Girl Code(10)

By: L.D. Davis

I wanted to say, “can’t, or won’t?” but I didn’t. Instead, I asked, “How am I supposed to get there?”

Mom shrugged. “You can take the train. You’re old enough.”

“She’s a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school with no real experience in the city,” Leo said, looking at my mom with a dumbfounded expression, as if that should and would change my mom’s mind.

I don’t know why he thought he had a part in our family conversation, but his words were a thought that had indeed crossed my mind.

Mom gave him a harsh look, and for a second, I thought she was going to tell him to mind his own business, but she turned away from Leo and spoke to me. “I’ll give you money to get back and forth. Maybe someone can go with you if you’re afraid to go alone, or maybe you can re-apply another year.”

I wished I could say that I was surprised by her reaction, but I wasn’t. Leo stood in the doorway with his mouth hanging open, looking from her to me. I didn’t want him to open his big mouth again, so I shrugged and pushed him back toward the dining room.

“It’s fine,” I said to her. “I can go alone.”

“What the hell was that?” Leo asked a little too loudly after I pushed him into his seat. He had seen some of my parents’ indifference to me over the months, but nothing as blatant as that.

“Can we just get started on this paper?” I asked, ignoring his question. It was humiliating enough that my mother clearly preferred my brother over me. I didn’t feel the need to discuss it with Leo of all people.

As I unloaded my backpack, I felt Leo’s eyes on me, but I didn’t want to meet them. I didn’t want to share my sadness with him.

“Tabitha,” he started in a quiet voice.

I ignored him and began talking about our project. After a moment, he got the hint and together, we got started on our assignment. We didn’t talk about what happened between my mom and me. After a while, he even went back to terrorizing me until I was hitting him with my English book.

Later that night as I lay in bed listening to music, I thought about the fact that my mom was going to be okay with letting her fourteen-year-old daughter go into the city alone. If she were okay with that, surely she wouldn’t care about me going to a party. Then again, if Tack told her he didn’t want me to go, she would have agreed with him just because he was her perfect baby boy, but Tack wasn’t going to be there, and I had promised him I wouldn’t go.

But I lied to my brother, and after that, I was more determined than ever to go to that party.

My vision was hazy and my body felt heavy and numb in some places. I stumbled on the stairs, my feet missing step after step, but with his arms around me, he kept me from falling and kept me moving until we stumbled into the hallway on the second floor. The passage was dark and I could barely make out the shapes of doors on either side of me, but we continued walking straight until we reached a door at the very end of the hall. He pushed it open and soft light bathed the doorway. His hand on my back guided me inside the bedroom and the door closed behind us.

A small voice in the back of my head, locked away in the distance, screamed a warning, but I couldn’t hear it clearly. It was too far, and the voice sounded garbled and faded. It grew a little louder as strong hands landed gently on my shoulders and began to turn me, but I still couldn’t hear what it was saying.

When I had turned one-hundred and eighty degrees, Rico held my face in his hands and leaned forward. I knew instantly that he was going to kiss me. It was going to be my first kiss; Rico was going to give me my first kiss. I had imagined my first kiss with Tom Cruise, Bon Jovi, and a boy that I saw at the mall once in a while, but never with Rico. Not that he wasn’t attractive, because he was. Tall and lean, with dark hair and dark eyes and skin the color of coffee with cream in it, he was a good-looking guy, but I never had the desire to kiss him before, and I didn’t have the desire to kiss him then, either.

The mind thinks of funny things when it’s inebriated. Leo’s face came to mind just before Rico’s lips touched mine. I could see his face inches from mine in my bedroom that night he came over to tutor me. He had said his heart was beating fast and I never found out why. I wondered if he was about to kiss me that night. Maybe Leo was about to kiss me and Tack screwed it up, but that didn’t make sense. Leo liked Leslie, I was sure of it, and I wasn’t like Leslie. I wasn’t as pretty as she was, and where she was always down for a party or a get-together, I was the stay-at-home-like-a-dork kind of girl. There was no way he wanted to kiss me.