Analeesa goes from childhood to the present to recount her complicated relationship with Caleb. As dark as their relationship is, May's presence brings a light that Analeesa cannot resist. Something's breaking...
Leesa is my name. Full name Analeesa Brown. Brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin, black outlook. I look inside, and outside all I see is darkness. That's why I never liked May. She was too happy, too sappy, too-
"Too white. Even my mom says I'm too white.", May giggled.
No. I wasn't going to say too white - she's just May, and I don't like it. She brightens up rooms no one asked her to brighten up, and she's chipper, and peppy, and preppy. Even the way she sits, and eats ticks me off. But for some reason she's taken a liking to me.
"Lees! I hope we have a class together."
"Unfortunately we do. And it's Leesa. The only one that calls me Lees is -"
A pair of sparkling blue eyes greet me.
My heart stops a little, and falls off of the face of the earth. And then I frown. He grins back at me with a cocky look.
"Lees, you always do that! First you give me the look of love, and then you frown."
He cocks his head, and then moves closer, looping his arm around me. He smells like Lever soap, and cologne.
As I see him making puppy eyes at May, I frown even deeper.
"Someone took a shower today. What a surprise!"
Caleb shoots me a dirty look. May looks mortified.
"Yeah, it's a rare thing for this guy to shower. In fact when we were in the 5th grade, his grandma came to watch him while his parents were out of town. He lied tto his grandma about bathing, and didn't take a bath for a whole 2 weeks."
"Lees, that's disgusting." Caleb gives May a charming smile. "It's also untrue. I shower twice a day, and I brush my teeth 3 times a day. See!" He smiles with all his perfect teeth. May smiles back, and giggles.
"Caleb, you seem really nice. I'm glad that you're friends with Analees!"
"Mayflower, it's just LEESA." I grin sarcastically.
"Ah!Mayflower, I like that Lees!" She's smiling back,authentically too...this girl...
"Don't mind her! She's upset that I don't return her feelings, and it makes her angry."
Caleb gives me a bearhug. I don't return it.
The bell rings, and May grabs my wrist. I relent. We make it to class just in time to be humiliated by the accusing looks of the other students who arrived on time.
"You're late." Mrs.Tess whispers. "And you know I don't tolerate lateness. Detention for an hour!"
May's mouth is open wide, and her eyes are saucers. I would laugh, but it's not funny.Everyone else is. This time I grab her wrist, and pull her to the back. She relents. During class she's still cheery, but I can tell she's a little down. Now I told you this girl bugs me, but when she's down I'm even more disturbed.
A few acquaintances ask me how my summer is, and I reply with the normal response. "It was okay." And then the girls begin to fawn over my outfit hoping that I'll introduce to them Caleb.
"Aww, I love your purse Leesa. It's soooo cute."
"We should totally hang out."
"We're hanging out right now."
"I mean, after school."
"I have detention. Maybe you were too busy guffawing to remember?"
"I was what???"
Suddenly the conversation is over, and I hear them whispering about me and Caleb, and what we are to each other. I turn and look at May poring over a book I've never seen before.
"What are you reading?"
"Oh, it's the Word of God!"
"Um,the Bible. You ever heard of it?"
Now it's my turn to have saucer-sized eyes, and a gaping mouth. Did this girl ask me if I knew what the Bible was? REALLY?
If I had any sense...any way. I hold it all in, and smile so hard that my eyes become straight lines. I probably look like an angry bird, but as long as I'm not throwing a hissy fit, everyone's safe.
"I'm reading the book of James, chapter 1."
"It's about enduring suffering."
I remember I really looked into May's face when she said that. Really peered into her face,looking at every line,bump, discoloration, and dimple. And then I looked into her eyes. I saw something that I didn't like, and I frowned.
"What suffering have you endured? You're always happy. What have you gone through?"
She smiled a smile from deep within her heart that I almost cried because I saw how it shook before it flooded her face with life. She didn't say anything else. Her lips quivered as if she had something important to say, but contemplating it later I realized that it must have been a sigh. As I sat beside her I felt as if she was answering my question : "What suffering have endured?" with her small shoulders, and her iron grip on the little pink Bible she held. She seemed to answer : "I've been through a lot."
The girls were oblivious. They asked May what she was reading, and once she told them their lips froze into false smiles, or they frowned, or they nodded uninterested. A few boys asked too, one of them blushed when she told him.
"Oh...wow, that's cool. I read it too when I'm in church. That's really cool." May smiled warmly, and of course he melted. And I had to watch...ughhhh. I pretended to be interested in the dirt under my fingernails, but I was eavesdropping as well. When I heard what I heard, I wished I hadn't. My mother's face peered into my mind's eye - she was lecturing me about listening to other people's conversations.
"So, guess who Caleb's got his eye on now!"
"That Molly girl, you know the sweet one."
Molly, huh? It won't last two weeks I thought to myself.
"Her name's not Molly,it's-"
Suddenly, there's a loud plop. May's Bible fell out of her hands onto her desk.
"Oops, sorrrrryyyy!!!" A red-headed girl named Eva bares an evil,mocking grin. And May just picks up her Bible, and says sweetly,"It's okay." Not getting the reaction she wants, she turns around flipping her hair, getting it in May's face.
"Yeah, that one. That's the one Caleb can't stop talking about. He's practically in love with her. It's kind of gross - you know how he talks about girls."
"You mean the churchy, chipper one?"
"Duh, who else?"
"Um, thought he liked the black one."
"No way! He won't even tell me if they've done anything, and he tells me EVERYTHING. I bet you they've, you know. At least once!"
They start to giggle. The bell rings. My fingernails are digging into my palms, and I'm biting the inside of my cheeks. Caleb likes May.
I can't even get up, I'm furious. I wish I hadn't heard any of it. But then I come to my senses, and I get my stuff feeling as if i could fall over, and break at any minute. Like a zombie I move toward the door.
May is waving her hand in my face.
"What?" I ask quietly.
"Detention." I groan dropping my things on the desk next to the door.
"Detention", Mrs. Tess whispers softly with a smile.
As I'm writing my letter to Mrs.Tess about how being late is a social evil, I see May doodling on her arm. She's already done.
"You may go now May."
"No, I'll wait for Lees. Do you have something you need to have done?"
Mrs.Tess puts her hand over her heart as if she's never had a student ask her if she needed help before. I catch sight of May's arm. It reads ,"Jesus Freak."
"Jesus Freak." I say it out loud. I've heard it before, but it has never rolled off my lips. Without thinking I ask her,"Is it a band?"
She answers,"No, it's who I am."
She goes back to the new assignment that Mrs.Tess gave her. I ponder what she means, but I won't understand until later. I'm afraid to find out what it means. But for right now all I know is it means being nice to everyone, and praying for people who are sick, or going through some tough times. This is what I see as we walk through the hallways - I stand to the side burning with embarrassment. I find her too bold, too brash,too happy, like she's actually serious about this whole thing. And then I realize she is, and I become angry at her for standing out, and being better than me. I'm even more angry that Caleb sees her as a potential girlfriend. I know what happens to all of them. And I'm so afraid that he will be the one to infect her with darkness like he infected me.
"You're nothing to me. We're not even friends, stop coming around me."
It was like the time when Caleb pushed me off of the swing. I made him really mad. I said some mean things. My parents were divorcing, and my sister was moving out of the house. I went to the playground everyday, and Caleb would be there kicking his feet as he sat on the merry-go-round. I was living with my mom at the time in that house. My father had already left, and my sister was leaving. She left with curses on her lips. She stared at me with sorrow as she left, promising to come back to get me while she dialed her boyfriend's number on her phone. I heard him egging her on, telling her to come live with him, and escape the treacherous lair of my mother. I was left alone. Everything became dark. But when I went out to the playground, Caleb was a light, brightly shining. He was all by himself looking bored.
"Hi!", he chirped.
"Hi." I responded.
"Yeah. I wanna pay."
Caleb and I became like brother, and sister. I would sleep over his house, and he would sleep over mine. We would watch movies together, and go to camp, and go to the fair, and we held hands everywhere we went. Even in school people knew not to mess with me because my "big brother Caleb" would beat them up if they did. So what happened?
"How far? Like to the fair?"
He looked at me with sorrowful eyes. I wept on his shirt. Far, very far. It didn't have to be spoken. His mom peered at us through the window.
Caleb moved the next day. I didn't even get to say goodbye. I woke up the next morning, and everything was gone. The car, the furniture,Caleb.
I didn't speak to anyone for a week. My teachers told my mother, but with a pained face she told them ,"She'll get over it. You know how life is. It's time she grew up."
Every time someone would say, "Caleb," I'd flinch. My heart would break all over again. Everyone I knew, and loved was gone. The babysitter would play with my hair, and smile at me, and fix me dinner, but she would never say too much.
"I just need to save up so I can buy a brand new car!!"
"Can I ride in it?"
I knew that that meant "no". I fiddled with my fingers in disappointment. Nothing, and no one. I felt like the loneliest kid in the world.
"You know that David Rutherford moved back here with his son right?"
Something in my mind opened, and I remembered...
"Rutherford. R-U-T-H-E-R-F-O-R-D. That's my last name you know? Caleb Rutherford."
"I like that! I like it a lot."
"Promise you won't forget it."
I shrieked. The other children in the classroom didn't have the eavesdropping technique that I did so they gave me strange looks. Without warning, I was up, and my legs were moving, and I was dashing out the door.
"ANALEESA BROWN,GET BACK IN HERE!"
There was an uproar in the classroom, but I was already outside running with all of my might. Our house was walking distance, but as I ran I felt as if it were miles away. Sure enough I saw the shiny blue car. I saw the door ajar behind the screen door. I ran up the porch steps, and pressed hard on the doorbell.
"Rutherford. R-U-T-H-E-R-F-O-R-D. That's my last name you know? Caleb Rutherford."
"I like that! I like it a lot."
"Promise you won't forget it."
I pressed even harder on the bell.
"Who's there? What is it???" Mr.Rutherford's voice was rougher than usual. He saw me at the screen door with my eyes wide opened.
He grinned at me through the screen door. "Shouldn't you be in school Analeesa?"
I nodded my head hard. Yes, I should have been in school, but my best friend in the whole world was home. He was finally home.
"I didn't think we'd ever be back here. Not even been 3 months since she walked out."
My heart stopped.
"Me and Caleb's momma aren't together anymore."
I stared at him with blank eyes.
"When is she coming back so you can be together?"
He looked at me the way May looked at me, and he smiled. That pained look...
"Well, Analeesa, if she ever comes back, I'll let you know."
"I'm gonna get Caleb."
I stood shaking with anticipation. He laughed at me as he turned to call Caleb downstairs.
I heard the footsteps of a child padding down the stairs. My heart sank as I realized that they sounded reluctant.
"Hi Caleb. Welcome back!"
"Wanna come out and play?"
"No, Lees, you have to go back to school."
"School's out by now."
His fingers were barely touching the screen door. His forehead was pressed hard against it, and his eyes were downcast. They were blue, but they didn't sparkle.
"Caleb, come outside."
He pushed the door open slightly, and I pulled it so that it was wide open.
"Bugs'll get in.", he said dully.
He stepped outside, and I beckoned to him, and we went to the playground. I pushed him on the swing, and he wept, but I didn't know why. Finally he told me.
"My mommy...she's not coming back."
I stopped the swing, and sat on the one next to him. Everything had gone still as if nature knew to mourn.
"No." She wasn't dead.
I grabbed Caleb's hand.
"I won't leave you brother."
"So, you're just like me now...my daddy left my mom. He's not coming back either."
Suddenly he pulled his hand out of mine, and got off of the swing.
He came up behind me, and shoved me off of the swing. I fell facefirst onto the tarmac. I was in such shock that tears flew out of my face, but my crying was soundless.
"It's you! It's your fault! You infected me, and now my mommy and daddy aren't together anymore! YOU'RE A DISEASE! GO AWAY ANALEESA!!!
I couldn't breathe. By now other people were piling out of school, getting on buses, and walking toward their homes. Some children tried to scramble over, but Caleb had already left. To this day, despite how his eyes sparkle I remember the darkness. The deep blue that they had turned, and I could see the bright crimson coming out of a gash on my head. One of the parents' walking their child home saw me, and called the ambulance. I got several stitches. People kept asking me what had happened, but my heart was bruised. I couldn't speak, I couldn't weep. All I saw were Caleb's dark eyes looking into mine, and the darkness flooded into me. Our bond had been so deep that his hurt became my hurt. And his darkened demeanor became mine. As sweet, and charming Caleb is at school, I know that if I ever brought up his mother again he would turn violent. I know this because there is one other occasion that I have brought it up.
It was my sweet 16. I didn't invite Caleb, or anyone really. My mother insisted that I have one so I did. People I knew, and didn't know poured into our house. There was a pinata, there was a cake,and even an earthquake. Caleb came dressed well, and on his best behavior. I hadn't talked to him in years. After the swingset incident he avoided me in school which meant I was teased without end, and tortured while Caleb watched. Once he came up to me, and said ,"You deserve all of this."
So when I saw him at my party I avoided him. It was my party, and I cried not because I wanted to, but because there was nothing else to do. I cried, and I cried, and I cried, and when I was finished I laughed, and I smiled for all of the pictures. I ate cake, and I was the life of the party. "Let's get together again sometime!" was what everyone said as they were filing out with tupperware, and plates of food.
Caleb was the last person left.
"I'll help clean."
I stared at him, and then went upstairs to my room. My mother called me down.
"Come so I can take a picture of you and Caleb. It's been awhile!Look what I have!"
There was an old faded picture of me, and Caleb standing by the ferris wheel at the fair. Caleb was missing teeth, and he was smiling so hard that you could see his gums. I was holding a princess wand which I had pointed at his head.
"You were trying to turn Caleb into a puppy."
I had to grin at that. Caleb smiled a little.
"I'm so glad you came, Caleb. You two catch up, and I'll clean up. But first -"
She pulled out the camera, and took a photo.
As soon as the flash went off, she had disappeared leaving us slightly blinded.
I walked toward the door, and opened it wide enough so he could step out. I followed behind him.
We began to talk about school, and how we liked our teachers, or how we didn't like them. We talked about getting a driver's license. We talked away the awkward silence that threatened to form between us. We pretended as if the videocamera was still on recording all the sweet 16 fun.
"So...how's your mom?"
Caleb stopped dead in his tracks, and laughed. I was puzzled. He stopped laughing to look at me with eyes that were no longer warm and inviting.
"She's great. She's sleeping with your father now."
"Oh, don't you know?"
Caleb laughed again, this time more harshly.
"DON'T YOU KNOW ANYTHING ANALEESA?"
When he would say my name like that, it meant he was really angry.
"You sure do walk around like you're asleep, livin' in a perfect world. Wake up, and smell the dung."
"Caleb...I didn't know."
"And I didn't want you to know."
He walked closer to me, and grabbed my chin. He pulled his face to mine, and then he slapped my face. My face stung, and it throbbed.
He turned around, and when I caught up to him I tackled him in my sweet 16 dress. I completely knocked the wind out of him, and out of myself.
"Get off of me." He sputtered.
"I will not. Not until you tell me why you're acting this way. What's really wrong? What is it?"
"I hate you. That's what it is. You're over there living like nothing's happening, like nothing's changing. Now get off!"
He kicked me hard. I cried out, but I wouldn't let go because if I let go, then that was it.
"You were my best friend in the whole world. I loved you so much. I hurt when you left, and then I hurt when you came back. And I'm hurting now, and I can't stop hurting." I finally let go of him. I shoved him back.
"Why'd you even come back??WHY?!!!Why'd you come to my party??"
I lost it. I cried, and I cried, and I cried, and Caleb watched me, shaking. He had turned white as snow.
"I'm gonna tell...I didn't tell that one time, but this time, I'm gonna tell. You need help."
"No you're not!"
"Yes, I am!"
"I'm telling someone! Look at you, you need help."
I started to back away, but he was quicker. He grabbed my arm, and pulled me forward, and kissed me. He pulled away.
"You're not telling anyone about this. I'm fine."
He walked off, brushing himself off, and leaving me in complete confusion.
When I got home, my mom was inconsolable over my ruined dress. I told her that I had fallen, and that Caleb had gone home.
I should have gotten him help then, but it was that kiss that changed everything. I became foolish, exalting my feelings for Caleb, and the anticipation of it happening again over his health. As long I didn't tell, he might kiss me again. He might be nice to me again. I was wrong. He went into dozens of relationships while I watched. He wrapped his arms around me, and called me best friend. Since elementary school, I hadn't had one friend - just many acquaintances with selfish intentions meaning that they'd say "Hi" to be nice, but they would never reach out. So Caleb, he was it.
And then May came along, trying to walk out of acquaintanceship into friendship, but I wasn't ready.
So Caleb, yes, it was just Caleb. But then he developed eyes for May, and that's where things became a mess.
I turned around to see Caleb. May stood beside me, and his eyes immediately locked with hers.
"Let's walk home together."
"I don't mind if you guys do walk home, my mom is coming to pick me up."
"Uh, May, um, you can walk with us, and I'll ask my mom to take you home."
May beamed (oh, and when I say she beamed...it was a pessimist's nightmare).
"Next time, let's plan something! Today is too last minute, but next time for sure!!"
She gave me a bear hug, and then went running in the opposite direction, waving goodbye wildly. My heart melted a little, I felt it warm. It was an impossible feeling to describe, but I felt it. Caleb's arm snaked around my neck, and fell lazily on my shoulder.
"So how was today?"
"Thanks for asking."
"You know what, you should be nice to me considering that I'm walking you home."
"We're next door neighbors."