03: Five Things
I slammed my hand down on the alarm snooze button.
“Too early,” I grumbled.
Way too early.
Perhaps if I hadn’t stayed up so late doing work, since I felt guilty for not doing any Friday and Saturday night, I wouldn’t be so tired. As it stands, I did... so I was tired. Via my bathroom mirror, I was dead tired.
The bathroom door swung open and Mom stepped in, not seeing me.
“Boo,” I said in monotone, not really trying to scare her.
Her gaze lifted, but she didn’t scream until she saw my hair. She slapped a hand to her chest and shook her head, horrified.
“Stop being so dramatic,” I said under my breath.
She rolled her eyes. “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that bird’s nest resting on your head. And look at your eyes--oh, Grace, this is the point of make-up.”
Make-up had no point at all. If I wanted to wear a mask, I’d get a wolf mask. They’re far cuter than cake-faced teenagers.
“I just woke up. What do you want from me?”
It was rhetorical, but she answered anyway, “For you to go to bed earlier. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can lag in the beauty department.”
“I’m not trying to impress anyone.”
Mom exhaled, her vodka tinged breath making my nose crinkle. “Baby girl, I worry about you. Don’t you want to impress someone? Don’t you want to catch their eye? A boyfriend--or a girlfriend, I don’t care what you prefer--is normal at your age. I don’t want that big brain of yours keeping you from experiencing life.”
Heaving a sigh, I bowed over the sink, twisting the cold hand to splash watch on my face, then reached for the washcloth hanging on the silver towel bar. “I’m not a lesbian,” I mumbled.
“As I said, it doesn’t matter so long as one way or another I get grandchildren in the far, very far, future.” She gave me a pointed, yet playful look, but it shifted to the more serious side of things when she took a step forward and bumped her hip with mine. We stared at each other in the mirror as she spoke, “I want you to promise me something, Gracie.”
I tilted my head, waiting for her to continue.
“Five things,” she said.
I raised an eyebrow when she didn’t continue. “Five things what?”
“Throughout the year I want you to do five things a normal high schooler would do.”
“Normal? What’s normal? Normal is irrelevant, it’s a matter of opinion--”
“Grace, you can’t play stupid with an IQ as high as yours. Would it be easier if I told you exactly what I’d like you to do?”
I pursed my lips to the side, contemplating what they could be. My thought pattern was different from hers, from my brothers... from most people. A free school counselor at my old school took the time to explain it, so I wasn’t saying it to be difficult. I was saying it from an ‘over-educated-psychologist-attempting-to-give-back-to-the-poor-community-he-came from’ perspective.
“Okay. What are your ideals of normal?”
“Number one: I want you to make a friend. Not an acquaintance, or someone you’re tutoring, but an honest friend; number two: I want you to go on a group date--”
“A group date?”
“A date with a guy, his friends, and your friends. Remember, there’s safety in numbers, Gracie.”
I nodded and gestured for her continuation.
“Number three: your first kiss; number four: the prom--you’re date then will probably have to be a Junior or Senior to attend though; number five, and this is the most important, I want you to have more fun. Go to a party, learn how to swim, go bowling, maybe even a couple of theater movies, just do something else besides reading and the animal shelter.”
Most of them were reasonable requests. One and five--minus the learning how to swim and probably the party too--had already been on my list of improvement. “I’m not sure about three, but I think the others are attainable.”
“Why not three?”
My shoulders slumped and I bowed my head. “I don’t know. I guess, well, I want to be attracted to the guy.”
She nodded and wrapped an arm around my waist. “Have you ever been attracted to a girl?”
I rolled my eyes. “Mom.”
She held a hand up, warding me off. “Okay, okay. So, if you’ve never been attracted to a guy or a girl, how do you know?”
“Though I’ve never had a crush or have experienced a high level of attraction, I’ve made the reasonable deduction based on bouts of mild interest that I would indeed be attracted to the opposite sex.”
“Lord, why can’t you talk normal?” she mumbled under her breath.
“You always told me to go against the grain, not with it. So why would I want to talk ‘normal’ to begin with?”
Mom smiled and tugged the ends of my hair. “You’re right. Now get ready. What do you want for breakfast? I’ll make you something.”
I hesitated. The eggs and sausage links sounded wonderful, but I didn’t want her around a stove. “It’s okay, I’ll cook it.”
Mom’s wide smile dipped, but she nodded. “Alright babe, I’ll go wake your brother up.”
By the time he was up, showered, and dressed, I was ready and the remainder of the sausage links were sizzling in the squared cast-iron skillet.
Jack clutched his stomach and eyed the plates filled with sunny-side-up eggs, sausage, and chocolate chip pancakes--Mom wasn’t going to approve of those, but we had the chips and they were my favorite--with a side of orange juice.
“Man, I’m starved.”
I tossed a smile over my shoulder and forked the last pieces of sausage out of the pan. “You always are. You can eat now.”
“No, you wait for me, young man!” Mom called from the bathroom. She exited fast, knowing Jack was two seconds away from devouring everything.
“You have toothpaste on your chin,” I said.
She scrubbed it off and presented her face to me again. “Is it gone?”
I nodded and watched with a smile as Jack shoveled a pancake in his mouth. Mom frowned at him and knocked him in the shoulder.
“Would you stop that? You’re gonna choke,” she said as she sat down at the table with us. “Okay, my lady and germ, are you ready for the inspirational quote of the day?”
Tradition, even simple tradition such as inspirational morning quotes before school, was something my mother strived to continue, especially after the divorce.
Jack mumbled around his sausage in confirmation.
“Rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms and don’t you ever apologize for it,” Mom finished with an added pointed finger at both of us, but her gaze lingered on me.
Mom pulled me aside with the car keys in her hand before giving them to me. I frowned.
“I don’t have to work for a couple more days yet. The training class begins on the eighteenth and I-” she paused, glancing down at her entwining fingers, “I don’t think I should be driving right now. I’m sorry, I know you don’t like driving.”
My eyes widened with understanding. I thought I’d smelled more alcohol on her than usual. “Mom, it’s okay. You know your limits and you don’t endanger lives. That’s the important thing.”
She pulled me in for a tight hug and whispered for me to have a good day. To be careful. To meet a friend.
Sarah came to my mind. I hadn’t spoken to her since that first day and the run-in last Friday, but I thought perhaps she could fill that friend slot already.
After dropping Jack off at school, I maneuvered Mom’s rusting red car into the farthest parking space available and hustled towards the school, hoping to have a few moments of peace in the bathroom before everything got started, but as I plowed hard into someone’s chest and fell to the ground I knew today would not be my day.
“Jesus, are you okay?”
My breath hitched in my throat and an amplified feeling of warmth pitted in my stomach at the deep, scratchy male voice above me. I lifted my head and bit my lip to keep from gasping. I watched--stunned--as he kneeled and offered me his hand.
A smirk played on the edges of his full lips and the corner of his honey-colored eyes lifted. “Are you gonna stare at me all day from the ground or can I help you up?”
I blinked. “Huh?”
The half smirk morphed into a full-fledged, pearly white-teeth showing grin. Deciding he wasn’t going to wait anymore to help me up, he reached forward, clamping an arm around my waist and hauled me up. He then bent down and retrieved my broken book bag. Even in my non-alcohol/drug-induced inebriated state I still didn’t miss the disapproving scowl at my bag.
“Listen, I’m gonna need you to talk to me. You’ve been staring at me for like five minutes now. Are you okay? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
Five minutes. I glanced down at the ground. Five minutes?
I felt a finger under my chin, lifting my head. I closed my eyes at the sparks shooting through me. I didn’t believe in love at first sight, but I did believe in lust at first sight. I never expected it to happen to me though.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
He physically pulled me into a handshake. My mobile state has left me high and dry. I’d never felt more like an invalid than I had at that moment.
“Nice to meet you Grace, I’m Blue.”