High School Soap Opera
When we get outside, I expect to see Jack’s car parked next to the curb. Instead I see a cherry red motorcycle with one helmet. I stare at it while Jack locks the back door. I instinctively cross my arms in fear, but he thinks I’m cold so he takes his jacket off and puts it on my shoulders. I put my arms in the sleeves.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” he says, though I’m not sure I believe him. His cobalt colored dress shirt doesn’t look very warm. He starts walking to the motorcycle, but I’m frozen to the spot. Sensing that I’m not beside him, he stops and turns around. “She won’t bite,” he says. Oh god, it’s a she. I bet he even named her. “You’re not scared of her, are you?”
“I’m not scared of the bike, no. The thought of going flying off the bike and shattering my skull, that makes me a little nervous. Besides, there’s only one helmet.”
“Yeah, it’s probably too big for your head, so you’ll just have to hold on tight. Do you trust me?” I look at him like he has five heads, and one of them is speaking Swahili. “Relax, I’m only joking.” He unlocks a secret compartment in the seat, opens it, and takes out another helmet. “Your crown, Princess,” he says with a bow.
“You are just full of surprises tonight.” He helps me put on the helmet and adjusts the fit. His face is so close to mine it gives me butterflies. Once the helmet is on securely, he doesn’t move away. He looks me in the eyes, and when I can’t take the tension anymore I look away and take a step back. “What?” I ask shyly.
“Nothing. It was so dim inside, and now, under the light…” I look up at the street lamp. I know what he means. We can see each other more clearly now, but beyond this one light in the small parking lot, it’s still the middle of the night. That mysterious time when the world is quiet and still, and it feels like there’s nobody else in the entire universe but you. I look back at him, and he hasn’t moved. He’s still looking at me. “I just didn’t realize how… did you know your eyes look like a bulls-eye?” His voice is low and husky.
“What?” I whisper.
“There’s the pupil, and then there’s like this brown sun, and a little bit of yellow around that, and then the blue part. They’re like little bulls-eyes.” When you’re this close and it’s this dark and still, everything sounds so much more profound. If he was saying this in the daytime we would probably be laughing, but here, now… it’s almost romantic.
It’s the perfect moment to kiss me… What are you waiting for? Do it… Am I supposed to be sending you a signal? Why didn’t I ask Josette more questions when she got together with Thomas? It feels like an eternity, but it’s probably just a few seconds. Then he turns to the bike and takes the other helmet, and the moment is gone.
“We should get going. It’s pretty late.” He puts on the helmet and straddles the bike, then turns to give me a hand. I feel electricity in his touch, and it’s not until I’m on the bike that I realize just how little this little black dress is. I try not to think about it as I put my arms around his waist and brace myself for the ride. I take a deep breath and let it out. “Hey,” he says, turning his head and speaking over his shoulder, “you okay?”
“Yeah, let’s go,” I say, trying to sound more confident than I feel. He turns the key and the bike roars to life. I close my eyes and lean my head into his shoulder. I can’t help but think how funny this is. Not funny like you’re actually going to laugh out loud about it, but funny like, how the heck does that even happen? I still don’t know how old he is, but based on our conversation in the bar I think it’s somewhere between 22 and 27. And yet, it feels like we could be a perfect fit.
This is crazy! What am I thinking? Even if Jack is 23, I’m still only 17, and I’m lying to him on top of it. Maybe I should tell him the truth before we get back to his place. But what if he doesn’t let me spend the night after that? Then where do I go? No, I have to stick with the lie. I have no choice now. And anyway, I don’t know how real this is. If I go to sleep here I could wake up back in the real world, and he’ll still be here, in whatever dimension this is, and it won’t matter if I lied.
I can feel the air on my face as he drives through the empty streets, and I fearfully open my eyes. Everything is whirring by us, I can barely tell what we’re passing. How can he see where he’s going? I remind myself that he knows the streets better than I do, and that he’s driven home in the dark countless times before. This is new to me, not him.
Just as I’m starting to let myself enjoy the feeling, the ride is over. Jack parks the bike, and takes my hand to help me down. I smooth down my skirt, hoping he didn’t notice how high it was. If I was going to change my clothes when I became part of a soap opera, why couldn’t I become the girl-next-door with pants and ballet flats? I look down at my feet. At least the slippers are comfortable. I take off the helmet and hand it to Jake, who puts it back in the hidden compartment under the seat.
“Come on,” he says, jerking his head to point the way. “There’s a door on the side over here.” I follow him down a short stone path.
“Wait,” I say. I’ve never been in a guy’s home before, and I need a minute. “Um, you never told me her name. Your bike.” He laughs.
“Ginger,” he says with a grin. “Like Gilligan’s Island.” He runs a hand through his hair. “But don’t worry. I like Mary Ann too.”
“And your age?” I ask. “You look pretty young to own a bar.”
“24,” he says, suddenly a lot more serious. “I took over the bar when my father passed away three years ago. He left it to me in his will.”
“I’m sorry, I had no idea.” Did I really just say that? That’s what everybody says in moments like this, and it never makes the other person feel any better. Besides, he knows he didn’t tell me. Obviously I had no idea. Obviously.
“Let’s just go inside, okay?” He starts to lead the way again, but we hear a speeding car. Is that two cars? A horn sounds, there is a loud noise, like a collision, and then tires squeal. We look at each other, then he runs out to the street. “Oh god, no!”
“What happened?” I ask, but I can see for myself. There’s a blue car smashed into a tree, and a red car speeds around a corner in the distance. I know that car. It’s Boyd, and the one he hit belongs to his fiancee. Serenity.
“No,” I tell a police officer, “we aren’t related to her. We just heard what happened and went to help.”
“Is that so?” he asks. He looks at Jack, who is talking to another officer. “Because your friend over there says she’s his cousin.”
I look at Jack too, now. Is that true? “I guess. I mean, she could be, I don’t know. I just met him tonight at the bar,” I say.
“Uh-huh,” the police officer says, looking at my outfit. “You are aware that prostitution is illegal, aren’t you?”
“WHAT?” I yell. I can’t believe he just asked me that. Adrenaline pumps through my veins, and in this fight or flight moment, I choose to fight. “Is that what you think this is? I’m not a hooker!” Jack starts running to us. “I have never been so insulted in my life. Maybe your boss would like to know that you go around accusing innocent girls of prostitution, Officer…” I look at his name tag. “Officer Miguel Rodriguez. I’ll remember that when I call the station tomorrow.”
“Calm down, miss,” he says, “I didn’t mean to imply that. I apologize.” He’s trying to backpedal, which means he knows he shouldn’t have said that.
Jack comes and stands between the policeman and me. “Shhh,” he says. “Let me handle this.” He turns to the cop. “I told your partner everything I know,” he says coldly. “Jenna doesn’t know anything more than I do. If you have any further questions, he has my name and number.” He turns to me and says firmly, “We’re done here.”
“Thanks,” I whisper, my voice still shaky. Even though Rodriguez apologized, the last thing I need is for the cops to find a reason to bring me to the station to question me, and to find out I have no ID. Jack takes my hand in his and looks at the cop one more time.
“You know, when an accident like this happens in the middle of the night, I would think you would be grateful to have a witness, let alone two. I wouldn’t expect you to start harassing one of them.” We walk back to his house. Behind us, I hear the police officers talking to each other, but I guess they decide there’s no need to pursue us, because soon we hear them drive away.
“This rescuing me thing is really becoming a habit,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. Jack doesn’t respond. We reach the door and I try again. “Are you secretly a super hero?” Not even a smirk. He’s lost in thought. “Jack, are you okay?” He looks up when I say his name. “I didn’t know she’s your cousin. I hope she’s gonna be okay.”
“I’m sorry, I have to go to the hospital. I should be there when she wakes up, and I probably have information the doctors will need to know. You can go in and get some rest.”
“Are you sure?” I ask. “I could go with you, if you want.” He considers this for a minute, and I don’t know if I want him to say yes or no. Part of me wants him to need me to be with him, even though we’ve only just met. I think it’s the hormonal teenage girl part of me that has unrealistic expectations about love based on movies and books and TV. Another part of me, the part that knows that the experiences of the girls at school paints a different picture, is screaming at me for being up so much later than my usual bed time.
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “You’ve been through enough for one night. I mean, thank you. But it’s 3am. You should sleep.”
What the hell, this is a soap opera, right? I take his face in my hands, lean in, and kiss him. I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, but he kisses me back and I quickly learn what all the fuss is about. When the kiss is over, he puts his forehead to mine and looks at me like he wants to kiss me again. “Go,” I tell him. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
He hesitates, then unlocks the door for me. “Lock this as soon as you get inside, and don’t open it for anyone.” I don’t know who he thinks is going to come looking for me, nobody knows me. Then I wonder if someone might be coming for him. Should I be worried? Because I’m not. I’ve never felt more safe.
“Promise,” I say, and I draw an X on my heart with my right finger. I turn and walk into the house, close the door, and lean back against it with my eyes closed to regain the strength in my knees.
“It doesn’t sound like you locked it,” he calls through the door. I smile and lock the main lock, then the dead bolt. I hear the motorcycle start again and stay near the door until I can’t hear it anymore. Then I step out of the fuzzy blue slippers and look around. With Jack gone, I can poke around his stuff all I want.
The room I’m in is a basic living room, with a recliner, a television, and a coffee table. The wall is open on one end and leads into a kitchen. There are no dishes in the sink, and there is more in the fridge than beer. There are things like milk, and bread, and vegetables, and eggs. Those are good signs. I open the freezer. Bacon, steak, ice cream… So he’s an omnivore and eats a well-balanced diet, but he’s not against junk food. I roll my eyes at myself- why do I even care what he eats?
Next there’s a hall and I am glad to find the bathroom. I wash my face and look at myself in the mirror. Has it really been less than 24 hours since I got here? I feel like I’ve already grown and changed so much, even though obviously I look exactly the same as I did when I woke up in the morning. I open the cabinet behind the mirror to see what dirty little secrets might be hiding there, but there’s nothing unusual. No medications. There is a brand new toothbrush, and I remember watching John and Olivia fight over him using hers. I open the packaging and brush my teeth. Across the hall from the bathroom is the guest room, but I’m not done exploring yet.
I return to the living room and notice stairs I didn’t see before. I go up and find the master bedroom, along with another bathroom. So that’s why there was nothing in the cabinet I looked in downstairs. Jack’s toothbrush is on the sink. This cabinet doesn’t have any drugs or anything either. I exhale the breath I wasn’t aware that I was holding.
I yawn, suddenly feeling very tired. In his bedroom, I search through his dresser. His pants are all too big for me, and the t-shirts are too short. I look in the closet until I find a long white dress shirt. I button it up, relieved that it covers my ass. Too exhausted to go back downstairs to the guest bedroom, I fall into Jack’s bed. It smells like his cologne, and I fall asleep imagining what it would be like to be his girlfriend.
I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One