J.J. details her personal struggle with double standards in her world….
I grabbed my journal as soon as I cleared the door. I’m writing all of this down now because this has the distinct possibility of being one of those Hallmark type events; the kind that stick with you for life.
This is big.
I was going through my workout on the track at school and had found my rhythm. I was minding my own business when Philly who was also working out, called to me. She said she had to let me in on something. In a way, after she told me, I kind of wish she had just left me in the dark about all of it.
Let me just say I have been trying so hard to stay out of trouble and to not do anything to get anybody upset with me. Ever since the Mission Street Ball last spring where my mother got hurt because of me, I’ve made an unspoken promise that I would not get into any more of those “things” I always seem to find myself wrapped up in.
I’ve concentrated on my classes, I run track, and I’m an officer on both the Student Council and the Honor Society Board. I’ve begun studying computers and programming really hard at Hart after school on some days, on others I help out with math tutoring at Mission Street with the kids. I go to church when my mother makes me, and I do whatever else I can think of to stay busy. I’m trying really hard, but it seems like no matter how much I attempt to avoid it, trouble just seeks me out and hones in on me. I don’t know why.
Philly told me Milini Scott is pregnant. Now I wasn’t real surprised about that. She does anything with any boy who will be still long enough, so it was just a matter of time for that to happen. But the kicker was she’s supposed to be about three or four months along, which, as far as I know was outside the time that she was doing it with Tommy.
It seems she’s told her folks that Tommy is definitely the father. When he was having sex with her, Tommy was doing it without using a condom. I know this because he told me he didn’t. He said he assumed since she was doing it all over the place with everyone else, she was on the pill, just like a simple horny boy would. I told him then it was going to blow up in his face.
Philly is mad at Milini for trying to pin it on Tommy specifically because she knows Mil is a slut and that she has wanted to be with Tommy for the longest. Because of that, and this other stuff that she filled me in on today, she doubts it’s Tommy’s baby.
What Philly told me was around the time that Milini and Tommy were kicking it, there was that day that we all had finals and we got out of school early. Instead of going home, a lot of people went up to Tiffany and Brittany’s house because their parents were out of town, and the housekeeper was off. They have an older sister who was supposed to be in charge that day because she was home from college, but she’s kind of wild and likes to party, too, so she had taken off for the beach with her friends, leaving Tiff and Britt to do their own thing.
Before they left school to go up there, Milini supposedly called some guy she hardly knew and got picked up from Britt’s by him. After a while, she came back, but Philly said that it was obvious that she had been sexually assaulted in some way. They say that her clothes and her hair were all messed up, her arms and legs had some bruises and scratches, and her vagina had been injured; she was all bloody, but it wasn’t from her period. So gross.
I didn’t go up there with everybody else that day even though I got out early, too. My mother, for the first time ever, forgot to come to get me and I, of course, didn’t call her to remind her. I don’t get many unregulated spans of time like that. She was deep into organizing the Mission Street Ball, and she overlooked my early dismissal on her calendar. I stayed with Tommy and we just hung out together until it was time for him to go to his after school job. We did stuff in the vicinity of the school, then after he had to go, I sat on the wall and waited for my ride to come at the regular time. My mother sent Daddy because she was still running around. That worked out because he just asked me where everybody else was when he saw me there all by myself. I told him school got out early because of finals and when nobody came for me, and I realized I had been forgotten, I just hung around until the regular time so that I wouldn’t bother them. He didn’t ask what I had done while I waited, so I didn’t tell.
Don’t ask, don’t tell; it’s worked for me in many past prickly situations. I stick with what works. Jennifer Hart would have probed more deeply into what I had been doing all day, but that’s why it’s good to have two parents in the house at one time.
If I had been with the crew that day, I would have been caught right in the middle of that mess with Milini. I just know it. On top what happened to Milini, the neighbors called the police because there were so many kids and cars coming and going. The cops came and took everybody there to detention until their parents picked them up from the precinct. Marnie had gone up there and got caught up in the sweep too.
For a while after that, there were no more parties, fewer people were able to talk on the phone, and fewer people hung around after school. Things didn’t really get back to normal until school was out for summer vacation. Nobody got a record or anything for being at the party, but their parents were real mad about having to go and get them out of the joint.
So glad I didn’t go that day.
The girls did real well with keeping Milini’s business quiet. Only five people, including Mil, knew about the thing with Mil. Until Philly told me today, I hadn’t heard a peep and things don’t usually get by me AND Marnie. I told Tommy after school today because I’m not letting anybody pin anything on him until it’s for sure. He said that after Milini told him that she was pregnant, she told him that she had to tell him something else, but that she hadn’t gotten back to him yet. Well now he knows what the something was that she had to tell him.
If it turns out that the kid is his, then we’ll deal with it then. Until somebody proves it, I say let her hang. She’s a slut and that’s what happens to last class tramps who don’t take care of their business first. There’s nothing wrong with being sexually active, if you’re into that, but do have some class about it. Get on the pill, shut your mouth about it, and do it behind closed doors. Everybody doesn’t have to know what you have in your hand.
Tommy got a little upset with me about my attitude. I told him exactly what I wrote just now and I told him that I only cared about what happened to him. Forget Milini. He said that he was disappointed in me; that he thought I was a more compassionate person. That kind of hurt my feelings because I do try to be compassionate, but I just hate it when people do things to shoot themselves in the foot. There are enough people out there in the world aiming for you without you doing the job on yourself. I asked him to please not go along with what Milini asked him to do, but he said that he was already committed at that point. He said that he felt partly responsible because he did have unprotected sex with her and there was the chance that the baby could be his.
I’m going to do my homework.
To be continued, most likely. It’s early so …
… continued…just as I thought it would be.
Didn’t I say that trouble just follows me everywhere?
There I was, on the bed, reading my homework, once again trying to be right. A knock came at the door. I got up to go to answer it. Who was it? The Duchess of Hart, of course. She walked in here, took a seat, and wanted to know if I was having sex. She almost stopped my heart. She cut my breath off for a couple of minutes, for sure.
Me, J.J. Hart, having sex? First of all, with whom?
I’d clock a boy for asking me for some, much less touching me in that way. Then, when do I have time to have sex? I’m always involved in something where somebody can keep tabs on me. Boys, sex, and all of that just complicate your life. I’m fifteen years old and that is way too young for this girl to be doing that, as far as I’m concerned. Look at Milini and the crap she’s stepped into fooling around with boys and she’s sixteen.
My mother went on to explain that she overheard some talk while she was waiting in the car for me after school and my name had come up. She said that she got nervous and jumped the gun.
Come to think of it, I really should have been mad at her for not trusting me. She knows me better than that- at least she should by this time. But she so blindsided me with that, my reflex reactions went into play, and all I could do was answer her question. I must have been looking mighty shell-shocked because she ended up laughing at me and at herself. I figured that she must have been pretty unnerved by what she heard to have come at me like that. That’s not her M.O. (method of operation).
I assured her that I wasn’t ready for that in my life yet and she left me alone about it.
But I should have known that it wasn’t over. After she went out of the room, I put it together that she had caught a piece of the Tommy/ Milini saga while she was outside of the school, and that’s what got her antenna up about me having sex. She probably thought that they were talking about me if she heard Tommy’s name mentioned. When I came out of school today I was with Tommy and she probably saw me talking to him.
As soon as Daddy got home, it started all over again.
Mrs. Steele, Tommy’s mother works downtown at Hart Headquarters. She had gone up from her department to Daddy’s office to tell him that Milini’s mother had called her about Tommy supposedly getting her daughter pregnant. She thought that Daddy should know about it since he’s made Tommy his protégé .
When my mother was here in my room talking with me she could tell that there was something on my mind; she always can. She asked me if I could tell her what it was, but I had to tell her that I had made a promise to not talk about it, and she accepted that.
When Daddy got home late this evening, of course they talked about their day, like they always do. Daddy had gone to Tommy’s after he left work to talk to him about what Mrs. Steele had told him, but Tommy wouldn’t really tell him anything.
I guess my parents put one and one together: if I had something on my mind and Tommy had knocked up somebody at school, then I must have the inside track on the details. They both came up here together in an attempt to double-team me and break me down.
They gave it their best shot trying to get me to tell them what I knew, but I had promised Tommy that I wouldn’t say anything to anybody until he gave me the O.K. He was waiting to get the story from Milini. I hated not telling them. I love them both so much and I know that they love me. Daddy truly cares for Tommy, but a promise is a promise. When I make one, I keep it.
My mother said to me that some promises aren’t healthy to keep and she almost had me there because this one definitely isn’t healthy. However, I didn’t crack. I thought that Daddy was going to go totally ballistic on me, but my mother took him out of here before he lost it. I am so glad she did because I still wasn’t going to tell him regardless of how much he carried on, and he would have just been yelling for nothing. He gets mad and yells at me sometimes; she never does, but I’m not nearly as nervous about him being mad about stuff as I am about her. His going off would only have made all of us just feel worse than we did, and I didn’t want to be the cause of that.
This is off the topic, but I still can’t get over the fact that Marnie knows nothing about any of this. She was at the party at that house that day, but she doesn’t have a clue. If she knew anything about it, she would have been talking about it. Marnie is not one to tell a secret to if you’re not J.J. Hart and you don’t want it discussed. She knows better than to tell my business, but she will let me in on everybody else’s that she knows.
Whatever happened to Milini is the best-kept secret I have ever seen. Marnie is going to have a fit when it all comes out and she discovers that I knew and she didn’t and I didn’t tell her. Marnie usually has the first scoop on everything. I am so floored that she’s in the dark about this.
Oh well, I’ll work with all of this when the time comes. My head is starting to hurt. I’m going to try and get some sleep.
Sometimes I wonder if these things are visited upon J.J. Hart for any particular reason. There just has to be some logical explanation for the things that happen to me. They don’t seem to happen to everybody in the manner or with the frequency that they happen to me. When it rains, it’s a deluge when it comes down on me.
Fasten your seatbelts. The bobsled is pushing off and this is a long, slick course.
Last night/early this morning, Tommy called me. He just called to talk. He does that sometimes after he thinks my parents have gone to bed. My line rings in here, but they can’t hear it. They can tell if I’m on it though because a light comes on in their room indicating what line someone is on in the house. If they’re asleep, of course they can’t see the light. I only run into problems if my mother happens to still be up or wakes up and sees the light. I think she’s trained herself now to wake up every so often and look over to the console during the night.
Now to be fair, I will talk on the phone at any hour. If someone calls me, I’ll pick up, or if I need to tell someone something, I will get on the phone; she knows that about me. I completely admit to my guilt in that. She doesn’t understand that her rules of convention concerning the telephone don’t apply to kids with their own lines whose phones don’t wake anybody else in the house up when they ring. We don’t care what time it is.
But I digress.
Tommy told me about my father paying him a surprise visit earlier that evening. He came to their house to talk to him, but he said that he didn’t tell Daddy anything because he hadn’t gotten the story from Milini yet. Then he said that after Daddy left, his mother let him go over to Deon’s to get his CD player that Deon borrowed, but he had been late getting back. He didn’t have his house key and his mother locked him out of the house when he missed his curfew because she was sick of him being all on her nerves.
He tried to tell me that he got hung up in traffic and that was why he was late getting back. I told him to save that sob story for his mother. He rides a motorcycle and I know that he can get around traffic on it if he has to. He and I both know that he just tried to push her one time too many and lost the battle, that’s all there is to that. We’ve all done that at one time or another and come out on the short end of the stick. Behind the Milini thing and my father coming over there like he did, Tommy shouldn’t have left the house. I’m surprised that Mrs. Steele even let him; she can be tough to deal with at times too, just like Mrs. Hart.
I asked him where he was planning to sleep since he couldn’t get in the house. He said that he was just going to sleep on their front porch swing. We have a guesthouse and a pool house. It can get cool in LA at night at this time of the year, so I told him to come over here and stay the night. I offered to put him in the guesthouse. It’s closer to the main house and to the driveway, so it’s easier to get into and out of it in a hurry.
He didn’t want to come at first because he didn’t want to risk getting in trouble with my mother. That big, hulking nearly six-foot somebody is still scared of Jennifer Hart after all these years- please! I figured that since she hadn’t broken up our phone conversation at that point, she had to be sound asleep, so I told him that he should just do like I said.
Well, when he got to the gate he called me. I jetted down there on my skates and met him. I let him into the guesthouse and came right back home. I snuck back up here to my room and I thought that I had it made. I was sure that I had gotten away with it because my parents’ doors were still closed and it was still dark up here. But guess who was all propped up waiting for me- in my bed in the dark? That’s how things go with me when trouble starts paying me visits.
Of course I almost wet myself when I turned the light on and saw her there. She let me go and pee. Then I had to come back and explain it all to her.
I just knew that I was getting put on indefinite lockdown. After all, I had snuck out (Is snuck a word?), and let Tommy in without asking, but she didn’t even fuss about that. She fussed at me for being outside with Tommy in my nightgown. I tried to tell her that Tommy doesn’t look at me like that, but she wasn’t hearing it. She pulled the covers off me and made me look at myself. She said that I have “that face and all of this” and that from now on I have to put on a robe whenever I come out of my room in my nightgown.
That was all she fussed about. I couldn’t believe it! She just said that if my father caught Tommy here in the morning, we were on our own. She was going to act like she didn’t know anything about any of it. She threw me for a loop. And she didn’t punish me either.
When I got up this morning- early like Jennifer Hart said, I called out to the guesthouse to wake Tommy. He was up already and waiting for me to let him out of the gate. I hit my remote when he signaled me on the cell phone to let me know that he was down there. Then I got on up out of the bed. As I was passing the mirror, I stopped and took a good look in it. Assessing myself, I guess my mother had a point. The gown was kind of thin and I do have a decent set of breasts; they’ve really shaped up in the last year or so. And Tommy has proven that he does have an active sex drive…
I probably should do a little better about that.
That was all last night/early this morning. But this is me it’s happening to, so the story doesn’t end there- of course.
My mother dropped me off at school and Tommy was waiting for me at my locker. He looked kind of down. He had been home to shower and change. He said that his mother cursed him out about being gone all night. Now wait a minute, she locked him out, but she cursed him out for being gone all night? What’s up with that? She asked him where he spent the night. He said that he didn’t dare tell her that he was with me, even if he was in the guesthouse, so he didn’t tell her anything, and then she cursed him out some more.
I wouldn’t be a boy to save my life. I wonder what it would have like between my mother and me if I had been born a boy? I wonder if she would have been as tough on me then.
He said that he needed to talk to me, but that we couldn’t do it there because he didn’t want anyone overhearing us. I told him that I would meet him at the coffeehouse across the street. I had to make arrangements for somebody to cover for me in my first period class. The school and my parents still have that security thing going where if I don’t show up and the teacher hasn’t been notified that my absence is legitimate, they contact one of my parents right away. My mother is still kind of paranoid about somebody kidnapping me. I keep telling her that nobody wants me. If somebody were to take me, they’d be dropping me right back off to her or Daddy within fifteen minutes once they found out how obnoxious I really can be.
Philly and I have first period together. Charmaine is in my second period class. They had me covered, they said, so I went on over to the coffeehouse to meet Tommy. The manager isn’t there in the morning and Tina, the young girl who opens up and runs the cash register, will let us hang out over there as long as we don’t stay too long and we keep the tips coming. In high school, some schedules start later than others, so during first and second period they let kids come in to get breakfast and talk.
I like Tina. She’s just nineteen but she has a baby that she’s raising on her own. She works at the coffee house in the mornings and she goes to school in the afternoon. Her mother helps her out by baby-sitting while she works and goes to school. She says that she’s not going to be working at the coffee house for the rest of her life; she messed up once by getting involved with a guy who didn’t stand by her, but now she’s looking out for herself. Getting her life in order is her priority now. She and I got to talking one day when I was got to school way early and came in for a cup of coffee.
For once I was by myself, and she was giving me advice because she said that she noticed that I spent a lot of time in the company of guys. She started telling me how I shouldn’t let guys sweet talk me into doing things that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. She said that they would be trying it because I’m pretty. I thanked her for the tip and at the same time I was amused that she had even noticed me out of all the kids that come in there. A few weeks after that, as I was leaving one day, she grabbed me up by the collar asking me why I didn’t tell her that I was Jonathan Hart’s kid. I told her that Jonathan Hart’s daughter needed people watching her back just like everybody else’s daughter. I asked her what did it matter whose daughter I was? She said she guessed that it didn’t matter. I knew Tina was my kind of people; she had a lot of nerve snatching J.J. Hart up like that. I was impressed and we’ve been cool ever since.
Tommy was in the back booth waiting for me. He had ordered a full breakfast for himself and coffee for me. He figured that I had already eaten. Most of the time my mother or Marie makes me eat before I leave the house and he knows that. He and I didn’t talk for a while; he was busy filling his face. When he was just about finished, he finally said that he had made a mess of things and he didn’t know how to fix it. He didn’t want to back out on Milini, but he didn’t want to hurt his mother or my father either like he seemed to be doing. He said that he hadn’t considered the big picture when he first went into all of this. I don’t know what other kind of picture he could have been looking at when he took this mess on.
I didn’t know what to say to him. I just let him talk. Tommy is such a good person. He cares about helping people, almost to the point where he doesn’t look out for himself like he should. He started telling me how the boys talk about Milini so badly in the locker room. They tell about all the things that they’ve done with her. They plan on stuff to get her to do. Tommy says that he thinks that they even make up some of the stuff that they say they did with her. That I do believe. He said that even though he doesn’t like Milini enough to be her boyfriend, he felt bad about how the boys treat and talk about her. When she came to him with her problem, and asked him to help her, he didn’t have the heart to tell her no. Maybe he does have a soft spot for her. After all, he did have sex with her.
I told him that was her problem, and he shouldn’t have gotten involved in it. She set it up like that sleeping around like she does. He didn’t like me saying that about her, but that was how I felt. No self-respecting girl should put herself out there to be used like that unless that’s how she wants to be played.
All while he was telling me about it, I just sat there wondering what would make her do those things with all those different boys. It can’t feel that good, can it?
It’s funny; I don’t ever get that kind of action. Every now and then a boy might ask me for a kiss or something, but they don’t ever put their hands on me. One time I had to knock a boy on his butt for trying to kiss me on the sly. But that was back in the eighth grade, and it hasn’t happened again. The mathematics and technology curriculum that I’m following puts me in classes with mostly males, but I never have those kinds of problems with them. My mother says that it has to do with the signals that you send out. I guess my signals say ‘don’t even try it’ because as much as I hang out with guys, in class, at lunch when we’re playing cards, or in the stands at the games; they never come onto me like that. The boys seem to always be all over certain girls in that way. Of course, Mil is real popular. They swarm all over her.
Since I’m with guys so much, I got curious. I asked Tommy if they ever say stuff about me in the locker room. He said that if they did, they weren’t doing it around him because they know that we’re good friends. He said that I’m not the kind of girl that guys think of like that. I asked him why he thought that was. He told me that he didn’t know; that’s was just how it was. Then I asked him what he thought about me as a girl. He just smiled and told me to stop fishing for compliments. That really wasn’t what I was doing.
Tommy does have such a nice, quiet smile.
He told me that he wants to tell my father everything now. It seems to me that he’s even more concerned about my father than he is about his own mother. Maybe since it’s just the two of them, Tommy and his mother are like my mother and me: he feels like since she knows him, he doesn’t feel like he has to worry as much about her faith in him.
He was just about to tell me more when, like a genie out of a lamp, my mother appeared out of nowhere. But Jennifer Hart wasn’t there to be granting anybody’s wishes. If she had been, I would have disappeared in a puff of smoke and been beamed across the street to Calculus where I was earnestly wishing I was at that time.
I thought I was going to pass out from the shock. I could not believe that she was standing there, and she was fiery mad too. She is dead serious about school, as well as about my being where I am supposed to be at all times. I had broken two major rules in one morning, not to mention the previous night’s escapade. I just knew that my life was over. She had granted me one reprieve, but for sure I was headed straight for the electric chair this time.
She told Tommy to go to school, and he was out of there like a shot. He is so scared of her. (Right then, I didn’t blame him.) She went up to the counter and paid our bill. She gave Tina her business card, and told her to have the manager call her ASAP about why we were being allowed to skip over there. Tina’s eyes were huge. She was scared right along with us. Jennifer Hart is no joke when she’s angry. I knew that I was going to have to somehow square Tina with her. I couldn’t let her get Tina fired from her job over me.
Then Jennifer Hart told me to come to her “RIGHT now”.
I was terrified of going to her, but I was even more scared to not do what she said.
Going out of the door behind her, as I passed the register, I had Tina to slide me the business card back. I signaled her that I would take care of it.
I ended up not going back to school. She put me in her car and she was trying to take me to my father, which meant that she was done with me. When she turns me over to him she’s as much as saying, “Jonathan, you created this monster, now you handle her.” And then I catch holy hell from him for making her mad. When she gets mad at me, usually he gets the fallout because she says that I’m incorrigible because he indulges me so much.
Jonathan Hart Rule #1: It’s okay if I make him mad, which doesn’t happen that often, but he better not ever catch me doing things that I know beforehand are going to make her mad when I do them. He loves her so much that it ticks him completely off for her to be aggravated about me and the stuff that I do. That gets me in worse trouble than the actual transgression itself.
Once I realized that was what she was doing, I begged and begged her to please listen to me. At first, she wouldn’t. Every time I asked her to listen, she told me to hush and it seemed like she drove faster. By the time we got to the Towers, I was so scared that I was almost in tears and I do not scare or cry easily. I told her that I would tell her everything if she would just let me tell her alone, without Daddy being there.
I got to her just in time. If she had taken me up there and told him all about me being outside in my nightgown with Tommy, me sneaking Tommy into the guesthouse, my skipping school, and everything; there was no telling what he would have done to me and to Tommy. She stopped the car finally in front of the Towers and told me I’d better talk fast. As soon as I told her that I thought that Milini had gotten raped, her whole foul attitude suddenly changed. She immediately took me home.
When we got here, she told me to march my ‘trifling tail’ up to my room and wait for her, which I did without comment. I think she went and took some of her migraine medicine because she was rubbing her forehead when she came up the stairs behind me and went in her room. Then she came in to me. We talked and I told her everything that I knew.
I told her all about Milini’s sexual score book, the party at Britt’s, how Mil went off with that boy and came back all beaten up, how nobody told about it, about Mil and Tommy doing it without a condom, about Tommy taking up for her, the argument that Mil and I had in the locker room- everything. I even told her about Mil saying that I gave blowjobs, but that she was really the one who did that. I told her about the time Mil allegedly blew some boy off on the back seat of the school bus while other people watched. What a skank!
My mother was not playing with me this afternoon, so I didn’t hold back anything. I squealed like a big old pig, but I defy anybody to tell me that they would have handled it any differently with her looking at them the way that she was looking at me.
When I was finished talking, I was out of breath and my heart was beating all hard. I had been going so fast that Jennifer Hart had to close her eyes and sit back in the chair. I think I told her more than she wanted to know, but she asked for it, and it was all the truth. If she did take her headache medicine like I thought she had, I know she was grateful that she did.
When she finally came out of her shock, she did the oddest thing. She kissed me and told me that she loved me.
Once again, she had me bamboozled. She had me in her sights, I just knew that I was going down in flames, but she didn’t take me out like I thought she was. I think the story scared her and she could see that I wasn’t anywhere near as incorrigible as I could be.
She let me live, didn’t put me on punishment, and she called me “her sweet girl”. I like it when she calls me that. It doesn’t happen that often these days. I’m always in trouble over something it seems. I try so hard, but…
I promised her I wouldn’t ever let her down. I made that promise to her after the Mission Street Ball last spring, but she didn’t know about that one; that was a private promise. I let her hear it this time.
I don’t always understand her, but I do love my mother- even when she’s scary, she’s fascinating.
Just a couple more things before I go to bed.
I had to know what happened and I had to get the thing with Tina straightened out.
I went downstairs a little while ago to where my mother was lying on the couch reading a book. I asked her where things had broken down and how she found out that I had skipped class. First she said that I had a whole lot of brass asking her that, considering how close I came to being skinned alive this afternoon. But then she said that she doesn’t know why she would expect anything different from me; according to her I was cut out of the same fabric as my father.
She said that my skip coverage system broke down when Philly’s orthodontist had a last minute cancellation and her mother was able to get her in to get her braces tightened. Mrs. Diaz came and picked Philly up before first period, so that left me with my you-know-what exposed. Before her mother got there, Philly went to Ms. Grimsley, our counselor, and tried to let her know that I had gone to the coffeehouse to talk with Tommy about some problems that he was having. She begged her to not tell on me. But once she knew that I was AWOL, as the counselor Ms. Grimsley had to call my parent regardless; it’s school policy and she had to cover herself. My mother said that even Ms. Grimsley tried to take up for me when she called her, saying that if I was skipping a class I must have had a good reason. Apparently that didn’t cut it with Madame Hart and I was still on the hot seat. That was when she got in her car and came gunning for me.
I was just wondering what could have happened. Our network is pretty tight and we usually don’t let each other down. I guess that was a breach that couldn’t have been helped. I can’t be mad at Philly about that. She’s probably dying inside thinking that she got me in big trouble. I know that I would be sick with it if I was in her shoes and left her hanging like that.
My mother said that after she checked my classes, and found out that I had skipped first period and I hadn’t reported to second period either, she came looking for me down in the sophomore hall where my locker is located. (She has my schedule, my locker- my everything committed to memory.) She said that she spotted Marnie and was trying to ask her where I was, but Marnie had her back to her when she walked up on her, and she didn’t know who it was that was tapping her. Marnie started cursing about not being able to find a notebook and then she cursed Jennifer Hart for repeatedly tapping her on the shoulder. Marnie was totally mortified about it when she realized who it was that was actually trying to get her attention. Marnie is going to be years living that one down. I could tell from the look in my mother’s eyes. She’s going to play with Marnie for a while about this.
I’ve told Marnie so many times about her foul mouth and how it was going to get her in big trouble one day. She’s been cursing like that since the day that we met, which is really kind of pathetic seeing as how we met in kindergarten. But that is one of the things about her that endears her to me. She’s a pip. She says whatever is on her mind.
I asked my mother if she had spoken to the manager of the coffee house yet, and she said that she hadn’t. I pulled her business card, the one she had left with Tina, out of the back pocket of my jeans and I handed it to her. Her mouth dropped open when she saw that I had it. I very quickly explained to her about Tina and her baby and all. I asked her to please not call. I told her Tina was just helping us out, and it was a very irregular situation. She said she would drop it this time, but that I needed to be more responsible about putting people’s livelihoods in jeopardy. I didn’t see it like that, but she’s right.
Then she sat up and asked me why I was being so protective of Tommy to the point that I was putting myself in harm’s way. There was something more behind her asking me that, I could tell, but I couldn’t quite read it in her eyes. So, like always, I just told her the truth: he’s my very good friend. We can talk and we like each other for who we are, not what we have or don’t have. I know that he likes me for who I am. I can’t say that about everyone I know with such certainty. I don’t trust easily.
She just nodded, said alright, and told me to go on up to bed.
I sure would like to know just where she was going with that Tommy stuff. She knows I don’t like guys in that way if that was what she was hinting at.
I do wonder sometimes if there’s something wrong with me. A lot of the girls my age have boyfriends and go on dates. Some are even having sex already, but I’m not interested in any of that yet. I’m not ready to put myself out there like that.
I’ve worried about it a little from time to time, but I don’t think I’m gay or anything. I’m know I’m not attracted to females. I like guys, but I just don’t want them up on me too much. Most teenage girls I know, seem to enjoy that stuff; even Marnie likes that kind of attention. She’s always got a so-called boyfriend, but she’s not having sex or anything with them. She likes to kiss, though. Almost all the girls seem to be talking about what boy they like and which boy likes them. Everyone, it seems, except me. Boys like me, but I just don’t care about that. I hope nobody starts to think I’m gay because I’m pretty sure I’m not. The gay kids catch it at school, and I’d hate to have to be fighting all the time.
It just makes me so uncomfortable when I know a boy wants to touch me or get to know me in that way. My friend, Wesley, calls me and emails me a lot. He’s in his last year of high school at boarding school in Massachusetts, so his head is in a way different place from mine right now. We’ve known each other all of our lives, and he has liked me (as a girl) for a couple of years now. He intimates in his correspondence that he would like a closer relationship with me. He mentions my eyes and my hair a lot. It just makes my skin crawl to think of myself as someone’s girlfriend. That situation seems so stifling to me.
Marnie thinks that I’m nuts and she thinks I’m wasting my looks. She says that lots of boys want to date me and she’s always telling me about how some boy or another has told her that he wants to get to know me. Why don’t they just come and talk to me if that’s so? Maybe it’s like Tommy says, I’m not that kind of a girl.
I know that I’m sort of nice-looking, but that complicates things even more. It’s like camouflage. It’s just one more thing for someone to have to get past before they get to know me for who I really am. It used to be that I worried about people knowing about my parents, their money, and all the things that we have. Now it’s wondering if someone just likes me because of how I look. Marnie says that I worry too much about dumb things. Maybe I do.
When we have dances or I have to go to affairs that require an escort, I’m never at a loss for male company. There is always someone who either wants to take me, who I can ask to escort me, or who wants to dance with me once I get to the function. I’m alright with that. As long as the fellas keep to their space, it’s all good.
My mother says that things happen when they’re supposed to happen and they happen to the people to whom they’re supposed to happen. She believes in fate, and to some extent, so do I. Maybe it’s just not my time for boys and all of that.
I can see myself in the mirror as I’m writing this. With my hair down like this, I really do look a lot like my mother these days. She gets a lot of play from other men even though she’s been married forever. Guys still turn to look at her when she passes by or enters a room. I wonder what signals she’s sending out to have that happen still. I don’t even know what signals I’m sending out. I don’t feel like I’m sending any, but she says that I do and that I need to be more careful around the boys so that they don’t misunderstand.
It’s hard to know what other people see in you, especially when you can’t see those things in yourself, for yourself.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to grow up. Things are getting weird and thorny. I hope Tommy calls tonight. I’d like to talk to somebody who knows me. These days there are times that I feel like a stranger to myself. I’d like to know where his thoughts are this evening too. He’s got to be more messed up than me tonight.
I got up this morning panicked. I thought I had forgotten to set my clock and that I had overslept. It was after nine and my first class was at eight. I was just jumping up when my mother knocked and came in. She told me to go back to bed; she had turned off my alarm during the night so that I could sleep. She said I didn’t have to go to school today.
That was when it all came flooding back to me. Milini lost her baby yesterday afternoon in the locker room, and I was with her when it happened. It was so awful.
My mother, Coach Rogers, Marnie, and I spent most of the evening at the hospital. We left when Milini’s parents finally got there. Her father is an absolute Class A jerk. Daddy and Tommy came down there and Milini’s Dad tried to go off on Tommy, but Daddy checked him- hard. At that point my mother decided that it was time that she took Marnie and me home.
After we dropped Marnie off, my mother came in here with me and helped me get cleaned up. I had Milini’s blood all in my clothes and on my shoes. They cleaned my hands and face in the ambulance, but some of it was still under my fingernails and I think in my hair too. I got in the shower, but I felt like I couldn’t get it all off me. I kept adjusting the temperature, but I felt like I couldn’t get clean no matter how hot I let the water get. I could still smell it.
I think I must have started losing it in there because the next thing I remember is hearing my own voice; I guess I was talking to myself, and then my mother reaching in, grabbing my arms real hard, and yanking me out from under the water. The bathroom was full of steam and my skin had gotten all red. She wrapped me in a big towel and held me tight to her for a bit. I think I must have scared her. Then she towel dried my hair and told me to get dressed in the gown she handed me. She helped me put petroleum jelly all over my arms and legs. I remember my arms and legs tingling all over, but they seem to be alright this morning, though.
I don’t know what she did with my clothes and my shoes, but when I came out of the bathroom they were gone from where I had left them on the floor. She wanted me to take some medicine that she got from the pharmacy before we left the hospital. I don’t like using crutches, so I told her that I didn’t want to take it.
While I was grateful that she had been with me throughout the whole thing, I needed to be by myself. She left me and I tried to cry, but I couldn’t; it wouldn’t come up. As I lay there, the walls started to close in. I felt like I used to feel when I was little and I would get afraid in the dark. Even the dog was no comfort to me, which meant that I was in for it. Third makes everything feel better in the dark. So did his father, Junior, when I was little and scared in the dark.
I kept seeing and hearing Milini cramping and crying, blood everywhere. I kept hearing her father yelling at Tommy; Daddy defending Tommy.
I had to get out of there. I went across the hall to where I never, ever go at night. At first I just sat on the floor outside of their doors, but I wanted my Daddy. I knocked and he let me come to him. Daddy and I are close, but I’m a big girl now and he hasn’t had to hold me in his arms in a long time. He did it for me last night.
The next thing I knew, it was morning and I was waking up in my own bed.
After I came to and my mother said that I could stay home, I found that I couldn’t go back to sleep; I usually can’t once I’m awake in the morning. I got on up, got another shower and got dressed for school. I wanted to go ahead and get on with it. I was hurt, but I wanted to stay in the game.
When I got downstairs, she was sitting out on the patio. Marie was in the kitchen holding my breakfast. Marie said that my mother told her that she wanted to see me whenever I came down, so I went out there to her before sitting down to eat.
I guess she could tell from how I was dressed that I was trying to go to school. Right away she let me know that I wasn’t going to be attending my classes today; it was her decision for me and I wasn’t to argue with her about it. I didn’t. I never do. (…not out loud so she can hear me, anyway)
She said that my counselor, Ms. Grimsley wanted to meet with us in her office at two this afternoon, and she wanted to know if I felt up to it. I told her that I thought it would be okay since I was prepared to go to school anyway.
I think that my mother wanted me to talk to her about all that happened and about how I felt about it, but I don’t want to talk about it specifically with her or with anyone right now. I don’t know how I feel. I’m sort of numb really. I hope that Ms. Grimsley doesn’t force the issue. If my mother is going with me to her office, I know that it’s going to be safe. My mother is only going to let a conversation go so far. The nature of her work as a writer makes her the master at interviews. She knows when to shut a thing down and she can read me like a book. If it gets too hairy for me, she’ll put a halt to it and get me out of there. I can trust her to do that.
Until it’s time for us to go, I’m going back up to my room to do the homework that I didn’t get done last night.
Our appointment with Ms. Grimsley turned out really nice. She didn’t want to ask me about what happened. She wanted to thank me for coming to Milini’s aid like I did. I told her that it was just a reflex action on my part. When an emergency rises, I’ve been trained to react and I’ve been taught what to do. She said that I wouldn’t have done all that I did for her in the way that I did it that unless I had my heart in the right place to begin with. I took her word for it. I’ve also been taught that I need to be humble in the face of a compliment.
She said that I probably wouldn’t know it, and she didn’t go into any detail, but she said that Milini had a lot of problems prior to this last one that surfaced. She alluded to knowing that Milini’s popularity had a lot to do with some ‘things’ that she was doing to get attention, and that she had been trying to work with Mil on some of her “self-esteem issues”. She told me that Mil had mentioned me to her several times as someone whom she greatly admired.
If that’s the case, then why is Milini always harassing me like she does?
Then she thanked my mother for raising me so well. She told her that in my social position (I hate when people say that.) it would have been easy for me to just run for help or to leave her where she was until the proper people got there to take care of her. Instead, she was impressed that I jumped in and took care of her myself until help could come. Ms. Grimsley said that she has been watching me for the last two years and that she has always been impressed with how down to earth and personable she found me to be with everyone compared to some of the other children from the more affluent homes.
Knowing how to treat people doesn’t have anything to do with your social status; it depends on your upbringing. I’m just me. That’s all I know how to be and all I ever want to be.
Ms. Grimsley then told my mother that she asked her to come to the meeting because she wanted to thank her personally for raising me so well and for teaching me to be a person of substance. She said that although she knew that both of my parents play an important part in raising me, she could tell from personal experience and from interacting with us that it was she who is my major influence. Ms. Grimsley was dead on with that particular conclusion. I don’t discuss my personal life with her, so she was going solely on her own objective observation to arrive at that.
My mother makes me so proud. She just nodded her head and smiled in the way that she does to say thank you without words. That was it. There wasn’t anything for her to say. She knows that she’s done a pretty good job with this serious lump of coal.
My mother is a woman of substance. That is the difference in the two of us that I have been trying to figure out for years. You can look at her and tell that she is. This was the first time that I heard those words used in reference to me. I’m not there yet in my estimation, but I hope to be one day.
Ms. Grimsley had all my work ready in her office, so I got that stuff from her and we left. I needed a notebook from my locker for one of the assignments, so I stopped there while my mother went ahead to the car. It was almost time for the bell and she didn’t want to be caught in the hall with the crazy hall passing crowd.
I was at the locker when the bell rang so of course I got bombarded with a barrage of questions that I didn’t feel like answering. Then I heard somebody say that “it served Milini right” and for some reason the fine hair suddenly stood up on the back of my neck. I let everybody around me know in no uncertain terms that nobody deserved what happened to Milini to happen to them – NOBODY. For some reason that comment made me so mad. Who are we to judge? It was like somebody had flipped my switch and you could see everybody get quiet and start to back up. Marnie stepped in front of me. Just like the good friend that she is, she just came from out of nowhere because prior to that comment being made, I had not seen her at all. She told me to cool it. I must have looked like I was ready to fight. I felt like I wanted to, but I don’t know who or why. Just a day ago, I felt the same way and I had said as much.
I got my stuff and told Marnie I’d talk to her later. I went on out to the car.
I got in and all the way home, my mother was watching me. She was trying not to let me see her doing it, but I saw her. She could tell that I was upset, I know. I just prayed to God all the way home that she wouldn’t say anything to me. She didn’t. I love her, but I wouldn’t have been able to talk to her right then. It’s all still too close to the surface. I haven’t got it pushed far enough back to be able to talk about it just yet.
We got home and I came straight up here. Marie brought me up something to eat a little while ago. I’ve been here since this afternoon doing my homework. Daddy stuck his head in to say hello when he got home and then he left. I was glad that he didn’t ask me how I felt. I was surprised that they didn’t make me come down to dinner with them, but they must realize that I need space.
I am so confused. I did at first feel that Milini deserved whatever happened to her too. After seeing her in pain and scared like she was, and then being with her when it happened, it was like something just changed in my head. I was there. I saw it for myself. I was so scared and in pain too.
I can’t put it all together yet, but I do know that nobody deserves to go through that at sixteen- maybe not at any age, I don’t care how trampy they might act.
I sent a card to Milini’s house. I don’t know if she’s home yet but if she isn’t, it will be there when she does get home. My mother keeps some very nice get-well cards in her desk and she let me pick one when I told her that I wanted to send one to Milini.
Neither of my parents have tried to say anything to me about any of it. I walk around them on eggshells because I don’t want them to ask me anything. I don’t think that I can talk about it. I’m glad that today is Saturday. This place is huge and I can keep to myself pretty much if I so choose, which today I do.
I had track practice early this morning. My mother dropped me off, but she didn’t stay. She had an errand to run so she left me and came back for me when I called her to say that I was finished. Daddy is involved in some intense business involving Hart, so that’s why he didn’t take me. Usually he sits in the stands while I practice. Sometimes he helps Coach with us. When he didn’t show today, all the girls wanted to know where he was this morning. They all like him. I missed having him there, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable about not talking to him. I talk, but not about that, and I know that they’re waiting to hear from me.
I ran alone and nobody really bothered me. People can tell, I think, when I’ve zoned out and I need to be by myself. I ran until I was wringing wet. Even then it felt like I just wanted to keep running and running and running. It was as if I wanted to get away from something, but I had no idea what the something was. When I did finally come in off the track, Coach Rogers was standing there watching and waiting for me with a towel. He patted me on the shoulder as I went by, but he didn’t say anything to me out loud. He’s all right like that, and that simple gesture meant a lot to me right then.
When I came in the locker room, some of the girls were back there in the restroom peeking into the stall where it happened. I immediately knew what they were talking about. When they saw me come in, they broke it up. I acted like I didn’t notice them.
There are times that I feel so much older than everybody else my age. People seem intimidated by me sometimes, and they act like I’m over them or something. Except for Tommy- he’s the only one who will check me hard when I need it. Marnie can make me think, but Tommy is the only friend I have that can actually make me stop.
Marnie is a bit miffed with me right now for not telling her what was going on. She said that we left her out in the cold. When she found out that I knew all along that Milini was pregnant and that I hadn’t told her, she was a little put out over it. All I could do was apologize and tell her that I had just found out myself and that I hadn’t had enough time to put it all together to tell her anything. She was still a little bent out of shape, but she’ll get over it. It wasn’t the kind of thing that I would just blab about, even to her.
Tommy came by the house for a minute today and we talked just a little. He had been with Daddy all day. I hadn’t really talked to him since the morning that we got caught in the coffee house. He’s been on phone restriction and house arrest, and he would have been on lockdown still if Daddy hadn’t needed him to caddy for him this afternoon. I think Daddy just had him caddy to help him get him out of the house. He probably wanted to talk to him too, just to see where his head was with all of this.
Tommy and I only talked about things in general, not about any of what happened. There was like a curtain between us, and it was as if we were scared to move it out of our way to be able to see each other clearly.
Lately I don’t like having all the lights off at night . I turn my lamp off in the bedroom, but I leave the bathroom light on and use the dimmer so that it’s not so bright. When it’s completely dark in here, and I close my eyes, I can see that baby floating in the toilet. It was really little and there was so much blood, but I could clearly see that it was a baby- tiny arms and legs and head; sort of like one of those unborn baby birds that you see when an egg falls out of the nest before the baby bird can hatch on its own.
(Not a real) Good night.
In church this morning, before the service started, I lit candles; one for Mil and one for her baby. At the last minute I lit another one for Tommy. When I came back to the pew, my mother, who was trying not to let me see her watch me, went up and lit just one. Then she stood and prayed over it.
She came back, sat down, and took my hand.
I left my hand right there inside of hers for the entire service. Every time I would begin to shake, she would squeeze my hand with hers. I was able to stop shaking when she would do that until it would start again.
I’ve been thinking about it all day: why do girls have to have all the bad stuff happen to them? Maybe not bad stuff, but all the heavy stuff seems to happen to us.
We have periods. We have to deal with cramps to go along with the inconvenience of a period while we try to keep on with our regular routines. As we grow up and our bodies develop, we have to learn how to put up with guys and their macho crap. If we decide to have sex, we have to worry about getting pregnant.
On the one day of the week that I’m required to wear a dress, I catch it all day long from the guys. I even catch it from my father if he deems that what I have on is too short. He doesn’t realize that it’s not my skirts that are short; it’s my legs that are long. My mother has to put him in check every time he starts up, reminding him that it is she who selects and purchases my dresses and skirts.
And what about my having to worry about what I have on when I’m with Tommy? Does he have to do that with me? I haven’t heard anybody say so. Guys go without shirts when it gets hot outside, and some of them look pretty good without one, but I can’t do that without getting arrested for being lewd and lascivious.
I’m very smart, but it’s my face that gets the first notice. At the beginning of each new semester I get discounted just because I’m a girl and I end up having to prove myself all over again to the guys in my classes who are new or who don’t know me. Some of them make me almost have to grind them into the ground with my boot heel to get them to see that I am just as smart or smarter than they are. Why is that? Why can’t a pretty girl be assumed to be smart? Why does she have to work so hard to prove herself?
In Calculus earlier this year, I almost had to sic my Daddy on the student assistant to get him to stop trying to assist me. He only wanted to help me because I’m a girl and he wanted to get next to me. I didn’t need his help. I knew more about Calculus than he did. My father is the original math wizard and I am the sorcerer’s apprentice. My father says that I amaze him at times. The same student assistant ended up trying to take advantage of Marnie, but she had sense enough to stop it before it went too far. She got caught up in that with him because her perv of a stepfather was doing nasty things to her and robbing her of her self-esteem, but that’s a whole other story of another male trying to take advantage of a female.
The bad part about all of this is that some of the girls think that it is more important to be pretty and popular with the boys than it is to be intelligent and independent. I think Marnie gets caught up in that sometimes. She loves clothes and looking good, and I have to stay on her to keep her focused and to keep her from letting her grades slide.
Ever since fifth grade I’ve known that I’m smarter than most kids. No bragging here, it’s just fact. I resisted the ‘gifted’ label for a long time, but I’ve accepted it now. It wasn’t like I had a choice considering who my parents are- neither of them accepts less than my best. So I’ve learned to try to look at it as just that, a gift: something that was given to me to use. It’s not like it’s something that I earned or was entitled to have.
Sometimes it’s even a problem for me because when things happen, I find myself analyzing things to death, just like this thing with Milini. I keep trying to figure out why it all happened like it did. I figure that it happened to Milini to slow her down some, but why did I end up having to be involved? Was I just in the right place at the right time to help her, or did it happen to tell me something too? It had to be for some reason. Nothing this ugly happens for no reason.
I feel so bad for Milini. Everybody is talking about her. I think it’s even leaked out that she might have been raped. I wonder which of the original four cracked? I’ve tried to avoid it all. When I hear people talking about it, I either tune it out or I move to somewhere else. People are making Tommy out to be some kind of victim because she had named him as the father and it turned out that he wasn’t. Tommy is my good friend, but he is not a victim here. He had sex without benefit of protection. He didn’t protect himself and he didn’t protect Milini, his partner, from getting pregnant from by him. If you ask me, Mil could be considered a victim here just as well, but nobody seems to see that side of it. I know that we girls have the babies, but why should the responsibility and/or the blame be placed only on the girl when it takes two people to make a baby?
Nobody came up to me in school today to try to ask me about it. I guess since I went off at the lockers like I did that day, they know not to approach me with stuff like that. I don’t gossip and I will not engage in idle conversation about this. I haven’t talked with my parents, so I certainly am not going to talk to anybody here about it. I still don’t have it all worked out in my head yet, but I’m pretty sure that I do need to adjust my attitude about Milini. I’ve been thinking about what Ms. Grimsley said about Milini having problems with her self-esteem.
My mother and father are out for the evening and I’m glad. I still don’t want to talk. I just want to think and it’s hard on them when I’m so quiet. They get to thinking that I’m unhappy, and really I’m not. I just need some room and some time to sort some things out for myself. I like being an only child most of the time, but it gets kind of worrisome to know I am their focus. If they had other children, that would divert some of their attention from this one child. But, there’s just me. That’s all there will ever be.
Like I said, I’m glad that they went out. They need the time to focus back on themselves. I know that’s important to them. It’s so weird and icky to think about it, but my parents are in love with each other. I see other people’s parents and it’s apparent that they care for each other, but the Harts are in love. There’s a difference. To watch how my father physically handles my mother, you can tell that she is his world. He’s always so gentle with her, especially when they dance together, which they do a lot. I love to watch her straighten his tie or smooth his hair. Her eyes say it all when she looks at him across the dinner table or when they’re just talking to each other. Sometimes, especially if we’re out somewhere and we’re all in different parts of the room or the area, I sometimes watch them watch each other. It’s an intriguing thing to observe.
You know, it’s good that they have money otherwise my mother would have probably shut her life down after she had me. If they couldn’t afford to do things in the way that they can do them, I know that she would have stayed at home to raise me. Being the kind of mother that she is, she would have assumed that responsibility, and that would have been the end of her career. Daddy would have kept doing his thing though. He would have had to, I guess to support us, but just think of how wrong it would have been for her, with her extraordinary talents, to be stifled like that.
I think about Tina working at the coffee shop and going to school, struggling to make it while whoever she got that little boy with is probably in college, or in the service off seeing the world, or somewhere making more babies for some other girl to have to shut her life down over. I know that for some women, it’s their personal choice to stay home and focus on family, but just think of all the talent that may not reach its full potential, especially for those girls who have children too soon.
My grandmother, Suzanne, never worked outside the home. While my grandfather traveled around the world as an art dealer, she chose to stay grounded in Maryland to raise my mother. My mother said she did that because she wanted stability for her child. My grandparents got married when my grandmother was only eighteen. She came to America from her home in France to set up housekeeping with my grandfather. She had my mother right after she turned twenty and she died at thirty-two. I hope that she was a happy woman, but it just doesn’t seem to me like she had time to have much of a life. She had to have been a good woman. She gave my mother a good foundation having raised her essentially alone until she was killed when my mother was twelve. I hope that my grandmother wasn’t one of those women who said that she’d wait and do the things that she wanted to do once her child was more grown up. She didn’t live long enough for that to happen.
My mother has always had the money and the resources to take me with her and/or to make arrangements for me while she continued her work and her life. Even with that, she’s probably had to make a lot of adjustments in her life that I don’t know anything about. She’s always had the ability to do whatever she wanted to do, and at one time she was able to do just that without having to worry about what she was going to do with J.J. Maybe that’s one of the reasons my mother was allowed to lead such a full life before she had me. If she had chosen to stop at that point, at least she had reached some of her goals.
I’ve never sensed that she resented having had me, although realistically she’s probably had her moments. I know that I’m not always easy for her to deal with, and that her life was probably a lot less complicated before me; but she has a way of making difficult things look easy. I admire that about her. I am so glad that my mother didn’t stop writing and travelling because she had a baby. She has been an inspiration and a role model for me. She proves to me daily that all things are possible regardless of gender.
When I have a child, I’m going to be all the mother to that little Hart that she is to me, but I also hope that my child’s father is the kind of fully supportive partner that my father is to my mother. I think that has made all the difference in the world for her.
One day I’m going to be all the woman she is, and that she will have taught me to be.
Marnie and I rode over to St. Augustine today with my mother after school. She had administrative things that had to be taken care of for the Mission Street Foundation. Some of us from the school have started the tutoring/mentoring program. We help the kids at the Academy once a week with their schoolwork and activities. Tommy helps with art. Deon and Kendra do recreation. Charmaine works with them on their reading and Marnie helps with writing. We go every Tuesday and my mother oversees the program with Sister Anastasia, who runs the St. Augustine Academy.
So far it seems to have been a big success. The kids love for us to come and I for one, enjoy working with the kids. We get to share what we know and sometimes we learn some things from them too.
Like the other day, Charmaine was working with the little kids on rhyming words. She gave them worksheets to do. There was a picture at the beginning of the row and the kids had to circle and color the picture in the row that sounded like the picture at the beginning. There was a picture of a house at the beginning of one row and one little boy couldn’t find a picture in the row that rhymed. Charmaine pointed out the picture of the mouse, but she didn’t tell him what it was. The little boy told her that rat did not rhyme with house. It didn’t, did it? I happened to be in the room with them for that exchange. Charmaine cracked up laughing and high-fived him. She said that in their neighborhood there are no mice; big, small, old, young- they’re all rats, so she understood his confusion.
They opened my eyes and made me see that it’s all a matter of where you’re coming from, isn’t it?
After we dropped Marnie off, my mother took me to get another pair of running shoes. She got rid of the ones that I messed up that day in the locker room. She said that she was afraid that the stains had set in and that they wouldn’t get clean. I got the same kind that I had because they served my purposes, but that got the thoughts going all over again.
I’m thinking that she just threw away all of those things that I was wearing on that day to keep me from being reminded every time I put them on. I haven’t seen any of that stuff, the clothes, the shoes, anything- since that night.
I heard today that Milini is home from the hospital. I asked my mother if she thought that it would be okay if I went to see Milini at home. She told me that she would call and try to make the arrangements with Mil’s mother. If Milini was receiving guests, she said that she would take me. I hope that she is. Milini and I have been on the outs lately, but I think that it’s time to quash this and get on the same side of the fence. We’ve known each other since junior high, but this is the first year that we have had this trouble and it seems to be over a boy. It’s not worth it- not even for Tommy.
I’m concerned about Tommy too. He seems really subdued over all of this and he doesn’t talk to me about it. Normally he doesn’t talk a whole lot anyway, but he’s even more quiet than usual. He spends a lot of time near me, but he doesn’t have much to say. It’s almost as if he’s ashamed about something. I hate when people feel like that. I try to think of things to say to make them feel better, but the right words just don’t come to me. I hope that he’s not still upset with me about the things that I said about Mil.
Marnie, even though she’s still got her nose out of joint over being left in the cold on the story, has been my brick through this whole thing. She might be mad at me for not telling her, but she makes sure to look out for me. She meets me at the locker after each class and every night before she goes to bed, she calls and checks on me. I haven’t said anything to her about the problems that I’ve been having with sleeping. She just seems to know that I need her to call me. She knows that I don’t usually admit to having problems, but she always seems to just know when she needs to get my back. We have gone back and forth doing that for each other since we were little.
Today one of the girls was talking in general with some of the other girls in the locker room about how I should have just left Milini lying there. She said that Mil was a tramp and she deserved whatever happened to her. It was everything that I had said that day to Tommy and how I had felt before all of this happened. I was so stunned by how ugly her words sounded to my ears that before I could gather myself to go off on her, Marnie jumped in front of me and cursed the girl out for me.
In her own very verbally graphic way, Marnie said everything that I had been thinking these past few days and everything that I wanted to say: all the while Milini was filling them in on who she was sleeping with, giving them the play-by-play on all the details, and letting them see that scorebook she kept, they were all standing around listening, egging her on, and telling her how cool she was. Now that it’s all hit the fan, they’ve all suddenly turned their backs on her, and now she’s just a big old sleeze. Some of the very guys that they call their boyfriends and/or who they are crazy about have probably been with Milini or have tried to be with her, but they don’t see anything wrong with the guys doing that.
By the time Marnie got through with them, the whole locker room was silent and looking like they needed to rethink themselves. The gym teacher had come in when she heard all the yelling. She put her hand on my shoulder and she stood there listening to every word that Marnie said, the cussing and all. She didn’t check Marnie at all this time for her mouth. When Marnie was finished, Ms. Marshall just turned around and went back out to the gym. I guess she knows that what Marnie said was true too, no matter how crudely she might have put it. Sometimes I think that it’s necessary to do what you have to do to get people to hear you.
I didn’t even know that Marnie felt that way, but I was so proud of her for coming to that conclusion on her own and voicing it. I’m always spouting off and people think I’m old in the head anyway. I think coming from Marnie, it meant a whole lot more to the girls because she’s usually just into clothes, getting noticed by the boys, and superficial things like that, just like a lot of them. For her to see it and say it made people sit up and take notice.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother these days. I can never quite figure her out. I wonder about her sometimes, especially behind all of this. I would have thought that knowing that Tommy was having sex would make her nervous about him being with me, but she doesn’t seem to be worried about my interacting with him at all. She hasn’t said anything about it. She asked me that time about me giving Tommy advice on his sex life; that was when I fussed at him about not wearing the condom when he had sex with Milini, and she was surprised that we talked about things like that. But that was all that was said about it. Well, she did say that thing about me covering my body better than I did that night. I understand why she said that now, but I still say that if I’m not sending out written invitations, nobody has a right to make a move on me; I don’t care if I’m stark naked. I’m not at all nervous about anybody seeing my body, but I don’t want my intentions to be misinterpreted. She asked me about being so protective of Tommy, but even that issue, she didn’t take any farther than that one question.
I’ve really crossed the line with her with some of the things that I’ve done of late. I should be on serious lockdown, but she didn’t lower the boom like normal. I wonder why?
My mother has never seemed real concerned about me being with boys. You would think that as tight as she is on me about everything else, that this would be an area of great concern for her, but it doesn’t seem to be. It’s not like she just lets me be all out there or anything, but it’s not like it’s a real big deal to her either.
I wonder if it would bother her that much if I was having sex as long as I was on the pill?
Forget that. I’m not even going to press that button with as many times as I’ve avoided being electrocuted by her recently.
Justine Jennifer is not ready for the serious stuff, and I don’t want to find out the hard way that Jennifer Justine isn’t ready for her daughter to be into the serious stuff either.
I went to see Milini after school today. My mother took me when she picked me up from school. She had cut some wildflowers from around the gazebo for me to take to her. She had wrapped them in tissue and had tied it all up with a yellow ribbon. That was so thoughtful of her to do that for both of us. She’s all class all the time, just like Marnie says.
This is going to be kind of hard to write, but it was a very difficult visit. It was yet another one of those Hallmark moments in this girl’s life. This whole thing has been.
Milini is so very unhappy. She sits in her room, her mother says, and she doesn’t come out. Her mother says that I am the only person that she’s agreed to see since it all happened. Milini told me that her parents are fighting and that her father is mad at her. He’s stopped speaking to her completely. She told me that her father wishes that she was a boy and that he has never been too happy with her. She has two older sisters who are in college and she is the baby. Did she mean that he was disappointed that she wasn’t born a boy? I knew that kind of attitude existed in other cultures and countries, but I didn’t think that it happened here. How can her own father treat her that way? She’s still his daughter. Is that why Milini does the things that she does? Is that one of the problems that Ms. Grimsley alluded to on that day that she called my mother and me into her office?
Then she told me that “they” hurt her. She told me that the guy “took her there and they hurt her”. I was too scared to ask her what she meant. I didn’t think that I could bear to hear that she was raped by more than one guy and that they had hurt her like the girls said that she was hurt when she got back to Britt’s that day. I just don’t want to believe that stuff like that can happen. How could anybody treat another person like that? Did they take turns with her or something? Couldn’t they see that she was hurt? Didn’t they care?
She asked me about seeing the baby, but I didn’t want to talk about that. I don’t ever want to talk about that- to anybody. I’m trying to move that to the back of my mind. The thought of what happened to her, that dead baby in the bowl, and then she said that she might not ever be able to have another baby; it was just too much. I thought that I was going to throw up, and I wanted to run out of the room; but I didn’t. I couldn’t just leave Milini there by herself. She’s already too alone. All I could do was put my arm around her and she held tight to my hand. I held hers back.
We’re two girls from extremely affluent homes. But it’s all happening so differently for both of us. Milini said that she just wanted a piece of my world. I guess I do appear to have it all, but people don’t realize that all my life I’ve been practically cloistered by my security-conscious parents. It’s not been a real bad thing, and I’ve been exposed to some great things that other children are not privy to, but it isn’t exactly a typical existence either, I don’t think. Sometimes I wish that I had a bit more personal freedom, but lately I’m sort of glad that they’ve kept me as close as they have.
I tried telling her that we all have our own places in the world, but I didn’t tell her that I wouldn’t want to be in hers right now for anything. While I was holding her hand, I was praying and thanking God for sending me, in his divine wisdom, to Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, while at the same time asking for the strength and the words to help Mil. I’m not real good at knowing what to say all the time. As it turned out, I didn’t have to come up with any words; we didn’t talk any more. We just sat there holding on to each other until our mothers came up together to see about us.
Never before in my life have I been so grateful to return to the security of my mother’s car and to be the one going home with her. I couldn’t wait to get to 3100 Willow Pond and to go up to my room to be by myself. I didn’t want to talk to my mother about any of it, but I did like knowing that she was somewhere close by. They don’t think that I know it, but she and Daddy have been checking on me at night. It feels so good to know that they care.
I’m glad that I started off our meeting today by telling Mil that I was tired of fighting and that I just wanted to be friends. That’s all I really want, just for people to get along and to treat each other right.
My parents had a major blowup at dinner. Actually, it was one sided- I have never seen my mother so angry with my father.
First of all she insisted that I come down and eat with them. I haven’t been wanting to and she’s let me slide a few times, but I guess she’d had enough of my avoidance. We’ve always operated as a family.
They were talking to each other at first. I wasn’t saying anything. Then Daddy turned to ask me how my visit with Milini went this afternoon. I just told him how unhappy I found her to be, and that’s when he messed up. He said that maybe this experience would teach her to be more responsible about how she carried herself around boys.
Well, why did he say that?
My mother looked slowly up from her plate, and I could see the brown going into hazelish-gray. She told me to leave the table.
I was like, “But I’m not finished.”
She goes, “Take it upstairs with you,” without taking her eyes off him.
Marie had been doing something over by the stove, and I saw her ease into the pantry and close the door behind her.
I rode the first horse out of Dodge myself at that point because it was apparent there was about to be a shootout at the Hart Corral. But, of course I didn’t go all the way up; if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to hear. I stayed on the stairs while she lit into him about disappointing her with his “chauvinist attitude”. She got on him for being so quick to come to Tommy’s defense and how concerned he was about Tommy’s life and reputation, but what about the life and reputation of the “little girl he chose to lie down with?” Was he (my Daddy) leaving that for her Daddy to deal with? It took a joint effort to make that baby, and even though it turned out to not be Tommy’s, it was some boy’s baby and he was getting off “scott-damned free”.
She jumped all over him about how he’s always trying to keep me wrapped up, and being so nervous and paranoid about the boys that hang around me, instead of giving me credit for having my own mind, making my own decisions, and holding my own in their world like I do every day. She told him that while he has always been a wonderful father to me generally, he was falling short in that department and that if he wasn’t careful, he would end up giving me a complex. Fathers, she said, have more impact on their daughters’ self-esteem than they realize. She said that instead of being so concerned about us girls knowing how to carry ourselves around boys, he needed to be more concerned with why men weren’t actively teaching boys to treat girls respectfully. She told him she knew Pa sent her away to school because he couldn’t deal with her growing up and into a woman, so he left her to go it alone.
She said Pa used to buy her drab, ugly clothes, and he wouldn’t let her wear makeup or do anything that involved boys because he didn’t want her to attract male attention. It was like he was trying to ugly her up and isolate her, instead of letting her be who and what she was. It wasn’t her fault she looked like she did, but he made her feel like her being naturally pretty was something to be ashamed or afraid of. She wasn’t even into boys; boys were always after her, but Pa was always telling her to stay away from them like she was doing the chasing. She said it took her the longest time to realize the problem wasn’t with her. She said she knew Pa hadn’t intended to harm her, but the damage was done just the same. The problem was and is that boys were and still are expected to be sexually aggressive and that girls are taught they have to be chaste and demure to be acceptable. When they’re not, they’re the only ones castigated for it.
She yelled, “To hell with that!” at Daddy. She said as soon as she recognized her power, she went wild and made a lot of unnecessary mistakes she wouldn’t have had to make if she had been raised to understand things for what they were.
She said when I was born, she made up her mind she was not going to let that happen to me. Justine Hart was not going to be out there attempting to play the game without having her own playbook. She said that’s why she started right off the bat teaching me to hold my own as a female. She told him she’s extremely proud of me because I’m so into being smart that I don’t even know or seem to care how pretty I actually am, and that’s how it should be.
By this time she was really worked up and she told Daddy “to back the hell off with that sexist bullshit”; she wasn’t having it. She did tell him at the end of her tirade, however that “J.J. Hart is our daughter together and you have every right as her father to assist in raising her, but I alone am her mother. I have been allowed to live long enough to get her this far, and the young men who come around Jennifer Hart’s daughter desiring her attentions and affections are going to be held accountable- by my daughter- who WILL know that she is entitled to expect that they do the right things by her.”
That’s what she said, and I didn’t even know that she could cuss like that. She is my girl for real now.
I have never, ever heard her talk to him like that, and he must not have either because I didn’t hear him say one word back to her.
I went on up to my room after that.
A good while later, when I came back to bring my dishes down, my parents were on the couch in the great room. The music was on, but it was so quiet down there otherwise that I didn’t see them at first. And they couldn’t hear me because they were too busy hugged up and kissing each other. (Get a room!) I backed out and went to the kitchen the other way. They never even knew that I had been there, I don’t think.
I guess it’s all better now. That was a quick one.
My mother is something else. My father is a millionaire many times over, he is CEO of a multi-national conglomerate, and leader of many men and women, but that one woman has him all wrapped up. If she asked him to, I bet he’d give it all up for her because he loves him some Jennifer. She must really be the ‘whip thing’, as my friend, Deon would say.
When they do fall out, my mother and father don’t ever stay mad at each other too long. Tonight she was dead right in my book, and I think Daddy needed to hear her say all of that. I think, too, she needed to get it out.
I heard her. She has her trust and her faith in me and my judgment. I won’t ever let her down.
I had a full day today.
I had tests in Calculus and History. There was a quiz in Lit. I aced them all.
I had to give a financial report for the Student Council meeting during third period. I’m the treasurer. It seems I’m always the treasurer for whatever. People know that I’m good with numbers. We’re giving a Halloween dance at the end of the month to raise money for the Feed the Hungry program for Thanksgiving. We’re going to deliver food baskets to poor families through a lot of our churches and the Boys and Girls Clubs.
After school today, there was a general meeting of the Honor Society. I’m the president of the sophomore division, so I sit on the board. We were on the dais on the stage and the members were seated in the auditorium. We had just gotten started, when Nick Bell, the Chairman, said that he had a proposal that he wanted to put on the table. He was allowed to present it and that dog stood up on his hind legs and had the audacity to say that he wanted to propose that Milini’s membership be suggested for revocation because she had disgraced herself and the Society.
He’s in her sex book! AND he only earned two stars!
I was outraged. The room went black for me and I felt like I wanted to faint, but I had to say something. I was so mad. I was so mad about everything. I stood up and cut him off. I told him that Mil’s academic grades and her service to the school and to the community were what got her into the Honor Society, not her personal life. And that if we were to poll all the people in the auditorium at that time, all Honor Society members, at least half of them- female as well as male- were sexually active. Since it’s only the girls that have the capability to carry the physically observable result of sexual activity, that it was extremely unfair of him, a guy- the cause not the effect, to even go there.
God, I wanted to call him out for having slept with her and then having the nerve to try and do that behind her back, but I guess innate good manners got the best of me. Instead I reached in my wallet, pulled out my membership card, and I threw it down onto the table. I told all the assembled that if Milini was getting asked to leave, then I wanted no part of the Society. I told all the girls that were present that they were doing themselves an injustice if they allowed that to happen to Mil because the playing field has to be level in order for everyone to get the full benefit of membership. Then I got off the stage.
Ms. Featherstone, our sponsor tried to stop me, but when she reached for my arm, I guess she could see it all over my face that was not one to be touched at that moment. She drew her hand back and left me alone. I went on outside to wait for my ride to get there. I would have looked up Marnie, but I knew that she was already gone home. Marnie only stays after to work on the newspaper, if she has to serve an after-school detention, or if she’s waiting to go home with me.
I was sitting on the front steps in the middle a whole lot of other people when a hand reached down and pulled me up from the steps. It was Tommy. He just stepped his big self all over everybody and pulled me out of there saying that he needed to talk to me. People were hollering and protesting. He didn’t care. He just said, “Sorry. My bad.” to them and kept pulling me on up. Hector, Diego, and I had been holding a conversation in Spanish, but we took it that our talk was over at that point. I just told them I’d see them later.
I was glad to see him. I was so mad inside and I needed to have somebody like him close to me. Actually I wanted him to be there right then anyway because we hadn’t been talking and I didn’t know why. We went down to sit on the wall.
He asked me why I was mad at him. I asked him if he was mad at me. We found out that we both thought that we were each upset with the other even though we hadn’t even done anything to each other. He thought I was mad about him getting involved in the mess, and I thought that he was still mad about what I had said about the situation being all on Milini.
I told Tommy about going to see Milini at her house. He was glad that I went. I told him that I didn’t feel the same as I had before all of this happened, and that I had really changed my position after seeing her. He said that he didn’t think I ever really felt that way deep down, but that I had to work through it to know my true heart. He said that he never thought that it was in me to be that cold to someone. He is my good friend: my voice of reason. Perhaps that was the explanation for why all of this has been visited upon J.J. Hart.
We were still talking when my mother pulled up to the curb, and I almost didn’t want to go. It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve had a good talk and I didn’t want it to end right then.
When I got in the car, she told me that she was proud of me. I asked her for what. It seems that Ms. Featherstone contacted her on her cell phone right after I left the meeting. After she heard what had happened at that meeting, and that I had walked out, my mother said that she told Ms. Featherstone that she could completely understand my position and that she supported me fully.
Jennifer Edwards Hart, who is a life member of the Honor Society and who currently sits on the Parents’ Advisory Board of this organization, instructed me that I am to see Ms. Featherstone the first thing in the morning to get my membership card back from her. She told me that in order to win any game, I have to stay in that game and see it out to the end. She’s absolutely right. In order to change things and to make sure that things are done fairly, I am going to have to maintain effective positions in my world. Somebody has to do that and I am the one for that job. I’m not scared to tell people what’s on my mind.
Later, after we got home, I went out to the gazebo to think. Things were coming together. I was beginning to understand some of it, even though I didn’t like facing the things that were becoming clearer to me. Third had come with me and we were sitting in the swing together when Daddy showed up out there.
It seems he wants to take me flying this weekend. I said for sure that I would like to go. I love to fly Valentine with him. We’re going first to D.C. on Hart Industries’ business and then we’re going on to Maryland to see Pa. My mother is staying behind this time. He’s arranged for her to go to this really ritzy spa for two days. She’s been wanting to go there for a while, but she hasn’t had the time.
He’s very smart. He knows that she’s been stressing right along with me through all of this, even though neither of us has said anything to the other about any of it. This time I can’t talk to her about it , and she won’t make me talk to her, so we’re just kind of in limbo on this one, she and I. He’s setting it up for both of us to work out our stress in our own ways.
But then Daddy broke me down somewhat.
He asked me to talk to him. I told him that there was nothing to say; it was over. He asked me if it was over in my mind. I had to tell him that that it wasn’t. He wanted to know what I was thinking, so I just went on and told him the parts that I had figured out.
I am so angry that guys get to do whatever they want, but that girls are expected to be so perfect. Then when it turns out that we’re just human, we’re considered defective, spoiled goods, absolute nothings that guys can just do whatever they want with.
What did Milini do that guys don’t do and pat each other on the back over? They even have us girls buying into that stuff. Tommy is sixteen and having sex, but I didn’t think anything of it when it came to him, but I was quick to call Mil a slut. If you really ask me, neither of them should be doing it, but why is it easier for me to accept Tommy doing it than it is for me to accept it from Mil? We’ve all been brainwashed.
Mil was raped. I think that Tommy and I are the only ones outside of Mil that know for sure that she was assaulted by more than one person, but people are still making out like it was all her fault. People know that she was forced to have sex, but it’s still her fault that it happened! I don’t get it. I don’t think I ever will.
It just irks me that she won’t tell about it. She’s the one left with all the aftermath, and all the boys have just gone on with their lives. She feels that she can’t go to the police because she went with the first guy willingly. Whoever the father of that baby was, whether it was one of them who hurt her at that house that day, or someone else, he doesn’t have a clue that he was the father of a baby: a real person who was born in the toilet and died before he took his first breath. Yes, I’m pretty sure that it was a little boy. Most likely even if the guy did know, he probably wouldn’t even care. He’d just be glad that it went away and didn’t cause any problems for him.
Mil cared. She wanted me to tell her about it, but I couldn’t. I still can’t. I don’t think that I ever will be able to tell about it.
Mil’s ashamed to tell what happened to her because then it will come out that she doesn’t even know the first guy’s name, and it will come out to her parents that she’s been so promiscuous. I wonder if her parents would care so much or if she would be so ashamed about her sexual activity if she were a boy?
During all of this, while I’ve been doing all this thinking these past few days, I wondered for a brief time if my father ever wished that I was a boy. After looking at it from all angles, I don’t think so.
I remembered the time my mother found all of the dolls that she had ever given me in the back of my closet. They were face down on the floor, blindfolded with some of her old typewriter correction tape, with their hands tied behind their backs with rubber bands. I had been playing hostage with them and I was waiting for the ransom to come before I released them. I had really forgotten that I put them in there, and I had gone on to something else. My mother went in there to do something, and almost had a stroke when she came upon all the dolls tied up like that on the floor. Then she went and got Daddy and brought him in there to show him what I had done.
He called me into the closet and asked me about it. I didn’t think anything of it; I was just playing a game. When I told him what it was about, he laughed out loud and messed up my hair. She collected all the dolls, put them in a box, and told him that she thought that she needed to seek counseling for both of us. I think she was upset. He told her to forget it; there wasn’t anything wrong with us that some ice cream and fresh air wouldn’t fix. He took me out for ice cream, and he and I spent the afternoon at the marina working on our sailboat.
I was seven. I never got another doll after that.
I’ve never been a soft girl and he and I have done everything together that we’ve wanted to do. He taught me to do all of the things that I think that he would have taught a son to do, like fly the plane, the fundamentals of electronics, how to pick locks and listen for tumblers, how to work with numbers, to play cards, bet on the ponies, shoot craps, pitch a baseball, check out people, respect and love my mother- everything.
If he does regret not having a son, he’s done a pretty good job of hiding it. If it weren’t for my mother, I’d be spoiled rotten by him. He couldn’t give a son the diamonds that he’s given me.
Daddy just let me talk and I just kept going until I vented all the way to the end. I wasn’t looking for answers. There really aren’t any. Things are just like that between men and women and that’s probably how they will always be. It just all makes me so mad. It makes my mother angry too. I realize now that she has been living and dealing with the things that I’ve just begun experiencing- the camouflage, the pretty face, the giftedness, the double-standards- all of her life. It’s enough to make any thinking woman angry. We are both thinking women.
I just know that I’m going to do things and live my life in a way that makes me comfortable. I won’t sleep with anybody until I feel that I’m ready, and it will happen with someone whom I trust to truly love me and who wants to be with me as much as I want to be with him- at least that first time anyway.
Later on I might find out that I just like to do it for the heck of it, and if so, then I’m going to do that my way too. I’ll just be a big old tramp if I feel like it. It won’t be anybody’s business but my own, but I’ll be sure to handle my business. I wish somebody would say something to me about it.
I’ll just have to work through the rest of this on my own. There’s nothing more to say on the subject that talking about it is going to fix.
I’ve got to get packed because we leave right after school tomorrow.
Jennifer Hart is going to skin us both alive when she finds out that I’ve been flying the plane, and that sometimes Daddy nods off while I’m at the controls. He knows I’m good in the air, so he can relax.
I’m my mother’s sweet girl everywhere else. She can relax too.