Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 21: Trenton, North Carolina - July 12, 2005

The hot July heat was starting to show its ugly head as I made my way towards Getman’s Park. Even though I had told Cory I didn’t want to go hang out in the wood’s today, he insisted that I should be there. So I agreed, packing up some waters and a few snacks before heading out that way. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t want to hang out with him. Things between us have been a little odd since my parents caught us in my bedroom. When they told me I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, Cory hadn’t been too keen with the idea. He told me that we could still sneak around like we had been doing. At first, I said yes. But then, I felt guilty about it. To me, it felt like we were back under Vicky’s control and had to hide our relationship. I told him I had changed my mind and that we should just be friends until I was able to date. He didn’t like the idea but said he would wait for me to be ready.

Walking up the path towards the clearing, I heard giggling. Confused, I looked around. There were a couple trails around here that people like to walk. I figured someone was on them. It got louder though as I neared the clearing. The source became clear when I saw a girl sitting on the log next to Cory. She had long brown hair that was tucked back behind a purple head band. She was wearing a matching purple sun dress and made her figure look like she was a full-grown woman. Cory said something and she giggled again. I stopped walking to watch them, trying to figure out where I knew her from. It dawned on me then that we went to school with her. She was Jennifer Dunbar, a member of the Christian Club and President of the Purity Committee. She is one of the leaders of the ‘No Sex Before Marriage’ movement that the school was pushing towards the end of the year. She had spoken at our end of the year assembly about the importance of saving yourself. Cory and I had sat together, laughing under our breaths the whole time about how stupid it was. Why was she suddenly sitting in our spot with him?

I went to say something when Cory leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. My eyes widened as I watched them kiss. Something in my chest rattled as I felt my heart seize with pain. He pulled way, her smiling at him. They looked at each other like nothing else in the world mattered. Like I wasn’t standing here, watching them. My chest and my head hurt. What was going on? He had told me he was going to wait until next year when I turn 16. He told me that over and over again, especially after I turned 15 last month. He said he didn’t care how long he had to wait for because I was the only person he wanted to be with. So, why was he kissing Jennifer Dunbar in our secret spot? And why the hell did he asked me to come here then? Tears pricked at my eyes as I took a step backwards, hoping to flee before he saw me. A twig snapped under my sneaker though, causing him to turn towards me.

“Hey, Abz!” He said, smiling at me as he hopped off the log. He walked towards me, stopping a few feet away. I wanted to run. To get the hell out of there before I throttled him to death.

“Hey.” I answered, my voice sounding foreign to me.

“I’m glad you made it. I want to introduce you to someone.” He motioned for Jen to come over. She stood, stepping over the log to walk over to us. She stopped next to him, giving me a bright smile. “Abby, this is Jen. Jen, this is Abby.”

“Right. I think you were in my advanced math class. Miss Bosco’s, second period?” She asked. I nodded, afraid of speaking. “I thought you were the same Abby when Cory told me about you. He’s told me all about you, by the way. So nice to meet you.”

“Yeah.” I managed to choke out. I glanced between the two of them, unsure if I was going to vomit or scream. Or both.

“Jen’s my new girlfriend.” Cory said, grabbing her hand in his. The same hand he held my hand in just a few months ago. My heart ached again, the pain almost throbbing in my rib cage. “I really wanted you to meet her.”

“I hope we can become friends! I know how important you are to Cory.” Jen said, giving me a hopeful expectant look.

“I gotta go.” I said, trying my best to stay calm. Every fiber of my being wanted me to scream, cry and rip Cory a new one. I didn’t though. I gave Jen a small smile before turning on my heel. I started on the path, heading towards the main one that led to the exit. My hands were shaking and I felt light headed. I wasn’t sure if it was from the hurt, the anger or the downright horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. All three sounded about right to me. What had just happened? He had a girlfriend? He was dating someone else when he was supposed to be waiting for me. I felt nauseous again, forcing me to stop and lean against a tree. This couldn’t be happening. It was all a lie. It had to be. There was no way that Cory would do this to me. Not the guy who has been there for me since we were ten years old. This must be some kind of mistake. Maybe I had heard him wrong when he said girlfriend. A tear slid down my cheek as I mentally tried to lie to myself.

The sound of boots on the trail behind me made me look up over my shoulder. Cory was jogging down the path, his tan cargo shorts and his black t-shirt covered with some dirt from being in the woods. He stopped when he saw me, giving me a confused looked. “Abby, why did you take off so fast?”

“Are you fucking joking right now? You can’t be that stupid.” I replied, turning away from him. Pushing myself off the tree, I ran my hands through my hair.

“What’s the matter? You don’t like Jen?” He asked. I gaped at him, amazed at how innocent he sounded. Did he really not understand why I was so mad right now?

“You have a girlfriend, Cory. That’s the problem.”

“What’s the big deal?”

“What happened to waiting for me? You said you would wait for me to turn 16 so we could be together!” I exclaimed. I knew Jennifer could probably hear me but I didn’t give a damn. The entire woods could probably hear me.

“That’s an entire year from now, Abz. Did you think I was just going to pretend that other girls didn’t exist til then? Besides, you’ve had crushes on other people before and I never got mad at you.” I let out a frustrated sigh.

“That was WAY before everything that happened this past year. You told me you wanted to be with me and that I was worth waiting for, remember? You waited like a month before finding someone else.”

“Abby, you are the one that decided to not be together until you turned 16. God forbid you don’t follow your parents’ stupid rules. We could be together now but you just listen to whatever they say. Don’t blame me because you don’t care about me enough to disobey them.”

“You can’t be serious right now. If I disobey them and they find out, they won’t let me see you anymore. Period. I’ve already been through that once before. I’m not doing it again. I’m tired of the world deciding what our friendship should be like. For once, I have some power in what happens there. I thought you agreed with me that waiting was a good idea.”

“No. You decided and left me with no choice in the matter.” He said, glaring at me. “I do care about you, Abz. A lot. I would rather be with you than any other girl on the planet. But I’m 16 years old. Discovering girls is something that’s going to happen right now.”

“Yeah? Well, go discover you a new best friend then. Cause I never want to see your face again.”

I stormed all the way home, tears streaming down my face as I walked. Daddy’s truck was gone but Grams car was tucked into the drive way. I flew into the front door, hoping no one was there. Grams was on the couch reading though and I could hear Momma humming to herself from upstairs. Grams looked up when I entered, slightly alarmed to see my tears.

“Abby, what’s wrong?” She asked, closing her book.

“Boys suck. The whole species of them. I wish they never existed.” I said, trying to wipe my face off. She patted the couch next to her to tell me to sit. Dragging my feet, I walked over and plopped down.

“Which boy and what happened?” Biting my lip, I glanced at her.

“Gram, can you keep a secret?”

“If you lost your virginity, I will die right here.” She warned, pointing a finger at me. I shook my head.

“It’s not that.” I replied. She let out a sigh of relief, putting her hand on her chest.

“Oh, thank Jesus. Thought for sure it was going to be that. Okay. Your secret is safe with me. What’s up?”

“Cory has a girlfriend. Even though he told me he was going to wait for me to be 16 because of Mom and Dad’s stupid rule about dating.” She gave me a small smile, gripping my hand in hers.

“I’m sorry, dear. Boys will forever be known as the only living creature that doesn’t think with its brain. Did you tell him how you feel?”

“Yes! I told him he was stupid and that he knew how I felt about him.”

“No, Abby. Did you tell him how you felt about him?”

“Well, no. But he knows that I like him like that. That’s why he agreed to wait. But now he’s dating Jennifer Dunbar from school and they are so happy and in love. Makes me want to punch a kitten.” She tried her best to hide her smile as she looked over at me.

“I’m sure Cory didn’t do it to hurt you. The way that boy cares for you is something I’ve never seen before. He’s smitten. You can’t blame him for having a girlfriend though. We can’t help the way we feel sometimes. You should be happy for him.” I looked at her like she had two heads. She might as well had for the nonsense she was saying.

“I should be happy for him? He ripped my heart out and stomped on it! Why the hell should I be happy for him?”

“Because he would be happy for you, wouldn’t he?” She asked. I made face of disgust. Not because of what said but because I knew she was right. If I had found some I was happy with, Cory would still find a way to let me know he was happy for me. I sighed, rubbing my face with my hands.

“I suppose so. I just thought Cory was the one, Gram.”

“He still might be. You never know what could happen. You’re only 15. You have so much time left in your life. Believe me. This isn’t the end of the world. I know it feels like it but it’s not. If you and Cory are meant to be with each other, something will let that happen. Until then, you gotta live life being the best person you can be. Even if that means being happy when you aren’t happy about it. Besides, you have a lot more going on in your life than worrying about a boy.” I nodded, knowing she was right. Above us, there was a small crash followed by Momma laughing with a cackling sound. Grams sighed, standing from the couch. “I should go check on her. This morning, she had an episode and threw all your father’s shoes out the window into the backyard.” She walked over to the stairs and heading up them.

Momma’s mental health has been on a steady decline these last few months. After my parents broke the news about her illness to me, I began to see what they were talking about. All the weird things my mother did weren’t just signs of a free spirit. She was indeed sick. Most times, she was okay. She’d have little freak outs that weren’t serious. Lately though, she’s been getting more physical in her outbursts. She’ll throw things at my father, calls Grams horrible names and break things when she feels the need to. Last week, she got upset about the color of the hallway upstairs. She kept saying it was an evil color. Taking matters into her own hands, she chucked all her paint jars at the walls until it and the carpet were covered with the paint. I spent an hour trying to scrub it off the floors but it was no use. Dad said he was going to replace it with some hardwood any way to help her feel better about it. I felt bad for him because even though Momma was the sick one, he was the one who was sad all the time. He never really said much about how he was doing but I knew it was taking a toll on him. He’s been coming home later and later from work and he smells like beer when he gets here. I’m very worried that something is going to happen to him, leaving me with my batty mother and my grandmother.

I heard Grams upstairs talking to Momma who was still laughing louder than I’ve ever heard someone laugh before. It reminded me of an evil witch. Standing, I walked into the kitchen to put the waters I had brought with me to the park back. I shoved them back in the fridge, pulling out the chicken that was thawing in there. It was getting close enough to dinner time that I decided to start cooking. I chopped up the breasts into smaller pieces and then coated them with garlic and onion pepper. Putting a pan on the stove, I turned the burner on and poured olive oil in it. While waiting for it to heat, I washed my hands and pulled out a bag of frozen broccoli from the freeze. I tossed it in the microwave and started it, hearing the food pop as it heated. Grabbing a chunk of chicken, I set it in the pan and it sizzled the way I wanted it to. I scrapped the rest of the chicken off the cutting board and into the pan. The smell of the garlic and the onion powders filled the chicken, making my stomach growl. I hadn’t eaten anything today, too preoccupied with everything that was going on.

Once the broccoli was done, I drained out the extra water before adding it to the chicken. I pulled two cans of alfredo sauce from the cupboard near the stove and popped them open with the handheld can opener. I added the sauce to the pan, stirring it as I went. Over my head, I heard more crashes and my mother’s laughter turned to crying. It was the usual wailing sounds she made all the time when she was upset. It used to scare me but now I was so used to it that it didn’t faze me a bit. I finished dinner and set the table, making sure to keep some aside for Dad when he made it home. Grams came down stairs as I served the food, shaking her head as she walked through the living room.

“Your mother isn’t hungry right now. I’ll bring her some food later. I’m starving though! It smells delicious.” She said, smiling at me.

“Thanks, Gram.” We sat down and ate dinner, talking about what I planned for the next day and the rest of the summer. It wasn’t much now that I had told Cory to get lost practically. We had made plans to spend all summer together. Not sure where that stood now. Momma continued to make noises and wail all through dinner, occasionally stopping now and then to throw something. When I finished my food, I stood and carried my plate into the kitchen. Setting it in the sink, I sighed and closed my eyes. Grams had been right about what she said before. There were more important things going on right now for me to just focus on whatever was going on with Cory. Granted, it made me feel like shit but so did everything else going on. What made him so special that I thought he wouldn’t too?

I did the dishes and helped Gram make a plate for Momma. Her food had to be on a plastic plate with plastic spoons to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. Grams headed upstairs to give her dinner while I went to my bedroom. The sun was beginning to set as I sat at the desk, staring at the notebook laying open on top of it. Grabbing a pen, I started writing about a girl whose mother starts going crazy because of an evil spell casted by a horrible wizard. The girl has to find a way to reverse the spell before her mother dies. There were some action scenes, a bloody battle and a kiss between a soldier and the girl. In the end, the girl saves her mother and everyone rides off into the sunset. It was a nice thought. I wish there was some kind of spell I could use to fix my mother. I knew there wasn’t though. She was sick and there was no cure for this kind of sickness.

“Hey, kiddo.” Dad’s voice said as my bedroom door open. Glancing up, I saw him stand there. He smelt like beer but it wasn’t over powering. He looked tired and worn out, his usual look these days. I gave him a smile, closing my notebook.

“Hi, Daddy. How was work?”

“Same old, same old. How was your day?” I shrugged, not wanting to tell him about my fight with Cory or the issues we were having.

“Boring. There’s dinner for you in the microwave.”

“Thanks. I saw it. Did you cook it?” I nodded. “It looks great. I think you should start cooking every night then.” He smirked at me which I returned.

“How’s Momma?” I asked, hesitant.

“She’s sleeping now. Was she bad today?” He questioned. I shook my head.

“No more than usual. Pretty sure she broke something though.”

“Just one of her perfume bottles. Grams already cleaned it up. I’m gonna eat and head to bed. Don’t stay up all night, Abz.”

“I won’t. Night, Dad.”

“Night.” He shut the door and I heard his boots walk up the hallway. The sound of the microwave beeping drifted down my way and soon the sound of silverware of a plate followed. After a few minutes, I heard him set the plate in the sink before heading upstairs. The house fell silent after he climbed into bed, his light snoring coming shortly after. Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my lap. My jean shorts were beginning to fray on the edges, the light-colored denim knotting into strands on my thighs. My white tank top clung to my skin from the heat in the room. It was hot but it was warm. Standing, I walked over to the bedroom window and opened it. A cool breeze blew in, billowing the curtains around it. Turning around, I went back to my desk and opened the notebook again.

Ting.

Ting.

Ting.

I thought I was hearing things at first. Looking around my room, I searched for the source of the noise. Something hit my barefoot though, causing me to glance down. It was a small pebble, another rolling in next to it from the window. Walking over, I stuck my head out and found Cory standing below me. His hands were filled with the little stones and he was doing his best to see in my window. Even thought I was on the first floor, it still stood taller than most people. I sighed. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to talk to you.”

“So talk.”

“Can’t I come in so your Dad doesn’t hear me?” He asked. I nodded, knowing it was a better idea. Bending down, I grabbed the step stool I keep under the window for him and handed it out the window. He took it and quietly set it up, climbing up the three steps so he could hoist himself into the window. Once he was inside, we awkwardly stood there not talking. Finally, he cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his head. “I’m sorry about earlier. That was a dick move on my part.”

“A tad.” I replied, crossing my arms. “But I’m not mad at you anymore.”

“You aren’t?” He asked, surprised.

“No. I should have been happy for you and Jen. I was jealous and out of line. I’m sorry.” It was a lot harder saying these words than I thought it would be. I wanted to pinch myself for lying. “I’m not going to tell you that it didn’t bug me though. It did. A lot. But I understand it.”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you, Abz. I was just hoping you would like her. What you think of her is important to me.”

“I know. She’s a nice girl. I just think I let my emotions cloud my judgement. This whole thing is confusing to me, Cory. First, we were best friends. Then, we were more than that. Now, we’re just awkward friends. I told you I didn’t want this to ruin our friendship and I feel like it’s doing exactly that.”

“Well, it can only ruin it if we let it. You’re always going to be the most important person in my life, Abby. You’ve been the one person I can count on this whole time. I’m not going to just let you walk out of my life over a stupid fight. We can fix whatever is going on.”

“I think we can too. To do that though, I think we need to stay friends.” I glanced at him to see his reaction. He pursed his lips for a moment before sighing.

“You don’t want to try being boyfriend-girlfriend?” He asked.

“I thought I wanted to but then I saw what it was doing to us. I don’t want to risk our relationship on some feelings we might not have in a year.” I sat on the bed, him sitting next to me. “I do have feelings for you, though. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that but I’m gonna have to just deal with it. I don’t care if you date other girls. It’s your life.”

“I have feelings for you too. It’s not like I met Jen and they disappeared. I just hate thinking that I’m pressuring you into doing something you don’t want to do. If you want to stay friends, we can stay friends. If you want to be more than that, I’ll try that too. Anything you want to do, I’m okay with.”

“How about we see where we stand in a year? If we still have these feelings, we will give it a try. If not, we will just stay friends. Until then, you can date whoever you want. Well, not who ever. If I don’t like them, they gotta go.” He smirked at me, shaking his head.

“You have to approve my girlfriends now?”

“Well, yeah. I need to know whether or not I can kick their asses if they hurt you before you commit to them.”

“That leaves out pretty much every girl in our school.”

“Hey, I can still kick your ass any day.” I replied, bumping against his arm. He laughed, wrapping an arm around my shoulders in a friendly hug.

“Only because I let you.”

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