Chpt. 1

"Come on Uncle Charlie. It wasn't my fault. My foot slipped," I pleaded. I gave my uncle my best innocent, puppy eyes and trembling lower lip.

"Steph, it is most definitely your fault. You are fourteen! Fourteen! You are not even allowed to drive. You know that. To top it off, you stole an MP's Jeep," Uncle Charlie growled. "And you broke his leg!"

Okay, well I couldn't really argue with that. I did break Joe's leg, but he deserved it and I can't really tell my uncle why he deserved it because that would get me into more trouble. Who wants to tell their guardian that she lost their virginity at the movies to a boy who is two years older than her, said boy then wrote about the experience in all the public bathrooms on base, and now refuses to talk to her? Yeah, not me. Frankly, I think my punishment of hitting Joe with an MP's Jeep, breaking his left leg was on the nicer end of what I could have done to him. My uncle's punishment would likely be way worse than any form of justice I can enact.

"Uncle Charlie, he deserved it! I swear!"

"What did he do that he deserved you running him over with a stolen Jeep?"

My uncle continued to growl at me. I swear all military men learn how to growl in Basic Training. It must be one of their requirements. Sigh.

"See, the thing is, I can't really tell you," I replied.

"You can't or won't tell me?" Growl, growl, growl.

"Um…more like won't?" I can't believe I turned that into a question. Damn nerves. You would think I was better at keeping my nerves in check considering Valerie and I have lived with my uncle for the past three years. Granted, he is all bark and no bite when it comes to Valerie and me.

"Stephanie Michelle Plum, you will tell me right now. Why did you run over Joseph Morelli with a stolen MP vehicle?"

Damn. I'm screwed. It's probably better if I just tell the truth before my punishment gets even worse. Lying is the ultimate crime in my aunt and uncle's house. The punishment for lying will likely last for years and entail me enlisting in the Army when I turn eighteen and God knows, I do not want to do that.

So in one lung full of air, I told him. "So see, I sort of went to the movies with Joe a month ago and we sort of had sex in the movie theater, but I didn't want to. I didn't say no because I was scared what he would say about me to everyone else, but that backfired because now he is writing about me in all the public bathrooms and he won't talk to me now!" I was getting a little teary-eyed (and out of breath) by the end of telling my story.

"WHAT?" My uncle bellowed.

"So I guess that makes two really bad judgment calls on my part, but I swear I've learned! Boys suck and I'm not having sex until I'm thirty!"

My uncle rubbed temples with both his hands. "I'll talk to Staff Sergeant Morelli and see that he doesn't have charges brought up against you. I'll negotiate an appropriate punishment for his good-for-nothing son."

I breathed a sigh of relief. This might not be as bad as I thought. He might even go easy on me considering I was already humiliated. Wasn't that punishment enough?

"Now for you…" he pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's summer, so you have even more time to get into trouble. Considering that and your actions earlier today, you will go through Basic Training this summer with the newest class. You will still live here, but you will do all of the PT and training the recruits do from 0400 until 1730."

"What?" I screeched. Mother bugger. He definitely found a way to punish me. Damn.

"You have almost a week until Basic starts. I'll let you know whose unit I put you with. Now go talk to your aunt. Obviously we need to have another talk with you about boys, safe sex, and the consequences of sex. You aren't pregnant are you?" Uncle Charlie asked me that with a look of true fear on his face.

"No, I'm not. I have my period right now," I said, my face felt like it was on fire with shame.

"Ok, too much information. I did not need to know that much," he muttered, turning red himself and walking into the kitchen to likely tell my aunt what happened. Five minutes later, he walked out of the kitchen, kissed my forehead and left. I could only assume it was to go find Staff Sergeant Morelli and tell him what an awful son he had.

I walked into the kitchen to talk to my aunt, Marjie. At least talking to her wouldn't be too bad. I knew she'd be disappointed in me, but she wouldn't judge. That is more than I can say if I had to talk to my mom. I was a lot closer to my aunt and uncle than I ever was with my parents. I wish I could rectify that, but crap happens.

The talk with my aunt went surprisingly well, all things considered. We talked about sex and the possible consequences. We were both relieved that Joe had used a condom. She told me she wished I had waited because I deserved better than a movie theater with a sticky floor littered with popcorn. She told me I deserved love, caring, gentleness and adoration. Obviously, I didn't get that from Joe. I told her I already knew I was going to wait to have sex again until I was in love with somebody and I didn't see that happening anytime soon. I also told her I didn't want to date or have sex until I was thirty. She laughed at that and hugged me.

My uncle came back in time for dinner. Joe had to work in my uncle's office all summer and once his leg heals, he has to do the PT portion of training every morning until the end of the next school year. He also has to join ROTC. At least my punishment only lasts the summer.

Valerie acted like her typical judgmental self towards me. She was like a mini-Mom. "I can't believe you were so dumb to go out with Joe Morelli. Everyone knows he's a player and wants to get in every girl's pants. You should've known better. Mom would be so disappointed in you."

I was never so thankful that my aunt and uncle took us in until that moment. "Valerie Marie Plum! It's not your place to judge your sister. She made a mistake. She is young. Joseph should've known better. You should've taken Stephanie aside and told her about him. Did you do that?" my aunt asked my condescending sister.

"No," she sniffed. "Why would I do that?"

"A good older sibling tries to keep their younger siblings out of trouble," my uncle said. "You're supposed to look out for them. Next time you see Steph going down a path that will lead to trouble, talk to her! Talk to us. And Steph, the same goes to you with regards to your sister." My sister gave me a nasty look, pursed her lips and didn't say anything for the rest of the evening.

I cleaned the kitchen without being asked and then headed upstairs to my room to write in my journal like I did every day since my parents died.

June 2, 1997

Song of the day: R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly"

So Uncle Charlie and Aunt Marjie know about Joe and the movie theater. I didn't really think through stealing the MP Jeep and hitting Joe. Maybe if I thought about the consequences I wouldn't have had the humiliation of having to tell them. And boy! Want to talk about a low point in my year. Surprisingly though, they were pretty good awesome about it.

If Mom were still around she would have made some comment like, "Linda Sforza's daughter doesn't go losing her virginity in a movie theater! How could you do this to me?" Mom was always comparing me to her friend's kids when I was little. I remember when she told me that I humiliated her because I got a C in my first quarter of geometry and Edith Marcini's daughter got straight A's, and why couldn't I be more like her.

Thinking about it, I suppose the whole Joe debacle punishment could be worse. Basic training is going to suck. I am not looking forward to it, but I could be getting a juvenile record. Or worse, I could be pregnant. I could never accomplish my goal of being Wonder Woman or Super Secret Spy Stephanie if I was a teenage mom.

Ack. I hear Aunt M yelling at me to turn my lights out. They want me to adjust to the crazy early mornings now so I don't die of exhaustion next week.