(*** for Vidhika at “The Grateful Dead” blog***)
[a Short Story – by Sha’Tara]
It had all happened so fast. Maybe because everything spoke of perfection, a dovetailing of events that happen only in fairy tales. It was my fairy tale. That perfect Summer.
I probably better go back a bit and explain. Our family, that is my mom, my dad and me, well, we were what is called dysfunctional. My dad is an alcoholic and an abuser. Even as I write this, and admit it to myself I cringe inside. I can still see him come into my room those nights when mom worked the night shift at the hospital. I can still smell his breath and feel his hands on me as he tugged at my nightgown while I tried to hold on to it, curling up and crying, begging him to leave me alone. But every time I had to let him or get beaten. If I got beaten I lied to mom about the bruises. I was so sure all of this was my fault and if she found out she’d hate me or beat me up and maybe send me away to a foster home or something.
But then he beat her too and she fought back. She’s a nurse and you could say she’s pretty tough. She kicked him out of our lives finally, divorced him with an injunction against him not to contact us. He tried it once. He went to jail. I don’t know where he is now and hope I never find out. I’m still afraid of him; afraid he’ll show up one day, even though I’m now living on my own.
After the divorce things got better for mom and I. I told her then what dad had done to me and we became, well, more like two women who share their pain in understanding rather than mother and daughter. You will say, she should have known, but I think she didn’t want to face it then. I was only fifteen then but my life had made me mature in some ways, though in others I trailed behind. In school I did well and I had a dream to become a doctor.
Mom had saved up some money and some vacation time and after I turned sixteen she decided to spend a whole month in a cabin at a popular lake near the mountains. Kind of a birthday gift for you, she said. We took only what we could pack and took the bus to Chanesville, then a smaller tour bus to the resort on lake Chitsaw. Our cabin was back in the trees, a bit old and moldy smelling at first, but it was far enough we didn’t have to hear the jetskis and power boats that continually tore up the waterfront.
The beach was perfect. Golden sand under a golden sun. I tan easily and within a couple of days I felt pretty good walking around in one of my two bikinis. I had a blue and a pink one and sometimes I mixed the colours. Within a week I knew almost everybody and had a couple of girl friends from my school.
I saw him during the second week and I fell in love. No, not just infatuated, but deeply and madly in love. It was as if he had materialized from inside my dreams. Tall, handsome, beautiful of face with shoulder-length blond hair. I wasn’t the only one who noticed him, of course, and soon he was the talk of our circle. We dared each other to go over and talk to him. Sometimes he walked alone along the shore and it seemed to me that the sand became even more golden after he touched it.
I decided I’d risk it and waited until he took one of his walks by himself and walked to the water in an intersecting path. When he was within a couple of yards from me I bent over pretending to be inspecting something in the sand. He came over and asked what I was looking at. I lied and said I thought I’d seen a green bug burrowing in. He laughed. Introduced himself: Dean. I did likewise: Shauna. We walked together. I, lost in a lucid dream. He, probably looking me over as men do. It often made me uncomfortable but with him, well, I would have danced naked for him if he’d asked me!
D’you have someone? No I said. Neither do I. There’s a party at our cabin tomorrow evening. I’ll come by your place and escort you, if you want to come. Sure I said. It’s number forty-three, up there in the trees. Yeah, I know, he said. I’ve watched you before and I followed you yesterday.
Well, with that my feelings went off the chart. The rest is just too predictable, right out of a bad novel. He came to our cabin and I introduced him to mom. She didn’t take to him the way I’d expected. She took me into her room and closed the door. You watch yourself, Shauna, she said. This boy makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just me, being your mom and seeing you go out on a date like that. Promise you’ll be home by midnight and that you won’t walk back alone?
Yes mom, yes. Promises are easy to make when your mind, your heart, your whole being is somewhere else. Walking with Dean was like floating in the air. Everything was wonderful, beautiful. The stars were brighter than usual. The air was cleaner, sweeter. The party was great. When most of the people had wandered off, the kids to “midnight swims” and the adults back to their own places, I found myself practically alone with Dean. Come upstairs, I’ll show you my room, he said. I felt a twinge of something – a warning? Mom’s words tried to make me stop. But I couldn’t. He was my golden lover.
Yeah, we made love. Wildly, passionately. He had experience. He drove me crazy. I lost myself in him and finally fell asleep in his arms. He woke me up just before midnight, reminding me of my promise to my mother to be home by then. We got dressed and he walked me home. I was still in that mood you get when you walk out of a movie theatre when the romance has triumphed. Dizzy with love.
I spent most of the rest of that vacation with Dean. Inseparable, we were. Afterwards, we talked every night on the phone. It was long distance but mostly he made the calls so it didn’t cost me much. Then I missed my period. I knew I was pregnant. I couldn’t tell mom and didn’t know what to do. So stupid. I just forgot the damned pills. Just figured it couldn’t happen until Dean and I were married, or living together, you know? I told Dean. Dead silence on the other end of the phone. Dean? Yeah, well, you going to get an abortion, aren’t you? They’re not legal here and I can’t tell mom. What do we do? I asked stupidly. I don’t think it’s a question of what we do, babe. It’s not really my problem, is it. You have to get an abortion.
I must have passed out. When I came to, the phone was talking to me. I hung up and tried to wake up from a nightmare. But it was like before with dad. It was no nightmare. Real. This was real. Dean dumped me. Then mom noticed and after much crying, I told her. She was real mad at first, said I should have told her and she could have made the arrangement. Stupid, you’re so stupid. Now it’s too late. What are your plans? She asked. My plans? I don’t have any plans! Dean and I were going to move in together eventually, get married. Now I’m alone again, just like when you worked the night shift and dad molested me. What can I do mom?
You have to give my mom credit. She didn’t stay mad, or in blame, or denial. She asked me, what has life taught you so far when you have a problem? And I told her, I have to find my own solution to it. It’s my problem and I must deal with it. And I want my baby I said suddenly with a new kind of passion I’d never had before.
I continued in school until it got too embarrassing. Took correspondence courses put together for girls in my situation. Mom supported me. She attended when I had my baby. At first, well, he was just a typical shriveled up little thing with a loud mouth. But as he grew I saw the spitting image of Dean in him. He is my golden boy and I love him. He’s the legacy of my lost pleasure and happiness as a stupid young girl and he’s my joy now, my life.
I’m nineteen now, soon I’ll be twenty and Shane is three. I moved away from home last year, just to be alone with my son. It feels right to do this by myself and for him to know who his real mother is. Mom was spending too much time with him thinking I needed time to myself. I don’t need that much. I like my work – I work in a hair dressing shop where they train you. I like working with people and pleasing them with the right words, the right touch and of course, the right hairstyle. We live in a basement bachelor suite in a run-down old quadplex but it’s a good place. The owners live upstairs; an old Jewish couple who adore Shane. They baby-sit for me, most of the time for nothing. What can I say more? My life and my world are good.
The other day as I was getting on the bus I noticed a stretch limo stopping on the other side of the street by a Starbucks. I smiled – I always do at those ostentatious ugly vehicles that have only one message for the rest of us: Hey look at me, I’m rich. Dumb. Then I saw a man step out as the chauffeur opened the door. Tall, handsome, blond. It was Dean. I know it was. My heart was pounding in my chest and I had to grab the back of the seat to keep my balance. I looked again but he was gone and the bus pulled out. It’s then I realized how good my life really is. It’s mine. Dean could have been a part of the wonder we created in our foolishness. But he chose not to and left the entire fortune in my hands and my heart.
When Shane is old enough I’ll let him go and give him his life too. We make our own way in life; we don’t depend on others or belong to others. Then life is truly good.