Read More Than Good Enough Online

Authors: Crissa-Jean Chappell

Tags: #reservation, #Indian, #native america, #teen, #teen lit, #Young Adult, #YA, #Young Adult Fiction, #young adult novel, #ya novel, #YA fiction, #teen fiction, #teen novel

More Than Good Enough (3 page)

BOOK: More Than Good Enough
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“Fine.”

Christmas break had just ended. Nobody was liking school. Including me. Mom wasn’t happy about me going to Palm Hammock, but Dad said it was good enough. I had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn and take the Florida Turnpike. My old neighborhood was a long haul from the Everglades. Almost an hour.

“Maybe you could try the school on the Rez?” Dad suggested.

Hell no. I was spending enough time there. Uncle Seth already had me working at the Miccosukee Indian Village on weekends, collecting tips for the gator show.

“Better work on those grades,” Dad told me. “Because if you screw up, there’s no second chances. Understand?”

He never gave a flying rip about my grades before. Now it was too late. Did he really think he could just act like things were normal?

“And no girls,” he added. “You need to keep your head straight.”

I was trying so hard not to laugh. Who was he kidding? No girls? Like that was going to happen. And I had my own questions. Lots of them. I still didn’t understand why he got busted. I was a little kid when Dad “went away.” Mom filled me in on the minor details. Nothing dramatic like first-degree murder. He got caught writing bad checks. That’s all. To be totally honest, I almost wished he’d robbed a bank.

After these non-conversations, I’d sneak off to my room and plug Rock Band into the Xbox. Seconds later, Dad would appear behind me, hovering like the Nazgûl from
Lord of the Rings
. It was majorly weird, the way he drifted around the Little Blue House.

“What you need is a real instrument, not a toy,” he’d tell me. “Soon as I get some cash, I’ll buy you a real nice bass. A Hagstrom 8-string.”

Right.

My Uncle Seth was supposed to help Dad in the job de-
partment. Something he couldn’t possibly screw up. So far, I wasn’t holding my breath. Dad mowed lawns and washed cars. When we lived at Mom’s place, he’d polished the kitchen table so many times I could scrape my initials into the wax.

We had a routine. It was called do-as-you-wish. We ate dinner whenever we felt like it, usually Lean Cuisine lasagna in front of CNN. But tonight, Dad set out place mats and our stupid Tiki Man salt shakers. He insisted we hold hands while he muttered a prayer:

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the food we are about to receive … blah blah … nourishment of our bodies … blah blah …
Amen.

I closed my eyes and beamed myself to another dimension.

When I scraped back my chair, Dad frowned.

“Going somewhere?”

“Out.” I zipped myself into my sweatshirt, tugged up the hood.

He wasn’t buying it. “Listen up, kiddo,” he said, like I was ten years old, the exact age he’d bailed on me. “It’s Tuesday. You got school tomorrow.”

“No shit.”

“Watch your mouth. I don’t want to hear that kind of language in this house.”

What’s the big freaking deal? Dad was sweating like a preacher on one of those Jesus channels, going on about bad habits and taking the high road. Did he really expect me to buy this crap?

I scooped my keys off the counter. “My boy Alvaro’s spinning at the Vagabond.”

Alvaro lived behind a golf course in Coral Gables. He had his own “music studio” in the garage. He also had a grandma who paid for it. We always talked about starting a band. Of course, this never happened. When I got kicked out of Southwinds, Alvaro thought it was hilarious. Maybe that’s why I’d been avoiding his calls. I really didn’t feel like explaining my life situation to him. Don’t get me wrong, Alvaro was cool. But I kind of doubted that he understood.

“You’re not leaving this house,” Dad said.

“I promised I’d go. You know. Moral support.”

It’s sad to admit this … but I couldn’t help wondering if Michelle would be there. We were officially over, but she hadn’t stopped texting me. I refused to acknowledge her existence ever since I’d read that sketchy text on her phone. (Okay, I was snooping. Trust me. I had my reasons.) The girl flat-out cheated. Then she had the balls to lie about it. That’s so messed up.

Anyway.

Dad smacked the keys out of my hand. They clattered across the linoleum, spun, and landed in a heap a few feet away from the table. Both of us stared at that spot, daring the other to move first. Instead, I grabbed my skateboard and escaped out the front door.

I skated to the docks, watched the men haul their boats from the water. At this point I was freaked, thanks to Dad yelling at me. I bummed a cigarette off this guy who kept dragging his boat onto the concrete, only to let it roll backward with a splash.

Talk about random. I’m no fan of cancer sticks, thank you very much. I just held the smoke in my mouth. After a couple puffs, I flicked it away. The waves were shiny with rainbow-colored bubbles. In the distance, a line of trailers clattered down the road, tugging their dripping boats behind them.

Later that night I was online, watching people act idiotic on ChatRandom. This emo-looking girl kept shaking a raccoon puppet at the camera. After a few desperate attempts at a conversation that didn’t involve sign language or stuffed animals, I was about to sign off when Michelle sent me a DM.

Michy1996:
hey sexy. i miss you <3

I blinked at the screen. No explanation. Not even a simple “I’m sorry.” What the hell was she thinking? I stared until the words morphed into hieroglyphics. Then I sent a reply:

T-Rex:
You left a bunch of crap with me

I didn’t mention that most of it was (a) burned beyond recognition, (b) riddled with bb pellets, (c) all the above.

Michy1996:
maybe i can come over???
T-REX:
if you feel like driving 20 miles
to the Everglades

I waited for her to go away.

Michy1996:
text me the address? : )

Man, that girl had balls. I’d give her that much. I wanted to tell her that I stayed awake at night listening to her playlist; that I still found her curly hair all over my clothes; that she was the first girl.

The first everything.

Michelle parked her car on the front lawn, which Dad had just mowed. I didn’t want to deal with him, so we snuck through the yard and headed straight for my room.

“So this is your new place. Are you going to give me a tour?” Michelle stretched out on my “bed,” an old sleeping bag I’d unrolled on the floor. I always thought she looked good without any makeup. Her damp curls were scraped into a ponytail. God, she was hot.

“Okay. Let’s do this like
MTV Cribs
. There’s my amazing walk-in closet,” I said, pointing at a heap of rumpled T-shirts. “And that’s the entertainment center.” I kicked my headphones out of the way.

“Very nice, Trenton. I really like your toys,” she said, glancing at the army of Orc Shamans lined up on a shelf. For the record, I never played D&D. I just collected the miniatures. When I got stressed, I used to chew on their shields. It’s unimaginable that I didn’t get lead poisoning.

“What else do you like?” I asked, stroking her arm.

Michelle slipped her hands under my T-shirt. She let her fingers slide down, ever so slowly, and whispered, “This.”

I stared at her pale, unlipsticked mouth and waited for the lies to start rolling. Instead, she kissed me. Hard.

I didn’t plan on having sex. It just sort of happened.

We didn’t talk much afterwards. I listened to a dog yapping down the block. Sometimes he got so freaked out, it sounded like hiccups. Why did they get a dog if they were just going to leave it outside?

Later, we snuck out to Michelle’s car and drove off. I wasn’t sure if Dad noticed, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

I cranked the radio, scanned around until we landed on a pirate station—one of those illegal deals, hidden in a haze of static. The DJ played an entire Tupac record, dirty words and all. When people called to complain, he hung up on them.

Michelle giggled as I tried to mimic his voice, rolling my R’s like crazy. Everything was cool again.

“Please don’t hate me,” she said. “I’ve known Eric forever. He’s like my little brother. For real. I’m the one who should be pissed. Why were you going through my phone? I always feel like you’re judging me.”

That’s how evil Michelle could be. She twisted things so basically I was the one thinking I’d done wrong. How dense is that? I was on the verge of apologizing when my cell rang. I glanced at the number.

“Shit,” I muttered.

Michelle cupped her long fingers on my knee. “Who’s that?”

“Nobody. Just Dad.”

She smirked. “Are you in trouble?”

“I was supposed to do something. No big deal.”

We slowed for a red light. Michelle leaned in closer.

“Can it wait?” she whispered.

Yeah. It could wait.

As we kissed, I was barely aware of the car horns blasting behind us. The light changed and still, I couldn’t pull my mouth from hers. It was like nothing else existed: only her lips, their softness, and the warmth of her tongue sliding over mine.

After the epic makeout session, we drove to this triple-decker mall off the highway. Michelle wanted to go to One-Up. Or to be more specific, the bar at One-Up.

“They’re kind of whatever about checking I.D.s there,” Michelle said, slipping her pinkie inside the waistband of my Levis. Damn. That girl could’ve asked me to backstroke, butt-naked and blindfolded, across the Everglades, and I would’ve said
yes, please, thank you
.

One-Up was in complete chaos when we pushed through the double doors. Kids stomped their sneakered feet in time to
Dance Dance Revolution
. Underaged thugs were pelting nachos at a girl in line for “virtual bowling.” I thought about Dad and the promise I’d made to hang with him.

“I’m not really into places that use tickets as a form of currency,” I said.

Michelle stuck out her lower lip. “You’re not pussying out on me?”

“Hell no.” I glanced at the neon-splattered bar. It re-minded me of a UFO. At least the way UFOs look in Hollywood movies: a fortress of blinking lights. I edged closer, plopped myself onto a stool.

The bartender lifted his goateed face at me.

“This is a joke, right?” He squeezed a wedge of lime into somebody’s overpriced beer.

“No worries,” I said, ripping open my stupid Velcro wallet. “I got I.D.”

He squinted at the driver’s license, the one courtesy of my boy, Alvaro, and his Heat Seal lamination machine.

“Listen,
Joe
Consuelo
,” the bartender said, flicking it back. “If you don’t drag your skinny ass out of here, I’m calling the cops.”

Meanwhile, Michelle was making smoochy faces at me. I shook my head no. Party’s over.

“What happened?” she asked, as I ducked in front of a widescreen projection of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

“Nothing happened,” I said, yanking her towards the exit.

We sat on the steps outside, next to a fish-shaped fountain that reeked of bleach. The grates were clogged with pennies. Did people really believe their wishes would come true if they threw change away? I was half-tempted to scoop out a handful, but it seemed like bad karma.

“We should get going.” I tried to stroke Michelle’s hair, but she turned her whole body away from me. All she cared about was that stupid bar. It was like I didn’t exist.

“Oh, my god. There’s Jess,” said Michelle, pointing at a group of people from my old school. “Don’t you think she looks pretty?”

There was no correct answer to this question.

Michelle ran over to them, clopping in her heels. She left me there on the steps, along with her purse and cell phone. As usual, it was buzzing with text messages. I picked it up and the first thing I saw was that dude’s name.

She’d played me once.

I wasn’t going to be played again.

I got up and started walking to the mall exit. How was I going to get home? Here’s a better question: Why the hell did I care? I wasn’t going straight back to the Rez. Not right now. Maybe I could bum a ride off Alvaro. He was always down for beer, which is exactly what I needed.

“Where are you going?” Michelle shouted at me.

“Away from you.”

I kept my mouth shut. No more talking. At that point, I was done. Really done.

I walked across the street to the Metrorail. When the train finally whooshed into the station, I got on and stared out the window. All the glass panels were blurred with scratchy tags. Through the swollen letters, I watched the traffic stream ahead, start and stop again. Then the train lurched forward, carrying me above the streetlights.

BOOK: More Than Good Enough
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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