Love is a strong word. Well, it’s supposed to be a strong word. In many languages, there’s more than one word for love, because love between lovers entails a different meaning—a deeper meaning. Day three of being friends with Derek, I loved him. Not quite like a brother so I guess like a best friend.
We were 4 years old, at a daycare ran out of some old lady’s house. I forgot her name. I remember that the house had brown shaggy carpet, faded yellow flower wall paper, and the house smelled like old person and peppermint. There were 7 of us that stay consistent until we went to real school. I was there before Derek showed up.
I remember when Alexis dropped him off. She wore pink scrubs but I thought they were pajamas. As a kid Derek’s hair was bright, children of the corn blonde—so like platinum blonde— and long down to his butt like a girl. I kept thinking he was a girl for the first few hours we played together. I kept asking, “Why are you dressed like a boy? You’re so pretty.” And he’d snap back, “I’m a boy!”
I got put in time out for bullying him for his long hair. I had a reputation as a little rebel, so the old lady didn’t believe I was genuinely confused. At snack time, I was liberated from the prison of the boring corner, and she made me sit across from him. I gave him my banana as an olive branch hoping to establish peace. As we reached across the table, we locked eyes and he was the first person with blue eyes I didn’t hate or wasn’t afraid of because he was so sweet.
By day three at daycare together, we were playing together nonstop and begging our moms to go to Mickey D’s together. And I loved him. I didn’t get why, but I loved him.
We didn’t go to the same school until 5th grade. My mom moved us right next to an elementary school, which luckily for me was Derek’s school.
And of course, no one understood our friendship. They thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Sometimes we pranked new students and said we were siblings, and they would wonder, “Is Savvy adopted?” Like a mixed girl couldn’t be his fraternal twin sister? No one fell for the lie. My curly, maroon-ish brown hair and nearly black eyes and dark olive skin never tricked them. I found it funny, because I had two half-siblings that looked white and I really had two half-siblings that were fully white. No one believes I’m related to them either.
Derek’s parents went through a nasty divorce over the summer through middle school and Derek’s dad moved to California. The school year, Thanksgiving, and Easter he spent in Tucson, with his mom. The Summer and Christmas with his dad. And maybe it was a little ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ of us, but we talked on the phone all the time, we texted each other, and we messaged each other via direct messages.
It wasn’t until 8th grade, when we kissed… that we became boyfriend and girlfriend… And he is the love of my life. I will not live without him.
“WHO the FLUFF do you think you are?” Jewel questioned me. “What kind of SNIFF is this?” She rhetorically asked throwing a bundle of condemns on the coffee table. All the pretty colors too, blue, purple, red, green… all the colors of the rainbow and a couple of dental dams too. You would think a mother like her would be so proud I’m so cautious with my sex life.
SMACK… across the face… Which stings bitterly… If figures a mother like her isn’t proud. Angrily, I choose to lie. It doesn’t matter at this point. She’ll treat me like she wants to treat from here.
“So my secret stash is not so secret anymore… oops…” I say with so much attitude I piss myself off.
SMACK… across the other cheek… She’s so caring to even out the pain of her punishment.
“Genie found that when that little SNIFF was helping put away your FLUFFING laundry little BLICK… She thought they were slimy balloons…”
I start laughing as Jewel proceeds to tell me Genie and Albany took some out of the package and blew them up like balloons… HOW HILARIOUS! Derek and I do that for fun sometimes after we get a fresh bundle from school. They pass them out on Fridays before every weekend after school. And we’re always allowed to stop by the counselors’ offices and ask for more. Our school is progressive. Then again, they have to be. Most of us are high school rejects: flunkies, addicts, juvenile delinquents, LBGTQ, or teen parents… some of us are more than one. There are a select few who are elites: home-school-sheltered, or chose-to-be-there… but they are the FEW.
“SHUT UP!” Jewel barked. I tried but I couldn’t.
For that she smacked me full force from every direction. In the face, on the head, in the throat, on my bare legs, with the front and back of her hand. The only thing that stopped her from using two hands was the cigarette in her writing hand.
Outraged I wouldn’t be quiet, she pulled me by the neckline of my grateful dead t-shirt and pulled down the collar, stretching it out to expose my shoulder. She threatened to burn me for the fourth time there, if I didn’t be quiet. Immediately, I stopped laughing, I STOPPED breathing, holding my breath to prevent myself from laughing.
She threw me up against the back of our black pleather couch. The coolness of the material soothed my stinging skin. She paced the living room floor, taking a drag of her cigarette here and there. For once in a long time, she didn’t know what else to say to me. Maybe she forgot why she woke me up at 3 am in the morning to discipline me.
This happened before I got home from my night class at the community college. The girls showed me their condemn balloons and I panicked she was going to beat the snot out of me there, right in front of everyone because I figured they were from my unused stash because I really am NOT sexually active. I don’t even masturbate like a normal teenager. I know… I sound like a total fiction character. I’m just not crazy about sex and I’ve seen so many pictures of STIs… I don’t want to take any chances.
But she let me eat my dinner. She let me watch TV with the girls. She let me get them ready and put them to bed. She let me do my homework in the kitchen. She let me get ready for bed. She let me say goodnight and go to sleep like there would no punishment for me.
Not until 3 AM came, after I had to hear her and the jerk screw on the other side of our paper-thin walls. After I heard them share some drinks in the living room and get high and screw again… I hope not on the couch where I’m sitting now. The girls sleep like bricks and can sleep threw a monsoon and/or a microburst. I’m the light sleeper. My sisters slept peacefully on our queen bed while I was awake for most the night. I had just fallen asleep because the all ruckus stopped and then I was woken up by a very angry Jewel.
She just yanked me out of bed, well, the half-naked jerk was ordered to sit me up, throw me over his shoulder, and carry me to the living room… He’s still in really good shape for an ex-marine. He went off to bed because he’s never apart of any disciplinary meetings and actions. She grabbed a fresh pack of cigarettes off the coffee table. Took a new one out, lit it with a match from her “Deus Dive Bar” matchbook, and threw both packages in the décor glass bowl in the center of the black, glossy coffee table. She pulled the condemns and dental dams out of her bra and tossed them on the coffee table toward me. Then she began her interrogation filled with physical torture.
She could just be pacing to psychologically mess with me. To confuse me or to keep me in a panic so I can’t anticipate her next move.
She stopped and faced me. She cocked her hip to the side and she crossed one arm underneath her chest, and she propped her smoking hand up via that elbow perpendicular to her free hand. She took a quick drag then she bent low and tapped her excess ash into the ash tray on the coffee table.
“I was 15 when I had you Savannah. FLUFFING 15 and I’ll be FLUFFED to have history FLUFFING repeat itself, you hear me?” Putting her cigarette in her mouth, only allowing the corner of her lips to lock it in, she walked away saying, “Find a better place for your MOD-SAMMED FLUFFING FLUFF STASH.”
Every day. To school- bussing it. To college- bussing it. To work- bussing it. To home bussing it. On the weekend- bus it to Derek’s- bus it to the mall- bus it to the game shop- skate shop- anywhere I want to go- bus it. PUBLIC TRANSIT SUCKS. Majority of the time it smells like sweat, urine, and unbathed hobo. Early in the morning, afternoon when high schools let out, and on the weekend during waking hours- the bus is FULL. Ugh?! And my 16th birthday is like not that far away… but will I get a car? No! I’m too poor for that😊 Will I get to drive occasionally- ha! I wish😊
I’m old enough for a learner’s permit and Jewel won’t take me to the DMV to get one. If I want one, I have to bus it there to get one… And who will teach me how to drive? Not Jewel, she has no time. Not the jerk, he has no car. Not Netty or Arnie because I like never get to see them. If Jewel knew I still talked to them I’m pretty sure she’d give me hell.
The real kicker is… Jewel hates lugging Genie and Albany all over the place and she doesn’t trust me to take them anywhere on the bus… so Jewel makes the statement like, “Sav you need to FLUFFING be 16 already so you can drive these little SNIFFs all over the place.”
What does that mean? She’ll teach me how to drive when I’m 16, or I’m just supposed to know how by then?”
I should be used to riding the bus. Both my life and riding the bus are very much the same in terms how I feel about them. I HATE THEM.
Tonight is the night! Jewel went to Vegas with the jerk for the weekend. The girls are going to bed at 9 pm and Derek is coming over. His mom is working the night shift at the hospital, so she’ll never know he’s not at home and because it’s our anniversary… we agreed it’s time to have sex…
Like, I don’t really want to completely. I mean I want to… I love him… everyone says you should be in love when you do it for the first time… but I don’t feel like I’m ready… This is huge! I show him like every day that I love him. I help him in class. I give him extra cash for the bus. I go with him to the skate park to watch him skate even though I think it’s totally boring. I pull him out of his funk when he’s depressed. I got a tattoo of his name that mom doesn’t know about for him… I go to parties with him and get high with him, and drink with him, and go down on him… because I would do anything for him. He’s my soulmate. And all I asked of him were two things, let me get good grades in school and let me not have sex all the way until I’m ready.
We were at a party last weekend. I told Jewel I went to Kaylie’s for the weekend, which was true, but we snuck out to go to Hayley’s party. She lives out in the Foothills. Her parents are loaded and she should go to private school, but the only high school that would take her was Brink, ours… She’s got a huge rap sheet. Her parents are gone so much they’re never around to even care when she adds to it.
A group of us were sharing some seriously good KGB via Hayley’s favorite bong… and some how the guys were talking about how gifted they were in their manhood. Everyone teased Derek saying he was the tiniest amongst the men and Derek got all defensive and pants’d himself to show the whole group how well-endowed he was… After that… all the girls from that group, even Hayley were flirty with him all night… Then it got around the entire school, and all day, everyday I have to watch girls flirt with Derek… in the hallways with small talk, in P.E. with their bodies, and in class by passing notes. Derek’s smart… he ignores it all as best he can and he shows me the notes so we can laugh about the girls… but I’m scared. If I don’t do more. I’ll lose him and he’s always been there. He can’t just stop being there.
So we were bussing it, after school, heading to my place and he told me to stop worrying about all the attention he was getting from girls at school. He reminded me that I’m his one true love. That we will be together forever. He reminded me our anniversary was Friday night and after being together for 3 years and knowing each other for 12 years… it was time… it was time to celebrate by making love. This was on Wednesday, I think… And originally we were going to do it at his house because his mom would be working, and I was going to use Kaylie as a cover and she was down with it as long as I promised to use protection, but when I went to ask Jewel to stay the night at Kaylie’s, Jewel announced her and the jerk were going to Vegas for the weekend.
“Tell us a story!” Genie yells from the hallway.
Genie and Albany come rushing around the corner, in their pajamas, all ready for bed. They climb on the couch, Genie to my left, Albany to my right.
Genie screams, “Tell us a story!”
“No, let’s just jump on the couch.” Albany says smiling. She faintly laughs as she stands up taking position. “We never get to when mom is here.”
Genie nods her hand and goes to stand up too. Expect, I fold her in my arms and sit her in my lap. Then I grab her by her arm pits and use all my strength and lift her in the air as I rise to my feet. “Let’s go jump on the bed.
As I rush to our bedroom, Genie spreads out her arms and yells, “I can fly!”
Albany chases after us and then passes us around the corner to the hallway to get to the bed first. When Genie and I get to the room, Albany is quite the gymnast doing back flips on the bed.
“Hey! No flips, just jumps!” I remind her to stay safe.
I toss Genie on the bed but I stay on the ground. I let the two of them jump their hearts out. Again and again they asked me to join them, but I stay firm and decline. If we break the bed, we’ll all get knocked around and burned for sure.
When they tired out, which was like two minutes later, they got under the covers. I tucked them in… and gave both those blue-eyed blondies a kiss on the lips goodnight. The light was off and the night light was on. I was halfway out the door when—
“Story!” Genie yells.
“No!” Albany shouts back.
Genie and Albany enter a verbal fighting contest to see who could be the loudest and get their way. I flip the light back on and take a seat at the foot of the bed and yell, “SHUT UP!”
Albany jolts up and says, “That was creepy, you sounded just like mom.”
Genie adds, “Don’t do that again… please…” Covering half her face with the blue comforter. Then she chants in a loud whisper, “Story! Story! Story!”
“It’s time for bed.” I say.
“Can you please tell us a story?” Genie asks with a gentle voice sitting up.
Albany rolls her eyes as she plops back down, “Fine…” she sighs. “Tell a stupid story. Just not the one about the cowgirls… That’s really stupid.” Albany covers her face like she’s a corpse.
“Which story should I tell Genie?”
“The Yellow Butterfly,” Genie says.
Albany jabs the air with her legs below the covers as she moans from frustration.
I rip the covers off Albany’s face and see Albany smiling. Albany is just giving us a hard time. She doesn’t want to go bed. She likes the idea of staying up all night just because mom isn’t here. I stick my tongue out at Albany as I throw the cover back over Albany’s face. I tell her to be quiet.
“You be quiet.” Albany sasses back.
“Stop it!” Genie shrieks.
“Both of you shut up or we all go to bed now.” I say firmly.
As if my words are law, neither speaks another phrase.
“Millicent, a beautiful Darlin of the Darlinquex Tribe, wanted to pick fresh wild flowers…” I tell the story of the Yellow Butterfly. It’s a story I made up myself since Jewel never buys the girls books. I don’t always remember it word for word, or even from plot point to the next, but Genie knows it well. Any time I spiral out of control off course, Genie gets the story back on track, nice and steady.
Before I find opportunity to tell the good part, where Millicent follows the Yellow Butterfly home, the roar of Genie’s snoring hits my ear, and Albany appears too quiet. Both of my sisters are sleeping. I’m free to wait for Derek.
Something is wrong. It’s 11 pm and I text Derek a bunch of times but I haven’t heard back from him. This was his idea… If he road his bike over, what if he got hit by a car or worse a bus. Maybe I should start calling hospitals? Or maybe his phone is dead… He never charges it… He always forgets. He’s like the only teenager on the planet not addicted to his phone… It’s weird. I bring my charger everywhere with me and I like never turn off my phone. I put it on silent. I never TURN. IT. OFF. NEVER.
Finally, at 11:13 pm there’s a knock on my door. Relief cools my nerves as I open the door to Derek, who steps into the living room fuming!
“It’s fluffing bark-sniff!” He yells.
I take his hands and put them on my waist, and I cup his face in my hands. Staring him straight in the eye, I ask what’s going.
We take a deep breath together and he rests his forehead against mine. He breaks into to tears and through his muffled groaning he explains… His mom didn’t go to work tonight. He was getting ready to come over and his dad and stepmom and half-brother were in the living room… waiting for him to come out of his room… They confronted him about some drugs his mom found… Weed and prescriptions pills Trevor gave to him… They found the condemns and his mother read his journal… about him wanting to commit suicide. All the drafts of letters he wrote to his family. All the ways he planned to kill himself… His journal had more disturbing things. Drawings and doodles of the creatures that tormented him at night. The confessions that he sometimes heard voices telling him to kill himself. His mom showed his journal to a clinical psychiatrist at the hospital.
Tomorrow his family is taking him to a really expensive mental facility in California. If he tests looney, he’ll be staying until he’s better. If he just needs anti-depressants and is not a threat to himself or to anyone… he’s going to military school…
I can’t stop crying. I feel like the floor got ripped from underneath me. We collapse to the ground and holding each other we cry.
Once we were all cried out. I move as he moved and we sit in the silence with our backs against each other. For some reason the warmth we generate is soothing… sort of…
“We could runaway.” I suggest.
“No… you’re going to college and high school at the same time… don’t run from that…”
“I don’t care. I don’t need school like I need you.”
“They’re just worried I’m going to be like Laney.”
Laney or Delaney was Derek’s older sister. His parents got divorced because she killed herself. They don’t admit that, but they were happy together when Delaney was alive and then they hated each other after she died. At first, they thought it was because of bullying, but then it turned out she had schizophrenia- which is incredibly rare in teenagers, especially teenage girls… but all her journals and some of her YouTube videos showed all the signs.
“But you’re not… You’re perfectly sane! You go to counseling…”
“Yeah… but I don’t tell that shrink SNIFF…” He confesses.
We both knew that. We were both afraid if he told his shrink all that he experiences, he would get sent away. Now our fear has come true.
I turn to his back… For some reason… I want to do it now. If we have sex, he’ll know that I’ll be waiting for him and we’ll be bound to each other in a closer way than ever before. I rise on my knees and begin to rub his shoulders. He looks up at me and says, “We shouldn’t make love… it will hurt more when I go…”
Like that really old Spidey Movie, I kiss Derek upside down… which is hard… but not bad…
As we break for air and Derek faces me and he asks again, “Are you sure?”
I nod. I’ve never been more sure than now. We continue, not even moving to the couch. I lean down on my back as he leans forward staying on top of me. But as things get intensified between us… I’m scared… I know this is different. I love him and he loves me. I just don’t think I’m ready for this.
Derek breaks up our make out session. He notices the tears streaming down my face. He sits up sighing. I jolt up wiping my eyes.
“It’s okay… It’s not what it seems like… I’m ready for this…” I reassure him. I run my fingers through his long, light brown hair as I go to kiss him again, but he turns his head making my lips land on his cheek.
“No… I think we should wait…”
I put my hand on his thigh, and I mentally prepare to satisfy him the second best way, but he brushes my hand away. He looks at me and stares at me straight in the eye, “I love you, Sav… Let’s just wait until we’re both ready.”
“Really?” I ask to make sure.
Kissing me softly as he rubs my back… “Yeah baby… Waiting for you will be worth it.”
All I can do is hug him. I’m so grateful for him. I don’t deserve him. I know I should have given him this one thing, but I’m glad he wants to wait until I’m ready. Not a lot of guys are like that…
“Promise me we’ll talk as much as we can?” I beg.
He kisses me on the forehead, then he goes back to holding me in a hug, “I promise.”
Thank you for reading “Bussing It” and tune in next Sunday for another fresh installment!
Pretty soon I’ll be launching #ManuscriptMonday, where I’ll be posting a chapter a week, every Monday, to a book I want to publish. I’ll give you a hint: it’s a little sci-fi-ish… maybe it will be seen as dystopian but I can’t say that for sure. If you enjoy #StorySunday, I think you’ll enjoy Mondays more.
Right now, every Thursday you can experience some #StorySundayThrowbacks. Every Thursday until the stories run out! It’s the 1 year anniversary since I began “+Positively Unexpected”, which is about Tasha living in a future wear getting an abortion is really complicated. Yes, I’m a pro-lifer, but I wanted to address the topic of abortion a little outside the box. Check it out if you’re interested. Part One is already back up!
I’m excited to share my writing journey with you, and if you like what you read or think a friend would enjoy it, I’m asking that you share it, but you don’t have to… it’s up to you.