Authors: Jennah Scott
Tags: #Young Adult
I pushed my chair away from the table and turned to go to the bathroom. Before I left the kitchen I leaned down and spoke into Stacey’s ear. “By the way, thank you. For everything.”
Stacey shivered. Score one for me.
The cold shower didn’t help much.
The next day I sat in Dr. Greenberg’s waiting room watching the black hands on the clock once again turn slow circles against the white background. Stacey and I came in separate cars since I needed a car to get around town after my appointment. Finding a job topped my list of things to do for the day. I didn’t intend to stay with Stacey long, but a small part of me wanted to. Okay, maybe not so small. Seeing her that morning getting ready for work was hot. Maybe sticking around longer wasn’t such a bad idea. For that to happen I needed a job.
Not to mention someone would have to pay the court costs when the day came. I couldn’t ask my mom or Dave to help out. Mom didn’t have any control of the family finances and Dave would laugh just before letting his fist connect with some part of my body.
I went in for my appointment and suffered through an hour of the same questions as the last two days. The one thing that stuck out though, was her discreet warning about Stacey. With my hand on the doorknob she called my name. Her last words of the day were, “Luke, if you hurt Stacey in any way, court will be the least of your concerns.” I responded with a simple, ‘yes ma’am’ and left. I gave Stacey a quick wave on my way out. No reason to tell her Dr. Greenberg’s warning, she’d flip if she thought there might be a chance the lovely Doc knew what we’d done.
Not quite ready to go job hunting, I took a deep breath and let my shoulders droop against the brick wall while I basked in the midday sun. It was hot in Texas, but no worse than Florida. This time of year it didn’t hit a hundred until later in the day. There was a squeak followed by arms wrapped around my neck, right as I leaned back. I grabbed a hold of my assailant around the waist and steadied myself with a hand against the wall.
“What the hell?” I grunted.
“I’d ask you the same thing. Aren’t you supposed to be on campus?” She matched my tone.
“Umm, well seeing as I’m suspended the answer would be no. You, on the other hand, should be.”
“Ha. I skipped third period and lunch. They both suck ass anyway.”
I scrunched my forehead and looked at Chelsea. “Aren’t you like a model student or something? I mean you’re an office worker.”
“Yeah, and your point would be?” She slid her hands from around my neck and shoved them in her shorts pockets.
I couldn’t help but admire her long tanned legs.
“Well, in my experience office workers are goody two shoes.” I realized I didn’t clam up when I talked to Chelsea. Our conversation was easy. I liked that.
She let out a quick burst of laughter. “Goody two shoes, I’m not. I kiss ass to get away with whatever I want and being an office worker has prime kiss ass opportunity.”
Chelsea pulled one hand out of her pocket and entwined her arm with mine. I looked at our linked arms then at Chelsea. She winked. “So, umm, yeah,” I said, nervous for the first time. “I’ve gotta go.”
“That’s cool. I’ll go with you. Remember, I’m your princess in shining armor. I’ve got to be with you to save you.”
A gasp broke through the now stale air that surrounded us. I glimpsed over my shoulder to see Stacey holding the door open.
“What’s up Stace?”
“Nothing, never mind.” Her voice was sharp, but before I had a chance to question her further she slammed the door shut.
“Well, that was interesting.” Chelsea purred and pulled me down the sidewalk.
I shook Chelsea off. “I’ve got to go check on her. I’ll catch you later, okay?”
I crashed through the door of the office. Stacey jumped in her seat, and turned her head away, but not before I saw the flash of hurt in her eyes.
“Where’s your girl?” She asked the picture on the wall, not me.
“You mean Chelsea?”
Stacey rolled her eyes and shot daggers at me. “Don’t play innocent with me.”
“I’m not. Chelsea is the chick from school I told you about.” I searched Stacey’s face for some indication she remembered, but came up empty. “Anyway, she’s the one that told me she has a brother that does the same thing I do. She’s the reason I asked Dr. Greenberg if there was an explanation for why I react the way I do”
“Whatever. It’s none of my business. I have to get back to work.” Stacey flicked her wrist towards the door, and I took the hint.
This time I bypassed my car and set out on the sidewalk instead. My hands shoved deep into my pockets. I thought about the anger and sadness radiating off of Stacey when she’d seen us. It didn’t make sense. She’d turned me down for a date, and yeah I was living with her, but when I tried to make a move she shied away.
The local music store had a Now Hiring sign in the window. I hesitated then tugged the door open and walked in. The bells jingled behind me as I made my way to the desk in the middle of the store. Album covers served as the primary decoration in the store, some signed, some not. CD cases filled the shelves.
“Excuse me?” I approached the guy standing behind the counter and I waited for him to pull his ear buds out to acknowledge me.
“Sup?” He said with a quick upwards tilt of his chin.
“Umm, yeah. I saw that you’re hiring. I just wondered what job you needed to fill.”
“Hold on, lemme ask.” The guy pushed off the countertop and shuffled to the back of the store. I roamed the aisles admiring the collection of covers. I thumbed the CD racks, all divided by genre and in some mishmash alphabetical order.
As I paced the store my thoughts drifted back to Stacey. Her anger at Chelsea signified something. Of course, in order to find out what that was I’d have to convince Stacey that Chelsea wasn’t a threat. I needed her trust, without that we would never have anything.
Finally, the desk guy came back out and met me at the front of the store near the how-to books for playing music. “We’re looking for a stocker. You interested?”
“Yep. I am.”
“Great.” His voice was dry. He pulled a couple of pieces of paper from the front pocket of his red smock. “Fill these out and bring them back. Sue, the owner, will talk to you when you do.”
I took the papers and left the store.
Hungry, I took a left at the intersection and found some food. I loved Mexican food, especially tamales. Fortunately for me, this town had one helluva restaurant within walking distance. The waitress sat me in a booth at the back. I ordered then spread the papers I’d picked up from the music store in front of me. One page turned out to be a standard application. I scribbled my information on the sheet then moved onto the next. It was a questionnaire. Damn, they were serious about this place. A smile spread across my lips while scrawling the answers to the questions.
Favorite genre of music: Anything with a decent rhythm.
Favorite Beatles album: To pick just one is too difficult. The Beatles are a legacy.
Do you know how to play an instrument: Yep, guitar. Both acoustic and electric.
Best advice to give a person when they come in and tell you to recommend some music: Find out what their mood is and what they want to do with the music. There are different suggestions based on what you’re doing: relaxing, focusing, etc.
I dropped off the application and by the time I left the store I had a job. Only one thing had the ability to make my happiness fade. Well, she wasn’t a thing so much as a person and she stood outside the store. Her hands crossed over her chest and her head tilted back against the shop window. Chelsea looked like she was sleeping. I knew the best course of action was to walk past her without a word. Just my luck, she didn’t agree. As soon as I passed within in her reach Chelsea snagged my waist and pulled me close.
She perched on her toes up against my back and whispered in my ear, “Where you headed, cutie?”
I whirled around. Chelsea stayed inches from my face. I felt her warm breath cross my lips, the sensation made me pause. I took a deep breath, placed my hands on her shoulders, and with a gentle push moved her away. “What happened to trying to help me?”
Chelsea tilted her head to the side and her brow furrowed. “What do you mean? I am trying to help you.”
I brought my hand up, but stopped and made a fist then snapped my arm down to my side. I violently shook my head. “The fuck you are. A few days ago you were all nice and angelic. In the last couple of hours you’ve turned into something worse. You said you’d help me, and yet, all you’ve done is come on to me.” Chelsea straightened her shoulders and stood with her hands on her hips. I continued, “Look. You’re pretty. Hell, any guy would probably love for you to show them the attention you’ve shown me. But I’m not any guy, and you aren’t who I want. Now, if you want to help me, great. If not, then I’ll see you later. Keep one thing straight; I don’t want you for anything more than a friend. Period.”
Chelsea stayed silent for a minute. As soon as I made to turn she spoke, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I do want to help you. And whoever’s stolen your heart should feel damn lucky.”
“Great. Today’s not a good day though. I’ve got to do some begging and pleading—no thanks to you. I’ll see you back at school next week.”
Chelsea didn’t try to stop me. She let me brush her shoulder on my way back to the office. I hoped she took me seriously and wouldn’t push the issue. If she thought being nice and giving in would earn her brownie points she was dead wrong.
On the way back to my car I came up with an apology difficult to forget. If luck stood in my favor, Stacey would see that I had good reasons for giving dating a shot. I climbed in my car and took off. Once I gathered everything, I settled in front of the door of Stacey’s apartment. I gave the key back to her the night before, and neither of us had a chance to get a copy made. For today that didn’t bother me, but I knew I’d have to ask sooner rather than later.
While I waited for Stacey I perched against the wall with my knees pulled up, and a book resting on my thighs. At the library I checked out a how-to book of relaxation techniques. Dr. Greenberg said I could control my rages and since her techniques worked before, I hoped maybe there were others that might help.
Some of the suggestions came from the Mayo Clinic. I didn’t know much about the clinic itself, but I knew it was important and they did a lot of medical research there. If anyone knew what might help me, they would. I began the visualization technique the book talked about.
I straightened my legs, set the book next to me, and took a deep calming breath. Of course, I wasn’t consumed with rage. But, practice made perfect and I figured if I practiced now, when the time came to use the technique I’d know what to do.
Step one: deep breath in, hold, and release. Step two: think of a calming, relaxing place. I read the paragraph twice before I thought I could follow the steps without laughing. Form images that are peaceful or that would take you on a peaceful journey. Yeah right
I closed my eyes and pictures formed, but they weren’t what I’d consider peaceful. Stacey’s full red lips turned up into a smile and her hand brushed her hair from her eyes. I shook my head hoping the picture would wipe away like chalk on a chalkboard. Not that I didn’t want to think about Stacey, but I was supposed to be relaxing.
The second try resulted in images of playing my guitar. I smiled at the quiet sounds as I strummed a slow chord. The waves of the beach lapped against my feet. I sat on the edge of the tide and watched the sunset against the horizon, admiring the blend of reds and oranges. Salt dried on my skin making me itch, and still I sat playing and listening to the crashing waves.
When the wall began shaking I jolted from the beach and returned back to the clammy hallway of Stacey’s apartment complex. I stretched my arms and legs. Stacey’s warm hand on my shoulder explained the shaking.
“Hey, you fell asleep.” Stacey rubbed her hand down my arm and sent electric shocks through my body.
“Damn, the technique worked better than I expected.” I reached over and flipped the book closed.
Stacey tilted her head to the side. “Technique?”
“Yeah, just something I read.” I waved the book at her.
“To control your anger?”
“Yeah, it’s lame. I know.”
I rubbed my eyes and looked up. She wasn’t looking at me, but over my lap at the bouquet of flowers propped next to my leg.
“Those for the chick you were with this afternoon?”
“No.” I lifted the flowers off the floor and cradled them in my arm like a baby as I stood up. “They’re for you.”
Stacey gasped. “For me? Why would you…” She ducked her head. “Luke, I told you we couldn’t do this.”
“I know. I know what you said, but damn it I don’t understand. What the hell is wrong with us giving dating a shot?” I held up a finger before she could answer. “Before you say work, don’t forget we’re already hiding that I’m bunking here until I figure out what to do. Don’t try to tell me she doesn’t suspect something.” I thrust the flowers into Stacey’s chest, pulled the keys from her hand and went through the front door. I didn’t stop, but kicked off my shoes then made a beeline to the spare bedroom. Over my shoulder I called out, “Don’t worry about dinner. I’ll take care of myself.” The door slammed shut.
I didn’t have time to flop on my bed before a loud bang, bang, bang rang through the room. “Go away,” I mumbled into the comforter.