Chapter 7: Trenton, North Carolina - September 30, 2001
The mud under my sneaker made a squishing noise as I walked the creek bed. I held my hands up, keeping my balance to avoid slipping into the chilly water. Stepping up on a rock, I glanced around for another rock. There was one a few feet away. I jumped, landing on it to avoid the mud. Dipping my foot into the water, I rinsed the mud from my sneaker. It went from brown back to the white color it originally was. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Cory bent over the water looking at something under the surface. “What are you doing?”
“I found some tadpoles. Come see.” He waved me over. I jumped from my rock to another one closer to him. Kneeling down, I looked into the water. I could see the small little animals swimming around. They were mostly in a group, about fifty of them wiggling everywhere.
“Oh wow!” I said. “I’ve never seen them before.”
“Really? Frogs lay eggs here all the time. The shallow water is their favorite. That way, the babies don’t need to go very far to reach land.”
“How do you know so much about frogs?” I asked. He shrugged, standing up. I stood too.
“I read about it in a book a few years ago.” He hopped on a rock next to mine and jumped to the one after it. I did the same, keeping a rock or two behind him.
“You like to read?”
“Yeah. I read a lot. Keeps me busy I guess.”
“That’s why I do it too. I used to read all the time. I tend to write more now though. That way I can make up adventures in my head so I can read them later.”
“You make up adventures? Do you ever go on some?” He asked, looking at me over his shoulder. I shook my head.
“No. I’m pretty boring. Why? Do you go on adventures?”
“Not really adventures. More like exploring. I like to go to Getman’s Park and walk the trails. Sometimes, I go off the path and find new things people have never seen before. Only adventures I get.”
“That sounds fun, though.”
“I can take you some time. We could do an easy trail until you’re ready for the bigger ones. I even know a great spot to camp.”
“You camp up there with your family?”
“No. Just myself. Sometimes my little brother tags along if I can’t get rid of him.” He jumped off a rock and landed on the dirt on the side of the creek. I followed suit, landing next to him.
“Your parents just let you spend the night in the woods by yourself?” I asked, amazed. My mother doesn’t even let me cross the road unless she’s in a ten feet radius of me.
“Not exactly. I just kinda go when I don’t feel like being home.”
“When you don’t feel like being home? Are your mom and dad that bad?”
“I don’t live with my parents. I live with a foster family.” He explained, sitting on a patch of grass.
“A foster family?” I asked, softly. He didn’t look at me, chucking a rock towards the water. It skipped a few times before sinking.
“Yeah. My real mother didn’t want me and handed me over to the people I’m with now when I was a few days old.”
“What about your Dad?” He shrugged.
“I don’t know. He’s in jail. I’ve never met him.” I sat on the ground next to him. I had never met someone who didn’t live with their parents. All of my friends at my old school lived with both their parents.
“What are your foster parents like?”
“The husband isn’t bad. His name is Jake. We go fishing and stuff like that. He’s a good guy. His wife on the other hand is a different story.”
“Why’s that?” He shook his head, leaning back. He laid in the grass, looking up at the sky. I laid back to, lying next to him.
“What about your parents?”
“My dad works for the county as a mechanic and my mom kinda is just there. She’s a painter so she sells her work at shows and stuff like that.”
“That’s cool. You like them?” He asked, turning his head to look at me.
“I like them. They are good to me.” I replied. He nodded, turning back to look at the sky. It was bright blue with no clouds to be seen. “You should come meet them sometime. My Mom bakes these yummy chocolate chip cookies.”
“Maybe.” He fell silent, resting his hands on his chest.
“Cory?” I asked, peaking at him from the corner of my eye.
“Are we friends?” He smiled, looking at me.
“Do you want to be?”
“Well I guess so. I’ve never had a friend that was a boy before.”
“I’ve never had a friend that was a girl either.” Sitting up, I pulled my knees towards my chest.
“Do you think PJ and them will make fun of you for hanging out with me?” He sat up too, shrugging.
“Probably but I’ll kick their asses if they bother you again.” He shot me a wink before standing up. He held his hand out to me and pulled me to my feet.
“Hey! I helped you!” I exclaimed, grinning at him.
“Yes, you did. Pretty sure Brandon will have a black eye for a few more days. At least for picture day on Friday.”
“Good. That way it’ll be in the yearbook.” He started walking towards the road that led to my house. He has walked me home every day since the fight happened. He was afraid the boys would follow me home and try to get some type of revenge. I was worried too. It was nice having someone to talk to at school besides myself. We walked up the path until we were across from my house. Mom was sitting on the porch, her paintbrush in hand and a canvas propped up on the easel next to her. Cory stopped just in the tree line so she couldn’t see us.
“Hey Abby?” He asked, not looking at me.
“Does your mom ever hit you?”
“Hit me? Like to hurt me?” He nodded, casting me a look. “No. Why? Does your foster mother hurt you?” He shrugged, rubbing the back of his head with his hand.
“Don’t worry about it. I gotta get going. Do you want to go to the park with me tomorrow?”
“Sure. After school?” He nodded.
“Yeah. We can go there after last bell.”
“Okay. I’ll see you in the morning then.” I waved, turning towards my house.
“Abby, can you keep what I said between us?” He asked, causing me to stop. I looked back at him. He looked serious and scared, two things I hadn’t seen before from him.
“Sure.” He smiled, his expression changing.