A look at abstinence and a lack there of; in regards to sex, alcohol, drugs and relationships; from a teenage perspective, with mild Christian undertones. It follows a first-person narrative mode which changes to a different narrator with each new chapter. The setting is a high school with a regional arts program and a suburban house party in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario. Be warned that there is both heterosexual and homosexual content, if either one is disturbing to you. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Regulations
Narrator: Leslie Défiere
For God's sake, slow down! I thought, not at all about the car that drove past us through the parental pick-up lane.
There was a tongue in my mouth, and it wasn't mine. It intruded into me with no regard for sensuality. Today, his saliva carried the unpleasant taste of synthetic cheese. The kind you'd find on low-budget junk food. But I didn't care. It was homely, and I'd smelled worse.
I breathed in a good whiff of his scent. Sweaty. Unclean. So potent and familiar, it filled me with memories of our beginning.
And he grabbed me tightly against him, clothed body against clothed body. Conquest was in his mind. But, for me, the pleasure was fading. This routine was past its prime. The decline seemed inevitable.
I no longer minded public displays of affection. We'd done far worse just around the corner of the building, where nobody could see but the passing cars and grazing farm animals.
Far off, on a hill top, I spotted Junior amongst the other students. Immediately, I averted my gaze and then closed my eyes; trying to keep Junior in my mind. My memory isn't quite photographic. His brow was converged and his face had undoubtedly snickered. At us.
Brent's hands flirted, beneath my winter coat and through my blouse, with the straps of my bra. Were we not in a lip-lock, I might have coughed -- a signal for him to stop.
My tongue was always on the defensive. Taunting him at first, and then moving to the side, evading his advance. I was never to enter his mouth, for it was forbidden!
I was in love, though, and so I denied myself, at that time, from interpreting the shallow symbolism of his regulation. Tongue traffic regulation, I smirked, breaking away from him.
"Babe, what's wrong?" Brent asked. Babe. It was a possessive word. In earlier days, it hadn't bothered me. He could feel me idly fingering the coppery gold choker he wore around his neck.
I turned my head left, to look at the hill. But I couldn't risk stopping, with my gaze fixed upon Junior, where he now stood talking with Clara. So, my head kept turning to the road between the hill and the school. And there was my answer.
"Your bus is here," Brent, I told him, not willing to enunciate his name lest it betray my growing doubts.
His arms withdrew with slow reluctance, finally giving me some semblance of pleasurable touch.
I instinctively moaned softly -- something I only do for his sake. I'm not a vocal lover by nature, but he gets off on such noises. I dare not let him know they're fake.
He picked up his bag and walked toward the line-up of public transit buses in the parking lot. As he joined the horde of students, I watched his greasy, half-curled mop of brown hair disappear amongst the crowd.
When he was finally out of sight, I spun on my heels and make an approach towards Clara, Janine and Junior.
The stench of manure was on the wind. It was something I never got used to; having school out in the middle of a rural nowhere.
I can't say that we're all friends. It's slim pickings when it comes to waiting for the private yellow buses that arrive the latest. Janine seemed to be an insensitive neo-conservative, where as I'm as liberal as they come.
Meanwhile, Clara is ESL, English as a second language. On top of that, I don't think she's altogether there. She's got a mild tendency towards erratically annoying or violent behaviour. But usually, it's aimed at Junior, and thus pleasantly amusing.
Janine would not approach Junior unless Clara or I were already there. Furthermore, she would not approach me unless Junior or Clara was present. Instead, she glared two-facedly from a distance. And so, behind her back, and not in the presence of Clara who we'd probably only confuse, we refer to Janine as Jamean. And when the time calls for it, Jabitch.
Needless to say, I enjoy Junior's witticisms. However, my retorts are almost always sexual - and that makes him uncomfortable. Then again, I must admit, I flirt. And so does he -- the difference being that he doesn't recognize it as such. He must just think I have a crass sense of humour, which he reluctantly reciprocates.
Maybe it was because I'm not slender enough -- except that he never seems to objectify women. So, I was once led to conclude that he's gay. After all, he had a shoulder-blade length ponytail and a fondness of jewelry. Emotionally open, and uncannily sympathetic. Definitely gay, and definitely repressed about it.
Hopefully, though, I thought at the time, Janine doesn't pick up on this -- or chooses not to.
The easiest way to make Janine go away, when she's being intolerable, was to discuss something liberal-minded. Gay marriage usually worked. Or lampooning our prime minister, Steven Harper. However, her anger would fade the next day, as she'd rather stand with us than be alone.
Clara, on the other hand, I found amusing, if not actually a friend. Junior, though, seemed to find her outbursts unsettling. I imagine that's because he usually got conked on the head by her umbrella, or ended up with her saliva all over his necklace. She's odd, to say the least. But I suppose we all are, in our own way.
They kept me distracted. So did my academic studies. But once I was on the bus, without my hill top companions, I found myself unable to concentrate unless a friend was nearby. Usually, I found myself pining for Brent. However, lately, I was pining for the Brent of earlier days. Slightly more romantic, and slightly less forward.
The breeze, on the hill, was foreboding. I found myself inattentive.
"-- don't know how I'd vote," Clara told us.
Janine shook her head, unwilling to state her opinion.
"Yes, well, it's just a poll," Junior had an edge of disdain in his voice. "Nothing serious."
We both made an awkward glance from Clara, to Janine, to each other. I grinned, just a little, at the edges of my lips.
"Speaking of nothing serious," he paused, "how are the yaoi mangas these days, Leslie?"
"Ohhh, they're wonderful," I answered.
"Pervert," Clara muttered. And she walked away, swinging her lunch bag toward Junior, who took an evasive step back to avoid yet another Tupperware-induced bruise.
Janine, however, remained confused and made the amusing mistake of taking the bait, "What's a yaoi mango?" She was beyond the point of bothering to scold Clara.
I began to open my backpack, ready to get out my reading material.
"Well," Junior began, with a languidly awkward tone in his low voice.
We're so petty and vindictive.
I pulled it out and handed it to Jabitch.
She took one long look at the cover art of my translated Japanese comic, and slowly cringed to notice effeminate young men lying lovingly in each other's arms.
She dropped it, toward the mud, and ran off.
Junior caught it, lost his balance, and rolled onto his backpack upon the grass.
I helped pull him to his feet, smiling with gratitude, "That went well."
"G'bye, Jamean!" he shouted, pretending to mispronounce her name.
She glowered in the distance, at the base of the hill, impatient for her bus to arrive.
I looked up at the sky, "Overcast, about to rain."
"Yup," he said. "What about the poll?"
I realized, then, that I hadn't yet given an opinion about Junior's poll. And my bus suddenly pulled into the now-empty parking lot. I began to walk down the hill, and he followed me. I turn around, last in line, with my feet on the stairs.
"CJ," I called him over my shoulder, putting a playful edge into my voice, "you of all people have no reason to worry about the size of your pole."
The folding doors of the bus closed in front of me, and through the window I watch him sort out my innuendo as I wiggled the manga cover against the glass. My remark caught him off-guard. And after a long moment, I saw his eyes narrow as we sped away from him.
I sat alone, as unfortunately all the seats around my friends were taken. I opened the manga to my bookmark, and superimposed animé renditions of Brent's and Junior's faces upon the main characters. I love having the mind of an artist.
I found myself well distracted. I didn't even notice, until it was my stop, that rain had already begun to fall quite mercilessly.
I was reluctant to get home. I didn't want to spend another afternoon staring at Mom's empty side of her bedroom with its empty bottles, while my step-father, Lawrence, stumbled around the house in a haze of drugs and denial.
Shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning, laundry and homework -- all the responsibilities had fallen to me, one by one. And soon, I knew, I'd have to get a job.
Lawrence had bloodshot eyes and a bottle of booze in one hand. He wasn't nearly as bad a drinker as she had been. And I can't help but notice the white powder clinging to his upper lip.
I wonder how long it had been there, and whether there was money left in the jar marked 'FOOD'. After all, he never put any money in the jar I'd marked 'CRACK' for him. Perhaps because I'd gotten angry one day -- well, angrier than usual, and written 'butt' above it in pale pencil markings.
There were discarded joints and cigarettes on the floor of the kitchen. I'd need to sweep... eventually. But other things were more important. Then I stopped in my tracks, staring at the phone. Temptation grabbed me by the heartstrings, and I longed to spend another full evening at 'Chez Brent'. But I knew that if I did that again, Lawrence wouldn't eat well, if at all.
He looked dumbfounded as I took the booze from his loose grip, and walked into the kitchen where I chose yet another hiding place he wasn't tall enough to reach without a chair. I could not stop him, but I could regulate him.
Then, I ran down the hall, to my room, and grabbed a twenty dollar bill from far beneath my mattress, and counted the loonies and quarters in my pocket. I didn't enjoy digging into birthday money from Grandma. It was a last resort. Soon, I might have to let him fend for himself.
Moments later, my coat was on and I was headed to the VALUE MART with tears streaming down my face.
With the change, I walked over to the Shopper's Drug Mart pharmacy, and bought a pack of three condoms. Brent wasn't the only one who had given our relationship strict regulations.
The cashier cast me a judgmental look.
But I just smiled, and lied to her, "They make durable balloon animals. Art class project."
She rolled her eyes, but the young man in line behind me chuckled. I looked back, and knew instantly that he wasn't my type. He was out of my league, probably in college dating some prissy cheerleader.
Why was my mind going on these wild tangents?
The stranger bravely put a finger on one packet, his nail underlining the words, 'ribbed for her pleasure'.
"My art teacher's pleasure," I told him, a naughty glint in my eye, eliciting another guffaw.
But inside myself, I had to confront the bitter truth that I'd stopped taking art classes. I'd exiled myself, in fear, from creativity. My writing was next up to be decapitated. A tear didn't well up beneath either of my eyes. I don't cry much. Not anymore.
I returned home under a broken umbrella. Then, I made dinner. We ate in silence, Lawrence and I, in front of the TV.
Our cat ate too, from a dish filled from a dwindling stockpile, a remnant from earlier days. Days when money seemed to grow naturally between the folds of our wallets. Days before. Days before... she killed herself.
Why, Mom? Why?
My eyes stared past the TV, through the TV, unwatching. Automatically, I raised the spoon to my mouth, again and again, until there was nothing left. I must have looked zombified. And all I could see, in my mind, were his naked, brown eyes staring back at me with utter indifference.
Fear gripped me, and my throat knotted to forbid my next spoonful.
He bore the withdrawn look a dog has on its face when it's humping another dog for intimidation, and intimidation only, but isn't mentally or emotionally focused upon the act.
I knew, though, that Brent never had that look in his eyes when we consummated our love - or was it only lust that we consummated?
When we had fucked... it was my look, and mine alone.
Yet also, it reminded me of how she had looked, dead and wide-eyed, in the emergency room. Then, Lawrence had gently closed her drunken, unclothed eyes.
He hadn't been high, but he hadn't been sober either. That was kind of how my life felt at this time. Trying to climb upward, to the next hill top, to the next high...
"What's for dessert, Laura?" Lawrence asked me, addressing me by my mother's name.
There wasn't any dessert. And I wasn't willing to tell him that, so I ignored the question.
"That's right, just go back to your room and drink away the pain!" he shouted as I walked to the kitchen with my dishes. I'm not my mother! I wasn't into drinking, then, anyways. I abstained.
I had lost my appetite for the discounted Wonder Bread, thanks to Lawrence's inadvertently morbid reference, so I put it back in the bag. Then, I hoisted the bread bag up to another high shelf in case Lawrence got the munchies later in the evening... while I was hopefully out of the house.
Down the hall, I sat on my bed. I glanced briefly out the window at the dwindling rain, and closed my eyes to fall back against my creaky mattress.
Now, I saw blue eyes with specks of golden rust. Long, masculine eyelashes without make-up. They held a piercing, observant gaze. However, they were cold and flat, like a shield, offering no insight as to what lay behind them. Yet I saw my face, smiling, in their reflection. And as I noticed myself, the smile faded.
I had no idea whose eyes these were.
The phone rang, bedside table, interrupting my vivid day-dream. My hand moved quick to it, and brought it to my ear. And at that moment, overwhelming relief filled me as Brent's soft, tenor voice came from the other line.
Dazed, I struggled to retain the details. A party at eight o'clock, at a friend's house nearby. His house at seven, an intimate hour.
I glanced at my broken radio alarm. Its clock still worked: 6:39 PM.
"Goodbye, Brent," I said lustily, and put down the phone.
Only later, did I realize that I hadn't reciprocated to his usual "I love you, Leslie". For a moment, I began to wonder if I still loved him as much as he loved me. Then, I immediately set off dynamite on the tracks to derail that train of thought.
Within moments, I was slipping on rain boots a size too small, and a shabby windbreaker. No time for make-up. Purse over shoulder and umbrella in hand, I rushed out the door, and then slowed to a fast-paced stroll with the umbrella open. Tentatively, I dug one hand into the pocket of my jeans and fondled the three individually wrapped packs of rubbers.