Authors: Barbara L. Clanton
Tags: #! Yes
Tara looked at Lisa and smiled again. “I’m from Long Island. Brookhaven. Where are you from?”
“Oh, the North Country. Clarksonville.”
“Nope, sorry. Never heard of it.” Tara smiled at Lisa with her eyes, and Lisa felt something stir inside her chest. “Rockville’s as far upstate as I’ve ever been.” She laughed. “But, then again, everything north of the Bronx is upstate to me.”
“We’re all apple pickers to you guys, eh?”
Tara stopped walking and laughed. “That’s freakin’ funny, Lisa. Nope, I’m gonna call you apple picker. That’s your new name.” They headed into the dormitory lobby. “And you apple pickers probably think that all Long Islanders are hoodlums, right?”
Lisa took a few steps away from Tara and asked, “Are you a hoodlum?”
Tara narrowed her eyes. “Maybe I am, apple picker, maybe I am.”
Lisa settled in fairly quickly with Tara’s help. The next day after dinner, Tara asked Lisa to go with her to get a bag of softballs from the equipment shed for Coach Greer. Lisa willingly followed Tara toward the shed on the far end of the practice fields. In only a day and a half, Lisa had willingly done anything Tara wanted her to do. She couldn’t help it.
“Hey, I want to show you something.” Tara veered off the path and into the stand of trees bordering the field.
“What is it?”
“You’ll see, c’mon.”
The trees grew thicker, and the trail grew darker the further they got into the woods. After a while, Lisa couldn’t see the practice fields anymore.
“Shouldn’t we be getting those softballs for Coach Greer?”
“Yeah, yeah, but I want to show you this first. Here it is.” Tara pointed to a barely discernable cement structure almost completely hidden by vines and dead leaves. If Tara hadn’t pointed it out, Lisa might not have seen it.
“C’mere. I want to show you inside,” Tara said.
“Yeah, it used to be an old shooting range. I bet if we looked hard enough we could find some old bullets, but come inside here first.” Tara grabbed Lisa’s hand and led her to the open doorway about fifty feet down.
Tara didn’t let go of her hand as they walked. Lisa’s heart raced the entire way. She let herself be led through the metal doorway and was disappointed when Tara released her hand.
A concrete tunnel about six feet wide and just as high went off into the pitch black darkness. She couldn’t tell how far the tunnel went. Without flashlights it was hard to see much past the open door. The empty beer cans and stale smell of urine weren’t very appealing, so Lisa headed back toward the doorway.
“Kind of cool, huh?” Tara followed Lisa out.
“Kind of stinky, eh?”
Tara stepped closer to Lisa. “You apple pickers are so cute, eh?”
“Are you making fun of me, hoodlum?” Lisa didn’t back up even though Tara moved dangerously close, closer than she should have.
Tara took another step and put her right hand on Lisa’s hip. The smile faded from her eyes, and she said softly, “Stop me if this isn’t okay.”
Lisa’s heart thumped hard against her chest. She gulped but made no move to stop the older girl.
Tara put her left hand on Lisa’s other hip and pulled her closer. Lisa whimpered when their bodies touched. Tara leaned in closer still. The only things in Lisa’s world at that moment were Tara’s lips, inches away. Tara closed the distance, and their lips met.
Lisa drank in the sweet, sweet taste of the beautiful hoodlum from Long Island. She threw her arms around Tara’s neck. Meanwhile, Tara slid her hands slowly up and down Lisa’s back. Lisa moaned.
Tara pulled away slightly. “Like it, don’t ya, apple picker?” Tara kissed Lisa’s neck and started to lift up Lisa’s T-shirt.
Lisa pulled back. “No, no.” She pulled the T-shirt back down.
Lisa nodded. “You’re the first girl I ever kissed.”
Tara’s eyes lit up. “I’m your first? Really?” Tara sounded proud.
Lisa nodded and felt herself blush even more.
“Okay, we’ll go slower.”
Lisa wanted Tara to kiss her again. Tara must have read her mind and obliged.
Lisa closed her journal for a moment and sighed at the memory. Their first kiss had been so sweet, but the week had been so short. Tara must have known how short, because she invited Lisa to her dorm room that same night.
Alone in Tara’s room after lights out, Lisa let Tara have her way with the T-shirt. She had trembled so much that she was sure Tara was going to laugh at her.
“I’m not going to bite you,” Tara said after easing Lisa’s shirt off. “Unless you want me to, that is.”
Lisa would have laughed, but Tara fell to her knees and started kissing her bare stomach.
Lisa sighed and stopped the memory in mid-stomach. There was no point in it. She reopened her journal and hesitated, not sure she wanted to dredge up this part of her past with Tara.
Tara: The Not-So-Good Things
1. Brookhaven, Long Island is four hundred miles away.
2. Tara graduates in June and won’t be at camp this summer.
Lisa pressed hard against the paper when she wrote the next two items.
3. I got Tara’s “Dear Jane” letter today.
4. Tara is a hoodlum.
She slammed her journal shut and then threw it and the pen across the room. Tara hadn’t even bothered to call to break up with her. She’d written a letter. She buried her face into her pillow. Maybe Marlee would turn out differently. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.
The Kagillion Dollar Question
REVEREND OWENS PREACHED, but Lisa didn’t hear. Marlee had called just before they left for church and invited her over to play catch. It was all Lisa could think about. Bridget squirmed next to her in the pew. On church days, her father was in charge of Lynnie, her mom was in charge of Lawrence Jr., and she was in charge of Bridget.
Her mother shot her a glance as if to say, “Get that child under control.”
Lisa nodded and pulled Bridget onto her lap. Bridget protested at first, but then Lisa produced a small picture book about kittens from her purse, and Bridget settled down a bit. Lisa went back to ignoring Reverend Owens and thinking about Marlee.
Marlee had to be gay. How could she not be? At camp, Tara taught Lisa all about gaydar. She’d made Lisa guess who was and who wasn’t gay, and Lisa had been right every single time. Actually, they fought over whether Brandy, the shortstop from Elmira, was gay. Lisa said yes. Tara said no. Lisa supposed they’d never know who was right, but despite that one disagreement, Lisa discovered that her gaydar was fully operational. Tara told her the best clues were short hair and comfortable shoes, but Lisa had laughed then, because she herself had long hair and wore heels to church just about every Sunday. Marlee, though, fit the bill with her short-cropped blond hair and perpetual sneakers.
Lisa sighed. Reverend Owens needed to wrap things up soon, or she would get as squirmy as Bridget. She couldn’t wait until Marlee got a look at her in her dress and heels. She’d worn the dress with the blue and white flowered print, the one that clung nicely and showed off her curves. The dress was modest enough for church, but barely. She’d wanted to show a little more cleavage, but her mother would have sent her right back inside to change. With her two-inch heels, Lisa would tower over Marlee’s five foot six. Two inches were her limit, though, because otherwise she’d turn into the Empire State Building.
Bridget squirmed again and threw the kitten book on the floor, apparently done with it. Lisa squeezed her sister gently to send a silent message to settle down. She leaned down and picked up the book. Why did Reverend Owens have to pick that day, of all days, to be so long-winded? Lisa cheered silently when he finally held out both hands toward the congregation and said, “Go with love."
“Go wit wuv,” Bridget echoed loudly and the people sitting near them laughed.
Lisa smiled at the people around them, but at the same moment thought,
Nah, love sucks.
She laughed at herself.
Yeah, right. That’s why you can’t wait to get your hands on Marlee.
She stood up with a sigh. “C’mon, Sweetpea. Let’s go shake hands with Reverend Owens.”
“Weesa?” Bridget reached for Lisa’s outstretched hand.
“Don’t get your heart tord up.”
Lisa cringed. She had to watch what she said around her all-ears littlest sister. “Okay, I won’t. I promise.”
Tara took care of that yesterday.
LISA SLID OPEN the side door to the Brown family minivan and walked to the rear. She pulled out her softball bag.
“Bye, you guys,” she called from the back. Her sister Lynnie didn’t look up from her book, but her brother Lawrence Jr. turned around, waved his transformer action figure at her, and said “Bye.”
Her father looked her way and said, “Have fun, Lisa Bear.”
“Papa! C’mon, I’m sixteen.”
Her father laughed. “What? I can’t call my first-born by her pet name anymore?”
Lisa rolled her eyes for his benefit and said, “Geez, okay. If you have to.”
“Call when you want us to pick you up. I’d love to stay and play catch with you and Marlee, but Mama’s got me under the knife this afternoon.”
“Oh, Larry.” Lisa’s mother smacked her husband on the knee.
“What? You do.” Her father’s thinning brown hair was a bit disheveled, and Lisa knew her mother was going to give him a haircut later that day.
“Bye Weesa! Member what I said, ‘kay?”
Lisa nodded and gave her littlest sister a thumbs-up which was enthusiastically returned. She closed the rear door and then slid the side door shut.
Lisa slung her softball bag over her shoulder and picked her way up the long gravel driveway, a harrowing task in heels. She thought it funny that her father called her his first-born. They both knew she wasn’t. Her real father, well, she preferred to think of him as her biological father, didn’t have the nerve to stay with her mother when she got pregnant during their senior year of high school. Luckily, though, Lisa’s grandparents were very supportive. When Lisa was six years old, Lawrence Brown, the man she now called Papa, entered their lives.
Lisa didn’t even know her bio dad’s name. When she turned eighteen, her mother promised to tell her everything. At age thirteen, Lisa snuck into her parents’ bedroom to look through her mother’s high school yearbooks. She tried to pick out her bio dad from the photographs, but nobody really stood out. After a few months she stopped trying.
Lisa almost made it all the way up Marlee’s driveway when the side door to the kitchen opened.
“Wow.” Marlee held open the screen door. “You clean up well.”
So do you
. Marlee looked so cute with her short blond hair and perfect blue eyes. Lisa felt herself blush. She couldn’t help grinning. “Oh, this is just one of my church dresses.”
Marlee smiled. “I’d never be caught dead in a dress.”
I know, Lisa thought, her gaydar happily pinging away.
Marlee held the door open for Lisa to enter. The McAllisters always used the side door that opened into their large country kitchen. The Brown family kitchen, by contrast, was modern day mayhem. Four kids and two grownups in one small house tended to do that. Marlee didn’t talk about it too much, but her father had passed away when she was in middle school. Lisa always felt kind of sad for Marlee in that regard, because even though Lisa’s bio dad chose not to be a part of her life, at least she had a stepfather who treated her like his own.
Lisa set her softball bag on the kitchen table and unzipped it. She pulled out a P&C grocery sack with some practice clothes. “Where can I change?”
“Oh, follow me.” Marlee led the way down a narrow hallway off the kitchen. “Here.” She pointed to an open bathroom door.
“Okay, I’ll just be a minute.”
Lisa’s hands shook as she changed clothes. She scolded herself. She was there to play catch. That was it. Nothing was going to happen. Marlee wasn’t going to pull her into the garage or take her up to her bedroom and seduce her like Tara had. Lisa groaned. No, she wouldn’t think about Tara. Tara could stay in Long Island with the rest of her hoodlums.
Lisa shoved her clothes into the grocery sack knowing she should have at least folded her dress, but she couldn’t wait. She adjusted the sports bra under her Rockville softball camp T-shirt and shrugged on her Clarksonville sweatshirt.
“That was fast,” Marlee said from the kitchen.
“Anything to get out of that dress, eh?”
“Hey, do you want something to drink?” Marlee opened a cupboard and pulled out a glass.
“Nah, maybe later after we’ve worked up a sweat.”
“Sounds good.” Marlee yelled up the stairs, “Mom? Lisa and I are going to play catch outside, okay?”
“Okay.” She peeked down the stairs and said, “Hello, Lisa. How are you?”
“Fine thanks. How are you?”
“Good, except for all this housework.” She laughed. “You girls have fun. I’ll be changing sheets and doing laundry if you need me.”
“Okay, Mom.” Marlee headed toward the door. “I’ll help you fold later, okay?”
Outside, they stretched their muscles on the side lawn near the big oak tree. A truck tire swung to and fro in the mid-April breeze.
“Bridget and Lawrence Jr. would love this tire swing.” Lisa stretched her throwing arm behind her head one last time.
“You should bring them over some day to use it. I haven’t used it since…”
Marlee didn’t finish her sentence. She was probably thinking about her father, so Lisa quickly changed the subject. “So what did you end up doing with Bobby yesterday?”
“Oh, uh,” Marlee hesitated, “we just hung out. Nothing special.” Marlee ran a hand through her hair.
Lisa could tell that Marlee wasn’t telling the whole truth, but she didn’t press it. “Hey, let’s work on that rise ball of yours. You almost took out that East Valley left fielder on Tuesday, you know.”
“I know.” Marlee rolled her eyes, but then a fleeting expression crossed her face.
Lisa wasn’t sure how to interpret the look, so she said, “I can’t believe we lost. I mean, are we ever going to beat East Valley?”