Chapter 4

A few weeks later, Jeremy stopped by Caroline's apartment to find her in a foul mood.

"Jerk customers again?" He guessed as she flopped down on the couch after letting him in.

"Jerk parents," Caroline complained.

"Uh-oh," Jeremy said with concern, taking a seat next to her and putting her hand in his. "What happened this time?"

"Look, I know I'm not perfect despite what you think," she said. "I've made my mistakes and I can be stubborn but so what if I don't want to go to college? I can work where I want and I can see who I want and they shouldn't try to drive a wedge between us so we'll break up or I'll quit my job to go to college."

"What did they do?" He asked.

"I work hard, don't I?" Caroline wanted to know.

"You're the best worker there," Jeremy let her know.

"It's been liberating to earn some money and live on my own," she said. "I've felt good about myself even though McDonalds isn't exactly a glamourous job."

"What's going on, Caroline?" Jeremy asked.

"My control freak manipulative parents cut me off," she grumbled, folding her arms across her chest. "They won't pay the rent after this month."

"That's a little harsh," Jeremy replied. "Can you afford it on your own?"

She shook her head no.

Jeremy sucked in his breath and thought for a moment. "Well," he finally said. "I'm on a tight budget with college and all that, but maybe if we pool our money together and if I move in, we can swing the rent."

"Forget it," Caroline grumbled. "The lease is in my parents' name. First month, last month, security deposit, background check, credit check, all that crap. We'll never get in here on tires and hamburgers."

"Oh," Jeremy said with disappointment. There was a long period of silence. "I guess you'll have to move back home."

"Are you fucking crazy?" She asked angrily. "That's exactly what they want! Well, guess what? I can be parentless by choice."

"Just be careful that you don't burn all your bridges," he warned.

"I'm not going to feel guilty about this," Caroline resolved. "Whatever happened to unconditional love? If they want something perfect, they should get a dog."

"Maybe you can find some sort of compromise," Jeremy suggested.

"You think I should go to college and waste my time and their money just because they want me to?"

"No," Jeremy admitted.

"I should be able to make decisions based on what I want even if they're in conflict with what they want," she reasoned.

"Let me talk to my mother," Jeremy said after a few quiet moments. "If you want to move in with us."

She looked at him with tears in her eyes. "You'd do that for me?"

"I'd do that for us," Jeremy replied.

A few days later, a tow truck hauled Caroline's car from the McDonald's parking lot. She saw it go by through the window from her spot behind the counter and because she was waiting on a customer she couldn't react. She knew it was her parents repossessing the vehicle which felt like a true betrayal because it had been a gift for graduating high school.

"Indian givers," Caroline muttered under breath as she poured the customer a cup of coffee.

"We can car pool between my car and my mother's car," Jeremy told her as she cried into his shoulder that night. "Until we find you something we can afford."

As the end of the month approached, they packed up Caroline's apartment. There wasn't a whole lot of room in the trailer so Caroline took her clothes and a few personal belongings and she told the landlord to deliver all the remaining furniture to her parents' house.

She moved in with Jeremy and his mother. The trailer was small and the living situation was a bit awkward – quiet lovemaking late at night, or rendezvous when they knew Mrs. Bailey was at work which limited their independence and freedom.

"I miss running around naked," Caroline complained one night as she lay in bed with Jeremy.

"I miss seeing you running around naked," Jeremy smiled, giving her a hug.

Jeremy's mother was kind, pleasant, welcoming, hospitable and undemanding and that's what Caroline needed the most while being satisfied and grateful for Jeremy's love and patience.

On the nights he had class, Caroline sat with Mrs. Bailey watching television and chatting but Mrs. Benson turned in early because she got up early and Caroline would often sit alone waiting for Jeremy to come home, greeting him at the door with a kiss and a smile.

"It's not so bad, is it?" Jeremy asked Caroline one evening as they lay in bed together.

"It's perfect," Caroline replied, giving him a kiss. "My parents think they can break me but what they don't realize is I don't need their money to be happy."

"I love you," he told her.

"I love you," Caroline replied.

"Tires and hamburgers go along well together, don't you think?" He asked.

"Perfectly," Caroline agreed.