Authors: Shelly Crane
He said he wanted to come walk me to school the next day so I let him. He pulled up in his truck but instead of walking he lifted me onto the seat and climbed in beside me. He drove into the parking lot of the school and parked. Then he pulled me onto his lap immediately and began frantically kissing me. He kissed my neck and tugged my hair to pull my head back to give him more access to my throat. He moaned and groaned, using his hands to pull me against him. When he started to unbutton my shirt I slapped his hand away and asked what he was doing.
“What does it look like?” he said and laughed. “Look, babe, the windows are tinted. I love you and I know you love me. No more games, Clara. I’ve waited and paid my dues and now it’s time we were together. I know you want to.”
He gripped me too tightly on my thigh and licked my earlobe. I pushed him with both hands and looked at him closely. He looked like a wild caged animal. Then I knew.
“You’re still taking them,” I accused in a whisper.
“I have to,” he said, not even trying to deny it, “until the meets are done. State is coming up. Then I’ll stop. Come on, Clara. Don’t be such a stick in the mud. I’ve been taking them for three months now and you never noticed.”
“Well, I notice now.” I started to climb out but he grabbed my arm.
“Where do you think you’re going? You can’t just leave me hanging like this.” He motioned to his boy parts and I felt sick. “Help a guy out, Clara,” he sneered and I jerked from him and tried to straighten my clothes as I walked away, leaving my bag and everything.
He yelled at me, where everyone could hear in the parking lot.
“Tease! Don’t ask for it if you’re just not ready for it, honey!” he said snidely and I heard him laugh.
I ran towards the bathroom, feeling tears on my cheeks and everyone’s eyes watching me, once again. I rammed right into someone turning the hall corner and felt warm arms go around me. I didn’t even care who it was at that point, I just wanted someone, but I knew it was Eli. Without even looking up, I knew it was him.
“What did he do, Clara?” he asked softly.
“He’s just being a jerk.” I leaned back to look at him as I wiped my eyes and saw that familiar expression but it seemed tame now. Under control. “I’m sorry I ran into you.”
“You didn’t. I ran into you.” At first I thought he was making a joke but he meant it. He must have seen what happened and intercepted me. “I’m sorry you had to go through this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Here.” He put his arm around my back and pulled me with him. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
He took me to the girl’s bathroom and I watched fascinated as he came in with me and lifted me so I was sitting on the sink. He looked down and I saw his eyes bulge and his expression turned angry. I looked down and saw two of my shirt buttons were open and the buttons ripped off. Tate had been rougher than I thought.
“Oh,” I said and covered myself.
“Here,” he said and took his shirt off leaving a black wife beater on. Then he slipped that off too and I heard my breath catch. Oh my, but he was nice looking. He had a huge scar on his chest, over his heart in the shape of a circle. It looked like a brand of some kind but the rest of him distracted me. He was lean yes, but that didn’t mean he was missing anything. His arms and upper chest were lumps of muscle and toned skin. His black uniform pants were riding low on his hips, his blue boxers sticking slightly out of the top.
I felt my cheeks burn hot and turned to gaze at the wall, covering my mouth with my fingers.
“Off,” he said and motioned with his hand, up.
“Shirt, off,” he repeated.
“Close your eyes.”
He smiled and chuckled silently.
“Of course,” he conceded.
I unbuttoned my red uniform shirt and as soon as I was done, with his eyes still closed, I felt him tug his wife beater over my head. It smelled heavenly and I bit my lip to keep from sniffing the collar right in front of him. He then opened his eyes and pulled my shirt back on over his, doing the buttons so that his shirt peeked out the top and my bra was no longer visible.
“Better?” he asked as he put his t-shirt back on and wet a paper towel to wipe my face. I assumed my mascara was running.
“Yes, thank you. You’re pretty handy.”
“Did he hurt you?” He ran a tentative hand down my arm, turning it over to inspect.
He pulled the collar of my shirt down to inspect the bruise and he nodded as I fought to keep my breaths even.
“It looks better today.”
“Better? When have you seen it?” I asked and watched him closely for some reaction.
The only time he’d seen it was when he came to me when I closed my eyes. He looked up at my eyes now and stared in silent contest...as if daring me to say the words. To say we shared some kind of dream-walk thing. But that was crazy right? I mean, that’s just something my subconscious had conjured because I was apparently obsessed with him or something or maybe my mind made up something to help me get through all this.
“Are you done with him now? Has he hurt you enough to show you he’s no good for you?” he said evenly, not answering my question.
“I just...he’s got so much going on right now. He wouldn’t really hurt me,” I protested and looked down as I fingered my popped buttons. “At least , I didn’t think so. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
“Look,” he said and waited for me to obey. His words were even but his tone was anything but. “I will not stand by and watch him hurt you again. The next time he does this, I’m going to have to do something about it.”
“I don’t think they’ll be a next time. He just...I-” I took a deep breath and pushed him back a little to hop down. “I’m gonna go. Thank you for helping me. I don’t know why you keep coming to my rescue but I’m grateful,” I told him and smiled, walking to the door.
I turned around to look at him. He came around me, so close behind me I could feel his warmth.
“You’re more than welcome, Clara Belle,” he whispered in my ear and stuck something in my front pocket. “My cell number. Call me if you ever need me.”
“How did you know my name?” I asked but when I turned he was already gone.
~ ~ ~
At lunch I sat with my friends, though I didn’t want to, I didn’t know what else to do. Tate sat on the end with his boys, looking ripe with guilt. He stared at me across the table, slouched in his chair, and begged me with his eyes to forgive him. I just looked away and refused to look at him again. No one asked if I was ok, not even Sarah. No one asked me why I wasn’t sitting with Tate. They all knew and didn’t care or refused to upset the balance of the cool table.
Eli took the only seat available when he showed up, the one Deidre had reserved. She ran her fingers through his hair and kissed his cheek as soon as he sat down.
I waited for him to tell her to stop, something. But no, he just let her touch him. I found myself extremely upset by that. Dee of all people? Sarah was way sweeter if he was looking for someone. But why did he have to be looking? After all the flirting, all the strange chemistry between us... ugh…who was I kidding? I still had a boyfriend. Sort of….
Dee looked right at me a few times, she could tell I was watching, as she sifted his hair or gripped his arm playfully as she spoke into his ear. He looked stoic, but she didn’t notice or didn’t care. Probably the latter.
After some time, I couldn’t just sit there anymore. I got up and went to get a soda from the machine across the room. I realized I shouldn’t have after I was halfway across because I was getting lots of sympathy stares and then some ha-she-got-what-she-deserved stares too. It was unnerving. I put my money in the machine and turned to find Patrick.
“Hey, Pat. What’s up?”
“Um...I wondering...there’s a dance coming up.” Oh no. Please don’t ask me. Patrick was a really tall, cute guy who had an unfortunate case of shy-guy. He hung out with the skateboard crew because they were non-threatening, but I’d always liked him just fine. “I was wondering if you think Sarah would go with me?” he finished.
I smiled. It wasn’t me, it was Sarah. Honestly, I knew she would never ever go out with him because he wasn’t part of our table. Though, she had once divulged to me that she thought he was adorable. But as I glanced over Pat’s shoulder and saw Dee draped all over Eli, I didn’t care about that. It might be a good distraction for my group.
“I think you should ask her. Right now. She likes guys who are bold, Pat. Go for it.”
“Really? You think so? Ok.”
I walked with him back to our table and sat down, turning a quick smile on Dee, then Sarah.
“Sarah. Look who came to see you.”
Everyone turned to look at Patrick. That’s when I felt my first real jolt of guilt. On no. What had I done? I’d practically fed him to the wolves because I was jealous of Dee and Eli. I started to tell Pat never mind, to just forget it, but he’d already started.
“Oh?” Dee chimed happily and leaned her back against Eli. “This should be good. Well, go ahead.”
“Um...I was just thinking it might be fun to go to the dance together. It’s short notice, I know.”
“Patrick…um,” Sarah stalled. She could be cruel too but not to someone like Pat and not just outright. But apparently, Dee was bent on answering for her.
“You thought she’d go to the dance with you?” Dee shrilled loudly, calling attention from everyone in the lunchroom.
Pat turned a betrayed glance to me before putting them back on her and silently pleading for her to stop.
“I’m sorry I bothered you,” he said to Sarah, who sat silently.
“Oh no, we’re not finished.” Dee stood quickly. “Mike, Tom, get him!”
They grabbed him in on both arms and Dee stood in front of him, smirking like the fake princess she was.
I thought about saying something but I was already in hot water with the Tate thing and now Eli and you just didn’t go up against my friends and make it out unscathed.
“You thought she’d go out with something that looks like I scraped it off my boot?” she sneered and grabbed Sarah’s chili bowl from in front of her. I cringed in horror as she handed it to Mike and he dumped it on Patrick’s head, right there in the lunch room. Everyone started laughing immediately, taunting. “Now. Go run along and play with the kids at your table. You will never speak to her again, understand?”
He started to fight back but Mike and Tom were pretty big guys. He probably figured Tate and Eli would join in the fray too so he pulled briskly from their grasps.
“Whatever,” he grumbled and walked away, leaving chili marks on the floor and wiping his eyes and face with it as the heckles ensued around him.
I covered my mouth to stifle my cry. I wanted to burst into tears for him. No one deserved that, especially not Patrick, and I was the cause. I felt sick.
Then my eyes drifted to Eli and I felt even sicker. He was looking at me with doubt and unbelief. He raised his chin and flicked his eyes towards where Patrick had slinked off to. He was challenging me again. Wanting me to stand up to my friends who were still laughing about ‘chili boy’. But I wasn’t the one who poured chili on his head was I?
I stood, though I had no intention of intervening. I just stood.
Dee sat back down and when she did, Eli got up. She tried to stop him with a surprised smile, she tried to coax him to sit, having no idea what he was doing.
“Come on, baby. It’s not time for bell yet.”
He gave her a look that said he knew exactly what time it was.
“I’m not into spoiled princesses who have to stomp on people to feel good about themselves. But thanks anyway,” he said smoothly, jerked her arm off of his then walked away. Just like that.
I was as stunned as everyone else as they silently watched him go. The countless times - daily events really - that I’d witnessed of my so called friends torturing other kids could fill a novella. I’d always watched, never stood up to them and never participated but now, as I watched Eli walk away, I realized I may as well have been the one doing it myself; tripping kids, making fun, laughing at, humiliating, pouring chili on their heads, because it was practically the same thing. I stood by and accepted it, was complacent and that may have even been worse.