Blue Plastic Bracelet
It's my, my blue plastic bracelet, honey
The one you gave me, right after you told me I was funny
But we can never be
Two separate worlds, you and me
I'll have this, this blue plastic bracelet to remind me of you
But honey, what will you have of mine, to remind you of me
I have this blue plastic bracelet
No I can't fake it
There's something there
And it isn't fair
All I have of you, this damn blue plastic bracelet.
Damn blue plastic bracelet.
It seems as if a din of shouts and Neanderthal worthy behavior has become my stalker.
Ever since the party I so recklessly attended, I haven't been able to find escape from it, like my shadow trailing persistently alongside me. At school, there's gossip and rambunctious teenagers wrecking havoc, at home Mom and Dad continue to argue heatedly behind closed doors about what could have led to them having such a problem child, and now, as punishment for my ill-advised trip into the unknown with Jeremy Styles, I'm forced to help out at the family business, a skating rink of all places.
Little kids zipping along on skates, shouting after each other, with no disregard for the other customers and far too absorbed in their own activities to care, make it near impossible for me to go about my cleaning duties without ending up falling flat on my rear end. And what do you know? Parent's sit idly by, watching as their little monsters skid out of control around another adult, nearly knocking them off their feet in the process.
Today is worse by far, today Mom has sentenced me to the dungeon, so to say. If I'd thought free pizza Monday and extra tokens Thursday were bad, an eight year olds birthday is worse by far. More little mongrels then I can keep track of skitter around like a colony of busy ants at my feet. Undoubtably, Mom assigned me this job either because her employees would immediately quit once faced with the daunting task or she hates me. Currently, while balancing three plates precariously in my arms, the heat searing through the thin cloth of my white shirt, I embark on a life or death mission through a silly string battle, beginning to believe both possibilities are quite possibly the truth.
Due to the height of the little kids, I'm saved from direct hits from the string, thus granting me much needed focus applied toward dodging them when they scamper away from their opponent, nearly bowling me over in the process. It's miraculous that I can even see where I'm going through all the chaos, like wading into murky black water, never knowing what could be lurking under the surface.
Much to my relief, I manage to dodge my way into the seating area, approaching the third table town. "Here you go!" I announce as cheerily as I can muster, my weak attempts devoured by the ear shattering shouts encasing the building.
At the table sits two Mother's, faces worn and strained with exhaustion, unflattering black bags large enough to be coin purses drooping beneath their eyes. No wonder people say you should wait to have kids until you get married, because your partner may adore you, but he's still a man, so somewhere inside he quite possibly could be thinking, 'hey honey, I love you, but you look like Frankenstein and quite frankly, it's creeping me out.'
The woman to the left, with the frizzy brown hair, rocks a baby boy on one knee that's bawling like a banshee through the dead of night, loud enough to raise the hairs on your arms or curl your toenails upward. At the sight of the food, three boys pause their string war, darting over to the table.
The one taking the lead wails to the woman with the baby, "But Mom!" He whines in an excruciatingly annoying high pitched voice. "I wanted pizza!"
Obviously exhausted, the woman shakes her head, reaching out, sliding the plate closer to him. With a purse of her lips, she strains to remain calm and reply levelly, "Well, sweetie, I got you Nachos instead."
"But Mom!" He screeches, acting like a spoilt brat when he stomps his foot against the ground.
Before I end up saying something ridiculous like, 'hey kid, eat the damn Nachos, I risked my life to deliver them,' I clamp my jaw shut, spinning around on my heel. Escape was going to be made with haste, until I whirled right into the fire of blue silly string, a large clump piling against my face and layering thickly against my disorganized blonde curls.
Now really having to fight the angry beast of frustration pounding against my skull, setting a constant ringing in my ears, I set into brisk pace, stretching my legs as far apart as I can without breaking into a frantic run. Instead opting to taking lengthy strides, desperate for some new air, I manage to control myself somewhat. As gently as possible, I dodge past the tormentors in my wake, holding my hand out to balance them if I have to shoulder my way through tightly packed areas.
Finally, breaking free from the chaos, near suffocating from the close proximity of such noise and crazy activity, I inhale sharply, working to somewhat calm myself. Legs trembling, like brittle sticks tossed violently through a wind storm, due to my shocking reaction to the rowdy children, I curl my fingers inward, tightening my hands into fists, battling to regain composure.
The familiar shout jolts me from my concentration, pulling my head toward the front door. Never before have I been so relieved in my life to see another human being, even if it's Margy stepping through the door to come to my rescue. Immediately responding to her appearance, I close the distance between us, shouting, "Thank God you're here!"
Upper lip, painted with stylish dark red lipstick, curling in disgust, she outstretches her arm, plucking a strand of silly string from my hair, grasping it between her thumb and index finger as if more contact then that will contaminate her forever. "I can see why," she comments, tossing the strand away, shuddering dramatically upon discarding it.
"So," I venture slowly before asking in a dramatic British accent, "what brings you to my glamorous skating rink, doll?"
A wide grin spreading from ear to ear, she claps her hands, "I have to talk to you."
In spite of being busy, honestly, I think through all the uncontrollable ruckus Mom won't notice if I treat myself to a much needed five minute break. "Alright," I say, walking forward, guiding her away from the initial seating area, just a few feet away coming to a pause at the area of three booths overlooking the actual skating area.
While I scoot onto the closest bench, Margy explains while situating herself across from me, "Well, I heard from a friend of a friend..." Suddenly trailing off, she cocks her head almost thoughtfully to the left, slow to start again, "of a friend of a friend that you got freaky with one of the guys at the party and then got arrested."
I knew as soon as the words are out of her mouth, even before then, that I should have come out and told Margy the entire truth. As much of a social butterfly as she is, she's been bound to find out sooner or later. Eager to prove her wrong, I state firmly, "I did not get freaky," she nods in acceptance to this, until I add, "but I did get drunk." Then her eyes widen to the size of dinner plates and she goes all slack jawed with surprise.
Before I can begin to worry that she's going to have a stroke from surprise, she swipes her hands through the air, looking like a pathetic baby bird flapping little wings, and a high pitched squeal of obvious excitement bursts from between her lips. "Tell!"
Worried that she may pop a blood vessel if she keeps up like she's going, I fidget against the bench, discomforted. Just remembering how she gushed over Jeremy earlier today sickens me with remorse, making it hard to continue. The words roll awkwardly off my tongue, sounding fabricated to my ears, "Well, I don't remember much about it."
"Weak!" Margy exclaims, adding in an excited jumble, "You've got to give me better then that. Did you know him? Do I know him?"
"You know everybody," I comment dryly, still avoiding supplying direct answers with all my might.
"Good point. So, did you know him?"
Usually, my impulse would overtake me and I'd act all defensive while stating, 'of course I did!,' but this isn't really a normal situation for me. Folding my hands in front of me, my right tightening around my left, as if I'm instinctively trying to strangle the truth right out of myself. Instead, I mumble sheepishly, "No."
Once again, Margy gapes at me, looking as stunned as she would have if I'd just slapped her upside the head with a frying pan, "Are you insane? You went alone and drank with a stranger? He could have been a rapist!"
Eyes narrowing into slits, I argue pointedly, snapping, "As if you haven't done it!"
"I know everybody, remember?" She shrieks.
"I don't know," my tone raises, distress rising up like water boiling out of control over the limited confinement of a pan, bursting free and spewing out of my mouth, "there was something about him that just made me feel safe. It was stupid I know, but it was kind of in the moment and-and..." I trail off, a growl rumbling against the back of my throat. Curling my fingers around my hair, as if the pressure against my scalp will provide some form of reassurance, I finish, "Why do I feel like I'm explaining this to my mom again? I thought you, of all people, would understand."
"Me," she jabs her finger against her chest, he fingernail digging against the pale, exposed skin her low cut pink shirt shows off, "of all people?"
Completely thrown by her sudden comment, I blunder blindly into uncharted seas, beginning, "We'll yeah-"
Before I get the chance to explain myself entirely, Margy's eyes harden, twin brown icebergs about to sink the Titanic all over again, and she begins to shake her head, snarling through barred teeth, "You know, Ashley, if you don't like labels so much, maybe you should try not to use them."
At a loss for words, opening my mouth with no sound forthcoming, like a fish out of water, I only watch her stand, glowering my way until she's slid out of the bench seat. Still stricken by surprise, I'm unable to bring myself to stop her until it's too late, "Marg, wait," I protest, my attempt futile at best for she's already storming away.
With a shake of my head, I comb my hands through my hair, wincing when my fingertips come in contact with the slime of the silly string. Bottom lip jutting out in distaste, I pluck the blue strand from my curls, holding it out in front of me in between my thumb an index finger, just as Margy had. It's amazing how quickly, with one word or one look, a situation can go south. First with talking to Jeremy and now, with one of my closest friends.
Sometimes you get a second chance. It may or may not be the one you wanted and it may or may not go the way you expected, but if the people that matter to you are really worth it, they'll be willing to swallow their pride and give you a second chance. Or, if someone is really truly different then you thought they were, then you may receive a chance from them as well, as surprising and unlikely as it sounds.
Limbs wary and near unresponsive to movement, it's slightly difficult to complete what is required of me in order to go home. Scooting the broom across the floor, my non-enthusiastic mood coming through when all I manage is to scatter my dirt mound instead of pick anything up, I hang my head, wanting to just quit and call it a night.
Yet, life seems to have different plans for me. Through the welcoming silence blanketing the building after such tremendous racket, I'm able to hear shoes plodding across the carpet as someone advances, "Sorry, we're..." I begin while lifting my head to face the newcomer, "closed," I finish in a soft, disconnected whisper.
Jeremy exchanges his weight from one foot to the other, obviously discomforted, evidence toward this provided when he mumbles simply, "Hi."
Definitely not in the mood to deal with him at present, I tear my gaze away, focusing on the mound of dirt at my feet, scooting it around with my broom, attempting to force it into a single pile once again. "What are you doing here?"
"Margy told me where you were." His voice is quiet, almost not even audible, even with no other sound to interfere with it.
"Yeah, well," slowly but surely, I bring myself to lift my head, gaze meeting his again, "that still doesn't answer my question." When his brows furrow against the bridge of his nose, displaying confusion, I repeat, "What are you doing here?"
Tone beginning to strengthen, he states, voice level and firm, "I shouldn't of went off on you like that. But you can't just go confronting me."
Unable to resist, I prop the broom against the table behind me, perching my hands on my hips and asking with a sarcastic smirk imprinted on my face, "Bruised ego much?"
Surprisingly a wide smile parts his lips, followed by a brief chuckle, cut short when he explains, "Can you not act like my mom. And yeah," he pauses monetarily, beginning to nod, "maybe a little."
"I, uh..." Uncertain what to say, I begin to shake my head, "I actually don't know why I confronted you." With an uncomfortable shrug, I settle for admitting the truth. "I guess I just wanted to talk to you again."
"Look," he says slowly, obviously prepared to attempt and let me down gently, "Friday was fun, but I, uh," pursing his lips, he shrugs, blurting out the final statement in a muddled rush, "I just don't think I'm ready for a relationship."
In instant reaction I shriek, tone heightened with shock. "A relationship?" When he flinches backward, wearing the expression he had durning the Math quiz, his wrinkled forehead and tightened lips making him look constipated all over again, I add in a rush, the words stumbling over each other as they crash off my tongue, "I mean, I like you, you seem nice, it's just, it's High School. And relationships... relationships are kind of pointless. You know?"
Thankfully he nods, showing apparent agreement, "I hear you." Watching him hesitate, he's slow to add searchingly, "So, about that quiz..."
Eager to get off that discomforting topic, I wave my right hand dismissively through the air, pushing myself off the table, "Don't worry about it. It was how Margy and I got to be friends, I shouldn't of thought the same with you. If you forget about it, I'll be happy to."
"No," he says, much to my surprise. Pausing in front of him, I retaliate, nose scrunching up, my expressional portrayal of immense confusion. Seeing this, he's prompted to continue. "Truth is, you're about the only person I know and I need to be eligible to maybe play sports next season."
'Great.' I think acidly to myself, 'Not only is he a Neanderthal, he's also going to get popular and ignore me.' Yet somehow, being able to look into those brown eyes again, I convince myself, in that moment, not to care. Stumbling over my words, I question, "So... so you'll let me help?"
Biting his bottom lip, he's slow to confirm with a simple, "Yeah, if you can." When I remain unresponsive, contemplating what the wisest decision will be, he adds, "Whatdaya say?"
"I say," and then the words become lodged in my throat, like the sole of a shoe mistakenly plopped on a piece of chewed up gum on the ground, making me have to work at getting out, "I say, why don't you help me close the door, it always sticks."
Accepting my lame cover-up, he nods again, leaving it at that, turning, and heading for the entryway. Trailing after him, I find myself inwardly beating up my conscience. It always warns me to be a tentative little nerd, and I can never get it to shut up long enough for anything decent to come out of my conversations or actions.
Knowing I need to say something, anything, before he slips out of my reach again, I blurt out. "The answer's yes, by the way." He pauses in the entryway, right beside the assortment of gum-ball machines lined against the wall to his left, facing me again and prompting me to add, "Yes I'll help you."
Pleased, that signature goofy grin settles onto his expression, replacing the confusion and hesitation once plaguing his features, "Cool." At that, he turns to the machines to his right, commenting, "I used to love these things when I was a kid, I always wanted the spider ring." Wincing, he shakes his head, "And I just said that aloud didn't I?"
Unable to resist, I chuckle, crossing my arms against my chest, replying with a wide, joking grin, "Yeah, yeah you kinda did."
Even so, he stuffs his hands in his pants pocket, coins rattling beneath his palm for a moment, until he pulls a quarter free, slipping it into the allotted slot. With a harsh grating sound from the mechanical gears, he twists the knob. After the price plops onto the bottom of the metal compartment, he kneels down, retrieving the small plastic cup.
Yet, when he pops it opened, nestled inside is not a spider ring, rather, a simple blue plastic bracelet. Jeremy's eyes slide away from the jewelry, looking directly at me. "Friends?" He asks, tone lightened with an almost hopeful air while he offers me the bracelet.
Suddenly feeling as if I've been launched back into the kindergarten years, I eye him curiously. Taking a hint from my hesitation he says, "C'mon, people exchange friendship bracelets all the time, it isn't a promise ring or something. Sides, I don't want it."
After only a second more of trepidation, I outstretch my arm for him to take, convincing myself by thinking, 'wouldn't want a good quarter to got to waste'. With that triumphant grin of his, he slips the bracelet around my wrist, and I nod, agreeing softly, "Friends."
Yet inwardly, I wonder and worry, that after tonight, despite my claims about High School relationships, this exchange will mean more to me then it ever will for him.