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Chapter Four: Missy

I was at home a few days later sitting at the kitchen table staring into a sad ham sandwich. Kay walked in, holding the hand of a girl a bit older than me. It took me a minute to realize it was Missy.

“Fuckkkk.” I groaned and got up to leave the kitchen. I went to my room and landed face down on my bed, groaning into the pillow. “Fuckkkk meeeee.”

I heard Kay’s voice from the kitchen and knew she was making a deal. There was a short knock on my door. “Go awayyyy, Kayyy,” I yelled into the pillow.

The door opened and someone sat down beside me. I looked up and saw Missy, stuffing a small clear baggie into her jacket pocket and looking at me sympathetically.

“Girl, stop being so pathetic.”

“What the fuck do you want?” I sat up and moved away from her.

She put her hand on my knee. “Look, I’m sorry, you didn’t know what you were getting into. But I thought you deserved to know about me and Sam.”

I pushed her hand away. “Can you leave, please?”

She took the bag out of her jacket and opened it, putting a finger in the white powder and rubbing it on her gums. She offered it to me. I stared at the bag.

“It’ll make you feel better.” She smiled.

I shrugged and stuck my finger in the baggie and doing as Missy had done. My mouth went numb and my brain buzzed electrically. I widened my eyes at her.

She smiled. “You wanna go for a walk-and-talk, girl?” She took my hand, pulling me from the room before I had a chance to object.

As we walked down the street, I only half heard what Missy was saying, my mind swimming and yet oddly alert at the same time. The color of the leaves flashed brilliantly bright and the sounds of Missy’s heels on the concrete felt like music to my ears.

Missy had a lot to say about Sam. Hearing his name immediately brought me back down.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Sam’s complicated,” she said again. She stopped and put her hands on my shoulders. “Look. Me and him are meant to be together. We have a history. I just don’t want a sweet little thing like you getting hurt. Or in the way.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, why aren’t you together then?” I pulled away and started walking again, a skip in my step despite the context of the conversation.

She went on and on with excuses and reasons until I forced her to stop. I spun around, making her stumble back in surprise. “So, are you gonna threaten me or what?” I spat. “’Cause you’re wasting my fucking time.”

She smiled manically. “Yowza honey, you’re fiery.” She brushed off her skirt and started walking away from me. “I have a feeling it’ll work itself out!” she called back, walking faster.

As soon as she was out of sight I ran behind a bush and threw up.

I stood outside Sam and Julianne’s place for awhile, staring at the bricks of the apartment building, and the window that was definitely Sam’s bedroom or maybe Julianne’s or maybe just their neighbor’s. I wished for that little black hole to swallow me up. There was movement in the window and I ran for cover into the lobby. There was no way I was unseen. I had no choice but to go up now.

“Isa?” Sam’s voice came from the top of the stairs.

“Fuck, fuck,” I whispered, putting on a strained smile.

He came down the stairs and hugged me off my feet. All the sickness in my stomach disappeared suddenly and all I had learned was momentarily forgotten. He pushed me behind the stairs and kissed me against the wall.

“I’m happy to see you.” He smiled.

“Me too,” I sighed, meaning it.

“I got you something.” He pulled a slightly squished daisy from his back pocket and put the stem between my teeth.

I giggled and kissed him through the stem. We sat behind the stairs and played with each other’s fingers. Eventually, I took a deep breath and asked, “Do you want to leave this city one day?”

“In a heartbeat,” he laughed.

“You left for college though, right?”

His brow furrowed in confusion. “Julianne told you that?”

I nodded.

He sighed. “That’s just something she says. I never went to college. Never planned on it. She makes shit like that up.”

“Why would she do that?”

He shrugged. “Beats me, babe. She lives inside her head.”

“So…where did you go?”

“Just, uh, drove around, slept in my car for awhile…just needed to figure my shit out.”

I didn’t want to ask, thinking I already knew what it was he needed to figure out, and I didn’t want to talk about her. We sat in silence, my mind clouded with the image of Missy’s face.

“What’s on your mind?” He ruffled my hair.

Without thinking I quietly asked, “Do you…want to leave? Now?”

He smiled, thinking I was kidding. “Yeah, sure.”

My heart exploded. I jumped up. “Let’s go, then! Let’s get out of here.”

He stared at me from the floor. “Like…for real?”

I pulled him up and dragged him upstairs and into his room where I furiously started throwing his clothes into a duffle bag. I was becoming increasingly more excited, wildly jumping around the room.

He stared at me, bewildered. “Isa, what are you doing?” He grabbed my arms to restrain me. “I wasn’t serious. We can’t run away! I mean, like, we’re not even in a real relationship thing or whatever…Isa?”

My face fell, dark clouds hovering above my head. The condescending expression on his face made me feel stupid and childish.

Just then the front door burst open and Julianne came screaming in, throwing her things everywhere and yelling at no one in particular.

I looked at Sam and he took the bag from me and put it back down on the bed, shaking his head. We went out into the kitchen and found Julianne crying on the floor in front of the fridge, a cheap bottle of vodka open in her hand.

“What happened?” Sam and I said in unison.

She glared at us both, her eyeliner and mascara smearing down her face.

“Fuck you Sam!” she screamed. “Fuck you and your whole fucking gender.”

I sat down beside her as she swigged from the bottle. Sam was not phased by her insult and sat down on her other side. I did what she did when I was upset and put my arm around her, stroking her hair. “Tell me about it, honey.”

“Men,” she explained simply. Her latest conquest had gotten more serious than she had intended, yet he didn’t feel the need to tell her about the sling of others he was seeing on his off hours.

She spat, taking a swig from the bottle.

“Did he know you were even…together…?” Sam asked, his words ringing truer to our interrupted conversation than to the current one.

She screamed in his face and pushed him back, falling onto my shoulder in tears. I patted her head and shushed her, ignoring Sam’s eyes boring into me above her head. He got up from the floor and shrugged. I looked longingly towards the bag on his bed and back at him, watching as he went back into his bedroom, walking away from me.

Later that night all three of us were lying on Julianne’s bed, the bottle of vodka plus another lying empty on the floor. Julianne had drunk herself into a happy stupor and was slurring through a long and seemingly unending confession of love for the softness of her pillow. Sam had not wanted to get involved with our denouncement of the male species, but after the consistent increase in volume, he decided to join in instead of trying to sleep through it. He was sloppy drunk, as was I, and his fingers were slyly unhooking my bra under my shirt.

I asked Julianne for the hundredth time if she was going to be okay. She smiled dreamily, drifting off to sleep. I grabbed the cigarette she had in her hand before she dropped it and stamped it out on the bed post.

Sam staggered off the bed and pulled my now loose bra and shirt off my head in one swoop. I giggled and covered my chest with an arm, pushing him away so I could pull a blanket over Julianne.

He picked me up and slung me over his shoulder, I laughed loudly and covered my mouth with my hand so as to not wake Julianne. He threw me onto his bed and ripped off the rest of my clothes. We drunkenly ravished each other for the remainder of the night, the previous events temporarily forgotten.

With great effort, I had all but forgotten about Missy until I saw her again. She was popping up a lot lately, and her presence gave me a queasy feeling. She had only brought bad things into my life.

I was hanging out on the stairs of my apartment lobby, reading the last, most devastating chapter of “Passion in the Wind”. I was more than surprised when a brief glance up revealed Missy’s dirty, scraggly blonde hair peaking out from behind the mailboxes. I caught her eye from where I was seated on the floor and she smiled meekly and waved.

I raised the book to cover my face. She took that as an invitation to come towards me.

“Hey, girl!” She smiled widely, revealing a missing tooth on the bottom row. It probably wouldn’t have been noticeable if she never opened her mouth.

I ignored her.

She sat down beside me and took the book from me. “I just wanted to apologize to you, girl.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why? To make yourself feel better? Just leave me alone.”

I remembered the first time I saw Missy in our kitchen, begging Kay for a discount because she was underage. She had red hair then. When she saw me she made the kind of face you might make at a sundried racoon dead on the side of the road. It was an ugly face. It was as if she knew she’d have a reason to hate me in the future.

I tried to grab my book back from her and she threw it on the ground, out of my reach. “I’m not actually here to apologize.”

I snorted. “Shocker.”

“Listen, kid. I think you should listen for a second.” She pushed me back when I reached for the book again. “I’m kind of worried about Kay. Your mom.”

I shook her off and stared at her. “What? Why?”

She pulled out a little baggie of white powder and put some on her pinky finger, snorting it up her nose. She handed me the bag and I took it, feeling that same rush as the last time.

We sat there for a few minutes, not talking, our breathing speeding up. Finally, she said, “I don’t know, there just seems to be something off, I guess? I mean, when’s the last time you talked to her?”

Her accusatory tone angered me. I stood up and grabbed my book, leaving her on the floor. “What the fuck do you know, Missy? I’m sure it’s nothing.”

I went back to Sam and Julianne’s place, my mind rattling with excitement and frustration. I let myself in, the apartment quiet.

“Hello?” My voice echoed.

I turned the corner into Julianne’s room and saw her straddling a scruffy looking guy. The air was warm and moist from skin on skin contact.

I was about to back out and give them privacy when she glanced back and spotted me, shrieking and falling off the guy. “Isa!”

“Uh, sorry, I…” I stopped, stunned, when I realized who she was straddling. Ty. “Wow.”

I left the room, Julianne, scrambling after me. “Uh, Isa…”

“Where’s Sam?” I asked, ignoring the boob that had popped out of her makeshift blanket dress.

“Uh, Isa, I’m sorry if you…”

I walked into his room. It was empty. I remembered he was working, pulling a double shift at the shitty convenience store down the street. I sighed and sat down at the kitchen table. She sat beside me, apologizing.

“What are you doing?” I interrupted, ignoring the sting of betrayal slowly rising in my chest. “You’re gonna give him blue balls.”

Julianne stared. “Isa, I’ve been wanting to tell you...I…I mean, at first it was just a rebound…and I know I set you guys up, but…”

Ty’s protests towards the “rebound” comment came from the bedroom.

I shook my head, unable to think of a reason that made sense as to why it should bother me. She knew I didn’t like him, so what was the big deal? I put my hand over her mouth to shut her up. “Yeah, yeah, I don’t care. I didn’t like him…but…really, why Ty? He’s such an ass.”

Ty yelped again.

She broke free of my grip and laughed. “He has a nice dick. You know.”

I bit my lip and nodded, not knowing that was the kind of thing I should have noticed.

Julianne didn’t seem convinced. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it would make a difference. “Do you like him?” I looked her dead in the eye.

Her face lit up. “Actually, yeah. I know, it’s fucked up, right? I don’t really know what to tell you…” She sighed dreamily.

A strange sadness bloomed in my stomach but I smiled at her. “Then it’s fine, Julianne. Don’t worry about it. I’m glad you’re happy.”

She squealed and kissed my cheek, leaving me at the table as she bounded back into her sweaty love bubble.

I left the apartment, suddenly feeling unimportant.

I wandered around for awhile, stopping at a park bench to ponder Julianne and what her love meant to me, but quickly grew anxious. I tried not to make it obvious that I was heading towards Sam’s convenience store, but like I just happened to be in the area, and needed a candy bar immediately.

Sam was always asking me to visit him at work. He had a thing about fucking in public places, and the idea of doing it in his place of work, in the back storeroom while customers wandered just outside the door, unaware, made him extremely excitable. Sometimes, just talking about it would be enough for him. I, however, was not so enthusiastic. The idea of someone possibly seeing me made me uncomfortable. It didn’t stop him from trying at the most inopportune times. But, I needed a distraction, something to make me feel better.

I walked into the store, frowning at the loud bell that signalled my entrance. Sam looked up from the register and immediately got a conspiratory look on his face. I smiled, but I was sure it looked more like a grimace.

There were only two other people in the store, but they looked like they were doing the same thing I was: killing time and giving themselves somewhere to be.

Sam came over to me, a huge grin on his face. He kissed my cheek with a growl. I was suddenly nervous and pretended to be interested in his job, asking technical questions about the register and the cigarette case. He brushed them off and asked if I would like to see the storage room. I hopped up on the counter and ignored him, continuing with my questions.

He would not take no for an answer and instead picked me up and carried me to the back. The other customers paid no attention. As soon as the door swung closed, he began fumbling with his belt. I looked around anxiously, regretting my decision.

“Sam, maybe…”

His pants were off and he started on mine. “Baby, don’t be scared, no one will see.”

He ripped down my pants and underwear and pushed me into a shelf, taking me from behind. I was nervous, so it hurt a little.

After we were done we went back to the front, the customers still wandering around, as if nothing had changed.

I decided to bring up the idea of leaving together again, to test if maybe Sam loved me the way I thought Julianne had.

He groaned in frustration at my suggestion. “Isa, please.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Why are you bringing this up again? You don’t make any sense.”

Say it, I thought.

“I told you, we’re just…hanging out. Don’t make it complicated.”

The wave of disappointment crashed down on me and I bit my lip, tears threatening to spill over. He had failed the test.

I nodded my head. A customer came up to the counter and I mumbled I had to go. I slipped out before he could say anything else.

I dragged my feet, heading towards home, hoping to end up somewhere else. I checked the cracked face of my wrist watch and realized that school would be out soon. Maybe I would stop and see how the kids from my class were doing.

I picked up the pace and walked straight past my apartment building towards the drab gray school on the next block. I stood on the sidewalk by the front door, waiting for the bell.

At the shrill ringing of the bell, hundreds of sad looking children and teachers came running out of the doors. I saw several people I knew, and nodded at them as they passed, a few of them looking back at me in confusion.

I spotted a boy I had been friends with before named Elliot. He was a couple years younger than me and was picked on for being geeky, but he had always been sweet to me, even when I had to be mean to him in front of others. His eyes were glued to the ground so I had to go up to him and grab his arm to get his attention.

He smiled hugely and jumped up and down so hard his glasses almost fell off his face. He asked me if I would like to go to his house with him for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told him that was a great idea.

He held out his arm and I linked mine with his, skip stepping the few blocks to his house. Elliot’s family was decently wealthy for the area. I knew this because they lived in a house, not an apartment, and their fridge was always full of name brand foods, like real Coke, and not the store brand cola.

Elliot’s mom wasn’t home, but she had left out the ingredients for sandwiches. We made four sandwiches each. It was way too many, and we each could only finish two, lying down on the living room floor afterwards, too full to move.

Elliot sighed. “I hate school, Isa.” I smiled, despite the hurt in his voice. I loved how innocently he spoke. “I want to leave, like you, but my mom won’t let me. You’re so lucky.”

“What happened at school, Elliot?” I remembered the things that kids would do to him, and I had prayed that he would be okay, even after I left. He pushed his glasses up the brim of his nose and frowned. My heart ached protectively. I sat up, putting his head in my lap. “Tell me everything,” I whispered.

He told me about the mean kids, and how he felt like he would never, ever fit in. His words rang in my ears and I knew what he meant. But I also knew that Elliot could never fit into my world, either.

I didn’t answer his questions about me directly, because Elliot knew nothing about what life could really be like. I wanted him to stay that way, so sweet and naïve. I needed to protect him from the real world. Elliot seemed to believe every word I said.

“You’re so…grown up. How do you get people to stop, like, treating you like a child?” His question made me sad. “I don’t know, Elliot.”

He repositioned his head on my lap and started drifting off to sleep. “I missed you, Isa,” he mumbled.

I stroked his hair. “Me, too.”

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