Chapter 13: Awakened (Part 3)
After several dozen pictures and a few cramps from laughing so hard, we finally headed out for our walk. For a minute we walked in silence, which I was glad for. I was trying hard to work up the courage to reach out and hold her hand, but I kept chickening out. Finally, I settled on just making small talk instead.
“So...why do you have so many dog leashes Minnie?” I began teasingly. “It’s a little creepy how you always coordinate them to us if I’m being honest.”
“Well honestly no one asked you.” she snapped back as I rolled my eyes and stuck my tongue out at her, failing to contain a laugh as she did it back. This was what I missed the most when away from her. Just being carefree and joking around with her was something words can’t describe. “NO seriously though, I really don’t know. It’s just something that I’ve always done once I was old enough to start walking the original Caterpillar by myself. Besides, no one asked you to coordinate with us, but you won’t stop looking in my window. She joked.
“So you’re saying you’ve always been a special little weirdo?”
“No, I’m saying fuck you.” she spat as I shook my head laughing. If there was anything that I’ve learned about Maria, it was that she could definitely be a firecracker. How she was with me was a complete one hundred eighty compared to her school persona. It was like who she really was locked itself in the closet and refused to come out until we were alone again.
By the time we reached the dog park, I really was starting to regret taking the long way. So much awkward silence filled the time. By the time we hit the grass, we were slowly returning back to normal. As usual though my endless thoughts wouldn’t let me just leave it alone.
“Minnie, can I apologize?” I asked, breaking the silence as we sat on the bench.
“Sure.” she shrugged. “For what?” For a minute I just sat there trying to figure out how to word it correctly.
“For how I left a week ago. I felt terrible after that and although I wish I could explain it, I can’t.” It was still the truth, but somehow it felt like one big lie.
“Why not?” she asked and my stomach dropped and churned all at once. For the past year or so I’d been mulling over the idea of telling her and trying to find the right time to do so. Then I’d wonder exactly how much I’d be able to get through without completely breaking down the second I sat Natalie’s name. I’d convinced myself that I would answer her if she should ever ask, but now that that moment was here my mouth had gone dry. Taking a deep breath, I prepared to let it all out. In the end it would help explain why I accepted the money from her mother with such little fight.
“I just don’t want to look-” I started but was cut off.
“Hey Maria!” yelled John coming up from behind us and thoroughly pissing me off. Despite the fact that I was going to reveal my soul, I didn’t like him talking to her. This was more than just jealousy. He gave me seriously bad vibes, but I had no proof. I was so caught up in him just being here that I almost didn’t notice the little herd of chihuahuas trailing behind him. My eyes narrowed before I could stop them. I definitely knew something was up now. He hated having to babysit his cousins’ dogs and usually spent time in the locker room ranting about it. It was what led me to telling him about this park and the best days to go. Specifically days when we weren’t here. “Oh sit, what’s up Dave? Didn’t see you there.” he laughed. I tried to play along as we did the teams’ handshake, but I was getting frustrated and fast. I didn’t want to have to be that Dave today.
“Nothing much, just chilling with Maria.” I forced out, trying hard to seem nonchalant. For a moment we just stared each other down. He was clearly upset with me being here, but he wouldn’t speak on it. At least not in front of her. Whatever his plan was depended on being on her good side.
“They’re so cute!” blurted Maria bringing both of our attentions to her. “Caterpillar, Butterfly, Cocoon come here guys. Want to make some new friends?”
“I thought Caterpillar died.” he stated making us both gape at him. Only a very small circle of people knew about her deceased dog. As far as outsiders go, it was only me and one other. I had no idea who that other was. She made it clear that Clarissa only knew that she was sick. I was seconds away from interrogating him and find out what the fuck his deal was when Maria’s words stopped me.
“She did. This is Caterpillar Jr.” he mouthed an ‘oh’ as she just went back to playing with the dogs, but I couldn’t let it go. Grabbing him by the arm I dragged him a few feet away.
“What the hell are you trying to pull here John? Whatever it is, it won’t work.” I gritted out through clenched teeth trying to maintain my composure. I would protect her from him at all costs.
“I’m not trying to pull anything David. I mean you’re always talking about how wonderful she is and we constantly we the two of you together, I just thought it was time to give her a chance despite the rumors.” he smiled and it gave me chills. He was saying all the right things, but they felt wrong.
“I got my eyes on you Jonathan.” I spat, turning to walk away, but what he said next stopped me.
“You really should do something about your Jealousy Davey-boy. It’s obvious you like her.” the tone of his voice forced a growl from my throat. I couldn’t knock him out like I wanted to, but I could get close enough for him to understand.
“The only obvious thing here is that you can’t be trusted. I know for a fact that you and Clarissa have discussed her before in the least flattering way. If this is some kind of ploy to try to make life at that school worse for her, I swear I will make your life hell.”
“You don’t scare me David and you can’t believe everything Clarissa tells you. She likes to lie.” he laughed, shaking his head at me and leaving me fuming. I felt like he was taunting me. There were some things that I liked to keep hidden from Maria and so I couldn’t beat him bloody like I wanted to because she would begin wondering if it was true. I’d already dodge the rumors of Clarissa and I once; didn’t need it starting back up. “Well, I better be going. It was good seeing the both of you, and Maria?”
“Yeah?” she asked, confused. I gritted my teeth imagining how good it would feel to break his nose and jaw with my fist.
“You look beautiful today.” he smirked as she blushed and looked away. I was more hurt than anything. I told her she was beautiful all the time and she never blushed for me. I was crushed. She really did see me as nothing more than a friend and there was nothing that I could do about it. Maybe John was right and I was letting my jealousy take advantage over the truth.
“Well Minnie, I don’t know about you, but I’d say someone has definitely started to like you.” I tried to remain cool about it, but I was watching her carefully to try and decipher how she felt about it. I needed to know if I had a chance or not before it was too late to even do anything about it.
“I don’t think so. That was more weird than anything. Let’s just go. Besides, he’s not really my type.” My heart skipped a beat as I tried to find the right words to say, but I was lost. I had no idea how to respond. Foolishly I was getting my hopes up. Her blushing and refusing to look my way wasn’t helping. Was she trying to tell me something? Was she just as scared of the possibility as I was?
“What is your type babydoll?” I teased.
“I don’t know.” She paused. “I guess I like guys that are legitimately sweet and interested in me. Not those who are only doing it because they feel like one guy has been getting her attention too long. You know the rumors as well as I do MIckey. He’s not interested in me. He’s just trying to see what keeps you around and if it’s what everyone thinks it is.”
Practice had just ended and the only thing I wanted to do was go get an early dinner with Maria. Or would it be considered a late lunch? Whatever it was, I just wanted to do it with her.
“Hey Dave, you going out with the team tonight?” asked Jason.
“Sorry dude, I already have plans.” I declined as a smile came over my face. I’d only been here about six or seven months, but Maria had quickly become one of my most favorite people. I loved just talking to her and hanging out.
“Come on Jason,” John started with a suggestive smirk on his face as I rolled my eyes. Between him and Clarissa, I could never let my guard down completely. “Why would he choose us when he has Maria?” he winked.
“The fuck is that supposed to mean?” I snapped getting in his face.
“Dude I know you’re new and all, but I know you’ve heard about Maria and all of her...um...tricks.” Jason laughed again as he high-fived a few other team members. My rage was boiling to the point where I wanted nothing more than to break his face from what he was implying. “That girl is clearly the life of a party. I mean, I personally get it. I understand why you’re always hanging out with her. I mean if any of it is true I’d-” Before I knew it, I had grabbed him by his throat and thrown him up against the lockers.
“Don’t talk about her like that. You don’t know shit about her.” I growled, closing my fist tighter. “I don’t want to hear any bullshit rumors.”
“You weren’t always here Dave. How would you know what she’s truly like?” he gasped out between breaths. It took a while before I realized that I’ve actually been choking him and he really couldn’t breathe.
“Like I said, I know her.” was all I said before letting him go and storming out. Before the door closed I could hear John.
“Maybe they are rumors. I don’t know, but I think I want to find out.”
“Anyways, nevermind them. Do you still want to get lunch?” she asked, bringing my attention back to her. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I could still see John in the distance and every ounce of me wanted to chase him down and beat him to a pulp, demanding to know what he was up to. Then I looked at her, and she looked scared. I don’t know if it was because of me or because of him, but I hated seeing it on her face.
“I’ve lost my appetite, but I can still take you. It’s still my treat.’’ I offered, struggling to keep myself calm.
“Do you want to come over and hangout afterwards then? We can watch movies on my new sixty-two inch.” It was tempting. It almost felt like she knew what was going on without even trying, but I’d be damned if I slipped now and had a repeat of Persephone. I wasn’t that person anymore and I never would be again.
“Tempting, but not today Minnie. Maybe next time.” We stayed silent as we walked back home. I waited for her to take care of the dogs in my truck so that I could take the moment to breathe and calm myself. I knew she wasn’t going to come back out so I texted her.
Dave: Come on, I’m buying you food.
Maria: You don’t have to Mickey.
Dave: I want to Minnie.
A few minutes later we were driving for Slushies, tacos and cheese fries. The way her eyes lit up was the last little bit I needed to calm myself. As we pulled up to the driveway, from the look on her face I knew she was going to try one more time but I had to stop here before she could.
“I’ll see you later, okay.” she only nodded before grabbing her things and heading to her house. I felt bad, but I didn’t know what I could do about it right now. I just needed some time.