Chapter Seven: The night before prom
Tex picked me up and we went back to his house for dinner. His mother had increasingly become more solemn when I was around, and while she wasn’t cruel to me and still continued to smile at me and talk to me, I could tell she was holding back. It was as if she was only partly there anymore, and she would excuse herself from us earlier and earlier.
On this particular night she may have had a little too much to drink. She was bold and spoke harshly at the dinner table. I’ll also add that is was one of the rare occasions when Mr. Conrad had actually joined us.
“Are you going to continue to glare at me all night, Amelia?” Mr. Conrad barked at her.
“I just might T.C.” she answered him, “What are you going to do about it? Force me to prostitute myself out so I can help your merger?”
I choked a little on my bread and had to cough twice to regain my composure. I looked across the table at Tex who was keeping his head down and his eyes on his fork, which was barely moving.
“Are you happy now dear? You’ve almost killed the gypsy.” Mr. Conrad quipped.
“I’m ecstatic then love…wouldn’t that just solve all your problems?” she asked airily, raising an eyebrow at him and holding up her wine glass as she did.
At this Tex’s head shot up. “Mother…please…” his eyes were pleading at her. She took her furious gaze off her husband, and by the time her eyes found Tex they looked so sad. I could feel the pity emanating from her.
“Yes, alright Texas, I’ll behave dear.”
Mr. Conrad grunted. “Oh, you’ll behave. That’s rich Amelia. You’re going to act like you got some sense just because of company? Let me remind you that we’d lose it all, EVERYTHING!” He bellowed, striking a fist down onto the table for emphasis. “You’ve been here all year, you’ve listened and you’ve watched. You know what we’re up against, and unless you want to start shopping at Wal-Mart instead of those hoity-toity shops you find online, I suggest you fall into place!!”
He jerked up from the table, causing it to clatter dishes as he did so. He moved to the door but turned around and called back.
“Texas Conrad!” he shouted out.
Tex sighed, but slowly turned his gaze to his father.
“Take care of it son.” His dad spat at him, “Do it sooner rather than later. The business, the lifestyle, it’s on you boy. I told you not to forget who you were.”
With that he stomped out of the room. Tex turned his head back down to his fork. Mrs. Conrad picked up whatever drink was in her glass and moved up from the table. She stopped by me and put my face in her hand, turning my eyes to her. “I am so sorry, my darling girl.” she said.
I could have sworn she was going to cry, but she just took a swig of the drink and bustled quickly from the room.
I looked over at Tex. “She didn’t need to apologize.” I told him, “It’s not the first time I’ve seen your father act a tyrant and leave the room.”
A quick smirk won over Tex’s face. He got up from his chair and came over to collect me from mine. “Come on love. Let’s go to my place.”
We walked in silence to his apartment above the garage. When we were inside he sat me on the sofa and then placed himself opposite of me.
“Why do I get the feeling you are about to tell me that Santa Claus isn’t real?” I asked him.
This awarded me another smirk and a couple of kisses. “I love you.” he said.
“I love you too.”
“Selena,” he began, “You know how I’ve been telling you about how the Texacons here are in the red and in order to get them back to the black, we are going to have to merger with a partner that can put in equal equity and share in the gains and losses?”
“I remember you telling me all of that. I confess...it’s still a bit confusing to me as to why… because I know the Texacons are still busy and making money, but all that is none of my business.”
“They are,” he assured, “the stations are still making money, but it’s just not enough to cover what my father initially projected to the banks. We are running out of time for the positive to far outweigh the negative.
Right now… we are about even, but come this time next year, if there isn’t a monumental shift to the black, the banks are collecting regardless, which will mean good-bye lifestyle for us.” He gestured his hand around the room, indicating the home he was in. I understood exactly what he meant.
“Oh no. I really hope that doesn’t happen.” as I told him this, I suddenly heard his father biting out the word gypsy, and I immediately angered, thinking that perhaps Tex was telling me all this because he was thinking I wouldn’t want him if he wasn’t rich. My eyebrows drew together and I crossed my arms. “I don’t love you for your money Texas Conrad.” I spat at him, “I wouldn’t care if you lost every cent. You could come live with me if you needed to, or if that wouldn’t do… then we could get us a cardboard box and make our own mansion out of it!”
My fierce attitude caused him to chuckle… which made me even angrier.
“I’m sorry love, really.” He said, trying to contain himself. “You’re just so adorable when you’re ticked off. So cute.”
I made to swat him and he caught my hand. He giggled a little more, and then the seriousness returned.
“I know you aren’t like that Selena. You should know me as well as I know you by now. Whether or not you’ll love me because of riches doesn’t worry me at all.”
“Then what is worrying you?” I asked him, finally showing the fright I was feeling, and had been feeling for months.
His voice caught as he tried to answer. He took a moment, cleared his throat and tried again. “What’s worrying me is whether or not you’ll love me, when you know what I’ve done, and what I have to do, in order to make this merger happen.”
He wouldn’t look at me, but he kept my hand in his and brought it up to his lips. I felt wetness against it. A tear had escaped his eyes and ran down his cheek. He quickly moved and wiped his face.
“Tex, you’re scaring me a little.” I said softly. “Please, tell me what is going on.”
He stood up and paced back and forth. I just watched him. I watched him knowing he was trying to gain courage. He was digging deep within himself, and fighting… because every part of him was trying not to tell me something, while every other part of him was trying to tell me.
I licked my lips and sat up. “There’s been someone else hasn’t there.” I asked, a tear rolling down my own face.
His eyes closed and his voice hitched. “Yes.” He admitted, “But it’s not what you think.”
I barked a laugh, “Not what I think….isn’t it exactly what I think? The man I love hasn’t been faithful to me. Is there any way that can be an alright statement?”
My tears went from light trickle to downpour in mere seconds.
He turned to me now, his hands out and pleading. “I just mean you don’t know…”
But I didn’t let him finish. “I don’t know… I DON’T KNOW!!!” I was mock laughing and had my hand turned back into my chest as I bellowed at him. “I know Tex, I KNOW. Let me assure you that I know when I kiss your lips, that someone else had recently kissed them before me. I KNOW that when I breathe you in, and I get a scent of vanilla snaking its way into my nose, that someone else has held you very close. I know Tex, I knew and I know…I just…” and I started to lose it here, I was crumbling and dying… “I just… I just…didn’t want to…BELIEVE!!”
I finished my speech with a shuttering gasp. The ache I had been holding back for months was allowed to rip me open.
Tex watched in horror. His hands covered his face and his own eyes spilled tears. “Selena please… let me explain…” he begged, “please let me just tell you exactly everything…please…before you think the absolute worst, please baby…please…”
I couldn’t speak even if I wanted to. I jerked tissues from the box on the table and held them to my face. I felt the sofa sink beside me, then saw Tex hunched over with his head in his hands. He swallowed twice before speaking quietly and softly.
“Right after this year’s homecoming” he began, “my father took me into the office and showed me just how close we are to losing everything. I asked him what he expected me to do about it. I haven’t even graduated from school yet.”
Tex got up to pace again, it seemed he couldn’t sit and talk.
“Selena,” he continued, “he told me he was glad I asked, because he was going to tell me exactly what I was going to do about it.” he paused, staring at me.
He was breathing hard and I could tell he could break at any second as well.
I wiped my face. “And…” I urged him.
“There is a very wealthy business man by the name of Tommy Ewing. He has successful businesses in the tri-state area. He has a few restaurants and a couple of convenient stores. The word got out that he was looking to get into oil and gas. My father picked up on this news and arranged a meeting. Turns out, Tommy has a daughter our age.”
“Elizabeth Ewing.” I breathed out.
“Yes,” Tex agreed, stopping to look at me.
I looked at him once, and then dropped my eyes. He moved again, and struck his fist against his leg.
“Father insisted I court Elizabeth. He told me… I am to woo her and make sure she falls for me, in order to guarantee the partnership. Tommy’s money would send us straight into the black, and we won’t lose anything. Mother won’t have to go back to working retail.”
“So,” I began, “Let me see if I understand this correctly... since around October of last year, you have
been dating, or rather courting, as you said, Elizabeth Ewing. The Elizabeth Ewing that models for Seventeen Magazine.”
“I…” Tex started, and then closed his mouth briefly. He finally answered after a moment. “Yes.”
I nodded my head. “Have you slept with her?” I asked him, a fresh wave of tears streaming from my eyes.
“Not yet.” He answered, dropping his head and rubbing his neck.
Can I possibly explain to you the feeling of complete and total collapse? If I can’t get you to imagine the hallowing out of your very heart, then let me at least tell you when you can expect to know this pain for yourself. It’s the exact moment, the very precise moment, when the one you love tells you forthright… that there is definitely a possibility that they will hold another in their arms and make love to them.
I was numb, but I could move. I typed in my phone for an uber and gave them the address of the Stop and Shop about two blocks from where I was.
“What are you doing?” Tex asked me, noticing my finished text.
I gathered my things, and slowly made my way from the couch. He moved in front of me quickly, grabbing my arms in his hands.
“Selena, what are you doing? Where are you going?” he asked me.
“Please…”I answered back. It was all I could manage. “Please.”
He gazed at me, at my face. I’m sure he knew I was gone, already in a heap inside myself. He made to grab his keys.
“No…no,” I protested, “I’m covered. I’m just going to go.”
“No Selena…please don’t do this. I don’t want you to go! I love you, and I want you always. Just sit down and talk to me.” he pleaded.
“I can’t…I just can’t….”
I was at the door now.
In a flash he was beside me, crying just as I was.
He placed his head to mine and swallowed. “Please don’t leave me baby. We can figure this out. I should have involved you a long time ago, I should have confided in you. I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t. I’m stuck baby. My father keeps using my mother as guilt over my head, and my responsibility to the family. I’m scared Selena… most of all I’m petrified of losing you! I told you now; I’m telling you now… because I know you’re not stupid, and you know something just isn’t right… please baby, please talk to me…please.”
I took a shuddering breath, “I just can’t right now…” I managed to say.
“Alright then, alright…I understand, I do… I understand. You need to think, I needed to think, I’m still lost…” He was blabbering now.
I turned the knob. He caught my hand. “Prom babe… prom tomorrow. I will be there to pick you up. Please be ready okay. I’ll pick you up, and we’ll go to prom… and then we’ll come back here and we’ll figure this out. I need you Selena, please baby. I need you.”
I left by agreeing to Prom and him following me, because he refused to let me walk by myself in the dark.
When I reached the lighted parking lot, I turned and waved him away. He stopped but didn’t leave until I was in the car and heading out of sight.
I rushed straight to my bathroom, closed and locked the door and then allowed every ripped shred of my soul to cry out into a towel. If I hadn’t muffled my sobs, I know someone would have called the police over a possible murder taking place. I cried hard and long. I don’t think I ever stopped, for when I woke up on the bathroom floor the next morning; tears were still streaming down my face.