"I want to give it to you ." Her smile was sheepish, too shy for all we had shared over three years and endless talks.
"For keeps?" I turned it over in my hands as if it were a rare jewel. To me, it was nothing less. "Trish, this is special. I'm not special," but I was holding on to it with white knuckles cherishing the texture of its cover and all the tender, wonderful thoughts and drawings I knew it held secret. Secret for me.
"Stop it you reject. You are to me." she leaned in and kissed my cheek. I loved the warmth of her mouth and the honesty of her friendship. I wiped it off like it was dirt. She punched me and called me a douche.
We laughed, sitting in comfortable silence as the sun yawned behind the clouds making my safest and favorite time of day...night. She was right. I WAS a reject. I had been labeled quickly when mom moved here. Other choice descriptions/nicknames were: Stupid, Retard, Wackadoo, Weird... the list goes on because people never tire of hurting.
No one liked me; but no one ever tried. I was a little different, maybe slow to understand some things but I was honest; unlike Mr. D who liked watch little girls in dresses on the swings at recess, or Mrs Hawthorne who pinched Dr. Mickels butt when she thought no one was looking (right in front of the book store~) that 's where I hang out. Printed words hurt much less than the ones thrown from bad mouths.
I had a respectable but reasonable "pass" being friends with Trisha. Everyone loved her. She was beautiful, talented and smart. Her dad died in a hunting accident a year before I moved in to town. He was with his best friend who took her in and guarded her like the sheriff. Well, that makes sense because he WAS the sheriff. He always gave me stink eye but she could back him down with a look. She was my guardian angel. My only friend. We met every day at the river. We talked. We sat in silence. We read poetry or drew or played hangman. I suck at that game because I am a lousy speller.
"Can I open it?" trying to hide the excitement.
"Of course you goof."
I flipped the pages catching bits and pieces of diary entries and poems; flashes of sketches and homework assignments. It was a piece of her. I treasured it instantly.
We sat for a while; conjuring up a story about a beautiful princess who had teeth so bucked she could eat an apple through a picket fence and a fear of sunlight. Being of royalty, sheltered from everything because of her looks and her father's fear of the cruel world, she burned easily and was often mistaken for a vampire or a ghost.
In ignorance; sparked by whisperings from a shallow jealous little man in town who constantly spoke of her evil powers and malicious intent, the town rejected her and threatened to revolt; killing the royal family. However, there was a wise, kind priest who gave her a test; holding a mirror to show her reflection which she passed and saved the family, the monarchy and the world. The only price to pay was that she love him and stay with him forever.
What else do fifteen year olds do? We were out of Madlibs.
"I don't like that ending" I said softly. It's not happy. In my simple world; stories you made up should end happily.
"You don't always like what you hear." she said stiffly and pulled away a little.
"But she was a princess and should be able to do what she wants to be happy."
"You ARE a reject sometimes. Sometimes, you get stuck. You have to do things. You hate them. You may hate the people who make you do them... but you're stuck."
"You're the reject. Mean story." I nudged her shoulder to show no hard feelings. I heard her sigh and saw the shadow of a smile cross her mouth.
As always, we said goodnight. We hugged and promised to go straight home. I always cautioned her:
"Beware the free candy van..."
"In search of a puppy? I'm all in..." she would add over her shoulder.
"If they get you, scream so the angels can hear ~ they will always save their own... or at least me.
I would save you Trish."
She laughed. You? Nooo I'd have to save you.
The night swallowed us. I was almost home when the lights came on. I heard the slow crunch of gravel as the car cruised lazily behind me. Nothing new. I rolled my eyes to no one and prepared for battle.
"Not home? On a school night?"
"On my way Deputy Scott." I picked up my pace.
"Where ya been Boy?" He never bothered with my name. "Who would spend time with a loser like you?"
"don't reckon anyone, Sir" I said never looking up. He would pummel me again.
He reached over and snatched the book. "With you GIRRRRRLfriend Trisha?" he purred like a second grader. and they called ME dimwitted? I snatched it and held it behind my back.
"Dear Diary! Today I met with the girl of my dreams" this was of course accompanied by the clutching of his chest, cocking his foot behind him and batting his eyelashes to the moon.
I was relieved to understand he thought it was my book and not Trisha's. I stood there and took the verbal abuse; the lewd insinuations and questions about what we'd been doing. I knew he really liked her and I could hear in his voice that he was hoping what he'd said was true and he would shame me into confessing.
I gave him nothing. I saved the kingdom. He shoved me to the ground and called me a fagot pervert and told me to get home or I'd be in BIG trouble.
I got up and walked quickly until he shouted for me to run which I did; just for safety's sake.
He turned around and sped off to my relief.
I got home and began to unveil the secrets of my friend. I read all night. The tears streamed down my face like the river that rushed by us when we were together pretending everything was all right.
The morning brought noise. Loud noise. My mother yelling and stomping; a man cursing and screaming my name.
I was ripped from my bed and dragged down the stairs. I was thrown into the back of the sheriff's car and driven with lights and sirens going full tilt to the station where my mother met us and pawed at me.
I was dumped into a barren room and left to sit with her. She said nothing. someone brought a cup of coffee and set it harshly on the table spilling some. They chucked a napkin down and left us.
"Honey. do you know where Trisha is?"
I sat and stared at the spilled coffee not answering.
"Honey? Sheriff says she didn't come home last night."
I looked up puzzled. I left her by the river. Like always. She walked home.
"You didn't see anyone give her a ride or follow her?" my mother sounded hopeful. "Did she text you when she got home?"
I shook my head.
The door flew open and the Sheriff rolled in; a big man. A mean man who disliked me.
"Am I in trouble? I didn't do anything."
"Not the way I see it. Yes you are in trouble. Where is she and why did you hurt her."
"I would never hurt Trisha"
"You loved her."
"She was my friend."
"She rejected you."
"She made me laugh"
"You dumped her body"
"She was my only friend. She would protect me and I would protect her. You should have done the same."
He wiped his face and sat in front of me. He smelled like panic and bitter coffee. "Just tell me what you've done. I can't help you if you won't tell me where she is and what you've done." His voice hitched just a bit.
My mother stroked my hand and encouraged me to do the same. "Hon, if it was an accident, we need to understand. sometimes people do things by accident and get scared and ..."
I turned and looked at her. Even my own mother thought I was a monster.
There was rushing outside my dungeon. The river. A body. A girl. Naked and ruined.
The two adults left me. I heard hushed mumbles outside the door. I heard my mom crying. I hung my head and said nothing. Not through the charges being read to me or the finger printing. I didn't speak in the cell or to the lawyers that came nor the doctors. I sat quietly when we went to the courthouse and I was pelted with cruel words, death threats and a rotted tomato from Mrs. Hawthorne. Mr D went on the news and said he knew I wasn't right. I should be locked up and the key thrown away or just bury me in a hole like he was sure I'd done to Trisha. Dr Mickels said I was a loner of a kid with problems. He'd never even been my doctor. He was a baby-doctor in the next town over. But they hated my guts. They pointed their fingers and cursed my name. They condemned my mother for birthing such a wretched excuse for a human being.
I said nothing. I didn't have to. At last, when the judge smacked her hammer and asked if I had a statement I'd like to make I stood. My knees were knocking. I was so sweaty that my shirt smelled like three weeks of gym class.
" May I speak to you?"
"You may speak to this court"
"With your lawyer."
"No thank you."
"I will record it."
"I'd like that."
I was ushered in to her chambers with confused whispers and hisses of objection dragging under my feet.
"What do you want to say young man?
"I have nothing to say." I almost whimpered.
She whirled on me her mouth hanging open like a prize bass. "Do NOT waste this court's TIME!" she bellowed. She stuck a finger close to me and repeated "WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY?"
"I have nothing. But Trisha does." and I quietly slid the book across the big desk. Why are their desks so large? do they use different size paper and pencils when we aren't around ... like the giant crayons? Or those pencils you need a knife to sharpen?
She sat and began to leaf through it. Half-heartedly at first but then she sat straighter in her chair. She smoothed the pages as she read. She pulled her glasses off and beckoned me to sit in a nice chair and then poured me a glass of water. She smiled gently. It was the first smile I'd seen in months.
"I need to bring the sheriff in. and your mom. and the lawyers."
"But not him."
"No Dylan. Not him."
"Will he get in trouble?"
"Oh my yes."
"Will they hate him like they hated me? Treat him like that? With rocks and threats?"
"I don't know."
"Will they say sorry to me?"
She hung her head sadly. Shamefully. "I don't know that either. but I will. I will right now say I am sorry Dylan. I was wrong. Will you testify against the Deputy?"
I looked around nervously. People were coming in and glancing at what she showed them. There was a lot of silence. Or maybe is was sorrow and guilt. I nodded slowly because I knew it was going to be all right.
Trisha was right. Angels save their own.