A Stitch in Time Pt. 05byMarshAlien©
There was a fairly large crowd of kids outside of the school when Jeanne, Jill, and I arrived on Monday morning. They seemed oblivious to the threatening clouds overhead. Instead, they did their best to pretend to be involved in conversations. It became obvious from the sidelong looks we got as we walked toward the steps, though, that they were all there for the same reason. Word of the Lebo-Sterling incident had evidently gotten around, and cats have nothing on high school kids when it comes to curiosity.
It was a very surreal experience for me. I wanted so badly to start tossing off all the lines I'd saved up all weekend. I know I look bad, but you should have seen the coffee table. Yes it hurts, but only when I smile...or frown...or sneeze...or raise this eyebrow here. But joking had a problem, a problem named Jill. She had spent virtually the entire weekend in hibernation. Emotionally she just didn't seem to be there.
Obviously, there were still too many reminders around of what she thought of as her fault. Dad had the damage to the house fixed by Saturday night, but my face was going to look like this for a while. And Jill had only visited Dave briefly on Sunday, leaving Jeanne and I in the room with him while she went to look for a soda. The one time I tried to joke about it, she had burst into tears, and Jeanne had rather forcefully suggested that I spend some time in my room. The only good sign came when she accepted Jeanne's offer to ride to school with us. But she never said a word the entire trip.
As we approached the steps, Tanya stepped out of one of the small knots of people. I smiled at her and she smiled at me. Then she walked right past me to put her arm around Jill.
"Come on, honey," she said softly. "Let's leave Trick with his little groupies."
She got a soft laugh from Jill, although I didn't think it was all that funny. Certainly not as good as anything I'd come up with. But it was exactly what Jill needed. As I watched Tanya lead Jill to another entrance, all of my excellent material went right out of my mind. I walked up the steps in a daze, hearing competing shouts of "way to go, Trickster" and "fuckin' cheater." They both kind of just bounced right off, although "cheater" seemed a little harsh. What was I supposed to do, strap on the boxing gloves? The asshole broke into my house to attack my sister.
The teacher network must have been in action as well, because nobody thought it odd that I appeared to have had an accident with a lawnmower. I was just another face in Mr. Smithson's homeroom, neither more nor less attractive than when I'd been there on Friday morning. As I sat in Mr. Kennedy's class, I could feel the hostile looks from Jesse Trasker and Brian Hughes but Mr. Kennedy just started writing the new homework assignment on the board.
"You know you ruined Andy's college chances, don't you?" Jesse hissed from his seat in the back row.
I whipped around to stare at him.
"I think Andy did that when he kicked the front door of our house down," I said.
He looked stunned. Evidently he'd gotten a different version of events. That would explain the "fuckin' cheater" line as well.
The rest of my teachers pretty much ignored me just like Mr. Smithson and Mr. Kennedy had. Although it did seem to me that Mrs. Palmer had a small smile on her face when she discussed our next assignment, a paper to be titled "Obsession," due the day we were back after spring break.
"You can write about Mr. Melville and his character Ahab," she said, "or you can write about anything else you choose. If you have an obsession, write about that. If you know someone with an obsession, interview that person and write about him or her. As long as it isn't fiction, and isn't about perfume, Lisa Carlson, you'll be fine."
My classmates had no qualms about openly staring. To be honest, I would have stared too, if it had been somebody else. It looked worse today than it had over the weekend, as the bruising had deepened and highlighted the puffy scratches. And it really did hurt to smile. But I managed. Cammie Rowe smiled at me in Astronomy, and I smiled back. Tanya smiled at me in Religion and I smiled back. When I answered a loudspeaker summons to report to the office after fifth period, Rachel Carter smiled at me. It was a smile, though, that didn't replace the apprehensive look on her face as much as it was superimposed on it.
I smiled back at her, too.
"Coach Torianni wants to see you, Trick," she said.
"So how come you didn't order me to report to the gym?" I leered at her. It was probably a really, really ugly look.
"Because I wanted to see for myself whether or not I should be avoiding you in the hallways from now on," she shot back. "Like the Phantom of the Opera."
"Maybe for a week," she grinned. "Then you might actually look better."
"That's what everybody's been saying," I shook my head. "I didn't think I had that much room for improvement."
She stuck her tongue out at me, and I left to see Coach. He gave me a long look, and asked me if I felt like pitching in the practice game that afternoon. That was assuming that we didn't get the rain that the weatherman was calling for. I readily agreed. Nobody had told me I couldn't pitch, although it was true that I hadn't asked.
I arrived at lunch about ten minutes late, grateful that Tanya had saved me a seat. We talked about the fight for all of five minutes. I spent the first three urging my friends to put out the real story about the fight, because I really didn't want anybody (by which I meant any big football types) thinking that I was the instigator. I spent the last two trying out my jokes, which were met with silence and disdain.
Coach ended up canceling practice entirely, so I drove Jeanne, Jill, and Tanya over to the hospital to see how Dave's operation had gone. Jill reluctantly came in with us, but she cheered up a little when she saw Dave. He was grinning from ear to ear, only part of which could be explained by the blonde college student holding his hand.
"You don't mind if I steal your girlfriend, do ya, little brother?" he asked as I entered the room.
"Of course he doesn't," Tanya answered for me before I could draw breath.
"You taking her dancing this weekend?" I asked. Jeanne and Tanya each found an arm to whack, and Liane good-naturedly threw a box of Kleenex at me.
"Soon," Liane said, smiling down at Dave.
"They think they can repair the damage from my injury," he said. "Cool, huh?"
"Really?" Jill asked breathlessly.
"I may even be able to play football again," he said. He gave me a quick look, as if to tell me privately that the answer to "really?" was "no."
"So that's what you're so happy about," I nodded.
A half hour later, Dave was starting to tire, and we all left happier than when we'd arrived.
By Tuesday morning, there were a few less epithets as I entered school. My story was probably more believable than Andy's and my friends were doing a good job getting it out there. Not everybody was satisfied, though. I was once again summoned to the office after fifth period, and this time Pete Peterson led me into his office to meet an officer of the law.
"Trick, this is Detective Hickson."
We shook hands, and the detective invited me to have a seat. Pete slipped out of the office and closed the door behind him, and Detective Hickson informed me that Andy's parents had filed a criminal complaint against me for assault with a deadly weapon.
"It was a frickin' baseball!" I blurted out.
"Son, I understand that you have a side of the story," he held up his hand. "And I want to hear it. But not here, not now. Can we meet tomorrow after school, at the station house?"
"Are you serious?" I was almost yelling. "That asshole —"
"Shut up, son," he said sternly. "Tomorrow. After school. You might want to bring a lawyer."
I was still there, frozen in my seat, when he left. I only knew one lawyer, so when I was finished with baseball practice that afternoon, I told Jeanne and Jill, who were waiting outside the locker room, that I needed to stop by the public library.
"Why are you guys here, anyway?" I asked.
"I had tryouts," Jeanne smiled.
"Cool," I grinned. "What are you going out for?"
"The Sound of Music. It's this year's musical."
"And you, um, sing?" I ventured.
My car suddenly held two silent women. I glanced over at Jeanne, who was sitting with her arms crossed, looking straight ahead. I guess I should have known that she sang. They both waited in the car while I hustled into the library, where I once again found Mrs. Parsons.
"What, do you live here?" I asked her with good humor as I approached the circulation desk where she was talking to Lynn.
"Oh my God, Trick!" Lynn yelped.
"You look different, young man," Mrs. Parsons said. "Those all look superficial, Miss Edwards, except for the one on his cheek. He'll have a little scar there. Although it actually might —"
"Don't say it, lady," I warned her.
"What happened?" Lynn asked breathlessly.
"I won a fight," I said. "Now I need a lawyer. Do you, um..."
She immediately reached beneath her desk and pulled out a cell phone out of her purse. Flipping it open, she hit the number "1" and handed it to me.
"Number one," I said suggestively. "Somebody's got a —"
"Hey," the voice on the phone interrupted my teasing. "How's that cute little ass feeling now? Still sore?"
I paused, not quite sure how to answer that.
"Honey?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
I cleared my throat.
"I'm fine," I said as I looked around the desk at Lynn Edwards' cute little butt, dressed in an attractive short skirt and parked in her severe librarian chair. "Thank you for asking, sir. And that other matter you mentioned appears to be fine as well."
Bob Hastings started to chuckle and Mrs. Parsons burst into laughter.
"You do realize," I asked Lynn as I held the phone out of reach of her attempt to grab it, "that your number shows up on his phone, don't you? No you can't have it back. I'm the one with a problem. You're just embarrassed."
"What's the problem, Patrick?" Mr. Hastings asked. I wandered off with the phone and explained what had happened, and he agreed to meet me during ninth period and accompany me to the police station. When I returned to the circulation desk, Lynn snatched the phone out of my hand.
"You already hung up!" she protested after flipping it open.
"I was done talking," I smiled at the two women. "See ya."
"Have a nice evening young man," Mrs. Parsons said. Lynn was too busy waiting for her phone call to be answered.
I was getting the silent treatment that evening at dinner, as well, so I knocked on Jeanne's door after I'd done the dishes. She grudgingly told me to come in, and I found Jeanne at her desk and Jill on Jeanne's bed, both of them doing their homework in companionable silence. I sat down on the bed next to Jill and put a hand on her calf.
"Look, about this afternoon," I looked at Jeanne.
"If you'd come to just one of the shows last year like I asked you to," Jeanne started crying. "Like I practically begged you to. Or even one of my chorus concerts."
"Jeanne, I —"
"Get out," she screamed. "Just get out Trick."
I left and was sitting in my room for no more than five minutes when I looked up to see Jeanne standing in the open doorway, a puzzled look on her face.
"Jill says you've lost your memory," she said cautiously.
"Seriously? She said that?"
I don't know which was more startling, that Jill had finally spoken or that she'd reached that conclusion on her own.
Jeanne was just staring at me, so I finally just nodded.
"It's true," I exhaled.
"It sounds like bullshit. She says you don't remember any of the girls you dated, and that you were trying to pump her for information."
Wow! Jill had garnered all that from our game of Truth or Dare.
"Is she all right?" I asked.
"No," she looked back down the hall and then came in and shut the door behind her. "But before we can deal with her, we have to get this straight. How did you lose your memory?"
"I have no idea."
"When did it — oh my God, Christmas. It was at Christmas, right?"
"So what, you like, hit your head or something?"
"Honestly, Jeanne, I don't know"
"What do you remember?"
She sat down on the bed next to me.
I told her about Christmas, 2003, about the presents I'd purchased, about Cammie Rowe and kissing and hot chocolate. She listened in a state of detached disbelief. But then I told her about waking up Christmas morning, about my room, about my body. And finally I told her about surfing the net and finding Mom's obituary. By the time I was done we were both hugging and crying.
"Did you tell Tanya this?" she asked as we dried our tears.
"Yeah, a little. I was trying to explain about the whole half-birthday thing, which I swear I knew absolutely nothing about. I'm not sure she believed it, though."
"I know she didn't. Not completely, anyway. She asked me last week if you had been acting strange the past couple of months."
"Which I have," I said ruefully.
"That's what I told her. So why didn't you tell me about it?"
"Would you have believed me?" I asked her.
"Maybe," she said after a pause.
"I think you mean 'no,'" I smiled.
"Maybe not 'til I talked to Jill. But you're different. You're just a different person than you were before Christmas. The guy who got me the gift certificate, I knew him. The guy who spent last Christmas with Sheila instead of us, I knew him, too. I didn't like him much, but I knew him. The guy who was wearing the shirt I gave him, the guy who put on my scarf and hat, the guy who offered to drive me to Aunt Ruth's — him I didn't know at all. But I liked him too much."
"Too much to what?"
"To ask him who he was," she started crying again. This time it was me joining her.
"Didn't you ever want to start filling in the gaps?" Jeanne asked after we had recovered once again. "Maybe it would all come back."
"I did at the beginning. Was I really that big of a jerk? How did I get to be that big of a jerk? But then when I realized that yeah, I was that big of a jerk, I thought that maybe I didn't really want to know more. When the last thing you remember is kissing Cammie Rowe, and the next time you see her she's giving you the finger, you kind of think that hey, maybe it's better just to start over."
"That's what Tanya is, huh?"
"Yeah, sort of a do-over. Except she's not interested in me as a boyfriend."
"Bummer," Jeanne patted my knee.
"But she's a great friend," I smiled.
"Yeah," Jeanne smiled.
"And you're a great sister."
"That is so true. And a great singer, too."
"But you weren't one in eighth grade, right?"
"I discovered I could sing in the ninth grade. I'm not great or anything. But Mr. Collins said last year that he was going to do The Sound of Music just so I could sing Maria."
"So you are good," I pointed out proudly. "So you got the part."
She shook her head.
"They have another set of tryouts next week, and then he's going to announce the casting after we get back from our chorus trip."
"We have a tour over spring break," she explained. "We leave next Friday afternoon."
"Cool. We leave on Saturday for our baseball tournament."
"Well, we all have talents."
"They just don't turn all of us into assholes," I grinned at her.
She grinned back.
"Of course, we don't all get do-overs, do we?"
"No," I agreed.
"So that's why you want to go to UVA now?"
"Well, to me it seems like I've always wanted to go to UVA. I guess it looks different to you, though, huh?"
"Oh, God, big time. Last year you were all, like, 'I'm gonna get picked in the first round of the draft and skip all that college shit.'"
"Really?" I asked.
"You really don't remember, do you?"
"Jerk," I said. "You were just testing me, weren't you?"
She smiled and spread her hands.
"Jilly's the one who believes everything you tell her. I'm the skeptic."
"Okay, skeptic. Now what do we do about Jill?"
Jeanne shook her head. Apparently, my memory loss was the only subject that had caused Jill to break her 72-hour silence. She had pretty much attached herself to Jeanne when she wasn't in school. Mostly, she just sat around quietly, reading or staring out the window. Jeanne thought that eventually she'd snap out of it, but she was particularly worried about leaving her alone for the weekend.
"Maybe she'll be better by then," I tried to comfort her. "I mean, that's a week and a half away."
She went back to her homework, and I went back to mine. Sliced face or not, police questioning notwithstanding, Mr. Anson was expecting a paper on the Civil War on Friday, and I hadn't even started writing yet.
In Astronomy lab on Wednesday, I ran into my first real obstacle to my quest for a do-over, a B-plus on my quiz. Yes, I knew there would be more quizzes. Yes, I knew that combined they would only represent ten percent of my grade. But still, it was damn hard to sit there and watch Cammie Rowe bounce in her seat as she tried to keep from telling everyone that she aced the thing.
The following period just added to the week's surrealism. As we had arranged, I met Bob in the office, where Rachel Carter sent us to an unused room on the second floor, after giving him a nice, long inspection. Sorry, Rachel, I already gave him to somebody else.
"All right," he said, looking terribly out of place in a student desk and chair. "First off, this is really all just a formality. Unless you tell them something they haven't heard before, they have no intention of charging you with anything."
"Then why are they doing it?"
"Andy's mother is a councilwoman. And the story she told police is the same one Andy told, that your sister invited him in, and then you and your brother attacked him.
"Which is nonsense, I know," he held up his hand to forestall my protests. "They have partial boot prints on the front door and the bedroom door, thanks to the mud in front of your house. They have statements from you, your brother, your sister Jeanne, and your friend Liane. But this screaming of yours is not going to help. They're going to try to trick you into admitting you did something — anything — that you shouldn't have so they can make Mrs. Lebo happy."
"I swear I'd be better off if people didn't have parents," I muttered.
He gave me a knowing smile.
"What you want to do," he explained, "is listen to the question. If you don't understand it, ask them to repeat it. If it has a false premise, like if they say "after you let Andy in the house," just correct it. Then before you answer take a deep breath. If I want to butt in, that's when I'll do it. Otherwise, just answer the question, calmly and slowly. Okay?"
"Yeah," I said. "Thanks."
"Sure. Now let's practice."
Bob Hastings' practice turned out to be just like the real thing. Detective Hickson and his friend Detective Trout didn't ask me a single question that Bob hadn't anticipated. I didn't once scream out that it was only a frickin' baseball because Bob had explained that, in my hands, even a frickin' baseball could be a lethal weapon.
The questioning seemed to turn about halfway through, when Trout asked me if Andy had come toward me after I'd blown out his knee.
"And then you threw the baseball?"
"I think you need to be a little more specific that that, Detective" Bob interjected while I took my breath. "The word 'then' is awfully ambiguous."
Trout gave him a little smirk, and rephrased it.
"He took a step toward you, and immediately thereafter you threw the baseball at his head."
"No, sir. He took a step toward me, and then he stopped and looked back at my sister's room. They didn't have another way out, sir. That's when I threw the baseball."