Read Quite an Undertaking - Devon's Story Online
Authors: Barbara Clanton
Tags: #Coming of Age, #Fiction, #Lesbian, #General
“I walked five miles.” I wasn’t going to let her off the hook that easily.
“I know, Devon, I know. I’m sorry. I made Jessie drive slowly to your house. I looked for you the whole way. When I saw the light on in your room, I...” she hesitated, and I couldn’t help wondering how she knew which room was mine. I was about to ask, when she said, “I was so relieved when I saw you come to the window and look out. I would have killed Jessie if something had happened to you.”
I remembered looking out the window. I was looking toward Bruster Park totally defeated that she had abandoned me. I had no idea she had been down below in Jessie’s car. “I ran some of the way home. That was hard with tight boots.” I paused for a minute to let that sink in, but then I felt bad, so I added, “I could have called my parents if I needed to.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“With my parents? No, I wasn’t close to being late or anything.”
“I’m glad you’re okay. I’m sorry about Jessie. She’s just...”
“Oh, I don’t know. Possessive, I guess.”
? They had to be going out. I was sure of it now.
She said she had to go, but I think she wanted to hang up because she was kind of embarrassed by what happened. I told her I’d see her at school the next day.
As I sat alone in the cafeteria, I couldn’t help feeling as if everyone had abandoned me. Grandma died, Gail ditched me for Travis, and now, even before Rebecca and I had a chance to become friends, that stupid Bruster thing happened. How could Rebecca be friends with a jerk like Jessie, anyway? I snapped my baby carrot in half and almost laughed out loud at the violence of it. I could see the headline. “Lone Wolf Tortures Carrot: Vegetarians Outraged.” At least there was no one around to watch as I wallowed in self-pity.
I SAT IN the back of the French class hoping Rebecca would sit next to me. To my relief, she didn’t hesitate and plopped down in the desk next to mine.
,” I said back.
She looked at me with apology in her eyes and then smiled in a way that told me she was still sorry about the disastrous event at Bruster Park on Saturday.
Mme Depardieu started the class. “Get out your vocabulary, please.”
I looked away and got out my French homework hoping Rebecca and I could still be friends.
Mme Depardieu called on students one at a time. Half of me paid attention to the vocabulary lesson while the other half went back to Bruster. I wondered if Rebecca falling into my arms was the life-changing moment I hoped it was. Life-changing moments should be remembered. The warmth created by Rebecca’s hand on my cheek was one of those moments. Wasn’t it?
Mme Depardieu brought me back from Bruster by asking me a question. “
Devón, donnez une définition du mot ‘cottage’ s'il vous plaî.
Since I hadn’t really been paying attention, I got lucky that Mme Depardieu gave me an easy one. “
obviously means cottage or small house. My sentence would be—
Un jour, j'aimerais vivre dans un ‘cottage’ au bord d'un lac, entouré par des pins, dans les Montagnes Adirondack
“Zat sounds nice, Devón.
Okay, Rebecca, please define
bateaux à rames
“Okay,” Rebecca said. “
Bateaux à rames
means rowboat. Um, let’s see...oh, okay, I’ve got one.
J’irais dans mon bateau à rames jusqu’au cottage de Devón qui donne sur le lac et je l’emmènerai pêcher.
Mme Depardieu laughed “
, Rebecca. I’m sure Devón would love to go fishing wiz you in your rowboat.” She laughed again and turned her back to the class to get something from behind her desk.
I whipped my head around toward Rebecca. “Fishing? You?” I’d been fishing lots of times with my Grandpa, but that was so long ago I barely remembered it.
“I love fishing. I’ll take you next summer if you want.”
“Sure.” Of course I’d go. I’d do anything if I could do it with her. Playfully I asked, “Lures or worms?”
“Pfft,” she said with mock disdain. “Worms, bien sûr. Fish want real food.”
I nodded my head in agreement. Grandpa and Rebecca would have gotten along just fine. “Okay, you’re on.”
She stuck her hand out. “It’s a date then.”
I reached across the aisle and slid my hand slowly into hers. Her hand was warm this time. Soft. I held on longer than I should have. I even held her gaze longer than I should have. She smiled that sad smile I had seen too often lately and slowly pulled her hand from mine.
Votre attention, mesdames et messieurs
,” Mme Depardieu directed. “Before you get to your reading, I wanted to tell you zat we are set for, euh, zeh power dam trip tomorrow. The buses will be ready to board at 7:40 in the front of zee school. Don’t be late. We should be back for fifth pehriod, but remember to bring your lunches in case we get back late.”
Mme Depardieu then instructed us to get out our textbooks and turn to a short story on page 120. A sketch of a cottage on a harbor in what looked like a fishing village took up about half the page. Apparently, the short story we were about to read would have all the vocabulary words we’d just gone over.
Continuez à lire en silence. Merci,
” Mme Depardieu said. With those final instructions, she sat down at her computer and started typing.
Since we had to maintain reading quiet, I couldn’t talk to Rebecca, but I couldn’t concentrate on the story, either. I’d read it later, after the girls’ sports banquet. Right then I had to come up with something to say to Rebecca in the ten seconds I’d have after the bell rang, and she bolted to meet Jessie at the classroom door.
Luckily, I’d get to see her all day Tuesday during the field trip to the power dam. That was a real plus. Jessie wouldn’t be there, either. Big double plus. I’d have to be miserable on Wednesday and Thursday, though, but I was sure I’d see Rebecca again on Friday night at the basketball game. Maybe I could sit with her. That would really grate Jessie’s cheese for sure because she wouldn’t be able to do a single thing about it.
As I pretended to read, I still couldn’t think of a single thing to say to Rebecca except maybe, “See you tomorrow,” or “Save me a seat on the bus.” I could write seventy million articles for the newspaper, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to the gorgeous girl sitting next to me.
To distract myself, I thought about the preview piece I had yet to write about the girls’ basketball team. After the interesting developments at Bruster Park on Saturday, I figured the basketball preview would end up as a sideline. Yeah, and the rifle team would need at least a two-page spread with a full history of the sport along with a bio of each athlete. I hid an evil grin under my hand as I imagined the girls’ basketball preview reduced to postage-stamp size hidden away with the paid advertisements that nobody ever read. I doubted that I’d actually do it, but it sure was tempting.
I sighed, probably a little too loudly, because I felt Rebecca watching me. I looked over, and the smile in her eyes grew as we made eye contact. She wrote in her notebook, “r u ok?” and turned it toward me, so I could see.
I turned to a fresh page in my own notebook and wrote, “Yes.”
“Sorry about Saturday,” she wrote, but then hesitated as if she wanted to write something else. She pulled the pen away with a sigh and turned the page toward me.
“Me 2,” I wrote. “I’m not mad @ u.” Of course that implied that I was mad at Jessie and Natalie. I thought Natalie and I had been getting along great, but even Natalie hadn’t stopped Jessie from leaving me at Bruster.
“U sure?” she wrote.
I decided then and there to whole-heartedly believe that Rebecca had been asleep and had no part in it. If I kept even a sliver of doubt in my heart then I’d never be able to trust her. I wrote, “I’m sure!” And, I meant it.
She put her pen down, sat back, and mouthed the words, “Thank you.” She looked so relieved that it made me feel good to make her feel better.
I mouthed back, “You’re welcome.”
She picked her pen back up and wrote, “Did I fall on u in the woods?”
Her question surprised me. I wasn’t going to bring it up. “Yes,” I wrote, but couldn’t think of anything else to add.
“2 much beer,” she wrote in apology.
“Clumsy,” she wrote and pointed to herself.
I pointed again to what I had just written, so she’d know that I really meant it. In fact, it was more than okay, but I didn’t know how to tell her that. I wondered why she kept apologizing. Another epiphany exploded in my brain. She had really asked me a bigger question, hadn’t she? Oh, my God, she wanted to know how I felt about her falling into me and touching me on the cheek and leaning on me way longer than necessary. That had to be her real question, so I answered honestly and wrote, “I’ll catch u every time!” I pointed to myself. God, I hoped she really meant for me to read between the lines.
MY MOM DROPPED me off at the Best Western Inn, but since the girls’ sports banquet didn’t start for another twenty minutes I decided to call Missy from my cell phone. I walked to a remote area of the lobby and sat in one of those uncomfortable overstuffed chairs. I faced the front door of the hotel, so I could keep my eye on the people coming in. I was glad I was going to sit with the soccer team, so I could find out how they did in their last game and get their final record since the soccer article didn’t have their final results.
I said, “Missy,” into the phone, and it connected to my big sister in Plattsburgh. She picked up on the second ring. I knew she’d have her phone on her. She always did.
“Hey, Squirt,” she said. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I just...” Now that I had her on the phone I didn’t know what to say.
Missy seemed to pick up on my hesitancy. “Does this have anything to do with that person you like?”
She knew me too well. “Yeah,” I said with resignation, “of course.”
“Okay, okay. Listen before you hit me with that, I think I’ve got an answer to that question you asked me a while ago.”
“The difference between seeing someone and going out with someone.”
“Well, it’s not exactly black and white.”
What an interesting choice of words on Missy’s part. “Kind of gray?” I suggested.
“Yeah, kind of gray. I polled everybody in the dorm, and the consensus is that ‘going out’ with someone is a little more serious than ‘seeing someone.’ Seeing somebody isn’t as intense.
It’s kind of the beginning stages of a relationship, like when you meet for coffee, but not dinner. Or when you text more than talk on the phone.”
“Okay, I get it.”
“So,” she singsonged, “is my baby sister seeing anyone?”
I took a deep breath. “Well, not really. I mean we went out with a bunch of friends like you said, but we’ve never been, like, alone. And...”
“And you’re still not sure if they like you. Is that it?”
“Well, okay. You guys are in the same French class, right?”
“Do you have anything else in common?”
“I don’t know.” I heard the uneasiness in my voice, and I’m sure Missy heard it, too.
“Okay, okay, Squirt. What grade is sh—What grade are they in?”
Oh, my God. Missy almost said, “she.” Oh…my…God. Missy knew. Missy really did know about me. I weighed my options for a split-second and figured since I was planning on telling her at some point it may as well be on the phone, so I didn’t have to see her reaction. “You know, don’t you?”
“I wasn’t sure.”
“How long have you known?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a year. I mean, c’mon, Squirt, look at your side of the room. All your posters. You never have any boys calling or coming over.”
“No, not really. I don’t think Mom and Dad know.”
“And I won’t tell them.”
I gasped. It felt like Missy had just punched me in the stomach. I hadn’t once thought about Missy telling Mom and Dad on me. I didn’t want them to know right now. Or ever. “I’ve got to figure all this out first before I tell them. You know?”
“Yeah, I understand. Look, I didn’t tell them when I first started going out with Kyle. Remember Kyle?”
“Yeah.” I did remember him. Missy was in ninth grade. I was in fifth. Kyle was cute, but I didn’t like him because he never wanted me along when they went to the movies or ice skating. I celebrated when she broke up with him over the summer, but I couldn’t dwell on Missy’s love life because I had to get to my problem before the sports banquet started.
“Missy, how do I know if...if she likes me?” Saying the words to Missy felt weird, but I guess my need for help with Rebecca was stronger than my fear of coming out to my sister. I should have been scared to death, but for some reason I wasn’t.
“Well, first of all, if you don’t mind telling me, who is she? Do I know her?”
“Kind of. Her name’s Rebecca. She’s a junior.” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell Missy who she was. I mean, I had just come out to my sister, and now it felt like I was revealing my soul.
“Rebecca...hmm. No, I don’t think I know her. I’m glad you trust me with this. Okay, so do you and Rebecca have anything in common besides French?”
I thought about it for a second and realized that Rebecca and I did have something else in common. “Grandma.”
“Yeah, she’s...” I guess I had to tell Missy who she was after all. “She’s Mr. Washington’s daughter.”
“The funeral director?”
“Oh, oh, oh! I know who you’re talking about. She’s gorgeous,” Missy said as if she were impressed with me. “Her mom is gorgeous, too. Remember the Chinese bun she wore? You could wear your hair up like that, Squirt. I remember Rebecca from the wake. Beautiful skin, amazing hair. So pretty. Way to go, Squirt!”
I was blushing furiously. “Missy, cut it out.”
“Sorry, but, wow! So she’s a lesbian, too?”