Going UnderGeorgia Cates
“I had a fabulous weekend. ” I was counting my night with him as the fabulous part. “And yours?
He smiled and it was beautiful. “It had a strong start, but sort of went downhill from that point. I’m feeling a little optimistic and I hold out hope that this week will be better. ”
I raised an eyebrow and said, “Have you asked the almighty 8 Ball? I guarantee it will have an answer for you. ”
He leaned in toward me and softly said,“No, I thought I’d ask you instead. ”
I knew what his meaning was, but I wanted to hear him say the words. “Ask me what?”
His voice was so soft. “If you would spend some time with me again. I’m pretty sure we still have some exploring to do. ”
Yeah, we had much exploring to do and I was looking forward to it. “Yes, I’d like that very much. ”
Mrs. Tanner shut the classroom door and told us we would be finishing up with our last creative ingredient today. She gave us our assignment envelope and I pushed it in Jessie’s direction. “You read the assignment today. ”
He opened it and read aloud, “Making or seeing connections is bringing together seemingly unrelated ideas, objects or events in a way that leads to new understanding. Making connections is at the heart of learning. Figuring out what’s the same, what’s different and making unusual connections is at the core of creativity. To better acquaint yourself with your partner, compile a list of similarities and differences and compare them. There’s a suggestion list if you’d like to see it. ”
I reached to take the list. I allowed my fingers to graze his and was reminded of his touch and the way it made me feel. I looked into his eyes and I wanted to touch him again. With our desks facing and pushed together, I reached out to touch his hand behind the concealment of my backpack after I placed it on our desks between us. My touch surprised him and he squeezed my hand. I knew our touch could only last for a moment, but I took the chance because I desperately needed to feel his skin on mine.
Neither of us spoke, but we both smiled, then our hands parted ways.
I looked at the list of suggestions and read the one at the top of the list. “Compare our family dynamics. ”
* * *
Family dynamics was not something I would willingly share about myself with Claire. The real Jessie Boone was way too complicated and hearing about his life would be awkward and uncomfortable, so I decided to tell her things that were easy to hear.
I ask her to tell me about her perfect world first so I had time to create my fictitious life to portray a seemingly comfortable life that wouldn’t draw sympathy.
“I live with both of my parents and I am the youngest of three children. My dad is a physician, an OB-GYN, and my mom is a clinical psychologist. My brother, Ryan, is the oldest. He’s in medical school and my sister, Maggie, is a CRNA. ”
I could tell her the truth-I lived with my dope dealing grandmother because my mother was shot and killed in a drug deal gone wrong. The same people that killed my mother in front of me then shot me and left me for dead while my two little brothers hid in a closet. Maybe her psychologist mom could help me figure out how to not be so screwed up after all I’ve been through. Maybe she’d even want to go with me on the rare occasions I got to see my little brothers at their foster parent’s house.
Nope. No way I was telling her the truth, so I began to weave my tale. “I live with both of my parents and I was the only one in the litter. My dad is a mechanic and runs a garage and body shop, so I know a lot about fixing vehicles, and my mom is a hairdresser. ”
She reached up and touched the front of my hair. “Is that why you have great hair?”
I didn’t catch her meaning at first because I wasn’t thinking of my lie, then it dawned on me. “You think I have great hair?”
She began doodling on her loose leaf paper and smiled. “Moving on…compare your after graduation plans. ”
Living in a family with a doctor, a psychologist, a medical student and a CRNA caused me to suspect one thing to come out of her mouth. “Let me guess-something in the medical field. ”
She started laughing and said, “Hell, no. That would be the greatest epic fail of all time. I’d kill somebody my first day on the job. ” Her face suddenly took on a very serious expression and I waited to hear how she planned to change the world with some kind of amazing goal in her profession. “I’m going to be a pole dancer. ”
A brazen image of Claire formed in my mind. “Are you saying that to get me fantasizing about you on a pole? If that was your goal… mission accomplished. ”
“I’m not a hater. I’m a congratulator. Although I am kidding about doing it professionally, I do plan to have a pole in my house because it’s an under appreciated art form. ”
I swallowed hard and squeaked out, “Will you marry me?”
She laughed and dismissed my proposal, then said, “When I’m not dancing on my pole, I’m going to be a social worker. ”
Wow. Not the words I expected to come out of her mouth. I had had my fair share of dealings with social workers and I knew for a fact they worked hard and made too little money for the crap they dealt with.
“Why a social worker?” In fact, why any profession that had the word worker in it because it always meant you were going too work hard for basically no money.
“Adoption holds a special place in my heart because my brother, sister and I were all adopted and I want to help kids needing good homes find them. ”
Totally didn’t see that one coming.
“They got Ryan from Russia and Maggie from China. My parents thought their family was complete with a boy and girl and then I came along unexpectedly. The woman that gave birth to me dropped into the hospital where my father worked, pushed out a heroine addicted baby and left the premises. Because I was so sick, no one in the foster care system would take me. My parents were the only people that would take me. ”
All this time, I thought she so different from me, but she wasn’t. Not really, except her outcome has turned out so much better than mine.
“Don’t look so sad, Jessie. My story has a happy ending. I’m okay. ”
I wasn’t sad for her. I was mad with myself. She has shared a significant part of her life with me, something real, and I had fabricated a big, fat lie.
She poked me in the arm. “Please cheer up because the look on your face is really bringing me down. ”
I forced a smile. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be a drag. I’m just surprised is all. ”
Wanting to change the subject quickly, she smiled and asked, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
The irony of what I wanted to do sometimes made me laugh hysterically at myself, but I wanted to lighten the mood first. “I’m going to be a tattoo artist. It’s an under appreciated art form, also. I became interested a few months ago when I got my first one. ” I pulled my sleeve up so she could get a better view of my tat and asked, “What do you think?”
I expected her to tell me it was cool or something generic like that, but she reached out to touch my arm and said, “I love it. ”
Her words combined with her touch set me on fire and I don’t think she could have turned me on more if she had flipped my on switch. Class was not where I wanted this to happen, so I tried to play it cool and move on to a less stimulating topic.
“When I’m not sticking needles and ink in people, I’m going to be an attorney, but not the sleazy kind. I want to prosecute the guilty, not defend them. ”
She frowned. “That’s a real bummer. You’ll have to wear a suit and it’ll cover that little beauty up. ”
“I might be mistaken for the criminal if I didn’t cover them. ”
She studied the design and asked, “Are you going to get another one soon?”
I pointed to the area I planned on doing next. “Yeah, I’m going to take this part down closer to my
She couldn’t have surprised me more by asking, “Can I go with you when you do it?”
I thought about her being with me while I got a tattoo and I wasn’t sure how it would make me feel, but I couldn’t wait to find out. “You can if you want. What about next week?
She briefly thought about it and said, “Perfect. ”
I reached for her arm and pretended to examine her upper arm. “Do I need to make an appointment for two?”
She laughed as she pulled her arm away and said, “I’ll just be observing, but maybe next time. ”
The rest of Humanities flew and so did History, but then Physics came and I had to endure Claire sitting with Forbes when I wanted her all to myself. At least they were sitting behind me so I didn’t have to look at them the whole time. I was still forced to hear them talking and it drove me crazy the whole hour wondering if he was touching her.
After surviving Physics and my other remaining classes, I went to the field for practice. Our first game was four days away, meaning Forbes had four days to try to take me out and I wondered if today was the day. I dressed out and reminded myself to be on guard, prepared for anything. I had to be mindful at all times to prevent myself from getting hurt.
After two hours of practice, we were wore out and I began to relax because I decided no one could possibly have the energy to try to blitz me. I turned to see Claire before the next play and watched her get tossed into the air much higher than I liked and my heart paused until I saw her feet safely on the ground again. I breathed a sigh of relief and then suddenly I saw many shades of black.
Thirty more minutes of practice and I would be free to hopefully sneak away for a little time with Jessie if I could find a way to get rid of Forbes. I thought of the different scenarios and decided I might have to resort to the aid of my bestie, even if it meant lying to her.
My cheer partners gathered around me for another basket toss, but Payton was busy staring out onto the field, then I heard her ask, “Hey, what’s going on out there?”