tagNovels and NovellasThe Freshman Ch. 19

The Freshman Ch. 19

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 19 - Two confessions

Jason was very happy to get back to his dorm room. Before he settled down to study, he decided to get cleaned up. He somehow felt unclean, contaminated by the extremely unpleasant three days he had just endured. The trip had badly unsettled him, because for the first time in his life he realized how dysfunctional and unpleasant his parents truly were.

He was absolutely horrified at the grotesque way they had treated Cecilia. They certainly didn't care whether or not he was happy with her. They had made absolutely no effort whatsoever to be courteous to her, having dismissed her outright with hostile glances before she even had a chance to speak to them. Both his mother and his father, each in their own way, had hoped to humiliate her and break up the relationship. What caught them off-guard was his girlfriend's strong personality and her determination to strike back if she was offended.

The Thanksgiving fiasco was the latest painful encounter he had endured at the hands of his parents. There had been plenty of others, especially since last December. His father made no effort to conceal his total contempt for Jason, and his mother simply ignored him. There wasn't much he could do however, because his father paid all his bills. He felt trapped by his situation or, as Cecilia put it, he constantly had to "put up with his dad's shit".

He wondered if either of his parents really loved him at all, or if they were simply going through the motions of parenting. He wondered how much they really cared about his life. It didn't seem like they cared all that much, given the fact that neither of them bothered to maintain any communication with him for the first three months he was in college. They just paid his tuition and turned him loose to sink or swim. He now wondered if his father secretly hoped that he would fail his classes, and thus be able to remind him what a miserable, pathetic loser he really was. Oh, he heard that plenty at the end of last year, what a totally worthless person he had become, with his ecstasy use and drag racing and criminal record. Had he failed his college classes, he would have returned home to listen to that all over again.

But he didn't fail during the first semester. He was doing much better than he possibly could have expected, likely to get a "B" in Burnside's class and "A's" in everything else. Who would have expected that? The answer was no one, except Cecilia. She was the one who knew he could do it. She also was the one who insisted he do it, the one who insisted he succeed. She knew how to make him successful. She didn't waste any time giving vague encouragement, but instead actually made him sit down, do the work, and acquire the knowledge he needed to pass his classes. She seemed to know his strengths and weaknesses, and was determined to make him use his strengths to overcome his weaknesses. She was harsh and demanding when she needed to be, and supportive and understanding when she needed to be. Most importantly, she loved him enough to spend whatever time she needed to make sure he did not fall behind.

Whatever I've accomplished this semester, it's because of her, thought Jason to himself.

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That Saturday night, as the snow piled up outside and the empty dorm building sat eerily silent, Jason found it very hard to concentrate. He contemplated his father's utter contempt for his life and his actions, his thoughts wandering back to that horrible night when all his weaknesses caught up with him. As both his father and his counselor kept reminding him, ultimately he had no one to blame but himself for that fiery wreck and the deaths of three people. Had he just used some common sense instead of chasing after his emotions of the moment, it wouldn't have happened. None of it would have happened.

The DA said that he had been duped. The plea bargain let him off with absolutely the lightest sentence that was politically possible, suspension of driving privileges for three years and 200 hours cleaning bathrooms at a state hospital. Jason had been duped, he had indeed fallen in with the wrong crowd, but really, whose fault was that? Yes, he could say that it was peer pressure, or even the resentment and hurt over his father's dismissal of his achievements on the track field, but ultimately it was his own choices that led up to the car crash. It was Jason who had decided to change his group of friends, it was Jason who decided to turn his back on the girl he had been dating for more than a year, and it was Jason who decided to chase after the elusive and difficult Heather Jones. Those were his decisions, no one else's.

Prior to his interest in Heather, he had been dating Amanda Galloway, a fellow long-distance runner from the track team. The two seemed perfectly suited for each other, spending much of their time exercising and jogging together. Their lives consisted of their sport, but for Jason that became a problem. He started to get bored being with a girl who only seemed interested in running, and began to look for something different.

That something different turned out to be Heather and the school's party crowd. Unlike Amanda, Heather was not an easy girl to get along with. The fact she was so hard to impress made her all that more attractive to anyone who wanted a challenge. She made life a living hell for any guy she happened to be with at the moment and ultimately ended up dumping whomever she was dating after a few weeks, but that seemed to only increase her desirability for many of her classmates. She went through numerous popular guys, including several football players and the valedictorian from the previous year's graduating class.

When she showed interest in Jason, he jumped, at the time not thinking about the consequences of what he was doing. At the beginning of November he dropped Amanda, who was devastated when he broke up with her. With that he changed not only his girlfriend, but also his circle of other friends. After leaving Amanda he felt he really couldn't hang out with the track team members anymore. He ended up trying to ingratiate his way into Heather's clique and impress them instead.

What Jason did not realize was that his new girlfriend was playing with his emotions. Heather's main goal had been to get him away from Amanda. Once she accomplished that, she toyed with his feelings and enjoyed watching him desperately try to please her. He started using ecstasy and smoking marijuana to be part of her crowd. He took her to a couple of raves, even though he had no desire to do that at all. At the end of November he tried his hand at drag racing for the first time, which was one thing Heather seemed to enjoy doing.

Two weeks after Jason's first attempt to race, he tried it a second time, mainly because Heather had made a bet with her friend Kate Simpson. She gave him an ecstasy tablet to help him overcome his fear and make sure he was more likely to win. She took a tablet herself, waited for it to take effect, and pulled a flare out of the trunk of Jason's car. She stood up through the sunroof, lit the flare and started screaming. Jason and William took off. The crash that ended the two girls' lives happened less than 30 seconds later.

The two months following the crash were an ongoing hell for Jason. The horror of multiple court appearances, the endless consultations with his father's attorney, the real fear that he might actually be going to jail for several years, the endless hours of community service, the constant insulting comments by his parents, and the ostracism he faced in school became the new realities of his life.

The party crowd's existence was disrupted in a big way, as police and school officials descended on them in a huge ecstasy investigation. The county officials needed someone to scapegoat for the triple tragedy, but in the end William Davis and his brother turned out to be much better targets for blame than Jason. Both Jason's counselor and his father's attorney convinced him that he owed absolutely no loyalty to his new friends. Instead, he needed to save himself by testifying in court against William.

He returned to his classes and did well enough during the final months to graduate. However, he spent the spring semester completely alone since no one in the school wanted to talk to him. He had betrayed two sets of friends and made himself a total outcast. The hardest part of it all was whenever he bumped into Amanda in the hallway. She quietly stared at him with extreme hurt and extreme anger, but what could he say to her? What could he say to any of his former friends?

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The weight of those memories pressed in on Jason. That was his dark secret, the thing he had wanted to put into the past forever. He thought he had succeeded, but the trip home had brought everything back as clearly as if it had happened just the day before. No, he would never escape.

A new thought passed through his mind. What if Cecilia found out? How on earth would she react? When she was talking alone to his father...had he told her anything?

For a very long time Jason sat immobilized in his room, completely tormented by the fear Cecilia might find out his secret from high school. His inner turmoil became worse as he realized that her finding out was not a matter of if, but when. She would indeed find out, there was no doubt about it, because it was part of her nature to find things out. She always had uncovered everything else about him. He drew a very deep breath. He...needed to tell her...she was going to find out anyway...better that he tell her himself.

He was startled when his phone rang. He picked up, knowing that it was Cecilia. Who else could it be?

"Jason, aren't you ready yet? It's 11:00 and I'm waitin' for you."

"I...I didn't study...I don't...I was thinking about some other stuff...and I...just forgot."

"What other stuff? I'm warnin' you, don't you be blowin' off your studies. You're almost done with the semester. You just got three weeks left. Do your finals, then you can think about that other stuff..."

"I can't. Tonight I just can't..."

He couldn't say anything else. For a long time he just sat in silence. Finally she got impatient.

"Alright. I'm comin' over and I'll take you back to my room. Maybe if you can talk about it you'll feel better."

A couple of minutes later she was at his door and escorting him to her room. She could tell right away he was very distressed, struggling with some internal issue. She suspected, or hoped, that she knew what it was. He was close to confessing. All he needed was the tiniest bit of encouragement.

"You're still upset about your folks?"

"I...yeah. I'm still kinda embarrassed about it."

"Look. I'm not mad about the trip, Jason. I told you I'm not mad. It wasn't your fault. I don't want you worryin' about that. I can tell you, if I'd taken you to my place, it would've been just as bad for you. My brothers aren't all that nice, especially if you're not from the project."

"There's...more to it than what I've told you. A lot more. Dad and Mom have their reason to be mad at me. What happened was they took it out on you."

"How come they're mad? What'd you do?"

Jason sat down and stared at the floor. He felt sick and his hands shook as he tried to figure out how on earth he was going to tell her.

"What'd you do, Jason? Why are you all upset like this?"

Finally he blurted out a confession, speaking so fast that Cecilia had a hard time following what he was saying.

"My parents...I mean I...I mean...last year I killed someone...I killed my girlfriend...I mean like, uh...not on purpose...but I...I like...was on ecstasy and driving fast 'cause we were racing and crashed and she fell out and it blew up and she was all ripped up on the street I mean like, uh, her and her friend, they were all dead and stuff and the other guy was burning up and we were just standing there and everyone took off and I was stoned and I thought it was a bad trip...and she was just lying there all dead and busted up and blood all over the street and her jacket all torn open and...I...I didn't wanna tell you this...but...I..."

She realized he was having a flashback by the tormented look on his face and his incoherent speech. Nevertheless, she was enormously relieved. He had done it! He had confessed, and mostly on his own.

Cecilia's mind moved to her next two tasks, getting him to calm down and getting the complete story out of him. She already knew most of the story, but what she did not know was what was on Jason's mind as the consequences from the accident ran their course through his life. She pretended to be surprised. She took his arm.

"Jason...Jason. You gotta calm down! Please...you gotta calm down! Now...what are you talkin' about? Who got killed?"

Over the next hour the story came out in pieces, but the details matched what was in the newspaper articles now saved on Cecilia's hard drive. Because she already knew what had happened, she was more interested in knowing what was going on in Jason's mind instead of hearing about the crash itself. She became especially interested in learning the details of his relationships with Amanda and Heather and in finding out why his father would have accused him of having no character. She also wanted to know how he had changed since the crash. As always, she was interested in finding out as much as she could to expand her control over his life, but she also wanted to help him get past the incident and perhaps finally break free from his guilt.

Jason confessed, convinced that Cecilia would leave him as soon as he was finished talking. He was sure that he had disgraced himself and that no woman who knew about the accident could ever stay with him. Now Cecilia knew, and momentarily she would be telling him to get out of her room. Once again, he would be alone, ostracized because of his stupidity. Her next words surprised him.

"I got a question for you. You're telling me that you're not 'sposed to drive 'till you're 21, right?"

"No. I'm not supposed to drive."

"Then how come you're drivin' Mike's car? When you take me out, I mean?"

"I...kinda wanted things to be, you know, like, normal between us when I took you out."

"Well they're not normal, are they? You're not 'sposed to drive, and you got no right puttin' yourself at risk like that. What'd happen if the cops stop you?"

"I'd probably have to go back to court and get re-sentenced, 'cause it's a violation."

"You'd get re-sentenced 'cause it's a violation. You get re-sentenced, and what good's that gonna do me? I don't need you sittin' in jail, so you're not drivin' any more! Get it? You're not drivin' any more! Don't you ever let me catch you drivin' again, 'cause if you do, I'll whip your ass so hard you'll be bleedin' when I'm done! I mean that, so don't try me!"

For a long time Jason was silent. Ironically, he felt a huge burden lift from his soul. He realized, precisely because of the threat to punish him, that she had no intention of leaving. She now knew, in detail, his darkest secret, and yet she was not going to abandon him.

He hugged her hard, as tears ran down his cheeks. Words could not have described the relief he felt at that moment. He had conquered his biggest fear, actually putting into words what had happened on Miller Road. Cecilia now knew about that part of his life, and to his surprise, actually accepted it. She loved him enough to actually accept something so terrible about him.

----------

Cecilia had her own ghost, one that she had carried with her since she was 15. It was because of her own inner torment that it was so important to her that Jason confess about his role in the death of Heather Jones. Now that Jason had confessed and conquered his fears, it was her turn. She separated from him and told him to sit down.

She walked to the window and watched the snow continue to pile up for a few minutes, while Jason nervously watched her. Without looking at him she began speaking.

"You know, that I...I'm not that nice of a person. I'm kinda bossy, I gotta be in charge, and when you're with me, I gotta have everything done my way. And I got this thing in me...that makes me...I guess, kinda get nasty whenever I think someone wants to give me shit. Your parents got to see that part of me up close, but it's even more true with guys. I can't take shit from a guy. That's why I love you, cause you're the first guy I've been with who doesn't give me shit."

She looked back at him. Their eyes met and she continued.

"There's something real important that you gotta know, that I gotta tell you. I'm warnin' you now, it's something about me that's never gonna change. No matter what happens between us, you're always gonna have to do what I tell you. It won't ever be any different, and if you wanna spend your time with me, you're just gonna have to accept it. I'm not tryin' to scare you. I'm just tryin' to be honest. I can't do it any other way...in a relationship, I mean. I'm gonna have to be in charge, and you're gonna have to live with that."

Cecilia's blunt words scared Jason. He didn't know how to respond. She continued.

"I'm tellin' you this...'cause I got my reasons...of bein' the way I am. It's 'cause of somethin' that happened to me four years ago. I haven't talked about it to anyone in four years, but...I'm gonna have to tell you, and the only reason I'm tellin' you is so you'll understand me. Right now there's only three people who know about it, a social worker, a doctor, and a nurse...and well, I guess a receptionist too. You're gonna be the only other person who'll ever know, 'cause I'm never gonna tell anyone else, and you aren't either."

She struggled to catch her breath and continued: "You're not the only person in this room with blood on your hands, Jason. I got blood on my hands, too. That's why I don't have any right to be pissed about your car accident. I'm not any better than you."

Cecilia's thoughts moved back in time four years. Four years! She couldn't believe it had been four years already. Instead of giving Jason the story piecemeal, she decided to start at the beginning and narrate through to the end. She told Jason not to interrupt her, that if he had any questions to please keep them until she was finished.

She began by recounting a few details of her life during her earlier years of high school that she had omitted at the Schmidts' dinner table. She had been a good student throughout her childhood, but as adolescence loomed, she faced the same pressures as other girls her age to find a boyfriend and dedicate her time to him.

There were several guys who attracted her, but at age 14 she settled on Vicente Torres, who was a friend of her older brother Raul. At the beginning Vicente seemed nice enough, but within a year the neighborhood's social pressures were closing in on his life. Raul was pressuring Vicente to join his gang. He worked on Cecilia as well, placing pressure on his sister to use her relationship with Vicente to help him control his friend. Cecilia found herself at odds with her brother, because she did not want Vicente in Raul's gang. If Vicente joined the gang, then she would be pressured to join the girlfriends' gang, which was absolutely the last thing she wanted to do. Raul stepped up the pressure on Cecilia over the year she was dating Vicente, but she held on to her hope that both she and her boyfriend could stay out of the gang.

Vicente finally gave into Raul's pressure. He started the initiation to join Raul's gang and began selling crack under Raul's direction. Cecilia knew that she had lost her fight for Vicente's soul when he began getting tattoos that matched the ones that Raul had. He was getting marked up, and if she stayed with him, she knew it was only a matter of time before she would have to start visiting the tattoo parlor herself.

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