and chose a couple things. I put black eye liner and mascara around my blue eyes.
Then I took the towel off my head and brushed my hair out. I took after my mother with my natural red hair. She had the same hair color, but she wore her hair shorter. I had a small birthmark about an inch from the corner of my left eye. I rubbed some gel in my hands and ran it through my hair. I scrunched it up a bit and then sprayed it with hair spray.
The door opened and my sister walked in. “Nat, do you know where the… Oh, don’t you look nice. Where are you going?” She stood next to me as I looked in the full-length mirror. At 5’6”, she was an inch taller, but I was just a little skinnier.
“Out. You never knock!” I smiled.
She smirked and shrugged, “Out with Sophie?” I shook my head. “Do you have a date?” she asked teasingly. I nodded trying not to let her know how elated I was. “Do Mom and Dad know you’re going on a date?”
“Of course. I told them yesterday.” I played with my hair. “Miranda, can I borrow your angel earrings?”
“Sure, as long as you give them back,” she answered. I rolled my eyes and nodded. She left and came back with the earrings. “So, who is it? Do I know him?”
“No, he’s new. His name is Josh and he’s really hot,” I smiled.
“I’m home!” I heard my mother yell. “Miranda? Natalie?”
I opened my door, “Be right down, Mom!” Miranda waved as she headed out.
I did some finishing touches, turned off the music and went downstairs, “Well, you look lovely, Natalie.”
“Thanks,” I sat down, not sure lovely was what I was going for, but it would be weird for my mom to tell me I looked sexy. “How was your day?”
“Good. Busy,” she said unloading groceries with Miranda’s help.
Dad walked in about ten minutes later, “Hey girls.” He walked over to my mom and gave her a kiss. Her blue eyes still sparkled when she was near him. He was a few inches taller than her with dark blond hair and hazel eyes. Miranda and I had both gotten Mom’s hair, but our eyes were different. Mine were blue eyes like our mother; hers were hazel like our father.
I always wondered where my birthmark came from. I was the only one in the family who had one. Mom used to tell me I was extra special because God had kissed me. I still wondered if I was “marked” for some reason.
“How was class today, Miranda?” Dad asked her. She was in her second year at the local community college.
She shrugged, “It was okay. How was your day?”
Dad owned an auto mechanic shop and my mother worked as a nurse in a pediatric doctor’s office. “Fine, thank you.”
The back door opened and my Uncle Carl walked in. “Hey everybody!”
“Hi, Uncle Carl,” I smiled. “Just get out of work?” He was still dressed in scrubs.
“Yeah, I spent the day helping out in the OR,” he said. Uncle Carl was a hot shot doctor. He was a surgeon and did a lot of the executive type stuff. I liked hearing about his cases, but didn’t care too much to hear the boring stuff. My grandfather had been a surgeon as well; it seemed to run in the family. I toyed with the idea of going into the health care field, but I wasn’t sure yet.
“Natalie, you look beautiful,” Dad kissed me on the cheek.
“Don’t get me dirty!” I took a step back.
“A date, huh?”
“Why is everybody making such a big deal over a date?” I asked getting a little frustrated. I knew I hadn’t had one in a few months, but it’s not like I had never gone out.
My family laughed, “We just like picking on you.” I rolled my eyes.
Finally, seven o’clock came and the doorbell rang. Miranda got to the door before I could. “Is Natalie here?” I heard him ask.
“Natalie, your date is here!”
I hurried to the door. Josh stood there looking dashing as always. He only wore jeans and a t-shirt, but it looked perfect on his muscular body. I bit my lip as I met his eyes and smiled, “Hi.”
“Well, Natalie, is this your date?” My dad asked coming into the room.
“Dad, please!” I jumped in between Josh and my dad.
“I’d like to see who my little girl is dating.”
“I’m seventeen!” I blushed.
“It’s okay Natalie, I don’t mind,” Josh smiled. “Hello Sir, I’m Josh Kory.”
Dad shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Josh. I’m Ben Jarrett and this is my wife, Allison.” Josh politely greeted them and shook both their hands. “So, where are you taking our daughter tonight?” Dad asked.
“We’re going to dinner and a movie,” he smiled looking amused with the whole situation.
“You’ll have her back by midnight?” It wasn’t a question.
“Very well then, we’ll see you later.”
I said good night to my family and we got to leave. Josh opened the car door for me. When he got in, I apologized, “I’m really sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. They’re normal parents,” he chuckled.
He took me to Friday’s. We talked through dinner getting to know one another. “Where did you move from?” I asked wanting to push his bangs to the side so I could see his eyes better.
“Wow, why did you move all the way to New York?”
“My parents wanted a change.”
“Do you have siblings?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, a brother, Jarrod. He’s two years older. What about you?”
“Just my sister, she’s a couple years older as well.”
“Is she the one who answered the door?” I nodded taking a drink. He studied me for a moment, I blushed again. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Your beauty makes me speechless sometimes.” I think at that particular moment I blushed more than any girl ever has. “What do you want to do after you graduate?” he asked, changing the subject.
I hesitated for a moment, “I’m not sure yet, but I think I’d like to be a nurse. Do you have any plans?”
“I’d like to be in law enforcement,” he answered proudly. I nodded approvingly.
We soon finished dinner and went to see a movie, which ended up being one of those movies that was just okay. I was more interested in being with him, then paying attention to the storyline. Our fingers kept touching when we would reach for the popcorn and we’d steal a quick peek at each other. Once it was gone, he took my hand into his. I smiled even though I didn’t look at him. I felt ecstatic. I sat back, relaxed and watched the rest of the movie.
After the movie ended, he drove me home. We pulled up in front of my picture perfect house. It was nice cozy home with four bedrooms. I loved both the front and the back porch. The front porch and the hallway lights were the only ones on. “I had a good time.”
“Me too,” I smiled. “Thank you.”
“Would you like to go to the dance next weekend?” he asked.
“Yeah, I would like that.”
He leaned over closer to me, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, he smelled so good. I felt his warm breath on my lips and then they touched my lips ever so gently. It was the perfect first kiss. He broke away first, “See you Monday.”
“Mhmmm,” I couldn’t say anything. I got out of the car and walked briskly into the house. It was dark and quiet. Carefully, I went upstairs and poked my head in my parents’ room, “I’m home.”
My Mom mumbled, “Okay.”
I went to my room, which was in the front of the house and peered out the window, he was looking up at me from his car. I put my hand up and waved, he waved back and took off. I stayed awake for a while thinking about Josh. He was so good looking and charming. I turned on the radio and listened to some music before finally drifting off to sleep.
The following night I went out with Sophie. We went to our favorite dance club, the one we had gone to almost every Friday night for the last year. The crowd was different since it was a Saturday, but we still had a good time. We just danced by ourselves and with each other. We were there for a good time, not to meet anybody. Sophie danced with a guy a couple times while I stayed at the table and daydreamed about Josh. We got home pretty late. I realized that Josh had called my cell phone, I must not have heard it with the loud music, and I figured it was too late to call him back.
The next morning, I flipped through the channels on TV. I could never find anything interesting on Sundays. It was either religious programs or sports. Sometimes we went to church, sometimes we had a big dinner, or sometimes we did absolutely nothing. This particular Sunday, I did my homework and cleaned my room. I had a full size bed with stripes, all different shades of blue. The curtains and lamp matched the bedding. My walls were decorated with a peace pinboard and peace wall decals. As I was rearranging the pictures I had on my pinboard, Sophie called and we talked for a while.
Monday morning I practically flew to school in the blue Toyota Corolla that I shared with my sister. I couldn’t wait to see Josh. He was waiting by my locker. “Hi,” he smiled.
“Hi,” I blushed, my mind flashing back to the last moment I had been with him.
“Did you have a good weekend?” he asked tilting his head. I nodded and opened my locker. “What did you do Saturday night? I tried to call.”
“Sophie and I went dancing, I didn’t hear the phone.”
“Oh, did you meet some new guys?” he asked sounding upset.
“No,” I laughed. “It was just Sophie and me. We usually go Friday nights, but since I had a date with you, we went Saturday instead.”
“So, you didn’t dance with any other guys?” he glared at me.
“No, I didn’t,” I smiled, brushing off his tone.
“I don’t like the thought of you with anybody else,” he said sternly.
“Honestly, Josh, it was just a girl thing.” He paused for a minute, then took my hand and walked me to class.
I thought about our conversation all day. He had gotten so worked up about the possibility I may have met a guy. It bothered me that he didn’t take my word for it. At lunchtime, I sat down with Sophie and we talked. I rambled on and on about how much I liked Josh, but I still couldn’t get that uneasy feeling out of my head.
Teagan’s Story: Her Battle With Epilepsy
By Talia Jager
I stood frozen in front of the two-story brick building. My feet felt as if they were stuck to the sidewalk. To me, the building looked enormous from the street. I didn’t want to go in, and yet, I knew I had to. I fought back the tears and slowly started walking towards it.
Over the door, in big, white letters it read: NORTHSIDE HIGH SCHOOL. Teenagers swarmed around the door and on the front lawn near a flagpole. The flag flapped in the wind high above their heads.
My mother had sheltered me from all this. Many times I hated her for it. Now, I could only wish this was all a nightmare. Maybe I’d wake up any minute and be back at home with her. But, it didn’t happen. I didn’t wake up because this was real.
Reaching the front door, I pulled it open. The weight of the door surprised me; I hadn’t expected it to be so heavy. I went in and spotted the office to the right, enclosed in glass. I walked through the open door. “Can I help you?” An older lady with obviously dyed, black hair asked.
I swallowed, “Yes, my name is Teagan Kavanagh. I’m starting here today.”
She picked through a pile of folders, “Ah, yes, right here. The guidance counselor has your schedule. Their office is right over there,” she pointed across the hall. “Ask for Mrs. Tavi.”
“Thank you,” I said and stepped back into the hallway. I let out a deep breath. Step one done. Onto step two. I walked into the guidance office. It was much bigger than the main office. A bookcase full of college books took up one entire wall. “I’m here to see Mrs. Tavi.” I told the lady at the front desk.
“What’s your name, dear?” she asked her voice thick with a Spanish accent.
Her nameplate read: Mrs. Torres. She picked up the phone, “You have a student up in front. You’re welcome.” She hung up. “She’ll be right out.”
Seconds later, a lady with light brown hair appeared. “Hello Teagan. Come on back.” She led me to her office. The walls were covered with letters from students, some kids’ drawings, and pictures of what I assumed were her family. “Please sit down.”
“The office told me to pick up my schedule from you,” I told her. I really didn’t want to talk. But, I had a feeling she wanted me to.
“We’re glad to have you here. Of course, we’re sorry about the death of your parents,” she said putting on her thin-rimmed glasses and looking over my file. I nodded. “I understand you have been home schooled.”
“Because of your epilepsy?” she looked up.
I looked away, my eyes moist, “Yes.”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Teagan.” Her hazel eyes seemed to search my face. “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it now,” she smiled sweetly.
“It’s just hard.” I bit my bottom lip.
She patted my hand, “You did well on the placement tests you had to take. You are right where you should be, if not more advanced. Do you have any certain subjects you’d like to take?” she asked, handing me a tissue.
I shrugged, “I’m not really sure. I like most of them.”
“Okay. Is there anything you don’t like?”
“The boring stuff.”
She laughed, “Well, I’m sure every subject can get boring.”
“Do you have any friends here?”
“A couple. I had friends on the street where… where I used to live.”
“Good. It has to be difficult coming here in your junior year.”
I nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“I hope you can make friends easily. I hope the students here treat you well. If you have any problems, please come see me.”
“Do you have a lot of seizures?”
I nodded, dabbing my eyes. “That’s why they kept me home.”
“You’re on medication, correct?”
“Yes. I think it helps some, but not completely.”
“This worries you, doesn’t it?” she asked.
“Sure, I could have one at any time. Nobody here knows me, how are they going to react when I have one? Will I make any friends at all?” I immediately regretted my outburst.
“I’m sure you will. We’ll figure it out. I’m going to walk you over to the nurse, I want her to meet you. By that time your ‘buddy’ will be here. She is in some of your classes can take you around and help you out,” she told me.
Mrs. Tavi led me out of the office into the crowded hallways. Homeroom would begin soon. A few kids looked at me, probably wondering who I was. I tried to smile or nod or say hi. I didn’t know what to say or how to act around all these other kids. The nurses’ office wasn’t too far. Mrs. Tavi walked in and introduced me, “Mrs. Becker, this is our new student Teagan.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” she smiled. Her round dark eyes looked me over. “I read the file. You have epilepsy.”
“I see that you are on Depakote and Topamax?” she asked, flipping her long, dark hair back.
“How well does that work for you?”
“It doesn’t.” I had to keep from laughing.
“So you have breakthrough seizures?”
“Are they grand mal?”
“You also have petit mal episodes?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” I nodded getting bored of the questions. “Actually, they usually call them absence seizures and tonic-clonic seizures,” I corrected her.
“Right,” she nodded, making a note in my file. “How often do they happen?”
I knew she was just doing her job, but I hated answering all this. It was probably a good thing my parents kept me home. I’d go nuts if I had to explain to everybody. Sighing softly, so I wouldn’t upset anyone, I answered, “It varies. Sometimes they happen a couple days a week, sometimes I go a couple weeks without one. Sometimes more, sometimes less.”
“Wow. The doctors can’t do anything?”
“Do you go to the hospital when you have a seizure?”
“Only if they’re really long or I hit my head,” I told her. “Something requiring medical attention. Otherwise, I just do my thing. I come out of it and go to sleep for a while.”
“Okay, well, I will make sure all of your teachers are aware of this. Maybe we’ll get lucky and you won’t have one while you’re here.”
Yeah right, I thought.
The bell rang just as Mrs. Tavi and I got back to the guidance office. We went inside, “Ah, Madalyn. Thanks for coming down. This is Teagan, your buddy.”
“Hi,” she smiled at me. Madalyn’s chocolate brown hair was pulled back in a big clip. She wore some makeup, not a lot, but more than just foundation and lipstick. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” I smiled hoping she really was nice and wasn’t just putting on a show for the guidance counselor.
“Here you go,” Mrs. Tavi handed both of us a copy of my schedule. “You’ll see that you are in many of the same classes or right near each other.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome. Come on back during your study hall and I’ll get you set up with a locker and anything else you need.”
I nodded and left with Madalyn. “We’re in the same homeroom,” she told me. “Then we have first period, English together and a couple other classes. Homeroom is this way,” she led the way. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Here,” I didn’t want to totally make stuff up.
“But, you didn’t come to this school?”
“No, I went elsewhere,” I said.
She looked at me like she was expecting more, but then she looked down the hall. “It’s the second room from the end.”
We continued walking. ‘Thanks, Madalyn.”
“You can call me, Maddie,” she said. “Teagan is a unique name.”
“Yeah, it’s a family name. My parents are from Ireland.”
“Oh yeah? Like they immigrated?”
I nodded, “Yeah. My brother and I were born here, but the rest of my family is in Ireland.”
“That’s neat,” she smiled. “Here we are.”
I took a deep breath and walked into the room. Here goes nothing. Please God, please don’t let me have a seizure today, I pleaded. Maddie walked up to the teacher. He was very tall with grey hair and a short beard. “Yes, Miss Kembel?”
“This is Teagan Kavanagh. She’s new here.”
“Oh! Welcome Miss Kavanagh. There are a few empty desks in the back row. Pick one,” he said motioning to the back.
“Thank you,” I hurried past the kids who were staring at me and sat down. Maddie sat down in the second row and started talking to some girls near her. Even though many people were looking at me, nobody said anything. I didn’t mind. I didn’t know how to answer their questions. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weird quite yet. I knew it would happen eventually. Once I had an episode in school, people would know.
The principal came on the loudspeaker and asked us to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. After the morning announcements, the teacher took attendance, and the bell rang.
Maddie walked over to me and said, “English is just down the hall.” I nodded following her out. “The teacher is really great.”
We walked in the room. The desks were arranged in half circle with the teacher’s desk at the mouth of the circle. Maddie walked up to the teacher who was sitting at her desk. “Mrs. McGee?”
She looked up. Her face was smooth, her lips thin, and her eyes sparkled. “Good morning, Maddie. How can I help you?”
“This is Teagan Kavanagh, she’s new to the school,” she introduced me.
Mrs. McGee shifted her attention to me, “Well, hello. It’s nice to have you here. Do you enjoy English?”
I nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”
She smiled, “Please, call me Mrs. McGee. Ma’am sounds so old.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
Her long brown hair fell over her shoulders as she looked down, “I have a couple extra desks. We can put one at either end of the row. Do you have a preference?”
“No. Either one will be fine.”
“Okay,” she got up and pulled over a desk into the half circle. “There you go. Let me get you a text book.”
I sat down at the desk. Maddie sat at hers as more kids dwindled in. She was only two down from me. “You have math next with Mr. Adams. He’s okay, but he’s tough. I’m next to you in a different class. Then we’ll be in the same computer class, lunch and study hall,” she told me.
I smiled, “Great!” I tried to sound enthusiastic when I really just wanted to go home. Just to curl up on the couch sounded like a dream.
The bell rang and more kids flew into class. Mrs. McGee looked up, “Be on time tomorrow!” she warned them. “Here you go, Teagan. Write your name in it and cover it please.”
I nodded, “Thank you.”
I saw the people looking at me. “We have a new student in class. This is Teagan. Please make her feel welcome,” Mrs. McGee said. I smiled again trying to show I was normal.
English class was good. They were going over a book they had just finished reading and the teacher assigned a new one. She also gave out spelling lists and vocabulary words. “The test is Friday, study them. Next Monday, you will have the test on the first five chapters of the book.”
When the bell rang, Mrs. McGee dismissed the class, “Teagan, could I speak with you a moment please?”
“Sure,” I got up.
“I’ll wait for you outside,” Maddie said.
I went up to the teacher’s desk. “I got a memo about you,” she smiled. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Maddie or anyone else. You’ve been home schooled for up until now?”
“Usually the school doesn’t tell the teachers the medical problems of their students unless it’s extremely important. In your case it was very important for all of us to know. I understand you often have seizures?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “It says you have both absence seizures as well as tonic-clonic?”
“Yes,” I was thankful someone knew at least some of what they were talking about.
“If you miss something in class, please let me know, I will go over it with you.”
“My sister has epilepsy. Hers is controlled though. I don’t think she’s had any episodes in years.”
“I wish that would happen with me,” I sighed.
She nodded understandingly, “I’ll let you go now. You should make sure all of your teachers read the memo and know what’s going on. If you have an episode in class, not all of us will notice, so you may have to come on up later on and tell us.”
“That’s really great of you. I appreciate it,” I smiled.
“Go on now,” she looked back down at her books.
I met up with Maddie in the hall. “What was that about?” she asked.
I shrugged, “Just a couple getting to know you questions.”
“Hey Maddie,” a hot looking guy smiled at her.
“Hey,” she said back. We had to go upstairs for the next class. Math. Math didn’t thrill me. I could do it, but I didn’t like it. Maddie said hi to some more people on our way. More people looked at me, but nobody said anything. Maybe they all knew about my illness. Maybe that’s why nobody would talk to me. No, I dismissed that idea. The school could get in trouble if they released that information to the students.
“Here’s your class,” she stopped at a door. “Mine is right there,” she pointed next door. “I’ll see you afterwards.”
I went into the class and introduced myself. Mr. Harmon was an older man. The wrinkles covering his forehead made him look stern, but he was nice enough to find me a seat and give me a book. “I hope you can get your place and keep up with us,” he said.
I nodded. “Sir, did you get the memo about me?” I asked quietly as kids were starting to come in.
“Yes, I did. But, no excuses in this class. You do the work or you fail.”
“Of course. I just meant that if I have an episode here in class… could I come to you afterwards and see what I missed?” I tried to ask it like Mrs. McGee had put it.
He looked up at me, “Well, I suppose if that was necessary…” The bell rang. “Please take your seat.”
I nodded and sat down. A girl with dark black hair sat next to me, “Hey.”
I smiled, “Hey.”
“You new?” she asked.
“Yup,” I said back.
“Tough to be thrown in here.”
I nodded, “Sure is.” She had black fingernail polish on and a lot of dark make-up. Her clothes were black too. My mother would have called her a “Goth girl”. She seemed friendly though. “How is this class?” I asked.
“Boring. Harmon picks on me all the time because of the way I look. He doesn’t think I’m smart. I always get him though, because I answer correctly and that angers him,” she told me with a smirk on her face.
I laughed. “I’m Teagan,” I introduced myself.
She scoffed, “Cute. I’m Eve.”
The teacher started class. He did go fast, but the work wasn’t as hard as he made it out to be. He did call on me a couple times and I answered his questions. He seemed quietly impressed.
Afterwards, Maddie met me in the hallway. “How did it go?”
“Not bad. Where to?” I asked.
“Back downstairs and to the other wing. This is a longer walk,” she told me. “Are you starting to figure out where everything is?”
“A little. It shouldn’t take me too long.”
“So, were you into any clubs at your old school?” she asked.
“Um… no. I used to take music lesson, but I stopped. I didn’t really get a chance to get into anything else,” I told her.
“Well, if you want to get involved, I’m sure there are clubs that would like to have you.”
“I don’t think I’m real talented at anything,” I said. I had so many other issues to deal with that, taking on a hobby, joining a club, those weren’t in the plans.
“Well, just in case.”
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/TaliaJager
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/TaliaJager
Last Week's Featured Author:
Lia Fairchild Author of In Search of Lucy on Amazon or Nook or fReado
“I’ll drive,” Anne offered as the two stood in the hallway about to leave. Anne was taller than Lucy, 5’7 to be exact. She had blonde hair that was long and straight. She was sweet and a bit naïve, and more on the cute side rather than pretty. It surprised Lucy how Anne was drawn to her even though Lucy was not very inviting. Anne was very laid back and friendly, and never took the things Lucy said personally. It didn’t seem to faze her when Lucy was closed off or negative.
The club was about ninety percent full when they arrived, and the girls sat at a table more towards the front. Benny’s friend Zach was on stage and about to finish up. They had missed the first guy and there would be a short break before Benny, who was third out of five.
The girls chatted a bit, but it was mostly Anne talking and Lucy listening. She wanted to tell Lucy all about a guy she was interested in at the hospital. She spoke as if they were in High School, saying things like, “totally hot,” and “awesome.” Lucy was just about to excuse herself to the restroom when Benny came on stage.
To start the night, Lucy had a couple of beers at home before she met Anne outside Mrs. Allen’s apartment. She added to that the two drinks that came with the cover charge. Before Benny was through with his bit, she was feeling pretty out of it. Not being able to sit there any longer, she told Anne she was going to leave.
“I just gotta get outta here,” Lucy said swaying in her chair just a bit. “It’s too hot in here.”
“Okay, let’s both go then,” Anne said. “I’ll drive us back. I’m fine.”
Laughter bellowed through the room as Benny delivered his quips and stories in a conversational voice. That was part of his style. He wanted the audience to feel as though they were just hanging out talking with him. The bright lights on stage made it difficult to make out any intricacies in the audience, so he didn’t notice that the girls were talking and not paying attention.
“No, Benny will be so bummed. You stay here and I’ll take the bus.” Lucy started to get up and tried to look totally in control.
“Are you sure, Lucy?” Anne sound worried.
“Really, I want to take my time going home anyway. I’ll see you later.”
Anne looked concerned but said, “Okay, be careful.” She knew not to argue with Lucy. When she wanted to be alone, that was it, end of conversation.
Lucy walked to the back of the bar, out of sight, and stood for a few minutes. She couldn’t quite leave yet because she actually wanted to hear some more of Benny’s act. He was talking about his family being poor when he was growing up and how he and his brothers used to eat breakfast. He explained how they used to eat their cereal with a fork, then they’d pass the bowl with the milk to the next person to use. She laughed and on impulse looked around at the other people laughing. She noticed a man at the bar staring at her. He looked vaguely familiar and mouthed a “hey” that seemed to say he recognized her.
While she was still looking at him, he got up from the bar and walked toward her. Lucy’s first instinct was to take off. Caught off guard and with a pretty good buzz, she turned too slow and the man was suddenly in front of her. He was clean shaven, wore a business suit and had short sandy-colored hair.
“Lucy…Lang.” He snapped his fingers. “I thought that was you.”
“Hi…uh,” Lucy replied. She did think he looked familiar but still couldn’t place him. She looked straight ahead as if she were engrossed in what was going on up on the stage.
“Kyle,” he said as if everyone should remember him. “Kyle Benson, Westen High School, we had Mr. Beamer’s Science class together.” He put his hand out even though she wasn’t looking at him.
“Oh, yeah, right, Mr. Beamer.” She nodded and smiled but wasn’t a hundred percent sure she remembered him. Then she took his hand and shook it.
“It’s good to see you, Lucy,” he said as if they had been long lost friends.
“Yeah, you too.” Sure, she took that class, but that was a dozen years ago. And, she didn’t really date too many guys in her class. She had to give him credit though. He remembered her, and he still approached her. Maybe he didn’t remember everything about her.
Kyle crossed in front of her and stood on the other side as if to cause a distraction. Their eyes met for a moment and she noticed his deep blue eyes focusing tightly on hers, as if to get a read on what she was thinking. “How’ve you been, Lucy? You look great.”
This was actually one of her better looking nights. Typically, due to her budget and motivation Lucy’s wardrobe consisted of mostly jeans and t-shirts. Tonight, she had her hair down and wore just enough make-up to show up on her light olive complexion. She had on black and silver croppy pants and a short sleeve black shirt that fit snuggly against her thin body. She would have normally felt uncomfortable talking as if they were old friends, but was in the mood to play along. “Good, and you?”
“Great. I’m working for a marketing company now. Some of us go out together after work…but everyone pretty much left.” He gestured toward the door. “Were you leaving?”
“Actually…, yeah. But, good seeing you.” She turned to walk away half hoping he would stop her. It had been months since she had dated anyone and almost two years since she’d had a boyfriend. It would be nice to talk to someone new since she rarely had the opportunity to meet new people.
Reaching out and grabbing her arm he said, “You need a ride?”
Lucy stopped and smiled, trying not to let on that she was happy, or that she had been drinking. That was a skill she had mastered over the years. “I was going to take the bus…but sure, thanks.”
Kyle had a black Toyota Four Runner and was parked just outside the club. As he opened her door in the full gentleman role, she felt a hint of hesitation. These were the situations that parents warned you were dangerous. Lucy knew that, but was in the mood to take chances. She got in and while Kyle walked around to the driver’s side, she took a quick look in the mirror. She felt a twinge of excitement as he rounded the back end of the car and opened his door.
In the car, there was a brief moment of awkward silence until he began to search for music. He pressed number three on the CD player. “You like Green Day?” he said looking straight ahead.
“I remember now…you never did talk that much in school.” He chuckled.
That was an unsettling statement to respond to. She didn’t want to just start rambling like an idiot to prove him wrong, or keep sitting there like some wallflower. The pressure of the silent seconds ticking in her head caused a sudden, yet casual, “Sor-freakin-ry.”
Taken by total surprise he burst out laughing. “Well I didn’t expect that.” He put a hand on her knee. “I’m the one who’s sorry,” he said. “Listen, I’m supposed to meet some friends for a get together. Do you want to go? It’s just a few people for drinks and it’s not too far from here.”
“Sure, why not,” she replied surprising herself.
“I just need to stop by the store. I always hate walking in empty handed.”
Now at JPs Market, Lucy waited in the car while Kyle ran in to grab some wine for the party. Sitting there, Lucy suddenly began to feel that this was a big mistake. Her fight or flight was kicking in and she thought the latter would be a much better option. She wondered why she had agreed to go with him. But, she knew why. Did she really think she could make it through a party being nice and polite to total strangers; enough for Kyle to like her and want to spend the night with her? Was she even sure that was what she wanted? The anxiety was rising in her and she was starting to lose the buzz she earned earlier in the evening.
Nervously, Lucy looked at her phone, then out into the store window. She glanced around all the angles of the car to see who was around. For a second she almost opened the door to get out and leave. In the back seat she noticed a small bag that looked like it was for toiletries. She grabbed it and began to rummage through it. It seemed to hold the usual stuff: mini toothpaste, floss, shampoo. Then she saw a prescription bottle. She yanked out the bottle and turned until she saw what it was; Vicoden.
Looking up she noticed that Kyle was not at the cash register yet. What was she considering here? What would he think of her if he found out? At this point she didn’t really care. Besides, he wouldn’t miss a few and it’s always good to have a few pain killers around for emergency. Not to mention the fact that she needed to ease her current tensions. Popping open the bottle, she poured four pills into her hand. Holding them tightly in her hand, she replaced the cap and put the bottle back in the bag. She opened her purse and pulled out her wallet. On the side there was a zipper which she opened and tried to pour the pills in. To her dismay, only one pill fell in and the other three dropped between her legs. She looked up in a panic to see where Kyle was and found him paying at the counter. Now she really felt idiotic. She dug down and pulled one out and dropped it in the wallet. Two more she thought. Kyle grabbed his change and headed back to the car as Lucy dropped her wallet in her purse and set it on the floor.
“Hey,” he said as he slid in the car. He reached in the bag, pulled out a candy bar and handed it to her. “Here, I got you a treat,” he said smiling.
Lucy took the chocolate and replied, “Oh…thanks.” She couldn’t decide if that was strange or sweet, but she was leaning more towards sweet.
Kyle set the bag on the back seat next to the little black bag.
Lucy smiled, trying to act casual, and put her hands between her thighs as if she was cold, which actually she did feel a little chill. In the dark he wouldn’t notice her looking for the pills so she began feeling around.
“Oh, I’ll turn the heater on for you,” he said.
“Thanks,” she said still running her fingers around. Then, she felt them in the crease of the seat. “Mind if I have a sip of your water?” She gestured to a bottle with her head.
“Sure, but it’s been there a few hours.”
“That’s okay. My throat is really dry.” She turned her head to look out her window, popped the two of them in her mouth and took a long drink from the bottle. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” He smiled but kept his eyes on the road.
Ten minutes later they arrived at a two-story home in a family-style neighborhood. Kyle grabbed the bag, got out of the car and started to walk around to her side intending to open her door. Before he got there she was already opening the door to get out. The cool breeze felt exhilarating on her skin and flying through her hair. She froze for a brief moment to enjoy it and then her expression faded.
“Don’t worry,” he said as stood next to her. “Everyone here is really nice.”
“Did I say I was worried?” She walked up the driveway towards the house as Kyle followed closely behind. He thought about the women he’d been dating lately compared to Lucy. There was something intriguing about her, but he couldn’t put his finger on why he already felt an attraction to her. Hopefully tonight he could make her feel comfortable enough to reveal more about herself.
Walking through the door without knocking, they were greeted with “Kyle!” shouted in unison from half a dozen people. Lucy noted his obvious popularity. Like magic, a woman appeared from a doorway and handed them each a margarita. That will work. For the few cars that were outside, there were more people than she expected. The house was dimly lit and there were several candles lit throughout the main living area. Most of the guests were standing in and about the living and kitchen area and a couple was sitting outside, talking as if they were having a very serious discussion.
Kyle introduced Lucy as a friend to most of the guests but she barely remembered anyone’s name. They’d only been there for about thirty minutes, but the alcohol-pills-alcohol schedule she was executing caused her head to spin, fast! She spied a seat at the end of the sofa and went straight for it without letting Kyle know. She didn’t want to interrupt his conversation with a beautifully dressed woman who appeared to be the hostess. From the sofa, she watched as Kyle smiled and touched the woman’s arm during their conversation. Instinctively it made her smile for a moment. All around her she listened to bits of broken chit chat on various topics, until Kyle finally turned and noticed her on the couch.
“I’ll be right back,” he said softly in her ear after walking over to her. “Do you need to go?” He gestured toward the hallway and she assumed that meant the restroom.
“I’m fine,” Lucy replied taking note of the gentle way about him. It was like he was speaking to a timid child. She assumed he was that way with everyone based on her earlier observation; otherwise she may have been offended. Or maybe he was treating her with kid gloves. She wasn’t sure of anything at that point except that her head was starting to feel inflated.
Lucy watched Kyle as he walked off and disappeared down a hallway. How the hell did I get myself into this on? she thought. She figured that her best bet was to apologize and ask him to take her home. On the other hand, she absolutely hated asking people for help or being an imposition. Before she knew it, she was off the couch and headed for the door. Walking past a sea of blurry faces, the door seemed to be getting further and further away. An arm that didn’t appear to be attached to anyone reached out to her.
“Are you okay?” a voice murmured in slow motion.
Lucy picked up the pace and started running. She finally reached the door and bolted outside. There was no way she could make it home like this. She wanted to puke it out of her, but she was well aware it was too late for that. Her head was blowing up, spinning, but if she could get to a bus stop she was home free. About a year ago, Lucy was without her own transportation and completely mastered the bus system. She slowed from her run to a speed walk until she got to a main road, and miraculously tracked down a bus stop. After a few minutes of standing under the dimly lit bus sign, next to a thin Hispanic man, the bus finally arrived. She thought about jumping in front of it instead of getting on. How she made it back from there to the Sunset Vista apartments is a complete blackout.
When Benny’s set was over, Anne was there waiting for him with a giant grin. “You were so great,” she cheered while doing little mini claps with her hands. She had explained that Lucy left, but saw most of his time. She also told him that Lucy apologized and said that Benny did a great job. He knew better. That didn’t sound like Lucy, and Anne was always trying to smooth things over.
“Thanks, Anne,” he said modestly. “But I blew that bit about bosses.”
Benny had insisted on them following each other home to be safe. He enjoyed taking on that big brother role since he didn’t have any sisters of his own, just brothers. Normally he would be going out to continue the laughs with his buddies, but he had to admit he was tired from all the apprehension of the night.
Returning from the parking lot, Benny and Anne walked back to the apartment. They talked and laughed about the show and hadn’t even noticed that they were about to step right on top of Lucy. There she was lying on the ground a few feet away from the stairs.
“Oh my God, Lucy!” Anne screeched as she ran and kneeled down next to Lucy.
Benny was right behind her and took a swift glance around to survey the situation. “Lucy!” He grasped her shoulders and shook them slightly to see if she would jar awake. The night air was cool and thick and the full moon seemed to be providing the spotlight they needed.
“Do you think she was attacked or mugged or something?” Anne looked desperately at Benny. She was not used to this type of situation. “Should we call 911?”
“Hold on a second.” Benny checked her pulse and breathing. He was composed and acted as if he had experienced this many times before. “She’s breathing. Let’s see if we can get her conscious first.” He shook her again only a bit harder this time. “Lucy, can you hear me? C’mon Lucita, wake up!”
“Benny! We’re wasting time.” Anne grabbed her purse and began searching hysterically for her cell phone. “I’m calling 911.”
“Don’t make me kick your ass,” a slurred and quiet voice came from below. Lucy stirred slightly and groaned.
Benny and Anne shook their heads and smiled at each other.
“Lucy, you scared us,” Anne said. Thank God you’re okay. I mean, are you okay?”
“God…kill me now,” she moaned and rolled over to her side.
“C’mon girl, let’s get you inside.” Benny picked Lucy up like a new bride and carried her up the stairs to her apartment. “Anne, grab her purse.”
“Got it,” she said trying to sound helpful. She gathered up both purses and followed them up the stairs. Before reaching the top, Anne was able to find Lucy’s apartments keys to open the door.
In Benny’s arms Lucy’s eyes were closed but she spoke quietly. “I don’t need you Benny. I don’t need anyone.” A tear rolled down her cheek and landed on Benny’s arm.
“I know,” he whispered.