Collapse- Chapter Two

Okay, so the rumor goes that if you stand outside of Oceanview, one of the seedier parts of Norfolk, while wearing a skirt for longer than ten minutes you will get propositioned. Young, old, fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, black, white, purple, it doesn't matter.

Hell, it doesn't even matter if you are just a guy in a skirt. If you look remotely like someone of the feminine gender sooner or later some stinking drunk sailor or sexually frustrated business man is going to drive up to your five o'clock shadowed hide and ask, "How much?"

It's a sure bet. That's why we are out here in the middle of an empty parking lot on a Tuesday afternoon.

We are doing research.

Alright, I'll back up and explain. See that kid over there, tall with some seriously gelled brown hair in the white pressed shirt and dark blue slacks? The one with the bike messenger bag with all the punk patches slapped all over it in a borderline I'm too cool for school sort of way? That's Drake. Now see that girl standing over there at the opposite corner in the blue striped pleated skirt, white pressed shirt and matching vest? The one whose amber hair is pulled up into Heidi the goat herder braided buns? That's Chelsea. And over there coming up to us from the rear, see that other girl in the short black skirt and too tight almost see through shirt with the words "Tasty" written out in red glitter across the front? The girl with the Betty Page black hair cut? That's Georgie. Now see me, Andrew, with two different colored eyes, one brown, one blue in the same outfit as Drake, my, well, our school uniform, St. Stephen's. Only my crisp white shirt is opened to reveal my well worn Buzzcocks shirt underneath. All of us are here trying to do a report on getting picked up and the psychological preferences of the common "John". Which look is desired more; the Catholic school girl of sugar and spice and everything nice or the runaway mallrat who looked like she belonged in the back seat of a junkie's car with a empty beer bottle in her hand?

The project is Georgie's idea. After being called indecent by the penguins with crosses for having her skirt too many inches too short, she asked Sister Anthony if it was okay for the group senior project to be about appearance and the effect of it on the common "John". Georgie argued that while skimpy appearance may be desired by the nine to five tv demographic, in the long run it was the wholesome clean cut look that men really lusted over. That look made men feel less dirty when they were picking up a hooker. "I mean, if given the choice which one would you choose? The girl who looked like she had gone down on every guy this side of the Mississippi or the girl so fresh she looked like she was still in her original packaging?"

In reality, she concluded, her dressing in long skirts and fully covered shirts was just as bad if not worse than her dressing the other way.

Honestly, I was shocked when Sister Anthony agreed to the project. When Georgie first suggested the idea to our little group I said, "Sure." just to see if she had the balls to go to Sister Anthony for permission. Nothing against the girl, she's my friend, after all, but the chance to see some chick ask a nun if she could dress up like a pay by the hour slut for homework was something I wanted to see.

Almost protested when Sister Anthony agreed. My mouth was aghast and all I could muster was a clever, "Huh?"

Sister Anthony turned to me, "I said, 'Yes'. Why? Is there something wrong with your ears, Mr. Morrisey?"

I looked at Drake and Chelsea who motioned me to shake my head "no" with furious shaking of their own. Slowly, I followed suit. "N-no, Sister."

All four of us walked out of there with Georgie bouncing in front of us, leading us to God knows where. My eyes quickly darted to Drake and Chelsea, who looked just as confused and ghost pale shocked as me. A growing understanding started to burn in me on how the past events came to being. "You didn't think she was going to say, "Yes", did you? Honestly, now."

In unison, the pair shook their head, never diverting their eyes from the milky gaze onward.

"She has never said yes to anything Georgie has asked before," Drake whispered low to keep Georgie from overhearing, "That nun hates the girl. Would rather stuff her into a rusty blender on high than even smile her way, so why yes now? And out of all the things. I don't get it. I thought we were going to get a laugh. Right, Chels?"

The girl nodded and began to chew on her lip. Drake went back to staring off into space. The two of them lost in one very confused train of derailed logic.

I couldn't help but laugh weakly. These two were as bad as me. They had only agreed to the project for the same reason as I did; to see Georgie make a complete ass of herself. But here we were, the real fools on the march. Did we deserve it? Yeah, I guess so. We should have steered Georgie over to a different project. Instead we wanted to see our friend fail.

Oh, yeah, we deserved it.

God, we're bastards.

Chelsea slipped her hand into mine, much like the way a little kid slips her hand into the hand of a protective parent. Thin lipped, she whispered, "I don't want to be the whore."

"Don't worry," I squeezed back, "I think that role has been already filled."

And that leads us back to here, the Oceanview parking lot with clipboard in my hand and a pencil lodged firmly between my teeth. Bored and worried. Bored because as a guy all I am doing is taking down notes and not much else. I haven't moved from this spot in two hours. Worried because, well, that really goes without saying, right? Georgie and Chelsea are out there on the corner trying to get picked up. Sure, it's fake but still this is wrong on so many levels that my mind doesn't even know where to start. The whole things smells like a set up on Sister Anthony's part. But I can't put my finger on what her plan is exactly.

"I got another one! I got another one!" Georgie bounces down the parking lot. The way her breasts jiggle hard in her thin as air shirt is almost obscene. My palms began to itch wanting to touch them. To feel as if they are indeed as supple as they look under that garment. But instead I cough shaking that feeling loose from my brain, realizing that Drake is right next to me with a frown plastered on his face. He hates this. Drake is Georgie's current boyfriend and the idea of him sharing her with anyone was killing him. Even if it is for a high school project.

I had seen Drake mad before. Normally he was one of the most easy going, yeah, sure, whatever guys you would ever meet. To barely know him was to think the guy never felt anger at all. A Buddha in jeans. But I knew Drake since grade school and I knew different. One time when we were in fourth grade some kids were bullying the ever calm Drake and myself. Drake's cat had a litter of kittens earlier that month and was now showing off the mewing offspring to rest of the neighborhood kids like some proud papa. I helped, holding a wiggling pair of kittens for the littler kids to see. Everyone was cool, cooing and petting the babies except for these two boys, the Mulligan kids. Big dumb guys. Totem poles of stupidity. Never did anything but cause trouble and they were at it again. They had pushed their way through the crowd and demanded that Drake give them one of the kittens or else.

Drake held the kittens, which were spilling out of his arms, close to him. He shook his head and made a mumble of defiance only for the older Mulligan brat, Liam, to strike out and grab the nearest kitten he could. A black and white fuzzball mewed helplessly as the bully threw it down and sent a sneaker stomping into it.

Everyone froze at the horror show that had played before them. Too afraid that if they dared mewed themselves they would be next to be killed. Still one kid couldn't hide it and I felt him burry his face in the back of my shirt and cried a muffled sob of fear.

"Should have given me that kitten, dumb ass."

In silence, Drake stared at the remains of the once lively kitten. He turned to me and placed the other kittens in my arms staying away from my panicked gaze. Then with a gentleness he carefully picked up the dead kitten. "Her name was Mimi. I liked her. She was always purring."

Unflinching, he looked up and into Liam's eyes.

"She would call to me until I picked her up and then she would fall asleep in my lap."

Liam didn't respond. The thick sneer on his smug face thinned out as Drake put the kitten back on the ground. He stood up and turned back to Liam. The bully straightened up, making himself almost a head taller than Drake. His hands clenched, drawn up and ready. "What? Are you going to fight me, Moreau? Huh? Is that what you are going to do, dumb ass? I'd like to see you try." He sent a fist flying into Drake's chin. The boy fell over, spilling into some of a couple of smaller kids. They squealed pushing Drake back to his feet.

He looked at them, wiped the smudge of blood that had painted the chin and asked if they were okay.

"I'm going to get my dad," one of the littler ones cried.

"Don't," said Drake as he patted his head, softly. "I'll take care of it. Just keep Andy and the kittens company. Alright?"

The kid ducked behind me and another pair of hands clutched at my shirt. I started to feel less like a human and more like a brick wall. "C'mon, Drake, let him get his dad. What Liam did was sick. You're sick, Liam! You hear me? You are a monster. Going around killing a kitten."

Pointing at me, freezing me in fear, Liam laughed, "Keep talking, Morrisey, you dumb fuck. You're next. Right, Fred?" He turned to his brother who had not said a word since the fight began. He was standing there, staring at the corpse of the kitten, appearing like he was on the verge of crying.

"You killed a kitten, Liam," he mumbled, "That's not right. I just wanted to have one, a new one. To replace our Mittens."

Mittens was the Mulligans' cat. Older than dirt with eyes cloudy due to age. She was bald in some spots and hacked rather than mewed but Fred could always be seen walking about with her in his clutches. In many ways, she was his security blanket. Without her, he lashed out, bullying everyone in his path. Thing was, I had heard through the school grapevine that she had passed over the weekend. For a moment I felt sorry for big, dumb as dirt Fred.

"Don't be like that, Fred. I'll get you a new one. There's still four left. We can have one of those."

"Over my dead body!" In rushed Drake as he threw his entire body at the bully sending the two of them tumbling backward into the hard sidewalk. Liam's head made a dull thud as it slammed against the concrete. Drake sat up, yanked the bully by the hair and slammed it back down. Liam's eyes flickered and rolled back into his skull. His tongue lolled out and he gagged with arms flying wildy trying to get the boy off of him.

"Liam!" Fred yelled rushing in but I blocked him with a sideways shoulder. Down to the ground, he went, dazed and still for a moment. One of the kids jumped on his chest and called for the rest of them to do the same. Four piled on, keeping Fred stuck like a turtle on its back.

Lording over him with kittens in tow, I hissed in his face, "Now stay down, Fred."

"Andy!"

One of the little ones was tugging at my shirt and pointing. Drake was still punching away at Liam, only Liam wasn't fighting back. He just lied there with a body as still as the kitten that laid quietly next to him. His head rolling back and forth between each punch, like some bizarre oversized rag doll. The fat, thick sounds of Drake's fist smacking deep into Liam's bloodied and torn face drowned out everything that dared to play in my ears.

"Drake!" I shoved the kittens into the kid next to me and moved. My arms wrapped around my best friend, pulling as hard as they could until I found myself on the ground with the boy on top of me.

He screamed not making words but sounds. Howls and hisses as he kicked me hard into my bare shins with his sneakers and elbowing again and again in the ribs. The pain sent my eyes watering but I refused to let go, hugging tightly as I could. "Calm down, Drake! Please! Calm down. It's okay."

I had to hold him down for ten minutes before one of the kids was able to get an adult. Even then it took Drake almost half fan hour more for him to ease off his rage. Sitting there on the curb with me next to him, my shins bloody and bruised and the rest of me rattling from the post-events. As shaken as I was I had my hand on his head, patting softly as he cried. No words still. Just sobs. The adults took Liam away in an ambulance. He was still alive, just out cold. Fred was standing behind his father, yelling at any grown up that would listen how Drake nearly killed his brother. The other kids, with their parents in tow yelled back how it was Fred and his brother who started it. All the grown-ups did was frown and looked at the corpse of the kitten with the smashed in head.

Drake was never really punished by anyone. Not even by Liam and Fred's folks. Oh, they wanted to. There was talks about lawyers and such but all anyone had to do was mention the dead kitten and the Mulligans would just get quiet. I guess people thought that Liam got what was coming to him. An eye for an eye and all that junk.

Did I think that? I don't know.

I didn't like what it brought out in Drake, to tell the truth. Like I said before he was the sweetest, easy going kid that I had ever knew and if he could find the rage in him to almost kill a person, then what does that say for the rest of us?

Drake has never raised a hand to anyone since then.

Still, the way he looks now, he seems to be on the verge of fighting. That or crying. Either way, I don't want it to happen.

I sign a checkmark under Georgie's collumn on the clipboard and scribble a few time and date notes. "I think that's enough for today, Georgie. You have already been hit up half a dozen times."

"That many?!?"

"That fucking many," growls Drake as he pulls at his bag.