It's been a couple of weeks since my dad left to spend the rest of his happy life with the librarian, Ms. Mar-pole-ey. Er, I mean Marpole. Wasn't her name "Sylvia" or something?
Whatever. I'm glad that he found the right one after so long. I really am!
It's been a while since I had a mother. Heh heh. Man, the sun's making me kinda tired. I shuffle to the blinds and mess with the drawstrings until the orange light disappears from the room. The cotton feels good on my nose, cushioning my fall to the bed, "You did good, Max. You did good." I wrap arms around my pillow and bury my face in there for a minute, trying to get a wink of sleep…
I let out a tiny groan as the wheat field disappears from my view again. Thrown back into nothing but a black hole, my hands reach for the edge of the mattress before I push my hand out of the cushion. My muzzle made a funny looking imprint, from what my half-shut eyes could see, "Yeah Bobby,—I yawn, "What is it?"
My aching neck won't support my skull; my head fell into the pillow again. Another groan. I really didn't want to get up this time.
"What are you lying around for? Come on Max the night is young—He's shaking my shoulders again.
Okay. So you may be asking, have I been plain lazy since we beat the Gammas at the X-Games?
"Fine! I'll get up on my own thanks!" The blood rush to my brain knocks me out of balance.
Well, no. I'm having a good summer so far. The rigorous practice cut itself down to a casual joyride. The same adrenaline drives me to greater heights, literally! And that look on his face—A laugh wakes me from my dry spell. Popularity soaring since we won. The trophy that my dad can show off to everyone—
I'm feeling good right now!
Oh wait. The feeling's gone.
"Aw. Look at the little champion. He's studying." The book is knocked out of my hands. I whirl my head up to glare straight into dark blue pools. His Gamma Geeks start laughing. All I want to do is punch 'Bradley Uppercrust the Third' in the face. My teeth grit and I stand up, keeping my eyes level to his.
"Max. Ignore them. Sit down." PJ's tugging at my shirt. The ex-X Games King kept that smug little smirk, chuckling at his oh-so-clever stunt. I know he hates me for beating him, fair and square.
"Is there a problem, Baby Goof?"
"Yeah, Brad. I think there is." Peej stood up and gripped my shoulder. I turn my head as he's shaking his own side to side.
"Dog Boy needs his biscotti friend to calm down? What a loose cannon!" Tank looked at me differently from the others. He knows that we saved him. But even as we let bygones be bygones, I can't forget that he's on the other team. The Gamma House became, and still is, the sole target for hate, rancor. We could never be friends, even if we tried.
"I think we've had our daily fix. Let's pack it up!"
Much less with their retard of a leader… I thought they kicked him out? I growl and settle down on the stone bench. Apparently not.
"Are you all right, Max?"
I forgot to mention my ravings and rants throughout the preparation of the X-Games. Every other day I'd have something to complain about; usually the subject revolved around Uppercrust. Bobby, at some point, got himself entertained with other aspects of the college life. He's more interested in checking out girls than hear my bitching. It's embarrassing really. So now the only one that puts up with my frustration is my buddy Peej. Since we were kids in Spoonerville, we'd have the best of times—the worst of times and everything in between. Both of us put up with our overbearing fathers until we graduated from high school.
Ha ha! And my dad decided to spend a year here to finish his education. I should have noticed a lack of a diploma when I was 11.
But to be honest, if it wasn't for him, we would have been disqualified. I'm glad he got through my "get your own life" phase.
That was the lowest point I ever had with him since that camping trip…
Back when, I was in…
I'm a guy like every other. I got hormones. And when you look at a pretty girl you can't help but stare at them as they walk by. It's their fault for wearing shorts and skirts. I know what the ideal woman is from knowing PJ's mother. Debbie was a crazy, ugly looking cousin, but turned out to be a bombshell from what I could remember. Getting all cleaned up for her and everything.
Heh heh heh.
And then there was her. Roxanne. She was beautiful, inside and out. The wheat field in my dreams under that light blue sky remind me of her… That summer at the end of my sophomore year marked the beginning of our relationship. "Puppy Love", my dad would say as a joke. My feelings for Roxanne were strong even as we spent our last days together in senior year. Like any couple we had some fights, usually because there was something on her mind that she would never tell me, no matter how many times I asked. But then I would see it in her eyes, something was wrong. Eventually people were noticing my growing talent in skateboarding and other athletics, and they told me,
"Max you're so good! Have you ever checked out the College X-Games?"
"No!" I'd tell them. Then they told me to watch ESPN. So I did. I was floored by all the cool stunts they were doing. The Gammas were the best. I admired the X-Games King at first. He was everything I ever wanted to be: A superior athlete with decent looks, above everything and everyone, admired by all. Popular!
I found out too late that he was a jerk. A complete jackass.
Back to Roxanne before I crack.
"I got a scholarship for college! Can you believe it?!" The tightest hug I ever gave her before spinning her around; I was just getting taller than her, and I think I almost choked her from the enthusiasm
"Max! Put me down!"
"Oh Roxanne this is what I've always dreamed about!"
"It's all you've been dreaming about?"
"Yeah, what . . . ?"
I didn't know what to say after that. Her head stayed on her chest. The only thing I could do was kneel under her and give her a kiss on the lips. Hers were shaking, and I felt a tear on my cheek…
It's happening again. The excitement was too much—I had to wake up. It began to throb again; l locked my knees together to get it to stop. There are some nights when I love my hormones. And then there are others when I hate them. Dreaming about your first love, now at a time when you get the basics of "that", is kinda disturbing.
It seemed, back then, we were too good for that. And even now, I respect women. I swore not to let my primal instincts take over before marriage. And then have kids of our own. I'll make sure not to overprotect them like my dad did…
But, maybe, even that…
What the hell was that?! I shot up in my bed before wringing my hands at the warm cloth. I kept on throbbing and throbbing. It wouldn't stop!
It won't stop! I fell off the bed and I hear Bobby snort in his sleep. I clamber up to my feet and nearly stumble into the bathroom. I'm careful to click the door shut and turn on the fan before I curse at myself and see my red cheeks in the mirror, "Calm down!"
Please calm down! Was it because I kept on obsessing over—?!
"Max you're so stupid—I hate this!"
I didn't care what hell time it was. I took off everything I had and delved into a cold shower to get rid of all the sweat—
"Just fuckin' perfect."
I don't think they heard me with my head buried in my crossed arms.
"Cheer up buddy. You're not the only one with freaky dreams."
I never told them exactly what I dreamed about.
"Yeah Max don't let it ruin your day!"
I sit up, "But what if it is?!" Our professor glared at us three before clearing his throat. Lucky me to have Brad in the same class this summer session. I can see him from the corner of my eye, smiling at our interrupting of the class. I can't wait when he graduates next year. Good riddance.
I groan and bury my head in my arms again, not even paying attention to our lecture on Freudian Theology—or whatever the hell that old man was blabbing on about. He's not the same guy as last year, but man his voice is so boring! God!
It took forever until I heard the shuffling of papers and the shutting of notebooks. The zipping of backpacks and the click of tote bags. The light shone through the windows on the chalkboard, orange and a muddy green. I'm all ready for bed,
"Max." Peej tapped on my shoulder, "Time to go."
I let out a sigh before reaching down to get my pack, "I'll catch up with you later." I'm dead tired.
My friend gives me a strange look and shrugs his shoulders, "If you catch up, I'll be at the Bean Scene. Bobby said he'd be at some free rock concert around campus."
"I think, I'll just go back to the dorm and sleep."
"But that's all you've been doing lately!"
"I don't sleep very well." I push myself off of the desk and sway around for a bit before regaining balance on my sore feet.
"Suit yourself. Um, do you think that we should, I dunno, go out on a road trip during the weekend or something, get some fresh air?"
I sigh deeply and look away from him, "It's fine, Peej."
We were the only people in the room. And now I was the only one. The sun was setting even lower, but I kept on staring at nothing. The screech of a nearby car outside snaps me out of my trance. I trudge up the steps and push the door open.
I must have tripped on the bottom of a post because the next thing I knew I was on the ground, chin hitting the concrete, "Ouch!"
I can see a shoe in front of my face and it threatened to kick me—
I roll out of the way quickly and jump off the ground to see an all-too-familiar silhouette, red-orange shining the side of his prissy sweater—
"What the hell do you want?!" I wasn't so tired anymore.
"What I always wanted to do since we met—
The collar of my shirt's pulled up to his giant chin, "beat you."
I push him off me and block a blow to my jaw. I came under and punched him in the stomach—It was almost satisfying until I felt my back rammed up against the wall, the back of my head was about to go numb—
"Make this easy for the two of us, freshman. Get the fuck out of here. Transfer out of this campus so that I never see your mug again."
My eyes widen. I never heard him swear before.
"Because, the next time I see it—the next time when we're all alone—I'll break it in!"
The grip is suddenly released and he whirls around and leaves, but not down the stone steps. Like a thief he disappears 'round the corner of the building. My shallow breathing made heart pound violently, for more reasons than one.
I shake my head and wrench onto my pack's strap and practically run down the steps, grating my teeth together and only wanting to see Brad in a pool of his own blood—
"oof!" The flutter of papers and a couple of books—
"Watch it!" I growl. I'm about to push this guy to the ground—this guy with red hair… Dammit, it's a girl. Despite my sudden poisonous fantasies I kneel down begrudgingly to help pick up after her. Our hands touch, and through my glove I feel a wonderful warmth . . .
Our eyes peer up at one another. They lock. Her face is in shock.
I recognize that beauty mark anywhere.
"Roxanne." I breathe—my heart beat even faster than before. Something caught in my throat, but I didn't care—
"Roxanne! Oh!" I knock her down on the bare sidewalk with a big hug, careful not to hit her head. All the feelings from the past washed over me in an older body—a taller body—she felt like a child in my arms,
"Max?!—I let her go so that she could catch her breath. I stand up and take her hand in mine lifting her off the ground and giving her a more civil embrace, "It's so good to see you again I can't believe it!"
A finger comes in between our lips.
" . . . Is it really you?" more sad than happy.
"Yeah, Roxanne! It's me—Max—don't you remember me?" I broke into a humored smile.
Didn't she used to be more bubbly and excited when we saw each other?
"What are you doing here I thought you had gone to another campus?"
I can't even pause between my words; I felt elated. Her hair got shorter. She's covering more of her skin too. Her shorts became loose jeans.
"I did, Max. Stacey moved up here with her family and decided to transfer over. I came with her to visit for a couple of days. This is my last night."
"Well how is she? Why are you walking around here by yourself? You were trying to find me, weren'tcha?" A playful nudge on her shoulder, like old times.
She finally smiled, "I didn't think I would find you. At all." Then she slowly hung her head, again. A lump caught in my throat again; I had to swallow it down.
"Roxanne." My fingers cup her chin and raise her brown eyes to mine. I want nothing more than to kiss her again, "I'll take you to the dorm. Come on."
I pick up her stuff and offer her my arm to wrap herself around.
"I'm fine, thanks." She's walking ahead of me.
"You're walking the wrong way!" I laugh.
Cappuccino's almost ready. I tell the machine to work faster under my breath. From the corner of my eye I can see Roxanne prodding at the scone I got her,
"Did I catch you at a bad time? Period maybe?" I chuckle at my own joke. It seemed easier to be myself around her, not having to carry around my façade of the goody-two-shoe kid on campus. I was more mischievous towards her as we reached our senior year together. But I'd always draw the line wherever hands were concerned. I wouldn't dare touch her inappropriately, even now . . . Coffee's done.
Damn she's silent tonight. Like before we had an argument. I'd always ask her, "What's wrong?"
"Are you sure?"
I forget about that endless cycle, "So how's your dad? College done you in yet?"
"He's fine. College is good. I'm getting good grades…"
"Higher GPA than mine, I bet!" Then she grins. I wish it could stay.
I feel like reminiscing, "Did you miss me?"
. . .
"Did you, miss me?" I never noticed the bags under her eyes, like we suffered from the same spell of insomnia. The way she asked me the question made me nervous.
"Of course! Wh- What makes you think otherwise?" The hand holding the mug begins to shake, "ow!" The hot water went into my gloves.
"Are you all right, Max?" Roxanne's holding my hand in hers. I'm about to melt,
"I've always missed you.. I still dream of the field."
"What field are you talking about?"
I bite my tongue down; I had let my sophomoric fantasies slip out of my big mouth. Her brows come together. I'm not liking her expression right now. "Look Max. I'm not surprised if you've gone and seen other girls. I don't care if you still see them after I'm gone."
"Roxanne—The chair scrapes the floor as I find myself kneeling before her—"Don't go. Not yet."
"But I'm not leaving yet. Max, what are you doing?" My lips were pressed against her knuckles, palm, wrist. In a blur my eyes look up to her face before making contact with her own. As I stood up I took her by the waist and held her close, letting myself get lost in her scent.
"Max! Stop it!" She's wiping her mouth, her pupils shrunken down. Roxanne's trying to get away.
"Please don't go. But what do you mean I can't see you again?"
"A lot's been going on and I can't take you with me!"
"Roxanne, please—I'll even transfer out of this campus—
A sharp slap—"Come back to your senses, Goof!"
I let go, shaking. She's petrified in fear… of me. "Roxanne. What have I done wrong now?"
"It's not what you did! It never was!" I choke on a gasp. Why am I crying? I wipe my tears before she sees them—
"I know I did something wrong Roxanne! If you would just tell me!"
You never tell me!
The umber flared into lava under the iridescent lights, "Max!"
I see her leaning on the kitchen counter for support, lips shaking and face pale as if she were about to throw up, "I was raped!"
. . . . .
"No. No, you weren't." I couldn't understand why a chuckle was coming from my own throat.
"Max! Listen to me!" I'm lounging around on the couch and stifling my laughs. All of a sudden Roxanne's right next to me, "Max—mmph!—
"No. You're too good. You're an angel." My right hand runs forever through her hair, dark and tight. I hear a sob within my chest, I feel the tears. Lying on top of me, my angel wrapped her arms around my neck and spoke,
"Max . . . Do you remember? When everyone told you how good you were, in skateboarding."
I can only give her a kiss on the head, "Yeah."
"I got jealous." Of who? "Of your passion."
"Why didn't you tell me? If I ignored you because I got caught up in sports, you could have told me. I turn over so that our eyes are the same height from the ground. We're pressed against the couch, holding onto each other for dear life.
"I got depressed for a while… and then… he—
"Hey Roxanne. How 'bout Stacey's party?"
"We were juniors, Max, when it happened. I was so stupid to let him comfort me, hold me. Because, at that point, I wasn't getting any of that from you. You kept on obsessing over some 'Bradley Uppercrust'—
In a pool of his own blood.
"Roxanne. Don't mention that name again. I don't want to hear it."
Her eyelids raise a bit and she nods her head, "Okay." I finally got a kiss from her dry lips, covered with salt. I didn't want to hear the rest. Good thing, because she was never going to tell me. It was her turn to comfort me when I burst into tears when the truth sank in…
"I want you—I want to be with you forever… Marry me."
My eyes blur over and fog out as I held on tighter . . .
"Please don't go."
My arms are wrapped around my pillow. The sun shone yellow on my bedroom wall. Lazy eyes scanned the nightstand. The analog clock reads 7:20AM. I could hear the snoring of my roommates. I stare at the ceiling for the longest time before stretching out my arms and legs—one of them got a severe cramp,
"ff—- owow ow—" I let the blood circulate so the pain would go away.
All that was just a dream. I groan and sit myself up on the bed. After standing I stretch out even more and breathe in as much oxygen as I can. I exhale and shuffle to the bathroom, turn on the faucet and rinse my damp face.
The cold water burned my cheek. It stung,
Face wet, dripping of all the sweat and tears I shed, I spot a red mark in the mirror right where her hand had struck.
Was I still in a dream, or in a living nightmare?