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Authors: Bristol Palin

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BOOK: Not Afraid of Life
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Okay, there are several times in this story where looking back at what happened I can see the perfect opportunities for me to have gotten out of this situation. I regret lying to my mom, I regret losing my virginity, and I regret—more than anything—that the incident at Point MacKenzie caused me to move toward Levi, instead of run away from him.

At the end of the conversation, Levi apologized and said, “We don’t have to do it again until we’re married.”

Mysteriously, that’s all I needed to hear. I was thankful he understood why I was so upset, and he seemed to totally respect my decision not to have sex again. His immediate agreement actually made me appreciate him more.

B
ut I hadn’t suddenly recovered from this traumatic event. Rather, I was reeling from a million emotions all fighting for attention in my mind. Later that day, my friend was at my house and we talked about all that had happened. It was a lot to process, so we needed to bring in more friends to help us talk it out.

“You need to come over,” she said to another friend into the mouthpiece.

Do you remember when phones were “picked up” rather than “slid on” and were cradled in a receiver or hung from a wall instead of always living in your pocket or bag? Well, at my house we had a landline phone, and the kids were always spying on each other by listening from a different phone in other parts of the house. It was easy—you’d just carefully lift the receiver, put your hand over the bottom, and be very, very quiet.

Track had perfected this. I honestly think he could work for the CIA or the FBI the way he always seemed to know my business. However, my friend wasn’t aware of his tactics and didn’t have a cell phone.

When she picked up the phone in the kitchen, she whispered to our other friend. She didn’t realize that Track had suspected something was wrong in the house and had lifted the receiver to test his theory.

“Just believe me. You’ve got to get over here,” she insisted. “Now!”

Apparently, my other friend at the other end of the phone knew something was up and wasn’t going to come over until she knew exactly what had happened.

My friend finally relented. “Bristol and Levi had sex last night!”

Through the phone, my friend heard the loud
thunk
of Track slamming the phone onto its receiver.

“Bristol, I think I messed up,” she sheepishly said as she hurried into my room. We looked out the window and saw Track furiously punching numbers into his phone and pacing back and forth in the driveway. Then came the yelling, “I’m gonna f—king kick his ass,” he told his friend.

Because I wasn’t rowdy, Track was disgusted and shocked when he heard his hockey teammate had taken his sister’s virginity. He never spoke to me about it directly; he drove straight over to Levi’s house and threatened to . . . well, let’s just say Track was an “abstinence only” advocate when it came to his sisters, and he was ready to enforce that philosophy with his fists.

Please don’t tell Mom and Dad

I texted him. In retrospect, I underestimated my parents. When I finally did tell them that I was pregnant, they didn’t come back at me with fire and brimstone. How much easier it would have been if I’d confessed to them before it escalated to pregnancy.

Only if you promise to never do that again!

he texted right back.

Though I’d later find out it was a hard promise to keep, it was an easy promise to make. I never ever wanted to have sex with Levi again until we were married.

I promise

I texted Track, and that was that. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I’m now thankful to have a brother who cared about me so much.

A natural consequence of Track knowing about the Point MacKenzie incident is that Levi never showed his face around my house again. When we’d go out, he’d pull into the driveway, I’d hop into the car, and we’d go to his house or to a movie. (Girls, if your date won’t go to your house and knock on the door, he’s probably not the right guy for you.) Levi had gotten his license in May, which meant we had more flexibility and didn’t have to rely on parents or friends to see each other.

And that’s the story of how I began to live my double life and why Mom and Dad didn’t worry about their straight-A, straitlaced daughter.

At least, not yet.

Chapter Four

Not Like Other Families

O
n November 7, 2006, we gathered at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage with hundreds of volunteers, supporters, family, and friends who came in from the cold to hear the results of Mom’s gubernatorial race. They’d been outside campaigning, holding the red signs on the side of the street, and praying that Mom would somehow pull it off. It had been a tough campaign for Mom, who was definitely the underdog, but as the precincts started reporting in gradually, we began to think, Could it be possible that she might win?

Mom said her thank-yous to all the supporters before we walked from the hotel to the Egan Civic and Convention Center, where the media had gathered to interview the candidates. I’m not sure how long the walk was—probably just a few blocks!—but it was the first time I’d ever worn heels, and it seemed like miles. Plus, it was freezing cold and snow was piled up on the sides of the streets.

It didn’t matter. We were so excited about the fact that Mom might become Alaska’s youngest and first female governor, we could’ve run down the street. When we finally arrived, Leisl and my cousin Lauden marched into the center yelling, “Sarah! Sarah!” Mom went off to do radio and television interviews, while we probably acted rowdy in all of our giddiness. Finally, after Mom had given several interviews, the results of all the precincts came in.

I was standing with my cousins and family friends who had helped us with the campaign when I heard that my mother won the race; she ended up capturing more than 51 percent of the vote.

Everyone was so excited, and the atmosphere was electric.

It was clear right off the bat that Mom was not going to be “politics as usual.” She was sworn into office in a hockey rink. It turns out the Carlson Center sports arena was the perfect place to accommodate the five thousand Alaskans who braved the cold and attended the event—including almost two thousand students who came on yellow school buses or traveled from nearby Denali Elementary. We got on a bus in Wasilla with every member of my family and made the seven-hour drive. Lauden and I put our headphones on and chatted the whole way. The drive was worth it. There was a lot of excitement all because of
my
mom.

She took the oath of office while placing her hand on the Bible Dad held for her. It was the Bible she’d used as a kid, and it had her maiden name—“Sarah Heath”—embossed on the front of it. Afterward, everyone clapped enthusiastically, and people started chanting her name from the cheap seats.

We were sitting onstage—five generations, from Great-Grandma Lena all the way down to Piper, who wore a bright red dress. What other color would do? Before we went out there, Piper wanted to wear a tiara on her head, so we let her attend our mother’s ceremony wearing a crown! We were exhilarated as we heard the crowd roar, “Sarah! Sarah!”

Alaskan natives danced, bagpipe players played, and Jewel’s dad sang. Iditarod champion Libby Riddles introduced Mom, since Libby was the first woman to win the 1,150-mile sled dog race. When she got up to the podium, everyone was still chanting, so she quieted the thousands by saying, “Okay, the governor said cease and desist.”

It was a wonderful ceremony, which nicely honored my mother’s accomplishment, showed she was definitely going to be a different kind of governor, and allowed us to celebrate with loved ones.

Levi wasn’t there.

In fact, he never campaigned with us, never wrote out a name tag, and never went to any picnic or rally. I interpreted his lack of interest in the outcome of the race as a sign that he wasn’t searching for fame. In fact, I actually found his lack of interest appealing, a weird kind of evidence that he was in our relationship for me and me alone.

W
hen Mom became governor, it meant we had to make a lot of changes, including a move to Juneau. Though I thought I might miss Levi, I was ready for a change of scenery.

“Don’t bring anything you don’t absolutely need,” Dad said to us girls as we excitedly stuffed our favorite clothes into our suitcases. It’s rare to be able to start over in the middle of the school year at a new school, in a new city.

There was only one problem. Juneau is the most inaccessible capital in America. In the middle of the Tongass National Forest, you can only get there by air or sea. While thousands of people debark off cruise ships into the city, it’s more complicated for people like my mom who are involved in the government. Some lawmakers have to travel a thousand miles just to get to the office, trips complicated by the lack of roads in or out of the city. (Juneau is the only capital not connected to the U.S. Highway system other than Honolulu, and the only capital to share a border with another country: Canada!)

It complicated my life as well.

“You’re not taking your car,” Dad said. He’d told me earlier that my first car would be my mother’s black VW Jetta. It was diesel and a stick shift, which made it so cool. (We still drive it, and it’s going strong at 180,000 miles and counting.)

“Dad, come on!” I protested. Mom was already preparing for her new role as governor, so this showdown was going down between Dad and me.

“If you’re not playing ball, you don’t need a car.” As I mentioned, my enthusiasm for basketball had waned since middle school, and I was ready to hang up my uniform. But Mom and Dad believed athletics were one of the most important aspects of youth and weren’t letting me quit so quickly.

“You’re trying to bribe me?”

“You bet I am.”

To get a car into the state capital, you have to drive it up to Canada and have it barged in. It was complicated, cost money, and Dad didn’t want me to have extra time and a car in which to drive around and find trouble. I reluctantly agreed to their terms and stuffed my basketball shoes into my suitcase as well.

When we first arrived, we staked out our bedrooms. The Alaska Governor’s Mansion is over fourteen thousand square feet, has eight fireplaces, and six bedrooms. The Greek Revival–style house is white, with large stately columns, black shutters, and a green roof. It seems like the kind of house that could be found in New England, except that there’s a huge totem pole on the side. I bet our state might be the only capital with that decoration! Alaska, as you may know, is famous for these hand-hewn cedar poles that were used to communicate before natives had written language. The one at the mansion supposedly tells the story of how mosquitoes, sunlight, stars, tides, and marine animals were made. The stately home sits high on a hill, which gave us a really great view of the city. Plus, it was just a couple of blocks away from the Capitol building, the high school, and the downtown shops.

Though it was nice, it seemed more like a museum than a house. So we started moving in, Palin style. The most fun things we brought to the mansion were “buoy swings” (like tire swings but made from old buoys instead of Michelins), which we hung from a tree in the back. Mom also put a trampoline in the backyard. The transition to Juneau was pretty easy and was even more seamless because of the hard work of our house manager, Erika. It didn’t hurt that she had fun boys our age. We loved hanging out with them. One of my fondest memories was when one of her sons and his friend jumped into the freezing river channel in the middle of winter wearing swim trunks. My friend and I were trying to drive back from the docks after we videotaped it. But after they stood on the side, held their breath, and plunged into the icy water, my car got stuck! So these two freezing cold boys in swim trunks and sandals had to push our car out of the snow before any of us could get out of there.

Dad still worked the North Slope, which meant he was thirteen hundred miles away. Track was traveling on a hockey team in Michigan, more than three thousand miles away. That meant that Willow, Piper, and I were the only Palin kids in the mansion. Talk about girl power!

One night, I was lying in bed around nine o’clock, when I heard a commotion outside.

“Bristol . . . Bristol!” I thought I was just hearing things until it lasted for fifteen minutes straight.

Reluctantly, I got up and looked out my window to see about a dozen high school kids chanting my name with a megaphone.

I opened the window and leaned out. “What?”

By this time, Mom had gotten out of bed, too.

“Hey, boys,” she said. “Why are you yelling at my daughter?”

They explained that they were a high school group and were doing a scavenger hunt around town.

“One of the things on our list is to get a photo taken with one of the Palins,” one of them said.

Mom loved it and thought I should not only let them take a photo but also join in the fun.

“You should join them, Bristol,” she said. “Go do the scavenger hunt with them!”

That’s when I knew Juneau was going to be an awesome place to live. I hurriedly got dressed and put on my shoes. However, after I got down to their cars, I realized that these kids didn’t really mesh with me. Though they were incredibly nice, they told me they were on the “battle of the books” team and drove Subarus with “Going Green” bumper stickers.

Before we drove away from the mansion, another scavenger team arrived to get a Palin photo. Now,
that
was the team to be on. The boys were rowdy, drove big trucks, and one of them even had a snowmachine in the back. In other words, they were my kind of guys. Because I’d told the first group I’d go with them, I did . . . but I was pressing my nose against the glass in regret that I’d committed too early.

Once we settled into a routine, our days went something like this. I’d go to school, then Mom would get the girls ready and drop them off at school. After school, Piper’s school bus would drop her off next to the steps of the Capitol. She’d bring in her pictures, which she was forever making for people who worked there, who nicely hung them in their offices. Senator Menard even gave us a dog, whom Piper named Agia. Sounds like a nice name for a dog, right? Well, it was an acronym for Alaska Gasoline Inducement Act, Mom’s signature project. But when we left, we gave that dog back! We also had a dog named Indy. (Well, we had three dogs named Indy. Indy 1 was a gift from Aunt Molly when I was two . . . right after the earrings. Indy 2 was a black miniature toy poodle that Willow neglected so much that Grandma and I gave it away when Willow was out of town. Indy 3 was the runt of a shih tzu litter, which didn’t last long before we gave it to a friend, too!) Now I have a new dog named . . . Charlie. Yes, I did think about Indy 4 but decided to try something new. Maybe he’ll last longer!

I see now that it was good for me to be back on the basketball team, even though it was a compromise. The basketball manager, Marissa, quickly became my best friend. Half Chinese and half native, she had dark hair and a funny sense of humor, and we became friends instantly. Since she was the manager, I asked her to hold my phone during our first game. Well, Levi just happened to call me during the game. And when I didn’t answer, he called me again. And again. And again.

At the end of the game, Marissa handed me my phone and said, “Levi Johnston has called you forty times! What’s wrong with this kid?” I remember she pronounced his name like “levy” and I laughed. “Is he crazy about you?”

“I think he’s just crazy,” I said, and we laughed.

We were instantly best friends, which made the irritations of basketball in an inaccessible city much more bearable.

In the lower forty-eight, mothers complain of their kids taking long road trips that get them home late at night and complicate homework. But in Alaska, sports require long road trips and even airplane rides to remote locations hundreds of miles away. Instead of quick trips to nearby towns, our “away” games took us to faraway towns. While we lived in Wasilla, most of our trips were manageable and within a few hours. But travel for Juneau basketball was a lot more difficult.

Competition required taking airline “milk runs,” Alaskan Airline flights more like city buses than flights because they stop in every small town to let passengers off on the way to the destination. (The jets on the milk runs have large cargo areas sometimes loaded with Cordova salmon and other high-priced fish to take to Seattle.) We took about four basketball trips during the season, during which the whole team would fly into small towns like Sitka (in the southeastern part of the state that faces the Gulf of Alaska) for a game. Instead of staying at the high school or at a hotel, however, the entire team would be “housed out” with local families willing to let us sleep in an extra bedroom or, all too frequently, their floor next to the couch. Even when my mom was governor, I’d travel to remote villages, go to complete strangers’ homes, and sleep on their floor. I think the only special treatment I got was once I was housed out at the home of the Ketchikan mayor, whose daughter played basketball. Most of the time, I was sleeping on whatever pull-out sofa or spare bed people had. Frequently, when people realized they were housing the governor’s daughter, they’d stick a business card in my hand and ask, “Hey, we love your mom. Can you give this to her? I’d love to work for her on . . .” Otherwise, I was just part of the team.

We never housed out any of the opposing team’s players at the Governor’s Mansion, but it was completely open to our friends from school. When we lived in Wasilla, our place was where everyone always came over for food and television. My brother’s hockey friends were always over, eating cookies my mom baked and annoying Willow, Piper, and me. People would always tell me how awesome and cool my mom was, and I’d readily agree. So I had the “cool mom,” and the “intimidating dad.” A good mix, in my opinion. In Juneau, even though the dynamics were different, with Dad working on the Slope, our open-door policy was still in effect. And it was a lot of fun to invite people over to a mansion.

Most of my classmates hadn’t ever been inside of it, because governors never had young kids running around. There was a famous place in the mansion called the “cigar room,” which became the hangout spot for all my friends. It had old leather couches, a wine cellar, a wet bar, and a card table. You just felt like you needed to smoke a cigar and have deep conversations in a cloud of smoke. That’s not what we did, of course. Mom put an (more kid-appropriate!) air hockey table down there, and it became the most awesome place for friends. Also, because it had its own entrance, we could come and go without disrupting anyone else.

BOOK: Not Afraid of Life
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