In the Chair

    D.N.A. #samplesunday Chapter 1

    Author: Ey Wade Genre: »
    Rating

    My contribution for this week: An excerpt from my newest book, D.N.A.

    Debney Nichole Armstrong thought she knew everything about her family. She knew her dad worked hard at everything, except building a relationship with his family. She knew her younger brothers were typical little kids, and she knew without doubt, her mother cared nothing for her first born and only daughter. But what she hadn’t known was, DNA could ruin your life.


    Eighteen year old Debney Nichole Armstrong, found out about her parents’ and little brothers’ death during the night of her eighteenth birthday party. Yes, sometimes relationships in families end tragically. People leave; parents die, and lives change, but does it all have to bring out the skeletons in the closet?

    After one of her reoccurring bitter arguments with her mother, Debney is left home alone while her family goes away on summer vacation. In the chaos of a romantic (with her long time crush) dinner turned teen party, she learns of the death of her family. What she really needed to know was what role did her mother contribute to the ‘accident’? Where were the bodies of her ten year old twin brothers? Who is the strange man in her mother’s journals, and who is the father of the child she now carries? No matter what the answers are, Debney knows, nothing will ever be the same.

    i. Sometimes Life Sucks

    Debney clasped the rail to the stairs tightly, slowed her steps in an effort to control her odd side to side waddling movements, and hoped to forestall the possibility of losing her balance and falling over. No mean feat considering the large backpack pressing into her side weighed more than ten pounds and the huge odd shape of her near nine month pregnancy caused her to lean dangerously forward.

    Looking down and into the hallway, she met the animated gaze of more than two dozen pair of eyes. It was easy to see that the giggling groups of students standing and gawking around their lockers were getting a kick out of her precarious situation, none were worried about her.

    Straightening her shoulders and tightening her jaw she urged herself to show confidence. One stupid mistake and they would all laugh and she would have to spend the rest of the day trying to live with an added humiliation. It would be the last twang on her already bruised nerves, and she knew she would probably lose all of her self control.

    Releasing each shaky breath, she exhaled slowly with each successful step she took. If she did fall,it would be her third tumble within one week and obviously not a good thing for her or the baby, but a definite show of entertainment for the uncouth high school ensemble. The pain from the fall she knew she would get over, but the embarrassment and the ridicule would be way too hard to swallow. Debney held the rail tighter and continued moving cautiously, she refused to let herself be the brunt of their humor once again. 

    "Fat pig on the stairs." chortled one as she elbowed Debney in the side.
    "Girl roll on down and get out the way." Another laughed loudly.
    "Yeah you're blocking everybody."
    “They shouldn’t allow people like you in here, anyway. What kind of model are you for the freshman? A stupid girl, that sleeps around and then doesn’t have the sense to use protection, idiot.” The fourth turned and sneered at Debney as she bounced down the stairs after her friends.

    Breathing in deeply, Debney let the long fall of her hair hide the mixture of fear and anger in her face, while provided her with a curtain to shield her emotions behind; the small gesture pulled in check her urge to retaliate. What she really wanted to do was grab them, one at a time, slit their throats and then throw them down the stairs. The visualization of their bodies slamming against the lockers and exploding amused her. She smiled slightly, as she imagined herself standing on the stairs, hands on hips, big belly bouncing while she laughed loudly like a raving maniac. And it would be their faults for driving her to insanity. The juvenile hate filled mass campaign the students of King’s Multicultural High School had organized to do her harm became more and more evident as her days to give birth grew shorter. It was no longer a laughing matter. True, she may have unwittingly caused some of the animosity to be pointed towards her, but endangering the life of an innocent baby was uncalled for.

    The sudden flurry of independent movement of her shirt drew her attention from the chaos and noise around her to the presence of turmoil within. The baby’s hearty kicks seemed to mirror the anger burning through her veins. Resting her palm on the freakishly rolling inch of flesh under her shirt she whispered quiet words of comfort. Here she was nearly ready to give birth and she still hadn’t gotten used to the dance movements going on inside of her body. The small kick of the child against her ribs was the only hold to her restraint and sanity.

    “Are you okay?”

    Lifting her head and lowering it just as quickly when her gaze smacked straight into the concerned eyes of Giante’ DeVries, Debney sighed and cursed under her breath irritably. Not bothering to answer she continued on her measured course down, the action successfully causing him to move with her.

    Giante’ walked the stairs backward and directly in front of her. His left hand sliding unhurriedly down the rail with the arm held stiffly, successfully giving the impression he would protect her from falling. His hands were huge, smooth and long fingered. And from what she tried hard not to remember, extremely gentle. 

    She felt the heat rise in her face as quickly as the shame entered her thoughts. Above all the others, she remembered him. Every thought she ever had of him caused her to ridicule herself. If the imminent danger of falling wasn’t weighing heavily on her mind she would have closed her eyes to avoid the compassion in his.

    “You know it wouldn’t hurt you to pretend you know me, Debney. Hell we’ve spent every summer together for as long as I can remember. I’m just worried about you Deb.” His voice softened as he whispered the last part.

    “I’m fine.”

    Her voice came out in little more than a whisper. It had been days since anyone had spoken to her. Weeks if you subtracted the cruel, sarcastic tones of voices. She quickened her steps, trying to brush past him as soon as her feet hit solid ground but he as usual blocked her path.

    “I haven’t seen you in a while. What with football practice and Spring Break, I haven’t had time to roam the halls, but I’ve missed you.” He bent down a little to try and see her face through the curtain of her thick dark hair.

    His smile was encouraging and the only thing she could see of his face without boldly throwing her head back. No way would she be doing that, she just didn’t feel brave enough to follow through. The last time she let her emotions rule her actions all hell had fallen into her life. She kept her head down and watched her hands gently rubbing her stomach as she encouraged herself to respond.

    “That’s fine. Giante' it didn't matter. Everything has been the same.” She sucked in a deep breath and tried to go around him, but was forestalled by his evasive movements. “Can you get out of the way? I have things I need to do before the bell rings.”

    “Why do you always run from me, Debney?”

    Closing her eyes briefly, Debney sighed deeply. She just didn’t have time for an interrogation. She knew anything she did out of her ordinary habit of scurrying through the crowd would draw unwanted attention in her direction. Standing still in the middle of the hallway was something she avoided as much as possible. When it came to finding a victim for harassment she was the biggest target and she preferred to be a moving one. Peering around his shoulder at the students in the hallway she took a steadying breath. Maybe if she let him have a few moments of conversation he would hurry and move and she would be free to go on her way.

    Pressured beyond belief knowing she had a short space of time to get through the hallway to the restroom and yet not willing to give him access to such information, she fiend irritation, executed her best wiggling neck in the current attitudal broken hinged fashion, she answered louder than necessary.

    “Why do you always stand in my way, Giant?” Her irritation at being confronted plainly showing.

    "You know I don't like you calling me that, Deb."

    Of course she knew. He had been teased with the nickname from the third grade onward. Ever since kindergarten he’d been shoulders and head taller than the other boys his age and after the summer of their fifth grade year he’d outgrown those same boys by another nine inches.

    Tossing her head back to clear the hair from her face she commanded herself to look him boldly in the eyes, and immediately disobeyed. At almost seven feet tall, Giante’ looked like a god. A tall muscular well built beautiful Asian god and she loved him. A fact he seemed unaware of.

    Looking around anywhere and everywhere but in his face, she noticed the movements and shuffling of the other students had practically stopped and the volume in the hallway lowered as it filled with more bodies. The sudden drop in the decibel of noise was a blatant sign of interest in the couple’s conversation. It was obvious the crowd of students were either pretending to retrieve articles from their lockers or outright listening to their discussion. She lowered her voice. 

    “I’m sorry, Giante’. I didn’t mean to shout or call you that. My last class was a nightmare and I really have something I need to do before the next one. Listen….” she grabbed the strap of her sagging backpack in preparation to swing it to her other side and he yanked it from her hand. The action caused her to lean forward precariously, only to be saved from falling by him stepping forward and bearing her weight in his arms. Moving quickly she righted herself and stepped back a few paces. Using both hands to brush the hair from her face she sighed and wiggled her shoulders in relief at the momentary removal of the added weight.

    “Are you supposed to be carrying things this heavy?” Giante’ raised the bag up and down testing its weight. “It’s as big as your stomach and probably heavier than you are.”

    “Obviously you know nothing about social graces when it comes to talking to pregnant women.” She reached for her bag and he switched it to his other hand and higher than her reach. “Or should I say women in general.” 

    She saw the heat rise in his face and felt ashamed again for causing him embarrassment. He used to be one of her best friends, one of the last ones to stand by her side, and all she could do whenever they met was ‘cause him shame.

    “You know what, Giante'? Don’t worry about the size of my stomach. You should mind your own damned business.” 

    “Should you even be walking downstairs in your condition? Isn’t the baby due soon?” He ignored her small tirade, the concern for her welfare plainly seen through the softness of his eyes. “You should ask your mom….”

    Debney interrupted his reprimand angrily. Moving without thought she stepped towards him and in less than a second she was so close to Giante’ that their stomachs touched. His immediate step backwards spoke volumes to his revulsion of the contact and she lost it. In her anger she poked his chest with the nail of her pointer finger.

    “You know what; you should mind your own business and quit worrying about me. And just what should I ask my mom, Giante’? Ask her if she misses me? Ask her if she ever gave a crap about me? Ask her what she thinks of her only daughter being pregnant? If she’s glad she gets to spend eternity away from me? Or should I just ask her how she feels being dead?”

    Stunned at voicing the questions she only repeated to herself when she was alone at night, Debney covered her mouth with her hands and stared at the hurt, mortified look on Giant’s face. She regretted hurting him, but she just didn’t have the energy to coddle anyone. All she wanted was to be left alone.

    Before he could answer, a crowd of his football buddies and their cheerleader girlfriends surrounded and maneuvered themselves between the couple, successfully separating them. The interruption felt like a godsend and Debney decided to take the gift and slip away. Knowing it wouldn’t be long before their inane conversation would be directed towards her with derivative criticism, Debney reached for her bag, again, Giante’ held it out of her reach. 

    Taking Giante’s actions as a sign to continue the daily ritual of mocking and ridicule, Roody the jock nearest to Debney, jumped back as if it were detrimental to avoid any physical contact from her. He brushed his hands across his shoulders and down his clothes. His nose turned up in disgust.

    "Man Giante' you need to stay away from DNA." He uttered the now hated acronym made from the initials of her name.
    Looking around the group of laughing mocking teens, Debney admonished herself for having stood still and out in the open for far too long. Like a deer in a pit of lions she knew she had left herself vulnerable and open for attack. As usual she was stared at, criticized, and her stomach poked. 

    “You weren’t saying that when you were at my house.” Debney returned Roody’s look with equal disdain and stepped up to him. “I’m the one who should be wiping the disgust away.” Looking him up and down Debney turned her back and dismissed him from her mind. “High school is too damned typical and cliché. You guys need to grow up.” 

    “Hey if I knew I was going to be used like a piece of meat at that party,” Roody continued. “I would have stayed home.”
    Debney scoffed at the rebuke and fruitlessly reached for her bag again. Giante’ ignored her frustrated glare and reached for her hand. Before their fingers touched they were separated again by the movements of the group.

    "Yeah, Giante, you better stay away from her. From all of the guys I heard she slept with that baby can belong to any male in this school." Fabeola the head cheerleader poked the kicking twitching mound. “Eww and it moves.” She jumped back screeching and they all laughed.

    “Hey, your momma named you right, DNA.” Another member of the team jumped into the conversation. “You’re a walking advertisement for the paternity test. Why don’t you go on that TV show, what’s it called?” He turned to the crowd in the hallway and they all shouted I’m Not Your Baby Daddy with loud laughter and cat calls before he turned back to her with pointed finger and continued talking. “You can find out who that baby’s daddy is for free. And that way you can scratch my name off the list.” 

    Horrified at the suggestion and the burst of guffaws and snickering laughter, Debney was stunned into silence. One of the three cheerleaders started pointing at the male students milling in the hallway one at a time. She twirled around slowly until she had pointed in all directions.

    "You the daddy, and you the daddy, and you....”

    Taking advantage of his divided attention Debney grabbed her bag from Giante’s loose grip and stomped away as quickly as possible. She wasn’t quick enough to avoid the laughter and the now familiar taunt which followed her and become the chant whenever she entered a room. DNA go away. Don’t spread your germs this a-way. If they only knew how much she wished she could get away from the life she was living, they would realize their chant was useless.

     Her only wish at the moment was to get into the restroom and behind the doors of a stall before she broke down and cried. But as usual it wasn’t her luck. The girls who were at the sink washing their hands when she entered the room rushed back into empty stalls and those about to exit stalls stepped back in, their uniformed laughter and cheering her undoing. Those four were the main pain to her existence.
    Where she had walked in the restroom feeling pity for her situation and hanging on the verge of tears, she now felt blinding rage. For nearly nine months she’d put up with their ignorant picks, taunts and their meanness as a deserved punishment for wishing her family dead. What she had failed to realize was her punishment did not include the right to let them focus their persecution on her innocent baby. This group of girls, which usually included Fabeola, had made it their daily mission to find a way to humiliate her. They'd pushed her down the stairs one too many times and only because of the unforeseen luck of always finding someone standing in front of her, she had not fallen too hard or been hurt.

    Just the day before this same callous act of holding the stalls had caused her to wet herself and miss all of her afternoon classes. Today she was prepared. She’d made an elaborate plan the night before and payback was going to be a ‘muther’. She was tired of being a victim and tired of sitting back, letting others treat her as if she didn’t matter. It was time she stood up and protected the child she was carrying. 
     
    Stuffing the drains of the six sinks with paper towels Debney turned on the waters full force and watched as they filled quickly and began to over flow. The girls in the stalls so proud of themselves with their laughing, and cruel jokes missed the sarcasm in her voice as she repeatedly begged loudly for them to come out so she could go in. Every word from her; caused them to get louder and more rambunctious. Like idiots, they banged on the stall doors and laughed loudly. Unzipping the side opening of her back pack, Debney pulled out a wide roll of grey packing tape. Banking on the fact their loudness was drowning out the sound of the tape tearing, Debney moved quickly to tape the doors of the stalls shut. She knew it probably wouldn’t hold them in long, and they wouldn’t drown but it would make a point. Pulling a tube of lipstick from her purse she wrote a message on the mirror making it plain she was no longer playing. When she felt the water rising at her feet, she smiled at her success.

    “Fine, stay in there for all I care. I hate all of you and I’m tired of taking crap. I’ll stay here as long as you’re in there.”
    “Go ahead.”
    “We’re not the one that has to pee.”'
    “And we sure aren’t going to be the one who pees on herself.”
    And the jokes and laughter continued. If she had felt an inkling of remorse for her actions, it was now gone. Pushing the tape back in the side pocket Debney pulled the typed ‘do not use’ sign from her bag and slapped it to the outside of the door, as she walked into the hallway. Just before she walked away she turned back and rammed the rubber door stop under the door in mimic of one of the tricks they had played on her.
    Shouldering her way through the chattering students rushing through the hallway to their last class of the afternoon, Debney smiled to herself. She barely made it through the door and squeezed her big belly into her seat and under the desk before the bell rang.
    ****
        She was flipping listlessly through the pages of her American Literature book when three of the girls from the restroom entered the room followed by the senior guidance counselor.
         Debney’s gaze never wavered from the counselors face. She listened to the squishy sounds made by the shoes of the girls as they crossed the room to their desks and snickered. She tried not to laugh out loud when the one sitting closer to her swung her leg to cross it at the ankle and the water from the soaking hem of her jeans splashed onto the calf of the girl sitting in front of her. The accompanying protest and complaint was immediately quieted by the whispered explanation. Within seconds the bathroom incident was shared with the entire class and all faces were turned in Debney’s direction. The ensuing rush of bitter stinging comments of outrage and taunts were cut into silence by the upraised voice of the counselor.
        “Debney Nichole Armstrong will you follow me to the office please.”
        Without a word Debney slid out of her seat, sighing in frustration because she had to struggle a bit to pull the backpack along with her. Its cumbersome shape and weight causing her to bend and lift to get it through the small opening between desktop and seat of chair. As unintentionally as it may have seemed to the class, she swung it out just in time to smack the pointed end of the pen out of the hand of the girl sitting across from her. With repetition came knowledge. She had been stuck too many times and as she had said before, she was tired of taking crap.
    Standing in front of the teacher’s desk Debney ignored the counselor and held out a card to the teacher.
         “Ms. A, I just wanted to let you know I finally got around to filling thank you cards from my family’s funeral. I know it’s taken a long time. Put it down to too much going on in my life. I appreciate all you have done for me. I just wanted to let you know I decided last night that this would be my last day here. Since there are only two weeks left to graduation I won't be coming back. I’ll have my own baby to take care of in a few weeks and I’m tired of dealing with other people’s immature little children.” She turned and looked over the class with a sneer before turning back. “Thanks so much for your kindness.”
    “You’re welcome Debney. Take care of yourself.” The teacher walked around the desk and gave her a hug.
    “I will. My number is on the card. You can call me if you ever feel like it.”
    Before she crossed the threshold for the last time Debney looked back into the room. “Most of you people are people I have known for my entire school career. We grew up together, learned a lot of things and have made mistakes I thought we were friends and yet you are the only people who have made me regret not having died with my family. Well, after today you'll never have to say ‘DNA you go away’. I’m gone.”
    Following the counselor out of the room, Debney walked slowly through the empty hallway towards the administration side of the school building. The memory of four years of happiness was blurred by the horror and loneliness of the past nine months.
    “Sit here, Debney.” The counselor opened her office door and pointed towards the sitting area of the room.
    “Oh, God is this going to take long? Are you about to lecture me again? I’ve heard enough. Once a week I’m in here for something or other. I can’t take anymore I’m really tired.”
    Debney crossed the room to the nicely arranged furnishings and let herself flop into the thick cushions of an armchair. Breathing in deeply she closed her eyes and tried to relax. She hated this room. She had been in the office more times over the past few months than the entire four years she had attend the high school. It was always the same thing. Nothing was her fault and yet, everything was her fault.
    The moisture from the cold wet container being placed in her hand brought her back to the present. She looked at the item with disgust.
    “Ewww gross. Why are you giving me orange juice Mrs. K? You don’t have a Cherry Coke?”
    “Coke is not good for the baby.”
    “Depends on the kind of coke it is. Some kinds can really quiet the kid.” She rubbed the now quiet mound of her abdomen as she looked the counselor in the eye. Debney getting a kick out of the look on the Mrs. K’s face sat back and laughed uproariously. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”
    Stepping away from Debney Mrs. K dropped herself into the other recliner; her arms spread wide, the flesh jiggling a little when hitting the armrest of the chair. The combined bounce of her wrist and the flop into the chair caused a small splash from her can of coke to spill down her hand and plop onto the carpet. Shrugging nonchalantly at the small mess Mrs. K. lifted and crossed her legs onto the coffee table in front of her as if she were tired as hell, and closed her eyes.
    “You had better be. I know you don’t want CPS in your business.”
    “God no not again, it took months to get them out of my life when the family first passed away. I don’t know what Good Samaritan called thinking I was a little kid on my own, but they very nearly caused me and the baby our freedom. Anyway orange juice makes me puke.”
    “I hadn’t thought of that.” She reached out and switched drinks. “Have you been eating regularly? You seem thinner than you used to be.”
    “I eat three meals a day while at school alone. Can I help it if the alien within me sucks up all my nutrients?” Debney lightly tapped the bulge of her stomach and was immediately kicked in response. She laughed softly. “Already like his mom, rebellious as hell.”
    “What about the father Debney? What are you going to do about him?”
    “Which ‘him’ are you talking about?”
    “Whichever ‘him’, you choose.” Mrs. K. sat up straight and took a sip from her drink. “Don’t worry you know I’ve heard all of the rumors.” She smiled a little. Having known Debney for a few years she fell into the casual joking mode. “From what I’ve heard there is a choice between quite a few from the football team. If it were me, there would be only one I would choose.” She gave a one-sided lift of her lip and sucked down the rest of her drink. The youthful action caused Debney to giggle.
    “I shouldn’t have ever told you about my crush. Don’t worry about anything, I have it covered.”
    “I’m really worried about you Debney. You may think you’re all grown up but you’re still a kid. Is anyone staying with you? Have you been to the doctor lately?”
    “I’m using a midwife. Why do I need anyone with me? I’m an adult. I made eighteen a couple of days after….I’m eighteen now. I don’t need a babysitter. I may seem like a kid, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m filthy rich and want for nothing. I’ve got it better than a lot of the other girls running around school in the same situation.”
    “No, you don’t have it better. All of those girls have a family. Whether they like it or not there is someone for them to run to. You’re alone and you need a friend. Hell girl what you really need is someone to talk you out of having a baby at home. Your first child and you so young, you need to be in a hospital with someone there when you go into labor.”
    “Someone will be there. Don’t worry. I have all the money I need, a big house, and I don’t ever have to be alone.”
    “Yeah, but you can get lonely. Who’s there with you at night? Who do you confide in Debney? Whose shoulder have you cried on since your entire family died in that accident?”
    “Listen, Mrs. K. I made the mistake of crying on one too many shoulders the night I found out my family died and look what it’s gotten me.” She pushed herself into a standing position and rocked just a little at the shift in altitude. “I don’t need a shoulder. Feeling sorry for myself makes me jump to too many conclusions. I believed it when they told me my little brothers were dead and I gave up on them. You know they weren’t in the wreckage and I keep having the feeling I need to go find them, but I turned around, swallowed my feelings and had a funeral for them.”
    “Debney you have to face facts, they haven’t been found. You yourself told me there was a cliff under the wreckage. They may have fallen over and into the ocean and will never be found. I know that’s harsh, but you need to face facts. You made a crazy trip out of the country hunting for them and nothing has changed. You have to accept the realities of life and concentrate on the next few weeks. Big things are about to happen in your life and it may be the change you need to pull you out of the dumps.”
    “I know all of that and so I made up my mind last night that it’s ridiculous for me to keep coming to school. I don’t need any credits. My grades got me a scholarship and role as Valedictorian. And yet every day I continue coming here I run the risk of being killed because too many jealous ignorant little girls keep trying to push me down the stairs, or humiliated because they hold up the restrooms until I pee on myself. So if you took me out of class to lecture me about today’s restroom incident, forget it. I’m not hearing it. Bill me for the cleanup I’m good for the money. At least my parents left me something.” She turned to stomp out of the room but stopped and turned around at the sound of clapping.
    “That’s good Debney. I’m glad to finally see some kind of reaction coming from you. I watch you daily trudging the halls, head down and looking at no one. You eat alone, you walk around alone on the campus and you go home alone. I heard you even fired the household staff. Who is taking care of you? Who’s cooking for you? Making sure all the bills are paid? I’ve talked to your teachers and we are all worried about you. Sure you do your work as usual, but you have lost yourself. You’ve locked down and closed out people in this school who care about you."
    “People like who Mrs. K.? The girls I thought were my friends are now ignoring me and the ones I never had anything to do with have made it their life’s mission to make my days a study in mental and physical torture. It’s not that I want to be alone, it’s that I’m afraid to be around anyone.”
    “Why do you think that is, Debney? Why have you allowed them to treat you so horribly?”
    “Let’s not get into the psycho babble, Mrs. K. We’ve been through all of this before and my thoughts haven’t changed. I still believe it’s because it’s treatment I deserve. I brought this all on myself. Before you try to deny it,” She raised her hand to halt the counselor’s words. “Be honest. For all I know I slept with one of those idiot’s boyfriend and got knocked up. If I had to name the father in order to save my life, I would die right now. It doesn’t make a difference whether or not I was drunk or high or anything. I shouldn’t have thrown a party and lost my mind.”
    “It was understandable. Teenagers throw parties when their parents are away.”
    “Yeah, but do they sleep with most of the guys at the party.”
    “I’m sure that’s not what you planned.”
    “I can honestly say that’s true. My plan was to be with one certain person and things got out of hand.”
    Mrs. K. leaned forward and smiled gently into her face. “Just to fall a little into my counselor mode I have to say the cavalier way youth fall into having sex is why girls find themselves in your position. Pregnant and stuck being both parents to an innocent baby, but don’t be so hard on yourself. I can’t even tell you how many other girls are walking around here pregnant and not knowing what to do. Everyone makes mistakes. Just face them and move on. And you have to believe there are people here who care about you.”
    Turning away to avoid direct eye contact with the counselor, Debney rubbed her palm across right her eye.
    “Mrs. K, I’m sure there are a few people left in the world that care about me, even if it is out of a sense of duty, but I can take care of myself. All of the menial things required in caring for a home, I can handle. I don’t want to even tell you how many times I had to take care of things before my parents died. I wouldn’t dare tell you the many times I slipped out of vacations when my mom stuck me with another family, and I stayed the summers and holidays in that house alone. It's nothing new. I can handle this. I just can’t mentally afford to connect to anyone right now. If I do, I’m afraid I’ll break down and if I do that I just know there’s no way I can pull myself together in time. It won’t be long before I’m a mother and I have to be able to be there in all capacities for the baby. I don’t want to need anyone.”
    “Well, I’m sorry little girl because there are a wing of women waiting for you in the teacher’s lounge who want you to need us. We’re pulling for you. You can swallow that mountain of shame, let go of that river of tears you’ve been holding in and know you can call on either of us. How can you doubt us? We’ve known you for four years and some longer than that. You’ve bust in the doors of our office sharing every aspect of your life with us and all of a sudden you close up. Real life doesn’t work like that. People who care about a person stick around whether you want them to or not.”Mrs. K stood. “Now, come on over here and give me a hug.”
    Grabbing the backpack from Debney’s hand Mrs. K. pulled the young girl's stiff figure close and gave her a huge hug before turning and guiding her out of the door. By using her arm which was wrapped around Debney’s waist she directed her towards the faculty lounge.
    “And don’t worry about what happened in the rest room today sometimes people deserve what they get and this is the real reason I called you into the office.”
    Mrs. K. opened the door to the teacher’s lounge and shouts of surprise and the evidence of a surprise baby shower greeted them.

    ******

    On the spur of the moment Debney swung the wheel of the car to the left and drove through the circular part of the driveway to the front of the house instead of continuing straight and into the garage. Throwing the car’s gears into park she slowly climbed out and looked around.
    Her gaze immediately rested on the enormous architectural presence of the house. The exterior was still beautiful. A lovely butter cream coloring trimmed in ivory. The tower shape of the large walls on each corner of the house and the picture windows bordered by wall climbing ivy and jasmine made the house look like a castle waiting for its Cinderella. She had always loved the house. Dreamed daily of one day swinging open the double front doors to the man coming to beg her father for her hand in marriage. What a fairy tale. Reality had sucked the delusional dream up as easy as dust to a Dyson.
    Debney hadn’t entered through the front door of the house in months. She had run from the presence of the memories it held like a little girl running from imagined boogie men, but now it was time she grew up. This was her home and before too much more time passed it would be the home of a new life.
    She looked around the grounds and shook her head in regret. Her dad would be disappointed in her. He had loved the house more than she and paid plenty money to keep the lawn meticulous and here she was only nine months in charge and she had failed him. The wide long porch needed sweeping, seating needed cleaning, the multiple potted plants and the lawn needed tending, grass needed cutting, flower bushes were dying from lack of care or watering and advertising circulars were scattered around rotting in their plastic coverings. It had been a mistake to let the yardman go. The house looked abandoned.
    Staring at its door and the leaf covered welcome mat she rubbed her stomach shrugged her shoulders and released and long puff of air. The sooner she entered the sooner the ghosts would leave.
    Reaching into the interior of the car she twirled her fingers around as many roped handles as possible and prepared to pull out numerous small bags as one yank would allow. The sound of approaching footsteps caused her to falter in her movements of retrieving the packages. And of course it would be no one but Giante’.
    “You need any help Debney?”
    “No.”
    She yanked on the handles of a particularly stubborn bag and almost fell when it suddenly released itself. Giante’s hands were immediately on her back to catch her.
    “What are you doing here Giante’?” She jerked away from his touch and stepped around him.
    “I saw you drive up. I’m amazed you came this way. You haven’t been through those doors in months.”
    “I know.”
    “Have you been shopping?” He poked his head and half his body into the car’s open door.
    “No. Are you always spying on me?”`
    “I live right across the street. Have you forgotten that? Have you forgotten we have spent every summer together for as long as I can remember? Hell we used to spend all of our spare time with each other.” He lowered his voice. “Have you fooled yourself into forgetting the night we spent together?”
    “How could I forget?” She looked pointedly at her stomach. “How can you forget you aren’t the only one I was with? Shit, forget I asked that. I’m not in the mood to have that conversation again.” She took a deep breath and changed the subject. “Mrs. K and a few teachers threw me a baby shower. I’m just bringing the things in here since they’ve all taken it upon themselves to invite themselves over. They want to check out the house and make sure things are in order for the baby’s arrival. You now adults, they can never leave things, alone. They should be here in a minute.”
    “Why don’t you just take them into the guesthouse? That’s where you live.”
    “They don’t know that.” She looked at him as if he were an imbecile. “I just spent the last hour giving them the impression I’m living the life of the privileged, do you thing I can drag them to the backyard and not seem crazy when a huge house sits empty? Forget it. Since you’re here you may as well grab everything else and come in. I don’t want to be standing out here looking ungrateful when they pull up. Besides, I may need to do some quick dusting.”
    “Just show me where you want things and I’ll help you out. Quick as a whistle I’ll get it done. You know I’m considered a speed demon.” He did a few simulated block maneuvers around her and she laughed. “See, I’m so quick you didn’t see that coming. Made you laugh and pulled the old Debney right outta you.” Standing on the top step of the porch Giante’ did a Superman pose. Hands on hips and chest expanded. “Be gone new Debney. Long live the old.”
    “Be gone almighty Giante’ so I can unlock the door.” She attempted to swing the bags in her hand in his direction and almost lost her balance.
    “Careful. You seem to always be tittering on the verge of falling. Is that normal? Are you sick?”
    “How would I know what normal is? I shouldn’t have been going up the step while trying to swing a bunch of heavy bags that’s all. Move you’re blocking the door.”
    She elbowed her way between him and the door and with shaking fingers she turned the lock. As soon as they stepped over the threshold and walked through the foyer and down the long hallway to the living room/kitchen area it was plain to see some quick dusting was definitely in order, along with the lighting of a few aromatic candles.
    “Dang, Debney when is the last time the maid has been here?” Giante’ looked under the cabinets for cleaning supplies.
    “You know I don’t live in here. I fired the service at least six months ago.” She pointed towards a small door by the pantry. “Cleaning supplies are in there. I’m going to do some spraying of Febreeze and lighting those candles my mom never wanted to use. You get to dusting in the foyer, Mr.”
    “You might want to turn the air on full blast too. That’s the main problem; it’s hot and stuffy in here.”
    “I just didn’t see the reason to keep the air conditioning running when no one is ever here. When I come in I come through the patio door I grab what I need and leave.”
    “Well, if you want my opinion I think you need to rehire the maid service and give this place a thorough cleaning. You’re having a baby soon for Christ’s sake. This is where people will come to pay homage. No one will want to tramp through the bushes and into a tiny guest house.”
    “I know it’s part of my working plan for the rest of the week. Cleaning, remodeling, and redecorating. I plan on spending the weekend floating in the pool like a beached whale not running around like a wobbling bear with an aerosol can to spray unscented odor in vacant rooms.”
    “You’re going to get in the pool alone.” Giante’ stopped in his act of dusting to place his hands on his hips. “That’s dangerous you know.”
    “Of course I’m not going to be alone. Nadine comes to stay every weekend. Haven’t you seen that through your never clever habit of spying on me?”
    “I don’t be spying. I’m just keeping an eye on you and things. Trying to make sure no one tries to bother you.”
    “Yeah, well you’ve made your mom suspicious. She came over here a few months back. Lectured me on my wild ways, admonished me for being pregnant, tore a little flesh off by reminding me if I had gone on vacation with you guys I wouldn’t be in the shape I’m in now. And then she tried to get me to assure her that she was not about to be a grandmother.”
    “What did you tell her?”
    “Of course I apologized profusely for my stupidity, denied your possible involvement, cried a lot about my family and then laughed as she walked out of the door. What the hell did you want me to tell her? What should I have said? Oh Mrs. De Vries I’m 100% positive Giante’ is not the daddy.” Her sarcasm evident in the high pitched little girl’s voice she used. “Or would it have been better to say, Oh, Mrs. De Vries if I had only gone with you there wouldn’t be a chance in hell Giante’ could be the father. You know either scenario would be a lie. We would have gotten together sooner or later and I have no clear clue on the father of this baby.”
    Giante’ silently glared at Debney until she dropped her gaze in shame and continued lighting the candles.
    “Yeah, I know. I think things just got out of hand that night. I….”
    “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to keep hurting your feelings. Let’s not have that discussion right now Giante’, really. I can’t go through it anymore. It is what it is and nothing can be done to change anything and people are coming.”
    “You’re always blowing me off Deb. I need to know how to plan the rest of my life. Sooner or later we have to settle things.”
    “Well, you’ll just have to wait until later. They’re here.”
    Excerpt-chpt. 2

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