All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

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It's My Life

“You could’ve been killed!” Mom yells at me as soon as we get in the car.

I roll my eyes.

“Mom. Seriously. I’m fine. It’s okay.”

“You got a closed head injury, Stevie! You weren’t wearing a helmet and you could’ve had a concussion. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced you don’t have one. Here, look at me.”

We’re at a red light. She proceeds to cup a hand over one of my eyes, then the other.

“Your pupils don’t seem to be dilating. Do I need to take you to the hospital?”

“The light’s green,” I say. “No, Mom, I’m fine. You’re overreacting. Plus, you don’t even know the right signs to look for. My pupils would have to be different sizes.”

“Were they?! I didn’t get a good look - ”

“MOM!” I whine. She purses her lips.

“Just wait ’til Zennen finds out where you’ve been...”

“You wouldn’t - ”

“He’s your step-father. He has the right to know.”

What she really means is, he’ll know how to punish me. My mom has never been a good disciplinarian. She’ll try to ground me and then feel bad, so she’ll let me off the hook an hour later. But trespassing and getting arrested? My life is over.

We pull into our driveway, and I dread every stair that I walk up; it only brings me closer to the inevitable encounter with Zennen the Führer.

“You’re not going to like where our daughter’s been,” are the first words out of my mother’s mouth upon entering the house. Thanks, Mom.

Zennen, sitting on the couch and holding a beer can, turns to look at me.

“Drugs?” he asks.

"No,” I groan, making a beeline for my bedroom. I don’t have the emotional wherewithal right now to handle the reaming I’m about to get.

“I just picked her up from the police station. Apparently, she was trespassing at the high school. She was trying to sneak into football practice.” Mom sits down at the kitchen table and puts her head in her hands. “She got hit during practice. I’m worried she has a concussion.”

“Stephanie.” Zennen stops me dead in my tracks. I was about to slip into my room. So close. I turn around to face him.

“Yessir?”

“You got arrested today?” He’s scowling at me. His hair is silver and a little long for his age. His face is textured with salt-and-pepper stubble around his mouth and up his cheeks. His watery eyes are piercingly blue, to the point where they’re scary. He’s just under six feet tall and even though his stomach protrudes, his arms are powerful. Probably from the years of lifting heavy garbage cans.

I want to run and hide, but I don’t. I glare back at him, into those terrifying blue eyes, and set my jaw.

“I guess so,” I say and shrug.

“You’re grounded,” he says. “You go to work, you come straight home. And don’t think I won’t call your boss to get your schedule.”

“Yessir,” I sigh. I’d fight it, but what’s the point? I never win with him. He’ll just prolong the punishment or tack stupid things onto it, like scrubbing the bathroom with my toothbrush.

“And if I ever hear of you going to football again, you’re dead, you hear me? You can kiss your life good-bye.”

“What? Why?!” I cry, indignant.

“It’s a man’s sport, it’s dangerous. We can’t afford any medical bills if you get injured. So the answer is no. No football. Not now, not ever.”

“I don’t know what you were thinking,” Mom pipes up. “You haven’t shown any interest in football in years. I wish your father had never introduced you to it, honestly.”

Meanwhile, the twins are sitting on the carpet engrossed in a polychrome, pinging video game. At least I pick an activity that involves actual movement and sunlight.

“You just don’t like that it reminds you of Dad,” I mutter.

“Stevie,” she sighs. “Honey.” I shake my head.

“Whatever. I’m going to bed.” I slip inside my room, semi-slamming the door closed behind me. I crash on my bed and curl up with my head on the pillow. I glare at the wall. “You hate that I remind you of Dad,” I whisper. “That’s why you won’t let me do it.”

I reach for my cassette player. It’s actually technically not mine; it’s my dad’s from the ’80s. He left it behind with all his tapes for me to keep. They’re all the songs we listened to when I was little. They remind me of childhood and happier times.

I slip the headphones over my ears and press ‘play’, drowning out the sound of video games and Zennen and Mom arguing. Tears For Fears fills my ears. A single tear makes its way down my cheek and drops onto my pillow. I wipe it away and close my eyes, focusing on the song.

"Welcome to your life

There’s no turning back

Even while we sleep

We will find You acting on your best behavior

Turn your back on mother nature

Everybody wants to rule the world.”

Am I gonna accept this defeat? Am I gonna fold and count it as a loss?

“It’s my own desire

It’s my own remorse

Help me to decide

Help me make the most Of freedom and of pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world.”

No. I won’t let them beat me. They won’t win this time.

"There’s a room where the light won’t find you

Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down

When they do, I’ll be right behind you

So glad we’ve almost made it

So sad they had to fade it

Everybody wants to rule the world."

But how? What am I supposed to do now?

"I can’t stand this indecision

Married with a lack of vision

Everybody wants to rule the world."

Wait. That’s it. It’s crazy, but it could work. It’s my best chance.

"Say that you’ll never, never, never, need it

One headline, why believe it?

Everybody wants to rule the world."

I’ll have to call Cal tomorrow. I’ll have to talk to Skinny. Get him to adjust my schedule.

"All for freedom and for pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world."

It’s my last shot. It could work. God, I hope it works. Please let it work.

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