Sunday night, at dinner, when I planned to ask mom and dad if I could go to homecoming, before I told them I promised to take Melody, mom and dad sprung some surprising news on Abbey and me. Since mom didn’t have school on Friday, because of the parade in Whiteriver, she and dad were going to their friends’ wedding rehearsal that evening in Phoenix. They would be there Saturday for the happy nuptial ceremony, and then either late Saturday night or way early Sunday morning they’d travel home and be to church by 10 am. Since we don’t have school on Fridays (something new the school is trying this year), they figure they can leave Annika with us and we would share the responsibility of looking after her. It’s an ingenious parenting strategy. We can’t have guests over, or throw a wild party if we have to take care of a 16 month old. Well, now I have a legitimate excuse to bail on Melody. I have to babysit my little sisters. Let’s face it, as being the oldest child; I will mainly be responsible for the household while the parental units are away.

Miss Combs, Lexi we usually call her, will check in on us around dinner time on Friday and around breakfast time on Saturday. She lives three doors down from us. She teaches second grade at Whiteriver Elementary, where my mother teaches fourth grade. Dad hasn’t gotten a teaching job here, even though the district could probably use him. Right now, he’s just serving as the assistant pastor at the church. Dad says God is teaching him to rely on Jehovah Jireh. So far, it’s not bad. We have a roof over our head, we have food on the table, and we get gifts for birthdays. God is providing just fine… perhaps more than fine.

I decided this morning, the first chance I get, I’ll break the news gently to Melody in person. The second I put the car in park, Abbey pops open her passenger door and springs out of the car. She doesn’t even say goodbye. She slams the door and in the rear view mirror I see her take off running. That can’t be good. Clearly, she has something sneaky in store, and I have a gut-wrenching feeling it’s related to the homecoming dance.

Walking across the parking lot, I noticed Melody in the distance arguing with her best friend Meaghan. I’m too far away to hear what the conflict is about. Melody’s in full fledge tears holding a single red rose as Meaghan hollers at her with a scowling face. Melody, in a begging manner, tries to hand Meaghan the rose, but Meaghan smacks the offer away causing the rose to fall onto the ground. Meaghan looks for it on the ground only to stomp on it. After yelling one last time in Melody’s face, Meaghan storms off without looking back at her friend once.

Melody flails her back against the huge black pickup truck I’ve seen her drive often to campus. Cupping her face with her hands, she wails in sorrow crying over her dispute with her friend, if they’re still friends at all.

She doesn’t notice me. I could keep on walking and maybe break my bad news to her tomorrow. I take one foot forward and the thought: Love her like Christ loves me came to mind again. Ugh! I don’t want to love Melody! I don’t even really want to be her friend. Because I’m tired of listening to her beliefs when she won’t sit and listen to mine. She just hums in agreement and nods condescendingly, with her ears closed and her eyes covered with blinders. Me on the other hand, like when Colton talked about the LDS church, I listen. I listen enough to allow doubt to creep into my soul. But after every time, God reassures me of truth, and then my heart breaks… I just want her to experience completeness in Christ… not the illusion of completeness in Christ.

I cautiously trek over to Melody. Seeing me causes her to latch onto me, and sob into the fabric of my green cotton, button-up shirt. Again, embracing her feels impeccably uncomfortable. Rub her back or don’t rub her back? When I finally decide to rub her back, she releases me from our embrace as she wipes the running mascara from her eyes. I thought they made waterproof mascara now? She looks at my chest, near my left shoulder, where she happened to be crying and she pouts her bottom lip.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I look down and sure enough there’s a black, blotchy, spotty area of gunk on my forest green shirt. Luckily for her, I’m wearing a white undershirt.

“It’s okay.” I say, unbuttoning my shirt. I take it off, bundle it up, and stuff it in my backpack.

“You’re a real friend,” she pauses to sniffle, “You know that?”

Am I really? If she knew my thoughts she’d know I’m not really a friend of hers. I’m more likely a man on a mission doing what God told me to do.

As I suspected, she pulls a white handkerchief out the back pocket of her ocean blue, form fitting jeans. She finishes wiping her eyes and then she blows her nose. She folds up the handkerchief and stuffs it in her back pocket. That’s even grosser than when she wiped Annika’s nose.

“Could you walk me to class? I don’t want to be alone right now.”

How could I refuse her? We stop at her locker, before walking to her 1st period class. We both look down the end of the hall when we hear a group of people laugh. Jon Hurst, the QB and most popular guy in school (is that not textbook cliché?), is escorting Meaghan Holmes down the hall with their elbows locked together. Her brother, Charley, and Zander walk behind alongside Teagan and Reagan. Keegan trails the back with Tenor. Jon’s about my height, 6’5”, and his black hair isn’t as curly as mine. It’s more of a wavy quality than curly… in my opinion, its guy hair, while mine is total chick hair. His eyes are droopier than mine, but that’s probably a good thing. The vibrant hue of his blue-green eyes is eerily creepy. The more closed his eyelids are, the better chance not see the hue. Being an athlete he’s built with a sleek muscle tone. And for a white boy, he’s got a dark complexion, but at least it’s not blotchy. He looks complete… a look I wouldn’t mind having.

As they walk past us, something surprising happens. Jon doesn’t glance at Melody once. That’s a first. Since I went to Redridge, Melody and Jon ogled each other every chance they got. Melody’s doing her best to avoid eye contact with him too. The entire group ignores Melody and me… No glances from Charley or Zander? What’s going on? I have a feeling that fight between Meaghan and Melody was monumentally serious and it looks like Meaghan won. I’m MAJORALLY glad I’m not a girl. Girls are mean.

Melody begins tearing up as she grabs what she needs out of her locker. Not being able to hold it together, she tosses her books and binder into my arms as she darts off to the nearest ladies room. Okay… now I’m full of curiosity itching to know what’s going on or what exactly took place to exile Melody from her beloved, chain link group. What could turn brother against sister? Best friend against best friend? Admirer against admirer?

Since I’m a student that’s never late to class, I figure I can handle the consequences just once. Melody looks like she could really use a friend right now. I might as well come to terms with it. Melody and I are friends, because by the looks of it, I’m going to be her only friend for a while.

A few minutes after first bell, Melody emerges from the bathroom. She looks like she just lost her breakfast to the porcelain throne seeing that she’s three flesh tones lighter and pretty ghostly looking. If I was a Ferris Bueller type of boy, I’d say let’s blow school off and go gallivanting around town, but I’m not. Wrapping her under the wing of my one armed embrace, I nudge her to walk with me.

“Maybe we’ll go off campus for lunch?” I say. In my cheesiest, raspiest, machismo voice I add, “Queiro Taco Bell.”

By a small miracle, it gets Melody to breathe one laugh. Who knew I could be funny? The second bell rings when we get to her class. I’ll be late to mine but at least she’s on time to hers.

We didn’t go off campus for lunch, because I couldn’t find her. I ate with Pernel and he gave me all the juicy details traveling through the grapevine. Apparently, Charley and Melody were dating, but they weren’t public yet because they were taking it slow. But Melody confessed to either Teagan or Keegan that she’s not over Jon. I guess her and Jon dated as well for years. From Freshman Year to Junior Year, they broke up a year ago because they were just tired of the drama between them. Since the beginning of July, Meaghan’s been dating Jon, and that’s been very public. Meaghan asked Melody if it was okay to go out with him and everything. Melody swore she was so over him.

Yesterday, after church, Meaghan caught Jon and Melody kissing in his red truck. Jon claims they were just talking and Melody kissed him out of nowhere. Whether that’s true or not, Meaghan took her boyfriend’s side. So this morning, the disaster I witnessed in the parking lot was Meaghan ordering Melody to stay away from Jon, Charley, and all their friends. If she bothered any of them, Meaghan would tell Melody’s parents something that would break their hearts. I asked what that something was, but Pernel didn’t know.

Abbey texts me that she’s going to the movies with a group of friends and that someone will give her a ride home after school. She claims she called and asked dad… I hardly believe it, but it’s her that has to answer to our parents if she didn’t ask for dad’s permission. Exiting school, I see Melody at the pick-up and drop off curb arguing with someone on her cellphone.

“Today’s my day to have the truck! How am I supposed to get home?”

By the sounds of it, she’s arguing with Tenor. He went all grand theft auto and hijacked the truck from his sister… Normally, I would laugh about this, but she’s having a really rotten day.

Angrily, and patronizingly, Melody barks, “I love you too Tenor,” and then she hangs up on him. Without thinking, she chucks her phone against the nearest redbrick school wall. On impact, the case pops off, the back falls off causing the battery to fall out, and the screen cracks as it flops to the concrete ground. Just looking at her phone in pieces on the ground, her face tears up as she breaks down crying. Clearly, she’s PMS-ing. How else could she go to blazing angry to weeping willow sad? Continuing her song of sobbing, I pick up her phone and put it back together as best as I can. It takes a moment, a moment longer than it should, for it to turn on. It will definitely be hard to check her text messages, but I think she can manage calls.

I place her cellphone in her hand as I again sweep her into a sideways embrace. I don’t even ask. I guide her across the parking lot to the car, and open the passenger door for her.

Shocked by my kindness, she questions, “Are you sure?”

“Not quite. I’m not sure where you live, but it will be a good practice run for Saturday night.”

Flashing me a weak, feeble appeasing grin, she gets into the car. Once I’m buckled in and I have the engine going, she says, “About Saturday night…”

“No. I’m not letting you cancel. You can’t let those… let’s not be mean and call them what they are… you can’t let them win and keep you down. You wanted to go to homecoming, now you got a date, so we’re going to homecoming… and you’re gonna like it!” I say.

My pep talk seems to assuage Melody a bit. She nods her head as I back up.

History Lesson

Elle After Civil War 2.png

When I was a toddler,  the Republic of America declared independence against the United States of America. Sleeper agents for the RA within branches of military and intelligence agencies rose up. Those who considered themselves to be conservative, patriotic, capitalistic made of the RA. It wasn’t over race, even though race served as a factor. Minorities had a tendency of siding with the USA over joining the USA. Russia backed the RA sending aid and troops.

For three years, Americans were forced to pick sides that offered them the best chance of survival. It was clear the RA was never going away. Out-manned, out-gunned, and at the risk of losing territory, what remained of the USA on the East Coast signed a peace treaty with the RA… agreeing to new borderlines and recognizing the RA as a country.

Washington, Oregon, and California remained as a part of the USA. Everything between those states and the Mississippi River became the Republic of America.

The year of the treaty, the great lakes flooded, drowning Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and most of Pennsylvania and New York. A virus spread across Washington State, Oregon, and California killing 80 % of the population. The land also became incapable of producing vegetation. The survivors were forced to seek asylum in Canada, the RA, and Mexico because USA was found guilty of using biological warfare that devastated those three states. Their target was the was RA, but they miscalculated. Some think the RA did it and framed the USA. Those regions are now the “Dead Zone”, an unlivable place.

The next year, the USA reformed their branches of government and agencies forming the Democratic Coalition of America. The government gave more power to the people over policymaking, eliminated capitalism and started merit economy called meritism, and became determined to be the manifestation of Utopia.


The Republic of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Russia, France, Italy, Israel)

National Language: English

Agencies of Intelligence for the Republic of America

MIB: Main Intelligence Branch (CIA knock-off)

PAN: Protection Agency of the Nation (NSA knock-off)

CDI: Countrywide Department of Investigations (FBI knock-off)

The Eagle’s Senate

The meeting place of Senators of the Republic that represent each RA State. Just 1 Senator per state.

The Eagle House

The Eagle (President knock-off)

1st Olive Branch (First Lady/First Gentleman)

__________________________________

The Eaglet (Vice President knock-off)

2nd Olive Branch (Eaglet’s spouse)

The Democratic Coalition of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Australia, England, China and Japan)

National Languages: Spanish and English

HORAI: Headquarters of Reconnaissance and Intelligence (CIA knock-off)

NDS: National Department of Security (NSA knock-off)

DDI: Division of Domestic Investigations (FBI knock-off)

Hall of Democrats

The meeting place of hundreds of Democratic Representatives from each DCA State. (Half the number of the USA Congress)

House of Liberty

Lead Democrat (knock-off president)

1st Assistant Democrat (spouse of the LD)

________________________

Associate Lead Democrat (knock-off vice president)

2nd Assistant Democrat (spouse of the ALD)


Opinions vary but each country still operates a lot like the old USA. Except on is highly conservative and the other is super liberal.


Mom speeds down the highway heading for east border. Clearly, she is not worried about getting pulled over or caught by speed regulator cameras.

The baby stays quiet in my arms. He’s sort of cute. But his constant hypnotic stare at me is totally creepy.

“In New Jerusalem, we’ll get a motel and I’ll go out and get us some things for our trip.” Mom says like she’s still thinking about a million other factors to flee the country successfully.

The RA has spent millions of dollars to rebuild and wipe the memory of the old America away. I hear the DCA mends what is broken, but they don’t generate enough revenue to start over and build everything new.

“Where are we taking a trip?”

“Well, if you never opened the bag, I was just going to take you to a safe house for a few days, but your disobedience changed our plans big time.” Mom sounds disappointed as she keeps her eyes on the road.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t think you were in the baby smuggling business… a weird smuggling baby business that has genetically engineers infants that imprint on their masters/caretakers.” I defend myself, weakly.

What am I talking about? This all sounds nuts! When mom explained it all, I felt more insane by every unfolding detail.

The Chinese were working on Project Hercules, which combined the research of the Prometheus II Project with the concept of coding the Theus Sphere properties into a genetically engineered human being. The Theus Sphere was designed to fuse with a person and make someone average into a superior human being that would a be killer machine taking orders from the boss. Project Hercules would breed humans that at birth would imprint on their handler, forming a bond to secure total allegiance and compliance. (Sort of sounds like a video game about assassins, huh?) The baby in my arms is the very first baby if the reality.

A wealthy mercenary, Baptiste Guyon, stole Project Hercules the Chinese and destroyed all their research and either kidnapped or killed every person connected to the project. At first, when the RA got the intel 10 years ago, they thought Guyon wanted to sell the project to the highest bidder, and the RA was prepared to purchase it, but then it became clear he wanted it for himself.

He set up headquarters for Project Hercules II in the RA near the Mexican border. Mom was sent in to infiltrate his organization. She played herself. A spy without a country to serve. For the past eight years, she’s been a field agent for Guyon, while feeding his plans and operations to the MIB. Occasionally, she would send misinformation to Guyon.

Mom’s original orders, once the first Hercules was born, was to destroy all the research and to bring the baby back to MIB central in True Dallas. But the day this baby was born, mom learned Guyon has several facilities around the world and more babies like Hercules I were about to be born. She called her MIB handler and got a new directive. Fake the baby’s death, bring the child to HQ, and go back undercover to find all Project Hercules Facilities across the globe.

Seeing what Hercules I was capable of, mom planned on killing the baby for real, lying to the MIB and to Guyon. But in case her plan failed and the RA was going to burn her for treason, she wanted to come take me to a safe place. If Hercules didn’t imprint in the first 24 hours of his life, he was going to die. Mom figured he could die slowly and peacefully in that duffle bag not wanting to add baby-killer to her repertoire. I screwed up the plan.

She’s going to still tell the RA and Guyon the kid died. It will be convincing because mom was on security detail transporting the surrogate in labor back to the facility from Guyon’s house, when Mara and her team were ambushed in a tunnel. Mara got out of the vehicle just as it exploded, unable to rescue the surrogate and the baby.

The real story is that mom stopped in a tunnel the MIB was sending a drone to attack. She killed everyone under her charge. Then she ripped baby Hercules out of the surrogate’s womb and fled for cover with the baby in the getaway SUV she parked nearby. She drove away as the drone bombed the tunnel.

I’m not sure how she’s going to fill in the holes to the MIB or to Guyon, but she’s survived being a spy for over twenty years, I’m sure she’ll figure it out.

“Do we have to call him Hercules?”

“You can call him whatever you want. He’s your new baby son.”

“Why can’t he be your kid?”

“I’m not going on this trip with you. I can’t and it will be easier to keep the cover that he’s your son and not your brother.”

I don’t see her logic. But the last time I didn’t listen to her I became a mom, so if I don’t want to end up dead, I ought to do what she says.

“Milo Xavier Taylor.”

“Xavier? You like that name, huh?”

“It’s dad’s name…” I say.

That much she has told me. My father is Xavier Douglas Wace. When they met he was an analyst for the CIA. They fell in love while he was a field agent after fusing with the Theus Sphere from the stolen Prometheus II Project. She was sort of in love two different people for a bit. When dad first used Theus, his own consciousness would be suppressed by a the persona built into the sphere. Agent Xavier was Agent Theus, a different man in attitude, demeanor, decision-making, and personality. But eventually dad figured how to use the properties of Theus without letting the Theus-persona loose. Then they got married and were working on impossible missions as part of a deal with the CIA that would end in their early retirement to enjoy civilian life. More than anything my mom wanted to start a family with my dad and they didn’t want to be spies raising a family.

Their last mission was to intercept a piece of technology similar to Theus, but instead of fusing with the technology, the tech was a giant download onto some willing person’s brain. All this information would be in their mind to learn without having to take time to learn how to do things. What would take months or years to learn, only took seconds after finding the info on the hard drive of their brain. There was one version before the type they intercepted but it killed the person was the guinea pig. The Traverse 1.0 fried their brain into liquid… literally. Good thing that didn’t happen to my mom. Neither of us would be here.

Dad wasn’t as good of a spy as Theus. He got himself captured by the bad guys they took the Traverse 2.0 from. Mom wanted to save him, so she used the stolen tech– the Traverse 2.0, and it worked long enough to save dad. But her brain couldn’t handle all the information and she passed out. When she woke up she could talk and walk, but she couldn’t remember the last five years of her life… She couldn’t remember dad at all.

Mom got pregnant before that mission, but she didn’t find out until that mission was complete and she had already left my dad in the dust. Her mind rebooted during her pregnancy  and by the time I was one, she remembered her whole life with my dad, and was in love with him all over again. But thanks to Civil War 2, there was no family reunion.

Now, all my life, she told me she picked up a regular civilian life after the war. The truth is, the MIB formed and drafted her services. If she refused, they were going to kill her and put me in an orphanage, because they didn’t want her joining the former USA now DCA.

Until a few months ago, I believed her civilian life lie. But then I began to wonder why my mom forced me to learn to Spanish, German, French, and Mandarin. She’s taught me Kung Fu, Krav Maga, and how to use guns, swords, and knives. I know how to read a room to find a way out in case of an emergency. Every once in a while, we would go on free shopping sprees where she taught me how to shoplift without getting caught. When I was 12, she ditched me on a camping trip and left a note for me to get home using what I had and without getting help. If didn’t make it home in three days, she would come for me. Sometimes in sparring she would beat me to a pulp just to increase my pain tolerance. I know how to make a bomb out of household cleaners and house items. Need I think on this more, she trained me to be a spy! So I started snooping on her.

First, I cracked the code to her safe in her closet and found her journal. I know it is a major invasion of privacy but reading someone’s inner thoughts is the fastest way to discover what is going on with a person. I learned fast mom was still in the spy game. I just didn’t what she was doing. I know if I read about this Baby Hercules Project, I wouldn’t have removed that blindfold and I would be childless now.

“You want me to be his mom because if he loves me like a mother, that’s the best way to ensure he won’t become a monster… Right?” I check if I figured out her angle.

“Um, I guess… He’s designed to only form a personal connection with a parent figure. I’m not sure he’ll have the emotional intelligence to care about siblings… But I’ve been thinking. We should kill the baby.”

“What? Why?”

“You’re not ready to be a mom and if my plan goes south, it will be easier to survive on your own. Plus, if anyone ever figures out the truth. They’ll kill you just to get him. Then whoever has him, will make more of him.”

“Cloning people doesn’t work.” I point out.

“No, but anyone with the right background could make an army like him with his DNA. And they wouldn’t hesitate to train him and use him in the field. It’s better to kill him and burn his body.” Mom argues.

Before we make any rash decisions, I have to know, “What is the plan, with me as his mom?” I ask.

“Derek”

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.

“O, Mother…”

“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.”

“Bussing It”

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.

“Maybe Baby”

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.

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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!

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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.

Much love,

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