Miss Me Not (Page 6)

"Mother F, are you trying to give me whiplash?" I demanded, glaring at him.

"Shit, I'm sorry. Are you okay?" he asked, concern replacing his anger.

"I'll live," I said, rubbing my shoulder where the seatbelt had dug in.

He lifted his right hand toward my shoulder only to stop halfway. "I'm sorry, that was a bonehead move. I shouldn't have been driving like an idiot."

"I didn't mind the speed. Matter fact, it was kind of nice," I admitted. "I just need a little warning before you decide you want to see what I look like as a hood ornament."

"I see. So, you're a speed junkie," he joked.

"I guess so. That's my first taste of it."

"What? Your parents never speed?"

I shook my head, not wanting to delve into my funked up home life.

"You must love roller coasters," he said as I unbuckled my seatbelt.

"I wouldn't know," I said, opening my door.

"Are you serious? You've never gone on the Hulk?" he asked, looking at me like I'd just stepped off an alien mother ship.

"Never been to a theme park," I said, stepping out of the vehicle.

He was still sputtering in shock when I closed the door behind me.

"Hey, I wanted to get your cell number," he asked, following me to my front door.


"You know, they have these new inventions called phones. I thought maybe I could call you on one, they're supposed to be a real hoot."

"Why?" I repeated like a two-year-old who was confused about why the sky was blue.

"Come on, to talk," he said, leaning against the wall as I unlocked the door.

The door swung open. "I don't have one," I admitted.

"You don't?" he asked like he didn't quite understand the concept. I couldn't blame him. I was pretty sure I was the only teenager who didn't have a cell phone. Until this moment, I never wanted one. "Okay then. Can I get your home number?" he asked, finally coming to terms with my lack of twenty-first century technology.

"Uh, I guess," I said, rattling off the number for him. I waited while he plugged it into his cell and then stepped into the house. "Well, thanks for the ride," I said, shutting the door.

He stopped it with his foot before it could fully close. "Just so you know, I wasn't pissed Kirk saw us. I was pissed by his comment," he said, turning on his heel and heading down the sidewalk.

"He was only speaking the truth," I said quietly, watching his retreating back.

I closed the door behind me and leaned against it. My heart was reacting to his words in a strange way. Why would he care what Kirk said? Was it possible he was interested in me? "Not likely," I said to the empty living room. He obviously has some kind of hero complex and would probably snap out of it soon enough. None of it mattered anyway. I wasn't about to get into any relationship, so it was time to nip the whole situation in the bud.

I left the entryway feeling deprived. Spending time with Dean had a way of accentuating the emptiness of my house. I pulled a frozen meal out of the freezer and disposed of the carton. I hated these things, but had accepted them as my penance for driving my dad away. The humming of the microwave filled the silent house as I grabbed a soda out of the fridge. When the meal was finished cooking, I settled myself on a barstool at the kitchen counter. I sat eating for a few minutes, but the silence of the house seemed more oppressive than normal and began to wear on me. I stood up and dumped my unfinished meal in the trash. I wasn't that hungry anyway. Maybe some music would clear my head. Dean's attention today had opened a door I had bolted closed years ago. A door that belonged closed. Hell, it was a door I didn't even need. I embraced my solitude. I loved being alone. I loved silence. I was a liar.

Chapter Seven

It was rainy and overcast when I woke the next morning. The bleak weather seemed fitting for Mitch's service. Death was bleak after all. My life was bleak. I didn't know anymore if I was just trying to convince myself of that fact, or if the actions of two completely different people had really allowed a small ray of light to peek into my existence. It wasn't possible. Was it? Denial was a tough pill to swallow. No matter how hard I tried to crawl back into the comfortable dark cave I'd dwelled in for so many years, someone was slowly dragging me out. Dean. He was changing me. He was making me feel. I didn't want to think of him, but he was always there like someone standing just outside your peripheral vision.

Pulling my errant thoughts away, I began to dress for the day. The fact that I had to go to morning classes hampered my wardrobe choices. I eyed my closet critically, pushing the endless array of black t-shirt cluttered hangers to the side, hoping that the perfect outfit would suddenly appear. As a rule, I never wore dresses or skirts, preferring jeans and baggy t-shirts that I could hide behind. Finally, behind a few coats that had never seen the light of day because they were too heavy for our mild winters, I unearthed a long-forgotten dress. My grandma on my dad's side of the family had sent me the dress for Christmas last year. I'd been shocked when the package arrived. My grandparents had been sending me ten dollars for every occasion for as long as I could remember. I'd only seen them a couple of times my entire life since they lived more than halfway across the country in Arizona. They were in their late forties when they had my dad and hated to travel. My mom disliked spending time with them, claiming that their atheist views were not the influence she wanted me around, so visits were sparse to say the least. If they weren't so old, I felt I could relate to them. I envied their normal lives where church didn't consume their every waking moment. Normal. Was anyone really ever normal? Probably not. Life was a sham. Smoke and mirrors hid the dysfunctional lives all of us lived.

I pulled the shift-style dress out and held it up against my slender frame. It would be loose, but at least it would be presentable. Slipping it on over my head, I smoothed it down, liking that it wasn't formfitting. I was far from flat chested, so loose went a long way on taking the focus off my chest. There was a time when I used them as my greatest assets to get what I wanted. At that time, my wardrobe consisted of tight low-cut tank tops and scooped neck shirts. My cleavage was legendary by the time I started seventh grade, and I loved the attention it used to draw. Now I hid it in shame.

Stepping in front of my mirror that was attached to the back of my bedroom door, I studied my reflection critically. The dress didn't look all that bad. It was tan, not black, but I guess I could deal with that for the day. My skin looked paler than normal, and I grimaced looking at it. I may as well be a ghost. That would work well for me. I dragged a brush through my long locks until all the snarls from sleeping were completely gone. Once my hair was tamed the best it was going to get, I added eyeliner and mascara to my eyes, making them stand out against my translucent complexion. A touch of gloss to my lips brought out their natural rosy color better than any cosmetic I could have ordered. Finally, I slipped my favorite beaded bracelets onto my right wrist, which were the only accessories I would wear. I looked in the mirror one last time to find a stranger staring back at me. It had been years since I'd put any kind of effort into my appearance. I knew I looked good, even without anyone telling me. Maybe even beautiful. I had to fight the urge to rip the dress off and scrub my face clean. Beauty was not a gift. Donna said beauty was evil and a powerful tool the devil liked to utilize. Past experience showed me she was right. It was a sin.


"Morning," Donna greeted me, not looking up from the newspaper she was perusing while sipping her morning coffee.

"Morning," I said, grabbing my own version of morning caffeine out of the fridge. I watched Donna for several moments as she turned the pages of her newspaper, looking for the arts and entertainment section. I fidgeted in my seat slightly, wondering how to broach the subject, deciding the best approach was to do it fast, like pulling off a Band-Aid.

"Donna," I said tentatively. The word felt foreign on my tongue. I'd lost track of how long it had been since I initiated a conversation. It seemed odd to address her by her given name. Like calling a stranger your "best friend" or a guy you'd never met your "boyfriend."

"Yes, Madison," she said in the even tone I'd given up responding to.

"I was wondering if you could add a cell phone to your account for me," I said, wiping my sweaty palms on the skirt of my dress.

"Do you have money to purchase it?" she asked, folding the paper in half and setting it next to her empty coffee mug.

"Yes," I answered, not surprised by her question. It was decided years ago that if I wanted to act like an adult, then I'd be treated like one. Any money I earned during my mindless summer jobs or that I received on birthdays or Christmas was added to an account set up in my name. Donna would add a deposit to it at the beginning of each school year so I could purchase school clothes and any supplies I might need. With the exception of new shirts, bras and panties, I hadn't touched it. My original plan was to leave it behind when I was gone. It could be considered payment for sins that would never be forgiven.

"Fine. I'll contact my phone provider. You will be responsible for picking it up."

"Okay," I said, taking a shaky breath. In the span of one short conversation we'd exchanged more words than we had all of the previous month.

Donna fell silent after that as we finished our morning preparations. It was only as we were heading out the front door that she initiated yet another conversation.

"Are you attending the funeral?" she asked, taking in my uncharacteristic attire.

"I planned to. How did you find out?" I asked, feeling slightly confused. With the exception of making sure I maintained my C average, Donna steered clear of anything pertaining to my life.

"Your principal sent out a mass email to all the parents encouraging us to make sure we know where our children should be this afternoon."

"That sounds about right," I said, buckling my seatbelt.

"Did you know this boy?" she asked, backing out of the driveway.

"Not really. Does it matter?" I asked, wondering where this strange conversation between us could possibly be going.

"It matters in God's eyes," she said sternly, slowing down to let a car turn out in front of us.

"In God's eyes?" I asked incredulously.

"Suicide is a sin. You know that. By committing this sin, you're forsaking your soul to hell. It is a foolish out for weak people."

"Is hell really any different than this?" I asked, climbing out of the car as soon as she pulled in front of my school.

"If your so-called life is 'hell' as you say, it is no fault but your own. You chose this life," she reminded me.

"I was thirteen," I said, closing the door before she could say anything else. I walked up the main entrance of the school without looking back. The "cross" I had been carrying for the last four years suddenly felt too heavy for me to bear. My surroundings seemed insignificant, and I paid them no mind as I mulled over her words.

"Hey, I was waiting for you," Dean said, startling me as he jumped down from the low wall by the school entrance.

I jumped slightly at his sudden appearance by my side. No one ever walked beside me, let alone held a conversation.

"You look nice," he added somberly. "Will you ride with me to the memorial service?" he asked, walking as close as he could beside me without touching. The other students stared at us in disbelief. I watched their faces as they tried to place me. My cloak of disguise had slipped and they were getting a glimpse of me for the first time in years. I knew it was only a matter of time before the rumors about me were once again unearthed. Would Dean be so willing to walk by my side if he knew the whole truth?

"You're seriously going to put a ding in your reputation by walking with me," I said, trying to give him an out.

"Mads, I seriously don't care what anyone says," he said, coming to a halt against one of the walls so he could face me. He used his body to run interference from anyone who might have jostled me as they hurried to class.

"Mads?" I asked, raising my eyebrow questioningly.

"I'll tell you what it means some other time," he said, wagging his eyebrows at me.

I placed my hands on my hips trying to bully him silently to tell me now.

He laughed outright, but wouldn't fess up. "So, will you go with me to the service?" he asked again.

"Dean, it's not a good idea," I said, darting my eyes around to indicate the other students who were studying us with morbid fascination.

"Madison, I don't care. Let them say what they want about us. It's none of their business."

"Um, hello, you have met the student body, right?" I asked, confused that we were even having the conversation.

"Who cares?" he said, leaning in close.

My breath hitched as he moved close to my lips. Panic seized me. It was wrong to yearn for the touch of his lips on mine. I didn't want them. I blatantly lied to myself.

"Let them look," he whispered a hair away from my ear. His breath fanned my hair and sent small shocks of awareness down my neck as they traveled throughout my body.

I needed to tell him to step away. He should know he was invading my personal space. Any words I may have uttered were lost somewhere between my brain that urged me to be sensible and my heart that felt we had paid enough for our crimes.

"Meet me in the student parking lot after third period," he said, disappearing down the hall before I could turn him down. Which really was my plan. Seriously.

I watched him until the students hurrying to class swallowed him up before heading off to Whore Cat's class myself. I slid into my seat just as the bell rang. Shoving my backpack under my seat, I tried to ignore the countless stares that bore into the back of my head. Ms. Jones was busy writing the day's assignment on the board when a crumpled up piece of paper hit me in the head before falling harmlessly to the floor. I debated ignoring it. It had been almost four years since the last paper ball had hit me in the head. They always had some kind of inane derogatory comment written on them. Using my foot, I scooted the ball of paper closer to me and reached down to pick it up. I smoothed it out and saw a crude drawing of a girl hanging upside down in some cave-like thing. "Go back to your bat cave, freak" was scrawled beneath the drawing. I fought the urge to snort. It was a shame that four years later they were still as unimaginative as they had been at thirteen.