PART TWO

"Adam"

(Further excerpts from the diary of Iris…)

2-09-04

The make or break week for the art therapy class, and bright and early I had my table and signup sheet ready, with a big poster on working with kids. As I wrote before, I was ready to accept anyone, but to my surprise the only volunteer was Joan Girardi. She and Adam were walking down the hall when she saw my poster and immediately signed up, no questions asked. I was a little surprised by that but not as surprised when she introduced herself as if she didn't know I existed. Then I realized…she doesn't have a clue who I am. I managed to cover my surprise and introduce myself while wondering just how oblivious is Joan? We are in our second semester of French class together, we take geometry together this semester and I was at her house for the big party! (Okay, there I was a face in the crowd.) I guess what threw me the most is that I was so sure I was making a fairly big splash on the high school scene this year – especially compared to all of my other years at school. But no, 'Crazy Joan', whom virtually the whole school knows about, hasn't noticed my existence.

But to my surprise, the someone who has noticed me is Adam Rove. He asked if I were in 5th period art, and said he hadn't noticed me before…but in a way and with a smile that meant the opposite. All of this time that I thought I was invisible to Adam, he has been aware of my presence. I played it as cool as I could while Adam complimented my wire hangers pin, and sort of flirted with me (much to Joan's annoyance). I was going to explain in detail what sort of thing she was signing up for, but Joan hastily steered Adam away. When they were gone, I couldn't help smiling like an idiot as I thought of Adam…

Next big surprise of the day was in art class – the school has hired Mrs. Girardi to be our new teacher. The first thing she did was to throw away Ms Jankow's seating chart and said we could sit wherever we want. Feeling very bold, I immediately moved over next to Adam. Mrs. Girardi has a completely different teaching style, and I think we will all benefit from her being our new teacher.

Other than that, the only thing to report is that Glynis is still on Cloud 9 over her and Luke now being a couple. (There was far too much detail as she described the two of them and their date over the weekend, which finished with a major make out session.)

X X X X X

2-10-04

Tuesday night and Joan's first evening as a volunteer. I was there to show her the ropes, and try to get her to understand how sensitive we have to be with these kids and their problems. I don't think I really got thru as she described it all as being "Cool.". Still, Joan did seem to adapt quickly and the kids seemed okay with her (even tho I think I heard her call one little girl a jerk?) Anyway, Joan stuck it out for the whole night and managed not to freak out no matter how harsh the things she heard from the kids. I have her scheduled to work this Thursday and Friday, so maybe Mom and Price will get off my back about putting in too many hours on this project.

X X X X X

2-11-04

What a day! Adam Rove asked me out! It seems he has an extra ticket for the White Stripes concert on Thursday (are they brother and sister?), and asked if I wanted to go. I resisted the urge to leap with joy and shout: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Instead I asked about him and Joan. Would it be a problem if the two of us went out? Adam admitted he originally got the tickets for him and Joan, but since she is volunteering Thursday night, she can't go. (I would have felt guilty about that if I had known.) But, Adam said he and Joan have a definite understanding that they are just friends. I have my doubts about that, especially since I saw that kiss between them at the science fair, but I wasn't going to trip myself up by being too cautious. I gave Adam a definite yes, and we made our plans for Thursday night.

But…I had to be sure. Later in the day I tracked down Joan and asked her bluntly if this was going to be a problem because I sensed a couple's vibe between them. Like Adam, she denied they were a couple – the just friends line again. Joan asked if I liked Adam, and one more time I toned it down. Instead of admitting that I had been crushing on Adam practically from the first day of school, I said I liked him enough to go to a concert for a band I didn't really care for. Joan moved on hastily after that, and I still had my doubts, but I don't care. This is my shot with the cutest, most talented guy in school and I'm going for it!

One grey spot on the day, Glynis was boo-hooing in the girl's room because Luke snapped at her over some trivial matter. I felt sorry for Glynis – picking on her is like stomping on a defenseless animal like a puppy or a bunny. Even so, this also kind of irritated me. She so needs to stand up for herself, and I hinted that she shouldn't take that kind of behavior from Luke. Glynis actually trembled at the idea of standing up to him. (I have to remember this is Glynis' first relationship and she hasn't realized the guy doesn't have all of the power.)

X X X X X

2-12-04

Hogan County Forum, and the White Stripes concert (which was way better than I expected). Had a great time, we travelled in Adam's father's pickup truck (after he did the obligatory meeting with Mom). I have never enjoyed being with a guy as much as I enjoyed tonight. I held onto Adam's arm most of the time, and he kept smiling at me in a way that made me weak in the knees. It all went by much too fast, and soon Adam was driving me home. (We debated whether the White Stripes pair are brother and sister or a couple.) We parked in front of the apartment building, I thanked Adam for a great time, and…he kissed me (twice). Perfect.

X X X X X

2-13-04

Today I'm the one floating on Cloud 9 (really, most of day I felt like I was floating because I was so happy). Not even Mrs. Girardi continued criticism of my latest art project could bring me down. Adam and I (love writing that) had lunch with Glynis and Luke, who have patched up their little quarrel. (Glynis confided to me that Luke apologized for his behavior, saying the process of romantic love was causing a hormonal tidal wave that was disrupting his normal thought patterns. I thought that a weird way to put it, but Glynis interrupted his statement as an: 'I love you'.) The way Glynis has started to cling to Luke, and placing her happiness at his whim to raise or lower has me worried, but who am I to criticize? Adam's level of attention has a similar affect on me.

Friday night, and I have to gather the various drawings the kids have done this week so they can be examined by the Oak Street counselors tomorrow. It is Joan's night, but I intended to just pop in and out (with a plan for Adam to walk me home). I've been doing so much better lately, but the shock of what I saw completely threw me. Joan had a pinata hung up and the kids were whacking it with a stick. I had a major flashback to Dad hitting me and Mom… I completely lost it. I began yelling for them to stop, and when Joan protested my reaction…I let slip the 'secret'. All of those years of hiding the truth and I just blurted it out about how Dad use to beat us with a stick…

I ran into the hall and began sobbing, just like most of the other volunteers have done. I was trembling from the flashbacks, and feeling ashamed of myself for adding more drama to the kid's lives when Joan came out to apologize. Of course she didn't know why I told the kids not to make a pinata, and just thought they would have fun, which they were. My problem. Not Joan's fault, who was really kind and sympathetic. She even managed to cheer me up by distracting me about the concert and saying the White Stripes pair are not brother and sister.

After I calmed down, I went back in and said I was sorry to the kids. I told them they could continue with the pinata, but they all showed remarkable understanding and said they were done hitting things. I stayed (after phoning Adam that I would be running late). Joan and I got along pretty good after that, and I have to admit that this side of her is such that I can see why people like her despite her 'craziness'. By the time Adam picked me up, I was back to normal, and we walked home holding hands. At my front door he told me he liked me and thought I was really pretty. Then…a truly romantic kiss.

X X X X X

2-14-04

Went over to Adam's house (by invitation) to see his 'art studio'. Okay, a converted garden shed. It's a fascinating place, and I wish I had this much room for my own artwork. We worked on our assignment for next week's class - an introspective self portrait. I used a mirror to sketch the back of my head (because I've spent so many years turned away from the world). Adam was very encouraging and even made a couple of helpful suggestions. He said he wasn't really feeling the assignment, so he was going a different way with a freestyle sculpture using an old catalytic converter. I thought it turned out great. I would have stayed longer, but I have a babysitting job tonight with the Kerberts. (We did manage to get in a little make-out time before I left. Adam is such a great kisser!)

X X X X X

2-15-04

After church Mom had Price over for a Sunday meal. Every time he is here I am nervous someone from school will notice, but the news he had killed any other worries. Price said he got a heads-up that the county has decided the art therapy class isn't worth the expense, especially considering how much trouble we've had getting a good turnout of volunteers. Monday is the last day. I was so upset, I cried. I know on paper it looks like the project hasn't been successful, but the bureaucrats making this decision didn't see the progress we were making. Mom gave me a hug and said she was proud of all I had done, and even Price was sympathetic. He said he thought the project was worthwhile, and was sorry to see it go.

Later that evening I met with Adam and we took a walk while I poured out my misery about the failed art therapy class. Adam was very sympathetic, and said I at least deserved an 'A' for effort. I jokingly said I should start calling him 'A' for Adam. He said it was okay with him, and that he too was sorry my very worthy project for helping kids failed. Next thing I know, I'm telling him the truth of why this project was so important to me. I told him about my Dad, the beatings and how my old man is now in prison. I've never dared admit this to a guy before, and I wasn't sure how Adam would take it, but he was so cool about it. It's like he truly understands how much life can suck. For a long time Adam just held me in his arms, and it seemed as if the pain of my life just flowed away.

X X X X X

2-16-04

I called Denise and Joan about the cancelled art therapy class, and after tonight that will be that. Adam and I brought in our completed art projects, and paused to speak to Joan and Grace. I'm getting an 'attitude' vibe from Joan, but I choose to ignore it. I expected going into this relationship there might be problems there, and since Joan's friendship is important to A, I'll pretend everything is okay.

Mrs. Girardi was complimentary about my self-portrait sketch, but she came down kind of hard on Adam, calling his work naive and folk art like. Adam tried to defend his position, creating what is in his heart, but Mrs. G. was not satisfied and told Adam to try again. He must have taken the criticism badly because he was very down the rest of the day and would barely talk.

The last art therapy class was bittersweet. The kids were so nice, and all gave me hugs, telling me they would miss me. I managed not to cry until they were all gone for the night. It seemed like such a good idea.

X X X X X

2-17-04

Adam and I made quite a depressed pair today. He's still down about the way Mrs. Girardi criticized his sculpture, and I'm down about the end of the art therapy class. I guess misery does love company because we mostly leaned on each other in a quiet, I feel your pain sort of way. Glynis and Luke continue in hormonal bliss, and even Joan seemed distracted by something. (She was arguing with the kid who wears the school mascot costume.)

X X X X X

2-19-04

Crazy Joan is at it again. Apparently she helped the new girl that she has been hanging with to enroll at Arcadia High illegally (she even supplied fake documentation). The new girl, something Caspar, ran out of the school, and now Price is demanding the truth from Joan or he will suspend her. Luke was absent from school today because he was at a take-your-kid-to-work thing, and Glynis was down right weepy about it. As for my own love life, Adam has been very moody, and I got to see how he worked out his anger over the criticism of his last project. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn't listen. The result, a sculpture centered around torn photos of himself and Mrs. Girardi. There is definitely more there than student/teacher, because you don't set out to hurt someone that way if you don't care. (Weird logic, but it's true.)

X X X X X

2-20-04

A better end to the week than how it started. Luke is back and Glynis is all smiles again. Joan isn't being suspended because she and her parents informed Price that the Karen Caspar girl is homeless, and Joan was just trying to help her friend. (This is Joan, the enigma who can be so nice in one moment and so mean or indifferent in the next. I'm hoping I can eventually get on her nice side.) Adam is better after having apologized to Mrs. Girardi, and settling things between them. He even felt so good, he is taking me out on a regular date of pizza and a movie at the Rialto. (Good thing I like the old film noir movies he likes since the Rialto literally stinks.) I don't really mind...I have a boyfriend!

X X X X X

2-21-04

I'm not sure how, but Uncle Billy heard that I was dating Adam and wanted to meet him. (He never bothered to meet Steve Zackheim.) So, I politely asked (hinting broadly that he didn't have to) if A would like to meet my uncle. Adam took it well, understanding that Uncle Billy sees himself as standing in for my Dad while he is 'away'. If I have to go thru this, I'd much prefer Uncle Billy do the meet-the-boyfriend thing than Dad. I was concerned Uncle Billy wouldn't get along with an artistic guy like Adam, but I was wrong. Turns out Uncle Billy knows Adam's dad - they are in the same bowling league. Uncle Billy has even seen some of the pieces Adam has on display in his front yard. That led them to discussing welding (TIG vs MIG?), and Uncle Billy's hobby of carving duck decoys (Adam even gave him some hints on how to make the paint jobs on the ducks look more realistic). While Adam was on a bathroom break, Uncle Billy confided that he knows I wasn't asking for his approval, but he is giving it anyway. He likes Adam. (Will wonders never cease?)

X X X X X

2-22-04

Turnabout is fair play, so brunch today at the Rove house to meet A's dad, Karl. Nice guy. I really liked him, and he cooks a great omelet. In the afternoon Adam and I drove out to Mercer Creek for some sketching of the winter landscape (class assignment). Adam complimented my efforts, but we both know he is the one with the great talent. I'm glad the heater in the old pickup works well as we spent as much time making out as we did sketching.

X X X X X

2-23-04

Start of another week but my usual Monday blahs are gone (the advantage of having a boyfriend). Adam and I turned in our winter sketches, and Mrs. Girardi was very complimentary, especially to me for my "Marked improvement". Maybe hanging with A is making me a better artist? Or maybe I'm just trying harder in order to keep up with my boyfriend. (Love that word.) We had lunch with Glynis and Luke again, even tho they barely got in a few bites of food between all of the kissing they do. I'm so glad Adam is like me, not into the P.D.A. thing. I mean, I love kissing him and...other stuff, but not in public. More than hand holding weirds me out.

X X X X X

2-26-04

Okay, I was studying for the French test tomorrow when I got an e-mail alert. It was on the school's site, meant for Arcadia High students to interact with each other safely, so I didn't notice that it was an anonymous piece of spam. It was a picture of Joan Girardi in her underwear, taken in the girl's locker room at school. I called Glynis and she had the 4-1-1. These two girls, Angela and Laurie, were trying out a new camera phone and snapped a picture of Joan while she was changing for gym class. I know those two by reputation - a couple of snooty bitches who think they are so popular, and all others are beneath them. Poor Joan. If this went out to everyone at school, she will be humiliated. In days gone by I would have thought she deserved it, but now that I'm getting to know her, I feel sorry for what she will go thru tomorrow at school.

X X X X X

2-27-04

As expected, it was a hard day for Joan at school. In French class she seemed so distracted, I don't think she even made it thru the whole test. Everyone was whispering and pointing at her as she walked down the hallways (especially the guys). That spam e-mail did go out to every student at school. Adam also got it but deleted it immediately (he claims). I better not find it as his screen saver! Learned a few more details about how it all happened. Joan was standing up for that Quaker girl Sara, which I thought was brave of her, but Angela and Laurie rewarded her courage with humiliation. (It was really disgusting the way some of the boys were leering at Joan.) I tried to be supportive, but Joan just snapped at me. I'm letting that go because I understand the pressure she is under.

The TV news had a horrible report this evening. A 72 year old man lost control of his car and slammed into a crowd of people at the Farmer's Market. Dozens were injured and six people were killed...including 18 month old Jill Kerbert. That sweet child...gone. Why God?

X X X X X

2-28-04

Uncle Billy drove me to the Weston Funeral home, where I paid my respects to the Kerbert family. I didn't stay long, it was too sad to endure. Such a tiny casket. I can't imagine the pain the family is going thru. I'm only the babysitter, and I'm torn up about this. Three year old Amy gave me a hug and said she was glad to see me. She said her mommy is sad because her sister is in that box. At least Amy isn't old enough to understand just how bad this situation is. I told Mrs. Kerbert that if she needs me to watch Amy at any time, I'm available. Managed to not cry until I was outside.

A and I had plans to go to a gallery showing for local artists, but Adam said he would understand if I wanted to cancel due to what happened. But no, I desperately needed a distraction. I'm glad I went, not only for the distraction but because Mrs. Girardi had a couple of paintings on display (which were really good). The entire Girardi family was there and Adam introduced me to Mr. Girardi (actually, Captain Girardi - a detective with the county sheriff's office), and Joan's older brother, Kevin (who works for the Herald). Joan was reasonably polite to me, but she seemed distracted by her mother's behavior (Mrs. G. snorts when she laughs).

X X X X X

2-29-04

Mrs. Kerbert called me early today and took me up on my offer to watch Amy. Mom understood why I had to miss church, and I spent most of the day with Amy while the rest of her family attended little Jill's funeral. Amy is aware that somthing is very wrong, but she doesn't really seem to understand that Jill is gone forever. She wanted to talk about the day of the accident and how scary it was, but she hasn't made the connection with that event and her missing sister...or so I thought. Out of the blue she announced: "Jill is dead and I'll never see her again." I was prepared to try to comfort her, but there wasn't the emotion you'd expect from someone older. Amy knows the words, but the reality escapes her.

X X X X X

3-1-04

Back to the world of high school, and Joan is at it again. I heard from Glynis by way of Luke that his sister is now a drummer in the school band. With all that's going on in her life you would think this is odd timing, but the truly odd thing...Joan doesn't play the drums. Apparently, for reasons no one knows, she is bluffing her way thru the experience. Meanwhile, Grace is trying to organize an act of revenge against Angela for taking Joan's picture in the locker room - roping in all of Joan's friends as allies (which thru Adam includes me). We are all willing to help, but the one that seems hardest to convince is Joan, who keeps waffling back and forth on whether to go for it. All of the art class students were outraged by the scathing review 'style editor' Andy Reese gave to Mrs. Girardi's acrylic paintings. We did our best to cheer her up, and I think our efforts helped.

X X X X X

3-2-04

Joan is on crutches. It seems she had some sort of accident while doing laundry (?) and sprained her ankle. I tired to get details thru the usual Glynis/Luke connection, but Luke was reluctant, almost embarassed to discuss the matter. At lunch we gathered on the steps in the main hall to plan Joan's revenge on Angela, and she is finally on board as we explained we will being doing it for her. Joan seemed remarkably ungrateful, and was down right rude to me. I don't know, I'm trying to be her friend because of Adam, but she doesn't make it easy. I suppose the pain in her ankle is making her grumpier than usual, but it really makes me wish I could just tell her off. (Why am I so reluctant to speak up? Is it because I still suspect that Adam wants her more than he does me? Hoping that the longer A and I are together, and he 'apart' from Joan, the less her hold on him.) In the meantime, for Adam's sake, I continue on Joan's side.

Here's an odd story from out of the Arcadia Herald. Mom's boss, Mrs. Cooper, is not only the dean of fine arts at Arcadia College, but also a board member of the Arcadia Philharmonic. Seven months ago when the Apex factory moved to Mexico, the company stopped its' corporate sponsorship of the philharmonic. Everyone knows the group has been struggling, and Andy Reese (yeah, the style editor jerk who publicly trashed Mrs. G.'s paintings) has been getting close to Dean Cooper as his source on the inside. Turns out she gave 'Andy' the exclusive scoop prior to this morning's press conference that the philharmonic is shutting down. The story was suppose to run in this morning's Herald but didn't appear. Turns out, a fact checker at the paper held up the story because not all sources could be verified. (I got this thru Mom via her boss by way of Reese.) The fact checker who screwed over Reese...Kevin Girardi. (It looks like revenge is the theme for the Girardi family this week.)

X X X X X

3-3-04

The big day for Joan's revenge. Friedman, despite the fact Joan hit him with a pen when he was mocking her with one of the underwear photos that have been circulating, hacked into Angela's computer, killing the original source of the picture (which now has Joan's head but Christie Brinkley's body). I think Friedman went along out of friendship for Luke, and fear of saying 'no' to Grace (who can be very persuasive). Friedman managed to hack Angela's diary, and she has the habit of trashing everyone during her time of private thoughts (no big surprise there). We set up the act of revenge in the cafeteria, and Friedman gave me a few printouts to read that he said started with some hilariously embarassing entries. I didn't have time to proofread as Angela came storming into the cafeteria ready to kill Friedman. All was going as planned (even Angela's B.F.F. Laurie was mad at her), when I stood up and began reading from Angela's diary. At first it was funny and humiliating, giving back Angela a taste of her own medicine, but then it went horribly wrong. I blurted out the part about Angela's mother having breast cancer...and I was so stunned I didn't have sense enough to stop. Fortunately Joan stopped me as we all realized, while Angela was in tears, we had gone way too far.

After school A and I rode the bus back to his place and hung out in his studio. We were pretty subdued as the enormity of what we did sank in. We all wanted to help Joan (even me, because Angela was so mean to her), but we never meant for it to go this way. Poor Angela left school right after the 'incident', and everyone was feeling sympathetic despite what she said about them in her diary. (When I think about someone finding this diary and making it public, I shudder.) We have violated Angela, abused her in a way that reminds me of my own life and I feel ashamed. Adam and I sat quietly for a long time, not knowing what to say or do. I guess this is one of those life lesson moments when you get slapped with wisdom but wish you could have learned it the easy way. (Last week's sermon in church...vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.)

Extra entry. I was woke up by my cell phone tonight, it was Adam. I told hime it was awfully late to be calling to which he replied: "It is?" (Great boyfriend, but a little clueless when it comes to a lot of ordinary things like time.) He said he just left Joan's (didn't like that) and they agreed to formally apologize to Angela. I said to count me in.

X X X X X

3-6-04

Adam got some good news. The manager of Cafe Ennui, that neo-beatnik joint on 22nd street, agreed to let A display one of his avant garde sculptures for a full week. It's the new one he has been working on in his spare time, with some of the attached items being supplied by me, Uncle Billy and Grace (Adam likes to work with discarded items, bringing them new usefulness as art). I'm really proud of him as this will be his first showing out in 'the real world'. I said I would be glad to help him set up, because the piece is designed to be taken apart and reassembled, but he said he would be too nervous to have his GIRLFRIEND there. (Yes! First use of the g-word.) We would have gone out to celebrate, but as usual on Saturday night, I have babysitting duty. (The Smith family - four kids and great pay.)

X X X X X

3-8-04

In an effort to get in Joan's good graces (at Adam's suggestion) I joined in with him and Grace to study at Joan's house. We stopped first at a convenience store on the way to her place for snacks and so Adam can put up one of the flyers he is plastering the city with about Cafe Ennui and its' homage to local artists and poets. I'm still trying to get along with Joan, but she makes it clear she doesn't like me even if she is willing to tolerate me for A's sake. Yeah, I overheard the "Yoko Ono of our study group" remark. I'm really getting tired of this, especially since I am making such an effort. When Joan was looking at the gossip magazines and asked: "Now who decided I should care about Paris Hilton?", I replied: "That would be Paris Hilton." It got a chuckle out of Adam, but nothing from Joan. (Maybe she didn't hear me, my voice doesn't carry all that far.)

Studying went okay, but a lot of it had to do with AP Chem, which I don't take. But, Joan and I share French and Geometry, so we were able to study those. (Joan is okay in French, but wow does she need help with her math). When Adam walked me home, he thanked me for making such an effort, and he says that he can see that Joan is slowly coming around when it comes to me (slow as in glacial). When we got to my place and before I went in, I made sure A is grateful that I am his girlfriend during our make-out session. (HA! Take that Miss One-Kiss-And-Then-Back-Off.)

X X X X X

3-9-04

Mrs. Girardi introduced a new technique today called 'broken plate', which is why she wanted us to bring in a toy from our childhood. You smash up personal items, or like in the classic usage a plate, and set it in plaster (very heavy). The result can vary from the beautiful to the ridiculous. While we were smashing away, Joan showed up in her mother's class to talk about something (it was way too noisy to hear what they discussed). I later learned at lunch from Glynis that Luke is out sick, and Joan used her two free periods to go home and tend to her brother. (This is why it is so hard to stay mad at Joan. No matter how snarky she is with me, I see these glimpses of a really good person. A lot of kids I know couldn't be bothered with helping a sibling.) Glynis was of course all aflutter about Luke, but her phone call to Joan reassured her that Luke is just suffering from a nasty cold.

After school I hung around a long time with A and Grace while they waited for Joan to show up for their study session for the AP Chem test tomorrow. They have Luke's notebook with his lab notes and wanted to go over them in a group study, but Joan was a no-show. Grace grumbled a lot because she had especially gone to Luke to borrow his lab notes, and now she didn't have time to study before...here she hesitated, "My other plans." Grace took off and I reminded A that he has the start of his show at Cafe Ennui tonight. I once again volunteered to help him set up, but Adam said he had it covered. Adam had to take off right after that so I rode the bus with Glynis (Two lonely bachelorettes missing their guys.) I was very careful not to let slip about Grace having Luke's lab notes. Glynis is about as obsessed with the Luke/Grace history as I am with Adam/Joan. (Both one kiss 'romances'.)

I had the apartment to myself tonight since Mom is 'out' with Price, or as I suspect, at his place doing 'it'. (Eww.) This is the one secret I have kept from everyone, including Adam. I keep reminding myself that Price makes Mom happy, and I will keep my opinions to myself about the quality of her choice of a lover (gross-gross-gross). After I finished my homework, and since there was nothing good on TV, I got bored. So bored...I broke my promise to Adam not to come to his opening night at Cafe Ennui. I figured I would travel to the cafe, take a quick peek thru the window and A would never know I was there. He was with Joan! It's not like Adam lied to me, technically, but not telling me he got Joan to help him set up has a definite cheating vibe to it. I was so shocked, I walked away without either seeing me. (Oh, Crazy Joan was at it again - shouting at a poet who was trying to recite his work.)

Back at home, crying. Am I losing Adam?

X X X X X

3-10-04

I decided not to speak to Adam about what I saw last night. I don't want him thinking I'm stalking him. We had lunch alone in a corner table of the cafeteria and I ever so casually asked him if he had any trouble setting up his sculpture all on his own? He replied Joan just happened to be walking by on her way to the hardware store to buy fuses when they ran into each other. She volunteered to help and stayed a short time before leaving. While Adam went on about the reaction to his sculpture (all positive) and how lousy he thinks he did on the AP Chem test, I'm sitting there wondering can I trust my boyfriend? I mean really, Joan just happen to be walking by at that exact moment? I suppose it's possible. Cafe Ennui is within easy walking distance of the Girardi house, and there is a hardware store just down the block...

I hate myself for being distrusting, but I couldn't just let this go. I asked Glynis as a personal favor to check with Luke if the Girardis needed fuses last night. She thought it an odd request but agreed to do it, "Discreetly". (Mustn't forget that Glynis is a genius and she no doubt understands the why of any inquiry I make about what goes on at Joan's house.) Later that night Glynis phoned and said she had just talked with Luke. He's feeling better even tho all he could handle for dinner was cream of wheat. Glynis asked, was that Joan she saw going into a hardware store last night? (Wow, she really is smart.) Luke confirmed Joan blew a fuse and not knowing there were some available, went out to get more.

Whew, I am so relieved, and feeling guilty about not trusting A. I thanked Glynis profusely for being such a good and 'discreet' friend. Glynis said I was welcome and was sure I would do the same for her if I heard of anything concerning Luke and a certain 'radical blonde' that we both know. More guilt. I didn't tell Glynis about Luke lending his notebook to Grace. I know Glynis, and that news would cause her to obsess, feel insecure but say nothing, which would damage her relationship with Luke as she would grow even more clingy than she already is. (Yes, yes I see my hypocrisy.)

X X X X X

3-12-04

End of the week and Luke was back in class looking a little pale but functional. Glynis is thrilled to have her boyfriend back and was clinging to him like a barnacle to a boat. I would advise her to give the guy a litle space, but am I any better with Adam? Got my 'broken plate' work back, a B+, and it is so heavy I arranged for Uncle Billy to give me and Adam rides home so that we don't have to carry the things on the bus. I was surprised to see one of the plaster boxes was done by Joan. Mrs. Girardi said Joan became interested in what we were doing and used an old turtle ashtray she once made for her own 'broken plate'. (It wasn't very good, and that's an honest opinion, not me being bitchy.)

X X X X X

3-13-04

The afternoon spent at my place watching movie tapes with A, in between make out sessions. I've begun to wonder just how far I should go with Adam. I love him, and I think if he asked...I'd be willing. Still, I don't want him to think I'm skanky, even tho I've been hoping that he would start going further in our making out than he has before. (I suppose I could take the initiative, but I'm not sure how Adam would react to that. Dangle the bait in front of any guy and he will bite, but will he stick with you afterward? I don't want to make a mistake and bruise his male ego by being too agressive, and I'm not 100% sure I'm ready...) Crap, why does this have to be so hard?

Babysitting again for the Smiths, which was actually a surprise despite the fact they are regular customers. Mr. Smith is out on bail after having been accused of embezzeling half a million bucks from his company! For a man facing felony charges, he seems remarkably at ease about the whole thing.

X X X X X

3-15-04

The Ides of March, but no tragedies today. In fact it was such a surprisingly mild day, A and I went up to the roof to enjoy the view. (Technically you're not suppose to go up there, but a lot of kids do it anyway.) I snapped a few pictures of kids down in the quad, and some others of the immediate neighborhood. I still submit pictures to the school paper and even occasionally get one printed. Adam took out his sketchbook and began drawing me. I tried to remain cool about it, pretending I didn't notice while I was taking photos, but I found it an exciting experience...sexually. Really, this was the biggest turn on I have ever experienced. Knowing that A was observing every curve of my body and recreating them with his incredible talent had me literally trembling with desire. If Adam were another kind of guy - the type willing to take a risk of getting caught publicly, I would have been his for the taking. (Imagine, of all the places to lose your virginity - the school roof!) Fortunately (?), Adam was too focused on his sketch to make any moves. The sketch BTW turned out great. I have it hanging on my wall, and every time I look at it the memory makes me a little excited...

X X X X X

3-16-04

Dropped by the school paper to show the editor some of my photos and she liked one of them enough to say she might put in this week's edition. Saw Brian Beaumont there and he remided me about yearbook. He's still looking for a lead photographer and I was in such a good mood I said I would do it. Told Adam about this and he was excited for me, saying he thought my pictures were so great, he might actually buy a yearbook this time.

X X X X X

3-17-04

St. Patrick's day and everyone was wearing green, even Adam who has a camoflauge hoodie. (I really need to get him to expand his wardrobe choices.) Today is Grace Polk's 16th birthday and the Subdefectives (they actually call themselves that) threw her a little surprise party in the cafeteria (Joan's idea, and a good one.) I contributed some cupcakes with green icing, Adam gave Grace a sketch he once made of the top of Mt. Nashman, which for some reason made her blush. Joan gave a scarf, Friedman gave a poster of K. D. Lang (well, he thought it was funny), Glynis gave a book of radical poetry that Grace really liked and Luke surprisingly gave Grace a bottle of perfume that I would have thought Grace would have rejected, but she seemed very touched. (Glynis was not amused.)

X X X X X

3-19-04

Big party at Lars Closterman's house as his parents were out of town and he has the funds to entertain a small army of guests. Everyone sophomore and above was invivted and I really wanted to go. It took some persuasion, but Adam reluctantly agreed to take me. Now this was an official, out-of-control high school bash that included a live band (Manic Toolhead). There was lots of noise (the Closterman estate is far enough removed from its' neighbors not to get police calls), plenty of booze of all kinds and seven bedrooms that were available for any couple that wanted some 'alone time'. (During the party I saw that slut Bonnie go upstairs with three different guys!) I skipped the booze as did Grace. (I explained that alcoholism runs rampant thru my family and I never intend to risk getting drunk. Grace looked like she might say something deep about my revealation, but then she shrugged and walked away. These subdefectives are a hard group to get in good with.) There was a lot of dancing - I danced with A (of course) as well as Friedman, Luke, Brian Beaumont, Lars, and for old times sake, Steve Zackheim. Adam isn't much for dancing, but he did go around once with Grace (who is a surprisingly good dancer), then Glynis and Joan. While Adam and I were hitting the buffet, I noticed Joan was dancing with the same guy she danced with at her own party - the one who wears the corduroy jacket. (Where do I know this guy from?) Shortly after that, I saw Joan slipping away from the party. Adam was busy with some sketching and I was curious, so I followed... Joan went to the laundry room that connects to the garage, and there she found the security panel that controls things like alarms, lights, a monitor and cameras. The door was partially closed, but I could see what Joan was doing. She somehow knew the code for the controls, switching on the floodlights and cameras. There on the monitor was Teddy Marks, the school's drug dealer, with 'Cool' Clay Fischer, and Clay was about to buy something from Teddy. I figured all of the weed at the party was supplied by Teddy, but there have been rumors that he can also supply doses of date rape drugs. Anyway, as soon as the lights came on, Clay and Teddy took off in different directions, blowing what ever deal was going on. Joan then switched all of the systems back off and returned to the party. (I carefully hid so she wouldn't see me.) All during the rest of the night I wondered, did Joan keep some poor girl from being raped, and how did she know what to do and when? (Or was this all just some weird, 'Crazy Joan' co-incidence?)

X X X X X

3-22-04

Glynis and I talked on and on about how much fun we had at the party and how we, the two couples, should go out more as a group. Luke and Adam were not so enthusiastic. (The guys get along okay, but they really have nothing in common.) We kept at it, saying that surely there is something we would all enjoy? Bowling - Luke doesn't bowl. Minature golf - dead suggestion, none of us like it. Video games - neither Glynis or I care for those. Okay fine, a movie. Finally, the guys agreed but only if they can pick the film. So, this Friday the four of us are going to the multiplex to see the opening night of something called 'Hellboy'.

X X X X X

3-24-04

At Adam's house this evening as Mr. Rove is out bowling. I made dinner for Adam, which felt a very domestic and couple-like thing to do. We're doing a lot of charcoal sketches in art class now and after dinner while we were listening to jazz albums, I asked Adam if he would mind if I sketched him. The usual shrug okay. We started and I was secretly hoping that Adam would find the experience as sensual as I did when he sketched me. Instead, he just seemed bored. Hoping for a better reaction, I asked Adam to take off his shirt so I could work on sketching musculature. He hesitated, but said sure. Adam has a beautiful body, lean and taut, but not very well muscled. I had Adam pose like an Olympic discus thrower, and that brought out better muscle definition. As I sketched Adam's back, I felt a return of that erotic sensation I experienced when A sketched me. I couldn't stand it anymore, and while Adam's back was turned, I took off my own shirt, went over to him and began caressing his muscles...

Adam turned, saw me in my bra and smiled. He took me into his arms and soon we were on the couch eagerly exploring each other's bodies. It didn't take long before the bra was gone, and I was thinking: this is it, the night I lose my virginity. I'm not saying I wasn't scared, but I'm absolutely sure that I love Adam and I want him to be my first. I could so easily feel how excited Adam was, but to my surprise, he pulled back and said we should probably stop. Why? No protection. Two weeks until my period, so it's safe. His dad might be home soon. Doesn't he usually stay out at least another hour more? We've only been dating a short time, and shouldn't we be absolutely sure before we go this far...

"It's okay. If you love..." Yeah, that's where I quickly changed what I was going to say from 'If you love me' to 'If you love...doing this, I'm willing. But...maybe you're right, we should wait.' Why did I change what I was going to say? I saw it in Adam's eyes the moment the word LOVE was out of my mouth. In that one moment I saw fear, doubt and a longing...but not for me. Oh God, he's still hung up on Joan! I did my best to hide my dismay as I got dressed and hastily exited. On the bus ride home I tried to be objective about what is going on between Adam and me. I know that he genuinely likes me, and that might have been the problem tonight. Adam likes me so much, he doesn't want to take advantage of me. Even tho he and Joan are not a couple, and you could say they never were, his heart still belongs to Crazy Joan, the girl who emotionally abuses him when they are together. This is what I feared when I began dating Adam - that his obsession with Joan would forever block any chance of the two of us falling in love. I've been hoping that time and a growing passion between us would nullify Joan's hold on him, but I may be fooling myself. I'm not giving up...but now I see, I may not win.

X X X X X

3-26-04

School yesterday and today was a time of awkardness between A and me. He apologized, saying he was sorry if he had offended me. I quickly reassured Adam that I appreciated having such a sensitive and responsible boyfirend - that he was right, we should be careful about rushing our relationship too quickly. Adam seemed relieved, and we went thru the motions of being a normal couple while I wondered, am I Adam's girlfriend solely to make Joan jealous, or maybe because having any girlfriend is better than having none? But then I remember that Adam is such a nice guy, and he wouldn't be with me if he didn't care for me (unlike say, Friedman - who would date anyone/anything if there was a chance of getting laid). Problem is, caring and liking doesn't always lead to love and I realize now, that is what I want from Adam if I am to stay with him.

The big double date with Glynis, Luke, Adam and me and since there was no way the four of us were going to squeze into the cab of Adam's truck, I got Uncle Billy to drive us to the first showing of 'Hellboy' at the North Multiplex. (It was the first time Billy met Luke even tho I've talked about him and Glynis like forever.) There was quite a crowd as the main character is some sort of comic book hero that I had never heard of. Brian Beaumont was there, he works at the theater on the weekends, and we paused to say 'hi'. Brian launches into a 'hilarious' story about what happened last weekend. It seems that Vice-principal Gavin Price was at the movies with a date, and they were in the back row making out like a couple of teenagers!

"And you'll never guess who he was with..." (I was panicked as I listened in horror, knowing that the secret love affair between my mother and Price was about to come out and I couldn't do anything to stop this.) "It was Ms Jankow, the former art teacher at Arcadia High." While the others snickered over this bit of gossip, my jaw dropped. That rotten S.O.B. Price is cheating on my Mom! We all went in to enjoy the movie, but I was too distracted to pay it much attention. I kept wondering, what should I do? I've never discussed the details of Mom's relationship with Price, believing ignorance is a preferable bliss. Do they have an exclusive relationship, or are they agreed that they can date others? Somehow I can't believe Mom would be sleeping with a guy knowing he was dating other women. So...does this mean I have to tell Mom what a dog she has for a boyfriend? I shuddered at the thought of begining that conversation, and Adam must have thought I was reacting to a scary part of the movie as he put his arm around me. I put my head on his shoulder and tried not to think.

X X X X X

3-27-04

Adam took me out to lunch at my favorite pizza place, and then we went for a walk around the neighborhood. We did a little window shopping until we came to my favorite consignment shop. You can get a lot of good deals here on great, slightly used clothes (if you are willing to haggle hard with the owner). I gently brought up the topic of Adam's wardrobe, asking him if he has ever considered altering the t-shirt/hoodie look. The usual shrug. I went thru the racks of clothes and found three stylish, very distinctive shirts that would look great on him. Adam was reluctant, but I insisted, saying they were my payback for him treating me to lunch. Adam grinned and said okay, but only if I could get them for no more than the price he paid for our lunch. Oh, he thought he was being funny, but Adam learned what a great bargain shopper I can be. It was a long negotiation, but I managed to get all three shirts for the same price as a pizza.

Babysitting again tonight, this time for the Reinnemans and their little boy. Mom is out with Price, and will probably be spending the night at his place. I haven't mentioned what I learned...yet. It may be cowardly of me, but I so don't want to stick my head into this potential beehive.

X X X X X

3-28-04

Sometimes life takes choices out of your hands. Up bright and early because Mom and me always go to the early service at church. I go into the kitchen and who is there enjoying waffles - Price! Okay, he stayed the night. I'm a big girl and I can handle the fact that my mother has a love life, but he was wearing a robe. His own robe. I didn't check, but he probably has his own toothbrush in our bathroom too. Mom was looking nervous, wondering how I would react. Like I said, the choice was out of my hands. Bluntly, I asked Price what was going on with him and Ms Jankow, because I knew that he has been dating her. That of course led to the fight between Mom and 'Gavin', starting in the kitchen but quickly moving behind the closed door of her bedroom. It was loud, ugly and ended in a foregone conclusion - Price hastily exiting with the bag of personal items he thought he was going to set up in my home.

We didn't make it to church as Mom spent most of the day in bed, crying. She didn't want to talk about it except to learn the details of the Jankow/Price date, and how I knew of it. I repeated Brian's gossip word for word, and Mom absorbed the news with only a few additional sniffles. I apologized for having brought this pain into her life, but Mom said that it was okay - better for her to know the truth. As Mom napped thru the afternoon, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing, or was I just acting on my dislike for Price. Maybe I should have gone privately to Price and told him what I knew - giving him a chance to choose between Mom and his piece on the side. I really didn't know how far he had gone with Ms Jankow, and maybe he would have chosen Mom and stuck with her. Still...I can't help but feel once a cheater, always a cheater.

X X X X X

3-29-04

Breakfast with Mom was awkward as I could see she was hurting but determined to move on like nothing was wrong. I know she has friends at work, and I hope they can supply the comfort she needs. Now on to my own love life, which I have been worried about ever since I was rejected by Adam when I threw myself at him. The first good sign was that he was wearing one of the shirts I picked out for him, and he was very attentive to me today. (Usually, at best, A is a little vague about what is going on around him. I think he is making the extra effort to let me know he is sticking with me.) In Geometry class Joan began ragging on A about the new look, but he insisted he liked it. It is all I can do to be civil to Joan. Why can't she just butt out and get a boyfriend of her own? Or at least spend more time studying - she was humiliated by Mr. Parker when she couldn't explain the Pythagorem Theory. After school instead of hanging with A, I rushed home to take care of Mom. I cleaned the apartment and made dinner so she wouldn't have to bother. Mom looked exhausted when she got home, and I could tell she had been crying again. (Damn Price.) I kept trying to do things for Mom, trying to be there for her until she told me to stop. She understands that I am worried about her, but me hovering over her all concerned isn't helping. Mom explained that she is just going to have to go thru the process of grieving until time makes things better. I would understand one day when I was older.

X X X X X

3-30-04

After school, Adam and I hung out in his shed listening to jazz albums, especially this one artist, Miles Davis. Great stuff. I've always liked jazz, but Adam has really expanded my knowledge on the subject. Adam did mention that Joan has a new 'enthusiasm' - piano lessons. I asked what is wrong with her? The whole school knows what a flake she is, briefly starting with one group or activity after another, and never sticking with it. I said I bet Joan doesn't stick with piano more than a week. I was pleased that Adam didn't try to defend Joan. He only said this is the way she has been since he first met her, and he accepts this is her 'thing', just as the other subdefectives accept that they all have their own eccentricities. It doesn't stop them from being friends. I liked that A emphasized the word friend, and that he inititiated our make-out session. I'm beginning to feel more secure with him again.

X X X X X

3-31-04

Back to Adam's studio tonight to study for tomorrow's Geometry test. I walked in saying something silly, feeling really good about A and me, but then I froze. Adam and Joan were there holding hands while they listened to a classical album. They jumped apart, all guilty like and Joan began babbling about how the album was by her piano teacher and she was just there to listen to it. I didn't say a word as Joan made a hasty retreat. When Adam and I were alone, I just glared. The only thing I could think to say was: "Sorry for interrupting." I turned to leave, but A begged me to wait, that I shouldn't go there. He basically said the same thing Joan did, but he tried to be reassuring. Joan had a bunch of old albums that she gave him, and they found her piano teacher's album mixed in and decided to listen to it. "And the hand holding?" Joan is his friend, and she confided a personal problem she was having at home, and he was just being supportive. "So you weren't about to kiss her when I came in?" Adam denied that, and I so wanted to believe him, but I know what I saw. If I had come in a few moments later, they would have been kissing. I don't blame A, at least not a lot. It's Joan and her inability to let go! As calm as I could, I reviewed for Adam all the times Joan has hurt him, and how he has admitted to me that theirs was never a healthy relationship. I said I understood (even tho I really don't) that Joan is his 'friend', but can he understand I don't want him spending time with her alone? Adam said I was his girlfriend, he is with me and will make that clear to Joan - again. He promised, no more private moments like this one. So, after some make up kissing, we studied and I pretended everything was okay. Everything is not okay.

X X X X X

4-1-04

April Fool's Day, and fortunately most of the kids in school are too mature to resort to the practical joke nonsense (major exception, Friedman, who must have cleared out an entire novelty shop - really dude, whoopie cushions?). The Geometry test was today, a short and hard one that Mr. Parker graded and handed back just as the bell rang. I was a little disappointed with my A-, but then I have been distracted. Joan showed me her test paper, a C+, and I commiserated with a "Bummer." I then said I didn't want to interfere with her friendship with Adam, but...was there anything going on between them? Joan swore no, that she just needed a friend to talk to about a problem she is having. Don't you have friends like that? "Yeah, one, and I'm dating him." But for how much longer? Not reassured.

X X X X X

4-2-04

And again. Despite Adam's promise and Joan's denial, I once again caught them having a really intense conversation that looked so much more than a friend comforting another friend. More denials, more talk of shared personal problems (why doesn't Joan go to Grace with this stuff?). I'll admit that Joan looked upset, but so am I. I can see her dragging Adam back into her orbit and there seems to be nothing I can do to stop it. When we were alone I asked Adam what was so vital that Joan could only talk to him about it. He said he couldn't violate Joan's trust, but it was a family problem that she needed a friend to sound off to. I'm really beginning to hate how loosely the word 'friend' is being used between those two. We were suppose to go out tonight for our usual Friday night date, but I cancelled saying I didn't feel well. I guess I was hoping Adam would be more concerned, that he would see that this is the time to fight for our relationship...if he still wants it. Spent a lot of time tonight whining over the phone to Glynis about how I think I'm losing Adam.

X X X X X

4-3-04

I went over to A's place to have it out with him. I can't stay in limbo like this, waiting for the axe to fall. I told him I knew there was a lot more going on between him and Joan than friendship. I asked for him to be completely honest, does he still love Joan? "Yes." I didn't want to hear that, but I could see it was the truth. What about his feelings for me? Yeah, he cares for me and he wishes he could love me since we get along so much better than he and Joan ever did, but even tho he tried to put Joan out of his heart, he can't. Adam was very sorry for hurting me, and never meant to... I stopped him. I can accept that for some strange, twisted reason you can't give up on Joan, but what about her? How many times does she have to hurt you before you accept the two of you are not destined to be together? Adam admitted that he is scared. Joan has hurt him badly in the past, but he has come to realize that his love for her is so strong, he is willing to take that risk again. What could I say? I knew Adam was being sincere, even thru the tears we were both shedding. For a few wild moments I thought of ways to salvage this. Anything to hold on to him. Offer him sex? Maybe agree to be his secret, second girlfriend on the side in case things don't work out with Joan? Pride and common sense reasserted themselves. I know Adam, and he would never agree to something like that, and honestly, as much as I wanted to hold onto him, I knew I could never go thru with such a wild scheme. We hugged, said our regrets and goodbyes and...I just don't want to write about this any more.

X X X X X

4-4-04

Spent the day in bed, crying.

X X X X X

4-5-04

Skipped school. Still crying.

X X X X X

4-6-04

Mom is getting worried, so I forced myself to go to school today. I did everything I could to avoid running into Adam. We have two classes together, so I skipped Geometry and Art. I did go to French class, but Joan sits in the back while I'm in the front row. I caught a glimpse of her as class ended and realized by how quickly she exited, Joan is as anxious to avoid me as I am her. That answers my question as to whether she and Adam got back together. Even tho it's against the rules, I went off campus for lunch. I couldn't bear to see the two of them in the cafeteria being a couple.

X X X X X

4-7-04

Price called me into his office from homeroom and wanted to know why I was suddenly skipping classes when I had never done that before. It's strange, I should be angry and resentful of the man after what he did to my Mom, but I found myself unburdening to him. He of course knew Adam and I were a couple, and I began to cry when I told him about the breakup and how much it hurt to be near him right now. Price is infamous for being indifferent to all of the drama connected to adolescent romances, but to my surprise, he was sympathetic. He said I couldn't just stop going to class, but he would speak to Mr. Parker and Mrs. Girardi about arranging class seating wherever I wanted. I thanked him, and as I was about to leave his office, he asked how my Mom was doing. I could see on his face a lot of regret and even pain, and I realized Price knew he had made a bad mistake. I told him Mom was still hurting, but slowly getting back into her normal routine.

So, in Geometry I moved to the front row over by the window, and in Art I again moved to the opposite side of the room from Adam. The distance helped, but I was still miserable being in the same room as A...I guess I should stop referring to him by my pet nickname. He's no longer mine to name. At lunch I shared a table with Luke, Friedman and Glynis, which was awkward. They all know about Adam and Joan getting back together, as does the whole school. I kept my back to the rest of the cafeteria, but I was aware that they were together, being a romantic couple. Oh God, this hurts so much. To make matters worse, Friedman chose that moment to start flirting with me - hinting that he was available to 'fill the void' in my life. I smacked him in the back of the head, which actually made me feel a little better. (Only thing is, I think Friedman did that on purpose to give me an outlet for my pent up feelings. Maybe he's not such a bad guy after all.)

X X X X X

4-8-04

When is this going to get better? First thing I saw when I walked in the school was Adam and Joan in a secluded spot by the stairs, kissing. They didn't see me, but I had to make a run to the girl's room to throw up breakfast. That image of their kiss stayed with me the rest of the day, compounded by me seeing them walking in the halls holding hands, sharing whispered moments and on and on... It was like I couldn't go two feet without spotting them being all lovey-dovey, and nauseatingly happy. I'm trying to be mature about this, trying to be glad for Adam because I really do want him to be happy, but I can't. I'm angry and I'm hurting and...I want to hurt back. Oh God, is this how it began for Dad and Uncle Billy? From all that I understand, they didn't start out mean and abusive, but turned that way over time. Am I on that same path?

By the time I got home, I no longer felt like crying. I wanted to scream, I wanted to hit something. I wanted to put someone else thru the pain I was experiencing. Mostly, I wanted my pain to just go away... In the kictchen cabinet were a couple of bottles of wine Price left here. I took them both to my room, locked the door and began to drink.

X X X X X

4-9-04

Now I know what a hangover feels like. I drank myself into a stupor last night, and didn't wake up until nearly noon. I was shaken awake by Uncle Billy, which is a huge deal. When Mom couldn't get me up this morning, she was so concerned, she did the unthinkable and called Uncle Billy. They could both smell the wine and hear my snoring, so they knew I was alive but were still worried. Uncle Billy took the hinges off of my door so they could get in. I was a mess, sick and hurting so bad I wanted to die. Why do people drink? I just wanted to stop hurting, but all I did was add a new level of pain to go with the pain I already had. While I spent most of the day throwing up and feeling awful, Mom and Uncle Billy spoke in whispers about me. I feel terrible worrying them like this, especially considering the family history. They must have reached some sort of decision of what to do with me as they actually shook hands at the door when Uncle Billy left. I hope there is some sort of lasting peace established there even if it did take me screwing up so bad to bring them together. Obviously I missed school again. What a way to experience Good Friday.

X X X X X

4-10-04

Feeling a little better today. Mom said that Adam called to see if I was okay since I missed so much school this week. Mom said he felt sad and guilty about hurting me and was really sorry and hoped that one day I can forgive him. I'm glad Mom took the call because I couldn't have handled it...not yet. Now that I'm recovering from my 'binge' (please God, let that be the only one in my lifetime), I expected Mom to let me have it with both barrels for getting drunk. Instead, she took my hand and said she understood what I was going thru, but (very sternly) "Never again young lady, got it?" I swore, that was my one and only time turning to drink to fix my problems. I was glad to see that I hadn't fallen so low in my mother's estimation that she didn't believe me. Mom then told me that she and Billy had come to an agreement on how I should spend spring break. Billy is travelling first to the prison to visit Dad, then he is going on to Wilmington where Aunt Ceilia now lives. There is going to be a hearing to see if Uncle Billy can get visitation with his boys. Mom said she thought it would do me good to get out of town for awhile, if I was agreeable? Definitely. The chance to get away from Arcadia seems like a brillant idea right now.

X X X X X

4-11-04

Easter/Reseurrection Sunday, and in our finest outfits, Mom and I attended church to enjoy the celebration. It felt good to stop obsessing about myself and focus on something really important. After church Mom had my suitcase already packed, and Uncle Billy picked me up right after we got back from church. We got on the road and headed east with me driving most of the way. I could feel my spirit lift with every mile we put between us and Arcadia - between me and Adam. On the way Uncle Billy began asking me about how I was doing, and like a broken dam, I gushed out all that I've been holding in. Uncle Billy listened to every detail of my relationship with Adam, from my crush at a distance stage, to my doubts during the early days of our dating, to my growing confidence that Adam was really falling for me, to my renewed worries when I saw how much of a hold Joan still had over him to...my attempt to seduce Adam and his rejection of that seduction. (I paused to see if Uncle Billy would scold me or disapprove of my behavior since I'm still a 'kid', but he didn't make a big deal about it.) I finished with how it ended between Adam and me, and the pain and sense of lost self worth I've had since then.

Uncle Billy seemed to get it. He agreed I was beating myself up for not keeping on my guard when it came to Adam, because I always suspected we started as a way for him to make Joan jealous. "That might be true, but Adam obviously did develop feelings for you. I saw it when he looked at you and didn't realize I could see the affection in is his eyes for you. He couldn't have faked that, and it's probably why he wouldn't sleep with you. Most teenage boys won't turn down an offer like that without a good reason. Adam knew he still cared for this Joan girl, and it would be a betrayal of both of you if he gave into desire without being sure where his heart was committed." Okay, Uncle Billy was mostly parroting what I was already expressing, but it was good to hear it confirmed. We talked some more and I had to admit that I could see Adam was truly happy now that he was back with Joan, and only time would tell if she would break his heart again. In the meantime, as much as I wanted Adam's happiness, it still hurt too much to see them together. Uncle Billy could only offer the 'give it time' line. Trite but true, I suppose, but I doubt I will ever look back on this time in my life with fond memories. We arrived in the early evening and won't be able to see Dad until tomorrow. When I unpacked my bag, I found Mom had included a chocolate bunny, part of our Easter tradition to each eat one on this day.

X X X X X

4-12-04

We got in to see Dad bright and early, and I was shocked to see how bad he looked. Dad is thin, completely grey and rapidly balding at 37 and trembling from some sort of weakness. He tried to wave off my questions and concentrate on our visit, but I wouldn't let up, saying I would go to the prison officials if he didn't tell me the truth. Cancer. They have him on chemotherapy and the prison doctor says his chances are fairly good since they caught it early. Dad even joked that if he weren't in prison, he would have put off going to the doctor until it was too late. I was upset that Dad didn't tell me sooner, but he said he didn't want to worry me. He has three more weeks of chemo and then it is a wait and see on whether or not it works. We continued with our visit, pretending everything was okay. I automatically painted a rosy picture of home life, trying to avoid passing on any stress to my Dad. When we left, I gave Dad a genuine hug and said I would be praying for him. He had tears in his eyes as he said goodbye and said that he was proud of me. I think for the first time I saw the man Mom fell in love with, the victim of abuse who was determined not to follow his own father's path but eventually gave in to our family's dark nature. I cried as soon as we were out of the prison.

X X X X X

4-13-04

Much more subdued, we got an early start for Wilmington, arriving in the late afternoon. I like this city, which is about the same size of Arcadia and reminds me of my home town in so many ways. After checking into a chain motel, we went to see the local lawyer Uncle Billy hired to represent him in family court. Uncle Billy had a lot of documents with him to back his claim that he was a changed man, including the court ordered six months of successful anger management counseling, and a record of his regular attendance at AA meetings. Uncle Billy even had the angry e-mails Aunt Ceilia has sent him taunting him with how she has his boys convinced he has abandoned his own sons. The lawyer was encouraging, saying despite my uncle's history he has shown remarkable progress and occasional supervised visits were a probable outcome. That put a huge smile on Billy's face and he thanked the lawyer profusely. We went out to celebrate that evening with an expensive dinner.

X X X X X

4-14-04

It was a nervous morning with nothing to do but wonder and worry about how today's hearing would turn out. I really want this for Uncle Billy, not just for his sake but for his sons too. I haven't seen my cousins in over a year, and neither has Uncle Billy. When the time for the afternoon hearing came, Uncle Billy was keyed up with excitement over the prospects of seeing Junior and J.J. again. We arrived at the corridor that leads to the courtroom, and a strange man was there waiting for us. Aunt Ceilia has remarried since her divorce and is Ceilia Baker now. This guy turned out to be her husband Henry, and he stopped us before we could enter the courtroom. He launched into his spiel about how as the boy's stepfather he has grown to love them like his own sons, and he wanted Billy to sign a form that would allow Henry to adopt the boys. Of course Uncle Billy was outraged that this guy would think he would ever give up on his kids. Henry kept at it, trying to push Billy's buttons and I quickly stepped between them. I could see another guy with a camera further down the hallway who was taping our encounter, no doubt hoping for a shouting match or even better, a shove or punch from Uncle Billy. It seems in divorce and custody hearings, Aunt Ceilia will stoop to any level.

We went into the courtroom, which is a lot smaller and more informal than you would think. The only reason I was allowed in was because I'm a blood relation of the boys. I got a brief chance to say hello to my cousins, who have grown a lot since I last saw them. Junior is 10 now, and J.J. just turned seven. I was pleased to see they remembered me fondly as I use to babysit them in days gone by. Soon the kids were escorted out while the hearing was taking place. The judge, an attractive woman in her thirties, let the lawyers proceed with their formal presentations, but the true heart of the matter was what the parents had to say. Aunt Ceilia took the stand and tried to picture Billy as a monster that no sane person would ever let near a child. Reluctantly, under the judge's questions, Ceilia admitted Billy never struck their sons, and she admitted she was blocking every attempt by her ex-husband to make contact with the boys. Despite Ceilia's attempt to paint Billy as a daily abuser, she had to admit that in twelve years of marriage he hit her exactly seven times.

The judge called Uncle Billy to the stand and questioned him thoroughly about his own personal history from the time of his own childhood and all that he suffered then thru the days of his marriage, especially his turning violent in the last years of that marriage. Uncle Billy admitted all that he had done, saying his resolve never to be like his old man fell apart when the family hit hard economic times and his occasionally drinking turned into regular drunkeness that sometimes included violence. Billy admitted he is an alcoholic and that he has a lot of issues he is still working out in regular therapy. He swore he is doing all that he can to be a better man and a good father. The judge seemed impressed by Billy's efforts to improve himself.

After that, the judge asked who I was, and I had to explain my presence. The judge then had all of the adults out of the court and had Junior and J.J. brought in. I was told to stay. The judge had a casual, friendly chat with the boys, asking them about how their lives are today, and what did they remember from their past? They admitted they have a good life here in Wilmington, and they like Mr. Baker who treats them nice. They also have clear memories of the times their daddy hit their mommy and how scared that would make them. They also remember the many times when daddy would get drunk and that would scare them too even when there was no violence. But, they admitted that despite all of that, they missed seeing their father. As I listened, I could feel tears running down my cheeks as this reminded me so much of my own childhood. The judge noticed and asked the boys to wait in her chambers again so she could talk to me. To my surprise, the boys came over and hugged me before leaving. I guess all kids of abuse share a bond.

The judge came over and sat beside me, asking me for the details of my life - especially my relationship with Uncle Billy. I told her how my father was in jail after years of abusing me and my Mom. That growing up I rarely saw Uncle Billy, and when I did I viewed him with as nearly as much fear as I did my own Dad, recognizing them as birds of a feather. However, after hearing the testimony today, I realized that even at his worse Uncle Billy was never as bad as my own Dad. I told simply of the changes I have seen in my uncle since he stopped drinking and began getting therapy. I could easily swear I belived Uncle Billy would never abuse his sons, and all that he has done since he lost custody was in order to gain back time with them - it was the main reason he could face the challenges of each new day. The judge thanked me and said she thought I was sincere, but said I was wrong. I of all people should realize that Billy has already abused his sons - not by striking them but by imposing upon them a childhood where violence and drunkeness were a common part of their lives. This type of abuse would stick with them all of their days, and only time would tell if they too would someday give into the family's "dark nature".

After that everyone was brought back into the courtroom and the judge gave her ruling. She said she was favorably impressed by the progress he had made, but wanted more evidence that Billy would continue on this path. She would allow a limited amount of electronic communication between father and sons, including e-mails and phone calls (a schedule to be supplied to the attorneys), and in May, when Billy would be scheduled to win his one year chip from AA, she would favor an arrangement of supervised visits to perhaps be followed by partial custody should all go well. The judge sternly warned my uncle that any relapse on his part would ruin any future chances in her court. To Ceilia the judge also warned she will not tolerate her poisoning her children's minds against their father. Social workers will be making periodic visits to interview the boys to make sure they were not being told that they had been abandoned by their dad. After that, Uncle Billy was permitted a brief, heart touching reunion with his sons in the judge's chambers where he got to hug them and tell them he still loved them, that he was sorry for the mess he had made of all of their lives, and to promise he would be better from now on.

We left the courtroom that day feeling better, despite Ceilia's angry glares in our direction. Uncle Billy was happy even tho he didn't get all that he hoped for, but at least could now see that it is within his grasp. Over dinner that night it occured to me that I hadn't thought of Adam all day, and I counted that as a victory for me. By a little, the pain was less and the future a tiny bit more promising.

X X X X X

4-15-04

A long day of driving with Uncle Billy and I sharing time behind the wheel. It was just getting dark when we got home, and Uncle Billy thanked me for speaking up for him in court, saying he thought it helped with the favorable outcome. I in turn thanked him for the trip, saying that it has helped a lot to unburden myself. I admitted I was feeling better and will be a lot less of a basket case when I go back to school on Monday. Uncle Billy made me promise no more drinking and I swore I wouldn't as long as he did the same. He smiled and said he has the greatest incentive to stay sober. When the next hearing in May goes his way, he will be able to begin visiting his kids. For the first time, we hugged goodbye.

Mom was very glad to see me back, and I know I really missed her. She told me Adam called again, still concerned about me. Really, shouldn't I speak to him some time soon? I said I would take care of it. Mom also told me Price called her to apologize and to suggest they meet for 'coffee'. She said he sounded sincere, but decided it was a mistake to try to go back. Besides...a professor at the college asked her out for this Friday and they are going to a movie. I could see Mom was happy about this, and it made me wonder, maybe I should start dating again as a quicker way of getting over Adam? I also told Mom about Dad and the cancer diagnosis. She was genuinely sad to hear about this and said she would add her prayers to mine for his recovery.

X X X X X

4-16-04

Met with Adam at The Unurban coffee shop to talk. It was awkward but kind of touching. I could see Adam was genuinely concerned about me and feeling enormously guilty about hurting me. What was originally going to be just a quick meeting turned into a long rehash of our relationship. Adam admitted that a part of why he asked me out was to make Joan jealous, but he quickly, genuinely became fond of me. As our relationship continued and we got closer, he thought less and less about Joan and saw the potential for us as a couple. But, as much as he wanted to forget Joan, as much as he wanted me to replace her in his heart, it never happened. I admitted I suspected this was the case all along, and that he wasn't the only one pretending that our relationship was working. Reluctantly, I admitted I could see he and Joan were fated. I didn't understand it as the two of them have nothing in common, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Adam thanked me for understanding, saying he too knows he is fated to love Joan. (I winced at that as it still hurts.) Adam apologized yet again for the mess he made of our relationship - I corrected him, the mess WE made. We both promised to try to be friends. We parted with an awkward hug, but I must say it helped to talk things over. I'm still hurting, I miss my 'A', but I've turned the corner. In time, I will be completely over this. In time...

X X X X X

4-19-04

First day back to school after spring break, and of course the first thing I see is Adam and Joan walking down the hallway, holding hands and with their heads together sharing some intimate little secret. Sometimes fate just likes to twist the knife. Okay, it still hurts, and probably will for a long time, but not as much. A deep breath and charge ahead with life. I can handle this. Classes were okay now that I am sitting away from Adam and Joan, and I was glad to be able to have schoolwork to focus on. Mrs. Girardi's advanced art class is getting harder as she is begining a study of geometric shapes with heavy emphasis on shading in order to produce depth. Grading is getting harder in her class as you have to apply all that has been learned so far to the new training she is introducing. The days of dashing off just any old thing are behind us and QUALITY is the dominant word. (This is a weeding out herd kind of thing. Those who expect to advance to next year's level of artwork will either have to step up to the challenge or get out.) I like the challenge.

I decided to eat alone in the multi-purpose room, doing a little studying while having lunch. (It also avoids me seeing the A/J lovebirds.) Brian Beaumont was there and sat with me. He reminded me that I agreed to serve on yearbook and that we begin our work tomorrow (before and after school plus study hall time). I had almost forgotten, but said I would be there. At least the one place where I won't have to worry about running into Adam or Joan is at yearbook.

X X X X X

4-20-04

Met with Brian (editor-in-chief), and the other volunteers for the yearbook - Mrs. Girardi is our academic advisor. It was an organizational meeting, and I have to admit that despite being obviously nervous about this responsibility, Brian is well organized and very focused on the vision he has for this year's version. I am chief photographer, but Brian promised he would get me help. Due to budget restraints, all of the school equipment is still using film, but fortunately I have a lot of practice at developing my own photos. We will be taking a lot of our own pictures, but we will also be heavily relying on the photos available from the school newspaper's files. Meaning, I will have to go thru thousands of old pictures to pick out the best of those that haven't already been used. (Brian is insisting on all new material in the yearbook.) There are original interviews with the school's movers and shakers to be done so that it isn't all just a rehash of what the paper has already covered. It is an ambitious approach and Mrs. Girardi had her concerns that with the short time actually available, this might be an over reach. Brian stood his ground and since the advisor can only advise, he got his way. Good luck to us all, this is going to be a mountainous task.

X X X X X

4-23-04

Brian did an end of the week review of everyone's work and was mostly full of praises for what we have accomplished so far. "Excellent, excellent!" (LOL) As I thought, I'm being swamped with work but I am enjoying it. I find keeping busy helps me not think about Adam, and the ego boost of Brian's constant praises has actually been nice since I was feeling so down on myself after the break up (it's amazing how worthless you can feel when a guy you care for dumps you for another). Most of the new shots have been my responsibility since no one else has shown a particular talent for photography. Brian apologized for not finding me an assistant but says he will keep trying. He and I are spending a lot of time going over phtographs since they make up the bulk of the yearbook. Brian can be a little hyper about the quality of the work he is demanding, but the others and I realize that degree of commitment to excellence is going to turn out an extraordinary yearbook - perhaps the standard for all others to emulate. Only down side, this level of time on yearbook is cutting into my studies. For the first time, I'm begining to struggle in art as I can't seem to get the quality of shading Mrs. Girardi is expecting.

X X X X X

4-26-04

Start of another week and I am really begining to fall behind in my studies, especially art since it requires the most amount of time. I had babysitting jobs Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that took up a big chunk of my weekend. Yearbook is also eating into my time, but I find I'm enjoying it. Brian and I have formed the habit of staying late to review photos and when we are alone he begins to unwind a bit. Frankly, the nervous/frantic editor-in-chief personna is getting a little old, but when he is just being himself, Brian isn't a bad guy. He explained to me why this project is so important to him - because it is the sort of thing that is impressive on college applications. It seems Brian is really focused on getting into a good school (and getting the scholarships he will need to make it). Brian said his parents are divorced and his dad doesn't pay child support. That's why he works weekends to help the budget at home since he is the oldest and his mom needs help. Brian has a younger brother and two younger sisters, and he has placed on his shoulders the burden of being 'the man of the house'. The getting into a good school is a part of that - get a degree and a well paying job as soon as he can so he can be a bigger help to his mom and younger siblings. I felt very sympatico with Brian as he related his story to me. Who knew, despite all of the hyper nervousness and social awkwardness, there's a nice guy under that sweater vest.

X X X X X

4-27-04

Glad I've started taking my lunch to school. Tuesday is the cafeteria's creamed chicken day and from experience I know it is vile. Just before art class I had the misfortune to run into Adam and Joan. It's still a little awkward for all of us, and Joan stopped holding Adam's hand as soon as she saw me. I appreciate the gesture, but it's not like I'm not acutely aware they are a couple. It still hurts, and I miss Adam so much, but as they say: day by day I'm getting better. The three of us even managed a brief, civil conversation about how hard art class has become. Adam backed me up with that even tho I know he's still the straight A star of the advanced art class while yours truly is begining to lag behind. Another awkward moment, Adam asked Joan to meet him on the roof so he could start a life sketch of her. That reminded me of the time Adam sketched me up on the roof and I found the experience so...erotic. That made me think of the Titantic movie and I blurted without thinking.

The rest of the school day went better, but during my time in the dark room Brian called me out to give a camera to a new recruit - Joan! Awkward again. Brian seemed pleased he had found me the assistant he promised, but I had my immediate doubts. When I gave Joan the camera, she clearly had no idea what she was doing. We also spoke briefly about Adam. Apparently he told Joan that I'm okay with them dating again (a very loose interpretation of what I actually said). I played along, determined not to be the green-eyed ex.

X X X X X

4-28-04

I feel guilty. Joan brought in her photos from her assignment from yesterday (clubs and candid student shots), and they were awful! I could do better when I was half my age. Brian loudly tore into her for wasting his time with those lousy photos. which will now have to be redone, and it's "crunch time" (another overused LOL phrase of his). Brian then compared my photos, praising them while Joan looked humiliated. Then he fired her - right in front of everyone! Joan pleaded with her mother to help, but the rules say the advisor doesn't make decisions, only advises. Joan left upset and nearly in tears. I felt great. Justice/Karma/Sowing and Reaping, whatever you want to call it, had spoken. I smiled, I relished the embarassment she endured and then...I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, gloating. I did not like the girl I saw. Hence, the guilt.

After school, Brian and I were working alone as usual and I made myself suggest that maybe he could give Joan a second chance? He laughed at the idea and asked if I honestly thought Joan has a talent for photography that was suddenly going to appear? I had to admit, no. Brian then added: "Besides, considering the history between you and Joan, I thought you would be glad I was so harsh with her." That was unexpected. Gossip is rampant in high school, but I thought Brian was unaware of the Iris/Adam/Joan love triangle. Turns out he was, but after he added Joan to the staff, some of the others gave him the 4-1-1. Brian then said because he liked me so much, he was a little extra mean to Joan because he thought I would like it.

Huh, some guys give candy and flowers, others arrange revenge. The problem is I did like it, even tho I feel that makes me a bad person. While I was on that thought, Brian suddenly kissed me. Maybe it was because of the revenge, maybe because of how he has been raising my self esteem with his constant praise, or maybe I just wanted to get back at Adam, but I kissed Brian back. We kept going, kissing and touching, and almost before I realized what was happening...we went too far.

X X X X X

4-29-04

I didn't sleep last night, which is what happens when you're freaking out. I-had-sex-with-Brian-Beaumont. OMG, I had SEX with sweater vest wearing, hyper, general weird guy, Brian! What the hell was I thinking? Was I thinking, or was this some sort of self-destructive, emotional breakdown due to ending things with Adam? My first time, on a little couch in the yearbook office with (eww) Brian. At least he had a condom. ("They pass them out in health class.") 'IT' was uncomfortable and mercifully quick. It's all I can do not to cry. For years I wondered what my first time would be like, imagining romance and pleasure with a prince of a guy... Instead, I will forever look back on my first time and remember 45 seconds of Brian Beaumont grunting on top of me. I can't stand it, knowing this will follow me the rest of my life. Maybe, as the years go by, I'll be able to look back at this moment and laugh, but right now I hate myself.

Now comes the morning after and I'm scared. Will everyone know? Can they see it on my face my...different status. Mom said I was unusually quiet this morning, and I stammered about not getting enough sleep. When I got to school I kept watching for everyone's reaction. I kept imagining everyone whispering and snickering behind my back the way they do when Bonnie walks down the halls. No one seemed to be paying me any special attention, not even the boys. I mean, Brian is a guy and guys brag, right? How long will it be before every horndog in school is after me because I'm a 'goer'? I hurried to the yearbook office before the first bell hoping to speak privately with Brian, but to my surprise, Joan beat me there. She was back, begging to work on yearbook again. Brian spotted me, blushed a bit and went back into his humiliate Joan bit. (Does he think he can seduce me a second time with that routine? I've learned my lesson.) Eventually he took her back as the office gofer, having her make copies, run errands and empty the trash. I can't figure out why Joan is so determined to be on yearbook, but it's lousy timing for her to be involved in another of her 'enthusiasms'. I was there in the morning, during study hall and even during lunch, and Brian was working her hard. Joan even asked at one point whether I had told Adam about her come down in the world of yearbook. (Like I talk to Adam much these days.) I told her no, how would it benefit me to run her down in front of him? (Actually, I was worried what would happen if Joan found out about me and Brian - would she run to A and tell the tale? I would die if Adam found out about...my mistake.)

I kept trying to get a word alone with Brian, but the place is a madhouse of activity during 'crunch time'. Then Brian called a red alert, the poetry submissions were gone. While everyone was looking around, I heard Brian confront Mrs. Girardi. It seems Joan accidentily threw out all of the poems and Mrs. G. was going to cover for her daughter. (Life lesson: If you are going to cover for someone, don't get caught saying that.) Brian and Mrs. Girardi had it out and she got so mad at the way he was insulting Joan, she quit as academic advisor, telling Joan to come with her. To everyone's amazement, even tho her mother was totaly backing her up, Joan wouldn't leave. It has been awhile since I've seen 'Crazy Joan', but there she was weirdly doing the exact opposite of any normal person. Mrs. Girardi left looking upset and Joan humbled herself before Brian saying she would find those poems. I can't figure Joan out, but I do know I was embarassed for her and for myself. To think, yesterday seeing Joan humiliated that way must have turned me on in some warped fashion, so much that I let Brian...

Back to the yearbook office at the end of school and sure enough, Joan had the poems (and smelled like the dumpster she found them in). She was even advocating the one she thought was best. Brian rejected it because it was anonymous, but Joan said she would find out who the author was. She left on her latest enthusiasm, and bit by bit the others went home until only Brian and I were left. As soon as we were alone, he locked the door and closed the blinds. Oh God, was he going to try to... Before I could say a word, a blushing Brian apologized for what happened last night. Huh? He said he has been obsessing about sex and when things got heated last evening, he let his better judgement go and allowed his hormones to take over. He said he was sorry he had been so irresponsible, and that our mutual first time was such a lousy experience. "But hey, isn't that what most people say about their first time?" I didn't know what to say or think and Brian must have thought I was feeling insulted. He apologized again for taking advantage of me, knowing I was vulnerable after my break up with Adam, and not thinking about my feelings, and... I stopped him. You got what most boys want, no strings attached, and now you're saying...never again? (Wow, an actual post-coital discard. Dumped by Brian Beaumont? Can I sink any lower?) Brian began to sweat and I could see he was practically dying from embarassment. "No, no, I think you're wonderful, Iris." (Followed by some impressive compliments about my beauty, charm, intelligence, talent, etc; that started to make me feel a little better about myself.)

I led Brian by the hand to the small couch where we...did it, and sat with him asking what was going on? As self absorbed as I had been at the start of our talk, even I could see Brian was miserable about something that went beyond bad sex. Brian said he really did like me, and was definitely attracted to me, but he hadn't dared let himself think anything could ever develop between us. (Well, that was my thinking too. Brian has some nice qualities and he's kinda cute, but I definitely don't see him as serious boyfriend material.) He explained he didn't have the time or funds to be a proper boyfriend to any girl. When he isn't in school or studying, he is working to help his mom with the bills. I knew that, but sensed there was something else going on. I urged Brian to be honest with me. After what we have shared, we shouldn't have any secrets. I could see Brian wanted to unburden himself to someone, and after looking away so I couldn't see his face, Brian told me his secret. Last week his father was arrested for burglary and is in the county jail awaiting trial. He told how his dad is an absentee father who rarely comes around and when he does he steals from the family. Brian said he has been keeping this a secret, hoping that no one he knows will find out. Brian began to cry and I hugged him. We sat like that for a long while and then, I told him the truth about my Dad. It was getting dark by the time we emotionally recovered enough to start stirring again. Brian walked me home and we talked about...what we did, and how we felt about it. The main reason Brian freaked out is because he has always been determined to never be like his father, who it turned out knocked up his mother while they were still in high school. Even tho we used protection, having sex at our age made him think he might have taken his first step on his father's path. I assured Brian I thought he was going to turn out okay, and he could be even better if he didn't put so much pressure on himself, which sometimes made him a pain to be around. Brian smiled and promised to try to lighten up. To my relief he said he hadn't told anyone about what we did and promised to keep it our secret. At my door we shared a simple kiss and said goodnight.

X X X X X

4-30-04

What a difference a day makes. A good night's sleep and a worry free start put me in a better mood. All of my classes went well, and yearbook duties flowed a lot smoother. Mr. Tudlow, complete with combover, is our new advisor and the tension that was there between Mrs. Girardi and Brian was gone. I think Brian is taking my advice to heart as he was a lot less uptight today, which made the whole group happier and more productive. Joan didn't show up (no big surprise), and Brian picked another poem for the yearbook. I shared lunch at Brian's desk and we talked about yearbook and other high school related topics. I think we both felt relieved to be able to talk to each other like normal kids without the fear we might slip and reveal secrets. In a weird way, I think I have made a new friend.

At the end of school we wrapped up the preliminary version of how yearbook will look, and now it goes to Principal Chadwick for review. Mr. Tudlow assured us we had done a fine job and he was sure the yearbook will be approved as is. The whole staff decided to celebrate by going out for ice cream at the drive thru around the corner from the high school. As we were walking thru the quad, we were suddenly showered with multi-colored pieces of paper that had this great poem on them, 'Sewer Walking'. Brian recognized it as the poem Joan wanted for the yearbook. I looked up and sure enough, there was a smiling Joan and Adam tossing copies of the poem off of the roof. I had my camera and automatically snapped a photo. (It may be too late, but I hope I can get that picture into the yearbook.) What surprised me most was that for the first time since our breakup, it didn't bother me seeing Adam with Joan. But, I saw an angry Price glaring at those two and then charging for the stairs. I actually laughed. Okay 'A', you wanted the crazy girl, you got her. Enjoy. I walked away with Brian, agreeing with him it really was a shame the poem was anonymous as it is much better than the one we settled for.

X X X X X

5-3-04

The weekend flew by and I barely saw Mom. She had two different dates this weekend (all of this male attention has really helped her get over Price), and I once again had three babysitting jobs, plus studies and I had to begin on my final art project. Then there was Glynis. In admist all of my personal drama, B.F.F. Glynis has been bending my ear about her relationship with Luke. No matter how much time he spends with her, no matter how many times he calls her, it is never enough. The tiniest moment of inattention sends her into a tailspin. I once again advised Glynis to back off and give Luke a little space. Even a boyfriend needs some 'guy time' to unwind. The tighter she holds the leash, the more Luke will strain against it, possibly breaking it. Glynis agreed, at least intellectually. She knows she is handling the relationship badly, but her reactions seem to be out of her control. Sunday night Luke was suppose to call her (Prisoner Girardi reporting to The Warden), but he was late phoning. He had a reasonable excuse, but Glynis went cold and mean on him (solitary confinement with only bread and water). Glynis acknowledges she is making a mistake, but says she can't stop herself. I didn't say it, but it sounds like their relationship is headed for the rocks.

At school I saw first hand the Luke/Glynis realtionship as he tried to pretend everything was normal between them while she continues to barely talk to him, being very cold or sometimes sniffling. Luke is begining to look very frustrated with that relationship, but on the other hand, I don't think he has been totally honest with her. If he would honestly stand up to Glynis (in a kind way) about her over possessiveness, he would have a better chance of making this work. But hey, who am I of all people to give relationship advice?

Brian and I were called to Principal Chadwick's office, and for one guilty moment I panicked over the possibility of what we did last week might have come out. (Having sex on school property is an expelling offense.) Fortunately it was just a brief meeting to congratulate us on a job well done with the yearbook, which has been sent to the printers with no changes made. Brian was especially happy as Chadwick placed in his permanent record a letter of high praise for his time as yearbook editor.

I got approval from Mrs. Girardi for my final project in her class, a life portrait. Uncle Billy has agreed to be my model, even tho he hates that term. One big laugh at school, a cosmetics rep has been allowed to hold an extra credit class on the 'science of cosmetology'. Actually, I heard that 'Miss Candy' is Lishak's aunt and this is just a chance for Aunt Candace to sell more of her products. (Only in Arcadia.) Biggest laugh, Glynis told me Friedman has joined the class. Why? He's a straight A student and doesn't need any extra credit.

X X X X X

5-4-04

Schoolwork is going better as we approach the end of the school year. Big story is the change in appearance of those taking the cosmetology class. Joan and Glynis (minus her usual glasses) were strutting down the hallway enjoying all of the admiring looks and occasional wolf whistles from the guys. Joan has always been pretty, so this was just a case of enhancement for her, but Glynis has blossomed from the ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. It is an amazing transformation, and I hope it doesn't go to her head as she really seemed to be soaking up this new found male attention. Oh, big laugh, Friedman's hair looked like something out of The Bride of Frankenstein.

After school I went to Uncle Billy's place to begin my portrait. I'm going for a completely normal look: Billy in his work clothes and working on his hobby with the decoy ducks. Uncle Billy thought he should be all cleaned up wearing his best suit, but I explained this isn't like getting your photo taken at the mall. An artist wants to present the real person, and my way was a much better pose. While I was begining my preliminary sketch, Uncle Billy told me he got a call from my Dad saying that he has completed his last chemotherapy treatment. They will give him a week to rest and then tests to see how well he has done with the treatment. Still hoping and praying all goes well with Dad. (It's odd, but a year ago I don't think I would have cared.)

X X X X X

5-5-04

I am fascinated by the Glynis transformation. She is still walking around without her glasses, wearing a much sexier dress than usual and with her hair and make-up looking great. I have also noticed that she is begining to flirt with practically every guy in school. I saw that Luke noticed this and he didn't look pleased. When I got a chance alone with her, I told Glynis she had better cool it before she makes her boyfriend jealous. Glynis seems completely disconnected from reality as if she doesn't think she is doing anything wrong, and is even thinking of accepting a date with Jeff Fleischer to go hear his band Manic Toolhead play. I can't seem to get thru to Glynis that she is treading on thin ice.

X X X X X

5-6-04

The inevitable scenario. Glynis, still looking great and still enjoying an unusual amount of male attention, finally had it out with an upset Luke. He dumped her saying he didn't want to stand in the way of her happiness. Glynis seems stunned and is in denial of what everyone who knows her saw coming. (This is a mean thought, but I can't help but wonder if Luke felt the power in the relationship slipping. When they first started dating it was Glynis fawning over him, building his ego. Now he sees that other guys, higher up on the scale of dating worthiness, were becoming interested in Glynis. Did he bail to avoid getting dumped himself later down the road?) One surprise, Joan - who had been heavily made up, is now going about with zero make-up. It's always one extreme or another with that girl.

X X X X X

5-7-04

A lot of last night was spent on the phone listening to Glynis cry. It seems reality has finally hit her and NOW she understands what she was doing was wrong. (Too little, too late.) There wasn't much I could do except listen and be sympathetic. (Most of the time while I was saying "Uh-huh" and "Yeah", I was working on my preliminary sketch of Uncle Billy.) Glynis wasn't at school today as she was hurting too much, but she says when she feels better, she will be making an effort to get Luke back. (I tried not to sigh heavily.)

Joan is still doing the unadorned look and is even wearing the same clothes as yesterday. I'm not sure what she is trying to prove, but like a lot of people who know her, I've come to accept that Joan is a good person at heart but weird...very weird. At the end of the day as I was walking along the wall of the east building, I heard voices above me. Actually one voice, but I realized it was Joan and she was ranting at Adam, whose voice is too soft to hear from that distance. I only caught a few words, something about Laverne and Shirley, the mall and Joan accusing Adam of being vain. As I said before, you wanted the crazy girl, so enjoy.

One bit of good news for me, the school paper came out today and Brian managed to get into it the photo I took last week of Joan and Adam throwing copies of that poem off the roof. (They got one day of mandated school clean up detail for that.) I treated Brian to a malt at the drive thru as a way of saying thanks. We caught up with what is going on in our lives. I told him about my Dad's cancer treatment, and he told me his father has been calling him begging for help with bail money. Brian has funds saved up for college and could help, but doesn't want to. Still, he feels guilty saying no. I told him I very much understand.

X X X X X

5-10-04

Last full week of school and it is finals, finals, finals! Lots of studying and working hard to complete my portrait and make it a good one because...I've decided not to take art next year. It's not because of Adam, well mostly not because of him. As the year has progressed, I've been able to see which students should go on to the next level and which ones are fooling themselves into thinking they have a future as artists. I haven't made the progress I need to keep up, and if I continue, I'll just start to fall further and further behind. I don't want to be a B- student who goes on to struggle for years as a failed, mediocre artist. Honestly, I should have picked up on this earlier, back when Mrs. Girardi first began teaching the art class and criticized my mixed media project. At the time I thought it might be because I had just started dating Adam and Mrs. G. might have been taking Joan's side. I now know that Mrs. Girardi is much too ethical to do such a thing. It's not that I suck at art, but I'll never make it as a painter. I decided next year I will take the advanced photography class and buckle down on math. I think I'll enjoy one day being a math teacher.

Lunch today with Brian and Glynis, but not Friedman - Glynis has been shoving him into walls because he keeps trying to 'comfort' her (hit on her). Glynis was weepy about her attempt to talk Luke into giving her a second chance. From Glyins' P.O.V. Luke should be more understanding. When she started using all of that makeup and guys started flirting with her, it temporarily went to her head. Why can't Luke see that and forgive her? Out of respect for her feelings, I didn't mention that their relationship has been strained to the breaking point for a long time now. (BTW, Glynis is using a lot less makeup. Maybe she thinks her old look will atract Luke back?) Brian managed to switch the topic to our plans for the summer. (Thank you.) He is giving up his job at the cinema for a full time summer job at the Hotel Wentworth as a bell hop. It's minimum wage, but the tips should be great. He added that Adam is also working at the hotel on the cleaning crew. (Glynis and Brian paused, maybe checking for signs I still care?) I moved on and said I would probably try for a part time fast food job, but I would continue to babysit as the money is better (and since it is all in cash, no taxes). I was glad that we managed to distract Glynis enough from her love problems to join in on the conversation. She will be staying with her mother's cousin while she does lab work at Stanford. "College credit and cute college guys." I just hope she doesn't try to rebuild her ego by letting those colege guys take advantage of how vulnerable she is.

X X X X X

5-12-04

All but one final left to go (I'm sure I aced my Geometry test), and I handed in my completed portrait of Uncle Billy. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and I'm hoping I'll go out as a painter on a high note. Friedman, who is an unstoppable gossip, told me (by way of Luke) that Joan is desperate to give Adam a gift, and even had Luke doing an internet search to help her find the perfect thing. I wish Friedman would get it thru his head that I'm no longer interested in Joan gossip as she and Adam are out of my life. But...I did see Joan talking in the hallway with that cute guy who wears the corduroy jacket. So, he is a student here, but why don't I recognize him? After my recent time with yearbook, I thought I was familiar with the photos of every kid in school.

X X X X X

5-14-04

It's senior skip day, but us lowly sophomores still have to come to school even if there's not much left to do but get handed back our graded finals. I was in a hurry to get to school early because I was meeting Brian for coffee. We have decided to hang out some this summer (as friends) and we were going to plan a few activites. I know, I was kind of down on Brian, but since the pressures of yearbook and school have come to an end, he has mellowed out a lot and most of the nervous mannerisms have ended. When he is relaxed, Brian isn't a bad guy to be around and I'm glad we are becoming friends (and again, FRIENDS only). I was just about to leave when there was a knock on the door. It was Uncle Billy and I invited him in. Even Mom didn't protest because she could see how upset he was. Half an hour earlier he got a call from the state prison's doctor saying my Dad had taken a sudden turn for the worse during the night... My Dad died.

X X X X X

5-16-04

The day of my Dad's memorial service. It was held in the small chapel at church during the afternoon, a very low key affair since we couldn't afford a regular funeral. Dad didn't have any life insurance, and Mom and I couldn't afford the thousands that a funeral costs, nor could Uncle Billy as he has been sinking his money into the legal costs of getting visitation rights to his sons. We all regretted it, but we had to accept the state's offer of a cremation with the ashes shipped to us by overnight express. (They arrived in a plain, white cardboard box.) We managed to supply a nice urn and the church, aware of our financial limits, offered the space for the memorial service and even supplied some nice flowers. A surprisingly large number of people came, mostly as brief courtesy calls. Some of Mom's friends and co-workers from the college came by, several members of the church attended, friends of Uncle Billy came by, included buds from his bowling league, and people from school made brief stops to do the: "I'm sorry for your loss" routine. Chadwick and Price came by, as well as several teachers. Mr. Wilson from homeroom and Madame Marx from French made visits, as well as Mrs. Girardi who brought Luke and Joan with her. Joan didn't look well, but funerals sometimes affect people that way. Shortly after they left Mr. Rove arrived with Adam. (I was a little surprised Adam and Joan didn't come together.) Adam gave me a hug and asked how I was doing. We spoke privately, and since Adam knew the secret about how my Dad was, I could be honest with him. I told him I was sad, but not as sad as most kids would be at their father's funeral. For years I feared and hated my Dad, and ever since I heard about his dying, I had been trying to think of some good memories to focus on. Frankly, there were none. In fact, the best memories I have of my Dad were during his time in prison. Our phone calls and my few visits were the highlights of our relationship, and that was only because I knew he could no longer hurt me.

We didn't get to talk much longer as more guests arrived including Glynis, Friedman and Brian. The service began with Reverend Kinder preaching (he took over after Rev. Yardley had to retire due to his injuries). It was a benign, generic service since the new minister had never met my Dad and was unfamiliar with our family background. There was one small surprise, a Catholic priest named Father Payne attended and was allowed to say a few words. It turns out he works with a hospice group, and he had spent time with Dad during his last days, leading him to the Lord. Father Payne was glad to report that my Dad died peacefully because he knew his sins had been forgiven. I hope that's so. I truly hope that Dad is in heaven, because no matter how much he may have hurt Mom and me, I've come to realize that he too started out in life as a victim and the childhood injustice he suffered bent his life's path unfairly. I'd like to think that if he had lived, he would have changed like Uncle Billy and would have been a better man. For the first time since he died, I cried for my father.

X X X X X

5-17-04

The last day of school, which is just a technicality to meet the state's requirement for a certain number of days to qualify as a school year. It's only a half day followed by a celebration in the park across the street. I didn't feel like going, and I certainly didn't feel like a celebration but I forced myself to go. Mostly I wanted to collect my portrait of Uncle Billy, which got an 'A'. (I think Mrs. Girardi was generous with the grade because she felt sorry for me.) There were lots of goodbyes, people signing yearbooks, cleaning out lockers, returning overdue materials to the library and other such end-of-year activities. There was also time for one more piece of 'juicy' gossip - at least half a dozen people went out of their way to tell me about Adam and Joan. It seems one of the guys who got a job at the Wentworth saw Joan go into an unoccupied room that Adam was cleaning. They closed the door and were in there for a long time. The assumption is they had sex. I guess the gossips who went out of their way to tell me this were hoping for some sort of jealous fit from me, but even I was surprised by how much I didn't care. My only hopes for Adam and Joan is that they are happy...and safe.

I started to walk to the bus stop but Glynis urged me to go with her to watch some of the activities at the celebration. Since it will be the last time I get to see her before she returns in the fall, I agreed. It was funny to watch kids pay ten bucks to throw a water balloon at Price, which reminded me that our vice-principal isn't all that bad (the money goes to help buy supplies, pay for field trips, etc; for the underpriviledged kids who attend Arcadia High). Then came the three legged egg & spoon race which Joan participated in, tied to Price. She really didn't look well and I was concerned as it was a hot day. As the race began Joan started talking to someone on her right, but...there was no one there! Then she pointed at Price and asked, "Is he the devil?" A bunch of kids laughed at that since it is a commonly held opinion, but I was really getting worried. Then, as I feared, Joan collapsed. The school nurse attended to her as an ambulance was called. Joan didn't wake up during that time and was still unconscious as the ambulance sped away. Poor Adam looked devastated, and shortly after that Kevin Girardi showed up in response to a cell phone call. He drove away with Luke, Grace and Adam all looking very scared.

That afternoon I dropped by Uncle Billy's and gave him the portrait, which was the first time he had seen it in its' completed form. I told him about Joan and how worried I was. He offered to drive me to the hospital, but I said I didn't want to intrude. Mostly I was concerned about Adam, and Uncle Billy called his bowling league buddy Mr. Rove to see if he had any news. Adam was still at the hospital, but he had informed his father that Joan was going to be okay. She has something called Lyme disease, but is expected to make a full recovery. The disease gave her a high fever and that was why she was acting so odd. I was relieved to hear Joan would be okay and wondered how long this Lyme disease had been in her system. Maybe that is why she has been acting so strange all of this time? Uncle Billy gave me a lift home, but had to hurry as he had an AA meeting downtown. This is the meeting where he will get his one year chip, and as the judge in Wilmington requested, he will be presenting it at the next family court hearing about visitation with his sons.

That evening I returned to Uncle Billy's place and had a cake ready with a number 'one' candle to celebrate his first year of sobriety. He was very touched and thanked me while we enjoyed slices of the cake. Uncle Billy did have one odd thing to tell me. As he was walking back to his car, he passed a couple of teenagers who were in a deep, long lasting, passionate kiss. He thought he recognized one of them and sure enough, it was Luke Girardi but he wasn't kissing my friend Glynis. I updated Uncle Billy that Luke and Glynis were done as a couple and asked if he recognized the girl Luke was kissing. He didn't know her but described her as a short, tough looking girl with short blonde hair. OMG, Grace Polk!

I think I will keep this bit of gossip to myself. It would only upset Glynis, and with the whole summer ahead of us, what are the odds that a couple as missed match as Luke and Grace can last? Besides, I have my own future to consider, including making plans with my new...and potentially more than a friend, Brian.

THE END.

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