Chapter 16: I love you, Ricky Linderman
Ricky lingered on the trains for two complete routes before returning home. When he came inside he smelled food. His mother had actually cooked dinner this week. She came out of the kitchen and gave him a light hug.
"Ricky I'm so glad you're home! Where have you been? Look at these clothes! Get into a shower and get to bed...no, wait, have some dinner."
Ricky removed his coat and made a plate of beef stew and rice. He did something he hadn't done in over a year, ate dinner with his mother. He was weary of the tension and silence. He still could not bring himself to tell her the truth; they had to somehow mend their relationship first. He finally asked her why she was in better spirits.
"I got a phone call from your father Ricky, he wants to come back home, and he misses us very much. And your girlfriend called, told me she saw you and that hopefully you would be home."
Ricky's jaw dropped, his body began to shake.
"Wh... wh...WHAT! My father!"
He hadn't meant to sound harsh with her, but the thought of seeing his father again infuriated him.
"Ricky, it's not what you think, he wants to start over, and he knows he made a lot of mistakes...we both did!"
"He made too many, mom, way too many. Where was he when we needed him? He takes off so quick after Chris dies, doesn't call or write for months! Then you fall apart and you treat me like crap! I'm sorry mom! I'm sorry Chris died! But I'm still alive! I'm still your son! I love you, why don't you love me?"
Ricky had started bawling like a baby, his head was lost in his arms. He felt his mother rubbing his shoulders and she leaned in to kiss him. He grasped her waist, the tears still streaming down his face.
"I'm sorry baby, I was only thinking of myself all this time, my own grief, I didn't take you into consideration, me and your father. I want to make up for that, I really do. And he wants to also; we talked for a long time. Just give us a chance, Ricky. I promise things will get better, and we'll help you…we'll help each other!" She rocked him tearfully.
Ricky eventually stood up; he didn't want to be alienated from his parents anymore. He didn't want to be from anyone.
"Alright, I'll try. I'm tired, I'm going to bed."
Ricky sat down at his desk first; he opened the drawer and pushed aside some papers, looking for a pen. His hand brushed something sharp and he drew them back quickly, licking the blood from his finger. It was his sharpening blade. He pulled it out and tossed it in the wastebasket. He looked down at his wrists and cried more. Suicide was no longer an option; it was cowardly and wrong. If he had nothing else in the world right now he knew he had Maryanne, and would always be strong for her.
As he prepared for bed, he thought deeply about his family situation. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to improve his relationship with both his mother and father; he decided he would certainly try while he was still at home.
Maryanne dragged herself to school the next morning. Ricky still had not returned. She didn't want to imagine where he had gone the previous night, with only six dollars from her. Her brain was too exhausted to conjure up any more scenarios. After school she moped around the jogging circle. Russell and Shelly caught up with her. Shelly was wheeling her bicycle along and seemed in high spirits. Victor Luft had asked her to the movies and admitted he had a crush on her since seventh grade. Maryanne was truly happy for her friend, but couldn't share her enthusiasm at the moment. Shelly always understood. Russell was in a sour mood also.
"Hey Russ, why the long face?" Shelly inquired.
"It's worse than ever now! Moody is on the rampage now that he has Mike! He upped the protection money fifteen cents! I think I should just drop out already."
Shelly sighed in irritation. "I can't believe I ever liked that creep! What about you Maryanne? Heard anything from Ricky?"
"No Shelly and I'm so scared for him!" She blurted out.
Shelly was ever the optimist and gave her a big hug.
"Oh Mary, don't worry, he'll be back! He just needs some time to cool down. I'm sorry we all treated him the way we did, he's pretty cool and..."
She whispered in her ear,
"He's gorgeous! Perfect for you Maryanne, and I know how much he likes you."
Shelly nudged Russell and he responded wholeheartedly too.
"Yeah, I can't believe I was ever afraid of him, he's a real kitten."
Maryanne managed a laugh. Russell was afraid of his own shadow sometimes and she knew he still cringed around Ricky.
"Maybe you're right, Shelly."
"I'm always right! That's one thing you're going to learn about me is that I'm always right. One day in the future you'll come to me and say, 'Shelly, Shelly darling, you were always right!"
Maryanne was laughing with them now and her gaze shifted toward the benches; she gasped. Ricky was walking his bike past the baseball field toward them. He had completely repaired it.
"You see! What did I tell you?" Shelly called out to Maryanne as she ran to him.
Maryanne threw her arms around his neck, staring at him profoundly. His eyelids and nose were pinkish from spending the night in his own tears.
"Oh Ricky, where did you go? Why did you…?"
Ricky didn't let her finish. He picked her up in a bear hug and pressed his cheek close to hers.
"I'm all right, I'm so sorry I scared you." He whispered.
She nodded choked up and clasped her fingers through his, running her thumb across his scarred wrist. He watched her with an understanding. She couldn't bring herself to express her dark fears. He held her chin up.
"Hey Peaches, not while you need me...never again!"
Maryanne embraced him again. "It's not just for me, Ricky, it's for yourself, for God, for life, you're a beautiful human being and you deserve everything good!"
"Mary...right now you're everything good, getting to know you was the best thing that ever happened to me."
They leaned in for a kiss and felt the surprised stares and grins of all the other students. They stepped back shyly and laughed it off. Ricky put his arm around her and escorted her to the bench with the stone chessboard where Shelly, Russell, Victor and some others waved them down. Ricky went back to retrieve his bike and out of nowhere, Mike and Moody appeared. Mike grabbed the handlebars and straddled the wheel. Everyone became hushed. Maryanne hurried toward Ricky, but he signaled her to stay put.
"Hey Linderman, thanks for fixing Moody's bike, I heard you were good you're your hands."
Mike winked at Maryanne and she looked away in disgust. More onlookers formed, waiting. Ricky tried to move, but Mike gripped it tighter.
"This bike is Moody's now, let it go, or else."
Moody took his cue and grabbed Maryanne.
"You know Linderman, I'm kind of against beatin' up on women, but Moody here isn't. I'm not responsible for what he might to do to your girl if you don't give it up."
Ricky cast a worried glance at her. She was shaking her head firmly not to give it to him and Moody squeezed her tighter until she winced. Ricky glared back at Mike and released the handlebars.
"Okay, take it." He said quietly.
Mike leaned toward him. "I'm sorry, what did you say? We all didn't hear you?"
"I said take it!" Ricky growled louder.
Mike grinned. "That's a good boy, I really don't know what you're talking about Moody. He's a queer! He couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag! I'm gone."
Mike walked away with the bike in tow, laughing. He passed by Moody and Maryanne and he rubbed her face.
"Hey Linderman, from one bodyguard to another, maybe you could share a piece of her, she's got the goods right on."
Mike made a motion to stroke her breast and she spit at him. He reacted instantly by slapping her face. The slap stung and her eyes watered. No man ever had the right to hit a woman, and it really hurt her.
"Whoa, isn't she tough, you know, why don't drop that loser and check in with me? I'll show you a real man."
Ricky's body heaved, his fists clenched and unclenched and he saw red. He let out a holler and advanced on Mike with a running leap. The bike fell down and Moody jumped out of the way. They both rolled in the dirt and down a tiny hill, everyone started shouting and cheering Ricky on.
Mike regained his balance and barreled Ricky into the fence. Ricky doubled over and Mike socked his jaw. Oblivious to the pain, years of anger and hurt radiated from him. He lunged back at Mike only to feel Moody jump on his back. Mike again got the upper hand and began punching Ricky while Moody held him down. Maryanne screamed in panic. She hopped onto Moody and yanked his hair.
"Get off him Moody! Get off!"
Moody was forced to release him when she blocked his vision. Ricky was weakened and Mike threw him face forward into the fence. Still boiling with rage, Ricky spun around and kneed Mike in the groin. When Mike clutched himself, Ricky yanked his velveteen collar pushed him into the fence this time. He started pounding his protruding belly. Mike was choking and gagging, red faced. Ricky grabbed him and flung him to the ground, socking at his head. Mike tried to block the blows then fell out cold. Ricky halted when he saw him unconscious. He looked at him with hate, then pity, and gathered himself up. He took in a sharp, painful breath; he had forgotten Maryanne.
In the meantime, Moody had thrown Maryanne to the ground, he tried to kick her stomach, but she tripped him up. She scrambled to get away but Moody caught her in a headlock and dragged her to her feet. She bit down on his arm hard. Moody howled and she stomped his foot. Ricky made his way toward them. He was hunched over with sweat dripping down his bruised face and a little blood trickling from his nose and mouth.
The other onlookers made a circle around them. They wanted to help her, but they also wanted the satisfaction of seeing Moody beaten by a tiny girl.
Ricky wanted to jump in and end it, but pain shot through him with every movement, slowing him up. He could only watch in suspense. Maryanne backed against him and he gripped her shoulders, nuzzling her cheek.
Ricky whispered breathlessly to her, "Maryanne, go for the nose!"
Moody regained his balance, he tried to punch her but she ducked and he hit air. Ricky was relieved. Maryanne threw back her right fist and punched him just as Ricky said, squarely in the nose. Moody crumpled to his knees and grabbed at it.
"Oww! You broke my nose! You dirty...My nose man!"
Moody rolled around the gravel like a wounded animal. Maryanne hobbled to Ricky, her hand on fire as much as her adrenaline. She put an arm over his back.
"He's right! You did do it!" Ricky laughed aloud in amazement.
The others crowded around Moody and sneered at him as he scampered away. Maryanne couldn't deal with it anymore. Ricky had the same idea and took her hand. He tenderly massaged her bruised knuckles, and then kissed them. They trekked toward where the bike had fallen. As Ricky picked it up he saw Mike dusting himself off. He caught Ricky's eye and gave him a surprising nod of respect. Mike stumbled away leaving Moody in the hands of angry High schoolers.
Ricky laughed and couldn't resist mocking her.
"Hey, I was wondering if you would be my bodyguard, I would pay you of course, fifty cents a day."
Maryanne forced a deep scowl. "I don't think so."
"Please Maryanne! You don't understand, all I want..." He whined.
Maryanne put her hands to her hips. "Do you always get what you want?"
Ricky laughed and pulled her close. "No, but I have all I want… right now."
Despite his throbbing jaw, he kissed her. Maryanne kissed him in return, gently on his wounds.
"I love you, Maryanne Peache." He breathed into her ear.
She cuddled her face into his chest, her heart full.
"I love you, Ricky Linderman."
They continued cuddling and whispering sweet nothings until a loud cough got their attention. Shelly, Victor, Russell and Paul were grinning ear to ear.
"Ahem, if you two are finished, whose up for a pizza, it's on us!" Shelly and Victor announced proudly.
"Thanks, but like this? We're a mess!" Maryanne said embarrassed.
"Oh, stop being a girl, I'd love pizza, Shelly, I could eat a whole pie myself. I'll chip in, cuz I'm starved."
He pulled out a wad of singles, counted out six to Maryanne and handed Shelly another four to cover them both.
"All right, we're in now." Maryanne said, trying to wipe the grass off her jeans.
As the group moved forward Ricky continued badgering her playfully.
"Say, what about my offer Maryanne? Fifty cents a day!"
"No, a buck a day."
"A buck a day!"
"It's inflation buddy." She informed him, kissing his cheek.
Ricky imitated Moody dead on and they all busted into fits of laughter. As they continued down the path and to the Pizza Parlor they chatted up a storm. A car passed them by blasting Queen music and Maryanne excitably grabbed Ricky's arm.
"Ricky! That's our song!"
He looked at her confused. "Since when did we have a song?"
"Since now…it's perfect for us." She replied modestly, grasping his hand.
The others chuckled, agreeing with her. Ricky shrugged happily. He lifted Maryanne on the bike seat and wheeled her along. Watching her endearingly, he locked a deep feeling in his heart that day; with his best friend, he would never be alone again.
~Ooh you make me live, whatever this world can give to me…It's you; you're all I see. Ooo, you make me live now honey, Ooo, you make me live! Ooh, you're the best friend that I ever had, I've been with you such a long time…You're my sunshine and I want you to know, that my feelings are true…I really love you…
Oh you're my best friend.
Ooo, you make me live. Ooh, I've been wandering round! But I still come back to you. In rain or shine, you've stood by me girl, I'm happy at home…you're my best friend.
Ooo, you make me live! Whenever this world is cruel to me, I got you to help me forgive. Ooo, you make me live now, honey, Ooo you make me live.
You're the first one when things turn out bad; you know I'll never be lonely… You're my only one… and I love the things, I really love the things that you do!
You're my best friend……~