A Stitch in Time Pt. 04byMarshAlien©
Monday, February 12th, 2007 was another day I circled on my calendar in red. The first thing that Mr. Kennedy did in government class was hand back our tests. And not to brag or anything, but YESSS! "A-plus — Excellent work, Mr. Sterling." Maybe my answer had been correct; maybe the twenty-first step in a bill's journey to becoming law was having the President pro tempore of the Senate impress the bill for the register. Sure. My success was based on nothing more than my having remembered that there were exactly twenty-eight steps.
Another triumph in history class: another A-plus, on the paper that Mr. Anson returned. "A cogent analysis of the narcissism of the Jacksonian era." Whatever the hell that meant. I didn't care; I was on a goddamn roll.
In English class, Missy, of all people, still couldn't get around the topic of our assigned essay, "Why not call him Bob or Sam?"
"Did you read the chapters, Missy?" Mrs. Palmer asked.
"Well, yes, but — " she started.
"Mr. Sterling," Mrs. Palmer stopped her. "How does the book begin?"
"'Call me Ishmael'" I quoted.
"All right," she smiled. "Ishmael. How does the book begin?"
It was a good trap and I'd fallen right in. She got her laugh, and turned expectantly to Missy.
"But it doesn't say why it's his name," Missy protested. "How can you just expect us to get it from the book?"
"I don't," Mrs. Palmer said ruefully. "I expect you to get it from the Internet, where all of your knowledge appears to come. But what I also expect is a well-researched and well-written paper, no more than three pages long, that persuasively explains why Mr. Melville chose this name. Okay? Good."
We moved on to a lecture about the time period in which Moby Dick was set, a lecture that would likely get dragged out over a few more days.
As it happened, though, those days were going to have to be postponed. On Saturday, I'd gotten an e-mail from the library letting me know that the books I'd checked out three weeks ago were due. Jeanne was going to be spending the night at a classmate's to finish a project they'd been working on together, so on my way home, I stopped by the library to make sure I wouldn't get hit with any of those onerous nickel-a-day fines. There was a surprisingly good crowd there, for a library. Among the patrons was Mrs. Parsons, the woman who had been hustled out of the library the day after Christmas so that Lynn and I could have a little privacy. She appeared to remember me, and I gave her a small wave in response to a somewhat suspicious glare.
"Hi," I whispered to Lynn as I stepped up to her desk with the books.
"Hi," she said. "Shouldn't you be hurrying home?"
"Trying to get rid of me?" I asked in as offended a tone as I could manage.
"I joined a book club," she answered.
That stopped me. I looked around the library, desperately biting back the remark that she spent her whole day inside a frickin' book club.
"My girlfriend told me it's a good way to meet smart guys," she blushed.
I smiled back at her. This was really cool, even if it would cut my sex life in half. Still, one shouldn't be greedy, particularly when half of one's sex life was Tanya Szerchenko.
"So you are trying to get rid of me," I teased her.
"No," she blushed even more. "I meant hurry home because of the snow storm."
"Don't you listen to the weather?"
"I'm a high school student. We only care about one day at a time. Pretty much always today."
She gave me a smirk.
"We're expecting 12 inches of snow," she said. "I'm surprised it hasn't already started."
"So that's why all the people?" I glanced around.
"Milk, bread, and toilet paper," she nodded. "Then books."
"In case the toilet paper runs out?"
"Thank you, Patrick Sterling," she snatched the books out of my hand, her eyes twinkling. "I don't think we'll be loaning you any more books."
"Guess I better get home then," I grinned. "See ya!"
"Bye," she smiled.
It had started snowing while I was in the library, in fact, and by the time I reached home, it was already covering the grass. As I walked into the house I noticed that it seemed unusually quiet.
"Where's Jeanne?" Jill asked as she suddenly came around the door from the living room.
"Her friend's house," I said. "Larissa, Clarissa, some rissa something. Where's Tiff?"
"She was having some kind of pain, so Daddy had to come home and take her to the hospital," she said. "She left a note."
"I'll bet Dad loved that," I grinned.
"Yeah, I'll bet," she grinned back. "Oh, and Dave called. He's got late shift tonight, and then he's going to stay with a friend of his who lives near the Seven-Eleven."
"Well, that makes sense," I said. "Probably safer. It's really coming down out there."
"I know," Jill said. "Andy slid into a car on the way here and busted its headlight."
"And you still beat me home?" I asked. "I'm only like fifteen minutes late."
"Why wouldn't we beat you home?"
"'Cause you would have had to stop for the crash," I said.
"He stopped, his truck was fine, so we left," she shrugged.
"But he broke the other guy's headlight!"
"So?" Jill asked. "I'm sure he has insurance."
"So does Andy."
"God, you have turned into such a dork," Jill said.
I had no answer for that.
"What's for dinner?" she finally said.
"I'll let you know," I smiled.
I'd wanted a chance to get to know Jill. Apparently that wish was about to come true. Perhaps not as quickly as I would have liked, though. After I'd scrounged up a fairly nice meal — nice being defined as a meal that a) didn't make either of us ill and b) included a vegetable — Jill announced that she had a few phone calls to make. Either there were more than a few, or Jill's phone calls lasted a lot longer than mine. I did have a long conversation (by my terms) with Tanya, with whom I'd finally managed to exchange cell phone numbers. Then Dad called my cell, because he said our regular phone had been busy for the past hour. He told me that he and Tiffany would find a motel, most likely for two nights if the storm was as bad as they were predicting. I told him where Dave and Jeanne were, and assured him that Jill and I would be fine. He reminded me that I needed to have the driveway cleared for him in case he did get home tomorrow.
I didn't really see Jill again until the middle of the following morning, when I was sitting in the living room, still trying to get through the next five chapters of Moby Dick. Chapters eleven through fifteen were due by Friday, and I'd fallen asleep last night during chapter eleven.
"I'm bored," Jill announced as she breezed into the room. "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know," I smiled. "Play a game?"
The word "dork" was once again on the tip of her tongue, but after a few moments' consideration, she finally gave me a grudging "okay."
"What do you want to play?" I asked. I walked to the hall closet, the location we kept the games last time I'd played one. Fortunately, they were still all there. The same ones, too.
"Candy Land? Chutes and Ladders? Scrabble? Monopoly?"
The first three were met with varying expressions of disgust, but Monopoly got what I took to be a silent vote of approval. So I set it up on the living room coffee table, and selected the shoe. I was always the shoe. Jill, to the best of my knowledge, had always been the thimble, but this time she absentmindedly reached for the dog. We had been playing for about ten minutes, and I was about to ask her about Andy, which I figured was a safe enough topic of conversation, when she suddenly looked at me.
"What?" I asked, completely innocent of everything.
"Why do you keep staring at my fingernails?" she asked.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't know I was."
"Well, you were," she said. "It was freaking me out. Don't you like them?"
She stuck her hands in front of my face, and I blurted out that, in all honestly, no, I didn't.
She was shocked.
"But all those girls you dated!" she exclaimed. "They all..."
"Had fingernails like that?" I made her sentence into an astonished question.
She nodded slowly.
"Stephie, Anne, Becky, Liane, Barbara," she ticked off the list on her fingers.
"Tanya doesn't," I said, desperately trying to come up with a mnemonic for memorizing the other girls' names.
"Who's Tanya?" she asked. "That blonde you were sitting next to at the dance?"
I nodded. Solvent assets buoy leveraged buyout? Some ambitious bakers like bread?
"Is she your new girlfriend?"
"Are we playing Monopoly or Twenty Questions?" I countered.
"Truth or dare!" she said as her eyes lit up.
"No," I said.
"Why not?" she pouted.
"Because we're not a bunch of fifteen-year-olds at a slumber party. 'I dare you to kiss Melissa on the lips.' And no, she's not my girlfriend. Just a good friend."
A very, very good friend, I smiled to myself as I rolled the dice.
I looked up to find Jill still pouting.
"We can still play Monopoly, too," she said, trying to entice me into her game. I had no idea why she wanted to play Truth or Dare with her brother — it's not like I was going to kiss her — but I began to realize that there were advantages to the game, particularly if I could get some truths from her.
"All right," I said. "But Monopoly's the primary game. We'll play your game a little more slowly. You ask the first one now, and I ask the next one at noon, and then we go on from there."
She was apparently just as eager to question me as I was to question her. She tucked her legs underneath her on the couch and leaned toward me.
"Truth or dare?"
"Truth," I answered.
"How many girls have you kissed?"
How the hell did I know? Stephie, Anne, Liane — no, Becky, Liane, then some other B-girl, shit, I'd forgotten already, Tanya, Lynn Edwards, Liz Torianni, that Sheila woman I'd met at Christmas, Cammie, how many was that? Ten?
"Thirteen," I answered.
"Thirteen?" she said. "Is that all?"
"That's another question," I said. "And I'm buying the Water Works."
At exactly noon, Jill sang out "your turn."
"No it's not," I said. "I just landed on Illinois Avenue, and paid you a nice chunk of change. It's your turn."
"No," she said. "It's your turn for a question."
"Truth or dare?" I asked.
"Truth," she smiled.
I figured I'd start slowly. If I just started asking questions about myself, she'd get suspicious.
"Name all the guys you've dated," I said.
"All of them?" she asked.
It took her a good while to remember all of them. I swear when she was done that there must have been fifteen names on the list.
"But you're only in tenth grade!" I protested.
"So? You must have dated like six different girls in tenth grade after you dumped Jeanne's friend."
"Yeah, the jock," Jill said. "I can't even remember all of them. Heather, Maria, and that ditzy one with the laugh. Tee-hee-hee! What was her name?"
"I have no idea," I said. Some ambitious bakers like baking honey muffins. Got it. "It's your roll."
Jill was quite the little entrepreneur. By the time the clock struck one, she had a number of red hotels and I had a dwindling pile of cash.
"Truth or dare," she said.
"Dare," I said.
Truthfully, I thought, what could she have me do? Run outside naked in the snow?
"I want to see it," she said, looking at my crotch.
"See what?" I asked in alarm.
"Your dick," she said.
"What do you care?" she laughed. "You picked dare, you have to do it."
I just stared at her.
"Oh, all right," she said with another giggle. "Last year, Marcia Burns said she watched you and her sister, Liane, do it for like half an hour, and she said you were really, you know, big."
"I'll be the judge of that," she said.
"I'm not showing my cock to my little sister."
"Bawk, bawk-bawk-bawk-bawk-BAWK," she said, flapping her folded arms against her side.
"I'm not scared," I said, "it's just not, you know..."
"We're not gonna fuck, Trick," she shook her head. "I just want to see it."
Apparently that was the price of further conversation with Jill, so I sighed and pulled down my pants.
"You're right," she finally said.
"It's not that big," she said.
"Although it is big," she made a little moue with her mouth. "It's just not really big, like Marcia said."
"Marcia was probably new to the game," I said, zipping it back inside.
"True," she admitted.
An hour later, I'd been completely wiped out and we started another game of Monopoly. I switched to the ship; clearly the shoe's luck was all gone.
"Truth or dare?" I asked.
"Dare," she said.
Damn. A dare was the last thing I wanted.
"Come on," she said.
I needed to put a quick end to these dares.
"Okay. Here. Pretend my fist is your boyfriend and give me your best kiss."
"Eeewww," she said.
"Little Miss Peek-a-boo is afraid?" I taunted her, putting my fist in front of her face so I could "talk" with my thumb and forefinger. "Afraid to kiss me?"
"I'll show you my boobs," she made a counter-offer, grabbing the hem of her sweatshirt.
"Maybe next time," the fist answered. "Come on, pucker up."
She grabbed my wrist and brought my fist to her lips, where she proceeded to slobber all over it like she was a basset hound.
"Yecchh," I said, wiping my wet hand on my jeans. "You kiss like that? Gross."
"What's wrong with the way I kiss?" she asked defensively. "You think you're a better kisser?"
"Is that a dare?" I asked. "'Cause I'm willing to let you go ahead right now instead of waiting."
"Yeah," she said. "Here."
I was a better kisser.
"Trick," she moaned after I'd slowly kissed my way all around her finger and thumb and begun probing the inside of her fist with my tongue. "Trick, stop."
I stopped and looked up at her. Her eyes were almost closed and she was breathing a good bit more heavily.
"But if you like your way..." I said breezily, picking up the dice.
"Jerk," she muttered under her breath.
At six o'clock, I finally got her on the subject of me, asking her to rank all of my previous girlfriends in the order that she liked them. She knew about eleven, although she still couldn't remember the name of the girl with the laugh. Stephie was at the top of her list, of course, followed by Liane. Cammie was at the bottom. In between were a few new names: Alice, Diana, and Rita. Some bakers like baking honey muffins and delicious rolls.
"Why did you and Stephie break up, anyway?" she asked.
"I thought everybody knew that," I said, forgetting that it wasn't her turn for a question that quickly.
"No. I don't think anybody knows."
"Tanya knew," I pointed out. "The day after it happened."
"Well, maybe one of Stephie's friends told her," she said. "But it didn't get around. So you broke up with her to go out with Tanya?"
She was clearly baffled by that thought.
"No," I said slowly. "I broke up with Stephie because she called Tanya a Jew girl."
"Is she?" Jill asked.
"Is she what? Jewish?"
"Yes, she is."
"So I don't get it."
"It was the tone of voice," I said, "and the way she sneered out 'Jew girl' like it was some lower form of life. It made my skin crawl just listening to it."
"But Andy..." she started to say.
"Andy talks like that about other people?" I asked her.
"Maybe," she said. "Sometimes."
"Well, then don't you dare tell him about Tanya," I said.
We made dinner together after that, and were sitting at the table eating it when Jill realized that she'd missed her turn by about fifteen minutes. I picked "truth" this time, and she basically wasted her question by asking me what if Andy used the "n-word."
"Would he say it to someone who's black?" I asked her, "like Mo Perra? Or only when he's with other white people?"
That answer put a quick end to that line of questioning.
At eight, she surprised me by picking another dare, and I decided to change my tactics a little.
"I dare you to show me your report cards for the last four years," I said.
"Why?" she asked breathlessly.
"So I can see how my little sister's doing in school," I said.
"What do you care?" she spat. "It's not like you're Mister Academic."
"I got an A-plus on my first government quiz yesterday," I smiled at her, "and an A-plus on my first history paper. And I already got an A-plus on my first English paper. We haven't gotten any grades yet in Astronomy and Religion."
Her jaw dropped open.
"What?" I asked.
"I thought you were taking, like, three jock courses," she said. "That's what Andy said."
"I was," I smiled. "I changed 'em."
"Why?" she asked, dumbfounded once again by my behavior.
"I want to try to get into UVA," I said quietly. "Now, how 'bout those report cards?"
"I can't possibly find them," she protested.
"But you have them," I pointed out.
"Somewhere," she agreed. "But I don't know where."
"Okay. Well, you have to look for, let's say, fifteen minutes."
She stomped off, and when I hadn't heard from her after twenty minutes, I went up to find her in her room. Jill's room was at the end of the hallway upstairs, and I hadn't had any reason to visit it in the last month. Looking in, watching her search through stacks of papers amid piles of clothes, I could see why she wouldn't have wanted me to.
"God, Jill, this place is a mess," I said.
She whipped around, startled by my voice.
"Yeah, like your room is any better," she said.
"It is," I laughed, pointing down the hallway to invite her to take a look. "I woke up on the day after Christmas and said to myself, 'God, if Mom ever saw my room like this, she'd have had a fit.'"
Jill looked over at me, her lower lip quivering. She looked back at the mess in her room and then back at me again. Tears started welling in her eyes.
"Jilly, I'm sorry," I said gently, "I —"
"Get out!" she said forcefully.
"Jill," I protested.
"SHUT UP!" she yelled. "AND GET OUT, YOU ASSHOLE!"
I backed up and she slammed the door shut in my face.
Well, that had certainly gone well. After I put away the Monopoly game, I called Tanya to tell her what I'd done. She was very sympathetic, although as an only child, she probably didn't understand what I'd just done to my baby sister.
The next morning, I was more than a little surprised to emerge from my room shortly after eight to hear the sound of both the washing machine and the dryer. I made my way downstairs, started some coffee, and began hunting through the pantry.
"Here," Jill stomped into the kitchen fifteen minutes later and thrust something into my hand. She was still dressed in her bathrobe, her face still stained with tear tracks.
"What is it?" I asked.
"My report cards," she said.
I thrust a bowl into her hands.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I made oatmeal," I said, turning back to the stove to give it a final stir.
I found myself becoming a little unnerved by the silence behind me, so I looked back over my shoulder. Jill was just standing there, the bowl in her hand, a fresh set of tears running down her face.
"You remembered," she said in a small, squeaky voice.
"That it's your favorite?" I smiled. "I did. Bring your bowl over."
"Oh, God, Patrick," she ran into my arms. "I miss her so much."
"Me, too, honey," I said, patting her gently on the back. "Me, too."
We spent the morning cleaning her room together, and then we turned our attention to the downstairs. Tiffany was not the world's best housekeeper, and Jill decided that we — meaning she and I — were going to have to pick up the slack. I took a short break to clear the driveway of the snow that had finally ended. Fortunately, Dad has a fancy snowblower, so it didn't take long at all. The snowplows were already going up and down the street, and it was only a matter of time before the family returned.