Thursday, June 28, 2012

Part 3

“Dad, I need to talk to you!”  Jimmy yelled as he roamed the house looking for his dad.  He wasn’t in his usual post in the overstuffed recliner in the living room.  He took the stairs two at a time and pounded on his parent’s bedroom door.
“Dad! Now!”
The door flew open and Dale Brown stood leaned up against it in a pair of boxers.  His face was cross with a slight hint of red on his cheeks.  “What, son?”
“Is Mom in here?  I don’t think she would want to hear this.”
Dale nodded towards the closed bathroom door. 
“Come downstairs then.”
“Sheesh, Jimmy, didn’t I ever teach you how to be patient.”
“Just put some pants on and come downstairs.”
“Watch your attitude young man.”
“Why are you in your boxers anyway?  It’s not even eleven o’clock, yet.  You don’t go to bed this early.”
Dale rubbed the back of his reddening neck.  “Uh, your mother and I were kind of in the middle of something before you barged in.”
“Wow.  That was way too much information for me.”  He pivoted on his foot and headed down the stairs.  “Hurry up, I need to talk to you.”
Dale grabbed his jeans off the bed and pulled them on.  He met Jimmy in the kitchen.
“What’s so important that I had to come down here out of earshot from your mother?”
“It’s about a girl.”
Dale massaged the bridge of his nose.  “What did you do, Jimmy?  Do you need money?”
Jimmy gritted his teeth.  “No, Dad.  I don’t need money.  Yet, anyway.  Might want to save up for bail.”
“Good Lord, Jimmy.  What did you get yourself into?”
“A few of the guys have been hazing the new cheerleader and it went too far tonight.”
“And why do you care about the new cheerleader?  I thought football was your one true love.”
“She didn’t deserve it, Dad.  And I don’t know who it was, but I have this feeling like the next time I see anyone from the football team I’m going to go off on them.  Somebody’s going to get hurt.”
“Calm down, Jimmy.”
Jimmy smacked the back of the chair he was using to lean on.  “I can’t, Dad!  Some guy Lydia doesn’t even know thought he could get his rocks off freaking her out.  I want to kill him!”
“Who’s Lydia?”
“The girl, Dad.  The one that’s been helping me with my geometry.  Remember?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“Figures.  You don’t pay attention to anything that I do,” Jimmy mumbled.
“Do you want my help or not?’ Dale spat out.
“Nevermind.”  Jimmy walked toward the stairs.  His dad grabbed his arm and stopped him. “What’d the guy do?”
“She didn’t say in so many words, but it was bad, Dad.  Really bad.”
Dale narrowed his eyes and looked at his son.  “When a lady says no, she means no.  You got that, Jimmy?”
Jimmy nodded.
“I mean it.  No means no.”  He squeezed his son’s arm.
“Loud and clear, sir.”  He slipped his arm out of his dad’s grip and rubbed the red spot it left.  “Sheesh, Dad, what happened over there to make you like this?”
“Too much,” Dale grumbled.  Jimmy looked at his dad’s eyes. They had the far off look in them that happened everytime someone mentioned Vietnam to him. 
“Tell me.”
Dale blinked his eyes to get the haunting images to leave his eyes.  He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall.  “About the girl, Jimmy.  You do what you gotta do.”
“What if it was Mom?”
Dale rested his hand on his son’s shoulder. “If someone gets hurt, I’ll look the other way.  That answer you question?”
Jimmy nodded.  Dale headed back upstairs.

Michelle Baker knocked on Lydia’s bedroom door.  When she didn’t answer, she walked in and saw her daughter sitting on her bed with silent tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Sweetheart, what happened?”
Lydia leaned her head against the wall and crossed her arms over her stomach. “Why didn’t you stay?  You never listen to me!  If you would’ve stayed, you would know!  You were too busy being mad at Daddy to even care about me!”
Michelle shook her head.  “No, Lydia.  That’s not it.  I just didn’t want to hear what you were going to say.  I can’t stand it when you’re hurting. I’ve seen how you are.  I knew I couldn’t help you, because you always want your daddy to rescue you.  He’s not a superhero, sweetheart.  Somethings you have to figure out by yourself.”
“A boy hurt me, Mama.  He did it on purpose.”
“What did he do, Lydia?” 
“Go ask Daddy.  I don’t want to say it again!”
Michelle backed out of the room and shut Lydia’s door.  She turned around,leaned against it and took a deep breath.  Lt. Baker stood next to the door.
“Did she tell you what I think she told you?” Michelle asked.
“Yes, Shelly, she did.”
Michelle closed her eyes.  “Why?  Why do the boys always do that stuff to her?  Everywhere we go.  Every GD base we’ve ever been on, they look at her and think she’s an easy mark.  I thought it would be different if we got out.”
“I thought so, too.  She doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
“She’s too pretty,” Michelle whispered.
Lt. Baker grabbed Michelle’s hand and pulled her close to him.  “She’s just like her mama.”  He kissed the top of his wife’s head.  “Beautiful on the outside, smart on the inside.”
The corner of Michelle’s mouth turned up. “If you’re trying to apologize-”
“I don’t want to fight anymore, Shelly. That’s all we’ve done since I retired from the service.  I want my wife to talk to me, to not be angry with me.  I’m sorry for the things that happened, but they were out of my control.” 
“Stop trying to fix things, Danny.  You can’t fix what I broke,” Michelle muttered.  She looked down at the ground.
Lt. Baker tipped her chin so he was looking into his wife’s eyes.“You used to let me do it all the time.  The dryer, the dishwasher, the car.  How many times have you broken that?”
Michelle pushed away from her husband.“Stop it!  Stop rubbing it in!” She turned to walk away, but Lt. Baker grabbed her arm and spun her around so she had nowhere to look but at him.  “I broke your heart, Danny Baker.  You can’t fix that.”
“I can try, Shelly Baker.”  Very slowly, he dragged the knuckles of his hand across the tearstained cheek of his wife and then  leaned in and kissed her.
The door to Lydia’s room opened and her dad took a step back from her mom. To Lydia, they looked like two teenagers that had just got caught by their parents.  “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.”
“Okay, sweetheart,” Lt. Baker answered.  He grinned.  “It’s Saturday. Don’t think you’d get much done anway.”
“I don’t want to go back to that place ever!” Lydia screamed and slammed the door.
“What are we going to do, Danny?” Michelle sighed.
“I’ll take care of it.  Her friend and I have it handled.”

Lydia hadn’t been to school all week.  Jimmy couldn’t focus on anything.  His last geometry test had a bright red D- marked on it and his football season was about to go out the window if he didn’t fix it.  Right now, he was focused on what was possibly his last starting game of the season if things didn’t change soon.  At halftime, the Warriors were down 3 to 0.  After a five minute butt chewing from Coach Greyson, the team was sitting around talking.  Jimmy looked around for Stokes, but someone’s voice caught his attention.
“Yeah, I took her out to the field and had a good time with her.”
“I bet you did, Warski,” another voice added.
“She made these little noises.  I thought I was going to finish before I started.”
Jimmy’s face turned bright red.  He headed towards Brett Warski, the second string receiver.
“Oh, hey, Brown.  Couldn’t stand not hearing about your girl, Lydia?”
Jimmy grabbed Brett by the shirt collar and threw him up against a bank of lockers.  “Tell them the truth, Warski.”
“The truth?”  Brett smiled.  “She said she couldn’t get enough of me, boys.  Said she’d be waiting for me tonight after the game.”
Jimmy slammed Brett up against the locker again. “Liar.  What the heck do you get out of doing that to her?  She’s a person, she has feelings.  If you needed a lay so bad, why didn’t you find a blow up doll?”
“Lydia’s cheaper.”
Jimmy threw a punch and connected with Brett’s mouth.  He spat a string of curses at him while continuing to beat him and the rest of the football team hopped over the bench to try to separate the two.  Jimmy wouldn’t stop.  Stokes grabbed his best friend by the shoulders and threw him against an opposite bank of lockers.  Jimmy tried to get away, but Stokes had him pinned against the locker.
“Leave it, Brown,” Stokes snapped.  “Leave it.”  He looked at his friend’s eyes.  They were full of rage.
“You have to.  We get 24 more minutes out there.  Then, handle it off the field.  Away from Coach Greyson. Got it?”
“Yeah, Brown.  Why don’t you take your butt buddy’s advice,” Warski snapped rubbing his jaw.
“I’m gonna kill him.  You know that, right?” Jimmy said to Stokes.
“No doubt in my mind you aren’t, Brown.  Football first, though.  Got it?”
Jimmy nodded.
“Good.  You play better when you’re angry anyway.”  Stokes turned around and grabbed Warski’s neck. “You call me that again, you’ll be eating out of a straw, second string.  You can kiss your chances of making it to first string goodbye.”  He raised his eyebrows.  “Ya hear me, Warski?”
“Whatever, Stokes.”
Stokes let go of his neck and pushed Brett’s face away from him.  Brett lost his footing and fell onto the floor.  Jimmy smirked at his friend and then looked at Brett.  “Stay down there with the roaches where you belong, Warski.”  He followed Stokes out of the locker room and didn’t even apologize when he stepped on Brett on his way back to the field.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Before the Always, Part 2

“Lydia.”  Leiutenant Baker knocked on his daughter’s bedroom door.  “There’s a boy here to see you.”
“I’ll be right there, Daddy.  Give me two minutes.”
“I’ll tell him five.”
Lydia opened her door and smiled.  “Daddy, I’m your daughter.  When I say two minutes I mean two minutes.”  She wagged her finger.  “And not a minute more.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Who’s here?”
“Says his name is Jimmy.  You’re supposed to help him with some homework he has.”
“Oh, right.  I almost forgot.”  She grabbed her book bag and ran down the stairs.  Lt. Baker followed after her.  “And what do you mean who’s here?  Is there more than one boy I should know about?”
 Jimmy was sitting at the kitchen table drawing circles with his finger on the oak.  When he saw Lt. Baker walk in before Lydia he stood up.  Lydia’s face reddened.  She knew that Jimmy had heard the question.  She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked at Jimmy. “No, sir.  No one else.”  She hoped that Jimmy got the message that she didn’t want her daddy to know anything about the football game the other night.
“Okay, sweetheart, just checking.”  He walked by her and kissed the top of her head.  As he walked by Jimmy, he put his hand on his shoulder.  Jimmy could feel the warning in the Lieutenant’s strong grip.“At ease, Jimmy.  Just because I walk in the room doesn’t mean you have to stand up.  Although, it is nice to know I still hold that power over some people.”
“Yes, sir.”  Jimmy sat back down in the chair.  Lydia went to sit the chair across from him.  She’d move after her daddy left the room. Lt. Baker walked on and headed for the kitchen counter.
“Daddy, be nice.”
“What?  I was.”  He reached on the counter for a can of Coke and popped the top.  “I’ll let you two get to whatever it is you’re doing.”
“Homework, Daddy.  Just homework.”
Lt. Baker raised his eyebrows and looked over at Jimmy.  The tips of Jimmy’s ears reddened.  “Mmhmm.”  He looked back to Lydia.  “You know the rules, Lydia.  Gone by ten.”
“Yes, sir.”
“ And not a minute more.”
Lydia stood on her tip toes and kissed her dad on the cheek.  “I know, Daddy.”  Lt. Baker walked out of the room and Lydia moved into the seat next to Jimmy.
“So, you’re a daddy’s girl, aren’t you?”
“You’d be, too, if you met my mother.”
“Um, I don’t think I’d ever be a daddy’s girl.  I have the wrong equipment.”
Lydia burst out laughing. 
“My gosh, you’re so pretty when you smile.”  He forgot to keep that comment in his head.  Lydia looked down at the table and grabbed something out of her book bag.
“Friends, Jimmy.”
“C’mon, Lyddie, let me take you on a date.”
“Geometry, Jimmy.  That’s the deal.”
“Screw geometry.  I work on cars and play football. I don’t need geometry. I need a date with you!”  He pounded his fist on the table and Lydia jumped. Lydia’s cheeks turned bright red.  Jimmy rubbed his forehead.  He was totally out of line and he knew it.  Lydia wouldn’t go for his straight forwardness.  “I’m sorry, Lyddie.  I shouldn’t have said that.”
“My daddy would have a heart attack if he heard you talk like that to me,” Lydia remarked.
“Don’t tell him I said that, then.  I want to stay on his good side.”  He put a hand on top of Lydia’s.  “Yours, too.”  He winked.
“Geometry, Jimmy.”  She shoved her book towards him while slipping her hand out from underneath his.
“Yes, the wonderful world of geometry,” Jimmy grumbled.
“Pythagoreas and his theorem are waiting.”
Jimmy rubbed his hands together.  “We should all be so lucky,” he said not hiding the sarcasm from his voice. 
“Give it a chance,” Lydia remarked.
“When you give me a chance, I will.”

“You sure are hanging out a lot with Jimmy Brown,” Jenni noted as they walked to the sidelines of the football field.  “You dating, yet?”
“Why not?”
“Because we’re just friends.”
“Not from what I’ve heard.”  Lydia looked over at Jenni.  She knew that Jenni didn’t hear anything, she said what other people heard.  Jimmy told her that Jenni liked spreading rumors and making others look bad.  Lydia didn’t believe him at first, but the more she was at school, the more she noticed people whispering behind her back.  She hoped the rumors from her old school hadn’t followed her to the new one.
Those rumors were horrible rumors.  She went to school on a Marine base and most of the students at the school were boys.  The boys all wanted something from Lydia.  She’d gone on several dates with some of them, but the boys always tried something with her.  She wouldn’t go for it.  First, her parents would kill her if she did anything to disgrace their family.  Her family held morals and high values.  If Lydia did anything unacceptable, she would be in big trouble.  Second, she wasn’t ready to do anything with boys.  She just wanted to have fun and hang out.  Those boys tried everything they could to get her to do something with them.  When she refused, her dates made her out to be cold hearted or even worse, told lies that she did do something with them.  Because she had been on several dates with several different guys, the rumor was she couldn’t say no and she was easy.  She hoped that rumor stayed where it started and never made it to Riley.  She wanted to just be the new girl without any baggage with her.
Of course, there were still some things that were hidden from Jenni, like what happened on the football field the other night. Lydia watched the football players line up on the field for warm ups.  She still kept her eyes peeled for anyone suspicous.  When she didn’t see anyone, she excused herself and ran to the nearest bathroom.  This kept happening every home football game.  Before, she would make it to the game, she’d think about what happened a few weeks before which only made her angry.  When she was angry, she ate.  Her size eight figure couldn’t take all the food she would eat.  When she got to the football field and looked at the football players, she would go nauseous from all the food she ate and the nerves tightened her stomach and she would  have to find the nearest bathroom so she could throw up.  When she got done, she walked back to the sidelines.
“Are you sick, Lydia?”  Jenni asked.
Lydia shook her head.
“Oh, I get it.  That’s why you had to move.”  Jenni filled her cheeks with air and made a rounded motion with her hands over her belly.
“No!  Never!”
“Don’t worry.  Your secret’s safe with me.”  Jenni winked.
“I’m not-“
“Shh!  If Coach Jones finds out, she’ll kick you off the squad.”
“But, there’s no reason to.  I’m not having-“
“Ladies, we’re supposed to be cheering, not chatting.”
Jenni smiled.  “Sorry, Coach.  We’ll get back to it.”
“Good.”  The coach turned back to talk to one of the parents sitting in the bleachers.
“Are you going to keep it?”
“Jenni, stop.  I’m not pregnant.”
“Well, you’ve been throwing up every week.  What else could it be?”
“I don’t know.   Just leave me alone, okay.  I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Wow, way to show your team spirit,” Jenni mumbled.
“Yep, that’s me.  Go, fight win.  Rah, rah, rah,” Lydia remarked sarcastically.  She shook one of her pom poms in the air weakly.  The football coach gave orders for the team to get on the sidelines.  Lydia turned around and saw Jimmy come up next to her.
“Hey, QB1.  Gonna win tonight?”  She smiled waiting for his answer.
“That’s the plan.”  He smiled back.
“Good luck.”  She reached up and gave Jimmy a friendly hug from the side.
Coach Grayson blew his whistle to get the team huddled up before the game.
“Gotta go, but one more thing.”  Jimmy’s eyes twinkled.
“Got my geometry test back yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah?”
He walked backward towards the team.  “Miracles happen, Lyddie.”  He raised his hands to the side.  “That’s all I’m saying.”
Lydia shook her head.  “Hopeless, Jimmy Brown.  Hopeless.”
“We’ll talk after the game,” he yelled at her as he turned around and got into the middle of the huddle.

The game went into OT that night.  They were playing cross town rivals and it was always a close game.  The game didn’t end until nine o’clock.  Lydia was walking in the dark by herself.  She knew she shouldn’t do that after what happened the last time, but she didn’t really feel like talking to anyone.  Jenni was still hung up on Nick Stokes and she told Lydia she was going to make her move on him tonight.  Lydia said she’d find a ride home and left Jenni to do whatever it was she was planning.  She was on her way to the fieldhouse to get her cell phone to call her dad, when she felt a hand slip around her waist and pull her into the darkness.
“Don’t scream.”  A voice she recognized from the other night warned her. “You thought you could get your friend, Jimmy to get me kicked off the team didn’t you?  Well, I’ve got news for you little girl.  Your plans didn’t work.”
The football player turned her around.  She was face to face with him now.  He had her backed up against the wall and his hands tightly gripped her arms so she couldn’t get out of them. “Let me go!  You’re hurting me!” she yelled.
“Now, we’re going to finish what we started the other night.”
“No!  You let me go.”  Lydia tried to wriggle her arms out of the football player’s grip, but didn’t have any luck.  “Please,” she pleaded.  The football player squeezed tighter around her arms so she couldn’t move.  “Let me go.”  Her voice faded.  She felt like giving up.  He was too strong for her.  She couldn’t give up, though.  She forced herself to try to think of something that would get the jerk of a football player to leave her alone.  What was it those Marines had told her?  Her thoughts jumbled in her head and she was having a hard time remembering anything.  She closed her eyes, so she wouldn’t have to look at the face in front of her.  Maybe that would help her to remember.
He leaned in closer and whispered in her ear.  “I like it when you play hard to get, Lydia.  Tell me no again.”  He shoved her to the ground and hovered on top of her.  “C’mon, girl, open those legs up for business.”  He slid his hand down between her legs and tried to pull them apart.  She kept her legs squeezed tightly together.  She reached down to push his hands away, but he grabbed her wrists again.  “This is my show now, Lydia.  You do what I say and it’ll be over before you know it.  It’ll only hurt, if you make it hurt.” 
“Stop it!” Lydia pleaded. “Please, stop.”  Tears slipped from the corner of her eyes and ran down the side of her face. Boys had never forced themselves on her like this.  She didn’t know what to do.  They were jerks all the time, but never like this.  She had to think of a way to get away from the guy. Twist your arms down to get out his grip. She finally remembered something, but the football player held tight.  She couldn’t get her wrists out of his hands.  She was frustrated.  She just wanted to go home.  Tears welled up in her eyes.
The football player looked at her and rubbed away the tears with his thumb.  “Ah, don’t cry,” he said in a sweet tone and then just as quickly turned into an evil tone,  “it ruins your pretty face.”
“Don’t do this.”  She shook her head.  “I don’t want to do this.”
The football player ran his hands along the side of her body.  She shuddered.  “I wouldn’t have to if you would’ve kept your mouth shut.”  His hand slid underneath her uniform and she whimpered.  Why couldn’t she remember all the things her daddy had taught her?
“Don’t worry.  It’ll be over in a few minutes.”
“Don’t touch me!” she screamed. “No one gets to touch me like that, you jerk!  Get your hands off me!”  She felt the back of her attackers hand across her face.  Her cheek stung.
“Shut up! Just stop talking!”  He leaned closer and she felt the hairs on her neck stand on end at the warmth of his breath close to her.  “No one can hear you now anyway.  They’re all gone.”  He tugged at her uniform to get it off.  He looked back into Lydia’s eyes and grinned an evil grin.  “Where’s your precious friend Jimmy now, Lydia?”
“I want to go home,” she whimpered.  At home, her daddy would be there.  At home her daddy would protect her from anyone or anything that even tried to hurt her.  She remembered now.  The elbow is the strongest part of your body.  Use it.  Of course!  She took her elbow and rammed it into her attacker’s face.  When he was hunched over on top of her, she brought her knee up and made contact with his groin.  He fell over to his side and she ran until she reached the girl’s locker room.  She pulled on the door until she got it to open and hurried inside after locking the door.  When she found a mirror, she looked at herself and bit her lip.  Her face was smeared with mascara, her clothes were torn, and there was a red handprint where he had hit her.  She looked around and made sure no one was in the room with her and headed for the shower.  She had to get the feel of his hands off  her.  She turned the shower on as hot as it would go and sudsed up until her skin felt raw.  She couldn’t tell where the tears ended and the shower began at some points.  When she was finished, she grabbed her cell phone out of her duffle bag and dialed the only person she trusted besides her daddy.
“Jimmy?”  her voice was quiet and she was still crying.  She could hear music playing and talking in the background.
“Lyddie?”  She knew it was hard for him to hear.  He probably had to cover one ear, so he could hear her.
“I need-“  she swallowed back the sobs.  “I need you to take me home.”
“Where are you?”
“At the fieldhouse.  Please hurry.”
“What’s wrong, Lyddie?”
“Not now.  Just please come get me. Please.”
“All right.  I’ll be there in five minutes.”  Jimmy hung up the phone, found Stokes to tell him to find a ride home, and sped back to the fieldhouse.  He found Lydia hugging her knees to her chest sitting beside the water fountain.  He knelt down in front of her.
“Are you all right?”
Lydia shook her head.  “You’re too late, Jimmy.  You’re too late.”
He cupped his hand around her arm.  A friendly gesture, he thought.  She was upset and he just wanted to see her smile. “What happened?”
“Don’t touch me!  I just spent an hour scrubbing his hands off me.  Don’t touch me!”
Jimmy pulled his hand away from her arm.  “Who, Lyddie?”
Lydia turned her head to the side so she wasn’t looking at Jimmy.  She couldn’t let him see how weak she was.  She was angry with herself for letting it happen and she didn’t want Jimmy to look at her.  “He did it again.”
Jimmy scrunched his face up. “Who?  Tell me what happened.”
Lydia bit her lip.  “Just take me home, please.  I want to go home.”
“Okay.”  Jimmy stood up and offered his hand to her to help her up.  She wouldn’t take it.  She stood up on her own and walked over to his truck.  She didn’t wait for him to open the door for her, but got in and slammed the door.  Jimmy grabbed the letter jacket sitting next to him and handed it to her. “Heat’s not fixed, yet.”
“Thanks.”  She wrapped herself up in the coat and stared out the window while Jimmy drove.  Every once in awhile, he heard a muffled sob Lydia was trying to swallow.  He wanted to reach over and hold her hand, but he knew that wouldn’t help her at all.  Those sobs ripped through his body and tore his heart into pieces.  He never wanted to hear her cry like that.  He banged his fist on the steering wheel before pulling in the driveway to her house.  Whoever or whatever did this to Lydia wasn’t going to get away with it easily.  Jimmy walked over to open Lydia’s door to let her out. She didn’t move.
“Lyddie, we’re here.”
“I can’t go in there.  My mama won’t listen to me and she’ll tell my daddy that-“
Jimmy leaned on the doorframe of the truck.  “What are you talking about, Lyddie?”
Lydia peeked around Jimmy and saw her mom coming towards them.  “Nevermind.”  Jimmy turned around and took a deep breath.  Staring back at him was what Lydia would look like in twenty years.  Her mom was beautiful.  Black  hair hung down to to just passed her shoulders.  Her high cheekbones accented her deepset brown eyes.  He could see why Lydia looked so striking.
“Mrs. Baker?”
“She won’t get out of the truck.”  He stepped aside and let Mrs. Baker try to talk her daughter out of the vehicle.  Lydia wouldn’t say anything to her.
“Where’s Daddy?” she asked.
“He’s in the garage building something or changing the oil.  I don’t know exactly what.”
“You’re fighting again, aren’t you?”  Lydia crossed her arms and stared out the front window.
“No, sweetheart, we’re not fighting.”
Lydia narrowed her eyes and looked at her mama.  “Not talking is the same thing, Mama!  Why won’t you talk to him?”
Jimmy looked over at the garage and saw a disgruntled Lt. Baker coming towards the truck while wiping his hands with a shop rag.  He furrowed his eyebrows and looked at Jimmy, then Lydia.
“What’s going on?” he growled.
Lydia jumped out of the truck and ran to her dad.  She wrapped her arms around him. “Daddy, he hurt me.”
Lt. Baker looked at Jimmy.  Lydia saw the look of dismay on her dad’s face.  “Not, Jimmy, Daddy.  Somebody else.  He was big and strong, and he had an ugly face.  I don’t even know his name.”
Jimmy smirked for a moment.  She had just described the entire defensive line of the Riley Warriors football team.  His smirk turned into a frown quickly when he looked up and saw Lydia holding onto her dad for dear life. “What did he do?” Jimmy asked.
Lydia buried her face in her dad’s chest.  “I don’t want to go back.  Don’t make me go back there.”
Lt. Baker put a hand on either side of his daughter’s face and looked her in the eyes.  “Sweetheart, tell Daddy what happened.”
“He grabbed me and pushed me down on the ground and then he-“
“I don’t wan t to hear this,” Mrs. Baker interrupted. 
“Then, don’t listen, Shelly,” Lt. Baker snapped.  “You’re getting really good at not listening.  It should be a piece of cake for you to just walk away and not listen to anything.”  Mrs. Baker threw her hands in the air and turned to walk away.
“What else, baby girl?” Lt. Baker asked.
“He put his hands on me.”  Lydia closed her eyes and bit her lip.  She couldn’t find the words to tell her daddy what happened.  She didn’t want him to know how far the boy had got before she stopped it.  That would disappoint him and she knew it.
Jimmy’s face twitched and the muscles in his jaw flexed.  “Like the other night, Lyddie?”
“What other night?” Lt. Baker asked.  No one answered his question.
“Worse, Jimmy.”
Jimmy pounded his fist on the bed of his truck and cursed.  “I told them to leave you alone, Lyddie.  I swear I did.  I even told Coach.  I know you told me not to, but I couldn’t let them do that to you.”
“Lydia, what happened the other night?” Lt. Baker asked.
“I don’t want to stay here, Daddy!  Don’t make me stay here!”  She pounded on his chest with both of her fists and then ran inside. 
Jimmy didn’t move.  He kept his eyes straight ahead and spoke.  “A few of the guys from the football team haven’t been very nice to her.”
Lt. Baker bore his eyes into Jimmy and poked his finger into his chest.  “I want their names, I want their positions, I want their parents’ names.”  He slammed his hand against the doorframe of the truck.  “Nobody hurts my little girl and gets away with it.  Nobody.  Do you hear me?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I want you to find the  guy who did this and bring him here.”  He cracked his knuckles, but what from what Jimmy saw, Lt. Baker didn’t even know he was doing it.  “ I don’t care what time it is or how you have to do it. I’d like to have a nice little chat with him.”
Jimmy stared at the door Lydia had ran into.  “You can have what’s left of him when I’m done, sir.”  He got in the truck and sped off before Lt. Baker could respond.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Before the Always, First Installment

Something to tease you into reading Always & Forever . . .

Lydia walked along the brick of the fieldhouse.  She had ten minutes before she had to get back to the sideline of the football field.  She wanted to say hi to Jimmy.  She hadn’t seen him all day and she usually gave him a friendly good luck hug before the football games started. She took a few steps toward the locker room when she was grabbed from behind and blindfolded.
            “What are you doing?” she shrieked.
            “Relax, Lydia, we’re just going to have little fun,” a male voice remarked.
            Lydia’s hands went to her face and felt the blindfold.  Who’s we?”
            “Just a few of the guys from the football team.”  She felt a hand pull the blindfold tight so she couldn’t pull it off.  “I wouldn’t take that off if I were you.”
            There was a hand on her leg.  In fact, she felt several hands on her legs.  Her cheerleader skirt didn’t hide anything.  “Get your hands off me,” she pleaded.
            She felt the cool brick of the outdoor building against her back.  Someone had pushed her up against the building.  Her panic made her breathe heavily and she heard a few guys whistle.  “C’mon, Lydia,” a voice whispered close to her ear.  The hands were sliding up further.  “Give us a little show.”
            “Stop it,” she pleaded.  “I don’t do that!”  She batted at what seemed like a thousand hands molesting her legs.
            “That’s not what I heard.”
            “Whoever told you that lied.”  Lydia reached for an uwanted hand sliding up her thy, but hers was batted away.
            Lydia heard footsteps.  “What the heck are you guys doing?”
            Jimmy.  The hands let go of her and she slid down into the grass hugging herself.
            “Nothin’, Jimmy.  Just having a little fun with the new girl.”
            “Jesus, does it look like she’s having fun?”  Jimmy leaned down and put a hand on Lydia’s shoulder.  “You all right?”
            Lydia nodded.  She still had on the blindfold.  She reached up to take it off, but Jimmy grabbed her hand. “Wait a minute.”  He turned to the football players and told them to get lost.  When they were gone, he took the blindfold off Lydia.  Her big saucer eyes looked vacant.  She looked off to the side and wouldn’t look at him.  Jimmy knelt down and put his hands on both her shoulders.
            “Please don’t touch me.  I feel dirty.  I don’t want to remember this and have you be a part of it.”
            “Okay.”  He took his hands off her shoulders.Jimmy looked up at the clock on the wall.  Five minutes until he had to be  back on the field.  “If you want, I can stand guard so you can take a shower.”
            “Very funny, Jimmy.  Me take a shower in the guy’s locker room.  No way.”  She rubbed her shoulders and still could feel the filth of football players all over her.  Their hands didn’t know where to stop. She hugged herself tighter.
            She usually seethed when anyone called her by that nickname, but she let Jimmy do it.  She didn’t know why, but she felt comfortable with him calling her that.“What?”
            Jimmy sat his helmet down on the ground and sat down on top of it.  “Did they hurt you?”
            “You saw me. What do you think?”
            Lydia sighed and rested her head in her hands.  “What, Jimmy?”
            “Am I too late?”
            “Too late for what?”
            “Are you still innocent?”
            Lydia got up from where she was sitting.  “Of course I’m innocent!” she yelled.  “I didn’t tell them to do that.  They just grabbed me and started rubbing their filthy hands all over me.”
            “That’s not what I meant, Lyddie.  I know you wouldn’t tell them to do that.  Do you need to report them?”
            Lydia turned around so she wasn’t facing her new friend of a few days.  “I don’t even know who they were.”
            “They weren’t very smart, Lyddie.  They may have blindfolded you, but their jersey numbers are clear as day.  I’ll take care of it.”
            Lydia turned around and smiled.  “Thanks.”  The clock signaled three minutes to the second half.  “I’ll take you home after the game if you want.”
            Lydia looked over at the crowded football field.  “I don’t think I’m going to stay that long.”
            “You have to, Lyddie.  Coach Jones will freak if one of her girls is missing.”
            Jenni Newton, one of the cheerleaders who had convinced Lydia to join the squad, walked by.  She glanced at Lydia’s wrinkled uniform and stray hairs then raised her eyebrows at Jimmy.  He took a step back to cause some distance between him and Lydia.
            “What was that for?”
            He nodded toward Jenni and a few of the other cheerleaders. “Your friend over there thinks something is going on between us.”
            “Is it?”
            Jimmy shook his head a little too fast, Lydia thought.  “No, just friends.  That’s all. Biology lab partners.  Nothing else.”
            Lydia heard the horn of a two minute warning for the second half of the football game to start.
            “Better get back to your post, QB1,” she quipped.
            Jimmy wrinkled his forehead.  “Army brat?”
            “Nope.  Marines.  Base doesn’t sound as good as post.  She watched the clock count down quickly.  “Better go.”
            “You, too.”  Jimmy grabbed her hand and ran to the football field.  He dropped her off on the sideline and then made his way to the field where he was needed.
            “Well, if things go the way they looked a few minutes ago, you and I might get to double date soon.”
            “What are you talking about?” Lydia asked.
            “You were in the boy’s locker room a few minutes ago weren’t you? Giving QB1 a pep talk, I presume.”
            “Um, no, not really.” Lydia hugged herself again and shuddered.  She could still feel those hands wandering all over her.
            “What’s wrong with you?”  Jenni asked.
            Lydia looked at the sideline for any inkling of who the guys were that attacked her.  Her eyes scanned the line of football jerseys, but no one seemed to look guilty as charged.  “Nothing.  I just really want to go home.”
            “What?  Riley not living up to your high standards of living?” Jenni snapped.
            Lydia sighed.  “I don’t really know what home is.  I’ve never lived in one place for more than a few years at a time.”
            The crowd stood on their feet.  The second half started and Jimmy threw a pass to his best friend Nick Stokes.  He ran it downfield for sixty yards until he was tackled.  The girls threw their pom poms in the air and cheered.
            Jenni pointed to Stokes.  “He doesn’t know it, yet, but he’s going to fall in love with me.”
            Lydia rolled her eyes.  “I doubt it.”
            “What do you know?”
            “More than I should, that’s all.  He’s Jimmy’s best friend, isn’t he?”
            “Yep.  So, see , if you hook up with Jimmy, then I can hook up with Stokes and life in Riley would be great.”
            Lydia rolled her eyes. Life in Riley would not be great. Not ever.  The town was too small.  Everybody knew everyone and their business.  If you picked  your nose in public, you’d end up in the daily news on the society page, full page photo included.  She had no idea why her parents had decided to move here for her last two years of high school.  She was going to get out as soon as she could.
            The game wasn’t even close.  The Riley Warriors won 56 to 3.  After the game, Jimmy ran over to the sidelines where Lydia stood.  She wrapped her arms around his neck.  “Good job, Jimmy.”
            He smiled.  “It wasn’t all me.  Someone had to catch the passes I threw.”  He nodded towards Stokes who was eyeing the rest of the cheerleaders.
            Stokes smiled,but kept his eyes glued to the girls.  “Hey, Lydia.”
            Lydia gave a sigh of relief.  His voice didn’t match any of the ones she had heard earlier.”Good game, Stokes.”
            “Can I take you home, Lyddie?” Jimmy asked.
            “What about the party?” Stokes asked his friend.
            “I’m tired.  Didn’t get much rest off the field.”
            “Not my fault, we were on fire tonight, Brown.”
            “Whatever.  The ride, Lyddie?”
            “You’re awfully persisent, Jimmy Brown.”
            “Is that a yes?”
            Lydia looked over at Jenni. She was her ride, but something about the way she had talked to Lydia didn’t sit right with her.  She nodded her head at Jimmy.  “Sure, Jimmy.  I’ll take you up on the offer.”
            Jimmy walked Lydia over to his blue Chevy pick up.  He opened the door for her and climbed in on the other side.  He started the engine and looked over at her.  She hadn’t said anything from the walk from the field to the parking lot behind the stadium.
            “You sure you’re all right?”
            Lydia forced a smile.  “Fine.”
            Jimmy pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the street.  “Something tells me you’re not.”
            Lydia hugged her shoulders tight.  Jimmy looked over at her and noticed she was shivering.  He threw his letter jacket over to her.  “Here.  Sorry.  I haven’t had a chance to fix the heat, yet.”
            Lydia grabbed the jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders.  “There’s places that can fix it, you know.”
            “Yeah, but what’s the fun in that?  I’d rather do it myself.”
            Lydia rolled her eyes.  “Hey, Jimmy?”
            “Hey, Lyddie.”
            “Do you have any idea where you’re going?”
            Jimmy grinned.  “Nope.  I was hoping you’d tell me before we ended up in Texas or someplace worse.”
            “There’s no place worse than Texas.”
            Jimmy grabbed his chest.  “A girl after my own heart.”
            Lydia grinned again.  “You might wanna turn left here.  I think it would be a good idea.”
            Lydia gave directions to Jimmy until they ended up in front of her house. Jimmy stared at the brick structure that was three stories high with a circle drive.  “Wow,” he whispered.
            “It’s not what it seems, Jimmy.  The outside’s nice, but it needs a lot of work on the inside.”  Lydia stared at the floorboard.  Jimmy thought she was talking about the house, but she was talking about herself. She could look like she was fine and keep all her thoughts inside, but she really was screaming on the inside.  How could she have let those guys put their hands all over her?  Why didn’t she fight back like her daddy and all the other Marines she knew taught her?  She didn’t want Jimmy to know how weak she really was.  She didn’t want him to know that there was a constant battle going on between her mom and dad.  Daddy had just retired from the Marines and Mama was working nights at the hospital.  The tension in the air between them was so strong that Lydia couldn’t walk through the house without being smothered by the silence between her parents.  She was hoping that Jimmy just meant the house and wasn’t looking at her to see if she meant something deeper.  She kept her eyes averted to the floorboard.
            “Whatever, Lyddie.”  He got out of the truck and walked over to open Lydia’s door.
            “You don’t have to-“
            “Yes, I do.”  He leaned in closer. “There’s a pair of eyes looking at me through that window.”
            Lydia looked over and saw that her dad had pulled the curtain aside and was looking at Jimmy holding the door open for her.  She gave Jimmy another hug and walked toward the door.  “Thanks for the ride, Jimmy,” she called after him.  She met her dad at the door and walked in.
            “Anytime,” he yelled back. He got in his truck, started the engine and stared ahead.  This being friends was not enough for him.  He wanted to take Lydia out soon before he burst.  She had only been at the school for a couple of weeks, but even so his heart melted whenever she walked into a class.  Then, when he saw the way those guys had their hands all over her when he walked toward the locker room made him fume with anger.  He put his foot on the gas and headed home.     
            No girl should ever have to go through that.  He wanted to pick her up off the ground and take her someplace safe, but he couldn’t do that.  Not when they were just supposed to be friends.  He was going to talk to Coach about what happened and see if he could get a few of those players off the team.  From the looks of it, they were mostly third string players anyway.  He pulled into the driveway of his own house and walked inside with a look of revenge on his face.  His mom saw him walk in the door and followed behind him to the kitchen.  She stopped in the doorway.
            “Honey, what’s wrong?” Anita Brown asked.
            “Nothing,” Jimmy grumbled.  He went to the refridgerator and rummaged around until he found an apple.  In the process, he knocked over the carton of milk which spilled to the floor.  He slammed the apple on the counter and grabbed the kitchen towel hanging on the oven door.
            Anita knew if he stayed in this mood any longer, something bad was going to happen.  Anger always got the best of her son.  She hated seeing him so upset.  She tried to divert his attention to something he enjoyed.“You had a good game tonight.”
            “Thanks.”  Jimmy grabbed the apple off the counter and walked into the living room and saw his dad with his eyes glued to the television. “But, you’re not the one that I need to hear that from.”  He stared at his dad, but Dale Brown didn’t even take his eyes off the televison.
            Mr. Brown kept to himself most days lately.  He didn’t go out, he didn’t talk with anyone.  The doctors at the VA diagnosed him with PTSD a few years earlier.  His time in Vietnam scarred him.  Dale thought it was the reason he felt so introverted, but his son thought otherwise.  Jimmy felt that his dad had given up on him completely and he had a hard time dealing with his dad’s behavior.
            “I was 12 for 14 tonight, Dad.”  He bit the apple.
            “14 for 14 is better.”
            “Maybe I would’ve made 14 for 14 if you showed up.”  Jimmy slammed his fist against the wall.  The apple dropped to the floor and Anita picked it up.  She held it out to Jimmy, but he pushed it away.
            “Football isn’t my thing, Jimmy.  You know that.”
            “No, Dad.  I’m not your thing!  You wouldn’t care if I dropped dead on the fifty yard line.”
            Anita walked into the room making a barrier between the two men in her life. “Jimmy, calm down.  Don’t say things like that to your father.”
            “He doesn’t care, Mom.  He’s never cared about anything I do.  I could stand on my head while feeding the homeless and I wouldn’t even get a good job out of him.  You’d know what I get?”
            Anita shook her head.
            “I’d get a ‘what are you going to do for the rest of us’ and a look of disappointment.  That’s all I am to him.  Some stupid disappointment because I play football and don’t care about his precious Army.”
            Anita looked over at her husband and saw the clouds of Vietnam slowly making their way to his eyes.  She looked over at her son who looked like he was about to cry.  “Jimmy, don’t.”
            Jimmy took another bite of his apple.  “I’ll be upstairs.  I’ve got homework.”  He ran up the stairs and slammed the door behind him. 
            Anita walked over to her husband and knelt in front of him.  She rested her head on his knees.  “He doesn’t mean that, Dale.”
            “If he would just see that football isn’t going to get him anywhere.”
            “Dale, stop it.  He loves football.  He’s really good at it.”
            “He’s not going to get anywhere playing football, Anita.”
            Anita looked up at Dale.  The clouds were still there. “What do you want him to do, Dale?  Do you want him to join the Army and come back broken and battered like you?  Do you want him to spend five hours a week in therapy because he can’t get the images of those dead bodies being carried in the streets out of his head?”
            “Anita, don’t say things like that.  You weren’t there, you don’t know.”  He paused.  “You don’t know anything about what I’ve been through.”  His voice turned into a stern warning. 
            Anita swallowed hard.  The sobs in her throat wouldn’t stay down.  “He just wants you to watch one game, honey.  One game.”
            “When I have time, I’ll go.”  He kept his eyes on the television.  Anita looked and saw that he was watching a rerun of MASH.
            “Yeah, because watching that is so much more important than your own son.”

            Jimmy sat in the library staring at his math book.  He heard the thud of a book bag being put down on top of the table beside him.
            “Hey, QB1.”
            Jimmy looked up and saw Lydia.  “Hey, cheerleader.”
            “What are you up to?”  Lydia asked pointing to the book.
            Jimmy scratched his head.  “Um, I think it’s geometry, but I’m not so sure.  I thought more numbers would be involved, but all I see is letters.”
            Lydia let out a quiet laugh.  “Not so good with the math, are you?”
            “What are you, Yoda?”
            Lydia scrunched up her face.  “Who?”
            “What?  Are you serious?  You don’t know who Yoda is?”
            “Yeah, well, you don’t know what the Pythagorean Theorem is, so there.”  She stuck her tongue out at him.
            “And you do?”  Jimmy asked smiling.
            Lydia ignored his boyish grin.“Yes, I do.  Despite my outward appearance as an airhead, I actually do know a thing about theorems and postulates.”
            Jimmy shook his head.  “You’re not an airhead, Lyddie.”
            “Tell that to the rest of Riley,”  Lydia mumbled. She slumped down in the seat next to him.
            “Besides, airheads are blond like Jenni.  So, that leaves you out.”
            “Yep, guess us brunettes have to use our brains every once in awhile.”
            Jimmy tapped his pencil on the pages of his book.  “Are you gonna help me or not, Lyddie?”
            Lydia looked over at the pages.  They were filled with triangles and theorems.  She could do geometry in her sleep if it came down to it, but she was having fun making Jimmy sweat. “A please would be nice.”
            “Please?  If I don’t pass this class, I’m done for the season.”
            “We wouldn’t want that now, would we?”
            Jimmy covered his face and ran his hands down his face.  “Please tell me you’ve heard of the church lady.”
            “Don’t you have a TV in that big house of yours?”
            “Yeah, but it only comes on Saturdays and Sundays during football season.”
            “Sometimes Thursdays.”
            “What about Mondays?”
            “Yes, Monday.  Definitely, Monday.”  She paused and smiled.  “And before you say anything, yes I have seen Rain Man.”
            “Well, that’s a relief.  Thought I was going to have to give you a lesson in pop culture.”
            “I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll teach you geometry and you can make me watch Yoda.”
            “Make you?  I wouldn’t make you do anything, Lyddie.”
            “Why don’t you tell that bit of information to the rest of your team,” Lydia snapped.
            Jimmy looked at his watch.  He had fifteen minutes until he had to suit up for practice.  He shoved his book into his bag and grabbed Lydia’s hand.  “You’re coming with me.”
            Lydia got her hand out of his grip.  “No,” she whispered.  She shook her head.  “I don’t think so.”
            “Lyddie, you have to tell someone.”
            “No, I don’t!”
            The rest of the people in the library looked up at her.  She mouthed sorry and walked with Jimmy outside.
            “Why won’t you say anything?”
            “I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
            Jimmy stopped and stood in front of Lydia.  He put his hand on her cheek.  He was totally crossing the line of just a friend, but Lydia wouldn’t listen to him if he didn’t.  “They hurt you, Lyddie.”
            “I’m perfectly fine.  No bumps, no bruises.”  She put her hand over his on her cheek.  He didn’t get the message to remove it and kept it up against her cheek.
            “But your eyes aren’t the same.”  He rubbed his thumb on her cheek.  Her face was turning red.  He stared at her chocolate brown eyes.  They were the prettiest eyes he’d ever seen.  Her face reminded him of one of those dolls with the big eyes and blond hair.  Except, Lydia had brown hair and her eyes spoke even when she didn’t.
            “Jimmy?” she whispered.  Her eyes stayed fixed on his.  She could see the golden specs in his green irises.  His eyes were gorgeous.  Too bad he had to hide them behind a mask on a helmet every Friday, she thought.
            “What?”  He couldn’t take his eyes away from hers.
            “Um, how’s that friend thing working out for you?” 
            “Terrible.”  He let his hand fall away from her face.  He couldn’t tell her what he really thought.  He couldn’t tell her that he wanted to lean in and kiss her.  Everything inside of him was telling him to go for it, but he was trying to be a gentleman.  He knew she didn’t like to be forced into things.  That was clear by the way she handled herself with the football players.  She just didn’t know how to deal with the aftermath.  He sighed at his thoughts.  If only he could just bend down and taste her lips.  He wondered if they tasted like strawberries.  He could smell the scent from where he stood in front of her.  “How much longer do I have to be just your friend?”
“Until you get an A in geometry.”
“Guess, I’ll be praying for a miracle, then.”