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“You… you never cared at all! All you want is something to show off,” barked the eighteen year-old man at his parents. He stood halfway up the stairs looking down at his parents. His feet two steps apart, an angry finger stabbed at his parents in the air with scorn. His parents looked up at him confused and upset.
“Jimmy please, don’t act like this,” his mother pleaded, nearly in tears.
“Don’t you ever call me that again,” he ordered in furious frustration.
His mother’s face scrunched up in trembling sobs.
Jim turned and stormed upstairs. His father marched after him. Jim walked quickly down the hallway and slammed the bedroom door in his father’s face. Jim locked the door.
“Damn it! You open this door right now, young man.” His father banged on the door.
Jim shoved his iPhone, wallet, car keys, and headphones into his jean pockets. Jim put on a black jacket over his black long-sleeve shirt. He threw his shoes onto his bed and started to put them on. Lightning flashed through the bedroom window. Jim grabbed a few more pairs of pants, underwear, and shirts and carried the pile of clothes in his hands. His father banged on the door some more.
Jim swung the door open. He faced his father eye to eye. They both stood still for a moment with challenging eye contact. Jim shoved past his father out into the hall. He rushed up the hall, down the stairs, past his mother, and over to the front door. He opened the door but didn’t close it after stepping outside. Some rain fell inside the house. Jim took the doorsteps in one stride and went quickly over the lawn to the driveway. Thunder crashed as his father chased him out to the front yard. Jim didn’t look back as he crossed the street to his car.
“Jim, stop. Please,” his father yelled in defeat.
Jim snapped his head in fury around to glare at his father with his harsh eyes. Hair immediately soaked, a hand resting on the slippery door handle.
His father stood in the street unsure of what to say, eyes red with tears, rain dripping down his face and onto his shirt and tie, Jim’s stare incinerating him.
“What?” demanded Jim, his eyes ablaze, his face full of impatient anger. His wet hair tickled the skin around his eyes.
“Jim… please, just – just come inside, please.”
Jim’s face tightened as his anger and frustration crystalized. He tore open the car door, sat in the driver’s seat, and slammed the door shut. The engine growled to life. The headlights flickered on and every drop of rain pouring out of the sky could be seen as long as it was in one of the car’s two cones of light. Jim took off down the neighborhood street.
His father’s chin wobbled as he stood in the rain in the street watching the car drive away. And when he couldn’t see the car anymore he looked for the haze of light surrounding it. And when he could no longer watch the car light wind through the neighborhood he listened to the distant rumble of its engine. And when the sound of the engine faded away he walked back inside to cry with his wife.
Jim, bundle of clothes in hand, stumbled through the slippery and skinny cottage path leading to the front door of his grandmother’s tiny house. He rang the doorbell and looked inside through the French doors. He shivered violently from the cold. The rain plastered his hair to his forehead and soaked through his clothes.
Grandma walked cautiously to see who was at her front door at 10:30. She saw the slender figure of a young man silhouetted by flashes of lightning. The only light on in the house came from her bedroom down the hall, so she could see outside clearly through the French doors and windows. She turned on the living room light, and the outside became a consistent black. She shuffled timidly to the front door.
“Who –” thunder crashed, “Who is it?” she called from inside, not daring to open the door.
“It’s Jim, Grandma.”
Immediately recognizing her grandson’s voice, she opened the door as fast as she could.
“Oh! You poor thing.” She hugged him and stood as tall as she could to kiss his cheek. Jim bent down to help her reach. “Why,” she continued, “You must be frozen half to death.” She put one hand on his back and guided the shivering Jim to the kitchen. He set his pile of clothes down on the counter.
Jim and Grandma were close. He had to be close to her. No one else was. She lit the fireplace and gave him blankets once he put on dry clothes. They sat by the fire with hot chocolate and talked for some time.
When Grandma came back from the bathroom she found Jim asleep in that big comfy chair wrapped in blankets and lit by the fire’s warm orange glow. So she left him there and went to bed.
When Jim awoke the clock read 1:07 and the storm had shrunk into a gentle rain. Immediately Jim’s thoughts turned to his future. What was he to do now? He was eighteen. So he no longer needed his parents for shelter. He was smart and he was handsome. By now he had learned this about himself. There was nothing to hold him back.
His eyes noticed the movement of a lizard on the outside of the window. Lizards were interesting looking creatures. Jim sat motionless, staring at the lizard as it scaled up the window. If you cut off a lizard’s tail, it grows back. That fact fascinated Jim. And he thought back to his childhood golden retriever that would chase lizards in the backyard.
Change. That’s what Jim wanted to do. A new name, a new life. He wanted a good name. A name that stood out, full of mystery. He’d change, like a chameleon, matching his surroundings. Jim Chameleon. No, he didn’t like that. He stared at the lizard on the window some more, thinking. Salamander? Jim Salamander. Eh, it wasn’t quite right. He’d been Jim since sixth grade. James: that was his real name, the name on his birth certificate. But the last name, Trask, it was too boring. James Salamander. That’s who he would be now.
He took out his wallet. He examined his driver’s license. He was supposed to get it renewed this month. The fifteen and a half year-old boy in the picture had grown a lot. He moved on to his school I.D. card. He looked at the picture of Jim Trask, with his childish smile, the perfect son. He threw the card into the fire. He returned his wallet to his back pocket.
He sat in that big chair brooding, staring into the fire, his eyes melting. If you had looked at him you would have seen the flames’ reflection in his bright eyes. The warm glow of light danced on his blanketed body. He looked away from the fire. He looked into the dark living room; the cool night air chilled his eyes. He became tired again. He rested his head on the chair and closed his eyes. The thickening rain soothed him to sleep.
The rain had left everything wet. The morning sunlight shone through holes in the overcast, making the world look happy but relaxed.
The world looked new to him. Something had changed. All of the repetitiveness was gone. Life bloomed to him fresh for the picking. A smile crept onto his face. He nestled himself into a more comfortable position in the chair. Eyes half open, he gazed vaguely out the window in bliss.
The smell of pancakes drifted out from the kitchen to the living room. He emerged from the chair like a butterfly out of a cocoon. He stretched his body. He left the blanket hanging off the side of the chair as he waddled sleepily to the kitchen.
“Good morning, dear,” said Grandma in that moist voice everyone had in the morning that annoyed him.
“Hi,” he mumbled. “Can I have some pancakes please?
“Why of course sweetie.”
He slumped into a chair at the kitchen table. Grandma placed napkins, a fork, a knife, a glass of water, and a plate of two pancakes on the placemat in front of him. She sat opposite him at the table. She drank orange juice and had only one pancake.
He was in no rush as he ate. He sat hunched over, eating silently, his shiny brown hair a mess. He had a strong jawline and chin, a smooth and – depending on the angel – slightly curved nose, and absorbing hazel eyes. He had always been skinny, slender, yet by now his body was mature. He had the body of an adolescent but the eyes and mind of a man.
“Jim?” asked Grandma, “Why did you come here last night? Will you tell me now?”
He stayed silent for a few moments.
“Call me James now, please.”
“What?” She collected herself. “Ok… sure. What’s wrong with Jim?”
“Nothing. I’d just like to be called James now, is all.”
They returned to picking at their food in silence.
“Thank you for letting me stay here last night.”
“Oh, of course dear,” said Grandma, still waiting for the answer to her question. The silence returned for a few short moments.
“They treated me like a child,” said James. He took another bit of his pancakes. “That’s why I left.”
“Well… it must be more than that. They’re just trying to hold on to their son.”
“Hmm. I know, but….” He was about to say, “There was more than that,” but chose to avoid lengthening the conversation.
When he finished his food, James took his plate to the sink and started to clean it himself. Grandma stopped him, offering to clean the plate. He thanked her. James loitered next to her.
“I’m going to leave soon,” he informed her.
“So soon? You can stay as long as you want. You know that.”
“I know – thank you. But – ”
“Why don’t you want to stay?”
“Oh – well….” He hung over her, her back to him while she did the dishes, searching for a way to get out of there without explaining too much. “I – well, I actually have some things to do. I’m sorry; I don’t really want to explain it. I’m tired.”
“Oh, okay. Well you are welcome here anytime.” She turned around and smiled at him.
James showered, put on clean jeans and a clean long-sleeve brown shirt, gathered his things, said good-bye to his grandmother, put his shoes on, and then left. His car pulled out of the driveway.
There comes a time in life when one transcends from one world to another. And if one wants to live happily, he must disassociate himself from the old world and commit to the new. Ties to the old world must either be imported to the new – or severed. James drove toward a neighborhood that held a wealth of childhood memories.
By about 10:30 or so the day had grown sunny. The grass shined a sharp green against the blue sky, and the houses lining the long stretch of neighborhood stood tall and friendly with an identical hospitality. It was the epitome of family neighborhoods founded on children playing in the street, of friendships built from neighbors not classmates.
James parked in front of Sadie’s house. He walked into the middle of the driveway and pulled out his cellphone to call her. He looked up at her bedroom window while waiting for her to pick up.
“Hi Jim,” her soft voice quickly said through the phone.
“Hey Sadie.” A wave of nervousness shot through James, but he quickly shook it away. “I’m outside your house right now. I –”
“Oh! Really?” Sadie hoped off her bed and came to the window. She pulled open the blinds, looked down at James, smiled, and waved. James smiled and waved back at her.
“You’re not busy, are you?” he asked.
“Nope! I’ll come outside.” She hung up the phone.
James only had to wait a couple minutes before Sadie rushed out the front door to give him a hug. Sadie stood a head shorter than James. She had an adorable face, with shiny eyes and a great smile. Her breast-length dirty blonde hair looked radiant in the late morning sun. She stood in the driveway with no shoes.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you since school ended. How have you been?” she asked.
“I’ve been good,” answered James impatiently. “You’re going to college around here, right?”
“Yeah. You are too, right?”
“Maybe. So I was thinking, well, would you want to get an apartment together?”
“Oh. Umm… I’m not sure. I’d have to think about it.”
“Yeah of course. I was just thinking – ”
“Hey Sadie!” boomed a friendly voice.
They both turned to Sadie’s right to see Scott, Sadie’s neighbor, crossing the grass between their houses to invite himself into the conversation. James’ shoulders slouched in annoyance. Sadie greeted Scott enthusiastically. They hugged, and Scott took his time letting go of her. James’ expression drooped from happy to impatient and irritable.
“Hey Jim, how are ya, man?” Scott smiled at James with his out-going smile and short blonde hair. He was in good shape – muscular build. He stood tall with equal weight on each foot. His arms hung purposefully at his sides. He wore a football jersey – had the preseason started? – with jeans. And everyone at school loved him.
“Great,” answered James flatly in an annoyed monotone.
James put the weight of his slender body on his right leg with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders slouched and his hair messy.
“So, Sadie,” began Scott, “I meant to ask you last week at….”
James stopped paying attention. He didn’t care. He looked down at Sadie's bare feet on the cement driveway. Her feet were pale, and her toes had a light purple coloring around the toenails. She stood with her feet touching, her big toes wiggling up and down against each other. He wondered if her feet were cold. They looked cold.
James pushed his hair up off his forehead. His brown long-sleeve shirt kept him warm. He could see the goose bumps on Sadie’s left arm. James could not see her right arm since she turned to face the space between James and Scott so as to give them equal attention. The three of them formed a triangle. But it was an uneven triangle with James distant from Scott and Sadie. Sadie faced Scott, listening. James looked at Scott.
“So I’m really glad we’re going to college together, Sadie,” said Scott, smiling at her.
“So am I.” she turned to face him fully. “It’ll be great. I – ” Something in the sky caught her attention. “Oh, look! A hot air balloon.”
Scott turned to look at the balloon. Sadie marveled at it.
“I don’t know how people get in those things,” she went on. “You’re just in a little basket. And those things go so high.”
James gave only a glance at the hot air balloon. He returned his attention to Scott. Scott looked uneasy. His face was nervous, and his eyes filled with fear. A memory rushed into James’ mind.
It was fourth grade. A group of students gathered around the school playground. For whatever reason, ten year-old Scott had been challenged to climb to the top of the jungle gym structure, a serious height for fourth-graders. A proud, confident boy, Scott accepted. He climbed to the top well enough. But when he stood looking down from the top, he froze with fear. Scott began to tremble and cry helplessly. He crouched down, holding onto the jungle gym with a fear-frozen grip. Some students began to laugh. Friendlier kids tried to be encouraging. Most watched in uncomfortable silence. A playground supervisor was needed to help the crying Scott down to Earth. Little Jimmy had been one of the students watching uncomfortable.
James saw that scene replaying itself in Scott’s eyes. Scott tore himself away from the hot air balloon and that embarrassing memory. He looked over Sadie's shoulder at James. There was a reptilian quality in James’ face. Scott’s eyes darted away from James in… not quite fear, but… there had been something… unsettling, in that reptile face James wore. Scott’s eyes found safety in Sadie’s gentle face.
“So,” Scott began, “I was just watching the game. You two wanna come inside and watch it with me?”
“Sure,” answered Sadie.
“How ‘bout you, Jim?”
“Well – uh – I don’t really…. Actually – yes, sure. Thanks.”
In the kitchen, the three adolescents worked together to prepare snacks. Scott took three glasses and a large clear bowl out of the cupboard. Scott handed James a bag of potato chips. James tore open the bag and poured the chips into the bowl. Scott grabbed a two-liter bottle of soda from the fridge. Sadie excused herself to the bathroom.
Scott watched Sadie walk away. When she went around the hall Scott turned to James and said with a smile, “She’s a good-looking girl, isn’t she?”
“Hmm?” was all James could say with a chip in his mouth and a confused expression on his face.
“Ah – come on. She’s hot. Are you saying you’ve never thought about… you know, with her?”
James shook his head. “We’re really good friends.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right.” Scott’s face concentrated to remember while he looked up vacantly. “You guys have known each other since like fourth-grade – right?”
“Third-grade.” James ate another chip.
Scott laughed a little. “Yeah, I remember. You guys were inseparable on the playground.” Scott filled one of the glasses with soda. He handed it to James and poured himself a glass.
“Yeah.” James took a sip.
“So then, I guess you won’t mind if I get some summer lovin’ in before I go off to college.”
James glared at him. Scott didn’t notice. He was too busy thinking about Sadie with that big dumb grin on his face to notice.
“You’ve been friends for a while too, haven’t you?” asked James indifferently.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Since ninth-grade I think.”
James nodded while drinking from his glass. Scott filled a third glass for Sadie.
When Sadie returned from the bathroom they took their seats on the couch. Sadie and Scott sat next to each other directly facing the T.V. James slouched in the corner of the couch. Watching the game proved to be an excruciatingly boring experience for James since he took no interest in football. And Scott’s delusion that the football team could hear him when he yelled excitedly at the T.V. only increased James’ regret for agreeing to watch the game.
At half time James went to the bathroom. After he peed and washed his hands he leaned on the sink staring at himself in the mirror. The bathroom was meant to look nice and decorated for guests. The walls were painted red and a piece of artwork hung on the wall. A bottle of soap stood on the left side of the sink. On the right sat some kind of air-freshening decoration. A towel rack hung against the wall displaying a neatly folded brown towel. James stared at himself in the mirror. He inspected his eyes, his nose, hos mouth, his forehead and his messy, thick, light brown, just barely curly hair. If he didn’t want to talk to Sadie he’d leave right now without saying goodbye.
James stood up drowsily. He flicked the light switch off and walked out into the hall.
Scott and Sadie had moved out to the backyard patio.
“I feel bad, but I don’t –” Sadie cut herself off when James stepped outside.
She and Scott stood in awkward silence as James approached. James shuffled into the conversation with his hands in his pockets and his head cocked casually and his eyes innocent and tired. Sadie smiled at him and he smiled back at her. The warmth of the morning had begun to recede to a chill. Strange weather for summer. Overcast rolled in taking out some of the sun’s brightness. The absence of glaring sunlight allowed everything to be seen with greater detail, the world took on a profound sharpness and depth. James noticed this. Scott didn’t. Maybe Sadie did, maybe she didn’t.
James didn’t pay much attention to the trivial conversation Scott started up with Sadie. Scott acted polite, but James knew Sadie was the only one Scott had any interest in talking to. Scott and Sadie looked each other in the eye. James stood right next to them, in the middle, but he was separated. He felt as though a sheet of glass separated them. James looked at them, realizing he would either need to take a new approach or stop wasting his time.
“I think I’ll go now,” stated James.
Sadie turned to him surprised. “What? Why? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t want to watch football. And I have some other things to do,” he explained coldly.
“Oh… okay. Well, see you later then.”
“See ya later,” added Scott.
“Bye,” muttered James.
James crossed through the house to the front yard. He walked sadly. It was cold now. He wrapped his arms around himself to keep warm. It didn’t help much. As he reached for the door Sadie caught his eye, she was walking towards him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked with worry in her voice from the sidewalk and the car between them.
“Nothing.” His voice was strong but his eyes were hurt. He swallowed. “I have some things to do. And I don’t like watching sports. I should have left when Scott showed up.”
“You don’t have to go. I want to see you.”
James looked down. “Hmph.”
“I do. Really.”
James looked at her. She gazed deep into his eyes, and the look in his eyes gave her the sensation she was about to cry.
“Come with me,” he asked. His expression became happy but his eyes knew not be optimistic.
“I… I’m sorry – I can’t. That would be rude to Scott.”
Anger flashed across James’ face. “Alright then. Bye.” He opened the car door.
“I’ll see you soon though.”
The car door closing cut off James’ derision. He smiled at the irony as he ignited the engine and adjusted the stereo. Sadie, confused and upset, watched him drive away.
James sat at a tall table by the glass wall in a burger restaurant. He sat hunched over his tray. Ha had finished his burger, and now he only nibbled on fries and sipped at a soda. Rain splattered against the huge window that served as the front of the restaurant. The place was nearly vacant.
Since leaving Scott’s house James continued his plans to fully change himself into an independent adult. He had withdrawn a sizable sum of money from his bank account, which he closed immediately after. Then he scheduled an appointment to renew his driver’s license. Tomorrow he planned to open a new bank account.
James sat in silence, consumed by the thoughts of his cold, manipulating mind. His eyes lost focus. He saw only the visualizations taking place inside his head. For several minutes he sat there, motionless, thinking, calculating. A satisfied smile spread across his face as his thoughts melted into a well-crafted jewel. He laid his hand on his left pocket to assure himself the envelope of money was still there.
Scott and a few of his friends entered the little restaurant. Scott smiled at James as if they were great friends. James smiled cruelly at the group. Scott excused himself from the group to talk to James.
“Hey, Jim,” greeted Scott as he hoisted himself onto the chair opposite James.
“I wanna thank you man. That was real cool of you to leave so me and Sadie could be alone. That’s a sign of a real friend.”
“What do you mean?” James looked confused and worried.
“Well… you know. Sadie and I, we had a good time together.” Scott smiled suggestively.
James tried his best to suppress the anger burning inside him.
“We’re going out to dinner together in a couple hours. I’m only here to hang out with the guys.”
“Sounds like that’ll be nice.”
“Yeah. I’m getting her a box of chocolates too. I already picked it out. I got her a nice blue box full of all kinds of chocolate.” Then Scott added, as if some sort of explanation, “Blue is her favorite color.”
James’ thoughts constricted in annoyance. That idiot. Her favorite color is green. Hopefully he’ll tell her he got blue because it’s her favorite color. That’ll go great.
“Yeah,” continued Scott, “Maybe if I play my cards right I’ll get in those pants again.”
James made no reply. He stared vacantly down at his French fries. Anger and sadness and jealousy and annoyance surged through his body and it all mixed together in desperate hatred. Once this flood of emotion ceased James relaxed. He looked up at Scott with a reptilian smile. James looked Scott in the eye. A chill shot through Scott’s spine. He avoided eye contact and shifted uncomfortably.
“Let me show you something cool,” said James. “Come on, it won’t take too long. You’ll like it.” He made a gesture for them to get up.
“I don’t know.” Scott searched for an excuse. “I don’t want to ditch my friends. And I’m meeting Sadie soon.”
“Agh c’mon. It’ll take an hour at the most. You’ve got plenty of time to see your friends. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
Scott’s eyes widened in surprise, but James continued before Scott could say anything.
“Come on, I’ll drive.” James threw the remains of his food in the trash. He motioned for Scott to follow him.
Scott obliged, but he was weary of James’ intentions. He followed James out to the car. They got in the vehicle. James seemed to have forgotten all about Scott by the time they pulled out of the parking lot.
The sun had set while they were in the restaurant. They drove through the night. The road shone of car lights and stoplights. James and Scott would have sat in darkness if not for the orange, red, and blue lights coming from the radio and dashboard of the car. Neither of them spoke. Scott could not think of a thing to say. James drove in emotionless silence. He turned the volume up on the radio, so Scott figured he did not want to converse. Scott looked at James, searching for answers in his expression. But he found none. James held no smile, no frown, no visible expression. All Scott saw was James’ face and hair lit by the car lights, and the reflections of those car lights in James’ eyes.
Scott wondered where James was taking him. At an intersection Scott looked over at the driver in the car to his right. Their eyes met. Scott looked away. James took off fast when the light turned green, flooring it until he accelerated to the speed limit of 55 mph. James turned off the main road down a narrow street. The street twisted away from the buildings. Trees hung over the road, blotting out the moon and the stars. The road went on for a mile before it spilled into a small parking lot. James parked. They both got out of the car without a word. James led the way down a cement path that descended from the parking lot to a park.
It was not a park for children. The park was mainly a body of water sized somewhere between a pond and a tiny lake. It was a large pond. A cement path circled the pond, rising to a bridge for a small portion. In one corner of the park were many cement squares for sitting and some blue tiled cement walls for decoration. These cement walls were between ten and eight feet long, six or seven feet tall, and two feet thick. People often climbed on these. A few of these walls stood in the water, as if daring someone to gather the audacity to leap onto them, taking the risk of not landing with a firm hold and plunging into the water of unknown depth. There were no lights at this park. The only illumination came from distant streetlights and a large elegant office building that loomed over the park from a hill.
James walked over to the cement squares. He waited as Scott caught up.
“See? Pretty cool isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” answered Scott, impatient to leave.
James walked to the edge of the pond. He looked at his reflected silhouette rippling in the water. Scott walked over to James.
There were three cement walls in the water. On stood only four feet above the water. But it was placed at a distance where the only way to tell if it was really in jumping distance was to test it. The other two were seven and ten feet tall and placed in line with the smaller wall. James and Scott stood directly facing the smallest of the three cement walls.
“Ever jumped onto that one?” James nodded at the small wall in the water.
“No. Have you?”
James smiled at Scott. James leaped like a panther onto the wall. He landed with his stomach hitting the edge and his hands grabbing the top. He pulled himself onto the wall well enough. James stood up and turned around to face Scott.
“Come on, jump up here.”
“I don’t know…” replied Scott uneasily.
James walked across to the edge of the wall closest to the next wall in the water. James leaped onto the seven-foot wall with little difficulty. He stood and turned to look down at Scott, still looking at the first wall with a worried expression.
“Oh, come on!” said James teasingly. “That one’s easy.”
He watched with amusement as Scott summoned the courage to jump to the tiny wall. Scott successfully clambered onto the wall.
“Good job. Now come up here.”
Scott walked cautiously to the other end of the wall. Again, he struggled to find the nerve to jump to the wall James stood on. But he did. Scott stood level with James. He looked proud of himself, but James could see the fear in those eyes.
James turned and jumped to the ten-foot wall.
“Jim,” Scott said with a shaking chin, “I don’t think I’m gonna jump up there.”
“Oh, come on, its no big deal.”
Scott did not give in to James’ pressuring this time. James knew for this last wall Scott would need some extra motivation.
“Oh, come on….” James paused to say the word that set Scott off. “Come on – sissy.”
James saw the fear in Scott’s eyes turn to anger. James backed up to give Scott room. Now Scott had something to prove. Scott spent no time thinking over the jump. He leaped clumsily like some dumb angry animal. Scott stood up on the ten-foot wall proudly. But he did not expect the dark glow in James’ eyes.
James grabber Scott by the shoulders and shook him violently. Any sense of confidence Scott had obtained collapsed. His whole body filled with terror. James laughed derisively as Scott crouched down to hold onto the wall with his hands. Scott’s whole body trembled. He looked around in search of a way off this cliff, and found no escape. James stepped over the cowering Scott. James hopped from one wall to another until he was back on the ground. He walked back to his car, leaving Scott to succumb to phobia.
James jumped into the car slamming the door. He stabbed the key into the ignition and ripped the car to life. He roared the car out of the parking lot madly. He spun the volume high; the music filled the car like electricity. James raced down the road without conscious thought, all instinct and desire took over with confident glorious decisive action.
It was 9:30pm. The rain had picked up and now some lightning and thunder adorned the night. James pulled up in front of Sadie’s house. He parked by the curb. He got out, walked up to the front door. He rang the bell.
Sadie answered the door. It was clear she was upset. Her eyes were sad her face was slightly red as if she had just been crying. She wore her hair tied in a ponytail. She wore jeans and a white sweater. After a moment of slight confusion she gave James a hug. They hugged each other tightly in the doorway. Sadie buried her head in his chest. James rested his head on hers. They stood holding each other for several moments. Sadie began to speak, struggling to pronounce her words through the trembles of her distraught voice.
“He… he – Scott, he never picked me up. We – we were g-going to g-get dinner… a – a date.” At this point she couldn’t hold in the crying. James squeezed her comfortingly. “W-we had sex, a-and he said w-we’d go out to dinner. B-but he st-stood m-me up.”
“It’s okay.” James stroked her hair gently. She cried into his left shoulder.
Sadie stopped crying. She wiped her tears away. Out of some strange impulse of kindness, James kissed Sadie’s forehead. Sadie smiled nervously. Her fingers tickled James’ hand as she wrapped her fingers around his hand. She led James by hand into the living room of her house.
The living room was mostly dark. Sadie sat down on the couch. She leaned back on the cushion. James sat down hunched over with his elbows resting on each leg. He looked at Sadie, sitting there in her disappointment. They had known each other for ten years. He remembered sharing a cookie he had won in school with her when they were only eight. He remembered in sixth grade when he helped her find her dog that ran away. They had spent all day looking. He remembered in seventh grade when he broke his leg and she visited him almost everyday until he got better. She might have been the only person he ever cared about.
“Why do you think he did that?” asked Sadie. James looked up at her.
“I don’t know.”
“I just don’t understand.”
“You know how guys like him are. All they want is sex.”
“But he was so sweet. I thought he really cared.”
She moved to sit next to him. He put his arm around her.
She let out a sigh. “I love you, Jim.”
“I love you too… Sadie.”
“So… listen, you know how you asked me to come live with you…. Well, I mean, I appreciate the offer… but… I think I’ll just live in a dorm at college. I’m sorry. But, did you really want me to live with you?”
“Yes. Sadie, you’re my best friend. I care about you. I don’t want to lose you.”
Sadie smiled. “I care about you too.” But I don’t know about living together. Do you even have an apartment?”
“See. I just think it would be too hard. We’ll see each other a lot. I promise.”
“Okay….” James took his arm off Sadie. He slouched on the couch lugubriously.
Sadie changed the subject. “Oh, and tell your parents I say “hi.” I haven’t seen them in a while.”
“I’m never going home again. I might not even see my parents again.”
“What? What do you mean you are never going home again?”
“I hate being a kid. So I decided to be an adult. So I left,” said James with little interest.
“When did you do this?” Sadie was flabbergasted.
“But you have such great parents. How could you just leave?”
“They didn’t care about me. All I was to them was a trophy. I’m not going to spend my life being someone’s prize race horse.”
“But Jim, you're just a kid. How are you going to survive on your own?
“I’m eighteen. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m an adult. I chose to become an adult.”
Sadie didn’t know what to say. She stared at him astounded. James looked into her eyes. Something was missing. Whatever shine, spark, or light had been in them before was gone. Whatever enigmatic quality Sadie possessed that had captured James’ interest and supported their friendship had disappeared. For all this time James had felt they were equals, learning from each other. But now, for some reason, he felt above her. He felt he knew things she would never learn. That he had passed on to some other realm and left her behind. Once, when they were younger, she had looked at him with her dark eyes as if they held some glorious secret. But now, as James looked closely at Sadie, all he saw there was childish ignorance.
James sat up. He leaned in close to her. He pushed the bangs out of her face and ran his finger down her cheek. He had her. Her expression showed complete adoration, vulnerability, and readiness. They held each other’s gaze. He kissed her. They kissed for a while.
“Let’s go up to my room,” she whispered.
She led him to her room. They kissed some more standing in the middle of her bedroom. He felt her breasts. She took his shirt off. They undressed each other further. He laid her down on her bed, kissing the whole time….
The first rays of sunrise shone through the window overlooking the street. James stood in the middle of the room, looking at Sadie asleep in her bed, her naked body covered up to the belly by bed sheets. James was already dressed from the waist down. He rolled his shirt over his head and shoulders; then tugged at the bottom to straighten out the shirt for comfort. His stomach rumbled in hunger. He thought over where to get breakfast as he walked out of the house, down the driveway, and got in his car. He drove away from his childhood.
The sunny New York City weather would have been better enjoyed if the city didn’t smell so bad. James handed his date her movie ticket. He smiled at her with sunglasses on. They walked to the doorman. The old doorman ripped their tickets in half while informing them of which theatre they will be watching their movie in. James took his sunglasses off once they were inside. They moved on to the line at the snack bar.
A little girl, couldn’t have been more than six or seven, ran from her mother in line, heading toward the arcade games.
“Sadie,” her mother called, “come back here please. We’re late for the movie. You can play those afterwards.”
The child obediently returned to her mother.
James’ date turned to him.
“Sadie’s such a pretty name. Don’t you think so, James?”
James looked at her and, with a sweet smile, said, “Yeah, but not as pretty as Melissa.”
“Oh, stop,” she said through a flattered smile. She hugged his arm lovingly. “I’m serious though. Sadie has to be one of my favorite names. Have you ever known a girl named Sadie?”
James’ smile shrunk. “Yeah… a long time ago.”
“Hmm.” Melissa smiled carelessly. She forgot the subject as soon as she approached the counter to order popcorn and soda. She munched on the popcorn while James carried the soda as they walked to their theatre.
“You know,” she began teasingly, “I’m thinking of inviting you to a party. But it’s mostly seniors and there’s going to be a lot of booze there. I’m not sure how cool it will look brining an underage freshman to the party.”
“Well I wouldn’t want you to be embarrassed brining a little nineteen year-old to the cool kids’ party.”
“Ah well, I’ll see if it’ll be okay.” She winked at him as she swung open the door to the theatre. James followed behind, a big smile on his face.