Read Forget Me Not Online

Authors: Carolee Dean

Forget Me Not (5 page)

It was just the start.

We had to be

more cautious.

There were risks.

Stolen moments

were all

we really had.

But a moment can last

a lifetime, some have said.

His breath was like a

scorching summer wind

across my neck, my back,

my eyes, my throat.

His body moved across mine

as he sent shock waves

through the marrow of my bones.

He’d say,
I love you,
then he’d hold me tight

and tell me that I really was the one

he wanted to be with, but first he had

to break away from Darla.

I held on to that fragile hope

for days, then weeks.

But true to her word,

Darla Johnson always

found a way

to make him stay.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

You were a writer

but you didn’t write a note,

leaving us all to speculate

on why you took your life.

Your father shot himself

and I know that had to

bring you down,

but was it what did you in?

Some say you had a rare disease

that infected your brain.

Did you think about death

in that burning plane?

You lived too fast, you played too hard,

you ran around, you had four wives.

But I know the real reason you took your

life, wrote about loss, and drank too much.

You shot yourself at sixty-one

because of something you lost

when you were young.

It happens to the best of us.

You never

got over

your

first love.

NANA CASSELL

is standing in front of the FAB,

pointing her cane at the school principal,

then at the yellow crime-scene tape,

then back at the principal.

He’s trying to tell her something,

but she won’t let him get in a word.

I can’t figure out,

for the life of me,

what she’s doing here at my school.

She came to stay with us when Mom left,

to help take care of me, she told my father.

It was true, I guess, but she also needed

a place to stay after her third stint in rehab.

She loves her vodka. About the only thing

she and Mom have in common.

Dad finally got tired of her and bought her

a one-way ticket to an old-folks home—

in Florida.

So what in the world is she doing here

at my school, yelling at the school principal?

LUNCH WITH THE IN CROWD

The bell rings and kids flood onto the quad for lunch.

Darla Johnson and the other girls from the dance team

sit at a series of picnic benches reserved for the athletes.

When I told Brianna

the first week of school

that I was supposed to eat lunch

with the Ravenettes,

she went ballistic.

“You can’t be serious,” she said,

her face turning the color of her eggplant sandwich.

“You can come too,” I said,

but I knew she’d never go anywhere near her brother

or the other jocks.

“I’ll pass,” she told me.

She was in a bad mood because

the drama teacher had told her

she didn’t need an assistant director

for the play. She tried to talk me

into boycotting the tryouts

and the performance,

but I refused.

Bri grabbed her sack lunch

and started to leave,

but then turned back around.

“By the way,

that eye shadow makes you look

like a hooker.”

I was so mad, I couldn’t see straight.

But mostly I was glad

that she refused to come with me,

because it’s hard to create a new image

when you have old friends

who keep trying to hold you back.

THINGS GOT WEIRD

between Bri and me

after that.

I had dance practice

every afternoon.

Bri starting hanging

with the Goths,

and the only time I saw her

was when I came over

late on Friday to spend the night.

It took her a while

to figure out

that the person

I really came to see

was Davis.

I guess that’s when

she decided

to ruin my life.

I SEE ELIJAH

walking across the courtyard,

with Bri following behind him.

He stops and looks up at me

as I stand

in the window.

I step back

into the darkness.

Did he see

me?

Does he know

I’m here?

Does he ever think

about that night at

the end of eighth grade

when we played Truth or Dare?

He was so shy and sweet

and I thought about him

for days afterward,

but he never called.

Then I hooked up

with Davis.

Does Elijah remember

that night,

or did he forget

about it like I forgot

about it

and everything else?

THIRD LUNCH

starts at 12:35.

I see

Elijah.

He carries

a slice of pizza.

Sits at a table

next to Oscar Smith,

who is in a wheelchair.

Oscar uses a small

computer to communicate,

because he can’t talk.

He can’t press the buttons

too well either, because his hands

are clenched in perpetual fists,

but he has a bright orange pencil

clutched in his hand

that he uses to press the keys.

Elijah is a student aid

in Oscar’s special ed class.

I wonder if that’s why

he eats with Oscar

or if it’s because

Elijah

doesn’t have any friends.

I know

how terrible it feels

to walk out

onto the quad

filled with a thousand

other students

and not have a

single person to sit with.

To be friendless

in a crowd

is the worst

kind

of

loneliness.

WILLY J

Will Jones, Davis’s best friend,

stays out on the quad

for First Lunch, then Second

Lunch, then Third.

There are certain people

security doesn’t mess with.

He walks past a freshman,

grabs the pizza right

out of his hands, and keeps

on walking.

Will devours everything

but the crust in one bite.

He uses the remaining bread

to lure the pigeons.

When one of them gets

close enough, he kicks it

just for fun.

Blood and feathers go flying.

Is that what Darla

is doing to Davis?

Luring him in,

only to destroy him?

Like she did to me.

I shudder when I remember

how I let Will

touch me,

just because I wanted

to make Davis jealous.

It was Darla’s idea

to set me up

with him for homecoming.

Too late I realized that

what happened afterward

was all part of her plan.

THE SPARROW AND THE HAWK

Thinking about predators and prey

reminds me of the day

the hawk landed by the hedge

near our front door.

I was heading out to take

a walk, but I stopped

and watched

the strong neck,

russet plumes,

deep brown eyes, and strut

of the predatory bird.

Saw feathers lying

on the ground.

Feared it might be hurt.

Heard rustling.

Saw one eye

of a small

sparrow

as it peered

out from the

shadows.

Now I know

just how it feels

to be the sparrow

in the bush.

SIXTH PERIOD

and security is sweeping the halls.

The men in red T-shirts are out busting

balls. Telling the stragglers to get to their

classes. Making sure wanderers have

signed teacher passes. The bathrooms are

locked so you can’t even pee till you

go to the office and ask for a key. If left

unattended, the restroom’s the place where

kids go to get stoned, and at least in one case,

a child was conceived in a second-floor stall,

and twice a light fixture was used in a brawl.

There’s ranking in, dealing, and tatting. Huffing

of Axe, puking, and cutting. Foul things

happen on the bathroom floor. Crap! A red

shirt’s walking up to the door. I look to the

left and I look to the right. Nothing but tile

and no place to hide. So I sit very still, just sit

there and stare. And he walks right on by like

I’m

not

even

there.

ONE OF THE SPECIAL ED TEACHERS

Walks onto the H Hall

pushing Oscar Smith,

using the tray

on his wheelchair

to hold the

copies she has made.

I press my body

against the wall, but

Oscar sees me as they

head for the elevator.

No!
says the voice

coming out

of his computer.

Does something

from out of the shadows

move toward him,

or is it my imagination?

His arms and legs

begin to flail.

His head jerks

to one side

as if someone

has slapped him

and he groans.

He presses his

orange pencil

into the device

mounted on a metal bar

attached

to his chair.

The words
Get out!

come screaming

in a voice

that sounds

like it belongs

to a robot.

“What’s wrong with you,

Oscar?” the teacher asks.

“Are you hurt?”

The voice just

keeps howling,

rocking the hall

like a lowrider

with the bass

turned up too high.

Get out! Get out! Get out!

The teacher pushes

Oscar

into the elevator,

and the voice stops.

Then the strangest

thing happens.

Just as the

elevator doors

start to close,

Oscar extends his arm,

and his pencil

goes airborne.

It flies between

the doors,

causing them

to stay open

just a crack.

Did he do it on purpose?

I step out into the open

to get a better look at him.

He turns his head,

stares at me,

and there is something

in his eyes

telling me

to run.

The teacher peers

into the H Hall.

“What are you

looking at, Oscar?”

She doesn’t see me,

though I’m in plain view.

Then she picks up

the pencil

and the

doors

slide

shut

HIDE AND SEEK

I sit there shuddering

for the longest time,

wondering why that woman

didn’t say anything.

It was like I was invisible.

I used to feel invisible all the time.

That’s why I loved the stage,

because when I heard people clapping,

I knew they could see me.

Dad said it wasn’t healthy

to need to be the center of attention

all the time.

He said I should make some

changes when I got to high school.

He was sure the cure was team sports.

“Sign up for anything,

I don’t care, as long as you join a team.”

He groaned when I came home with a

permission slip for the Ravenettes,

the dance squad that performs

at all the big games,

especially when he saw how much

money he was going to have to spend

on the outfits.

Eventually he signed it, though.

It was hard work, but I got in great shape.

Guys would

turn their heads to stare at me.

Then Davis noticed me—

He’d look at me and I’d think,

I’m here, I’m alive, I matter.

I liked the attention.

Okay, I loved it!

To be absolutely honest,

I needed it

the way some people

need heroin.

I’M DEFINITELY

not going to English class.

Brianna is there.

Might as well skip PE, too.

And dance team practice is out.

Looks like I will spend

the whole day on the hallway.

Watching other kids,

wondering if their lives are

hopeless and screwed up like mine.

THE FINAL BELL RINGS

I stand to leave, but out on

the balcony I

see Darla Johnson pacing.

Is she waiting there for me?

She walks back and forth,

cocks her head, struts, preens. Looks through

the window. At me?

She’s the hawk on the sidewalk.

I’m the sparrow in the bush.

I sit back down and

instantly understand what

it feels like to know

you will soon be plucked apart

and eaten alive. Will she

leave my heart on the

sidewalk with the old, dry gum—

black spot on the quad—

or will she save it for her

dessert? I look at the clock.

My bus will soon be

leaving, but I suddenly

don’t want to go home.

My feet are glued to the floor.

I cannot leave the hallway.

DAVIS WALKS OUT

and Darla kisses his cheek.

He smiles and puts

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