"I don't like it," Brenda said at Chris' locker at the end of the day.
"You don't have to like it, Brenda, you just have to cover for me."
"Your mom will freak if she ever finds out."
"That's the reason for doing it this way."
"If we wait until next week, Mom's going to expect it."
"Chris, it's just such a big step. I'm worried about you."
"Brenda, it's not like he's making me do anything. I'm just," she shrugged as she closed her locker and spun the combination lock, sliding her backpack over one shoulder. "Going to spend the night with him. He's got his own place. And like I said, if we wait until prom, Mom will never buy I'm staying out with you."
"As long as he's not pressuring you."
"No pressure. Come on, Brenda, you know me better than that. If anyone was about pressure, it was Mike." She rested a shoulder against her locker, looking at Brenda as other people walked by oblivious of their conversation. "I want to do this, Brenda."
"It's just. What if your mom finds out?"
She shrugged, drawing her backpack tighter along her shoulder. "What's she going to do? Kick me out?"
"She could," Brenda said, sounding cautious.
Chris couldn't think about that. Her mom wasn't too happy with Chris' choice in boyfriends. Her mom had really liked Dan. So much so that Chris probably could have told her mom she was going there for the weekend to check out the school and she would have allowed it. Allowed it because she would have been thrilled at the idea that Chris was going to go to college. Something Chris was still undecided on at this point despite being accepted at a few, including Northwestern which would at least keep her local.
"She wouldn't," Chris said adamantly, though she had some doubts.
She was doing more than defying her mother, she was outright lying and doing something her mother would be upset about. It wasn't like they were definitely going to have sex. But she was going to be spending the night with a guy, nothing she'd envisioned herself doing until now. She wasn't sure what it was about Joe that had her wanting to.
"I'll do it," Brenda said, not sounding pleased at all. Chris knew her best friend would come through for her. She'd do the same for her if the situation was reversed. Unfortunately, Chris didn't have another option so if Brenda had said no she would have been shit out of luck. "But only if you promise me that if you change your mind you have him bring you to my place."
"I will, Brenda, he will. If I ask him to, he will."
It was Chris' idea more or less. Joe hadn't said no once Chris brought it up, of course. He lived in a different world than she did. No parents, no curfews even though he'd always been very nice about working around hers. She'd told her mom a couple days ago she was staying at Brenda's tonight. With prom next weekend and Chris having a date when Brenda didn't, she'd used that as an excuse.
So, she packed her over night bag and went to Brenda's. At least that part of the lie was true. She and Brenda would walk to the library where Joe would pick her up. She had another bag stored under Brenda's bed just in case her mom took to searching her room for any evidence she and Joe were doing more than just casually dating.
Knowing her mom didn't particularly care for Joe, she tried to come across as not caring so much about him. She knew her mom didn't mean anything by it necessarily. Her dad had yet to say anything, so she wasn't sure what her dad thought. For all she knew he hated Joe, but Chris didn't think so. He just wanted Chris happy. If that meant college or Joe or backpacking in the Rocky Mountains for the summer it wouldn't really matter to him.
The bag in Brenda's room made her more nervous than actually spending the night with him. In it was proof she was thinking of doing more than just sleeping with him tonight. She and Brenda had gone all the way out to Northbrook to shop for it. She couldn't risk anyone seeing her, especially one of her mother's friends. It was just a teddy and a pair of satin panties the same color, nothing scandalous but she would have been embarrassed being seen by anyone she knew in Victoria's Secret so Northbrook Court was the safer bet.
Lingerie aside, she knew that nothing would happen she wasn't ready for. He knew about Mike and he seemed to be okay with the fact that while she wasn't necessarily waiting for marriage she wasn't in any hurry to lose her virginity.
Not knowing what the summer might hold for them she knew she might not get another chance like this. Especially if she ended up going to college in the fall as her mother wanted her to do. And they never really got a chance to be totally alone. He'd gone to parties with her where they'd ended up on a couch or even in someone's room for a little while, but she was always hyperaware there were people around. People who knew her not him.
And as much as she didn't think he was that type of guy. If something did happen and he walked away from her, she didn't want the embarrassment of having it happen at a party or somewhere everyone who knew her had seen them together.
It wasn't too cold. Winter was definitely over, but there was still a chill in the air as she and Brenda walked the short distance to the library from Brenda's house. Brenda was going to take in a movie by herself and stay out as late as she could so her parents wouldn't know she came back by herself. Chris owed her big time for this.
Joe was there when they got there, standing next to his car. He smiled widely when he saw her, taking the bag from her when she got to him.
"Brenda," he said with a nod at her friend's direction while giving her a hug.
"Hi Joe. I hope you have fun tonight. Well, I mean," Chris laughed a little at the deep blush on her friend's face. "Have fun."
"I think I will, Brenda. Thanks for doing this for Chris."
"She'd do it for me."
Chris knew Brenda wondered if there'd ever come a time Chris would need to do it for her. Guys just didn't flock to her, not that they did Chris really either. It was usually the Mike's of the world who did. They saw her pretty face and heard she didn't want to go to college and assumed no brains, which meant easy. She had brains, she wasn't easy, and her negative opinion of college had decreased over the couple of months as she visited some campuses. It was the ones Joe took her to that really influenced her, realizing they wouldn't be a huge distance apart if she did go.
"She's worried about you," Joe said once they were on their way.
"A little. Not worried, worried."
"Sure she is, you're defying your mom," he leaned over when he stopped for a red traffic light and gave her a kiss, letting his hand drop to her leg. "She doesn't know me."
"I know you. That should be good enough for her."
"She'll come around, you've been friends a long time."
"Forever," Chris agreed. She'd told Joe about their friendship, he'd seen pictures of them even going back to Kindergarten.
He took her to a part of Chicago she'd never seen. She'd never gone far beyond the business part of Downtown. The museums, the Zoo, Water Tower Place, the theaters. There'd never been reason for her to until the night she'd met him.
"It's not much," he said when they got to his place. She'd asked him to see it before, but they'd always stayed near her place when they went out. So, this was the first time she'd been here.
"It's nice," she said. It was the basement of a row house downtown, converted into an apartment.
"A little cold. Been meaning to get a rug or something, but I'm not here enough. And I just wear socks when I am."
"it's okay," she said. He brought her bag to, what she presumed, was his bedroom. There was only one other door in the place and it had to be the bathroom. Otherwise, the living room and kitchen were one big room.
He had a TV and a nice stereo system, but otherwise it was pretty impersonal. There was a picture on top of the TV of them taken at one of the parties they'd gone to together. That was it though as far as personal touches.
It was nothing like the family room at her house. There were pictures plastered all over the walls, some of her at various stages in her life and some of other family members. She'd been pretty sheltered, she realized, never having seen someone live like this. Not that he lived poorly. The place was clean, the furniture seemed new and what wasn't was in good shape.
He just didn't have things where her house, and the houses of her friends, was full of things. Her couch had throw pillows on it and a blanket over the back of it for when it was cold at night during the winter.
"It is what it is," he said, bringing her out of her thoughts. He was right behind her, she had been so deep in thought she hadn't even heard him walk up to her. His arms went around her, tugging her so her head rested against his shoulder. "You sure you're not having second thoughts?"
"About staying here?"
"That, too, but I meant being with me in general."
She turned in his arms and smiled at him. "No. I was just noticing the difference in our houses, that's all."
"Yours is way out of my league."
"You think that matters to me?"
"I think you deserve better than a basement apartment."
"Not for tonight I don't," she said, sliding her arms around his neck. "You haven't shown me your room yet."
"You sure you want to see it? I can take you home if you're having second thoughts about this, or take you back to Brenda's. Or we can stay here, watch a movie until later or something."
"I'm here, I want to be here tonight. And I want to see it."
"Yeah, doing something you know you're mom would kill you for doing."
"I'm eighteen, there's nothing she can really do about it now anyway."
"Well, yeah, but she's your mother. I'm just "
"A good guy, one who I happen to like a lot, and Mom would like you too if she could get past the fact you're not white."
"Well, she wouldn't be the first mother not to get past that."
"I know. It's just, I thought she was better than that."
"Maybe she'll come around when she realizes I'm not a phase and I'm not out to hurt you."
"Or get me pregnant."
He chuckled lightly, kissing her. "Not on my agenda, no. I even made sure I had extra rubbers for tonight."
"Oh, well," she looked away, blushing.
"I just didn't want you thinking I normally kept a ready supply because I don't. Well, I haven't lately, you know what I mean? I've carried one in my wallet and all, but that was always just in case."
"Just in case, huh?"
"Well, yeah, you know. I didn't want that to be the reason we couldn't if you decided you wanted to."
"If, huh? You had doubts."
He shrugged. "You can always say no, just because you're here doesn't make it a done deal."
She looked at him for a long time then, quietly studying him. He stood there, too, letting her look her fill. He was a thief, broke the law regularly and got paid for it. Well from everything she could tell. He was rougher around the edges than anyone she'd ever known before. College wasn't in his future. She wasn't quite sure what type of career would be in his future. But he meant what he'd just said. He'd never have forced her. He never pressured, he never pushed. Anything that had happened between them to this point had been her doing or at least her mentioning it.
She bit her lip then, making her decision. Oh, it'd been made before, but there were no doubts left now. She cleared her throat a little, glancing at their hands, joined together. She hadn't even paid attention to him taking hold of her hands.
"Can I use your bathroom?"
"Sure, baby, it's right through there," he said, pointing at the other door she'd thought was the bathroom.
"I just need to get something from my bag first."
"Okay, do what you need to do. Take your time, we've got all night."
"Yeah we do," she said. The nervous feeling she'd had all day had been replaced with something else entirely. She wasn't exactly sure what it was, but she liked it. She wasn't going to regret doing what she knew her mom would flip over, daring to break out of the shell her mom had put her in.