Teeth

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Chapter 14 - Sleeping Beauty

I woke sometime later not knowing how long I was asleep. It was day. The sun shone through the windows. It seemed the beams sought me out and stretched to reach my arms and neck. I watched the dust float in the beams and imagined they were tiny fairies floating about spreading their dust on lucky people. For the first time in a year, I felt like I might be one of those lucky people.

Stretching to try to feel my muscles work, I accidentally knocked a lamp on the side table. It didn’t fall, but the noise seemed to reverberate off the walls. Mai Tai must have been listening. He came around the corner from the hallway and smiled at me.

“Well good morning, sleepy head. Or rather, good afternoon.”

“Afternoon?”

“Yes. You’ve been out like a light since last evening.”

“I felt good to sleep.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Definitely.”

“How about lunch?”

“I’m broke, and you have to be tired of some crazy girl invading your space.”

“I’m buying, and I don’t think you’re invading my space.”

“But I’m definitely crazy.”

“Aren’t we all? Come on. I want some Chicken Catsu.”

My favorite meal.

“With an extra scoop of macaroni salad?” I asked.

“Is there any other way to have it?”

I smiled as I got up and went to the bathroom to wash and relieve myself. As I washed my face in the mirror, I noted the color had returned to my face. It wasn’t as yellow and gaunt as it had been only 24 hours ago. I ran my fingers through my hair, and for the first time, I thought about the baby growing inside me. It was only a bump, really. I barely even noticed it. I certainly hadn’t thought about it, him. The mirror at first reflected a worn, defeated girl, but as I finished washing up and rubbing my face dry with the scratchy bathroom towel, it also reflected a new hope – a strong woman who had survived and needed to continue to survive and change for him, my baby. I left the bathroom in Mai Tai’s apartment more confident that I could.

“Are you ready?” Mai Tai asked as I emerged from the bathroom.

“Ready.” I have to be.

We walked along Kailua Road to the L&L Drive Inn. He didn’t talk about anything serious. He told me about his classes and kids. I laughed remembering my own high school teachers and realizing for the first time how smart teachers really are. They knew when we were up to something even when we thought we were getting away with something. We laughed, together. While we were eating, I felt an obligation.

“I’m sorry,” I said as he sipped on his soda, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I lied to you.”

“I understand.”

“No, I don’t think you do. You are the only man, only person, who has given a shit about me, and I feel horrible that I lied to you. I would take it all back if I could.”

He looked in my eyes and said, “If you hadn’t lied, we wouldn’t have met. You wouldn’t have slept, and we wouldn’t be sitting here right now having Chicken Catsu.”

My heart filled with an emotion that I could not name. I had never felt it before.

Tears started creeping out. Mai Tai reached up to my face and wiped them gently away with his fingers. Before he pulled his hand away, I rubbed my cheek against his palm. The next apology would be the hardest one.

“I’m sorry for not telling you about the Chlamydia.”

He winced.

“We did use a condom. I don’t think I gave it to you. I’ve been taking my medication, so it’s probably gone by now anyway,” the rest of what I was going to say left me as I looked at him sitting across from me.

“We did use a condom,” he said.

“Yes, we did.”

“Can you excuse me a moment?” he asked as he slid out of the booth. I watched as he walked to the payphone near the restroom. He picked up the phone and dialed. I watched as he spoke to someone. He was serious, his brow furrowed, and then he hung up. He picked up the phone book hanging from the booth and looked up a number. He dialed again, spoke to someone for a few minutes, and then turned to me as he hung up the phone. He walked quickly back to our booth and offered his hand to help me out of my seat.

“I have an appointment with a doctor. I need to head out.”

“Sure,” I said and scooted out of the booth. “I can make it home on my own.”

“I want you to some with me.”

“What?”

“I want you to come with me.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to go by myself, and I really wouldn’t need to if I hadn’t met you.”

I looked down at the ground, “Oh.”

“I don’t mean it that way.”

“I am sorry. I told you I was sorry.”

“I know you are sorry. But sorry is just a word if you aren’t willing to do something to show it.”

Mai Tai was right.

“I’ll go with you.”

“Thanks.”

I went with Mai Tai to the doctor.

I was nervous sitting in the office waiting room, not because the clinic was one of those clinics where walk-ins were dressed like hoochies and half-baked or flying high on whatever drug they could afford, but because this place would make me hate whoever made me come here. I made Mai Tai come here. I sat looking at years-old magazines with torn and missing pages thinking how much I would like to run. It’s not like I would have had to ever see this man again. Hell, I only learned the guy’s name when the nurse called out “David Bridges” and he stood up. I could’ve walked out. I should’ve. Mai Tai didn’t need me. I was trouble from the moment I traded that cigarette for a shot. Why in hell should I stay? I was on the edge of my seat, muscles tensed, ready to bolt. And then I looked around again. The clinic was housed in a strip mall in the low-rent neighborhood. The windows were covered with cheap tan miniblinds currently and mercifully closed to keep the prying eyes of people on the outside from staring at the sickened fish in the fishbowl. There were only orange, molded plastic chairs lined up in rows so that everyone was facing the same direction. I sat at the back. The people sitting in this clinic were spread out, at least a chair between them. No one had anyone with them.

I slid back into the molded plastic chair and waited for Mai Tai. He emerged from the patient rooms nearly an hour and a half later looking irritated but not unhappy. The doctor had drawn blood, taken a urine sample, and prescribed him the same pills I was taking.

“Are you ready to go?” he asked as if he already knew the answer.

“Yep.”

We chatted about stupid things. The stupid things kept our minds busy while we contemplated exactly what to say to each other.

He took me to the grocery store to fill his prescription and pick up something for dinner. On our way out of the grocery store, I finally found my courage again.

“I’m sorry, David. I wouldn’t have wished that on anyone, and especially not you.”

“We will both be okay, Lilly. A little medicine, and all is well.”

“Why aren’t you angry? Why are you still talking to me? Why aren’t you beating me to within the inch of my life because I poisoned your life?”

“It takes two to tango.”

It takes a moment for me to understand how such a stupid old saying could mean anything at all. This man stood in front of me, holding my sinful hand, and showed me what responsibility, strength, and forgiveness look like. After that, I didn’t feel like my world was empty, or impossible. Hope. That was what I felt, hope.

So, I blurted out the one thing that I knew I had to say to be able to live up to that responsibility that I so admired in him.

“I need to stop smoking.”

He chuckled, touched my cheek, dug out the cigarettes he had just bought at the store and tossed them in the next trash can we passed.

“Hey, aren’t those yours?”

“Yes.”

“Why’d you throw them out?”

“I need to stop smoking… and drinking.”

We walked back to the apartment talking about our plans to break bad habits. The sun set as we talked over chicken and rice learning who we were and planning who we wanted to become. We talked on the couch until it was nearly midnight. I fell asleep in his arms.

I woke the next morning, alone.

I need to get home. When I got up to use the restroom, I looked for Mai Tai, but he wasn’t in the apartment. I wanted to thank him, but he was gone. I took a second to write a note, “Thanks, Mai Tai,” and left it on his kitchen counter. I gathered my bag, locked the door behind me, and headed for the bus stop. I was starving, but I knew I didn’t have any money in my wallet. I dug for change in the bottom of my bag as I walked towards the stop. I found twenty dollars and a note. It just said, “Take care of yourself.” I started to cry as I folded the note and carefully put it in my wallet. L&L and Chicken Catsu lunch it is.

I called my mom for the first time in months while I waited on the bus. I hadn’t talked to my mother for more than a few minutes at a time since I got to Hawaii. I was afraid to talk to her. It seemed it would be so easy to tell her everything, but it was not. She wouldn’t understand why I didn’t go to the police. Hell, I didn’t understand. I just knew that I couldn’t. I told her that I was doing fine and that the baby was fine. She told me she loved me and was glad to hear from me.

When I made it back to my apartment, my emotions finally caught up with my body. I was sad, angry, scared, happy, relieved, and confused. Normally, I would go to the beach, but today, I didn’t want to go. I turned on the TV to the guide channel. March 18th, 10:00 am. I was away three days.

The phone rings.

“Where were you earlier? I called at 09:00,” Chuck said.

“I’m sorry, I just woke up.”

“Come pick me up. I’m at the barracks.”

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