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Authors: Laurie Gray

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BOOK: Maybe I Will
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But Shanika didn't answer. She seemed suddenly lost in another world. I waited several moments before switching the conversation back to Hector. “Did Hector's parents report the incident to the school or the police?” I asked.

“I don't know,” Shanika admitted. “I guess not because it doesn't look like anybody's doing anything about it.” She hesitated. And then her voice dropped so low I almost didn't hear her. “Just because you tell them doesn't mean they'll do anything about it.”

I gave her shoulder a playful push. “That's not making me want to tell,” I said. “And anyway, I feel a little better just knowing that you know. Give me some time. I'll think about it.”

Shanika nodded. “Yeah, better to think about it. Don't tell just because I want you to. You decide for yourself. I'm here for you either way.” She looked at me and smiled. Then she broke into our favorite musical number. “You just send for Tiger Lily. I'll just send for Peter Pan,” she sang.

I joined in, “We'll be coming willy, nilly, Lily.”

Shanika nodded. “Beat on a drum, and I will come.”

15

“Dive, thoughts, down to my soul.”

—Richard III
, Act I, Scene i, Line 41

T
HAT NIGHT ALONE
in my room, I drank. I tried to pace myself, but I had to keep drinking. All of the shock I'd felt initially had finally worn off. The only thing I could feel was the raw pain of the violation.
The violence.
Even the vodka couldn't seem to take the edge off of that excruciating pain.

At first, telling Shanika was a relief. It somehow helped to know that she knew and that she believed me. But now, all alone again, I wanted to take it all back. Somehow her knowing made it all the more real. There seemed to be this long row of people lined up like dominoes . . . Shanika's dad, my dad, my mom, Troy, the police, the school, everybody at school, Hector . . . Telling Shanika, just Shanika, was like pushing that very first domino. They were all going to fall.

But maybe, just maybe, Shanika was strong enough to stand this. Maybe she really wouldn't tell her dad or anybody.
But if I show up at taekwondo tomorrow all drunk or hung-over, that will push her over for sure.
I had to stop drinking. I put the vodka away and chugged
down a big bottle of water.
That's it. No room for any more liquid.
But I felt all knotted up and queasy.

I grabbed the notebook I'd written the poem in Sunday night and started writing down the words that came to mind. It helped to just put them out there and stare at them.

Cassie     Aaron     Sex
Hector     Aaron     Violence
What about me?
Why me?
It's not about sex.

I stared at that page a long time. Finally, I flipped to a new page and just started writing as fast as the thoughts came to me.

Violence is violence
It's not about sex
It's power and anger and fear

Friendship is friendship
I thought it would last
Year after year after year

School is school
Get me out of this place
Just let me become Peter Pan

My life is a mess
I can't take anymore
I'm doing the best that I can

Sex is just sex
A three-letter word
Take it or leave it alone

And God, where is God?
There's a three-letter word
Designed to condemn or condone

HELP—I need help
But who can I trust?
And how do I deal with the pain?

HOPE—Is there hope?
Will this night never end?
I'm gradually going insane

I put down my pen and realized all of the pressure had moved from my head to my bladder.
Too much real water.
I closed the notebook, went to the bathroom and then totally crashed on my bed.

I was so crashed that my mom had to shake me awake the next morning. It startled me so that I woke up screaming, which totally freaked my mom out and then she was yelling, and Dad came running up the stairs to see what was wrong, and there I was, still in my clothes from the night before and drenched in sweat.

“It was just a nightmare,” I told them.

“Probably brought on by fever,” Mom said, feeling my damp forehead and wet clothes. “It seems to have broken now, though.”

She sent my dad for the thermometer and sat on the edge of my bed stroking my cheek. It made me want to cry so bad that I had to
turn over on my side away from her. She gently rubbed my back until Dad returned.

“Let me take your temperature,” she said. She sniffled a little bit and her eyes glistened with tears. As we waited for the thermometer to beep, she said softly, “I just wish I knew what was going on with you, Sandy.”

When she took the thermometer from my mouth, she read it silently and then handed it to Dad. “No fever,” he said. “That's good, right?”

I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes with my sleeve. “Good. Today's the last day of camp, and I wouldn't want to miss it.”

“Do you think we should call Dr. Parks?” Dad asked.

Mom hesitated; so I answered, “I don't. It was just a bad dream. It's over.” Mom still didn't look convinced. “I don't even remember what it was now,” I added.

“Sandy, when was the last time you took Nyquil?” Dad asked.

“I haven't taken any since we went to see Dr. Parks. Honest.”

“Are you taking anything else?” Mom asked.

Ooh, trickier question. I've been taking alcohol from the grocery store, but that was last weekend.
“Mo-om,” I tried to sound incredulous. “I've been in taekwondo camp all week. The last thing I drank was a bottle of water,” I said picking up the empty bottle and handing it to her.

She lifted it to her nose and then handed it to Dad. “What?” he asked.

“It's water,” she said.

Dad looked completely baffled. “Of course it's water.”

I held my breath. The thought of Mom sniffing all of my water bottles sent adrenaline surging through every muscle in my body.
“Speaking of taekwondo, I'd better go. I'm testing for orange belt this morning.” I got up and started getting my clothes around.

“Wait, Sandy,” Mom said. She and Dad were making funny faces back and forth in some secret communication effort. I remember when I was really little and they used to spell back and forth when they didn't want me to know what they were talking about. When I could follow them no matter how fast they spelled, they started using Latin phrases. Once I started picking up on those, they've invented some weird secret facial expressions or something. But I wasn't sure they really ever knew what the other one was trying to convey any better than I did.

Mom was patting on the bed like she wanted me to sit back down. “Wait for what?” I asked slowly, reluctant to sit back down on the bed now that I was up. “I need to use the bathroom and jump in the shower.”

“I want you to talk to a counselor,” she said. “I feel like you're worried about something and for whatever reason you don't want to talk to us about it. But you need to talk to someone.”

I tried to shrug it off like it was no big deal. “Fine. I'll talk to a counselor. Whatever. Can I go now?” I didn't actually wait for her to answer.

I swallowed a couple of Tylenol from the bottle we kept in the medicine cabinet, then took a long shower, wasting more time and more water than usual, and thinking about what it would be like to see a counselor.
It might not be bad, especially with the whole shoplifting thing out there. When the police come knocking on our door, maybe the counselor can explain to my parents how everything can get so crazy so fast. But, then again, I wouldn't want the counselor running back to my parents with everything I might say.

By the time I came downstairs to have Dad drive me to taekwondo, I was feeling pretty good. My parents had made an appointment for me the following week with a Dr. McMann. Mom had already left for the office. Dad told me as we got into the car.

“Man or woman?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” he wanted to know.

“I guess not,” I said. Suddenly I had this picture of a dark room with a couch—me lying on the couch . . . Aaron watching me. I pushed that image out of my head and tried to picture Dr. McMann. In popped this idea of me visiting some Ronald McDonald in a fast food Play Place. I smiled and shook my head.

“What's so funny?” Dad asked.

“It's just that McMann kind of sounds like a guy in a Ronald McDonald suit to me.”

Dad laughed. “Then you'll be happy to know that Dr. McMann is a woman.”

“No clown suit?” I asked.

“No clown suit,” answered Dad. He had his eyes on the road, so I had a chance to really look at him. When I was a kid he seemed like the biggest, smartest, strongest person in the world. I really thought he knew everything. But now, he was still a good guy and all, he just seemed so clueless. It made me want to cry. I turned away and tried picturing a woman in the Ronald McDonald suit. But the humor was gone.

“So how'd you come up with her?” I asked.

“She's the best in town.” The way he looked at me, it suddenly felt like he was saying I'm so messed up she's probably the only one who could help me. But then his face softened. “Your mom knows her. Says kids seem to like her . . . “ His voice trailed off. “We just want whatever's best for you, Sandy.”

“I know, Dad.” I wanted to say
I'm okay
or at least
I'll be okay
, but it felt like a lie. So I just said, “It'll be okay.” And we drove the rest of the way in silence.

16

Oh, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!
How may likeness made in crimes,
Making practice on the times,
To draw with idle spider's strings
Most ponderous and substantial things!

—Measure for Measure
, Act III, Scene ii, Lines 285-290

A
S
I
GOT
out of the car, I realized a whole week had passed since I'd seen or talked to Troy. More than that for Cassie. They hadn't even sent me as much as a short, “hey how r u” text message. It's like I was dead to them. Of course, I hadn't texted them either, but why would I since I was already dead to them?
They were never really my friends. What did we ever even have in common? Cassie's mom as a babysitter when we were in preschool. No wonder I don't miss them.
Except I did.

I bowed as I walked into the do-jahng.
These people are my friends now. Shanika. Hector.
Shanika and I had the musical and now taekwondo in common. Hector and I were in the same grade, and we had taekwondo.
And Aaron. No, not Aaron. Maybe too much in common.
Maybe actually being friends with Hector wasn't such a
great idea. But at least I had Shanika.
As long as she doesn't mind being friends with a drunk and a thief.
Suddenly, I could hardly breathe.

I dropped my taekwondo bag inside the studio, then turned and ran back outside. Dad was already driving off, but I walked around the corner of the building and out of sight just in case. I leaned forward with my hands on my knees, gasping for breath like I'd just run a four-minute mile. I straightened myself and tried to walk it off, holding my side and taking slow, deep breaths. My eyes were wet with tears. I walked around to the back of the building where there was a picnic table and water fountain.

I took a drink of water and remembered that I hadn't brought any vodka with me today. Before I knew it, I was crying and trembling and trying to figure out how I was ever going to walk back into the studio, let alone test for orange belt. I sat down on top of the picnic table with my feet on the seat. I folded my arms across my knees, put my head down and let myself have a really good cry.

When it felt like all of the tears were out, I got another drink of water from the fountain and splashed the cold water all over my face and in my eyes. Then I stood up straight, focused and took a deep breath.
See-jup. Your form, your count.
And I started doing white belt form with every ounce of energy and precision I could muster. It felt good—really good—just to move my whole body with such purpose.

When I was finished and turned back toward the building, I saw Shanika standing there. “You okay?”

I nodded. “Just getting ready for testing.”

“Your form looks good, but you're late.” She motioned for me to follow her into the back door of the building. “There's no testing outside.”

“At least my bag was on time.”

Shanika laughed. “Yeah, and how many of the eighteen white belt moves do you think your bag has done while you were out here?”

“I don't know,” I said smiling. “How many moves did you teach it?”

“You're crazy, Sandy, you know that?”

I nodded. “My parents think so, too.” I dropped my voice as we walked through the back storage room toward the main studio. “They made an appointment for me to see a counselor next week.”

Shanika stopped. “No kidding?”

“No kidding.”

“Do they know?” she asked.

“I don't think so.” We were standing in between two kicking dummies and I couldn't resist throwing a couple of punches to this rubber green guy's head. “I'm pretty sure they would have told me, though, if they'd gotten a call from the store or from the police.”

“Not that!” Shanika smacked the back of the dummy's head at the same time I threw another punch, and it sent the shock of my blow right back up my arm. “I mean did you tell them about Aaron.”

I shook my head. “I haven't told them anything. They just know something's up.”

“So they're sending you to some psycho therapist?”

I nodded. “Come on. I'm late, remember?”

She smacked herself in the forehead. “Duh! Let's go. We can talk about this later. Right now you need to focus on testing.”

BOOK: Maybe I Will
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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