"I feel like I've slipped on a banana peel, or been hit by lightning or something, you know? Like a tornado picked me up and put me down somewhere foreign, and I don't understand the language here. Because I really don't understand what happened. I mean, how could he just like, out of nowhere, be so cold with me? We walk out the door planning to finally to, you know, and a few hours later we're practically broken up? Who is he, anyway? I mean, I thought I knew him."
"So what's wrong?" Danielle says seriously, reaching for the cereal box and looking over the kitchen table at a moping Angela, "did you not like sex or something?"
"You're really too young to be asking questions like that Danielle." Angela sighs. "We had a fight."
"I am so, never talking to you about sex," Angela tells her " so just stop asking me now. And no, not about sex. Okay?"
"Okay, miss sensitive, okay," she says, slicing a banana into her cereal, "You know Brian's girlfriend dumped him?"
"Poor Brian. Did you see Mom last night?"
"She came down and talked to Ricky for a few minutes about Mr. Katimsky. Then she went back upstairs looking sad. That was it. But she seemed okay."
"She's going to go to a like, therapist regularly, you know? And she says she's going back to work soon."
"Did she say anything about dad?" Danielle asks.
"No, and I don't want to ask her yet." Angela says, staring into her coffee cup.
"So, what did you fight about if it wasn't sex?"
"Him not trusting me? Him not trusting himself? Some idea he has about something that doesn't make any sense?"
"I'm not sure" she says and gets up to call Ricky.
#oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooOOOoooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooo#
"I know, Amber" Patti says into the phone "this is just horribly, horribly wrong."
"Rayanne told me he even tried to bully Brian Krackow, back in the fall, into saying he'd seen Ricky do something wrong," Amber snorts "but Brian managed to stand up to him."
"Well, if any kid could, I guess it would be Brian" Patti says, nodding her head in silent agreement with Ambers snort " I mean he's always been such a little smarty pants, and totally sure of himself as well."
"Rayanne thinks that when Katimsky got those tests for Jordan, that's when he signed his death warrant. Foster's always had it in for Jordan, I guess, and didn't want to have him tested. And when it turned out that Jordan's really smart and has some reading problem that should have been dealt with in fifth grade, well, the teachers were all talking about it and saying what a shame it was, and it really pissed Foster off."
"This just gets worse and worse" Patti says. "But we can't just walk in and tell Mr. Foster he's a bully and to lay off Mr. Katimsky, can we?"
"Not really. But I think we should try to do something."
"Graham said he was willing to go in and talk to him. I guess I could do that too. Do you want to go along?"
"Count me in" Amber says "and let's ask Bernice to come in with us. She'll be good."
"You're right, she will be, if she'll come. And maybe Camille, Sharon's mom. But what are we going to say?"
"We'll figure it out together."
"All right. Talk to you soon."
Patti puts the phone down and wonders if there's any hope of influencing the principal. A mental image of parents protesting, carrying signs saying "Gay Rights" and "Keep Katimsky" rises up in her imagination, and then the image is filled with flashing news cameras and an opposing group screaming rabidly to crucify gay teachers. That's probably 's Mr Katimsky's worst nightmare, she thinks. No wonder it's so easy for Foster to get away with this.
#oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooOOOOOOoooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooo#
"Daddy!" Danielle shouts, hurling herself into his arms as he walks into the kitchen.
"Hi Honey" he says, picking her up and then groaning, "You're getting too big for this. Or I'm getting too old."
"Probably too old" Angela says, walking up to kiss his cheek. "Hi dad."
It's the first time they've seen each other since that afternoon in the restaurant, that afternoon really not so long ago when she'd told Jordan she loved him, that afternoon that feels centuries ago now, and she looks at her dad and smiles; a small, sad smile, but still, a smile.
He lowers Danielle to the floor and puts his arm around Angela's shoulder, giving her a little squeeze.
"Where's your mother?" he says "upstairs?"
When they both nod he thinks about going up, but then he thinks he doesn't wants to go into that room right now, that room that used to be his bedroom, that "room of gloom," as Angela called it recently.
"She knew I was coming over" he says, looking at Danielle "go up and tell her I'm here, okay honey? I'll wait out on the front porch."
"It's your house too, dad" Angela says, watching Danielle start up the steps "you don't have to wait outside."
"I just want some fresh air," he says, looking at her appreciatively, his arm still around her shoulder "How are you doing, Angela?"
"Oh, dad" she says, and tears up.
"I know honey," he tells her, as she lays her head on his shoulder "sometimes it's just hard, that's all."
"Listen sweetheart," he says, after a pause, "I promise to never mention this again, but I went into Dr. Skolnick's office last week and talked to her. Whenever you decide you need birth control just go get it, okay?"
"I'm never going to need it dad" she says and starts to cry a little harder.
"Right" Graham says, smiling to himself and tightening his arm around her "of course not. But just in case."
#oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooOOOOooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooo#
Graham knows that something major has shifted the minute Patti walks out onto the porch. This isn't the sobbing or collapsed Patti of the past few weeks, but it's not the cold, preoccupied Patti, the brisk, busy, competent Patti, the brightly smiling Patti, or the tightly wound over emotional Patti either. It's none of the Patti's he's gotten used to seeing, and at the same time it's not somebody entirely new. He stares at her and sees a Patti with some of her outer layers peeled off, someone who's always been there, someone slightly subdued and softened, but solid too, someone he's always loved.
She sits down on the swing, where she'd sat last week with Tino's dad, and looks at Graham, standing just where Tino's dad had stood, and something that could almost be the beginning of a smile starts to happen.
"So, hi" she says.
"New York is kind of tempting..?" Jordan thinks to himself, sitting on his front porch with a cup of coffee in his hand, trying to figure out what happened last night, the sting and the irony of handing his condoms to Brian Krackow fresh in his mind. "I thought…I mean, what did she think, I'm gonna go live in New York and go to college with her? She like knows, I want to live in the mountains. I mean it was practically the first thing I ever told her."
He guesses she probably wants to end up with someone who does go to college. That's only fair, he thinks. That makes sense. She should be with someone who wants what she wants. He tells himself that they never made plans for the future together, that he never wanted to talk about plans, so maybe they won't end up together in the long term. How he feels about that though….he thinks of being in the kitchen with her every night, of holding her close to him on the couch after and he feels like he wants that for the rest of his life, like he can't stand thinking about the two of them not being together, of her being with someone else.
"Maybe sometimes how you feel about people doesn't change how things are?" "Where the fuck did that come from, anyhow?"
"So maybe I didn't tell her the best way. I told her the like, truth, and if that means we have to break up sooner instead of later, at least I did the right thing."
Doing the right thing doesn't seem like much comfort right now, though. He remembers everything he's done these last few months, every way he's tried to show her what she means to him, how sure he'd been that she felt that way too.
He shakes his head angrily when his eyes start to fill up with tears. Angela loves him, he knows she does, and he knows how he feels about her, too. Maybe it's better if they do break up now and just get used to it. Maybe they should try and stay together, knowing it's not forever. Maybe he should just think about going to college.
Maybe all three of those ideas suck. Maybe they each break his heart in a slightly different way.
"They're sitting close to each other" Danielle says, coming back into the kitchen "he's holding her hand. But I can't see their faces."
"Stop spying, Danielle."
"Don't you want to know? What's happening? If they're going to make up?"
"It's their business" Angela tells her, and starts to cry again.
"We should probably tell them together" Patti says "I think I saw Danielle peeking out here a minute ago."
"Are you sure about this?"
"I think so" she says slowly. "There is one more thing though."
"I want to start going to church. I know you don't want to, but I do, and if the girls want to go with me, I want them to."
"Do you think I'm going to argue with you about that?" he asks, puzzled, "Go to church, Patti, if you want to."
"I want you to respect it" she says seriously, looking him in the eye. "Even if you don't respect the church, exactly, or even what it says, I want you to respect the part of me that wants to go."
"You got it," he says, looking back at her, a little startled, "I do."
"So." She takes a deep breath. "We'll start counseling the end of this week, and then we can talk about you moving back in."
She leans back into the swing while Graham leans forward and buries his head in his hands.
"I'm never going to cheat on you Patti. I promise."
"I hope not," she says, "but it's going to take a lot more than that from both of us."
"I get it now" Rayanne is saying that evening, sitting at the head of Angela's bed and waving her arms in the air while Ricky smiles and watches her from the other end "I mean, totally. I get what the big fuss is all about. Finally!"
She rolls onto her back and kicks her legs up in the air, and then rolls over onto her side and curls up next to Angela.
"Corey Helfrick deserves the frigging medal of honor" she laughs "the f'ing purple heart."
"So what about emotional involvement?" Angela says, with a smile in her voice "does he deserve that?"
"I don't know." She buries her head in Angela's pillow and then pops back up, laughing. "Maybe. What the hell?"
"Tell her about Brian" Angela says to Ricky.
"Last seen leaving Louie's with a slightly drunk, all over him, Catholic school girl."
"No!" Rayanne squeals.
"Yes" they both say, giggling.
"And Ricky got kissed" Angela says happily, watching him get happy and embarrassed at the same time.
"Nobody can know" he tells them.
"You're really okay with that? Two more weeks of seeing him walk down the hall holding Judy Winters hand?" Rayanne asks him, concerned, "you really think it's fair?"
"I think it's how it has to be right now. He says it's been winding down anyhow and that as soon as school's out, he'll find a way to break up. He doesn't want to hurt her, after all this time. And people can't know about us if he's going to coach at Pride House this summer."
He looks at them both and smiles. "It was a really good kiss" he says. "I'm happy, you know?"
"Okay" Rayanne says "then we're happy for you, right Angelica?"
"Only problem," she continues, "Ricky got kissed but you got missed? Sorry about taking over the loft."
She tries to stay serious but then she starts giggling again. "Not really."
"You can't take this fight thing too hard," she says, looking at a suddenly subdued Angela, "it was probably just frustration or something – the poor guy's been waiting forever."
Angela looks like she's going to start crying again and Ricky grabs her hand "Look, maybe she's right. The two of you love each other. What could college have to do with it?"
"You weren't there. It was like all of a sudden, he just went mean on me. Like it was some argument about his life, and he was just informing me, "oh, by the way." Like it was none of my business but at the same time he was angry at me."
"You'll work it out, Angela." Rayanne tells her "it can't be happening for all of us and not you. And if it doesn't we can have a like, menagerie a trois."
"Menage, Rayanne. Menage a trois." Ricky tells her.
"Right. Whatever. We won't leave you all alone."
"I don't know what I'll do if he breaks up with me" she says, and her voice is shaking, "I think I'll die."
"Just breathe, okay. It's going to be okay" Rayanne tells her, and for a minute no one says anything.
"So what exactly are your mom's doing at Krackows, anyway?" Ricky says.
"Brian?" Bernice Krackow says, standing in her son's bedroom doorway and using a voice that makes him think he'd better just go across the street for a while, "is it true that Principal Foster actually threatened your academic career at the beginning of the school year?"
"Let him cut it, Brian!" Angela says, standing in her kitchen a half hour later.
"Brain, your hair is holding you back" Rayanne Graf says, grimacing.
"She's right, you know." Ricky says, holding the scissors and shaking his head "That whole thing last night at Louie's? You have no idea how different you looked with your hair slicked back and wearing Jordan's jacket."
Brian stands in the Chase kitchen, blinking in confusion.
"What difference does it make how I look?" he says and watches the three of them roll their eyes in exasperation.
"Listen Braino" Rayanne says threateningly "did you or did you not enjoy yourself with that Bishop O'Dowd girl?"
"Tessy?" he says, blushing up to his eyebrows and thinking that enjoy seems like a pretty tepid word for describing his um, experience with Tessy.
"Tessy?" Angela says, looking actually jealous, "that's who you were with?"
"Don't pay any attention to them Brian." Danielle says angrily "I like your hair the way it is."
That does it.
"Thanks Danielle" he says, and then he looks at Ricky and nods.
"Okay" he says "go ahead."
"After this, we go through your closet" Ricky tells him.
#oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooooooooOO Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooo#
"There's the strangest smell in the house", Angela thinks, waking up and blinking in the morning sunlight.
"Mom?" she says, walking out of her bedroom and down the hall in her pajamas, "What's that smell?"
She follows her nose, sniffing at something that reminds her of weed but isn't, through the open door of her mother's room. All the windows are wide open, the morning sunlight is streaming in, and Patti is holding a smoking bunch of dried herb, waving it up and down.
"I'm burning sage" her mom says, "to purify the room. Amber gave it to me last night."
"Really? Maybe it's working. It feels a lot better in here."
"It seemed worth a try," Patti says, smiling a little crookedly, "It's called smudging. Drives out the negative influences and evil spirits."
"Can we try it on me?" Angela asks, sitting down on her mother's bed, "I was thinking about staying home today."
"Are you getting sick?" Patti says, looking concerned, as she turns and wafts the sage stick up and down in front of her daughter.
"I think I just want a personal health day. I can study better for finals if I just stay home."
"Did you have a fight with Jordan?" Patti asks and watches Angela look at the floor and nod.
"Well, staying home isn't always the best way to deal with things, sweetheart" she says seriously "but I don't see how I can say no to that after all my weeks in bed, so okay, just this once. "
"I'm not going to be here today though." Patti says, while she sets the sage down on a saucer and stands in front of her closet, thinking she doesn't want to wear most of these clothes anymore, "I'm going in to the press this morning and then after lunch Bernice and Amber and Camille and your father and I are all stopping by your school to try and arrange a meeting with Principal Foster."
"Are you going to try and help Mr. Katimsky?" Angela asks.
"Yes." Patti says, pulling out an old dress she used to like and holding it up to herself, "Exactly. We're going to try."
"Oh mom" Angela says, getting up and hugging her.
"Well, it's like we said before" Patti tells her, holding her close, "you've got to choose your battles."
"Right. I couldn't agree more."
"So is Danielle up yet?" Patti says "I thought maybe I'd take her out to breakfast and then drop her off at school. A special, mom's finally out of bed, kind of thing."
She looks at Angela a little shyly, "do you think she'd like that?"
"I think she'll love it."
"Do you want to come along?"
"Thanks mom. Another time, okay? I just want to stay home. And I think it will be nice for Danielle to have you to herself."
"Okay sweetheart" Patti says, looking at Angela wistfully, "another time. Promise?"
"Promise" she tells her mom solemnly, nodding and smiling fondly.
#oooooooooooooooooooooooooOOO oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo #
He feels a little sick to his stomach getting out of the car, but he's got to do this, he thinks.
"Jordan" an excited Danielle shouts, running down the steps and up to him "Hi. We're going out to breakfast."
"Oh. Okay." he leans up against the car, figuring he'll wait and say hello to her at least, let her know he showed.
"Jordan" Patti says, coming out the door a second later, walking towards him "I'm so glad to see you. I'm going in to the press this morning. My dad says you've just been an incredible help there."
"I've really, um, been liking it" he says, standing away from the car and looking at her curiously, because this is a different Angela's mom than the one he knew a month ago. For a second, out of nowhere, he remembers Tino's dad, that day at the courthouse, and then the memory is past and he sees Patti, looking up at him, seriously, warmly, and he thinks he sees a little bit of Angela in her face.
"I know you've been an incredible help here too" she tells him. "Angela told me you've even helped her keep the kitchen clean, and driven her around and picked things up. Really I can't thank you enough."
"Uh, sure" he mumbles, embarrassed, "it was no big deal."
"Mom, can we go?" Danielle says, impatiently, and Patti looks down at her and smiles.
"Yes, just a second, okay?" She looks back at him.
"So you're planning on working this summer, right?" Patti asks. "I'll be coming back in, but my dad says he still wants to come in too, at least part time over the summer. He wants to get you set up working letterpress."
"Yeah, if that's, you know, good with you – I'm going to go to summer school and stuff. And your dad said he'd show my friend too. Um, Corey. He wants to work with linoleum cuts and try out using a split fountain."
"That's sophisticated stuff. Beautiful color gradients. Great for invitations and announcements."
"Yeah, well. I kinda like the letterpress so far. And Corey's artistic, like, so.."
"See you later, Jordan" Patti says "Angela's in the house. She's not feeling so well. Wasn't, that is." She smiles at him.
"Oh. Okay. ..bye."
He feels a little confused by it all, especially the idea of working for Angela's mother. He wonders if they'll still want him there if he and Angela break up. Josh will always take him back at the garage, he thinks, but he'd been telling the truth about liking the letterpress and Corey's really stoked about the whole summer thing. He shakes himself out of his thoughts and manages to wave goodbye to Patti and Danielle as they get in the car and then he walks up the sidewalk and the steps, and rings the doorbell.
She stands in the door in her bare feet, wearing jeans and a pajama top, like she's not finished getting dressed yet, and looks at him like she's surprised to see him.
"You're not going to school?" he says, mainly just to say something.
"Not in the mood" she tells him without much expression on her face, and then she stands to the side, letting him know he can come in, so he does, closing the door behind her, following her into the kitchen.
"So" she says coolly, picking up her coffee cup, and gesturing for him to help himself, "are you here to break up with me officially or something?"
He hates it when she's all prickly like this, but of course he should have known it was what he was walking into.
"I'm here to see you" he says as calmly as he can "I was gonna give you a ride to school, I thought."
"Well, I wasn't planning on that, you know. I mean being included in your life, and your car and your drive to school" she says sarcastically "I mean how was I supposed to know I was included in your plans?"
"Angela, I don't have any plans. I mean okay, I made a plan about graduating, and I thought it was the right one. I didn't mean to like, shut you out or something. I just wanted to make my own like, decision, you know?"
"Well, yeah" she says, trying to get rid of the mean sound in her voice. She's not sure why she has to sound so mean when what she really wants is to throw herself at him, and as soon as she thinks that, she knows why, because she starts to sniffle instead. "oh shit!"
"Why'd you get so angry?" she asks him, and now she likes that wimpy voice even less than she'd liked the sarcastic one.
He seems to like it a little better though, because he stops frowning so hard and reaches out for her hand, which she lets him have reluctantly.
"It's just um, I knew you'd probably want me to go to college" he says, swinging her hand a little nervously and not looking at her, "and that's because you're gonna go to college and you probably want to be with someone who's going too and it makes me like, sorry that I won't be what you want, you know? "
"What?" she says, and when her hand moves a little in his, holding on, it gives him the courage to go on.
"Ange, I hate the idea that we can't be together for like, maybe, you know, a long time, and"
He'd wanted to say forever, but it wouldn't come out.
"Why couldn't we be?" she says, really softly, leaning closer to him.
"Because you should have what you want. I mean college and New York and the kind of life you want. And I couldn't you know, do that with you. Probably."
She almost wonders if this is all some elaborate excuse for breaking up with her, because it just seems so utterly impossible that he doesn't know she'd die without him, but she also knows him well enough now to understand that what he's actually doing is telling her the truth as he sees it.
"You're what I want" she says, leaning her forehead against his shoulder "you're everything I want."
"I know" he says helplessly "me too. But things will change, and I'm afraid"
"Don't be" she says, reaching up and interrupting him with a soft kiss "please don't be."
"So he just held me for a while after that, and we didn't talk or say anything. We just sort of stood there together until our bodies being close made us like, safe again, and then I think we both kind of realized that we were actually, like alone in the house, you know, together. As in alone together in the house, you know?"
"So did you come over here to break up with me?" she says again, but this time there's a smile in her voice.
"Come on. You know I don't want to break up."
"You should have talked to me about this before you made up some whole story in your head."
"I guess" he says softly, touching her hair, "but you would have tried to get me to stay in school and go to college, I think."
"Probably" she admits, snuggling closer into his body with a little sigh "but at least we could have just fought about that instead of getting all confused about other stuff."
"Yeah. Maybe you're right."
"Yeah?" she grins up at him for a second and then feels everything becoming crystal clear, because all at once she knows exactly what's happening now and what's going to happen next.
"So do you want to go to school this morning?" she says, pushing herself up against him gently and taking little steps forward, walking him backwards, towards the stairs.
"Not without you" he says, pausing at the landing, looking straight into her eyes.
"Me neither," she says, looking back at him, putting her hands on his arms, pushing him backwards up the first stair, "I don't want to go anywhere without you either. Ever."
She watches him take in what she's said, how the smile moves across his face in slow motion.
"Yeah? Good," he says, not taking his eyes off hers, "cause that's what I want too. You think we can keep it that way?"
She feels herself nodding, staring into his eyes, losing herself there and finding something she hadn't even begun to hope for.
"Umhum" she says breathily, feeling him turn them both around and fold his arms around her so that now her back is leaning into his chest while he walks them up the stairs.
"Umhum?" he almost whispers against her ear, and she can feel the whole world spinning around them and how perfect it is to be right here in his arms.
"Yeah, umhum" she says laughing, tilting her head around and up to see him smiling back at her, "as in, like, I do."
So for a moment things are hopeful for everyone, which is how I want to leave them. I may someday correct my grammatical errors and typos and rewrite chapter one, but then again, maybe not.
Thanks to all of you for reading. Special thanks to those of you who reviewed and sent personal messages, letting me know you actually liked it, and extra special thanks to the writers who love these characters and try to write well.