Katie Plexico Short Story 1
Welcome to High School, Life Sucks.
"Bet-bet!" called the two year old down the hall. She's gotten so big, I thought. I heaved myself out of bed and strolled to the room next door. Mae was standing up in her crib, brown eyes alert and chocolate curls stuck up everywhere.
"Hey there, Mae-mo," I said sleepily, hoisting the toddler up over the bars. I cradled her in my arms, humming and spinning around the room like I did every day. She squealed happily, giggling as I laid her down on the changing table and began our morning ritual. "Now, Mae-mo," I said, as I changed the inevitable dirty diaper, "Bet-bet's not going to be here today, okay? She has to go to big-girl school. You get to go stay at Aunt Celia's house."
"Can Mae-mo go big-girl school?" she asked.
"No, honey, you can't go to big-girl school yet. But you will soon, I promise."
"Yay!" the child squirmed happily, clapping her hands together.
"Hold on a second, kid. I'm not done with you!" I said as I finished fastening the diaper. "Ok," I said, picking her up off the table, "you can go now."
Mae ran down the hall screaming "Gamma! Gamma!" looking for mom. I'm glad our genes are strong and she looks like me. No one at school knew what happened. Most assumed that John and I got knocked up. I mean, John knew. He was a great guy and stayed with me through it. He helped me look after Mae and helped me deal with everything. In a way, he was the perfect "father" for her. True, biologically speaking, he couldn't be farther from it, but he could act the part well. Speaking of John… my cell phone rang.
"Hello?" I asked (out of habit, of course, I knew who was calling).
"Hey beautiful," John said, sounding a bit sleepy himself. "You need a ride to school?"
"You know I do. Do you mind coming by early? I have to take Mae to my aunt's house. Mom has to work today."
"Sure, that's fine. Where does she live again?"
"About a block away from the school. You've been there before."
"Oh yeah… Ok, I'll see you around seven then? That should give us time to drop her off and get to school before everyone else."
"Sounds great, I'll see you then. Love you."
"Love you too. Bye."
"Ma-mah!" I yelled down the hall and started my trek to the kitchen.
"What?" she yelled back. She hated when I did that. Her brother used to when they were growing up, and she had hated when he did that.
"Is Mae with you?" I said, walking into the living room.
"Yes, of course she is, Liza Beth. You couldn't have missed her screaming for me." She stood up to talk to me with Mae on her hip.
"Ok, I was just wondering. I'm going to go ahead and feed her. John'll take us to Aunt Celia's and then we'll go to school. You can go on to work if you need to."
"Yes, I'm late already. Don't burn the house down. Have a good last first day of school," she said, kissing first my forehead then Mae's and handing the child over to me.
"Bye, mom," I said as she walked out of the door. I led Mae into the kitchen and fixed our food. Feeding a terrible-two grits had taken some time getting used to, but now that I had the hang of it, we could both be fed, dressed, and ready by five minutes till.
Soon, John had pulled up in the driveway, and I ran around the house putting out the lights as he walked to the door. He let himself in and met us at the door. "Ready to go?" he asked, kissing Mae's forehead, and then me.
"Ready to go." I affirmed. We managed to get everything to the car, ourselves included, and started towards my aunt's.
"This street?" he asked after a long silence.
"Yep. Third house on the left." We arrived at the house, talked to my aunt for a few minutes, and got everything settled in plenty of time to get to school before everyone else. It was a plan we had perfected last year that never seemed to fail.
We were walking out the door and Mae started up "Mae-mo no want stay! Mae-mo go with Bet-bet! Mae-mo go to big-girl school!" Crocodile tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over.
"Mae," I cooed, picking her up and holding her to me. "I already told you, you can go to big-girl school soon. But you have to stay with Aunt Celia today… Come on, honey, stop crying. I'll come back and get you real soon, I promise. You can play with Cousin Sheldon until then, right?" She stopped crying soon after that, and nodded. "Ok, baby, I'll be back soon." I kissed her forehead and put her down, taking out a tissue and wiping her eyes and nose as I did so. "I love you."
"Bye Bet-bet…" She said, sounding on the verge of tears again.
John and I walked out the front door again. "That never gets any easier, does it?" he asked, solemnly.
"Nope…" I said, dejectedly.
We drove onward, passing the park. The park where it happened. Memories flooded my mind and suddenly I was blasted back to that day.
It was a Tuesday. How ironic, it was a random Tuesday. I had gone to the park to clear my head; mom and I had been fighting again. I knew it was getting dark and that I shouldn't have been out past then; it was a school night and the park was in a bad area, but I really needed the cold night air. I needed to feel the numbness in my limbs, the stinging coldness of the wind on my face, so I went to the swings. I flew higher and higher into the night, trying to escape my current life. He came up behind me, grabbing the chains of the swing firmly and stopping the motion. He said "Don't scream or I'll kill you," then grabbed me roughly and threw me on the ground. I was too scared to do anything, to fight back, and he was much stronger than I. He left me lying there, on the ground, humiliated and cold. It wasn't the numbness I had been searching for; it was like ice and I felt hollow. How had this happened? I thought. I sat up in time to watch him walk away, and suddenly he stopped.
Someone had stumbled through the park as he was… finishing up. It must have attracted the other man's attention; now they were speaking. I tried to hear what they were saying, but the numbness seemed to have spread to my senses, and their words were lost on me. The new man reached back and punched my attacker, sending him to the ground. A scuffle broke out; I could finally hear their screams, the low, guttural growls that came with men fighting. I couldn't see who had won the fight, but whoever the victor was got up slowly and walked toward me. I began to get scared again, gathering my remaining strength and my clothes around me to ward off another attack. The man who approached me was not my attacker, however. He was my savior.
"Are you ok?" he asked, squatting down to speak to me. I looked away, terrified of a second onslaught. "Hey…" he continued soothingly, taking off his jacket and throwing it across my shoulders. It smelled… warm, and masculine, safe. He grabbed my chin gently and turned my face to him. "It's ok now," he continued, "you're safe now." I bit my bottom lip to keep from crying. I had felt too many emotions tonight, and the sympathy from a stranger was threatening to send me over the edge. He's really handsome, some part of my brain registered. And nice. His eyes shown a vivid green under sandy blonde hair, pleading with me to say something. "I'm John," he said casually, attempting to start a conversation.
"I… I'm Liza. Liza Beth." my voice sounded shaky and off, even to my own ears. "Is he… Is he dead?" I asked, looking back to the huddled form of my attacker.
"No," John stated simply. "He's knocked out, and he'll be in pain when he wakes up, but he's not dead. Are you ok?"
I wiggled my fingers and toes, turned my neck from side to side, evaluating each movement for anything wrong. "No," I said, my eyes filling up with tears. "Are you sure he's not dead?"
"Did you know him?" John asked.
I told him what had just happened, the tears spilled over and I felt strong arms around me once again, this time protecting me, keeping me safe.
Everything afterwards was a blur; there were cops, questions, "are you hurt? do you know who did this? describe the circumstances," doctors, tests, poking and prodding. Nothing seemed solid as I was bustled about through the city, going from one building to another, filling out form after form, recounting my story to person after person. I felt how an animal on parade must feel, being watched by everyone with no means of escape.
They told me I was pregnant two weeks after the attack when the tests got back. My first thought was I'm only a sophomore, I can't have a baby! I cried, I screamed, I tried to make it go away, but nothing would take away the cold, hard reality: I was going to have a child, and there was no way around it. "You're having this baby," mom would tell me when she came into the bathroom in the mornings and found me puking my guts out or sobbing in a ball. "I know you think you know what's best for you, but an abortion won't fix anything." She had always been cold toward me; she spoke clinically, almost to the point of meanness when addressing my "situation" as she called it. So I kept going to prenatal care.
I found out a lot more about my mom during the weeks I was carrying. She had been pregnant twice—once before me, and then with me. She aborted her first baby because it was out of wedlock. She cried when she told me the story. That was the first time I ever saw my mom cry. She didn't cry in front of me, not even when dad died. It felt strange to think of the brother or sister I never had. I guess that was why mom didn't want me to get rid of Mae. She wanted to prevent any other kids I had from feeling that same strange emptiness of knowing they almost had a sibling.
The nurse told me it would be a girl. Mom was so happy. The first time Mae's small, warm hand wrapped around her finger, it was as if the icy exterior melted away. She went into "grandma-mode," bringing home new outfits every day, claiming that Mae was the most precious child she had ever seen. Ever since then, we were on better terms. Mae was the one thing that could have brought us together, and she did.
John and I drove up to the parking lot later than we usually would, meaning that there were actually people there. Most people had stopped the outright teasing, but there were still glances. I despised the stares and hateful looks that I got during class, and now the whole school could see me. I couldn't hide in class, behind the teachers. I was out in the open. And they could smell the fresh meat.
"Ready to go, LB?" John asked quietly, looking at me the same way he had that night—serious, protective, worried.
"Let's just get this over with," I said miserably.
We walked across the parking lot quickly, but that didn't stop the verbal abuse. "Hey, Liza Beth, how's your kid? What's his name again?" one of the more well liked sluts asked. Brittney. She was the only person in the entire school who still, after two years, called me out about it.
"Her name is Mae, Brittney, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring her into this."
"Oh, what's the matter, Elizabeth?" she asked. She always got my name wrong. We used to be friends, but after she found out I was pregnant, she stopped associating with me. I don't want to look bad for hanging out with a fat chick she had said. "Upset because you can't bring her to school too?"
"No, Brittney, she's trying to figure out why you're being a complete pain," John interrupted. "Come on, babe, let's go." He grabbed my arm and continued to pull me across the parking lot.
"Ok," Brittney called after us. "Just stick up for her, we all know it was you who knocked her up, quit trying to play off the whole 'I'm a Christian and don't have sex' thing!" John's grip tightened on my arm, his face was contorted with anger.
"I WAS RAPED!"
Every eye in the parking lot turned to stare at me after my confession. All was quiet, and I felt like the paraded animal again, self-conscious and trapped. "It's true," I said, barely loud enough for Brittany to hear. The stillness that had seemed to encompass the lot left as suddenly as it had come, harsh whispers breaking out everywhere.
It was as if I was swinging again. The whispers were the wind whistling past my ears as I soared higher and higher. I had jumped, and now everything was falling away as momentum propelled me upward. No apologies or confessions could comfort me, they fell away as I left the ground further and further behind. My secret was exposed and I was flying, a weight was lifted from my shoulders that I hadn't known I was bearing. I knew eventually I would fall back to reality, but reality didn't matter.
I held my head high and walked to class. For the first time in two years, I was going to be late. And I couldn't care less.
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