Chapter Seven - Second Thoughts
The rest of the day passed quickly and without drama. I spent lunch time in the library, but not on the computer. As much as I wanted to see if G was online, I needed to focus on my English assignment, especially if I was really planning on working on my music assignment with Kalen after school. When the bell rung after school I walked to the front gate and stood there as I contemplated just walking home.
I didn’t want to go home though, I didn’t want to walk through the front doors and into my life as it was. I wanted to pretend, just for a moment that everything was okay. I turned around and walked through the hordes of kids leaving school on foot, until I got to the student car park. Kalen was waiting. He stood alone, looking around… searching for me. There was no smile on his face, in fact he looked kind of sad. When he finally caught sight of me mouth curved in to a smile.
“I thought you had second thoughts.” He exclaimed as I walked toward him.
“I did.” I replied honestly.
He nodded. “Fair enough. I’m glad you came in the end.”
I was just glad I didn’t have to go home just yet.
Kalen and I walked across the student car park. He pulled his keys from his hands and pressed a button. His black pontiac unlocked as we got to it. I opened the passengers door and sighed as I sat down on the seat. Most kids my age had learned to drive, some even had their first cars… it was hard not to feel slightly jealous.
“I like your car.” I murmured. “It’s really nice.”
“You want to drive it?” He asked leaning down.
I shook my head and grabbed the seatbelt. “I don’t know how. My dad didn’t let me take drivers ed.”
“Oh.” he replied, sitting down. “Maybe I could teach you.”
I turned and looked at Kalen, whos blue eyes danced as he looked at me. Did he think we were friends again? Did he pity me? I couldn’t tell.
“You don’t have to feel sorry for me. I plan on moving to the city eventually and I’ll catch the subway everywhere anyway.” I exclaimed.
“I don’t feel sorry for you.” He replied softly. “I just wanted to help.”
“We’re not friends Kalen, we’re just classmates that have to do an assignment together. I don’t need your help.”
I felt bad saying it, but I needed to. Being friends with Kalen was an impossibility.
“Right.” He said. “Got it.”
He started the car and we left the car park. Neither one of us spoke the entire way to his house. Guilt had begun to consume me as the car pulled into the driveway. I unclipped my seatbelt and looked down at my lap.
“Don’t Sweat it Willow. I don’t expect you to be my friend.” He cut me off as he unclipped his own seatbelt and climbed out of the car. “Let’s get on with the assignment.”
I got out of the car and and walked behind Kalen up the path I’d walked a thousand times, but one I hadn’t walked up for years. A flash of nostalgia hit me, as memories of the three of us playing the front yard under the sprinkler in summer. I stopped and looked at the lush green grass and before I could stop myself a tear rolled down my cheek. Back then life was simple, I barely noticed the disconnect between my parents, because I was too busy being a kid.
Kalen’s hand touched my shoulder and the memory faded, I jolted, surprised by the warmth of his hand on me. I looked up and instantly noticed the sadness in his own eyes.
I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and nodded. My mind was thinking a million different thoughts at once, and not one of them equalled me being okay. I’d already let him see to much vulnerability.
Kalen led me inside, his parents, both doctors, had always worked long hours. His sisters… all four of them had gone off to college and become doctors themselves. Kalen had been a “surprise” child. His sister closest in age was Jade, and she would almost be 30 now. The expectation I guess was for Kalen to be a doctor too, which didn’t exactly explain why he’d changed to a music class midyear.
“Parents working?” I asked as I closed the door behind me.
“Somethings never change.” He replied with a melancholic laugh.
Kalen walked to the basement door and opened it. He flicked the light on at the top of the stairs and we walked down into the huge room. Back when we’d been kids Stef, Kalen and I had planned out how we’d ask our parents if we could live together through high school once Jade had moved out. We’d even drawn up blueprints, of course before we even got to high school everything changed.
Kalen had set his room up well, the varying shades of blue that decorated it were surprisingly good. He’d done a good job. I walked over to his drawers and looked at the pictures sitting on top it. Most of them were of the football team and his meathead friends, there was even one of him a Tiffany together and then, at the back behind them all was one of us. Me, Kalen and Stefanie. We couldn’t have been more than 9. I picked it up and stared at it for over a minute. Kalen walked over and took the frame from my hands. He turned it over and taped to the back was a piece of paper. Gently he pulled the paper off and held it out to me.
I let out a gasp as I realised what it was. The blueprints, he’d kept them all these years.
“I feel like an ass.” I murmured looking at the childish scribbles. I ran my fingers over Stephanie’s name and looked up at Kalen. “You kept this.”
“Yeah.” He replied.
“About what I said.” I whispered handing the drawing back to Kalen. “Maybe I was a little to hasty.”
Kalen took the picture and met my gaze, he smiled.
“Friends?” I exclaimed.
“Friends.” he replied.
I spied Kalen’s acoustic and electric guitars in the corner. “So you need good marks? For like college admissions and stuff?”
Kalen walked over to the instruments and picked up the dark blue acoustic guitar, his fingers strummed over the strings and he walked over to his bed.
“It’s more that I need to show my parents I am good at something.” He sighed. “I’ve kind of let school work slide. I’m definitely not going to be a doctor…”
“I’m sure your parents don’t need you to prove yourself.” I replied. “They were always so kind.”
“I’ve made stupid decisions and I’ve disappointed my dad a lot, this past year especially. They don’t expect me to follow in the family footsteps… I know that much, but I need to grow up, and he needs to see that.”
I idly wondered what bad decisions Kalen had made. Dating Tiffany was obviously one of them, I didn’t really know enough about the person he’d been since middle school to know who he was now. Still it wasn’t my place to ask, so I walked to his desk and sat down on the swivel seat.
“Then let’s show him you’ve grown up… outgrown the past mistakes and that you’re really talented.” I paused and smiled. “Because you are.”
Kalen smiled and looked up at me. “So are you. Which is why we should do the show.”
I frowned, After the paint incident and then Tiffany trying to threaten me in the corridor I knew singing with Kalen was probably the worst possible thing I could do if I wanted to keep being invisible. I looked down at the floor and shrugged.
“I know I acted tough at school today… but your ex kind of scares me.” I whispered. “If the show was on the last day of school then sure. I’d smash that shit, walk out and never look back. But it isn’t…”
“Then let’s do the screen thing, lets be invisible.” he exclaimed. “Mrs Cleaver said there will be music academy scouts there. Full scholarships Willow.”
“When did she say that?”
“I overheard her talking to the drama teachers. Willow, this could be your ticket out of here.”
I nodded and leaned back in the chair. “Yeah.”
I didn’t want to get into a discussion with Kalen about why I was having second thoughts about leaving the moment school was over. We were only just friends again, and I still kind of did want to just run and forget everyone and everything that had tied me to this place.
“Let’s do it.” I said finally.
“Really?” He leapt to his feet and grabbed my hands with his, pulling me to the floor in one swift motion. He lifted me off the ground and twirled me around. I tensed up as an overwhelming awkward feeling washed over me. The last time I’d been this close to a boy I’d been so drunk I remember very little. Sensing my change in demeanor Kalen placed me down and took a step back.
“Too much?” He asked softly.
“A little.” I whispered back, my voice shaky.
The smell of rum entered my memory. That night, the night I’d not thought of for over a year came flooding back. My heart began to race and I found the swivel chair with the back of my outstretched hand.
“Yeah sorry, uh… vertigo?” I lied.
Kalen knelt down in front of me and gave me an unbelieving gaze. “I’m not an idiot. I crossed a boundary. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s not you.” I replied. “It’s me. I don’t want to talk about it, so uh… let’s get on with this assignment.”
We brainstormed ideas for songs for half an hour or so, settling on basing it about making bad decisions. It seemed the natural choice and once we started with one thought another followed. Around 5 Kalen ordered pizza. It wasn’t until almost 9:30 that we decided to call it a day, with only the first verse and chorus written.
“I should get you home.” Kalen said standing up.
“Yeah.” I replied.
I noted his parents still weren’t home once we’d made it back upstairs, the house was so quiet that the old cliche about hearing pins drop would’ve stood true. We made it to the front door, Kalen opened it and waited for me to pass through, and together we walked down the path to his car. We didn’t talk during the drive to my house, but rather than being awkward at all, it was nice… relaxing. For once I didn’t feel like I needed to think. That feeling didn’t last long. When we pulled up outside my house my heart dropped. Dad’s car was in the driveway. He was home, and I was home late. I tensed up as Kalen’s car pulled to a stop, so much I almost asked him to drive me to the nearest bus shelter. Instead I swallowed and grabbed my things.
“Thanks.” I whispered, my voice meek. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, Willow.”
I got out of the car and walked across the lawn. I turned and looked back at Kalen as I approached the door, Even from here I could see his smile. I forced a smile on my face before I walked inside and closed the door behind me. Maybe I’d slip in unnoticed, most of the time I was as invisible here as I was a school. I walked quietly through the foyer and past the kitchen door, I thought I was home free when I made it to the staircase, only for the sound of my father clearly his throat to sound like a foghorn. I froze on the spot and let my head dip forward.
“Where have you been?” He boomed.
“I was working on an assignment for school.” I replied.
He scoffed and walked across the floor until he was right behind me. “Right, and you expect me to believe that you little slut.”
“It’s the truth.” I replied.
“You’re disgusting, go to your room.”
The moment he stopped speaking I raced up the stairs thankful to be away from him and his horrible words. I had wanted to be strong and stand up for myself, but I’d already used all my stamina against one bully, I couldn’t take on another one. Once I was in my room I closed the door and leaned up against, sliding to the floor. My eyes filled with tears and within seconds they spilled down my cheeks and onto my t-shirt. Me? A slut… I closed my eyes and swallowed back the memories. Only they wouldn’t go away and I was transported back there, to that party… in my mind.
Stefanie and I had decided to rebel. It was about four months before she left me. We’d caught the bus to the city and snuck into a college party. We were barely 16, young and full of the innocent naivety teenage girls seem to not realise they possess. A few beers in and we were both over our limits. It’s hard to see sense with a veil of inebriation over you, clouding your vision. Sober, I never would have let Stefanie go off with the tall dark haired boy whose face I forgot the moment they walked away… and Sober, she wouldn’t have left me with someone whose name I never learned.
I don’t remember how we ended up in a bedroom, alone and half naked. It was all such a blur. I was barely in control of my major motor skills that I fell onto the bed ungracefully. The boy, whose smell still haunts me pressed himself against me, letting his weight crush me, keeping me down. The sound of his belt jangling as he moved above me gave me enough realization to figure out where this was going and I tried to push him off, but stronger and more sober he held me down.
It wasn’t until I spat in his face and kneed him in the balls that he stood up and called me a tease. I gathered my clothes and escaped the room, ignoring the whispers as I walked into the hall.
I looked for Stefanie for a long time. But she was nowhere to be found. Until I walked outside and down to the river behind the house. She sat on the bank, shivering in the cold. Her skirt ripped, her hair askew and her t-shirt in her hands.
We didn’t talk about it. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I guess I don’t need it spelled out. I failed Stefanie that night, maybe things would be different if…
I opened my eyes and looked my desk, Half expecting my laptop to be re-confiscated. Luckily it still sat there, which probably meant my father hadn’t realised I had it back. I needed to stop thinking, so I pulled myself up and onto the chair. I opened the lid and signed into chat.
G wasn’t online so I opened up my diary and began to write a long overdue entry
I missed a day. It feels weird not to have written to you. So much has happened and I don’t even know where to begin. Dad took my computer, which is why I missed yesterday’s entry. The thing is, right before he took it the guy I’m tutoring… he asked me to prom. I said no, that was gonna be our thing, and I don’t want to go if your not there too. Anyway. Once mom was home she gave it back to me, but I don’t know how much more I can take. Half of me wants to run away and the other half wants to stay and look out for my mom.
Kalen and I were partnered for an assignment too. At first I thought it was the worst thing ever, but I came around to the idea. I even spent the last few hours there working on it with him. He’s still in the same place… and Stef, he has a photo of us as kids, and he kept the blueprints.
I guess I underestimated him. Still he dated Tiffany, so I could be giving the guy too much credit.
I just got home and its back to reality. Dad called me a slut and it made me remember that night. Not that we were sluts or anything, the opposite in fact, Like those guys thought we were fair game because we were drunk, my father thought I was a slut for staying out late.
I’m sorry I didn’t ask you about that night, about what happened. I wish I had.
I wish you were still here.
Talk soon, Willow.