Going Under Page 16

She thought I pulled away from her because I was on the verge of ravishing her. I was, but that wasn’t why I needed to get away from her so badly. She had me wanting her in a different kind of way-one I wasn’t good enough for and one that required I give more of myself that I was willing to give up about myself.

The way she was freely giving herself to me had me spooked. There. I admitted it.

After I got home, I laid in my bed remembering the taste of her skin and the way she encouraged me to take what I wanted more than breath in my lungs. I knew I had lost sight of the prize when I thought about making love to her, instead of screwing her so I could rub it in Forbes’ face.

I needed to get a grip. To have a girl like Claire meant sharing things I wasn’t willing to share. I couldn’t risk letting my past become known because I couldn’t bear seeing myself as what I truly was in her eyes.

I was preoccupied with her and the memories of our time together when I was at work on Saturday. Earl saw the change in me and asked me what I had going on to make me so quiet. I told him I was thinking about football, but it was an auburn haired girl that stole all of my thoughts.

As I worked underneath a truck, I dropped a wrench on my head for the third time and Earl yelled, “Out!” I slid from under the vehicle, curious to why he yelled at me because he never had before, and looked at him waiting to hear what the problem was.

“You’re going to put your eye out if you keep dropping that heavy wrench on your face. I know something is going on, so give it up. Has Rita done something to you?”

He would be furious if he knew she had me selling dope for her, but that wasn’t the reason for my distraction. “No, Rita is being Rita.”

“Then, what’s going on? I know something’s wrong because you can’t even tighten a bolt without giving yourself a concussion.”

Earl had been the only stable thing in my life since ever, but we had never talked about girls and I didn’t really know how to broach the subject. When I didn’t say anything, he asked, “It’s a girl, isn’t it?”

I guess he knew me better than I thought. “Yeah, it’s all about a girl alright; one that’s too good for me.”

He narrowed his eyes in defense of me. “Who says she’s too good for you?”

I sat up and said, “Anyone you ask.”

He put his hands on his hips as he stood over me. “What about her? What does she say?”

I wasn’t going to tell him the part about her having a boyfriend. “She says she wants to try things between us to see where it goes.”

“And that’s a problem for you?”

I couldn’t disappoint him by telling him I planned to use the girl against her boyfriend, so I skipped that part and went straight to the other issue at hand. “She’s not like me. We’re cut from a different cloth and it would never work out because she would hightail it when she found out the truth about me.”

“What is the truth about you?” he challenged.

“I’m not good enough for her. He’s beautiful and smart and rich, so there’s no need in trying it.”

“Sounds to me like you aren’t giving her much credit and I suspect she deserves a little more if she said she wants to try things with you. I think you’re being very closed minded because you don’t want to get hurt, but you’ll never know if things could work out if you don’t give it try.”

I knew this song and dance. The counselor I spent the summer seeing after the incident told me I had a complex about letting people in. She called it my defense mechanism.

“You can’t spend your life unwilling to take a chance on people. Everyone you meet in your life isn’t like Twyla and Rita. There are kind people in the world and it sounds like this girl wants to show you a little kindness. Maybe you should let her. If it didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

Maybe he was a little bit right. “I’ll think about it.”

As Earl walked away, he said, “Well, think about after you get off work, otherwise you might put yourself in a coma if you drop that wrench on your head one more time.”

I slid back under the truck and returned to work, making no promise I couldn’t keep because I knew my thoughts would only be of Claire.

I left work after managing to repair the truck without knocking myself in the head with a tool more than two other times. When I got to Rita’s trailer, I saw several cars in the yard and knew that meant they would be partying at her place tonight. I went inside and grabbed a change of clothes without saying a word and took off to Dane’s house, hoping to find him at home.

His mom answered the door and welcomed me inside. “Hi, Jessie. Dane is in his room. You can go up if you’d like.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Wickham.” She was a nice lady. Dane liked to complain about how she babied him, but he had no idea how lucky he was; I’d love to have a mother that coddled me rather than put me to work selling dope.

I went up the stairs with my change of clothes in my hand and knocked on Dane’s bedroom door. When he opened the door, he started laughing. “Dude, what’s with the grease monkey getup?”

“I had to work today and I know it’s a little weird to show up and ask, but could I bum a shower off ya?”

“No problem.” I walked in his room and he sat on his bed. I remained standing because I didn’t want to sit in my dirty work clothes. “Got a hot date with Gretchen?”

“No way!” I looked at him like he had lost his mind. “I’m done with that chick.”

“You mean you done her?” he laughed.

I put my hands up and said, “Nooo. I’m not touching that with ten foot pole.”

“What happened to you last night? One minute you were there, then the next you were gone.”

I debated telling Dane about being with Claire. I suspected he liked her because he acted so protective of her, but decided to confide in him anyway. “I was with Claire.”

His mouth dropped open. “No way, dude.”

“I was leaving and she asked me to drive her home. We ended up talking until two o’clock this morning when I took her home.”

He shook his head at me. “You could have been banging Gretchen, but you were talking to Claire until two o’clock in this morning? You must really want to get at Forbes bad if you gave up getting laid.”

“It wasn’t like that. I ditched Gretchen before I knew Claire wanted a ride because I didn’t want to get with her.”

“You lucky, bastard. Claire Deveraux likes you and you like her back. It has nothing to do with this thing between you and Forbes. You’ve been fronting all along.”

I felt vulnerable, allowing Dane to know how I felt about Claire, but it was a secret I didn’t want to keep from my only friend. “She ask me to give her time to explore this thing between us before she breaks up with Forbes and I agreed, but I don’t know if I can stand to see them together after what happened between us last night.”

“What do you mean? What happened between the two of you?” he asked.

He could forget getting the details. “Things between us got pretty intense and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

He sat in amazement and said, “This could really happen. You and Claire might get together.”

If I didn’t know how crazy it sounded, I might have been pissed at him for being shocked about the possibility of Claire and I being together. His reaction caused self doubt to flood me and I immediately began to backpedal. “Nah, it’s never going to happen. She won’t break up with him for me.”

“I think you’re wrong. Claire wouldn’t have left with you and got intense with you if it wasn’t a possibility. I think you give yourself too little credit.”

Dane was encouraging me to hope for something that would never happen, but it was a lesson I learned early in life-don’t allow myself to hope because it was life’s cruel joke of lifting you higher before dropping you flat on your ass.

“I guess we’ll see.”

“I guess we will, but you need to go get a shower, dude. If Claire smelled you right now, she’d run the other way. You stink.”

Working around motor oil was a job hazard. “Thanks, I didn’t know that.”

“If you smell better when you come out of the shower, you can hang with me and Harrison tonight.”

“Okay, that sounds cool.”

16 Many Shades of Black


Payton called first thing Saturday morning and I half lied to her. I didn’t tell her the part about staying out with Jessie until two in the morning or the part about nearly jumping him under the moonlight, but I did tell her I made some leeway so she wouldn’t be suspicious if he seemed a little more friendly with me.

I spent Saturday night with my parents and the Hendersons, while trying to avoid being alone with Forbes. He knew something wasn’t right, but I found myself not caring and spent the night being preoccupied with thoughts of the night I shared with Jessie.

When the next day came, I still had Jessie on my mind and I thought about the plans he had for the day and couldn’t break. I wondered if they included a girl and I felt a spark of jealousy. I tried to not become fixated on it, but if I had a way of finding out where he lived, I confess I would have stalked him to find out.

I was glad when Monday finally arrived, so I could see him again. I beat him to class and took the seat guaranteed to make him my partner for the hour. We had covered five of the six ingredients, so today left Making Connections and I smiled to myself with the thought of the connection we had already made.

I waited anxiously for him to enter the classroom, and when he finally did, my heart skipped a beat because he looked at me and smiled, reassuring me he didn’t regret the time we spent together.

The desks were arranged differently today, in groups of two, and he took the seat facing me.“Hey, you.”

He put his backpack down and said, “Hey, Princess. Did you have a good weekend?”

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