The Outsider Ch. 13bycaligula97236©
Chapter 13 - Doña Lisette
The middle of November came and went. Mike and Ruthie turned in term papers and started new ones, took and passed all their midterms, and prepared for the final round of tests and projects for the end of the semester. When they had work to do on their computers, they quietly worked in Mike's room.
However, they often had to go to the library for different projects, especially if they needed to look up information in the periodicals section, where a lot of older material that had not yet been posted on the Internet was still bound in dusty volumes. Both Mike and Ruthie had to laboriously pick through the volumes, because he had to look at some very old political science articles and she had to search for literature reviews. It was a strange experience for both of them, to look at material that was 40 or 50 years old, in publications that had gone out of business long ago. The volumes were relics of an era that only recently had passed into memory, an era killed by the Internet and electronic storage of information.
On November 15th Ruthie resumed her naked escapades in the library basement. On that night she and Mike carried their volumes to the study area and stacked them on one of the spare tables. It was only about 10:00, but no one else was in the room. He commented that the tables had cleared out a bit early. He remembered Ruthie's confession about studying nude and was hoping that night she might want to strip for the last couple of hours they were in the library.
"Just to let you know...my offer to play look-out for you still stands."
Ruthie took the hint and kissed him. She pulled down her shorts and took off her shirt. She covered the chair with her shirt and sat down. Although she was able to study just fine, Mike found it very hard to concentrate with the thought of his naked girlfriend sitting only a few feet from him. He badly wanted to strip as well, but was afraid that it would be harder for him to quickly put on his clothes if anyone exited the elevator. For Ruthie it would be easy because all she had to do was slip on her shorts and shirt; she did not have to worry about buttons or zippers.
When she went to look for books or put volumes away, he went with her, carrying her clothes and standing between her and the elevator. There was much less risk than there had been when she was alone. The challenge of her naked study time was gone, but so was the fear. She could simply enjoy the feeling of being naked in the basement, under the protection of the guy who loved her.
From that day forward Ruthie continued her habit of being naked in the library. With Mike to keep an eye out for her, she expanded the time she could spend in the nude, and also experimented with some new areas within the library. The third floor offered another place where it was possible to search for books in the nude, but it was somewhat more trafficked and she would not have been able to safely streak that floor had she not had Mike to help her and keep her clothes handy. Even with him helping her, there were a couple of close calls. By the end of the month she decided that it would be better to stick with the basement.
As the semester progressed, the two students put in their time at their respective jobs and earned salaries that were totally inadequate for their needs and expenses. Even so, from a financial perspective they were luckier than many of their classmates. Most of Mike's expenses were covered by his father's final round of mortgage loans and Ruthie's expenses were covered by several grants. They both knew that their financial support, although adequate for the moment, was fragile, precarious, and could vanish at any moment. The uncertainty was especially true for Ruthie, because she was going to school on state grants that were very likely to be cut from the California education budget the following fiscal year.
On the third Monday of November Ruthie showed up to work at 5:00 am as usual, but when she arrived it was clear that there was nothing usual about what was going to happen that day. The campus manager, the district manager, and two auditors were waiting for her. For the next two hours they looked at her cash drawer and conducted an audit of her transactions. By 7:00 it was determined that her audit trail balanced and that the money in her cash drawer was what needed to be there; nothing more and nothing less. She was dismissed, told that she would still get her hours for the day, but she needed to leave the student center and not talk to any of her co-workers. As she was going out the door, the co-worker who liked to take long smoke breaks passed her. He gave her an annoyed look, clearly wondering why she was leaving work. She kept going and did not say anything. It would be the last time she ever saw him. She never learned all the details, but two of her fellow baristas were fired that day, one of which was the smoker. The firing of the two co-workers meant that Ruthie was the only employee from the morning shift remaining and the manager had to scramble to hire replacements.
The same week there was a positive development for Mike; the likelihood soon he would be promoted. Throughout November he continued to deliver a couple hundred tickets per day for the parking department. His supervisor noticed his hard work and had him train two new student ticket-writers. He told Mike that once basketball season started, he would be placed in charge of other students collecting parking money for two lots during games. He also decided to make Officer # 036 an alternate for collecting money from the meters. He would train for the meter collection job in December and start with that new assignment in January.
The month anniversary of their getting together came and went. Neither Mike nor Ruthie was the sort to romanticize dates on a calendar, but as it became obvious that they were going to stay together, both were faced with having to decide what to tell their families. Mike figured that he would break the news to his family during December and bring Ruthie over to his house sometime over Christmas break. He suspected Ruthie would be very nervous about meeting his relatives and unless properly prepped might not make a good impression. The more relaxed the meeting with his parents, the better.
Ruthie had not made any plans about introducing Mike at all, because she was used to keeping secrets from her mother. She had a vague intention to introduce him at some point in the distant future, but wanted to put it off because she saw no reason why Mike had to be dragged into her troubled relationships in Salinas.
She ended up having to introduce her boyfriend much earlier than she had wanted or expected. At the end of the third week of November, she was talking to her mother on the cell phone from Mike's room, taking advantage of having the place to herself on a Friday afternoon. The conversation consisted of the usual stressed dialogue about Ruthie not finding a church when it took a turn she had not anticipated:
"Honey, I asked Cristina Rosales to call you. She told me that she did, a bunch of times. Haven't you been getting her messages?"
"Uh...no Mom...I didn't get any messages...that function's...uh...kinda messed up on my phone...the messages, I mean...I'm not getting them..."
"You need to take that phone in and fix it. Why do you have a cell phone if you can't get messages?"
"I haven't had time Mom, honest."
"Yes love. But I've asked her to go by your room...and she told me she did...several times....and she says you're never there."
Fucking bitch, thought Ruthie to herself. Why can't Cristina mind her own fucking business?
"Of course I'm not there! I'm in the library!"
"Ruthie, she's gone by your room at 11:00! You're telling me you're at the library until 11:00?"
"Mom...I'm in the library until it closes."
"Please don't do that to me. Don't you know it's not safe for you to be out like that? What would I do if something happens to you?"
"Mom, nothing's gonna happen to me."
"You're walking around at night...alone...and you say nothing's gonna happen to you."
"I'm not walking around alone, Mom. Mike brings me back every night. I'm perfectly safe."
"Mike? Who's Mike?"
Oh, shit...thought Ruthie. She was silent, desperately trying think how to cover that slip. Her mother's suspicious voice repeated itself.
"Who is Mike, Ruthie? You need to tell me who Mike is."
Ruthie took a deep breath. She wanted to come up with a lie, but she was a terrible liar and knew that lying would come back to haunt her later. Might as well come clean now and be done with it...
"Mike's...uh...kinda my boyfriend, Mom..."
Ruthie heard her mother's voice crack on the phone.
"I knew it! So that's why you've been running away from Cristina! You're up there leading a secretive sinful life and you didn't want me to know! Don't you know that the Scripture says that everything you wish to keep under a lamp will be shouted from the rooftops? Don't you know that, my daughter? You're not just running from me; you're running from the Lord, aren't you?!"
"Mom! MOM! It's not like that! Honest! Mike's not what you think! He's a nice guy!"
"Yes, he's a 'nice guy'! I'm sure he is! They're all 'nice guys' because they all want is to use you to satisfy their lustful sinful desires! I knew it! I knew you would do this to me!"
"Mom! It's not that way! Honest! It's not like that! I'll have you meet him! I'll have you talk to him! You'll see he's not what you think!"
"I don't believe you! I know that you are a liar!"
"Mom! The Scripture says 'Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you shall be judged and the measure you give is the measure you shall receive!' You are the one committing a sin, by passing judgment on someone you haven't even met! At least meet him before you start casting stones!"
There was silence on the other end.
"It's OK, love..."
"I apologize. Bring your boyfriend here. I'll meet him. I shouldn't have passed judgment so quickly. But if you're with a man, I am your mother, and I have a right to know."
"Yes, Mom. I shouldn't have kept it from you...but I wasn't sure how things were gonna go with him..."
Ruthie managed to get her mother to calm down enough that she was able to give a superficial description of Mike and a censored version of the relationship they had developed over the past month. She played up the fact that Mike's family did go to church, although she knew very little about that detail of his life other than the Sinclairs were mainline Protestants and not evangelicals.
Ruthie's mother suggested that Mike go to Salinas to meet her on Sunday, but Ruthie knew better than to go along with that, because a Sunday trip would entail spending several hours at church. Ruthie, grasping for some way she could keep a minimal amount of control over what was going on, suggested meeting Mike the very next day...Saturday...having to make the commitment without any input from him.
She was still on the phone when he came in from work, talking in the normal mixture of Spanish and English that she used with her Salinas relatives. It was a very strange experience for him to listen to her speaking in "Spanglish". Because he had never heard her talk to any of her relatives, he had taken it for granted that she spoke in one or the other of the two languages, not that weird mix. He also could tell that she was very stressed out from the conversation, and became even more stressed out upon seeing him. She cut short the call:
"Bye, Mom. Nos vemos mañana." She pushed the disconnect button.
"What's going on tomorrow?"
Ruthie took a deep breath. What's going on tomorrow...well, that was going to be a bit complicated...
"Mike...uh...I kinda told my mom about us...and she's gonna want to meet you."
"Tomorrow? But it's gonna be nice weather...and I thought you wanted to go to the beach..."
"We gotta do it tomorrow. You mind driving me down to Salinas?"
"Uh...well...no...I don't mind, but this...kinda came up fast..."
"I know. I'm sorry...but I got to talking to my mom on the phone and she started asking me how come I'm never in my room...and I told her that I'm in the library...and then she started bitching at me that it's not safe to be out by myself...and that's when...I kinda told her about us."
"OK, so tomorrow I'm gonna meet your mom. Is that a big deal?"
"Yeah, Mike. It kinda is...there's some stuff...a lot of stuff...I mean...I'm dealing with a lot of stuff with her...I mean...you'll meet her and you'll see what I'm talking about."
"Then I'm gonna have to know what 'a lot of stuff about her' is. Up to now you really haven't told me all that much about her. I don't even know her name. All you've said is that she's from a town in Mexico called Culiacan, she jumped the border 20 years ago, she's really into religion, and she wants to go home someday. That's not a whole lot for me to go on. I mean, is she gonna have a problem that I'm a gringo? Is that it?"
"No. That's not it. My dad's a gringo too...so even if it does bother her, she wouldn't be able to say anything. With her it's gonna be her fucking religion. She's probably gonna want to ask you a bunch of shit about that...are you 'saved'...do you have Jesus in your heart...shit like that."
"No problem. If she wants to talk about religion, I'll talk about religion. It's not like I've never set foot in a church."
Ruthie fidgeted with anxiety.
"There's a lot more to it. I mean...she's gonna want to know what we do together...and...there's something that's been going on that I haven't told you about... she's kinda pissed at me..."
Over the next half hour Ruthie tried to explain what had been going on between her and her mother since she had entered the university. For the first time in six years she had the opportunity to enjoy a break from going to church. She did not have to spend her Wednesday nights and Sundays listening to apocalyptic sermons and psychotic rants. She did not have to "fake it"; she did not have to act like she believed in something that she had quit believing in three years before. She did not have to hold back the urge to stand up in the pew and scream "You're lying! What you're saying is total bullshit!"
The problem that Ruthie had in Davenport was her mother suspected the truth. Every time they talked on the phone, she was constantly nagging about finding a church. If all Ruthie had to do was lie from a distance the situation would be bearable, but over the past month she had deal that bitch Cristina Rosales looking for her. Ruthie described her with the Spanish word "metiche", which roughly translates as "meddlesome". She was totally stressed about that situation, because the moment Cristina managed to catch her, she'd either have go to Cristina's church to shut her up, or she'd have to confront her with the truth, which would immediately be relayed back to her mother.
Ruthie said all of that while sitting on the bed tensed up. She was staring straight ahead and her hands were shaking. She concluded:
"One of the things my mom's gonna want to know is that you're serious about me."
Mike took her hands and got her to stand up. He hugged her.
"That part's easy. I don't need to convince her I'm serious about you. I am serious about you."
Ruthie took a deep breath and put her arms around him. Yes Mike was serious about her...she knew that...and she deeply cared about him as well...but...but...
The following morning Ruthie showed up at Mike's room in a conservative green dress and matching top. It was strange for him to see her in that outfit, because it was the most clothing he had seen her wearing since they met. He could tell that she was uncomfortable in that get-up. The dress looked good on her, but knowing what he knew about her, it did not go with her personality. To her the dress was not really clothing. It was a costume that she had to wear so she could perform a role in Salinas that was totally fake.
Mike also was somewhat better-dressed than normal. Instead of his usual shorts and anti-Mega-Town t-shirt, he wore khaki pants and a long-sleeve white shirt. When he took Ruthie to his car she noticed that he had washed it and cleaned out the inside. Then she noticed that his shoes were shined and that both the shirt and pants were ironed. It was clear that he was serious about making a good impression on Ruthie's mother.
On their way to Salinas, Mike asked Ruthie to talk more about her time in high school. He was not curious about her church, because he figured that she already had told him what he needed to know. Instead he wanted to know about her life in the school itself. She started by claiming that there was not that much to talk about, so he got her to talk about her classes. He pushed her to talk about her time in middle school, about her first year in Salinas and her last year in Lincoln. What he wanted to know was why she suddenly moved from Nebraska to California when she was 12, but she had made it clear that she did not want to talk about that. Driven by curiosity, he cautiously probed that period of her life to get a hint of what happened, without being too obvious. He got a few clues. She inadvertently told him the move to Salinas happened very suddenly and was traumatic for her. She mentioned in passing that she felt that her father had betrayed and abandoned her. A little while later she said that she hated her father and "that fucking bitch he's with". When they approached Salinas, she mentioned that in Lincoln she was raised by her grandmother. When Mike asked, she clarified that it was her father's mother who raised her.
Like pieces of a puzzle, Mike put together the hints that she inadvertently gave him. While living in Nebraska she had been raised by her grandmother, not her father. She was happy up until her grandmother died, and that was when she was eleven. A year later she suddenly moved to Salinas against her wishes. He guessed that the "fucking bitch" was a second marriage and possibly the reason she was forced to leave Lincoln.
Now that he was about to meet her mother, Mike knew that a lot more of his questions about her would be answered. Ruthie knew that as well. She was not happy about the prospect, because she had been hoping to keep at least some of her life secret from her boyfriend. She sighed, because it seemed things like that never worked out for her.
When they pulled into Ruthie's apartment complex, she directed him to go to the management office to get a visitor's pass. Once Mike's car was parked in a visitor's space, she led him past several two-story buildings that seemed in fairly decent condition. He could hear Mariachi music playing from several apartments. A couple of groups of small children were playing outside on the grass. The children were conversing in Spanish. They passed a laundry mat with coin-operated washers and dryers. He noticed his girlfriend half-heartedly waving to several people they passed. He received some curious looks from neighbors, because no one in the complex had ever seen her with a guy other than her cousin.
Mike reflected that if Ruthie had to come into this place directly from a house in Nebraska; that would have been a rough transition, especially for a kid who was 12. In spite of the fact the property's physical condition was acceptable; the complex had a somewhat sinister feel to it. Ruthie had mentioned that gang members lived in some of the units and had talked about the night she witnessed a shooting. He definitely could understand why Ruthie's mother would not have wanted her wandering around the area after dark.
Mike reminded his girlfriend that she still had not told him her mother's name, nor how he should call her. She responded that her name was Lisette Montoya Burns. She realized that she wasn't sure how she should be addressed: whether it should be Mrs. Burns or Doña Lisette. Finally she settled on Doña Lisette.