Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lucky Number 7-Before the Always

Sorry about the delay,  school started and I went back to work.  Carry on with the next edition of Before the Always.

The answer was yes, as long as it was okay with her parents and his. Tonight, Jimmy and Lydia had already talked to Lieutenant and Mrs. Baker.  They both agreed it was okay for them to get married during spring break.  Now, they were on their way to the Browns.  Lydia was hoping to have a better visit than the last time she stepped into Jimmy’s house. 
“Jimmy, I want something.”
“You have to wait until our wedding night.”
Lydia blushed and she shoved her fist into his shoulder.  “Not that.”
“I’m shocked.”
“Jimmy, this is important.  I don’t want people to know what we’re doing.”
Jimmy pulled the truck over to the side of the road.  “Why not?”
“Those rumors.”
“Lyddie, don’t worry about what people say about us.  They’re jealous, that’s all.”
“Can we just keep it a secret that we’re married until the big ceremony.  Please?”
“Secrets are worse than rumors, Lyddie.  I don’t know how we can do that.”
“I’ll just keep your class ring on my finger and we won’t act any different than we normally do.  We won’t have any guests with us to tell people, anyway.”
“Stokes is a witness.  He’ll know.”
“He won’t blab.  I’ll kill him if he does.”
“That’s great, Lyddie.  You want to kill my best friend.  He’s already afraid of you, anyway.”
“He goaded you into enlisting, Jimmy.  How can I like him after that?”
“Nevermind.  Back to this wedding thing.  A secret, huh?”
“Covert operation.”
“It seems wrong, Lyddie. Not telling anyone what we’re doing.  Going behind their backs, lying.”
Lyddie grinned. She had a dirty thought and couldn’t keep it contained.  “If you want me lying on my back, you’ll do it.”
“Okay, fine.  We’ll do it your way.”  He eased back on to the street.
“After we’re married, of course.”
“I know, I know.”  He pulled into his parent’s driveway and they both got out.  Lydia didn’t wait for him to open the door for her.
“What do you think they’ll say?”  Lydia asked.
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders. “Do I know you, maybe? I haven’t been home for a week and a half.”
“Jimmy, why?”
“I don’t want to be around when they finally decide it’s time for them to divorce.”
He knocked on the door.  He felt like a stranger in his own house.  He had a key, but didn’t use it and he didn’t want to interrupt anything that was going on inside, whether it was good or bad.
Jimmy’s mom opened the door and leaned against.
“Oh, it’s you.  I wondered if you were ever going to show your face in this house again.”  Jimmy and Lydia couldn’t tell which one of them the comment was directed toward.
“Dad here?”
“Yes, your father is here.  Same place he always is.”  She opened the door and presented the room to the couple. 
“You need to come in here, too,” Jimmy instructed.  He held tight to Lydia’s hand and walked with her into the living room where his dad sat on his overstuffed chair.  His mom stood in front of the couch with her arms crossed against her chest.  “Sit down, Mom.  This is some important stuff.”
Anita looked at Lydia.  “Are you pregnant, young lady?”
Lydia shook her head frantically.  “No, ma’am.  No chance of that happening until I’m married.”
“Don’t make accusations, Mom.  Sit down.”
Anita blew out a deep breath and plopped herself down on the mocha colored couch.
“We want to get married.”
“Isn’t that why you proposed to her?” Dale finally spoke.
“Let me finish talking.  We want to get married over spring break.”
“No,” Anita protested.  “No way, Jimmy.  Not in this lifetime.  Not while I’m living.  You’ll get married after you finish school.”
Jimmy rubbed the back of his neck.  “Just listen, okay, Mom.  Listen to me.  I don’t want to stay at this house anymore.  You two are fighting and I don’t want to be in the middle of it.  It’s just two months.  I want to be with Lyddie before I go off to basic.  I want to be with her for more than two weeks before I have to leave.   I love her.”
“You don’t love her, Jimmy.  She has you trapped.  You’re not seeing the big picture.  You think you’re protecting her going off to play soldier, but you’re not.  You couldn’t protect her anymore than your father could protect me when he went to Vietnam.”
“What are talking about?”
“She won’t love you once you come back a broken man.  She won’t want to be near you.  The Army does things to your brain, to your soul.  To your heart, Jimmy.  It changes you.”  Anita looked at Lydia.  “She just wants to take you away from me before that happens.  I’ve already lost your father, Jimmy, I’m not letting her take you from me.”  She pointed a bony finger at Lydia. “She can’t have you!”
“Shut up, Anita!” Dale crossed the room and stood in front of the couch.  “You don’t know half of their story, do you?”
“Don’t yell at me, Dale.  We haven’t said more than two functional words to each other for months and now you’re telling me to shut up.  I hate you!”
“Shut up!”
Jimmy turned to Lydia.  “I think you need to go outside.  It’s about to get ugly in here.”
His parents kept arguing loudly.
“I think it already has.”
“Go outside, please.”
“Is he going to-“
Jimmy shook his head.  He knew the next words out of Lydia’s mouth were going to be “hit her.”  He never saw his dad get physical with his mom when he was one of his rants.  But, right now, he had an overwhelming sense that he needed to stop whatever was about to happen.  “Please, Lyddie.  Just go outside.  I’ll be out in a minute.”
Lydia walked out the door.  Jimmy turned to his feuding parents.  “You don’t talk to my mom that way.  And don’t raise your hand like that at her.  She’s my mom and if you hurt her, I’ll hurt you.  I may not agree with her right now, but you taught me never to disrespect her.  I won’t and you won’t either, Dad, whether I’m around or not.”
Dale looked at his hand like it wasn’t attached to him.  He had no idea he had lifted his hand up and was about to strike his wife.  His eyes grew wide.  He took his hand out of the air and slid it down his face.  “Jesus, Annie, I’m sorry.”  He knelt down in front of her.  “I’m so sorry.  I’d never do that.  No matter how mad I was, baby.  I’d never hit you.  My mind’s playing tricks on me, baby.  I’m sorry.”
“Don’t call me Annie. You know I hate that.”
“Let the boy marry her.”
“No, not until he graduates.”
“Anita, things aren’t going to get any better with us if he stays here before he goes to basic.  You’ll resent him even more.”
“Why are you suddenly on his side, Dale?  What did he do to you?”
“It’s not him, it’s me.  I made him join.  I pushed too hard.  I never told him how proud I was of him.  He wants to get away from me, let him do it, Annie.”
“Stop calling me Annie.  I’m not related to Daddy Warbucks.”
Dale smiled.  Anita hadn’t seen him smile in two months. “He’s protected her all along, Anita.  Ask him what he did.”
“Dad, I don’t want to-“
“Tell her.  It might seal the deal.”
“I just beat a guy up for her, that’s all.  It’s not important now.”
“Tell her why, Jimmy.”
“No, dad.  It’s not important.”
Dale looked deep into Anita’s eyes.  “That little girl out there was assaulted by one of the football players.   Your son found out who did it and took care of him for her.”
“And I’m supposed to let them get married two months before they graduate because of that?  You’re out of your mind, Dale Brown.”
“That’s what the docs tell me at the VA. I’ve got proof.”  Dale grinned again.
“That’s not funny, Dale,” Anita snapped.
“Her parents already said it was okay,” Jimmy chimed in.
“Well good for them, Jimmy.  I’m saying no.”
Jimmy went over to the door and pulled Lydia inside.  “I don’t care what you say, Mom, we’re doing it.”
“Jimmy, we agreed.  If anyone said no, we wouldn’t,” Lydia reminded him.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, baby.”  He pushed the loose hair away from her eyes.  “I’m marrying you on March 15. If my parents want to stay in my life, they’ll be at the courthouse, too.”

March 15th came two weeks later.  Jimmy and Lydia stood in front of the Justice of the Peace.  Lydia’s parents and Stokes sat in the front row.  Jimmy’s dad sat in the back and his mom was nowhere in sight.  Lydia saw the sadness in her fiance’s eyes.
“Wait, sir,”  she held up her hand to the justice.
“Lyddie, what are you doing?” Jimmy asked.
“This isn’t right.  Your mama should be here.”
Jimmy looked at the Justice.  “Can you give us a minute?”
The justice nodded.  Jimmy grabbed Lydia’s elbow and guided her toward the seats away from her parents.
“Baby, she’s not coming.  She would be here if she cared.”
“She hates me, doesn’t she?  She hates the fact that I’m taking you away.”
“She’ll get over it.”
“I don’t want to start our marriage off like this, Jimmy.”
Jimmy put his hand on her cheek.  “Maybe I can convince her to come to the ceremony in May.”
“That one’s just for show and you know that!  This is the important one!”  The tears in Lydia’s eyes slipped out of the corners of her eyes.
“Lyddie, don’t cry.  Please.  I’ll talk to my dad and see if he can get her here.”  He kissed her forehead.  “Please don’t cry,” he whispered.  He slipped into the back of the room to talk to his Dad. Lydia sat next to her parents on the front row.  Stokes shifted uncomfortably and looked to the back of the room.
“Sweetheart, if she doesn’t show up, it’ll be okay,” Lt. Baker tried to comfort his daughter.
“It would be wrong, Daddy.  You know that.  I know that.  Jimmy knows that.”
Lydia looked over at Jimmy and his Dad.  There were arms flailing and bellowing.  She looked back at her parents.  She dropped her head in her hands and leaned forward.  “This was a bad idea.”
“Lydia, don’t do that.  You’re mascara will run onto your dress.  Do you know how hard it is to get mascara out of a white dry clean only dress?”
“I don’t care, Mama.”  Lydia used the back of her hand to swipe away the tears.  “This is a big mistake.”
“Don’t say that, Lydia.  Jimmy’s trying.  He’s talking to his dad, isn’t he?” Lt. Baker asked.
Michelle took Lydia’s hand.  “C’mon.  Let’s go fix your makeup.”  Michelle took Lydia out of the court room and into the hallway.  When they passed by Jimmy and his dad, she gave Jimmy a longing look.
“Dad, please, get her here.”
“I tried, Jimmy.  She won’t budge.  I sat in the car for fifteen minutes waiting for her.  She just stared out the window waiting for me to pull out of the driveway without her.”
“What does she have against, Lyddie, Dad?”
“She wanted more time with you and Lydia took up all that time.”
Jimmy ran his fingers through his hair.  “Lydia won’t get married without her here.”
“Mom wins.”
Jimmy paced a moment and then stopped.“No, Dad.  No, she doesn’t.  She won’t win this one.  I’m marrying Lydia today.  Even if you have to drag her here, kicking and screaming, Mom is going to be here, because I’m not leaving this courthouse until I have a wife and a mom to see me get married.  If you ever wanted to redeem yourself for all the crap you’ve put me through, you’ll do this, Dad.”
Lydia walked back in.  Her makeup was fixed and her brown eyes looked over at Jimmy again.  “I don’t want to see her cry again, Dad.  I can’t stand it when she cries.”
“Feels like you have no control, doesn’t it?”
“Her crying.  You just want her to stop, don’t you? You want her stop and you want to fix it, but you don’t know how.”
“Are we talking about Lydia or Mom?”
Dale got up from his seat.  “Maybe both.”
“Do it, Dad.  When have you ever done anything for me?”
Dale sucked in air through his teeth.  “Don’t you start with me now, son.  You want me to get your mom here, I’ll get her here, but don’t you play the tortured son card on me.  I have a few cards up my sleeve, too.”  Dale threw open the doors of the court room and walked out.  Jimmy found Lydia leaning against the railing in front of her parents.
Lydia stood up.“Is she coming?”
“She’ll be here.  Dad just has to go get her.”
“Where is she?”
“Doesn’t matter.  Let’s just get this thing started.  She’ll be here before it’s over.” Jimmy took Lydia’s hand and walked back up to the Justice.
“Everything work out now?” the justice asked.
“Yes, sir,” Jimmy answered.
The ceremony started.  Traditional vows were exchanged.  Jimmy and Lydia decided they would wait to write their own vows at the May wedding.  Before exchanging the rings, the door flew open and Anita Baker stomped to the back bench with her husband.  She fell onto the bench, grumbling and crossing her arms.  Jimmy pleaded silently to God that his mother wouldn’t say anything to the effects of “I object.”  They sealed the ceremony with a kiss.  Jimmy and Lydia walked hand in hand out of the courtroom and into the hallway.  Their parents and Stokes followed behind.
“I’ll never forgive you, Lydia,” Anita whispered when she was the only one close to Lydia to hear.  She didn’t wait for a response from Lydia, but stormed off outside.
“Sorry about that,” Jimmy mumbled.
Lydia’s face twitched into a smile. “I’m not supposed to like my in-laws, right?”
“I don’t know the rules on that.”  He felt Lt. Baker’s presence behind him.  “But, I like my in-laws.”
Lydia shoved him playfully.  “You like them because you’re afraid of them.”
“No harm in that, sweetheart.”  Lt. Baker winked at his only daughter.  He cupped Jimmy’s shoulder and shook his hand.  “You be good to my little girl, Jimmy.”
“Yes, sir.”  Jimmy spun Lydia around so she was leaning her back against him.  He wrapped his hands around her waist and clasped them in front of her stomach.  Lydia saw the oneriness that was about to spew out of him in his green eyes. “She’ll be in bed by ten every school night, sir.”
Lydia blushed.  “Jimmy!”
“What you do behind closed doors is none of my concern now.”  Lt. Baker kissed Lydia on the cheek and walked away with Michelle hand in hand.
Dale walked up to them with a wad of cash in his hand.  “Here, take this.  Go find a fancy hotel and spend a night there.  There’s no need to spend your first night married in that dinky little apartment of yours.”
Jimmy pushed the wad of cash back at his dad.  “We like our dinky little apartment.  Keep the money.”
“Son, it’s the least I can do after what your mother did today.”
Lydia squeezed Jimmy’s hand.  It was her little sign that he needed to put away his pride and do what his dad asked. She looked up at him with her brown eyes with pleading in them.  She didn’t want to have a stand off again.  Jimmy shook his head.  “He can’t buy me, Lyddie.”
“It’s a gift, Jimmy.  Let him do it.”
“Please.  I don’t want him to hate me, too.”
“Lydia, dear, I don’t hate you. Neither does Anita.  She’s just struggling with her only son leaving in a couple of months.”
“No excuses, Dad.  I’m not taking your money. I’m not letting you buy me off.  I know you’re trying to cover up for Mom, but it’s ridiculous.  She’s acting like a spoiled brat and it’s ruining my wedding day.”  He took his hands from around Lydia and grabbed hers.  “C’mon, baby, let’s go home.”

Jimmy picked Lydia up and carried her across the threshold of the apartment.  It was like lifting a feather she was so light.
“Are you eating, Lyddie?”  he asked concerned.
“Yes.  Why would you ask me something like that?”
“You’re so light.”  He put her down in the entryway.
Lydia put a hand on her hip.  “If you’re asking if I’ve been throwing up because I was nervous, the answer is yes, I have.  Your mama-“
“Don’t, Lyddie.  Don’t talk about my mama right now.  This is about us.  You don’t worry about her.  No more throwing up.”  He tipped her chin up and raised his eyebrows.  “Got it?”
Lydia nodded.
“Promise, Lyddie.  Don’t let her get to you.”
“I promise.”
Jimmy brushed his lips against hers.  He put his mouth close to her ear.  “I want you, baby.”
“You got me,” she whispered in his ear.
“I don’t think you understand, Mrs. Brown-“
“Baker-Brown. Mrs. Brown is your mother.”
“Mrs. Baker- Brown.”  He ran his finger down her arm.  Goosebumps formed on her skin.  “I’ve wanted to get you out of that dress all night.  You’re killing me, girl!”
“Is that all this was?  Just a ploy to get me in the sack? You’re disgusting, Jimmy Brown!”  She threw his class ring at him and ran into the small room that was considered a kitchen.
“Lyddie, come back here!”  Jimmy went into the kitchen and saw her holding herself up on the counter.  Tears streamed down her cheeks.  She looked up so he could see her tears.  “I thought you were different!”
“I am, baby.  I am.  I love you.”
“Then don’t make a crass remark like that.  I’m not a conquest.”
Jimmy blew out a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I knew this would happen,” he said to himself.
“Lyddie, I’m not Brett.  I’m not going to force you into something you don’t want.”
“I know that, Jimmy, I do.”  She looked down at the counter.  It’s just hard to face you right now.”
“Lyddie, look at me. Let me see those beautiful brown eyes.”
Lydia looked up and Jimmy ran his thumbs over the streak of tears streaming down her cheeks.  “I love you, baby.  I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.  I want you because I love you, because I’m married to you. You’re my wife.  I’m not going to judge you, baby.  I’m sorry if I said something to hurt you.”
 “Every time I close my eyes and even think about doing something with you, I see him.  It’s not fair to you.”  She pounded her fist on the counter.  “It’s not fair!”
Jimmy came over to her and wrapped his arms around her.  She cried into his chest. “I won’t hurt you,baby.  I promise.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“No apologies, Lyddie.  There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.  I’m the one that should be sorry.  I’m the one that started this whole thing.”  He lifted her face up so he could see into her eyes.  He loved looking into her big brown eyes.  He could see so much in them before she even had to say anything.  “I’m sorry about what I said earlier.  That wasn’t the right thing to say.  I just wanted you to know that I love you and I want to make love to you.”
Lydia’s face reddened.  Jimmy held her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes.  “My gosh, Lydia, I can’t think straight when I look at you anymore.  You’re my wife.  You’re my wife and I love you and I would never do anything to hurt you.”
Lydia forced a smile on her face.  “I know that’s what you meant, Jimmy.  I just keep putting a wall up.  It’s that stupid face.  And that awful grin he had on his face when he did it.”
“Lyddie, baby, I think I have a solution to that.”  He held her close to him again and kissed her.  When she pulled away, he picked her up and headed into the bedroom.
“Jimmy, what are you doing?” she asked when he laid her down on the bed.  He nibbled on her ear and planted kisses along the nape of her neck.
“The solution, baby.”  He held her gaze with his eyes.  “Don’t close your eyes.”  He sat up and pulled off his shirt.  “Whatever you do, Lyddie, don’t close your eyes.”

“You did it, didn’t you?” Alexis asked standing next to Lydia’s at her locker.
“Did what?” Lydia shoved a couple of books into her locker.  Her hands were shaking.
Alexis leaned closer to Lydia so no one else could hear.  “Y’know.  It.”
Lydia grabbed the books for her next class and slammed her locker shut.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  She stared at the ring on her left hand and smiled.
“C’mon, Lydia.  I saw the way Jimmy looked at you.  The way his hands went a little further south than normal when he kissed you a second ago.  Like he owned a piece of you.”
“Jimmy doesn’t own me, Alexis.”
“Whatever.”  Alexis sniffed.  “You even smell like it, Lydia.  You’re not fooling anyone.”
“I smell like strawberry shampoo and cocoa butter.  What does that smell like to you?”
“The horizontal mattress dance.”  Alexis blushed. 
Lydia walked away holding her new set of books close to her.  She had nothing to be ashamed of.  She was married now and what she and Jimmy did behind closed doors wasn’t anyone’s business.  She just didn’t want other people to find out quite yet.  “Everyone’s going to know, Lydia.”
Lydia turned around and took steps toward Alexis.  As she talked, she kept walking which made Alexis have to counter her steps backwards.“Have fun spreading lies, Alexis.  Be sure to tell your leader, Jenni, it was good.  Stokes watched.  Tell her that.  Tell her that Stokes knows everything about what happened this weekend.  Everything and he swore he wouldn’t tell anyone.”  Lydia had her backed up against the wall.  “See what your BFF Jenni has to say about that.”  Lydia pivoted and walked toward the classroom she was headed to before the bell rang a minute later.

“Stokes, I need to talk to you,” Lydia grabbed him after class.  She walked down the hallway with him.
“What now, Lydia?  What are you and Brown going to drag me into this time?” Stokes asked.
“I may have said something, that might have been taken out of context.”
Stokes raised his eyebrows.  “Oh, really? What?”
“I may have said something to the effect that you like to watch.”
Stokes rubbed his forehead.  “You’re killing me Mrs. Baker Brown. Do you know that?”  He lowered his voice so no one could hear him say her married name.  “You are down right stabbing the knife into my heart and twisting it slowly. Who did you say that to?”
“Alexis,” Lydia mumbled.  She knew that Stokes was trying to hook up with her and she had probably blown it for him.  “I’m sorry.  She was just so nosy about it.  I’m just getting tired of all these girls accusing me of something I didn’t do!  They need something to talk about, so let them!”
Stokes stopped in the middle of the hallway and stared at Lydia.“You really hate me, don’t you, Lydia?. The one girl left I had a chance with and you tell her something like that.  All because you don’t like the fact that Brown is going Army.”
“Why are you riding all your hopes on Alexis.  She’s just Jenni’s minion.  A stupid puppet for her.  She wouldn’t know what to say unless Jenni said it for her first.”
Stokes shrugged his shoulders.“She’s a cheerleader.  She has potential.”
“Well, if that’s what you’re going for, then why not Jenni?”
Stokes stuttered for a moment. “She’s too clingy and judgemental and I just don’t like her.  I never have.”
Lydia thought about her first encounter with Jenni and then the ones following.  Everytime she was around her something bad happened or something was said that was not in Lydia’s favor.  Jenni wanted attention and Lydia wouldn’t give it to her.  Lydia thought Jenni was a friend until the day she started spreading rumors about Lydia’s relationship with Jimmy.  All bets were off now. “Me neither. What about the junior varsity squad?”
Stokes rolled his eyes.  “Sheesh, Lydia.  I’m not a babysitter.  I don’t date underclassmen.”
“Fine.  Okay, I’m sorry, Stokes.  It was a stupid thing to do.  I didn’t mean it the way it came out.  I’m sorry.”
Stokes put a hand on her shoulder.  Lydia flinched.  Stokes had never touched her and she wasn’t used to it.  He smiled.  “It’s fine, Lydia.  I’ll figure out something.  There’s always the girls across town.”
Jimmy walked up to the two friends and flung his arm around Lydia’s shoulders.  “Watchin’ out for my girl, Stokes?”  He planted a kiss on Lydia’s cheek.
“Jimmy, you don’t have ownership rights,”  Lydia grumbled.  She took his arm off her shoulders.
“Baby, it’s just an expression.”
“I don’t like it.  Please stop calling me that.”
“Looks like the honeymoon’s over,” Stokes said.
Lydia looked at Jimmy and saw the onery sparkle in his green eyes.  “Oh, no.  The honeymoon has only begun.”  He uttered a deep growl at Lydia that made her insides quiver.
“Well, good, because I should probably come over later since I like to watch and all.”
“Ask your girl-sorry.  Ask Lydia.  I’m sure she can give you all the details.”
“I’m sorry, Stokes.  I didn’t mean to drag you into it.  I just wanted to get back at Jenni for all the nasty things she’s been saying about me lately.”
“Just tell the truth, Lydia.  Quit hiding.  It’s not a big deal.  Just tell the truth.”  He walked away from the two lovebirds.
“You’re not the one that has to put up with all those nasty things they say about me everyday.”  She called after him.
Jimmy raised an eyebrow at Lydia.  “Care to tell me what’s going on?”
Lydia looked at the floor and drew circles with her toe.  “Not really.”
“Lyddie,” he warned in a voice that sounded way too much like her daddy.
“Don’t say my name like that.  It creeps me out when you say it like that.”
“Wow. Strike two for me.  Something’s really bothering you, isn’t it, Lyddie.  Just tell me.”
Lydia shook her head.  “Not now.  I have to go to class.”
“Later then? At home?”
Brett Warski walked by and saw the two talking.  He flashed that evil grin that reminded Jimmy that he wasn’t the one that got to her first.  Jimmy pulled Lydia closer to him.  “At my house.  We’ll talk at my house.  Okay?”
Lydia nodded.  Jimmy kissed the top of her head and dropped her off at her next class.