With a gleeful glint in my eye, I whisper, "I did it. I did it all by myself, and it felt incredible."
This would be the ultimate party. Most high school seniors imagine the perfect Senior Homecoming or Prom, but I've always imagined the perfect graduation bash. This would be the last time we are all crammed into the soul-sucking atmosphere that is our school's gymnasium and our last chance to leave our impressions on this insignificant world we call Harrison High School.
After nearly four years of planning and executing immaculate school functions, I was finally trusted to put the whole thing together myself. I chose "Looking to the Future" as the theme and modeled the party after a cinema-type college rager. Understandably, the idea was hard to convince the administration to approve, but after a twelve-point presentation and couple guarantees, I convinced them. It helps that the most charming person in school was the Student Body President and my boyfriend, he pushed my idea just enough to secure the win.
"You're welcome," Carson whispers as we exit the meeting. He flashes me the smile that weakens my knees.
"Excuse me?" I try to sass.
"Oh come on," He jabs. "You can't do anything without me. 'Looking Forward to the Future' that was a decent half-brained idea, but I had to step in to make this a whole-brained idea."
"Are you-" His lips cut off my rebuttal. I want to protest but his kiss is forceful and determined.
He finally brakes it off, "Let's not fight. We are a team and that is how we work best." There is no humor in his eyes, but his face forces a smile anyway. He kisses me again, but this time it is a little less harsh. I let myself melt into him. He whispers, "See you after class."
I watch him walk away with a swagger, that he only has when he thought he won something… Which is all the time now that I think about it. He leaves me in the hallway conflicted and unsatisfied. Why does he leave me disoriented?
I couldn't go to class, not with my head swimming with hurt and doubt. I drop my books off in Mr. Linkerson's class. I explain that I wasn't feeling good and might be late for class. The weather-beaten Health instructor took one look at me and readily agreed.
"Don't take too long," he warns. "We are talking about relationships, as a writer I think you'll find it very interesting." What an interesting lesson teaser.
I grab the ruler hall pass hanging on a nail just to the left of the door and slip out the door just as the bell rang for class. As usual, the girls' bathroom is completely empty and eerily quiet. It almost feels like the world had stopped in a nauseating moment. The hunter green brick wall becomes slick as I lean against it and end up on the floor. I did everything I could just to keep from screaming. "What is going on?" I whisper.
Suddenly everything feels off balance. My brain tries to rack itself for any viable reason as to why Carson may have contempt for me. This dance was my brain-child since I got voted in as the Student Counsel Events coordinator. However, "you can't do it without out me," still bounces off the walls of my mind.
Suddenly I find myself on my feet and pacing. I feel a heat that I've never felt before. Have I really been so easily manipulated? Why am I complaining? Carson's opinions aren't bad, he has good taste, and had pretty classy style for a nerd… and I am pretty sure I love him. He has been by my side through years of softball, helped with events that I've planned, and has never hit me…Actually, Carson is the reason I got involved with the activities that I did. I mean growing up he seemed to manage or somehow manipulate me into a schedule that would always benefit his. In one horrible moment, I realize that I have never made an independent decision ever. Every little piece of my life revolves around Carson, or in some way is dictated by Carson.
I hear the footsteps of sneakers coming towards the door so I move to the sink and act as if I am finishing up. In comes a freshman looking desperate to go but too self-conscious to do it while someone is still in there.
"Don't worry I was just leaving," I smile.
Since I sit in the front row I couldn't sneak in. "Nice to see you finally join us, Miss Martin. We are talking about relationships," Mr. Linkerson smirks.
"Sounds intriguing. Please continue," I gesture as I sit down.
"Relationships can be a very complicated thing, they are about give and take, compromises and most importantly love," Mr. Linkerson lectures. "But love for who? What is it when someone loves themselves more than the person they are in a relationship with?"
He takes a brief pause, I assume he wants an answer or a comment but no one offers to jump in. His eyes are having a hard time wandering the class, they seem to be stuck on me as he lectures. Emotional Abuse is the topic of conversation. Every time Linkerson mentions the words "emotional" and "abuse" he looks straight at me. After the third time, I divert my gaze. I love Carson and I know that Carson loves me, so what was the problem?
"Emotional abuse is about the hardest form of abuse to recognize. At least that's my opinion. But let's focus on seven of the most recognizable traits of emotional abuse."
Some are interesting signs like being an emotional roller coaster or feeling like you are walking on eggshells around the partner. But there are at least three signs that stick out to me: The partner would want you all to themselves, the partner will say they are the only one who gets you, and you may be angry with yourself for not fighting back. These signs intrigue my writer's brain, there are so many ways that a character could get caught up in this type of abuse and then trying to get them out of it would be even more of a twist.
The final bell rang releasing the hordes of educational prison-mates. I take my time gathering my notes, my mind races with ideas. Mr. Linkerson stands beside me with a Cheshire grin on his face. "So what did you think of that lesson?"
"I've got a couple of characters that I can definitely make more interesting with a twist like this."
He laughs, "I think it will make a great twist, especially when the hero or heroine finds out about their predicament." The way he says it, the way his eyebrow shoots up and wags at me, makes me curious. Before I can ask what he means by that Carson sidles up beside me.
"Well hello, beautiful," Carson whispers. "You know fifty-five minutes is far too long to spend away from you." His arm slides around my waist and pulls me to his side. He kisses my cheek and then turns to Linkerson. "Good afternoon, Mr. Linkerson."
"Afternoon, Carson." Mr. Linkerson's tone has a bite to it. A stare down becomes prominent, and neither one is going to back down easily.
I chime in, "Mr. Linkerson and I were just talking about my writing. Sorry I didn't meet you at my locker." I don't know why I am apologizing. Honestly, my locker is right outside the door, and the bell barely rang a minute ago.
Carson is a jealous guy, so I am used to his "macho man" act, but with Mr. Linkerson he becomes almost threatening. I think it is because Linkerson is fresh out of college, and not too much older than the seniors he was teaching. Carson's grip got tighter, his fingers digging into my waist. "Isn't that nice. Well, Mr. Linkerson, my girl and I have plans for this afternoon."
"We do?" I ask. This is the first I've heard of it.
He just nods and pushes me out the door. He takes my hand and pulls me through the halls towards some unknown destination. With every moment of silence, I start to feel more of a threat in his actions. He doesn't let me stop at my locker, his grip practically crushes my fingers, and he swerves in and out of the human traffic jam as if he had sirens on. At one point he nearly runs me into a locker, he whipped around so fast. I try to stop him, I even physically stopped but I was no match against his momentum. He disappeared into his thoughts, nothing could penetrate that wall. He, literally, buckles me into the passenger seat of his Ford Taurus without looking at me.
Once on the road to who-knew-where, I venture the question, "Carson Burns, what on earth is the matter?"
"Nothing," he snaps. "I just like having you to myself that's all. I didn't want to wait."
Aww… now that is how you make up for treating a girl like a human trailer. I am okay with the answer until I remember the thick tension that arose earlier between the two men. "I understand that I was looking forward to seeing you too, but why were you so off with Mr. Linkerson?"
"I don't like that he held you late. And alone," Carson mumbles the last two words.
"He was clarifying some points about his lesson," I lie. "It was my own fault that I was late." He shoots me a soul-piercing glare before returning to his eyes to the road. I am very rarely late when I promise Carson we will meet up after class. I don't understand why, in those rare occasions, he acts like I completely betrayed his trust.
"I just don't like how chummy you are with him. It gives a man ideas," he insinuates.
My mouth drops in horror and my eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets. Are you kidding me? Flabbergasted I reply, "Excuse me?! The man is like twenty-five, and I am one of his students."
The silence magnifies the grinding of his teeth as I watch him physically clench every muscle in his body. "That hasn't stopped people before," he sneers.
I relent too quickly, "I am sorry. I promise I will try not to be alone with him again." I feel my spirit deflate as the words leave my mouth. I look forward to the two or three moments with someone other than Carson Burns, but I also love the man and owe him at least that.
I look over at the irritated driver and just watch him for a minute. His light brown hair shuffles with the wind from the open window. He doesn't sport as super short haircut, just tall enough for my fingers to disappear. Dark stubble outlines the cut of his jaw. A pencil sits between his ear and the bold blue frames of his signature glasses. His knuckles are nearly white with how tight they grip the steering wheel. Why is he so mad? I truly don't under—two thoughts hit me at once… I am not voicing these questions out loud to avoid his anger, and for the first time, I do not feel safe with him.
I can be a little on edge with him at times. He makes some possessive gesture or statement that I always write off as his way of loving me. If anyone gets within two feet of me he stakes his claim on me or threatens to rough someone up to prove it. Most of the time no matter what he does I am the one that paying for the price, whether it is the angry pressure of his grip on my hips or the punishment of his accusing words. He never hits me, but he lets me wallow in fear and confusion for hours just to punish me, like right now. Every time Carson's excuse is either he just wants to protect my reputation, or that he is not good at sharing. Mr. Linkerson's lesson echoes in my ears, "The partner would want to you all to themselves."
A coincidence… it has to be. Yet here I am kicking myself for not calling him out of his ridiculous macho protection act. Looking back over the year he has done this a lot, and I've never put up a fight.
I break the silence, "Hey Carson." He gives me a brief grunt to let me know he is listening. "Do you ever think about a time when we wouldn't be together?" He doesn't move, doesn't even blink at the question. We sit in silence as he is possibly processing.
"You mean like if we broke up?" He finally questions.
"Yeah, something like that." When he still doesn't answer, I push, "Have you ever thought about a scenario like that?"
His hand meets mine and grips tightly, "No… I have never thought of it. You are my girl. Nothing is going to happen that would change that." He chuckled to himself, "Besides who else would understand you and be able to put up with all your… quirks like I do?"
My rebuttal is cut short by a sharp pain in my hand as he crushes my fingers. "The day I lose you will be the day that I die, not a moment sooner."
It is my turn to grind my teeth. I fight to hold back a sigh threatening to escape my lips. Through a thin fake smile, I manage to reply, "Good to know."