Soon to be released thriller by Elizabeth Horton-Newton, Author of “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale”
“Near-by the sound of the river chuckling over rocks is somehow soothing. I can feel the cool breeze on my face, and the shadows of the leaves above dance on my closed eyelids. Finally I have time to reflect, to look back on the winding path that led me to this moment.
My mother had always taught me to plan ahead. She instilled in me the need to think about where I was going and to design the paths I needed to follow to reach my destination. When I was ten years old my father disappeared. Well at the time I thought he simply disappeared. Years later I learned he had taken off with a woman he met at the PTA. But when I was ten it seemed he simply disappeared. My mother picked herself up and suddenly I was a latch key kid in a neighborhood of two parent families. The other mothers watched out for me when I came home from school each day. During the summer I would spend a month at camp and a month visiting from neighborhood home to neighborhood home. I never knew I attended camp on a scholarship or that our church paid a small amount to various families to keep an eye on me while my mother worked.
Once I reached Junior High School my mother moved me into the public school system. I think the church would have continued to “sponsor” me since we were still struggling financially, I was a “good kid”, and I was a VERY good student. But my mother wanted me to move out of the sheltered world I lived in undoubtedly because she was well aware she could not continue to keep me safe from reality.
I hated my first few months at Bay Ridge Junior High School. The other kids had all gone through elementary school together and knew one another by sight if not by name. Suddenly I had to decide what to wear each day instead of pulling on the same old uniform. That had seemed an exciting change until I actually had to do it. The first couple of weeks I struggled to fit in, often wearing the “wrong thing”. Skirts when the other girls wore jeans, shirts tucked neatly in when the other girls wore loose tee-shirts.
It was Emily who first came to my rescue. Emily, popular, blond, bright, and generous of time and spirit she stopped by the table where I ate my lunch alone. “Mind if I join you?” I was certain this would turn out to be a prank on the new kid. Might as well get it over with; take the humiliation with good humor and fade back into the woodwork.
“Sure, have a seat, there are plenty of them.” My tone was slightly sarcastic. If Emily noticed she gave no indication.
She sat across from me and popped open the small can of orange juice she purchased from the lunch lady, Miss Mary. I tried to surreptitiously hide my milk behind my lunch box. Emily wordlessly prepared her lunch. I say prepared because it was like watching an artsy film. She removed every item from her tray and proceeded to arrange it neatly in an order I didn’t quite understand. Juice to the right, napkin folded below it, plate with one slice of pizza dead center, and in the upper right corner a small cup of what looked like green jell-o with pineapples. I looked down at the sliced turkey on wheat bread I had hastily put together that morning. A brown spotted banana lay in my lunch box, I knew I wouldn’t eat it but Mom always got upset if I didn’t eat right. Emily studied her food arrangement before smiling at me.
“It’s just more pleasant when I pretend I’m in a nice restaurant being served an exquisite lunch by a tall dark waiter with a French accent.” Looking serious she lowered her voice and said in a terrible French accent, “Ah m’amselle is everything to your satisfaction?” Then she winked and whispered, “Then he’ll say how about a kiss?”
I felt my mouth drop open. This had to be a joke. I quickly looked around the lunchroom. Most of the other students were eating and talking, although there was one table of preppy looking girls that seemed to be studying us curiously.
Following my gaze Emily continued, “Don’t mind them. I call them the Prep Patrol. They may stare and sometimes make rude comments but just ignore them and they’ll go away.”
I hastily began packing up the remains of my lunch. “I don’t know what your game is but I don’t want to play. Tell your friends I hope that had a good laugh.”
Not waiting for a response I strode purposefully past the preps well aware of their eyes following me. I looked sideways at them with what I hoped was an expression of distaste and ran headlong into David. Laughing he grabbed my arm, “Hey slow down there!”
I felt my face grow hot as I mumbled something unintelligible and rushed from the lunchroom. That was the day I met my future fiancé and my future maid of honor.”
The air had grown cooler and my eyes suddenly felt heavy. Maybe if I closed them for just a few minutes…