I put Joel's old wet clothes in the dryer as I heard him turn on the shower, and started them off so he'd have something to wear. He had dropped his duffle bag by the door in the living room, and it looked like he had brought about as much stuff as he could carry with him. Knowing him, he had probably stashed it somewhere the night before to keep me from knowing about it. I just didn't get it. Why would Joel's mom decide to kick him out of the house? I mean he's fourteen for goodness sakes. What could he have possibly done that would be so awful. Then again, thinking back to when I lived around the old neighborhood, his mom wasn't the nicest lady on the block. She was one of those mothers that had a child while in her teens and acted like she secretly resented him for spoiling her 'fun'. I guess they just got on each other's nerves or something. Still...that's a pretty harsh punishment for a teenage boy to deal with.
"Thanks man. That feels MUCH better!" Joel said, coming out of the bathroom. I turned and saw him in nothing but his damp boxer shorts, soaking up some of the warm water from his body. He was drying his hair off with a towel, and I took the opportunity to take a good look at him. He had....um...grown nicely since we last saw each other. He had little wisps of dark hair on his legs now, and his stomach had tightened up to show some nice muscles underneath. Not to mention that his chest had broadened out a bit, and his arms were developing some decent sized biceps these days. He was far from being some powerhouse, but he was a stud regardless. It sorta caught me off guard.
"Your...um...your clothes are in the dryer. They should be done in a few minutes." I told him.
"Don't sweat it. I've got some more clothes in my duffle bag. The ones on the outside might be soaked through, but the ones in the middle should be pretty dry." He finished drying his toussled hair, and tossed me the towel. "Thanks." His shoulders had gotten to be pretty wide too. He was really nice looking! It's funny how you miss these things sometimes while looking through the haze of a solid friendship.
I watched as he walked over to his bag and squatted down to rummage through it. Taking a brief second to notice that his ass was a pretty peach in itself. I was in love with my boyfriend, there was no doubt about that, but I felt a little blush in my cheeks as a few dirty thoughts slipped through about Joel. Hehehe, can't hate me for fantasizing. "If you have anything else in there that needs drying, you can just throw it in with the other stuff."
"That's ok. I've got something." He pulled an old faded wrinkled tshirt over his head and pulled up a pair of jean shorts. And my 'view' of him was once again covered. Not that it didn't stay in the back of my mind, and probably always would.
A moment or two passed while Joel shoved the rest of his stuff back in his bag, and I decided to ask the million dollar question. "Sooo....I mean...are you gonna tell me what this is all about, or what?"
"What what is all about?"
"You...being here. You said you couldn't go home."
"I got kicked out. Plain and simple. My mom hates me and she doesn't want me to live there anymore." He said matter-of-factly. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "What more is there to tell?"
"Maybe telling me WHY you think she hates you would help."
"I don't THINK it, Derrick....I know it. She SAID it. 'I hate you, Joel.' No interpretations neccessary." He said, and went back to digging for other stuff in his bag. He noticed the silence behind him, and turned around. "It's no big deal, ok? I don't give a fuck. Fine by me. Besides, it's just a temporary thing. We've been through this shit before and she always lets me back in eventually. Last time it only took her a week before she came looking for me." Did he NOT find this as disgusting as I did? Was he really that 'used' to being kicked out of his own house and told that he was hated...that it would stop affecting him entirely. "Last time, I had to run over to Reggie's house, and his parents wouldn't let me stay with her because she was a girl. So every night she would drop her mom's car keys down from her window, and I slept in the back seat. Hehehe! It was CRAZY! Kinda cool though..."
"Joel...your mom...I mean, she CAN'T just kick you out of the house whenever she feels like it, dude. That's insane." I said with concern. "I TOLD you...it's no big deal. She's just not herself right now."
"Well, whoever she IS needs to be locked up for what she's doing to her only son."
Joel's face turned serious. "Don't talk about my mom like that. Ok?"
"I'm just saying..."
He stepped closer, almost getting in my face over it. "I KNOW what you're saying, and I'm telling you not to. Got it?"
"Fine. Sorry." I said, surprised that he would defend her after mistreating him so badly.
"Look..." He said, softening his position, "...she has a new boyfriend. Some jerk off named 'Ron'. And the two of them have been into some pretty heavy stuff lately, and they don't want me around. Especially when they start doing that 'other' shit."
"'Other' shit? You mean...like drugs?"
"I don't mean pixie dust." He said, and he pulled some magazines out of his bag. "Look! PORN! Hehehe! Now we can have good times!" He tried to avoid the issue, but I think he could see the look on my face that it wasn't gonna work this time. "Sighhh...will you quit looking so DOWN already? I'm FINE. I gave her a choice, him or me." And I saw a tiny bit of sadness creep into his eyes before he covered it up with a fake grin. "She picked him. Fair and square." Then he directed his attention right back to his bag. "So I've just gotta wait until she gets bored with this guy like she always does, and then she'll let me come back."
"Joel...." I said, wanting to comfort him, advise him, protect him, and keep from crossig the line, all at once. "...Can't you...get some help or something? I mean...there are a few places that you can call..."
"No!" He shouted. "No places to call, what are you TALKING about? That's my MOM! I LOVE my mom, I'm not gonna just screw her over by calling some stupid 'agency' to come in and ruin her life."
"They're not going to ruin her life, Joel. They can get her some help. They can get YOU some help."
"I don't NEED any help! Neither does SHE! It was just a fight, Derrick. Why are you blowing this so far out of proportion?"
"Out of proportion? You just spent three hours sitting outside in the pouring rain, miles away from a home that you can't go back to, and trying to stay at a friend's house while your mom and some 'guy' go off and do drugs. You don't find that somewhat strange?"
"Look, if you don't want me to stay here, just say so."
"No REALLY! If you want me to go, just take my fucking clothes out of your dryer and I'll leave right NOW!"
"That's NOT what I'm saying and you KNOW it!" I shouted back.
"Watch it, playboy. If you and I start arguing...I'll have to call an 'angency' on you to help." He said with a snotty tone. Then he stepped closer to me, lowering his voice, "We're talking DRUGS here, Derrick. DRUGS. You know what 'agencies' do to minors that live with single parents involved with drugs? They declare her 'unfit' and immediately take me out of her custody. They take me away, and they put me in some 'home' with strangers until she cleans herself up. SIX MONTHS, and not a single day less. She gets put in rehab, I get put in some weird foster care place, and half a year later they see if MAYBE I get to go back and live with her again. Is that the kinda help you think my mother and I need?" He asked.
I didn't want to break up his family, I just....well...I don't know WHAT I wanted. Just...not this. Reluctantly...I answered. "No. I guess not."
"Alright then. Just keep your mouth shut, and I'll be out of your hair as soon as this is over." He told me. "Let's just forget about it. Everything will be ok. I can handle a little rough patch every now and then. I'm strong enough to deal with it and not break down like some little kid. So don't worry about me, ok?" He asked, and I nodded. "You're not gonna tell your mom, are you?"
"No. But she's gonna start asking questions after a couple of days when she realizes you haven't been home."
"That's fine. All I need is a couple of days anyway. By then my mom will have gotten all this bullshit out of her system and I can go home. I just need a place to crash for a few more days. Ok?"
I looked at him, and he was so....'needy' at that moment. He would never let it willingly show on his face, but it pushed its way to the surface anyway. "Alright. But you SUCK for putting me in this position, you know?"
"No I don't. I don't suck at ALL." He grinned. "But...the girl on page 7 certainly does! Mmmmmm!" And he threw me a magazine to entice me into letting the issue go. I couldn't do much more than shake my head with a smile. Joel had this strange ability to be so confident in his own master plan that he brought you right along with him. He seemed happy enough, and trying to push it any further myself would only result in him pushing back even harder. So...for the next hour or so, I sat down with him and pretended to be just as interested in the porno mags as he was. When all the while, I was more interested in watching him than I was seeing 'Ms. Candy Cane' insert footlong dildos into places most foul. But I guess it was quality time well spent. Just me and my bud. Friends forever.
My mother came home around 10:30, and both Joel and I were pretty damn hungry by the time she walked through that door. You could hear the loud rumble of the car and the flap of the plastic before it even pulled completely into our driveway. We instantly ran out to greet her as we heard the keys turning in the lock and the rattle of plastic bags in her hands. Meaning food from the diner! We practically robbed her of the bags when she walked in, and took them into the kitchen for her. I think she was pretty surprised. "Hi mom! Thanks Mom!" I said, taking them from her and speeding off.
"Well....hello to you too." She grinned in amazement.
We opened up the bags and found a cheesburger and a half in one, and a extra large slice of pizza in the other one. Both had some cold french fries sprinkled on the side. There were only two styrofoam packs, and Joel and I made our picks, diving in to stuff our faces. My mom looked on with a friendly wrinkle of her brow. "You boys....I swear." I don't think she expected Joel to be there that night, but didn't seem to mind either.
"Aren't you gonna eat anything?" I asked.
"Me? Oh....oh no, you boys eat up. I....ate before I left. Dig in, k?" She said, and then slipped off her shoes to go and slump down on the couch in the living room. I had my mouth full at the moment, but as I saw her from the kitchen, taking her hair down and leaning her head back...I started thinking. Two of us, two trays of food. Joel was kind of an...'extra' tonight. I wondered if she had really eaten anything at all. If maybe this was another one of those 'mom-sacrifices' that she refused to clue me in on, no matter how much it might have ached her inside. Joel had no problem nibbling away at his fries and all, but my conscience started to bother me. So I took another few bites of my cheesburger, and then got up to warm it up in our microwave. Once it was done, I took the tray out to her and sat it on her lap. She had her eyes closed, so she didn't see me at first. "Derrick? What's this?"
"I'm full." I said, and just left before she could force me to take it back. Joel talked to me at the table a bit more, but my main concern was watching to see if my mom would eat it. It was like having a pet snake and waiting for it to eat the mouse you just dropped in its cage. Sure enough...a few moments later, she opened the container and started eating what was left. I couldn't help but smile to myself. It felt good. There's no WAY that MY mom is gonna go hungry. Not ever. She looks out for me, and I look out for her. That's how it works. For now and forever. I can make sacrifices to. I just want her to be happy one day.
She was a bit too tired to really wrangle us up at first, but after she finished eating and rested a bit, she sent the both of us to bed. She placed a loving kiss on both of our foreheads and left the bedroom door open a crack as she walked away to catch some sleep herself. We both laid there, with me on the bed, and him cuddled up in blankets on the floor. Naturally...Joel and I weren't gonna go to go out that easy.
"You got a flashlight? I can look at some more porn before I go to bed." Joel said.
"You and your PORN! Jesus, what kinda freak are you turning into these days?"
"What do you mean? Like YOU never look at naked pictures!" He giggled.
"Suuuuure you don't."
"I DON'T." I protested. "Maybe some of us aren't as sick as you are."
"Hehehe, there's nothing sick about THIS, dude!" He said, and lifted up a magazine picture where I could vaguely make out a man on top of a woman, plowing away at her with her legs in the air. "It's nature....in it's finest form."
"Hahaha! Whatever, weirdo!"
"Well you should enjoy it a lot more than I do, ya virgin!"
There was a slight pause while we smiled at our own comments, but there was something inside me that just tickled at my sensibilities a little bit. A huge smile broke out on my face, and I figured...what the hell? "Who said I was a virgin?"
THIS comment...got Joel's attention instantly. "Psh! Get outta here!" He said, and I didn't answer. Just grinned while looking at the ceiling. "You're KIDDING me, right?"
"Hehehe, maybe. Maybe not."
"GET OUT!!!" He said a bit louder, and he sat up on the floor to look at me. "No way! You're LYING!"
"Nope...I'm telling you the absolute truth."
"Holy shit! Are you serious?!?!" He said, and I started to giggle at his enthusiasm.
"Shhhhh! Hehehe! You're gonna wake up my mom."
"WHOAH! You're not bullshitng me, are you? Damn! What's her name?"
"I'm not telling you!" I said. If I DID tell him, he would probably freak out twice as bad.
"Aw c'mon! TELL me! It's not like I'm gonna 'know' who she is or anything!" He pleaded.
"You SUCK!" He said, then changed to, "Was it good?"
"Sighhh....the best." I answered, remembering the times Tanner and I spent together, and how much magic he had brought into my life since our first kiss.
"Omigod..." Joel said, practically bouncing at hearing the good news. "Damn...my little Derrick is growing up without me!" He gave me a playful slug in the shoulder and laid back down to stare at the ceiling with me. "Is she hot? I'll bet she's hot. God, Derrick, the girls used to ALWAYS go for you at our old school."
"Yeah...she's gorgeous." I said, remembering to not slip up and ever change the 'she' to a 'he' by mistake.
"I'll bet. Those rich girls are pretty. They really take care of themselves, you know?" He said. "So what rich girl let you plug her? Huh? You know, if you get her pregnant, we'll be set for life!"
"Hehehehe, don't you mean I'LL be set for life?"
"Same difference." He chuckled. "I'm gonna make you tell me eventually, you know? So don't think you can keep it a secret."
"Whatever. Go to sleep." I said, rolling over on my side away from him.
"I mean it, Derrick. If you guys are going out, you're gonna have to be seen SOMEWHERE together, and when I figure it out, you're busted."
"Good NIGHT, Joel."
"Good night....asshole!" He giggled, and we were pretty much quiet after that.
However...there was something about what he said that stuck in the back of my mind like a needle. Something that made me open my eyes and think about it for a bit longer before drifting off to sleep. Once it had entered my mind, I realized something...he was right...I couldn't hide this relationship forever. It felt good, it felt FANTASTIC, and Tanner was everything that I could ever want in a boyfriend. And THEN some! But...so far...this has all been our little secret. I mean, how long will it be before someone realizes just how close Tanner and I really are? Or sees how much time we spend together? How many times do I bring him up in casual conversation? The more I thought about it, the more I began to worry where our limit would be. And what consequences might come from actually 'coming out of the closet' someday. Evetually, Tanner and I are going to want to go to the next level. If it lasts, we might want to be together, visit each other, get a place together, or vacation together, or just....'hold hands' in public and not feel out of place or unwanted. There's going to come a time when we get tired of whispering and waiting for opportunities to be completely alone to simply tell each other how we feel. And when that time comes...I just hope I'm strong enough to handle it. Because that's gonna be a big adjustment for the both of us.
The next morning, Joel had woken up before me and had already taken a shower before I even opened my eyes. "You're up early." I said groggily as he got dressed.
"You're mom is still downstairs. I've gotta make it look like I'm going to school this morning, right?"
"I suppose. Or....you could ACTUALLY go to school, you know?"
"No can do." He said. "If anything goes down or looks strange at my house, that's the first place the cops will coming looking for me. I don't feel like dealing with them."
"Joel, you are REALLY more paraoid than you need to be, you know that?" I smiled.
"Paranoid." I said, confirming my statement.
"Whatever. You just make sure you think of me enjoying myself at the arcade while you're slaving away in 'school' today, Mr. Academia."
"Not in any of the arcades around HERE, you won't." I giggled as I sat up and wiped the 'sleep' from my eyes. "They don't allow any school kids into the arcades until after 3 pm. Sorry."
"What?" I think I had ruined his plans for the day. "What kind of stupid fucking rule is THAT?"
"One that fortunately keeps the suburban truant officers off their backs. That's what kind." I walked past him with some fresh clothes, and gave him a cocky grin. "Have fun."
We ate a quick bowl of cold cereal before leaving, and I went to put on my shoes. It looks like the rain yesterday had covered them with mud, grime, leaves, and a stench that could keep Dracula away. "Shit..." I mumbled to myself.
"What's the matter?" Joel asked.
"My shoes are pretty messed up. I don't think I've got another pair that looks any better."
"Ah...I'd give you mine, but these are the only ones I've got." He said, and I tried to think.
"Oh wait, I think I've got an old pair in the coat closet." I went over to pull them out...and...um...they were maybe just a LITTLE bit better than the ones I'd worn before. Meaning they were dry and had more of an old moldy stench than a fresh 'raw sewage' one. "Well?" I said, and Joel shrugged his shoulders.
"Nice pick, Derrick. I'd hate to think you could do 'worse'."
"They're not THAT bad." I said. "Are they?" He raised an eyebrow, but to hell with it. I was gonna be late, and this was all I had. Even if there was a small hole wearing into the bottom of the shoe on the right. "Who cares? I'm wearing them."
"Suit yourself." Joel replied, and finished drinking the milk out of his bowl before we put them both in the sink and got ready to go.
Joel had to 'pretend' to leave the house a few minutes before I did, and we both went our seperate ways. I think he's going to learn very quickly that there isn't a whole lot to do much of ANYWHERE in this town during the day. So I hope he's got more than those dirty magazines to entertain himself today.
I got on the bus, and waited impatiently for Tanner's stop. There were lingering traces of what I was thinking about last night in my mind, and I DID wonder for a while how to even approach the subject with him so we could talk about it. But once he stepped a foot on that bus, looking all well dressed and cute and giving me that heartbreaker smile of his...my mind went blank. And all that was left of the concept was how much sex we were gonna have the next time I was able to get my hands, and my tongue, on him. "Hey!" I said, and he dropped down next to me.
"Everything's set." He gave me such an excited look.
"What do you mean?"
"This weekend! It's set. My Mom and Dad are leaving early Saturday morning, and I'll have the whole place to myself until Sunday night!"
"The whole HOUSE?" I asked.
"The whole HOUSE! Just you and me." He said. "You can come over early on Saturday, and we'll take it from there."
"Are you sure we'll be alone?" I asked, still in disbelief. I knew we were going to have fun this weekend, but this was too good to be true.
"Yep! I did some snooping around, my parent's plane won't land until 7:30 pm on Sunday night. And the only two people left are the guy at the gate, and our maid, Sascha. But she goes home every weekend to be with her kids. So...we're practically all alone." He smiled at me, his hazel eyes turning green right in front of me as his hair slid forward to curtain both sides of his face. I really wanted to kiss him at that moment. I mean...I REALLY wanted to kiss him! But instead, I just grinned back and replied.
"In that case...I'll be there. Looks like we've got quite a weekend ahead of us." The thought of it got me hard instantly, and had the same effect on my lover sitting next to me. We stayed erect the rest of the way to school, and I kept springing up a few times in my morning classes too. Every thought of Tanner and me being free to roam around that house naked and have all the sex, all the kisses, and all the....MORE sex...that we wanted, just kept my blood pumping pure adrenaline every minute of the day. God...this was gonna be GREAT! We're gonna do it TWENTY times! No...no...THIRTY! Maybe even FIFTY! Everytime I look at him, I'm gonna kiss him. I'm gonna hold his hand for the rest of the day, and we're gonna cuddle and snuggle up on every piece of furniture in the house. And then, I'm gonna fuck him on his mom's bed and wipe my ass with her pillow! Stupid whore! Hehehe! I could hardly wait.
The morning went by fine, without much trouble at all. And when I got to gym, I was actually surprised not to see Chris waiting for me in the locker room as usual. Either he was late, or ditching altogether. I won't lie...I was kinda disappointed. He was becoming a very cool part of my day. But then...as some of the other kids came into the locker room to undress, I began to realize just how much having Chris in my immediate presence kinda helped to keep the wolves at bay. Because they satarted in on me almost immediately.
"Hehehe! Nice SHOES, slug!" One of them said, seeing them sitting on the bench in front of me. They had maybe been in the locker room for a total of thirty seconds before they saw that I was alone. "You're looking even better than usual."
"Very funny." I said, and turned my back to them, just trying to get undressed and leave before it got any worse.
"No...actually, it's not really funny at all. You seriously need some help. Did you take these off of a dead guy or what?" I didn't answer, just tried my best to ignore them all. That's when the kid grabbed my shoes off the bench and took a few steps back with them.
"What are you DOING?" I yelled. I grabbed for my shoes, but he jerked them back. Just INCHES out of my grasp. "Give 'em BACK!"
One of the other boys laughed, "He's got a HOLE in the bottom of one of them! Look!"
"Oh man! I don't even think I should be touching these filthy things! It's unsanitary!" He said, and my anger and humiliation battled for supremacy in my mind as the situation continued.
"Look...just give 'em back to me, alright?"
"Come get 'em." He said. "C'mon...they're right here, dog-boy. Come get 'em."
I hesitated, but then stepped over the bench and swiped at them again, but he tossed them to somebody else, who threw them into a nearby trash can. "Oops!" He told me, and with just ONE little nudge of my self control, I would have hit him right in the mouth! But I'll be damned if I let them beat me. Not like this.
I just walked over with my eyes down, and without saying a word, I retrieved my shoes and brushed them off. Then walked back to my locker and kept them on the floor next to me. "LOOK at this kid! Can you believe this shit?" The boys kept egging me on, but despite the shame and the rage that was building up inside me, I kept my back turned and continued to get dressed. "Let's go! It hurts to even LOOK at you, Slug!" Then I head the crinkling of paper, and he pulled a dollar out of his pocket. He balled it up and threw it at the back of my head. "Here's a dollar, bitch! Get yourself an 'image', for crying out loud!" And they laughed. The other boys in the room, even the ones that weren't involved....they all just laughed. Some were kind enough to attempt to hold their snickers back, or turn the other way...but I knew they were laughing at me. I KNEW they were. And the only thing that could have made it worse, is if I had bent over to pick up that dollar. Even if...deep down...I might have needed it. It was hardly any money at all, but unlike the rest of them...it would have counted to me.
"Har Har Har! Very good, Johnson. You come up with that all by yourself?" It was the voice that got me to turn around, and I saw Chris leaning against the lockers with his bookbag in hand.
"Oh great, here we go..." The boy said.
"Yeah! Here we go! What are you picking on him for? What did he do to you?" Chris said angrily.
"He's polluting my vision." He giggled.
"And what do you do when you walk in front of the mirror?" Chris said, evidently getting a strike past the boy's defenses. The comment made me smile.
"What's your PROBLEM, Chris? First Tanner starts hanging out with this lowlife, and now you. What, are you guys starting a peace corps or something?"
"Maybe that doesn't concern you." Chris replied. Then he looked at the others. "Maybe that doesn't concern ANY of you. So why don't we just leave this alone and go to class?"
"Whatever. You've gotten WEIRD on us, Chris. I don't know what's gotten into you." The boys started to leave, but the main kid turned to me and said, "See you later, blondie. I'll throw you a quarter the next time I drive by the mission." And they giggled again as they started to leave. But Chris wasn't going to take that last comment lightly.
He stepped in front of the group to block their way out. "You just can't leave this alone, can you?" He said.
"Do you wanna get out of my way there, 'soldier'?" The boy said, the rest of his little crew backing him up. It was tense moments like these that you can feel in the stillness of the air around you. You could tell that a fist fight was brewing, and I didn't want that. Not for something so stupid.
"It's ok, Chris. Really. Don't worry about it." I said. But he paid me no attention.
"All you had to do was walk away. But you're little 'comments' just keep coming, don't they?"
"I said get out of my way."
"Chris...please. It's alright." I told him, but their eyes were already locked, and I think we were beyond the point of either one of them backing down.
Thankfully, Coach Parker was walking by and heard the ruckus. He stepped in to stop the conflict before it became a problem. "Alright, alright fellas. Let's break this up and get out on that field." Neither boy flinched, but the coach spoke louder, this time physically pushing them apart. "Let's GO! Don't make me tell you again! OUTSIDE! All of ya's!"
"This ain't over." The boy said.
"Looks 'over' to me." Chris replied, and I let out a little sigh of relief as they began to step away from each other. There was too many of them for Chris to handle. Too many for BOTH of us to handle. We didn't need the fight.
Then...as if I could see the spark in Chris' eyes...or maybe he could see the previous hurt in mine...he struck out anyway. As the boy in the front walked past him, Chris lunged forward and shoved him as hard as he could against the lockers! The noise echoed throughout the entire room, and in that instant, they began to reach and swing at one another with the coach standing in the middle trying to break them up! I stood back and watched the two of them going at it, and finally another teacher came in to help the coach keep them apart!
"THAT'S IT!!! I've got an idea! How about we take BOTH of you to the principal's office! Since your testosterone seems to be so active today!" The coach shouted, and before I knew it, they were both being hauled off to the office. The locker room filled up with oohs and ahhhs and all the excitement that a fist fight can bring to a roomful of teenage boys. But deep down, I felt kinda bad. Knowing that Chris might get into trouble just because he was sticking up for me. I never meant for him to 'fight for my honor' or anything. I would have let them have their fun and then forgotten about it later. He didn't have to fight. Still...it was kinda sweet for him to do so. I don't think anyone's ever done that for me before. Certainly not here at THIS school. I hope he's alright.
The thought of what might have happened bothered me for the next hour and a half, and while I was sitting in study hall, I nervously tapped away at my desk wondering what happened. That's when I heard my name announced over the school's loud speaker. Telling me to come down to Principal Payton's office. It caused me to freeze up. And suddenly, thoughts of this conflict being all MY fault flooded into my mind. And now...I had to worry about whether or not *I* was in trouble. The study hall monitor wrote me out a hall pass, and everyone in that classroom watched me with an evil grin as I walked up to her desk to get it. They must have known I was in trouble. They HAD to know. Shit! If only I hadn't worn these STUPID shoes today! Then those jerks wouldn't have been making fun of me, and Chris wouldn't have had to fight in the first place! Now I'm gonna get in trouble and my whole school year is gonna go downhill! I KNOW it! I worked SO hard! My mom is going to absolutely freak out when she hears about this!
By the time I got to the office, I was trembling. It was like going up before a judge for a murder sentence. And when I walked in, Principal Payton had his glasses on, reading some papers out of an envelope with my name on it. This was it. I could tell. Something terrible is going to happen to me right now. My mom's gonna kill me. She's gonna KILL me! "You....you wanted to see me, sir?" I stuttered.
"Derrick, yes. Come in and have a seat." He said, and I did as I was told. "I called you down here for a reason, Derrick."
"Listen..." I blurted out in a panic. "...I know what you're thinking."
He looked up at me, and lowered his glasses to the tip of his nose as he looked at me over them. "Excuse me?"
"I know what you said to me the first day that I got here. You said that I belonged here just as much as anybody else at this school, and I should be proud of that."
"Well, that's true, Derrick."
"And I've been trying REALLY REALLY hard to keep up with all of my school work and everything, and I've been studying REALLY hard every single day, I swear!"
"I don't doubt that, son."
"And I know that those other idiots that tease me for not having money don't mean anything and I shouldn't let them block me from my goals! And today they were just really being mean, and I KNOW I should ignore them, but they were pushing me really hard this time! But I didn't want to fight anybody!"
"They started it, and Chris helped, and he's a really good friend. He didn't mean any harm, sir. He was just looking out for me."
"Derrick, I think you may have made a mistake here..."
I was already running off at the mouth a hundred miles a minute, and my heart was beating twice as fast. "I KNOW I made a mistake, and I'm SORRY! I really want to do well here, sir! And if you look at my records there, you'll see that I've worked VERY hard all semester long without a SINGLE problem in any of my classes! And I thought...I thought if maybe you can excuse this ONE incident...then I'll make sure you never have to call me down here again. I PROMISE!"
Mr. Payton sat back in his chair, looked at me for a moment, and then asked, "Are you finished?"
"Um...yes sir. I'm done."
"Derrick...I don't know what you were thinking when you walked through my door, but I didn't call you down here to talk about a fight or to deal out any kind of punishment."
"No. I didn't." He said, and I felt as though all of the air came out of my chest at once. "Derrick, I called you down here because we recently sent a letter to your house, and didn't get an RSVP from you or your parents."
I was a bit lost. "An RSVP? For what?"
"Well, we're having an assembly this Friday night to congradulate some of our best students, and you are pretty much at the top of our list."
He looked me in the eye, and I don't think any of this had sunken in yet. "I'm...I'm afraid I don't understand, sir."
"I'm looking at your file here, Derrick, and according to all of your teachers, your test scores are through the roof. Your grades are exceptional. You participate in class discussions, you demonstrate a high level of comprehension for the material, no problems with homework...and your lowest test score on your midterm exams was..." He shuffled through some papers, "...an eighty nine percent."
"Me?" I asked, still trying to grasp it all.
"Yes, Derrick. You. You are receiving an achievement award for academic excellence. We'd like you to attend. If that's at all possible."
I think it was then that it all hit me. Like a meteor from the sky. "You mean I'm winning an AWARD the day after tomorrow?!?!?!" I said loudly.
"Yes, Derrick. That's what I've been trying to tell you, before you went berserk a moment ago." He reached into a nearby drawer and handed me an envelope. I treated it like gold, not taking my eyes off it for even a second as I fel this emotional wave wash over me. "I'm proud of you Derrick. You worked extremely hard to earn this, and it's well deserved. You beat out a lot of our top students for this honor." He said, but I just couldn't believe it. I just...COULDN'T. "Since we assume that you didn't get our letter, I took the liberty of getting you a copy along with some extra tickets to this weekend's ceremony. Do you need more than three, for you and your parents?"
My mouth dropped open, my mind finally processing the information, but my body not knowing how to handle it just yet. "A-a-actually...it's just my mom and me."
"Ok. Well, you take the extra ticket anyway, just in case. Alright?" He said, and folded my file back up to go back to work. "Make sure you see Mrs. Pickett outside to verify your address for future mailings, ok? It's important." I just sat there for a moment, looking at the tickets, and a copy of the letter they sent out. 'For Academic Excellence'...and it had MY name on it! MINE! For the first time...EVER...I beat them! I was not only equal...I was BETTER! Better than ALL of the bastards that got such a kick out of teasing me and making me feel like shit everytime I found the courage to lift my eyes from the floor. For once...I was gonna get the chance to walk on that stage, and claim an award as concrete PROOF that I was just as good as ANY of them! I was bursting inside. I didn't know what to DO with myself! I just sat there staring at the letter blindly until I heard Principal Payton clear his throat. I looked up at him, and he smiled. "That's all I wanted, Derrick. You can go now."
"Oh! Yeah! Sorry!" I said, and I stood up out of the chair. "Thank you! THANK YOU!" I said, and shook his hand, but that wasn't enough. I felt out of control for a moment, and walked around his desk to give him a hug around the neck. "THANK YOU! Thank you soooo much! Thank you!" It caught him off guard, but he just let out a deep chuckle and patted me on the shoulder. I was almost ready to cry, I was so happy! So I let go of him and apologized again before I did anything silly. "Sorry...I just....um...sorry..." I couldn't stop smiling, and nearly ran into the door as I left. "Sorry. Thank you!"
I was in a daze for the rest of the school day! How did this even HAPPEN? It didn't make any sense. I had NOTHING! Not like these kids had. I had to fight and struggle for everything I got. I had to get up extra early to get on a bus and ride for almost an hour to try and be up to par with kids who had personal drivers or cars of their own. They could afford tutors and extra books and special DVD learning aids. They had the best toys, the biggest stereos, the best clothes, the nicest shoes. How in the world is it possible that I can even stand NEXT to these kids, much less come out on top? I didn't know. I didn't CARE! All I could focus on was the fact that I had worked my ASS off, and for once in my life, it was gonna pay off! I was going to get up there on that stage and stand shoulder to shoulder with any rich brat that ever took it upon themselves to laugh at me or call me names. I'm gonna stand proud, and shove that plaque in their FACES, so they can always be reminded of the boy they deemed 'worthless'...and came up to be the best ANYWAY! It was like flying. That's the only way I can describe it. It felt like flying!
On my way out to my locker after last class, I saw Chris walking towards me and immediately beckoned him over to find out what happened. "Well, I got a lecture or two, but it's not that bad." He said.
"Aww man, you didn't get into any real trouble, did you?"
"Well...." He said. "I'm suspended for three days. But it's nothing to worry about. I already talked to Mitch, and he's gonna wipe the info out of the computer by the end of the day. He'll fix it, and I'll just come back to school tomorrow like nothing happened. As long as I avoid Payton for the next couple of days, I should be alright."
"Are you sure you can do that? I asked.
"Of course I can." He gave me the cutest smile. "He's crazy if he thinks I'm gonn be away from you for three whole days. I'd be a basket case by noon tomorrow."
I paused for a moment, looking at him with admiring and thankful eyes. Whatever emotion it was that I was feelng at that moment...it kept me from being able to react right away. Then, I raised both arms, stepped forward, and I gave Chris a long tight hug. I saw him blush furiously, and a slight giggle escaped his lips. "Chris....thank you. I mean that. You didn't have to do that for me today."
"Yes. Yes I did." He smiled. "I owe you a lot more than that. Consider it my way of attoning for my sins." Then he looked down and said, "We do have to do something about those shoes though. You look like a hobo, dude."
I elbowed him in the side. "Thanks a LOT, dirtbag!"
"Hey, you want 'friendly' or you want 'honest'?" He looked at me for a moment and said, "I've got some extra pairs of shoes at home. You want one?"
"I don't need any shoes. I'm just waiting for the other ones to dry out, that's all."
"Yeah well...THOSE shoes were nothing to strut about either." He said, biting his bottom lip with a smile. "Listen, what size are you?"
"Eleven and a half."
"Hmmm...well, I'm about a size bigger than you, but I've got some nice shoes that'll definitely look good on you if you want them."
"What? Forget about it. They're shoes. I can only wear one pair at a time, so I'm not using them. Besides, I can get more some other time. Just take 'em and be happy."
"But I don't even..."
"Just TAKE the shoes, Derrick. It's a gift, ok?"
"Are you serious?"
"Yep. And all you have to do is let me suck your dick once a day for the rest of the year. Good deal, right?"
The only thing funnier than knowing that he was kidding when he said it....was knowing that he WASN'T kidding when he said it. "You're awesome, you know that?"
He giggled again. "Can I pay you a compliment now?"
"Um.....NO!" I said, stopping him before he had the chance to say anything 'charming'.
"Ah well, I tried." He said. "I was just gonna say that you were totally beautiful and that I loved you with all my heart, but if you don't wanna hear it...."
"STOP!" I laughed, and he surrendered.
"So, I hear your getting an award from the school?"
"How did YOU know about that?" I asked.
"Mitch. Who else?"
"Are you keeping tabs on me?"
"As often as humanly possible, cutie." Chris said, and then he caught a glimpse of the principal coming out of his office. "Shit...I've gotta run. Congrats on the award, Derrick! We'll get toether soon. I'll make out with you to celebrate!" He said, and then ducked out to avoid the 'warden'. That wacky son of a bitch was really keeping a close eye on me these days. Thank goodness he was on MY side.
I was practically SKIPPING to the bus that afternoon after school. And couldn't WAIT to tell Tanner about the award! "Wow! Are you serious! Way to go, Derrick!" He said.
"I can't wait to see the looks on those other kids faces when I walk across that stage. It's gonna be the best revenge ever." I said happily.
"I knew you were smart, hon." Tanner took a soft hold of my hand and held it down where nobody else could see it. "And I'm gonna be right there to see you give it to them. K?" I agreed. "I'm happy for you, sweetie. I really am."
"So does that mean I can have your allowance this week?" I grinned.
"Hehehe, you can have it NEXT week if you want. I'm spending this week's on something else."
"Something else like what?"
"My cassette player is kinda old. It almost ate up that tape you made me for my birthday. So I need another one."
I smiled. "You still have that thing?" I asked with a grin.
"Of course I still have it. What are you talking about? I LOVE that tape! It's all I listen to anymore. Besides...." Tanner blushed a little and whispered, "...When we're apart...and it's too late to call you at home...I listen to the part with your voice on it."
"You do?" I asked.
"Yeah...over and over again."
"You better. Hehehe!" I told him. "You have NO idea how hard it is to put something like that together and try to make it perfect for somebody else!"
"Well...you hit it right on the head."
"Maybe...except for my voice. Hehehe! I'm sorry. That poem I read was....it was stupid..." I started, but he interrupted me.
"There was nothing stupid about it, Derrick. It's still the best gift I ever got. From anybody. It took a lot of heart and thought for you to do that. And when I listen to it, I close my eyes, and I remember that somebody out there really loves me." He said. "There's no better feeling in the world than that." We were almost at Tanner's stop, and he hated to leave, but we unclasped our hands and said goodbye shortly after that. Leaving me breathless with his words alone. "I've gotta go, k?" Then he whispered really quickly, "Love you!" And he got up with his backpack on his shoulder.
"I'll see you Friday night." I said as he was leaving.
"And Saturday morning!" He grinned with a wink. And then he was gone. Leaving me to bask in the sunlight for just a little bit longer. My mom is really gonna love this. She'll blow her top! Hehehe! Can't this bus move any faster?
When I walked in my house, my mom was asleep on the couch in front of the television. Normally I just let her sleep, but this was too big to hold in for much longer. I just kinda shook her shoulder a bit, and handed her the envelope. "What's this?" She asked.
"It's from school. The Principal gave it to me in his office today."
"WHAT?" She said, now fully awake. "Derrick....oh Derrick, what did you do?" She said. She sat up with concern and when I tried to walk away she stopped me dead in my tracks. "Unh-unh, mister! You stay right there!" She got up on her feet and started to open the envelope to read the letter inside, hoping that the 'trouble' I had gotten myself into wasn't too bad. She was so worried. Thinking that maybe I'd do something to jeopordize all tht she sacrificed for me to go to this school. Worried that it would be more struggles fo the both of us from now on. But she read on. I did all I could to keep myself from smiling, but as she read the letter, I couldn't help it. I was almost ready to burst out laughing at the look on her face. Her eyes grew as wide as I've ever seen them, and then she screamed. "Ahhhhhhhhhh!!! Is this for REAL???" She said.
"Yup!" I nodded. "They just told me today."
"Omigod! My little boy!!! Come here!!!" She said, and ran over to give me a tight hug! Kissing the top of my head and looking back to the letter to make sure that it was genuine. She shook me back and forth in her arms as her joy bubbled over. "I'm SO proud of you, baby! Wow! That's WONDERFUL! When is the ceremony?"
"It's this Friday. I know that's kinda soon, but..."
"'But' nothing! I can get Janelle to take my shift at work. I'm going to go watch my SON get his award!"
"Really? You mean it?"
"I most certainly do! I'm gonna go pick out what I want to wear tonight!" She said, and gave me a big kiss on the cheek as she took the letter and put it up on the fridge with a magnet. I think she was even happier than I was, and that felt better than anything.
The next few days FLEW by like they were nothing, and before I knew it, I was dressing up in the best clothes that I had in order to blend in with the 'elite' at the rest of the school that night. My mom picked out her prettiest dinner dress and even wore earrings and her mother's necklace. She looked absolutely beautiful. Stunning! And all we could do everytime we looked at one another...was smile. Chris had given me two pair of shoes, 'expensive' ones. He made it seem like he didn't really care for them one way or the other, but I could tell that they were some of the best from his closet. And Joel, despite being somewhat unenthusiastic about the whole thing, gave me a hug and wished me luck as he pretended to 'go home' for the evening. We shared a look, and I still wanted to do something to help him out, but tonight was so important...and I didn't want anything to taint it. My mom had a real smile on her face. A REAL smile. For the first time in ages it wasn't bags under her eyes and an exhausted half smirk as she tried to stay awake long enough to make sure I eat something. She was really happy. And that's all ever wanted. Was to somehow make her happy. I couldn't ruin that for her. Not for anything.
She gave me a kiss on the forehead as we were ready to walk out the door, and fixed my collar. "Off we go." She said, a warm smile that almost pt tears in her eyes. I've never been more proud. Our car was still rusted, raggedy, and old...but tonight, it was our chariot to something special. Something that we could both enjoy. We climbed in and pulled out of the driveway. It's time to stick it to them. ALL of them. I was gonna grin the whole way there and the whole way back tonight. At least....that was the 'plan'.
We were both listening to the radio, grinning, celebrating before even getting to the school. It felt like being a celebrity, and we loved every minute of it. But....as we got about 10 or 15 minutes away from home....something went wrong. Sighhhh.....something ALWAYS goes wrong.
It began with a 'thunk', like there was something knocking around under the hood of the car. But I could tell that it was more than that from the look on my mom's face. The steering wheel of the car began to stiffen up, becoming very hard to turn to the left or the right. And despite her foot hitting the gas and the engine sounding like it was struggling to push us forward, I could feel the car slowing down anyway. "NO....no no no....come on..." My mom mumbled to herself. But I guess the angels just weren't listening that day. "C'mon, c'mon....please don't do this..." She said, pressing the gas pedal and still feeling the car slowing down.
There was no fighting it anymore. We were coming to a stop, and the best she could do was to put on her blinkers and pull over to the side of the street before we stopped completely. The car rolled to a halt, and she shut it off momentarily. "It's dead....isn't it?" I said softly.
"Don't you worry, hon. I'm gonna GET you to that ceremony! I just....I just gotta figure out.." She was searching, trying to read the little blinking lights and all as though they could really tell us much of anything. "...I'm gonna get it to work. It's just...something wrong in the gas line....or..." She didn't know anymore than I did when it came to cars. And while I tried not to show it, I felt a huge stormcloud of disappointment roll in over my head. "Come ON! Start! START!" My mom said, trying to get the engine to turn over...just ONE time! She turned the car key harder, stomped on the gas, stomped on the break, tried shutting it on and off, tried letting it rest for a few minutes. But nothing was going to get that car to move from that spot. "Come on baby...don't die on me, not now...PLEASE not now..." She said, almost in desperation. But the car refused to answer. Her frustration hit its peak, and she banged both her fists against the steering wheel. "God DAMMIT!!!" She shouted, and with a few breaths to try to regain her composure in front of me, she closed her eyes and laid her head down on her hands. A long sigh escaped her lips, and she finally gave in. She hated to do it, hated to even meet my eyes, but finally, she sat up to say..."I'm sorry, honey. I'm SO sorry."
I won't lie....it hurt. It really HURT to be so helpless in the course of events. But what could I do? It wasn't her fault. It would be EASIER if it was her fault so I could have somebody or someTHING to blame. But I didn't. Neither one of us did. And the only thing that hurt more than not being able to go....was seeing the hurt in my mother's eyes...knowing that she had let me down. "It's ok, Mom. Really." I lied. She turned away from me, and for the first time...the first time 'ever'...she looked completely broken. Beaten. Defeated. She hadn't even 'slid by' with a little luck this time around. Her little boy had something special going on tonight....and she couldn't provide for me. She TRIED...but she just couldn't do it anymore. I watched as some small traces of tears welled up in her eyes as she lightly hit the steering wheel one last time. "Mom?"
"I really just....I wanted to get you there tonight honey, honestly I did. I'm so sorry. I know this was important for you...and...I wanted so badly to see my baby win his award and...and..." She sniffled a bit, but fought back those tears with everything that she had. "...I'm SO proud of you, Derrick." She said, and her hands ran through my blond hair. She looked at me, and a smile spread across her lips...as the first few tears actually fell from her eyes in two small streams. She couldn't hold them back anymore, and her face turned red. "My little boy....my smart, brilliant, little boy...." She sobbed.
I felt choked up, almost guilty for being disappointed. Guilty for bringing up the award at ALL! And I leaned forward with a few tears of my own to hug her tightly around her neck. "I know, Mom. I know. I'm proud of you too." I said. "I love you so much." And she held me tightly against her.
"Sniff...come on, kiddo. Let's grab our stuff and go. K?" She said releasing me and wiping the tears from my eyes before she did her own. "Let's go. Grab the registration and stuff out of the glove compartment. We don't want to leave that behind." She put the blinkers on, and we opened our doors to get out of the car. Looking around us, we were maybe three to five miles away from home. Not so bad, I guess. It could have been worse. Everybody I knew with a car was already at the awards ceremony, and their parents wouldn't be dragged away to come pick US up. Well...Tanner and Chris would have...but...I've caused them enough trouble I suppose. The only way to reach Joel would be at home, and we all know I can't call THERE. Besides...by the time we got to a phone from out here, we'd be halfway home anyway. So my mom and I gathered a few belongings...and prepared for the long walk back. The long....long...LONG walk back!
As we marched along in the dark, no money for the bus, no money for a cab...I felt myself getting more and more depressed with every step. Then more and more angry. It felt like....even when I was striving to be the best I could be, my situation had the power to beat me into submission anyway. I'd never get past it. I'd never rise above it. I was STUCK! And that was just fine with the rest of them. They didn't care. Just so long as THEY didn't have to deal with it. I felt myself getting so MAD! I don't know....I guess...I just REALLY wanted to go to that school tonight and show those assholes that I was really WORTH something. You know? I wanted to accept my award with a smile while silently giving every last ONE of them the middle finger for not being in my place. They were born with EVERYTHING! Every opportunity in the world! And I had to struggle up from basically NOTHING and work three times as hard to even sit amongst them and get the CHANCE to prove myself worthy. This was my one chance to show them what I was made of. That I belonged there. And as my feet began to hurt and swell from the walk, I really hated myself for missing the opportunity I had to prove that I was better than them. At SOMETHING. God knows when I'll ever get that opportunity again.
I think it was the aggrivation of the situation that had gotten to me more than the disappointment. Walking alongside that oily, dirty road, all dressed up in our best clothes and NOWHERE to go but home. I honestly had no intentions of taking it out on my mom. If anything, she was doing her best to be there for me tonight. But, in some kind of teenage inner tantrum, my misery was willing to strike out in what ever direction it could. "This is so STUPID, you know that?" I said.
"We don't have that far to go. We'll be almost halfway home in about another fifteen minutes. It's not so bad." She replied, trying to walk as fast as I was and keep her breath. But I had anger to fuel MY strides.
"But it IS bad, Mom. Don't you get it?" I said. "If we were rich, we wouldn't have to LIVE like this!"
"Live like WHAT?"
"Like THIS!" My hatred for 'how things were' was burning hot at the moment, and I couldn't hold it back. Not this time. The most agonizing pain in my gut right now was having those snotty brats from the locker room be right about me and my 'limitations'. "Don't you get SICK of it, Mom? Eating food from the same diner every night? Conserving toothpaste and milk? And....walking home from a piece of shit car that doesn't work?"
"You watch your mouth, young man." She said sternly. "Now look...we may not live all that fancy, but we have what we need, and we make out a damn sight better than some other unfortunate people out there."
"No we DON'T! We 'get by'. We have JUST enough to make it from one week to another, maybe a little less. You work ALL day until you're too tired to even talk to me...and for what? For this? We can't even go to a stupid awards ceremony because our car is a piece of garbage."
"I TRIED, ok? I said I was sorry." She said, her anger rising almost as fast as mine was.
"You tried, sure. And we're still 'stranded' out here. We don't have ANYTHING!"
"We have each other. Isn't that enough?"
"NO, Mom! It's NOT enough!" I almost shouted. "There are people at my school who don't do ANYTHING for ANYBODY! THEY don't work hard! THEY don't help out around their neighborhoods! THEY don't struggle to get good grades or go out of their way to help ANYBODY! And you wanna know something??? They get ALL the breaks! It just gets HANDED to them, and they throw it in my face like they did something special to earn it!" I yelled, tears now rolling down my cheeks. "They get whatever they want, WHENEVER they want! And they don't have to answer to anybody!"
"Derrick...please...let's just walk home, ok?" She answered, hoping to put this behind us so we could stay 'together' long enough to make it home. But I didn't let it go. For some reason...I couldn't.
"You wanna know what they do when our backs are turned, Mom? Do you?" I said.
"They LAUGH, Mom! They call us names, and they snicker at us behind our backs. Even Tanner's parents do it. They call us poor and look down on us like we're just running around and existing in some ant farm or something."
"Derrick, I need you to be quiet now, ok?"
"I'm SICK of it! Aren't YOU sick of it! We go out of our way ALL the time to be good people, and nobody cares! They just tease me, and make fun of our car, and make fun of my shoes, and treat us like savages without a BIT of conscience! They don't CARE if we cry ourselves to sleep at night, just so long as they don't have to ever trade places with the 'poor kid' and his mom." She didn't say anything, but I wanted her to. I wanted a reaction. For God's sakes...GIVE me a reaction!!! "They don't even want their kids to PLAY with me because they're afraid I'll ruin their lives or something. They think we're animals, Mom. I have to live with their 'stupid' comments and their cocky grins...every single day. I try to ignore the way they look at me and tune out the way that they talk about me, while God is just continuously showering them with more gold and forgetting about people like you and me who really deserve to see some happiness in our lives once in a while. I live through this every day that I get off of that bus. And all I wanted...was to go to that school tonight, and for ONCE...hold my head up high among them. That's all. And we can't even do that." I told her. "I'm so tired of this. I just...I wish we didn't have to struggle so hard just to come back to zero. I wish we could have what they have. Just once."
"Well.........we don't." She said, and those were the last words she spoke to me for the rest of the long walk home. I think my anger wore off the closer I got to our house while hers grew in intensity. And as our neighborhood came into our vision, I calmed down enough to realize how much what I said to my mother might have hurt her feelings. Even though I was too stubborn to apologize on the way home, I felt heavy hearted. I shouldn't have said anything at all. It wasn't her fault. She didn't deliberately cause the car to break down. If anything, tonight was more important to her than it was to me. I think my anger just kept me from seeing that when I needed to see it most.
We finally got home, and walked through the front door. We were still dressed up, but now we were sweaty, and dirty, and tired from what must have been a longer walk than we thought it would be. I was sure that both Tanner and Chris were right there in the audience, looking all cute and happy, waiting for me to come out and accept that plaque. I guess they would be pretty disappointed too. But what dug deepest into me was seeing my mom pull her shoes off and sit down at the kitchen table facing the other direction. I didn't want to approach her at first, so ashamed for my outburst on the road. But...it wasn't fair to be upset with her. It wasn't fair to make her THINK I was upset with her either. She once told me...that all we had was each other. And as long as we looked out for one another, we'd be ok. Tonight...I think a part of me forgot my part of the bargain. After all she had sacrificed in an attempt to give me a better life than what she was currently living through, I had no right to open my mouth. I don't think I'd ever been more sorry.
I sorta crept into the kitchen behind her, and I heard her sniffling as she put her face in her hands. "Mom?" I whispered. "Mom...?"
I put a hand on her shoulder, and she used her hand to cover mine without looking back at me. "I tried, Derrick. I...wanted tonight to work out for you. I wanted to be there for you and support you. I just....couldn't get the damn car to work!" She said, her voice breaking up as sobs took over her ability to speak. "I don't know what I did, or why it wouldn't work, I just....I just.....couldn't....FUCKING...." She stopped herself and put up her hand to take back the vulgarity. "Sorry honey..." She tried to regain her composure, but couldn't. "I'm sorry I can't do more for you...like the other parents at that school. I try...but everything always crumbles down around me and the harder I work...the worse things get. And I....I just don't know what to do anymore."
"You don't have to do anything, Mom." I said, now crying myself at her heartbreak. "It wasn't that important anyway."
"Don't you SAY that! Don't you dare. Tonight was VERY important, Derrick, and I'm proud of you." She grabbed a napkin off of the table and wiped her eyes and nose with it. She looked up at the ceiling, her tears reappearing faster than she could mop them away. "You're right....we shouldn't have to live like this. I wish I could do more for you. You're SMART, Derrick. You're smart, and you're handsome, and you're sweet..." She sobbed. "....You deserve everything those other boys have, and then some. I just can't give it to you right now, honey. I only wish you knew how hard I try."
"I know you do. I know."
"I can't believe I let you down tonight. I can't believe....I can't..." She began to break up again, and I moved to sit down in front of her.
"It's ok, Mom. It's alright." I said, and I hugged her tight against me. She hugged me back, her tears running free now, and soaking my shirt as she let go. "Shhhhh....it's ok. I know you tried, Mom."
"I'm so sorry, Derrick........." She cried outloud. And we held each other in that kitchen for the next twenty minutes. Her tears, my tears, it became hard to tell the difference after a while.
So I didn't get to strut across some dumb stage and impress a bunch of idiots who probably didn't like me anyway. I had a hard working mother that loved me dearly, I had a plaque out there somewhere that told me I was one of the best students at that school, and I had a boyfriend that was not only gorgeous, but loved me for everything that I am. Not what I had. When you look at what's important, you realize how good life really is. And how good it can be once you take all of the material bullshit out of the equation. If I live to be one hundred years old...I wouldn't regret a bit of what I have right now. And I wouldn't trade it in for all the riches in the world.
It's true, ya know? All that glitters is NOT gold....
....Some of it's BETTER than gold.